6.17 pm

Tulip Siddiq (Hampstead and Kilburn) (Lab): I want to spend the short time I have focusing on the disproportionate effect these tax credit cuts will have on the black and minority ethnic communities. Some 88% of these communities are based in the poorest boroughs in the country. They tend to have larger families and these families are often sustained by people who have part-time jobs. Fresh from my Royal Statistical Society training this morning, let me give some statistics that are staggering. A recent survey found that 5% of white men had part-time jobs, as opposed to 12% of black African men and 35% of men of Bangladeshi origin. When this lifeline is taken away from these communities, racial inequality in our society will widen. When the Government talk about looking after families, they are not talking about looking after families from the BME communities.

We must also look at these cuts in context. We cannot view them in isolation. Hampstead and Kilburn has a housing bubble and rents are soaring higher than ever. If we couple that with taking away tax credits from people who are working, we have to ask how people will survive. Six out of 10 of my constituents are paying £288 a week for a studio flat. Are we allowing the ethnic cleansing of London? Don’t take these credits away. Join us in voting against these cuts; whether it is the Mayor of London, “ConservativeHome”, or The Sun, we must oppose these draconian measures.

6.18 pm

Wes Streeting (Ilford North) (Lab): I rise to speak on behalf of the 12,800 working families and the 26,000 children across Ilford who will be affected by these cuts, and I issue the following challenge to Conservative Members. This evening’s vote is crucial for a simple reason: their Whips are busy in the other place telling peers they are railing against the democratic will of this House of Commons, but when we listen to the fantastic and courageous speech of the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Heidi Allen) and see the nods of many of her colleagues, we know that the majority of Members in this House do not support these changes. Peers are absolutely within their rights to put a stop to them in the House of Lords, and we expect nothing less. What a terrible indictment it is of this Chamber that it is the unelected House that is standing

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up for the interests of ordinary working families up and down this country! What happened to the party of the workers? What happened to the Tories’ failed modernisation project? It is already dead in the water. This is a Prime Minister who speaks from the centre but is a prisoner of the right.

When we have a grand coalition ranging from The Sun newspaper to my good friend the cycling socialist Owen Jones telling us that this is a work penalty that will hit the people who work hard, who get up early and who strive to earn every penny they can, we know there is a problem. This is not a benefit; it is a well-targeted tax rebate. It works better than what the Government are doing with the tax threshold, because that benefits the wealthiest. Tax credits target support effectively to the people who are doing exactly what we ask them to do: they are willing to work hard for low pay and they play by the rules. The least we can do is support them.

This is a terrible measure. It is a shameful measure, and Conservative Members know it. I ask them to show the courage that the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Heidi Allen) showed, not only on the Floor of the House but in the voting Lobby this evening, because it is crucial that Members of the unelected House know that they have a majority of elected Members on their side and on the side of low-paid working people in Britain.

6.20 pm

Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab): I am delighted to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford North (Wes Streeting). Once again, we have a Budget from this Chancellor that was very shiny on the day he presented it but that is unravelling under closer inspection. The Treasury Select Committee took evidence on a number of the issues that people have raised today, and I want to tell colleagues on both sides of the House what we found. First, on work incentives, which Conservative Members have made much of in the debate, the taper has moved from 41p to 48p, but the effective marginal tax rate for a lone parent will increase to 93%. That means that for every extra pound she earns, she will take home only 7p. Compare that with the banker who will take home 60p in every pound.

The second problem relates to the interaction between the tax credits and the minimum wage. Many hon. Members have spoken about the sequencing. The national minimum wage gains will not, in the main, go to the tax credit losers. Half the cash gains from the national minimum wage will go to people in the top half of the income distribution. Sir Stephen Nickell from the independent Office for Budget Responsibility told the Select Committee:

“It has been known for ages that the proportion of people in receipt of minimum wage who live in poor households is very small. It used to be 14%...In other words, minimum wage as a method of relieving poverty is completely hopeless because most people on the minimum wage do not live in poor households.”

I urge Conservative Members to look at the evidence and to think again.

6.22 pm

Melanie Onn (Great Grimsby) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Heidi Allen) on her excellent maiden speech.

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Prices have risen faster than wages during the vast majority of this Government’s time in office. Working people in Grimsby have seen their earnings fall by more than £2,700 since 2010. Today, one in three of my constituents earn less than the real living wage of £7.85 an hour. Grimsby desperately needs a pay rise, but what this Government are doing instead is cutting people’s incomes by at least another £1,300 a year. People simply cannot cope with a further reduction in their incomes.

The Government say that people simply need to work harder for a few more hours a week in order not to lose out, but for many, that is completely unrealistic. Many people in my constituency do not have that option; some are already working two or three jobs just to make up the hours. Conservative Members were given a mandate by their constituents based on their party’s manifesto and on what the Prime Minister said during the election campaign. They do not have a mandate to cut tax credits; in fact, they have a mandate not to cut them. What does it say about the regard in which Conservative Members hold the voters of this country if, just five months later, they walk through the Lobby and do precisely the opposite of what the Prime Minister promised?

The irony is that I agree with what Ministers have been saying: we do need a higher-wage economy, with less being paid out in welfare as a result. We need to support and help to grow the industries of the future, but the Government are doing the opposite. Three of the UK’s solar energy companies have entered administration in the past two weeks, the green deal has been scrapped and investor confidence in the wind energy sector is drying up. The Government have failed to make any real attempt to save the thousands of jobs being lost in the steel industry. That shows what is actually developing under the Conservatives: an economy in which more and more jobs pay less than the real living wage.

6.24 pm

Patricia Gibson (North Ayrshire and Arran) (SNP): As has been pointed out, this measure is very much part of the overall narrative of this Government. They have enthusiastically embraced both austerity measures that harm the poorest and the most vulnerable households in our constituencies while giving tax breaks to the better-off, and a series of ideological measures that can only increase inequality.

Scottish National party Members believe in progressive taxation, but these changes are not progressive. They are regressive, taking proportionately more from lower-income households than from rich ones. These changes will significantly reduce the incomes of more than 200,000 households in Scotland—that is 200,000 households where choices have to be made between eating and heating, and where families have to decide whether they will have to go to the food bank again this week. If the Government want to make cuts, I suggest they are made to the £100 billion being spent on Trident. If the Government want to make cuts, I suggest they do not increase tax breaks in respect of inheritance tax thresholds.

As the youngest of eight children to a widowed mother, I grew up in deep poverty—I know what it is like. I know what it does to aspiration and to motivation, and I know how corrosive it can be to every area of life. I suspect that if more Government Members had lived the life that I have lived, they would not be supporting

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this measure tonight. I do not want any child in Scotland to grow up in more poverty than they are already in. I do not want any child in the UK growing up in poverty. Far from the mantra of “making work pay”, this measure punishes the working poor. I ask the Government to consider the impact of this measure on our poorest families; they should consider the impact on our households and on our most vulnerable children. Anyone who truly believes in a fairer society must reject this measure. Anyone who supports this measure tonight should hang their head in shame.

6.26 pm

Mark Durkan (Foyle) (SDLP): This measure is not just a penalty against work; it is also a penalty against parenthood. Clearly there is a divergence of view in this House. Conservative Members have a view about how policy should support family and children that is at complete variance with mine. We heard from the Chancellor on the day of the Budget that

“we on the Conservative Benches know that the wish to pass something on to your children is about the most basic, human and natural aspiration there is.”—[Official Report, 8 July 2015; Vol. 598, c. 330.]

Feeding children is an even more basic aspiration than that, as is nurturing children and giving them warmth when they need it. We are talking about somebody being able to aspire to work to bring home food to their children and support to their family. These are the people who are going to be hit by the measures the Conservatives are introducing, because it is the people working very hard and trying to do the best by their children and for their neighbours who will be betrayed by this measure.

I do not accept the nonsense we heard from Conservative Members, with some exceptions, who were more or less trying to tell us that low-paid workers should now be the acceptable casualties of a dogmatic imperative of austerity —they should not. Nor do I accept the somewhere-over-the-rainbow nonsense that some Conservative Members were giving us that, “It is all going to work out well. It will go so swimmingly and people are going to be so much better off when they see what they are going to get.” Clearly the way these measures have been brought forward will mean that people are going to suffer in the meantime. People will also lose jobs as well as lose income, because some of us are hearing from employers in some sectors that they will not be able to give the pay increases without doing damage to the payroll that they currently have.

Conservative Members need to realise that labels they put on this and all the clichés they come up with are not going to give buying power to the money they are leaving people with. Clichés will not be hard currency to support families who are being driven into poverty.

6.29 pm

Louise Haigh (Sheffield, Heeley) (Lab): It has been astonishing to hear Conservative Members stick to their desperate defence of their indefensible policy of slashing tax credits for millions of families when they know that they are neither economically justifiable, nor socially defensible. These cuts are just one more example of the Government’s policy of moving public debt, which originated in the financial sector, off their books

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and on to the lowest-paid and middle earners, who simply cannot afford it. Rather than moving away from an economy based on debt, which the Chancellor said that he wanted to do, he has in fact created one.

Unlike this Government, I believe that economic common sense and social solidarity not only go hand in hand, but are the bedrock of a healthy and functioning society. We cannot have a healthy functioning economy if our fiscal policy is to transfer debt from the public purse on to the unemployed, the lowest paid and middle income individuals and families, and if secured debt becomes unsecured and unaffordable. The Chancellor should know where that leads because the Governor of the Bank of England has spelled it out for him.

Over the summer, Mark Carney warned that household debt was one reason why the recession was deep and the recovery so grudging. If enough people are highly indebted, that can have big macroeconomic impacts, so that lending standards become irresponsible to reckless. Those are some of the same risk factors that led to the global credit crunch in 2007. The structural flaws remain, but we now have one very clear difference. We have a Chancellor who is exacerbating the structural flaws by heaping public debt on to the low paid, and who acts without regard to the personal economic nightmare he is visiting on the homes of working families. That is why the Labour party is so fundamentally opposed to these measures.

An inclusive and healthy economy cannot be built while we are hurting working people. It can only be built by investing in them and supporting them. Our party believes in that to our soul, so while the Tory party spends millions on branding itself as the party of working people, those working people who have been let down by the Prime Minister will know that the Labour party is working for them.

6.31 pm

Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles South) (Lab): In my constituency, there are around 8,000 families with children claiming tax credits, 5,000 working families, and almost 10,000 children. We know from the Library briefing that they will lose more than £100 a month, but some families will lose more. One of my constituents, a mother with a disabled child, has worked out that her family will lose £200 a month from the tax credit cuts. Instead of just sitting there, perhaps Government Members can tell me how, if they back these changes, such families will manage? I do not think that they will manage. Another constituent, a single mother, told me that she uses tax credits to pay for school uniform, food and travel expenses. Those are the things that will suffer.

Earlier, I mentioned the impact that these tax credit cuts will have on the incomes of many thousands of unpaid carers who juggle care and work, particularly those who claim carer’s allowance and working tax credits. Carers UK told me that all carers who are claiming carer’s allowance and working tax credits will lose under the current proposals, even taking into account the introduction of the so-called national living wage.

Tax credit cuts will make it more difficult for working carers to balance work and care and that will hit their standard of living. They do not deserve that. Last week the Minister for Community and Social Care told me

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that he did not think that carers’ invaluable contribution to society had ever been better recognised. Is that hit to the income and living standard of working carers what he means by recognition? I hope the Minister will tell us when he responds what consideration the Government will now give to protecting working carers on low incomes from these unfair, savage tax credit cuts. Those cuts will hit families with disabled children. They will hit carers and millions of working people. I urge Government Members, the few who have managed to stay for this debate, to rethink this deeply unfair policy change.

6.32 pm

Hywel Williams (Arfon) (PC): When tax credits were first brought in, people were often overpaid. They would then receive a demand for an end-of-year repayment. I fought many of those cases, but Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs would engineer the perfect excuse. Deep in its standard letter demanding repayments was this astonishing sentence:

“Even though we told you that your assessment was correct, it was not reasonable for you to believe it.”

That is how I view the Chancellor’s proposals—even though he tells me that there will not be any problems, it is not reasonable for me to believe him.

I have no problem in principle with removing low wage subsidies so long as we ensure a decent living wage; family support to make up for the variation in income when people have families of different sizes; proper affordable childcare provision available universally, particularly in deprived and rural areas, which are currently very poorly served; and support for small businesses to enable them to earn and to pay a living wage.

When tax credits were introduced, I asked the then Labour Treasury Minister what pilots had been carried out. Essentially, she said that none had been carried out. I fear that we are in that same position with these proposals. We know what happened then: chaos, over- payments, underpayments, misery to families and the damage to the Government’s reputation. The impact of these changes has not been thoroughly assessed, and I fear that we will all regret that at our leisure.

6.34 pm

Dr Rupa Huq (Ealing Central and Acton) (Lab): I know that this Government and this Chancellor in particular are fond of political cross-dressing, but robbing 6,500 children in 3,500 hard-working families in my constituency of £1,300 a year makes a mockery of all that—and that is in an affluent west London suburban constituency where the average property price is over £500,000. The Prime Minister pledged during the election campaign not to cut tax credits, but the fact that he is doing this only months after the election is not just a concern to the Opposition; it brings politics into disrepute.

We have heard about the so-called compensation that will come from the national living wage. It is not a living wage, and it is compensation for only 26% of people. Politicians like to go on about hard choices, but this is about whether to penalise people who are doing right and playing by the rules, or to give a tax cut to the 60,000 wealthiest estates at the expense of 200,000 working families. Some 6,500 families in Ealing Central and Acton are a chunk of 3 million families across the country.

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The fact that the notices informing them of the changes will arrive just before Christmas is deeply immoral. It shows the Scrooge-like attitude of this Government.

I have had dozens of emails about the cuts, both around the time of the emergency, that is the crisis, budget and now. I urge Members in suburban London seats like mine—the Comptroller of Her Majesty's Household, the hon. Member for Croydon Central (Gavin Barwell), the hon. Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman), the right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake), whom I can see, and the hon. Member for Twickenham (Dr Mathias), constituencies where those affected by the change outweigh the majority that those Members have—to join us in the Lobby tonight.

6.36 pm

Peter Dowd (Bootle) (Lab): The 2015 Conservative manifesto promised to improve the lives of the millions

“who work hard, raise their families, care for those who need help, who do the right thing”.

The tax credit changes will do exactly the opposite and instead penalise them heavily. There is no hiding from that. This is not the right thing. Why do the Government not accuse all people on tax credits of being feckless? That is what they really think. They do not bother even to make an artificial distinction between the deserving and undeserving poor. They do not care. If people are poor, deserving or otherwise, they do not care.

From what I can see, that is what those on the Government Benches think. They want urgent action to tackle the burden of tax credit expenditure, but take a mañana approach to tackling the issue of low pay. Some Conservative Members have expressed concern, but that is as far as it goes. Hand wringing, tutting, head shaking—conscience salved. But Conservative Members will be reminded time and again of their support for these proposals. It might get a bit tedious, but so be it.

The Chancellor says the changes are fair, so let me give a few facts. Facts can be stubborn. First, during this Parliament cumulative income loss will be between £6,000 and £9,500. Secondly, 3.2 million hard-working families will be hit. Thirdly, the changes will mean less pay, with some low income families keeping just 3p of every extra pound. Fourthly, child poverty will increase. Fifthly, the cuts are not compensated by other changes and have not been impact assessed. This is dreadful and the Government should think again.

6.38 pm

Marie Rimmer (St Helens South and Whiston) (Lab): Hon. Members should be aware that it is a disgraceful, shameful example of very poor governance when a Government attempt to cut £4.4 billion from the poorest people in society by a statutory instrument. It has taken the Opposition to call for this debate and to ask for the reversal of this decision.

Areas of my constituency have been recorded as suffering from the highest levels of employment deprivation and the sixth highest income deprivation affecting children in England. My constituency has some 7,900 families with children claiming tax credits, and many are unemployed. Some 5,800 working families claim tax credits. Many of those are on the minimum wage, with two parents working and two children. They are set to lose more than £1,800 next year and £7,700 over the life of this Parliament.

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Other families with one earner will lose more than £1,500 a year, or more than £7,000 over the life of this Parliament. Some 4,800 working families with children in my constituency claim tax credits, and 8,300 children in those working families benefit as a result. Many of the schools in my constituency have been forced to introduce free breakfast provision, with hundreds of children taking it up. They have done so to improve levels of concentration and learning. If our children are to get out of poverty, they need to be educated, but first they need full stomachs.

I call on Conservative Members to examine their consciences and not to involve themselves in this further attack on the poorest people in society.

6.40 pm

Dr Lisa Cameron (East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow) (SNP): I have some basic points to make, because so much has already been said in this debate. Constituents of mine have urged me to speak today because of the poverty they are now experiencing. They are having to go to food banks in order to feed their children, and they feel ashamed about that. They are working extremely hard to make ends meet every day, working for every penny, yet they feel that they are being punished by this Government.

I urge Conservative Members please to consider the impact that these changes will have on hard-working families, those that the Government say they are responsive to and care about. That is absolutely imperative, not just for my constituents but for people across the UK. These tax credit cuts are unfair to hard-working families in Scotland and across the UK. I urge Conservative Members to listen to everybody’s views tonight, take account of their constituents, who I am sure are hurting just as much as ours, and pay attention when we speak about these crucial issues that our constituents are informing us about.

We really must take account of those who are trying their hardest to get on that first rung of life and to protect their families and those nearest and dearest. I therefore urge the Government to vote against this measure by supporting the motion and ensure that the most vulnerable in our society, including the disabled, are protected.

6.42 pm

Owen Smith (Pontypridd) (Lab): We have heard from more than 50 Members in this extraordinary debate, which I think is a measure of how vital it has been, and how much we need to understand properly the full impact of the changes that the Government are proposing. Running through so many of the speeches has been the message that politics is always about choices: what are we going to prioritise; who are we going to stand up for; and what, as the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Heidi Allen) said in her brave and heartfelt speech, do we stand for? This debate has laid bare those fundamental choices.

The simple question that the Government must face tonight, and the simple question that will be asked right across Britain, is this: is the Conservative party what it says it is? Is it a party for the workers, with the interests of the workers at its heart, or is it a party that has its own self-interest at its heart and that is set tonight to dock the pay of workers across Britain? It cannot be

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both—even this most Janus-faced of Governments cannot turn both ways at once. It cannot be the party of workers while cutting workers’ pay. Each Conservative Member will need to answer for how they vote this evening, because there is no plausible defence for a policy that will take, on average, £1,300 from the pockets of working families, and with 70% of the losses falling on working mothers. It is a Tory tax on workers, and a Tory tax on working mums.

How do the Government justify that? As we have heard from successive speakers today, they say that the tax credits bill has gone up and that it has to be cut. Well, it has gone up on the Tories’ watch. They say that the minimum wage increase will compensate, but let us have none of this nonsense about a bogus living wage.

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Greg Hands): Let me tell the hon. Gentleman that under the previous Labour Government the tax credit bill went up from £10 billion to some £30 billion and is now down to £25 billion, so I am afraid that it has not gone up on our watch. [Interruption.]

Owen Smith: I have heard this several times over the past few weeks—[Interruption.]

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. I presume that Conservative Members would want to hear their own Front Bencher, and I am sure that the rest of us would like to hear the Labour Front Bencher now.

Owen Smith: I am grateful to you, Mr Deputy Speaker.

I have heard this nonsense from the Government several times; I heard it from the Exchequer Secretary earlier today. The truth is that when this variation of tax and child credits came in in 2003-04, the original bill was £19 billion. It went up to about £23 billion under Labour, and then in 2009, after the crash, it went up to £29 billion. Under the Chief Secretary’s Government, it has been £30 billion each year, so the largest bill we have paid for tax credits has been under the Tories. Why is that? It is because the low-welfare, low-tax, high-wage economy that he talks about is a myth—the Tories have failed to deliver it. Instead, we have a tax credit system that is a vital lifeline for working people on low and middle incomes who have relied on it to make ends meet over the past few years and still rely on it. The Tories will be pulling the rug out from under those people if they persist with this policy tonight. They know that none of the measures they have talked about—the personal income tax rise or the childcare provision—will offset the vast losses we have seen. It is an absolute con, just as it was a con from the Prime Minister when he told the country that he was not going to cut any tax credits.

I would like to be able to point to a Government impact assessment that would tell us the truth of this, but it is so thin it is barely worth mentioning. It is about as useful and reliable as a Volkswagen engine test. However, we have not needed an assessment because we have had one from the Chief Secretary’s own Back Benchers. Successive Back Benchers have stood up today and offered their view—their impact assessment—of what this Government are going to do to our constituents,

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and to Conservative constituents, across this country. I referred earlier to the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Heidi Allen), who made a scintillating speech. I will quote a few words for the delectation of the Chief Secretary. She said that these measures were “betraying who we are”—that is, who the Conservatives are. She said that they would lead to working people having to choose between heating and eating.

The hon. Member for Plymouth, Moor View (Johnny Mercer) gave another excellent speech in which he said that his blue-collar city opposes these reforms. He pleaded with his Front Benchers, as a compassionate Conservative, to think again. The hon. Member for Stafford (Jeremy Lefroy) talked about the impact we would see on carers and on people on low incomes. The hon. Member for Waveney (Peter Aldous) said that as a one-nation Conservative he could not support these reforms without significant mitigation. We heard interventions from the hon. Members for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh) and for Brigg and Goole (Andrew Percy). Those are just some of the Conservative Members who are opposed to these measures.

Greg Hands: The hon. Gentleman has not mentioned the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Frank Field), the Chairman of the Select Committee, who called on his own hon. Friends to take more action on the £4.4 billion savings gap that has arisen as a result of Labour deciding that it is against these reforms.

Owen Smith: Let me start with that number of 4.4 billion, because about 4.4 thousand of the Chief Secretary’s constituents will be hit by these changes. The real question he should be answering is what he says to his constituents about the cut they are going to have. He mentions my right hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Frank Field), who of course spoke with great eloquence and knowledge. The crucial thing he said was, “Think again. Mitigate these measures. Understand that your mitigation measures are not going to work or offset the losses.”

Frank Field: What I said in my speech was that I hoped we would soon be able to debate a motion of the House, and that is what will happen when we have a full day’s debate on Thursday week. I also said that that is when we should make proposals for how to pay for it. I did not say we should do that in today’s debate.

Owen Smith: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his eloquent intervention. He reports accurately his own words, even if the Chief Secretary did not.

Let me be clear: tonight’s vote may not be a binding vote, but it does allow Members on both sides of the House to send a message to Conservative Front Benchers. These measures are a tax on working people.

The Government say that the national minimum wage increase, welcome though it is, will offset the changes, but it will not for a cleaner who is on £13,500, who will lose £7,000 over the term of this Parliament, or for a secretary with two children who is on £22,000, who will lose £9,500. Those are not small sums of money; for those people on low and middle incomes, they are enormous sums of money. It ill becomes the Government to dismiss, with the stroke of a pen, the concerns not only of their own Back Benchers, but of this country’s ordinary working people.

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Too many Labour Members—far too many for me to list them all—have spoken today with great passion and conviction about their knowledge of their constituencies, the contents of their postbags and how the proposal will affect their people. The Government should read their speeches and listen carefully to the views of Members.

It is not just the Opposition who oppose the proposal. The Mayor of London—the hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson)—and the bloke who is going to fail to succeed him on behalf of the Tories are both opposed to it. For heaven’s sake, even the Bow Group—I thought it had disappeared in 1980, before the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) was Chancellor of the Exchequer—says that the proposal represents a crisis for entrepreneurial Britain and that it will hit the self-employed. The Adam Smith Institute, the Murdoch press and, from what I have seen, most Tory Back Benchers are also opposed to it.

I urge the Government to think again; to look to their conscience and understand the damage they are going to do to the working people of this country; and to please vote with us tonight and offer some solutions in the forthcoming autumn statement.

6.52 pm

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Greg Hands): We have had a heated debate, with a great deal of misinformation from Opposition Members. Time is very short.

There are two principal reasons for reforming tax credits. First, they no longer meet the objectives for which they were originally designed. Secondly, they are unaffordable at their present level.

Jess Phillips rose

Greg Hands: I will not be giving way for a while.

Tax credits were introduced to help those on the very lowest incomes—a noble aim and one that we support—but the system spiralled out of control. Spending on tax credits more than trebled in real terms under Labour. By 2010, nine in 10 families with children, including MPs, were eligible for tax credits. Even now, the figure is six in 10, and the latest reforms will bring it down to five in 10.

It is not even as if Labour’s spending worked: following the introduction of tax credits, in-work poverty rose by some 20%. Members need not take just my word for that; I am going to quote in detail Alistair Darling, who has been referred to this evening and who was one of my predecessors as Chief Secretary at a time when the modern tax credit system was being planned. He was interviewed this summer for an article in The Spectator entitled, “Alistair Darling: why I changed my mind on tax credits”. Crucially, it appeared after the summer Budget introduced by the Chancellor. The Spectator asked him:

“So your tax credits had the unintended consequence of keeping low wages down?”

“Undoubtedly,” replied Darling. The last Labour Chancellor said:

“Well, undoubtedly… I think it was a good policy when it was introduced”.

He went on:

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“As Keynes famously said: when the facts change, you change your mind.”

Owen Smith: I am really enjoying the Chief Secretary reading excerpts from The Spectator, but will he answer the fundamental question? Will he confirm that 3 million people in this country will be £1,300 on average worse off as a result of these changes? Let us not hear about the past; he should tell us about the future.

Greg Hands: I can confirm that we have got down the cost per household of the budget deficit from about £6,000 per household per annum to about £3,500 per household per annum. Those sort of figures show what reforms we are introducing.

Jess Phillips: Will the Minister give way?

Greg Hands: I will not give way at the moment.

Alistair Darling went on:

“One of the unintended consequences is that we are now subsidising lower wages in a way that was never intended.”

Like us, he was not calling for the end of tax credits. He made it clear:

“That is not an argument for scrapping tax credits, it is an argument for making sure that you adjust the system. And it’s also an argument for making sure that we do our level best to drive up those levels of wages”.

We recognise that as well.

The second reason is that the deficit the Government inherited in 2010 was equivalent to about £6,000 for every household in the country. That was being added to the national debt every year. It is now down to £3,300 per annum. Then, we were borrowing £1 for every £4 we spent. We have got that down to £1 for every £10. The world was beginning to doubt our ability to pay our way.

Ian Blackford: Will the Minister give way?

Greg Hands: I will not give way.

This Government’s mandate is to get our spending down, run a surplus and get our national debt down, and these reforms are a crucial part of that. That is what we were elected to do, and that is what the House agreed just last week. In particular, our general election mandate is to make reforms to reduce the welfare bill by £12 billion.

Owen Smith: Will the Chief Secretary give way?

Greg Hands: I am not giving way further. [Interruption.]

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. I am struggling to hear the Minister. I wish to hear what the Minister has to say. Has the Minister given way?

Greg Hands: No.

Owen Smith rose

Greg Hands: No, I am not giving way. I have just said I was not giving way. [Interruption.] I gave way to the hon. Gentleman as well.

Our reforms to tax credits will account for £4.4 billion in the next financial year. This is the key question for the Opposition, which they have ducked during the last

20 Oct 2015 : Column 923

five hours of debate: if they do not want to reform tax credits, where will that money come from? Will they borrow more and saddle our children with still higher debt, or will they cut other services, such as schools or the NHS? I ask the Opposition: what would they do?

Clive Efford: Will the Minister give way?

Greg Hands: I am not going to give way. I thank my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke), who told us:

“This is the time to do it”.

Ian C. Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Mr Deputy Speaker: I will hear that later.

Greg Hands: I thank my colleagues from across the country for their thoughtful speeches.

In conclusion, the reforms must be considered as part of a package—the tax credit reforms, the big rise in the personal allowance and a £9 an hour national living wage by the end of this Parliament. The changes we are putting in place will deliver a new settlement for working people, one where they keep more of the money they have earned, where work pays and where employers pay decent wages without requiring them to be topped up by the state. Under Labour, tax credit spending doubled; we are bringing it back to the spending levels of 2007-08.

These reforms are necessary and fair, and will deliver a lasting settlement. I urge Members to vote—

Ms Rosie Winterton (Doncaster Central) (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 295, Noes 317.

Division No. 80]


6.59 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Abrahams, Debbie

Ahmed-Sheikh, Ms Tasmina

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Allen, Mr Graham

Arkless, Richard

Ashworth, Jonathan

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bardell, Hannah

Barron, rh Kevin

Beckett, rh Margaret

Benn, rh Hilary

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Black, Mhairi

Blackford, Ian

Blackman, Kirsty

Blackman-Woods, Dr Roberta

Blenkinsop, Tom

Blomfield, Paul

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brake, rh Tom

Brennan, Kevin

Brock, Deidre

Brown, Alan

Brown, Lyn

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Bryant, Chris

Buck, Ms Karen

Burden, Richard

Burgon, Richard

Burnham, rh Andy

Butler, Dawn

Byrne, rh Liam

Cadbury, Ruth

Cameron, Dr Lisa

Campbell, rh Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Gregory

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Carmichael, rh Mr Alistair

Champion, Sarah

Chapman, Douglas

Chapman, Jenny

Cherry, Joanna

Clegg, rh Mr Nick

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Ann

Cooper, Julie

Cooper, Rosie

Cooper, rh Yvette

Corbyn, Jeremy

Cowan, Ronnie

Cox, Jo

Coyle, Neil

Crausby, Mr David

Crawley, Angela

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

David, Wayne

Davies, Geraint

Day, Martyn

De Piero, Gloria

Docherty, Martin John

Dodds, rh Mr Nigel

Donaldson, Stuart Blair

Doughty, Stephen

Dowd, Jim

Dowd, Peter

Dromey, Jack

Dugher, Michael

Durkan, Mark

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eagle, Maria

Edwards, Jonathan

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Elliott, Tom

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Farrelly, Paul

Farron, Tim

Fellows, Marion

Ferrier, Margaret

Field, rh Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Fletcher, Colleen

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Fovargue, Yvonne

Foxcroft, Vicky

Gardiner, Barry

Gethins, Stephen

Gibson, Patricia

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mary

Godsiff, Mr Roger

Goodman, Helen

Grady, Patrick

Grant, Peter

Gray, Neil

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Margaret

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Haigh, Louise

Hamilton, Fabian

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harman, rh Ms Harriet

Harris, Carolyn

Hayes, Helen

Hayman, Sue

Healey, rh John

Hendrick, Mr Mark

Hendry, Drew

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Hermon, Lady

Hillier, Meg

Hodge, rh Dame Margaret

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hoey, Kate

Hollern, Kate

Hopkins, Kelvin

Hosie, Stewart

Howarth, rh Mr George

Hunt, Tristram

Huq, Dr Rupa

Hussain, Imran

Irranca-Davies, Huw

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, rh Alan

Jones, Gerald

Jones, Graham

Jones, Helen

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jones, Susan Elan

Kane, Mike

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Keeley, Barbara

Kendall, Liz

Kerevan, George

Kerr, Calum

Khan, rh Sadiq

Kinnock, Stephen

Kyle, Peter

Lamb, rh Norman

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lavery, Ian

Law, Chris

Leslie, Chris

Lewell-Buck, Mrs Emma

Lewis, Clive

Lewis, Mr Ivan

Long Bailey, Rebecca

Lucas, Caroline

Lucas, Ian C.

Lynch, Holly

MacNeil, Mr Angus Brendan

Mactaggart, rh Fiona

Madders, Justin

Mahmood, Mr Khalid

Mahmood, Shabana

Malhotra, Seema

Mann, John

Marris, Rob

Marsden, Mr Gordon

Maskell, Rachael

Matheson, Christian

Mc Nally, John

McCabe, Steve

McCaig, Callum

McCarthy, Kerry

McDonagh, Siobhain

McDonald, Andy

McDonald, Stewart Malcolm

McDonald, Stuart C.

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGarry, Natalie

McGinn, Conor

McGovern, Alison

McInnes, Liz

McKinnell, Catherine

McLaughlin, Anne

Meale, Sir Alan

Mearns, Ian

Miliband, rh Edward

Monaghan, Carol

Monaghan, Dr Paul

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Morden, Jessica

Morris, Grahame M.

Mulholland, Greg

Mullin, Roger

Murray, Ian

Nandy, Lisa

Newlands, Gavin

Nicolson, John

O'Hara, Brendan

Onn, Melanie

Onwurah, Chi

Osamor, Kate

Oswald, Kirsten

Owen, Albert

Paterson, Steven

Pearce, Teresa

Pennycook, Matthew

Perkins, Toby

Phillips, Jess

Phillipson, Bridget

Pound, Stephen

Powell, Lucy

Pugh, John

Qureshi, Yasmin

Rayner, Angela

Reed, Mr Jamie

Reed, Mr Steve

Rees, Christina

Reeves, Rachel

Reynolds, Emma

Reynolds, Jonathan

Rimmer, Marie

Ritchie, Ms Margaret

Robertson, rh Angus

Robinson, Gavin

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Salmond, rh Alex

Saville Roberts, Liz

Shah, Naz

Shannon, Jim

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Sheppard, Tommy

Sherriff, Paula

Shuker, Mr Gavin

Siddiq, Tulip

Simpson, David

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Andy

Smeeth, Ruth

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Cat

Smith, Nick

Smith, Owen

Smyth, Karin

Spellar, rh Mr John

Starmer, Keir

Stephens, Chris

Stevens, Jo

Streeting, Wes

Stringer, Graham

Stuart, rh Ms Gisela

Tami, Mark

Thewliss, Alison

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thomas-Symonds, Nick

Thompson, Owen

Thomson, Michelle

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turley, Anna

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Derek

Twigg, Stephen

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, rh Keith

Vaz, Valerie

Weir, Mike

West, Catherine

Whiteford, Dr Eilidh

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Whitford, Dr Philippa

Williams, Hywel

Williams, Mr Mark

Wilson, Corri

Wilson, Phil

Wilson, Sammy

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Wishart, Pete

Woodcock, John

Wright, Mr Iain

Zeichner, Daniel

Tellers for the Ayes:

Jeff Smith


Judith Cummins


Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Allan, Lucy

Allen, Heidi

Amess, Sir David

Andrew, Stuart

Ansell, Caroline

Argar, Edward

Atkins, Victoria

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Mr Steve

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Baron, Mr John

Barwell, Gavin

Bebb, Guto

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Berry, James

Bingham, Andrew

Blackman, Bob

Blackwood, Nicola

Blunt, Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Borwick, Victoria

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Steve

Brokenshire, rh James

Bruce, Fiona

Buckland, Robert

Burns, Conor

Burns, rh Sir Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Burt, rh Alistair

Cairns, Alun

Cameron, rh Mr David

Carmichael, Neil

Carswell, Mr Douglas

Cartlidge, James

Cash, Sir William

Caulfield, Maria

Chalk, Alex

Chishti, Rehman

Chope, Mr Christopher

Churchill, Jo

Clark, rh Greg

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Cleverly, James

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Costa, Alberto

Crabb, rh Stephen

Crouch, Tracey

Davies, Byron

Davies, Chris

Davies, David T. C.

Davies, Glyn

Davies, Dr James

Davies, Mims

Davies, Philip

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Donelan, Michelle

Double, Steve

Dowden, Oliver

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Drummond, Mrs Flick

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

Evennett, rh Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, rh Michael

Fernandes, Suella

Field, rh Mark

Foster, Kevin

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Frazer, Lucy

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fuller, Richard

Fysh, Marcus

Gale, Sir Roger

Garnier, rh Sir Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

Ghani, Nusrat

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Glen, John

Goldsmith, Zac

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Gove, rh Michael

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, Chris

Green, rh Damian

Greening, rh Justine

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Halfon, rh Robert

Hall, Luke

Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, rh Matthew

Hands, rh Greg

Harper, rh Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, rh Mr John

Heald, Sir Oliver

Heappey, James

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Heaton-Jones, Peter

Henderson, Gordon

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hoare, Simon

Hollingbery, George

Hollinrake, Kevin

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hopkins, Kris

Howarth, Sir Gerald

Howell, John

Howlett, Ben

Huddleston, Nigel

Hunt, rh Mr Jeremy

Hurd, Mr Nick

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

Javid, rh Sajid

Jayawardena, Mr Ranil

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Jenkyns, Andrea

Jenrick, Robert

Johnson, Boris

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, rh Mr David

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kennedy, Seema

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Sir Greg

Knight, Julian

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Lancaster, Mark

Latham, Pauline

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Dr Phillip

Leigh, Sir Edward

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, rh Dr Julian

Lidington, rh Mr David

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lopresti, Jack

Lord, Jonathan

Loughton, Tim

Lumley, Karen

Mackinlay, Craig

Mackintosh, David

Main, Mrs Anne

Mak, Mr Alan

Malthouse, Kit

Mann, Scott

Mathias, Dr Tania

May, rh Mrs Theresa

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

Menzies, Mark

Mercer, Johnny

Merriman, Huw

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, rh Mrs Maria

Milling, Amanda

Mills, Nigel

Milton, rh Anne

Mitchell, rh Mr Andrew

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, rh Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Morton, Wendy

Mowat, David

Mundell, rh David

Murray, Mrs Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Neill, Robert

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

Offord, Dr Matthew

Opperman, Guy

Osborne, rh Mr George

Parish, Neil

Patel, rh Priti

Paterson, rh Mr Owen

Pawsey, Mark

Penning, rh Mike

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Philp, Chris

Pickles, rh Sir Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Pow, Rebecca

Prentis, Victoria

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pursglove, Tom

Quin, Jeremy

Quince, Will

Raab, Mr Dominic

Redwood, rh John

Rees-Mogg, Mr Jacob

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Robinson, Mary

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, rh Amber

Rutley, David

Sandbach, Antoinette

Scully, Paul

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Simpson, rh Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Royston

Soames, rh Sir Nicholas

Solloway, Amanda

Soubry, rh Anna

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mark

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stuart, Graham

Sturdy, Julian

Sunak, Rishi

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swire, rh Mr Hugo

Syms, Mr Robert

Thomas, Derek

Throup, Maggie

Timpson, Edward

Tolhurst, Kelly

Tomlinson, Justin

Tomlinson, Michael

Tracey, Craig

Tredinnick, David

Trevelyan, Mrs Anne-Marie

Truss, rh Elizabeth

Tugendhat, Tom

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, rh Mr Andrew

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Warburton, David

Warman, Matt

Watkinson, Dame Angela

Wharton, James

Whately, Helen

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, rh Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Williams, Craig

Williamson, rh Gavin

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wood, Mike

Wragg, William

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Noes:

Mel Stride


Sarah Newton

Question accordingly negatived.

20 Oct 2015 : Column 924

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20 Oct 2015 : Column 926

20 Oct 2015 : Column 927

20 Oct 2015 : Column 928

Wes Streeting (Ilford North) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I was wondering whether it was disorderly or simply discourteous that in his winding-up speech the Chief Secretary to the Treasury neglected to congratulate the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Heidi Allen) on her maiden speech.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): If that was the case, I am sure it was not deliberate. No hon. Member would miss out a maiden speech.

Business without Debate

Delegated Legislation

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): With the leave of the House, we shall take motions 3 and 4 together.

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

Modern Slavery

That the draft Modern Slavery Act 2015 (Transparency in Supply Chains) Regulations 2015, which were laid before this House on 7 September, be approved.

International Development

That the draft Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (Initial Capital Contribution) Order 2015, which was laid before this House on 7 September, be approved.—(Margot James.)

Question agreed to.

Business of the House


That, at the sitting on Thursday 22 October, the Speaker shall put the questions necessary to dispose of proceedings on the motion in the name of Chris Grayling relating to Standing Orders (Public business) not later than 4.00pm; such questions shall include the questions on any amendments selected by the Speaker which may then be moved; proceedings may continue, though opposed, after the moment of interruption; and Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply.—(Margot James.)

Mr Deputy Speaker: We now come to the Adjournment debate. May we please have fewer conversations, and will Members quickly clear the Chamber?

20 Oct 2015 : Column 929

Cosmetic Surgery

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

7.15 pm

Mr Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab): I would like to raise the case of my constituent, Mrs Dawn Knight, who lives in Kip Hill in my constituency. Mrs Knight is one of the 45,000 people in the UK who undergo cosmetic surgery each year. In 2012, she underwent a cosmetic procedure on her eyes. The operation was arranged by a company called The Hospital Group and the surgery was done by an Italian doctor called Arnaldo Paganelli. During the surgery, he removed too much skin from her lower eye lids, and as a result, the inner parts of her eyes, usually covered, are now exposed to the air. Following this botched surgery, she must now apply artificial teardrops into her eyes every two hours to minimise the pain. On the advice of specialists at the Royal Victoria infirmary in Newcastle, she must also tape her left eye closed every night when she goes to sleep to avoid further damage. While she sleeps, she must apply a thick ointment in both eyes, leaving her unable to see until it is washed out in the morning. Doctors have warned her that this serious condition might result in loss of sight altogether.

This incompetent procedure has left Mrs Knight with serious health problems and a life-changing condition, but her troubles did not cease there. A fight to get the mistake corrected and compensation for her distress have thrown up major questions about the operation of The Hospital Group and the regulation of cosmetic surgery in the UK. The Hospital Group’s website claims to run the world’s largest plastic surgery facility at its private hospital in Birmingham. It also claims to have General Medical Council-registered surgeons. Anyone looking at its adverts or website will conclude that it is running a hospital similar to a local NHS hospital, but it is not. As Mrs Knight found when she complained, she had entered into a contract not with The Hospital Group but directly with Dr Paganelli.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): Last Wednesday in Parliament, there was a public meeting at which constituents from across the UK registered their concerns about cosmetic surgery, particularly eye operations. Many people have found themselves in a similar position to Mrs Knight. Last year, 100,000 cosmetic surgery operations were performed in the UK. Is it not time for full and robust regulation to monitor and reflect the risk attached to all cosmetic surgery?

Mr Jones: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. This is not just about Mrs Knight; it is about many more such cases, and I will be talking later about exactly the need for more regulation and information in this area.

Although The Hospital Group tries to give the impression it is a hospital, it is, in effect, a facilities, management and brokerage company for individuals wishing to undergo cosmetic procedures. The Hospital Group is very good at self-promotion. It even has celebrity endorsements from individuals such as Kerry Katona. I think the celebrities who appear on the website need to examine their consciences about being associated with this

20 Oct 2015 : Column 930

organisation. Clearly, their endorsements are encouraging young people to undergo these procedures, forcing people into the hands of a company that I think is, frankly, completely irresponsible. The sale of after-care packages is emphasised. In Mrs Knight’s case, hers cost £3,500, but she found that this means nothing when things go wrong. It would appear that once The Hospital Group has people’s money, it is not much interested if things go wrong.

Having tried to pursue a case against The Hospital Group, Mrs Knight then tried to pursue Dr Paganelli for redress, only to find that he is bankrupt, lives in Italy and flies into the UK to operate on behalf of The Hospital Group. What astounds me is that he is still doing this today, working in hospitals or clinics that are run by The Hospital Group, as we speak. The Hospital Group’s response is that it is nothing to do with them. Dr Paganelli was uninsured and The Hospital Group says that it is the patient’s responsibility to check whether the surgeon is General Medical Council-registered and holds insurance. If we look on the website today, however, we find the words:

“Book a free consultation today, with our GMC registered surgeons!”,

giving the impression that all the surgeons have been vetted by this organisation when that is clearly not the case. Despite this, Dr Paganelli remains licensed by the GMC, meaning that he is deemed fit and suitable to continue to operate in this country, even though he holds no insurance and if things go wrong, patients have no redress against him.

Having examined this case and the others to which the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) referred, it would appear that a plumber who comes to fix someone’s kitchen sink is more heavily regulated than someone who is allowed to operate on your body. The current law allows any qualified doctor—not just surgeons—to perform cosmetic surgery, without having additional training or qualifications. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd) has raised many issues about GPs who have undertaken cosmetic surgery without any formal training. Clearly, there needs to be more robust regulation of these private companies, which stand to make a fortune out of the misery experienced by people such as my constituent Mrs Knight.

The Royal College of Surgeons believes that the GMC needs to be given new legal powers formally to recognise additional qualifications or credentials, and I fully support that call. These should be displayed publicly so that people know that the doctors are properly registered and have gone through the necessary training. Will this solve malpractice and eradicate the problem of cosmetic surgery overnight? No, it will not, but it will at least ensure that some type of regulation is in place. It would be an important and significant start, and it would allow patients and employers such as The Hospital Group to tell competent cosmetic surgeons from cowboys, or indeed from anyone who has limited or no recognised experience in cosmetic procedures.

There has not been inaction in this area. Legislation was drafted by the Law Commission at the request of the Department of Health in 2014, following Sir Bruce Keogh’s recommendations in the wake of the PIP scandal. The coalition Government failed to find the parliamentary time to take it forward in 2014. You will remember, Mr Deputy Speaker, that at that time the Order Paper

20 Oct 2015 : Column 931

was not exactly overflowing with legislation, so we need to answer the question why this was not brought forward. Both the RCS and the GMC are keen to bring in these changes. Again, the Government have failed to include such legislation in the Queen’s Speech. I ask the Minister to explain why that is the case, and when the Government intend to introduce such legislation. As I have said, it would have the support of both the Royal College of Surgeons and the General Medical Council, but it would also have cross-party support in the House.

May I also ask the Minister about the cost to the NHS? In Mrs Knight’s case, the cost of putting right the mistakes made by Dr Paganelli will have to be picked up by the NHS. As the hon. Member for Strangford said, this affects a large number of people, and the NHS is having to treat them at great expense because of the actions of organisations such as The Hospital Group and individuals such as Dr Paganelli. Is it right for the taxpayer to pick up the bill while those organisations and individuals are making absolute fortunes out of people’s misery? I do not think it is. We need to look into how the NHS can recover the cost of the treatment that Mrs Knight and others are undergoing at the taxpayer’s expense.

Jim Shannon: Some of the people who were at the meeting on Wednesday told horrifying stories about the ways in which in which the surgery had affected them. Some of them had partially lost their eyesight. There was the depression, there was the trauma, and there were all the other side effects of what had happened to them. Despite all that, however, some of the people who carried out those operations continue to perform this surgery. People are experiencing life-changing medical conditions. Something must be done, and perhaps the Minister needs to tell us that tonight.

Mr Jones: The hon. Gentleman has made a very good point. It is not just a question of the initial cost. Some people will need lifelong treatment, which will be very expensive for the taxpayer. I think that there should be a mechanism enabling the taxpayer to recover some of the cost from private companies and individuals when things go wrong.

I am also concerned about the issue of regulation. These organisations produce a great many glossy brochures, set up websites and have celebrity endorsements, but it is clear that some of the people who undergo cosmetic surgery need counselling beforehand, and there is no legal or other requirement to ensure that they receive it. Surgery that may be seen as life-changing—and, in some cases, is, for the wrong reasons—may also not be appropriate for some of those involved. They are mainly women, but, according to various reports that I have read, an increasing number of men are undergoing these procedures. They are not right for everyone, and I think that counselling and advice should be a key part of the process before anyone is convinced about going under the knife. The companies involved clearly exert a great deal of pressure to ensure that a steady flow of people enables them to make the money that they do make.

Let me finally ask the Minister about The Hospital Group itself. It gives the impression that it is a hospital group providing healthcare services, but it is clear that it

20 Oct 2015 : Column 932

is actually a facilities management company brokering details between patient and surgeon. Its material is very misleading. For instance, its website deliberately states that its surgeons are GMC-registered. It even refers to the Care Quality Commission as though that gave it the stamp of approval, and provided some type of guarantee. A misleading impression is being given.

I ask the Minister to examine the way in which The Hospital Group in particular, but other groups as well, uses terminology. I think that the average man or woman in the street may get the wrong impression from the CQC symbol or the reference to the GMC registration. The fact that when things go wrong they find that The Hospital Group wants nothing to do with it, and it is up to them to decide what to do, is another matter. That is not the impression given by the misleading publicity—deliberately so, I think—that is put out.

My constituent’s case is one of many that have highlighted the need for regulation. The legislation is there and we should press forward as a matter of urgency because if we do not more people will suffer. If there is one thing that my constituent, Mrs Knight, wants, it is that other people should avoid the awful experiences that she has gone through because of the negligence and greed for profit of both The Hospital Group and Dr Paganelli.

7.30 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Ben Gummer): I thank the hon. Member for North Durham (Mr Jones)for securing this debate on what is clearly an extremely distressing case for his constituent and an unfortunate one more generally. I want to pick up on the specific issues he raised to do with his constituent’s case before talking about the generality of the regulation of cosmetic surgery.

The hon. Gentleman pointed out the failure of his constituent’s doctor to have insurance and he will be pleased to know that, as of July 2014, new legislation required all surgeons providing cosmetic interventions to provide insurance and proper cover. A failure to do so would render them liable to undergo the fitness to practise tests conducted by the GMC. Those doctors operating outside the UK but in the EU who would have a temporary ability to operate in this country under the directive on mutual recognition of professional qualifications would still, under GMC regulations, be required to provide evidence of insurance cover. That legislation was brought into effect in August, which was clearly too late in the case of his constituent.

Mr Kevan Jones: Will the Minister look specifically into the case of Dr Paganelli, as I understand that he is still practising in this country?

Ben Gummer: I will certainly look into that case, as it does not sound right. I cannot trespass on the realms of the GMC, but I will inquire into the specific case outlined by the hon. Gentleman.

The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point about the cost to the NHS and this is not the only area in which we have considered and continue to consider cost recovery for the NHS. It can be difficult as sometimes the cost of legal action outweighs the cost of recovery and it is not something that the service is used to doing. I am keen to

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explore it further, but in the context of the action we are taking, which I shall come on to, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will understand the need to take this bit by bit so that we get the process right. In principle, I certainly agree that if organisations cause a cost to fall on the NHS, as in this case, there is a good argument for seeing whether that cost can be recovered.

That takes me on to another part of the hon. Gentleman’s speech that was particularly striking, about the celebrity endorsements in this case. It is not for me to make policy announcements in an Adjournment debate, nor would I want to in the case of celebrity endorsements, but I agree with the hon. Gentleman that people should think carefully about how they endorse cosmetic surgery. It is a serious intervention and if anyone seeks to glamorise something to which careful thought should be given, people and the organisations using those endorsements should treat them with extreme care.

I would point the organisation that the hon. Gentleman is dealing with and everyone else towards the code of conduct in advertising, the Committee of Advertising Practice and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice, which drew up guidance in October 2013, especially on protecting children and young people. I think it would be appropriate to make sure the organisation of which he speaks is complying with the spirit as well as the letter of that guidance, and if not I will certainly help him to ask whether anything more can be done on that.

The hon. Gentleman raises the issue of counselling. Any reputable organisation should seek to ensure that people undertake procedures only when they need to do so and have been properly counselled on the consequences of their actions so that they can make an informed decision. The Government believe that that should happen in every case for cosmetic surgery. There should be an informed decision, taken with serious thought.

Finally, on the issues to do with The Hospital Group the hon. Gentleman raised, I cannot speak without further advice, but there clearly seem to be questions about trading standards, which he raised. I hope that I and my officials will be able to meet him to look carefully at this case, to make sure if The Hospital Group is misrepresenting its position apropos its surgeons and those it seeks to represent, it is not besmirching an industry which more widely does take its duties and the way it represents itself seriously.

Jim Shannon: The hon. Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) has raised a topical issue of which we are all aware. Many people have had botched operations. Has the Minister’s Department been able to quantify how many? Optimax was one of the groups involved with a lot of the operations for laser surgery. People thought that was safe, but it was obviously not safe for all. Has the Department been able to quantify the numbers and therefore take action?

Ben Gummer: I am afraid I do not have an answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question, but I will make sure we write to him if such figures exist, although I suspect they may not. Let me inquire, and then I shall reply to his question.

Let me turn to the broader policy issues to which the hon. Member for North Durham referred. He referred to Sir Bruce Keogh’s review. It began in January 2012

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after the PIP breast implant scandal. It covered the rapidly growing non-surgical cosmetic market. He published that review in 2013 and it highlighted the rapid growth of cosmetic interventions, and suggested safeguards among 40 recommendations to protect patients. The aim of those was to improve how surgical and non-surgical interventions were done, to set standards for training practitioners and surgeons and for how supervision from regulated healthcare professionals can support self-regulation of the industry, and to improve the quality of the information clients have to ensure they are able to make informed decisions about their treatment. The Government published their response in 2014.

By the time of the publication the Government had already started work on a number of the recommendations. To address the issue of proper training for cosmetic practitioners, the Royal College of Surgeons set up an inter- specialty committee with representation from the relevant specialty associations and professional organisations including plastic surgery, ear nose and throat, oral and maxillofacial surgery, breast surgery, urology, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, the General Medical Council and the Care Quality Commission. The committee also includes patient and provider representation, and representatives from the devolved Administrations are invited as observers.

The committee established three sub-groups which are taking forward the work to implement the recommendations. They cover standards for training and certification, clinical quality and outcomes, and patient information. The committee is also in the process of developing an overarching framework for certification to improve the safety and delivery of cosmetic surgery. Individuals performing cosmetic surgery will be expected to practise within their field of specialty training. The framework for certification takes into account equivalence for non-UK-based surgeons.

Holly Lynch (Halifax) (Lab): I thank the Minister for giving way, and I thank my hon. Friend the Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) for bringing this important debate to the Chamber. PIP has been mentioned, along with the regulations that are in place in this country. I want to ask how we need to work with our European neighbours to ensure that we get the regulation right. We have heard about doctors coming from Italy to practise in this country, for example, and we know how PIP, which started in France, has impacted on patients in the UK. What work is the Minister doing to ensure that we co-operate across Europe to close any loopholes in this area?

Ben Gummer: The hon. Lady has touched on a complicated and diverse subject. I will happily talk to her when we have more time about what the Department is doing and what we are doing within the European Union to ensure the transferability of qualifications. A considerable amount of work is being done, and the GMC has tightened up a whole number of areas to ensure that we allow only the highest quality of practice in this country, while allowing people to travel through the European Union to practise using their qualifications.

I want to turn now to training for non-surgical interventions. We asked Health Education England to develop a new qualification framework for providers of

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non-surgical cosmetic interventions, and for those required to be responsible prescribers, that could apply to all practitioners regardless of previous training and professional background. Health Education England has now completed its review of the qualification requirements and will publish its recommendations shortly.

The issue of breast implants initiated the review by Sir Bruce Keogh. The review placed particular importance on systems that can precisely identify the complete cohort of patients in which a specific implant has been used. It recognised that being able to monitor the device implementation and performance for clinical outcomes and tracing of patients at risk of device failure was an important safety issue. There has been a range of responses, involving the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, the Health and Social Care Information Centre, the Committee of Advertising Practice and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice, and a whole series of recommendations has been enacted following the review.

Turning to legislation, we know that there are examples of high-quality surgical and non-surgical intervention, as I am sure the hon. Member for North Durham would agree, and it is those standards that we must make universal. I am aware of the arguments in favour of legislation as a way of reaching those standards—for example, through the statutory regulation of the non-surgical sector or new powers for the GMC. However, it does not follow that we must depend on legislation alone to meet the fundamental objectives of the Keogh review. Much has been achieved already and there is much more to do.

I know that the hon. Gentleman understands the pressure of competing priorities on parliamentary time. The calendar for legislation is full at the moment, as he knows, but we now have an opportunity to review and monitor the impact of non-legislative action before

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confirming whether new legislation would add significant value to safeguards for people choosing cosmetic procedures. We will continue to be advised on that by Sir Bruce and others as the safeguarding framework continues to develop. I can give the hon. Gentleman a personal assurance that I will ensure that the review of the non-legislative remedies is thorough, and that if it is found wanting, we will immediately look again at the subject with a view to taking further action.

We are grateful for the support of the Royal College of Surgeons and its partners and for the extremely thorough work that they have done so far. We are also grateful to the General Medical Council and the Care Quality Commission. In the light of the continuing work that I have outlined, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will agree that we are in a far better position now than we were before Sir Bruce’s review to help to protect the public and ensure proper training and oversight of non-surgical as well as surgical cosmetic interventions.

On the specific questions that the hon. Gentleman raised about his constituent, I commit to returning to him with an answer on the doctor he mentioned and the insurance that he will be required to have. I will also give him a specific answer on the cost to the NHS and any work that we might do on cost recovery, and on the specific guidance on the advertising of surgical procedures. I hope also to be able to get to the bottom of the nature of the sales techniques and the claims made by the hospital that he has mentioned, to ensure that it is practising in accordance with the standards that would be expected of a decent, reasonable organisation doing what it purports to do. I thank the hon. Gentleman very much for bringing this case to the Government’s attention.

7.45 pm

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