6.29 pm

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): It is pleasure to contribute to this debate. First, I wish to pay tribute to all local councillors, of all political parties and none, for the work that they do in the world of local government, making sure that local services are provided to the people we represent in Parliament. They do an incredible job in difficult circumstances. I say that having been a councillor on Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council for 12 years. My wife has been a Tameside councillor for 16 years, and I know the very difficult decisions she and her colleagues are having to make at the moment.

My constituency is served by two borough councils. They are very different in their socioeconomic and demographic, and political make-ups, but both are having to deal with tough—although different—spending decisions. Stockport contains the two Reddish wards in my constituency. Tameside would love to have Stockport’s settlement and its council tax base. Nevertheless, the cuts are biting hard in Stockport and I wish to make a few comments on behalf of the borough council. It says it is:

“Surprised at extent to which council tax growth is assumed in the government’s figures which…fail to acknowledge the spending pressures arising from government induced changes (e.g national living wage, NI increases and apprenticeship levy).”

10 Feb 2016 : Column 1679

It would be good if the Minister could respond to some of those points. Although Stockport Council welcomes

“certain aspects of the settlement, insofar as it is not as bad as it might have been”

it is

“under no illusions as to the scale of the financial challenges that face the Council”.

It says that it will have to

“take full advantage of the newly granted flexibility to increase council tax.”

I wish to make the point again that Tameside’s council has a £16 million social care deficit this year. It is now restricted to providing just critical and substantial care, which is statutory. That means the council still has to find the money to close that £16 million gap. Given that social care amounts to 60% of the council’s overall budget yet it serves only 4% of the residents of the borough, that money has to be found from the services everybody else takes for granted. I do not wish to repeat many of the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington (Jenny Chapman), but Tameside’s council is in a pretty similar position, in that its grounds maintenance, parks, road repairs and street cleaning are what is being literally—

Barbara Keeley: Today, I have been downstairs to meet people from the Malnutrition Task Force, which is doing some brilliant work in Salford. We have more than 2,000 cases of malnutrition—we are talking about people over 65 here. This sort of thing is developing now. Cynical comments are made by Conservative Members about the real concern Labour Members have. We did not used to need a malnutrition taskforce, and 193 out of 2,000 cases of malnourished older people were found in Salford. I know that Tameside has now launched a food bank to deal with this issue.

Andrew Gwynne: My hon. Friend is absolutely right about that. Of course these cuts to local government budgets must also be set alongside the £200 million in-year reduction to the public health budget, which of course local government controls—it is a point she makes very well.

In areas such as Darlington and Tameside, local residents are not going to receive the basic services they expect to receive because the social care gap has to be filled by the general fund. I am glad the Secretary of State is back in his place, because he keeps telling Tameside Members to speak to the leader of Trafford Council. I tell him that Tameside would love to have Trafford Council’s council tax base. Band D properties in Trafford bring in £84.9 million of income to Trafford, whereas the same band in Tameside brings in £74.3 million. That is because Trafford has many more band D properties, and it also has many more in bands E, F and G. That is the real unfairness.

In my closing few seconds, I will touch briefly on the Better Care Fund, which is of course backloaded. We need that money today, because the crisis in social care is here, it is now and it is literally killing the council financially. I say to the Secretary of State that it is all very well giving money through the Better Care Fund, but the council is losing a similar amount from the new homes bonus. We need a fairer

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settlement for the metropolitan areas, and a needs-based assessment, because Tameside and Stockport are being clobbered.

6.35 pm

Simon Hoare (North Dorset) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne). I concur with him and share his thanks to councillors and council officers, of all politics and none, for the work that they do, day in, day out, on behalf of their communities across the country.

To listen to Opposition Members, one would have thought that the settlements for their areas had been stripped away in order to adjust ours. Had that been the case, I would have shared their anger, but it is not the case. No draft settlement that was announced in December has been driven downwards. The Department and the Treasury, to whom thanks must be due, have found additional money. I find myself asking this question, because I am not convinced by the synthetic froth of anger that we are hearing from Opposition Members. Where were they—with the honourable exception of the shadow Minister and the hon. Member for Workington (Sue Hayman)—for the debate on the local government settlement just a few weeks ago? They were not here. They thought that they had got away scot-free, and that our areas were getting the clobbering. They have suddenly woken up and taken an interest in this situation.

Graham Stuart: My hon. Friend is right that it is a synthetic froth. Let us take Tameside and Trafford. In the original settlement, Trafford was facing a 28% reduction in Government-funded spending power, against 19% in Tameside. Surrey was facing a 54% cut—I would never normally speak up for Surrey—so it is no wonder that it got some transitional relief.

Simon Hoare: My hon. Friend is right. Frankly, the Opposition party has been rumbled on this. Let us not kid ourselves, this remains, even after the welcome announcement made by the Minister on Monday, a tough settlement. It leaves an unfair and unsustainable gap between funding for rural and urban areas. That continues. It has just been made a little less tough. There is no golden goose being given to Tory local government.

Liam Byrne: I hope that the hon. Gentleman will take back the point about synthetic rage. If other hon. Members had a hospital such as the one in my constituency, which is £54 million in deficit, and where delayed discharges are up 1,000% in a year because of public funding cuts, they would have a responsibility to stand up and say, “Think carefully about how you distribute money.” If they are representing a city such as Birmingham where there is another £92 million to come out of social care on top of the crisis that is already there, then, collectively as a country, we have a problem. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will take back his comment and recognise that there are genuine questions about the distribution mechanisms being put forward by the Secretary of State.

Simon Hoare: If Birmingham City Council is funding its local hospital, it might explain some of its problems. That is not a responsibility of the city council. I do not know how the right hon. Gentleman has the brass neck to stand and ask Government Members to retract

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comments when the note he left in the Treasury continues to hang like an albatross around his and his party’s neck.

Liam Byrne On that point—

Simon Hoare: I will not give way to him.

Liam Byrne: It is because he is frit.

Simon Hoare: No. Of the right hon. Gentleman, I am never frit. Of course I will give way.

Liam Byrne: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who is being courteous and collegiate in giving way. He will also remember that I left a Budget that was going to halve the deficit over the course of the Parliament, which his Chancellor has still failed to achieve.

Simon Hoare: The right hon. Gentleman has obviously been to Specsavers—he has the rose-tinted glasses and he is looking through a completely different Labour history.

Mr Speaker: Order. There is an unseemly tenor now to the debate. I urge the hon. Member for North Dorset (Simon Hoare) to return to the path of virtue, which he ordinarily occupies, in terms of the conduct of debate. I remind the House that we are discussing not budgets, but Local Government Finance (England).

Simon Hoare: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I take that Lenten reprimand as it was intended.

The Labour Opposition are judging this Government by their standards. The formula that they put in place when they were in government was patently slewed. It was gerrymandering on a massive scale. That is why, in my closing remarks, I turn to the future. The announcement that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made on Monday makes a tough settlement for local government across the piece just a little less tough. It provides an opportunity and a breathing space, particularly for counties such as Dorset, which was going to have revenue support grant for only two years—Dorset County Council, that is—rather than for four. That is where the transitional relief has had to kick in, and the rural services delivery grant has also come in to help. But that help is temporary, so I will be pressing, as I am sure will some of my hon. Friends—no doubt Opposition Members will do so too—for an efficient and speedy review and formulation of the new methodologies to be deployed in calculating what our local authorities need. I think the Ministers get that point.

In broad terms, the motions that we are debating are to be supported. There is additional help for my rural areas, which I welcome. The Secretary of State listened to my call for the £5 de minimis and has put that in. Likewise with regard to the localisation of planning fees. In closing, I repeat my call in an earlier intervention for town councils to work fully in concert with district councils. They should be exempt from having their precepts capped. That will allow them to forge a deeper relationship with senior tiers of local government, instead of the year-on-year question of whether they would be capped or not. I welcome the settlement and I will join the Government in the Lobby tonight to support it. Rural communities throughout the country, which have suffered for too long under a faulty Labour manifesto, are now getting—

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Mr Speaker: Order.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Speaker: There are three Labour Members still seeking to catch my eye, but realistically we ought to begin the winding-up speeches no later than 6.50. Whether Members wish to share, I leave to them. There is a time limit of four minutes, but it is up to them to cope with it.

6.43 pm

Jack Dromey (Birmingham, Erdington) (Lab): Respecting that discipline, I shall be brief. Birmingham is a great city—the city of Chamberlain, the birthplace of municipal governance, the birthplace of municipal enterprise, a city with great potential, and a dynamic city—but it is a city of high need. My constituency may be rich in talent, but it is one of the poorest in the country. If someone gets on the train at the new Grand Central station and gets off at Erdington or Gravelly Hill, they are likely to live seven years less than if they continue on the train to Sutton Coldfield.

The city is now suffering the biggest cuts in local government history—£500 million already, another £250 million at the next stages, £90 million this year—and the city is the victim of grotesque unfairness. MPs of all political parties met the Secretary of State and we put a powerful case for fair funding and for transitional funding. We welcomed the fact that ultimately the Government want to move to a new fair funding formula, but what happens in the next three to four years is crucial.

We put a strong case, the Government listened, the Government moved, then they gave Birmingham not one penny, yet they were able to shell out for Wokingham, Surrey, Cheshire East, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Kent and Worcestershire. It is fundamentally wrong. It cannot be right that areas of high need are treated in that way at a time when the Government say they want to move to a new needs-based formula. It cannot be right.

Let me conclude, so that my hon. Friends the Members for Redcar (Anna Turley) and for St Helens South and Whiston (Marie Rimmer) may speak. The Government should recognise the consequences of their actions. School crossing patrols, which are vital to the safety of kids going to and from school, are at risk. Home-Start in my constituency, which has given outstanding support to parents who are struggling in their lives and struggling to bring up their kids, is at risk. In a city where 100,000 people are in need of social care, many of those people—the elderly, the disabled and the vulnerable—will not now get the care they should be entitled to in a civilised society. What the Government have done is fundamentally wrong: they have ignored need and looked after their own, and that is something that no Government should ever do.

Mr Speaker: The hon. Gentleman’s middle name is clearly Share.

6.45 pm

Anna Turley (Redcar) (Lab/Co-op): As everyone in the House will be aware, the liquidation of Sahaviriya Steel Industries and the closure of Redcar steelworks last September led to more than 3,000 immediate job losses. The local authority, Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, serves a population of 135,000 people. Those

10 Feb 2016 : Column 1683

job losses would be the equivalent in Greater London of the overnight loss of 176,000 jobs—imagine the headline on the front of the

Evening Standard

. That is what my local area is dealing with.

Imagine now, on top of that, the loss to the council of £10 million in business rates from SSI, plus the loss to council tax income as a result of people being out of work, as well as the knock-on demand for services from those out of work and the money lost more broadly to the local economy.

Add to that the fact that less than £5 per head is spent on transport in our region, compared with £2,600 per head in London. Add to that the fact that unemployment was already more than double the national average, and that was before the steelworks closed. Add to that the fact that our demographics show we have a higher than average proportion of elderly people and we have desperately deprived rural areas in Cleveland, which many Government Members have not taken into account in the debate. Add to that the fact that a third of men and half of women are on less than a living wage. Add to that the fact that the Tees valley has the second highest number of wards anywhere in the country in the index of multiple deprivation. That is what we are dealing with.

Our local authority of Redcar and Cleveland has lost £56.4 million in funding since the Prime Minister came to office—more than the funding package we got to retrain SSI workers. That is what we have lost, and now the Government intend to take a further £7.5 million from us—a total loss of £89 million over 10 years. That is not sustainable.

We are trying to get back on our feet. We are trying to recover. Why are the Government holding us back? This is a heinous settlement from a shameless, arrogant and downright cruel Government, and I urge them to think again.

6.47 pm

Marie Rimmer (St Helens South and Whiston) (Lab): I speak on behalf of the residents of St Helens South and Whiston. My constituency extends over two small metropolitan boroughs—Knowsley and St Helens. I have three wards in Knowsley, which is one of the top three most deprived boroughs in the country, and the seventh-highest in terms of income deprivation. Knowsley has already suffered £98 million of cuts. Last year, it put £7 million into the social care budget for elderly people—£7 million in reserves that is not there this year, so Knowsley will have to find the funds to fill the gap or cut those services.

I declare an interest: I am still a St Helens councillor. St Helens suffered £68 million of cuts. I can say more on that, because I know more of the detail. A 2% precept on council tax will raise £1.2 million, but there is £1.8 million in demand for care services, with £1 million in demand for older people’s services and £800,000 in demand from other people receiving social care. The living wage will increase the spend by £1.8 million. With only £1.2 million being raised, we already have a gap of £2.4 million, and that is without the cut coming in this year’s budget. We have received nothing for the transition.

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I was amazed at the lack of understanding of how health and social care work together. I am proud that public health, primary care, secondary care, the clinical commissioning group and the hospitals all work together in St Helens. This weekend, I spent time in the hospital with some friends. A lady’s partner was going to have to leave the hospital, but sadly could not go home, so people were trying to persuade her that her partner would need to go into a home, and I took her to a home. The hospital serves five or six boroughs, all of which are suffering from cuts in social care. That means that people are unable to get the care that they need and would have had previously. They are wondering who is going to look after them, particularly those living alone. Who will go in to help them in between the social care? Looking at children’s services, we are putting children out for adoption much more quickly than we were, but the cost of providing foster care is enormous.

I urge the Minister at least to look to bringing forward the better care fund. I ask him to look at the ability to raise funds, how little council tax raises, and needs and deprivation. The elderly population—65-year-olds, over-75s and over-85s—is growing by 14% each year. I ask him please to take everything into account.

6.50 pm

Liz McInnes (Heywood and Middleton) (Lab): I will be very brief because I want to hear from the Minister, as we do need answers to the questions that have been asked in this extremely lively and robust debate. The House is clearly extremely split over this settlement, with discontent, concern and dissatisfaction among Labour Members that needs to be listened to. It does not need, and does not deserve, to be met with denial, derision and dismissal, as in the case of so many Conservative Members, I am afraid.

The Secretary of State says that he will conduct a needs-based formula review, and that cannot come soon enough. I welcome the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington North (Helen Jones) about the inequality created by the 2% precept, which raises money for those areas with the highest council tax base. That inequality has to be addressed. My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool South (Mr Marsden) said that his area is suffering from 4.9% cuts as against the England average of 2.8%. Blackpool, an area of extreme deprivation, gets no transitional relief at all. He highlighted the failure of the 2% council tax precept to adequately fund adult social care—a theme that has run through the debate. The shadow Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon North (Mr Reed), pointed to the predicted council tax hike of 20% by 2020. This Government have broken their promise to the people of England to reduce council tax over the course of the Parliament.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts) welcomed the four-year settlement to enable our councils to plan. Indeed, I think all Labour Members welcome that. [Interruption.] As my hon. Friend the shadow Minister reminds me, Conservative Members actually voted against it. My hon. Friends also welcome the money for social care, but have pointed out that it does not meet the vast discrepancy in the funding that is needed to provide social care for our elderly and vulnerable, given the paltry amount that the 2% precept will raise. It is disappointing that Conservative Members

10 Feb 2016 : Column 1685

do not understand the link between delayed discharges from hospitals and the inadequacy of social care. This is a huge social problem, and the Government need to face up to it. They need to come out of denial and do something about the funding of social care.

Too many of my hon. Friends spoke for me to be able to credit them all, but I want to thank my hon. Friends the Members for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne) and for Worsley and Eccles South (Barbara Keeley) for their eloquent explanations of the chronic underfunding of adult social care and the distress that it is already causing to the disabled, the elderly and the vulnerable.

I will close with the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey), who pointed out that Birmingham gets “not one penny” in transitional funding, yet Surrey—not an area of high deprivation—gets £24 million. Areas of high need cannot be treated in this way. The Government need to recognise the consequences of their actions.

6.54 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr Marcus Jones): I thank hon. Members for this passionate debate, which it is my pleasure to close. These are important times for local government. The devolution of power and resources from Whitehall is gathering momentum. Public services need to find innovative ways to save money and support services for local people.

I take the opportunity to thank local government for its hard work and dedication across the country over the past five years. More savings need to be made as we finish the job of eliminating the largest deficit in our post-war history. The finance settlement that we have discussed today will help councils to continue their excellent work. We have consulted carefully, and I am grateful to hon. Members—particularly Government Members—for bringing their constituents’ views to us during the consultation.

I want to cover some of the points that hon. Members have raised. The opening salvo from the hon. Member for Croydon North (Mr Reed) was nothing more than scaremongering and the politics of fear. There was certainly a lot of heat, but there was not much light. He showed no contrition whatsoever for the deficit that the previous Labour Government left behind, which we have had to deal with. He made no mention of the fact that, only months ago, the Labour party went into a general election saying that it would cut funding to local government. He might not know his Kent from his Surrey, but he is the former leader of Lambeth Council, so I think we should give him some credit for his knowledge of local government. I am sure he will be keen to know that Lambeth Council has supported the idea of transitional measures:

“Transitional measures are usually employed where a new distribution methodology is introduced to ensure significant shifts are not experienced one way or the other. The Council believes this is sensible on the basis that the control totals are adjusted such that those benefitting are not adversely affected.”

No council has been adversely affected as a consequence of our response to the provisional settlement, but the hon. Gentleman seemed to deny that. He gave Government Members a considerable lecture about council tax, which I found absolutely astounding. During the last five

10 Feb 2016 : Column 1686

years, council tax has been reduced by 11%, on average. He did not mention the fact that while the Labour party was in government, council tax doubled.

My hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr Turner) made strong representations during the process on behalf of his constituents. I hope that he was reassured by the comments of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, who is certainly listening to the challenges faced by the island that he represents.

The Chair of the Communities and Local Government Committee, the hon. Member for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts), made a sensible contribution. He welcomed the move to localism and local funding for local services. He asked when details of the distribution of the better care fund would be made available. I reassure him that there will be a response to the consultation on the better care fund very soon, and we will be able to give further details.

My hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay (Steve Double) welcomed devolution, the transitional arrangements and the increase in the rural services delivery grant. My hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) used his considerable experience of local government and as a Minister to support the proposal. He made a sensible and excellent point about entrenching efficiency. That is absolutely achievable now that we are offering councils the ability to take a four-year budget if they so wish.

I want to mention the speech by the hon. Member for Oldham West and Royton (Jim McMahon), who is no longer in his place. He made some appalling comments about my noble Friend Baroness Williams. I can assure hon. Members that the transitional grant is based purely on supporting areas that have encountered the largest reduction in the revenue support grant. The approach he took towards my noble Friend Baroness Williams was very sad and not becoming of him.

Barbara Keeley: Will the Minister give way?

Mr Jones: I will not give way, because I do not have the time.

My hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness (Graham Stuart) has been an effective advocate for rural areas, as he was again today. I am glad that he has welcomed the Government’s response to the consultation.

The hon. Member for Darlington (Jenny Chapman) made a very strong speech, but I was surprised because if she feels so strongly why did she not respond to the consultation? If she had done so or if she had looked at the figures closely, she would have seen that Darlington has actually benefited from the way in which the settlement has been prepared.

Jenny Chapman: Will the Minister give way?

Mr Jones: No, I will not give way. The hon. Lady will see that that is the case if she looks properly at the figures.

The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Liam Byrne) absolutely knocked the nail on the head in 2010, when he said, “There is no money.” From his speech today, he seems to have absolutely forgotten that.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Mark Spencer) made another sensible contribution to this debate. He talked about the opportunity for councils to

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raise new council tax and business rates for their local community. Such councils are sensible and are doing the right thing on behalf of their local residents.

It was good to hear from my hon. Friend the Member for North Devon (Peter Heaton-Jones), who talked about his council officers welcoming the improved rural services delivery grant. I agree with him that it is a shame no Liberal Democrats were in the Chamber for this debate.

My hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Kevin Foster) reminded me of Elvis when he said that the Lib Dems had left the building. It does not seem that the handful of them now left are representing their constituents very well.

Lancashire is a great county. It is a shame that the hon. Member for Burnley (Julie Cooper) talked at length about the negatives but did not mention that Lancashire is actually benefiting from the transitional arrangements that this Government have put in place. It will be very interesting to see whether she votes down a proposal to give more money to her county and to the services provided to her constituents.

My hon. Friend the Member for Torbay made an excellent contribution. He was an excellent deputy council leader in Coventry. He knows his onions and he knows what he is talking about. He explained the importance, particularly in his area, of councils working together to continue to deliver high-quality services for his constituents.

My hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake) made a strong contribution. He pointed out the challenges of providing services in rural areas and the importance of the rural services delivery grant in his area.

My hon. Friend the Member for North Dorset (Simon Hoare) made his usual colourful contribution. I am glad that he did not follow up on the offer he made to the Secretary of State on Monday, but it was much appreciated. His comments were noted. He is a doughty campaigner for his constituents, and it was good that he welcomed the council tax flexibility of £5 for district councils.

This settlement meets the needs of the users of council services. It charts the path to the future accountability of local government. This is a time of big opportunity and expectation for reform in local government. The settlement delivers transition funding to smooth the path from central control to fully localised income: a fivefold increase in support for rural communities next year; a fundamental review of the needs-based formula to chart the path to full business rates retention; and support for social care amounting to £3.5 billion by 2020. I commend it to the House.

Question put.

The House divided:

Ayes 315, Noes 209.

Division No. 192]

[

7.4 pm

AYES

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, Sir Henry

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Berry, James

Bingham, Andrew

Blackman, Bob

Blunt, Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Borwick, Victoria

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

Cartlidge, James

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

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, rh Stephen

Davies, Byron

Davies, Chris

Davies, David T. C.

Davies, Glyn

Davies, Dr James

Davies, Mims

Davis, rh Mr David

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Donelan, Michelle

Dorries, Nadine

Double, Steve

Dowden, Oliver

Drax, Richard

Drummond, Mrs Flick

Duddridge, James

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, Mr Nigel

Evennett, rh Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fernandes, Suella

Field, rh Mark

Foster, Kevin

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Francois, rh Mr Mark

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

Kinahan, Danny

Knight, rh Sir Greg

Knight, Julian

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Lancaster, Mark

Latham, Pauline

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Dr Phillip

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leigh, Sir Edward

Leslie, Charlotte

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, rh Dr Julian

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

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, Karl

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

Menzies, Mark

Mercer, Johnny

Merriman, Huw

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, rh Mrs Maria

Milling, Amanda

Milton, rh Anne

Mitchell, rh Mr Andrew

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, rh Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, James

Morton, Wendy

Mowat, David

Mundell, rh David

Murray, Mrs Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Neill, Robert

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

Offord, Dr Matthew

Osborne, rh Mr George

Parish, Neil

Patel, rh Priti

Pawsey, Mark

Penning, rh Mike

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Philp, Chris

Pickles, rh Sir Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Prentis, Victoria

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pritchard, Mark

Pursglove, Tom

Quin, Jeremy

Quince, Will

Raab, Mr Dominic

Redwood, rh John

Rees-Mogg, Mr Jacob

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Robinson, Gavin

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

Stride, Mel

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

Wright, rh Jeremy

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Ayes:

Jackie Doyle-Price

and

Simon Kirby

NOES

Abrahams, Debbie

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Allen, Mr Graham

Anderson, Mr David

Ashworth, Jonathan

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Barron, rh Kevin

Beckett, rh Margaret

Benn, rh Hilary

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blackman-Woods, Dr Roberta

Blenkinsop, Tom

Blomfield, Paul

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brennan, Kevin

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

Campbell, rh Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Champion, Sarah

Chapman, Jenny

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Ann

Cooper, Julie

Cooper, Rosie

Corbyn, rh Jeremy

Cox, Jo

Coyle, Neil

Crausby, Mr David

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Dakin, Nic

David, Wayne

Davies, Geraint

De Piero, Gloria

Doughty, Stephen

Dowd, Jim

Dromey, Jack

Dugher, Michael

Edwards, Jonathan

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Ellman, Mrs Louise

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Farrelly, Paul

Farron, Tim

Field, rh Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Fletcher, Colleen

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Gardiner, Barry

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mary

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Greenwood, Margaret

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Haigh, Louise

Hamilton, Fabian

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harman, rh Ms Harriet

Harris, Carolyn

Hayes, Helen

Healey, rh John

Hendrick, Mr Mark

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Hillier, Meg

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hollern, Kate

Hopkins, Kelvin

Hunt, Tristram

Huq, Dr Rupa

Hussain, Imran

Irranca-Davies, Huw

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, rh Alan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Gerald

Jones, Graham

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jones, Susan Elan

Kane, Mike

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Keeley, Barbara

Kendall, Liz

Kinahan, Danny

Kinnock, Stephen

Kyle, Peter

Lamb, rh Norman

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lavery, Ian

Leslie, Chris

Lewell-Buck, Mrs Emma

Lewis, Clive

Lewis, Mr Ivan

Long Bailey, Rebecca

Lucas, Caroline

Lynch, Holly

Mactaggart, rh Fiona

Madders, Justin

Mahmood, Mr Khalid

Mahmood, Shabana

Malhotra, Seema

Mann, John

Marris, Rob

Marsden, Mr Gordon

Maskell, Rachael

McCabe, Steve

McCarthy, Kerry

McCartney, Jason

McDonagh, Siobhain

McDonald, Andy

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGinn, Conor

McGovern, Alison

McInnes, Liz

McKinnell, Catherine

McMahon, Jim

Meale, Sir Alan

Mearns, Ian

Miliband, rh Edward

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Morden, Jessica

Morris, Grahame M.

Murray, Ian

Nandy, Lisa

Onn, Melanie

Onwurah, Chi

Osamor, Kate

Owen, Albert

Pearce, Teresa

Pennycook, Matthew

Phillips, Jess

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

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Ryan, rh Joan

Saville Roberts, Liz

Shah, Naz

Shannon, Jim

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Sherriff, Paula

Shuker, Mr Gavin

Siddiq, Tulip

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Andy

Smeeth, Ruth

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Cat

Smith, Jeff

Smith, Nick

Smith, Owen

Smyth, Karin

Spellar, rh Mr John

Starmer, Keir

Stevens, Jo

Streeting, Wes

Stringer, Graham

Stuart, rh Ms Gisela

Tami, Mark

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thomas-Symonds, Nick

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turley, Anna

Twigg, Derek

Twigg, Stephen

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, Valerie

Watson, Mr Tom

West, Catherine

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Wilson, Phil

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Dame Rosie

Woodcock, John

Wright, Mr Iain

Zeichner, Daniel

Tellers for the Noes:

Sue Hayman

and

Vicky Foxcroft

10 Feb 2016 : Column 1688

10 Feb 2016 : Column 1689

10 Feb 2016 : Column 1690

10 Feb 2016 : Column 1691

Mr Speaker: The Ayes have it in respect of the UK-wide Division. On account of a technical hitch that has just been reported to the Chair, I shall cause the

10 Feb 2016 : Column 1692

result of the Division among English constituency Members to be disclosed to the House when those facts are relayed to me. On the assumption that there is no contradiction between the results, the Ayes have it. Members will be kept informed.

7.22 pm

Mr Speaker: I can now announce the results of the Division among English Members in respect of the matter of which we have just treated. The Ayes to the right were 301; the Noes to the left were 181, so the Ayes have it. I have now confirmed what I suggested to the House a few moments ago.

Resolved,

That the Report on Local Government Finance (England) 2016-17 (HC 789), which was laid before this House on 8 February, be approved.

More than three hours having elapsed since the commencement of proceedings, the proceedings were interrupted (Order, 8 February).

The Speaker put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (Order, 8 February).

Local government Finance (England)

Resolved,

That the Report on the Referendums Relating to Council Tax Increases (Principles) (England) 2016–17 (HC 790), which was laid before this House on 8 February, be approved.

That the Report on Referendums Relating to Council Tax Increases (Alternative Notional Amounts) (England) 2016–17 (HC 791), which was laid before this House on 8 February, be approved.—(Mr Marcus Jones.)

Business of the House

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 15),

That, at this day’s sitting, the motion in the name of Chris Grayling relating to the notification of arrest of members, may be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour and Standing Order No 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply.—(Julian Smith.)

Question agreed to.

10 Feb 2016 : Column 1693

Notification of Arrest of Members

7.25 pm

The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons (Dr Thérèse Coffey): I beg to move,

That Members of the House shall be under no undue restraint from being able to attend the House, and that this principle has been, and continues to be, encompassed in the privileges of the House claimed at the beginning of each Parliament;

That this House accordingly:

(1) endorses the Second Report of the Procedure Committee, Session 2015-16, Notification of the arrest of Members, HC 649;

(2) directs the Clerk of the House and the Speaker to follow the protocol on notification of arrest of Members set out in Annex 2 to that Report; and

(3) directs each chief officer of police in the United Kingdom, immediately upon the arrest of any Member by the police force under that officer’s command, to notify the Clerk of the House in accordance with the provisions of that protocol.

The motion stands in my name and that of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and the Chairman of the Procedure Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne (Mr Walker). I do not intend to detain the House for long. Although I would describe myself and my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley and Golders Green (Mike Freer) as conviction politicians, I want the record to show that the motion before the House results from the publication of the report from the Procedure Committee on 15 December on the notification of arrest of hon. Members.

The report followed detailed consideration by the Procedure Committee, at the request of Mr Speaker, and the House is being asked to endorse that report and the protocol contained in it. A word of caution to hon. Members: the Government are facilitating the discussion and the decision of the House on this matter, but it is for the House to decide, and I will leave it to my hon. Friend the Chair of the Committee to set out the proposals in the report and to answer any queries and issues that have arisen since publication. I thank the members of the Committee for their diligent efforts, and I know that my hon. Friend the Chair is highly respected and will do his best to help hon. Members in this debate and beyond. As such, I present the motion to the House.

7.27 pm

Mr Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con): In the previous Parliament, the Procedure Committee was asked to look into the existing protocols around the arrest of Members of Parliament. We started preliminary inquiries in early 2015, and this work laid the foundation for the inquiry we launched shortly after the general election.

The findings of the inquiry were unanimously endorsed by the Committee, which reported to the House in December. I know that our moderate and proportionate recommendations relating to the arrest of Members have created a great deal of faux sound and fury in various quarters. On Monday morning, I had to smile at the assertion by Kevin O’Sullivan, a Mirror journalist, on Sky Television, that

“they should very much be named because everyone else is… that’s always been the system. Once you are arrested, you can be named”.

10 Feb 2016 : Column 1694

That was an enlightening observation for two reasons: first, because it was completely wrong, and secondly and more interestingly, because it gave a revealing insight into the conduct of too many national newsrooms and their own morality when it comes to obtaining information from public officials.

I accept that the media have a job to do, and that includes making our lives difficult, so my greatest disappointment in the reporting on the Committee’s proposals is reserved for Sir Alistair Graham, the former chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life. From his pejorative comments about our report, it is clear either that he has not read it or, if he has read it, that he has no appreciation of, or regard for, the law. I know that Sir Alistair’s time in the chair from 2004 to 2007 was not a happy one. During his three years in office, he felt deeply aggrieved that at no stage did the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, agree to his repeated requests for a meeting. I accept that the then PM was perhaps churlish in his refusal to meet him, but I gently ask Sir Alistair to pursue his grievance with the former Prime Minister, as opposed to taking his frustrations out on the House of Commons, which had no hand in his disappointment. On a personal note, it is sad to see a distinguished former public servant and knight of the realm allowing himself to be turned into little more than a misinformed talking head.

Let me be absolutely clear: the Procedure Committee is not asking for Members of Parliament to receive special treatment in the eyes of the law. Such a request, if made, would be alien to the values of our Committee and to the wishes of our constituents. All of us on the Committee believe that the law should be applied equally to all citizens of the United Kingdom, but presently that is not the case in this House, where, in matters of policing and public order, the point of public notification occurs not at the point of charge, as is the case with our constituents, but at the point of arrest.

That process of notification puts the police and the House at odds with the Data Protection Act and, potentially, article 8 of the European convention on human rights. Regardless of how people feel about the application of data protection and ECHR laws, that exposes both this House and the police to legal challenge by a named Member of Parliament.

Mr Stewart Jackson (Peterborough) (Con): Is it not the truth that this practice is an historical anachronism arising from the period of the titanic struggle between the monarchy and the legislature, when, at a time when the King would arbitrarily arrest Members of Parliament, it was quite proper for Parliament to be so advised of that happening? It has no place in a modern Parliament and a modern democracy.

Mr Walker: My hon. Friend makes a valid point, which I shall now go on to answer.

In brief, the House has five choices. Option 1, as set out in our report, is to ensure that the law of the land is applied equally to Members of Parliament as it is to our constituents. Option 2 is for the House to retain the status quo, thereby knowingly putting itself and the police on the wrong side of the law. Option 3 is for the Home Secretary to amend schedule 3 of the Data Protection Act 1998 to specifically exempt Members of Parliament from its universal protections,

10 Feb 2016 : Column 1695

which in itself would create a precedent for a two-tier system tier of justice—the very thing our constituents do not want.

Option 4 is to amend primary legislation, so that the names of all suspects are released by the police at the point of arrest, not the point of charge. Of course, that would be welcomed by the press, as it would aid it in its pursuit of celebrities and other people of interest, but it would be devastating for those tens of thousands of people who are arrested but never charged with any crime.

Option 5 is for the House to abandon privilege in respect of our parliamentary duties in the hope that no future despot would want to detain us from them on trumped-up political charges. Of course, if we follow that route, tonight’s entire debate would be a dead letter.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): When the Anglo-Irish agreement was signed by Margaret Thatcher in 1985, Unionists were enraged because it totally ignored them. Unionists at all levels, including then Members of this House—this was before my time—were involved in a campaign of civil disobedience and a then MP was arrested in that campaign. Was any consideration given to those examples of civil disobedience?

Mr Walker: When people engage in civil disobedience, they tend to want to have it reported, so that would not be covered. They would be charged, and of course, at the point of charge, it becomes public information. Of the people who took part in those protests, I think that 10 individuals—on 13 separate occasions—were imprisoned.

Of the five options I have outlined, the Procedure Committee opted for option 1, as we generally think it is a good idea for the laws of the land to be obeyed by the Parliament that creates them. Indeed, that is the minimum expectation that our constituents have of us, so I am amazed that some colleagues are tying themselves up in knots about this modest proposal.

Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset) (Con): In the unlikely circumstance that a Government less benign than the current one were to have a Member arrested on a trumped-up charge, would that Member have the right to insist that Mr Speaker brought it to the attention of the House?

Mr Walker: My hon. Friend makes a very good point. That Member would have the right, but if it were judged to be a matter of privilege, the Clerk would advise the Speaker and the arrest would be placed in the public domain. That is what would happen.

Mr Rees-Mogg: I am grateful for a second go. Is my hon. Friend saying that if the House has a chance to ascertain whether it is a breach of privilege, the Member concerned will also have the right to insist on it being made public by Mr Speaker?

Mr Walker: All Members, if arrested, will continue to have the right to have their names made public if that is

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what they choose to do, but it will not be automatic. I hope that answers my hon. Friend’s question.

If adopted, the proposed changes will mean that Members of Parliament subject to arrest will not automatically have details of that arrest published by the House. This change gives them only the same rights to privacy as are enjoyed by any other citizen—not enhanced rights, but equal rights. In accordance with standard police practice and privacy laws, the names of arrested Members will not be put into the public domain by the House unless the Member consents. The exception will be in cases where you, Mr Speaker, have been advised by the Clerk of the House that a Member has been detained for reasons connected to his or her role as a Member of Parliament. A recent example was the arrest of the right hon. Member for Ashford (Damian Green) when his parliamentary office and home office were raided by the police in 2008.

The Committee’s report sets out the ambition that the arrest of a Member of Parliament still be notified to the Police Chief Superintendent of this House within 24 hours. However, we recognise that in circumstances where there is a live investigation, the police will not be in a position always to meet this ambition. In those circumstances, we hope that the details of an arrest will be provided as soon as operationally possible. For the avoidance of all doubt, should an arrested Member subsequently be charged with an offence, it is expected that in line with existing police practice, details of the name and charge would be published by the police force responsible at the time of charge.

In conclusion, the new arrangements detailed in the Committee’s report and outlined here this evening do not, of course, affect the duties of police forces to notify relevant authorities of safeguarding risks under the common law police disclosure scheme, which was introduced in August 2015.

7.37 pm

Melanie Onn (Great Grimsby) (Lab): No Member of this House or the other place is above the law—nor should they ever consider themselves to be. The reach of the law extends within the House, and Parliament would not seek to interfere with due process of a criminal investigation. Similarly, as the law applies to us all equally, so does the right to privacy.

Given that we are public servants, it is right that notification to the House would still take place in respect of matters such as imprisonment or remanding in custody; sentence of imprisonment; conviction of illegal or corrupt practice at a parliamentary election; and conviction of an offence relating to an MP’s expenses.

I would, however, like to ask about the practicality of the proposed measures, and I shall direct my questions to the hon. Member for Broxbourne (Mr Walker) as Chairman of the Procedure Committee. I believe that to be the correct process. Does the Committee believe that the event of a Member of Parliament being arrested will be kept from the public domain as a direct result of these procedural changes? Does the hon. Gentleman agree that in the modern era of social media, it is increasingly likely that such information would quickly reach the public domain?

On the effect of social media, rumours very often take on a life of their own and become widely accepted truth before the interested party has a chance to respond.

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Does the hon. Gentleman consider that, with the removal of the duty to notify of the arrest of Members to the House, that it could be more difficult for an individual to counter rumours of such arrests?

I was interested to see that no notifications of arrest were made to the House for 30 years—from 1978 until 2008. Were no Members arrested during that time, or is there already a system available that allows the Speaker or Clerk to exercise discretion in these matters?

Under these proposals, it is specified that Members who are arrested are not to be prevented from notifying the House of their detention. Can the hon. Gentleman say how this can be ensured?

It is intended that police forces will be required to notify the Chief Superintendent at Parliament of the arrest of any Member within 24 hours. How will information about that new procedure be circulated to police forces, and how will it be enforceable?

Can the hon. Gentleman provide examples of what he considers would fall within parliamentary privilege, or would be of constitutional significance, that would require the House to be automatically notified of a Member’s arrest, and can he explain how parliamentary privilege or constitutional significance would have affected the notification of arrests made in the past 10 years?

The recommendations in the Procedure Committee’s report rely on protections enshrined in the Human Rights Act 1998, which I thought the Government wanted to repeal. Why are they more than happy to employ the Act to protect their own rights, while wishing to remove it from the British people?

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Speaker: Order. In due course, with the leave with the House, the Chairman of the Procedure Committee may well have the chance—and, I rather anticipate, will have the chance—to speak again. Meanwhile, I call Mr Patrick Grady.

7.40 pm

Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP): I note that, according to the Order Paper, the debate can continue until any hour. I am surprised that my hon. Friends have decided to go to the Burns supper rather than taking this opportunity to explain their thinking on a range of matters. However, Mr Speaker, I thank you for calling me, and I congratulate the hon. Member for Broxbourne (Mr Walker) on his work in chairing the Procedure Committee, of which I am a member. I also acknowledge the work of the predecessor Committee, which did much of the heavy lifting. We inherited that hard work, and it has led to the report that we are discussing this evening.

The inquiry and the report—which proposes a small but fairly important modernisation of the House’s proceedings—were instigated by you, Mr Speaker. This morning, there was a debate in Westminster Hall about other aspects of modernisation of our procedure, led by the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier). I hope that in due course the Committee will be able to consider some of the issues that were raised then, not least that of electronic voting.

It is clear from the report that this reform of our procedure is overdue. I agree with what the hon. Member for Broxbourne said about, in particular, the European

10 Feb 2016 : Column 1698

convention on human rights and his suggestion that Members should be given no special or differential treatment. The report seeks to strike a balance between the historic rights and privileges accorded to the House and the understood modern rights of individuals, especially the right to privacy. The procedure respects both by requiring the Clerk of the House to be notified, while requiring the details of an arrest not to be made public without good reason or without the consent of the Member involved. I note in particular provision 11, which states:

“There will be no notification under any of these provisions without previous contact with the Member concerned or his or her legal representative.”

The report elaborates on that thinking by giving a bit more detail, explaining, for instance, why the practice of notification should not be abandoned entirely. That is connected largely with the historic claim of the House on the attendance of Members, but the report notes that it has never been allowed to interfere with the administration of justice.

This is a comprehensive report, which has arrived at clear conclusions. It is the work of two generations of parliamentarians, and I pay tribute again to the predecessor Committee. This Committee has reached a clear and simple consensus, and I hope that, notwithstanding some of the questions that we have just heard, the House will be able to do so as well.

7.44 pm

Mr Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) (Lab): I have been listening to the debate on the telly, and I do not know what all the fuss is about. I suppose I have been on nearly every picket line that has ever existed. I have been on one today, with the hospital doctors, and there was a tremendous turnout. But I remember being on one when the second eleven of the gang of four took over TV-am. Well, it was like a gang of four. They were very big and important people. One was a Member of Parliament, who later ran into some trouble. I think he got arrested, but I am not sure.

Anyway, I was on that picket line, and I do not remember there being any fuss and bother about the fact that a policeman came up and decided that he was going to arrest me. He put me inside—I think it was somewhere near Islington, not far from the TV-am picket line. After three hours, just as I was thinking, “I’m going to miss Prime Minister’s Question Time”, a man with all these pips on his shoulder came in and said, “Is there anything I can do for you, sir?” I said, “Yes, I’m trying to get out so that I can get to Prime Minister’s Question Time. I’m also struggling with 13 across in The Guardian crossword, but as a reader of The Sun, you probably don’t understand what I’m talking about.” So he kept me in another two hours, and I did miss Prime Minister’s Question Time.

Fortunately, there had been a cameraman on the picket line who had his own camera and he managed to prove, in all the further and better particulars, that I had not done anything at all. I had not hit the policeman; I had not been anywhere near him. The net result was that, when they saw the film, the police had to withdraw the charge. I turned up at Islington court expecting to get a hefty fine, and God knows what else, on this trumped-up charge, and suddenly the press came rushing out and stuck all these mics in front of my nose

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and said, “What have you got to say, Mr Skinner? The case has been dropped!” Now that is the story of an arrest.

I do not want anybody to get the daft impression that you cannot get arrested if you are an MP. A lot of my colleagues got arrested on picket lines in other strikes, and it is a load of nonsense when people assume that it is impossible to arrest Members of Parliament. The only charge I finished up with was a hefty bill for the barrister I had employed. He looked like one of those West Indian cricket fast bowlers, but he cost a lot of money. I was given the chance by the union concerned to have the money paid back, but as a matter of principle I said, “I’m okay, I’m a member of Parliament and I can foot the bill myself.” That is the story of an arrest.

I have been watching on telly as all this fuss and bother have emerged. Believe me, if some policeman had wanted to arrest me on the picket line with the hospital doctors this morning, he could have done it. But of course, we were doing “Singing in the Rain” and all the rest of it. It was a wonderful experience. The hospital doctors are in good spirits, and I will tell you this is a matter of importance. The Secretary of State for Health wants to be careful what he is doing. If he thinks he can impose a settlement on those hospital doctors—[Hon. Members: “Out of order!”] Yes, but this is only one little errant move, so don’t get excited, Mr Speaker! I think I have a duty to report back. The hospital doctors are not in a mood to give in. They have a right to win this battle. That is my report from the trenches today. Thank you very much for listening.

7.48 pm

John Mann (Bassetlaw) (Lab): I hate to break the consensus, but we have been here before when it comes to House business. I recall moving a resolution—but not getting a seconder—to stop the flipping of homes, some 18 months before the expenses scandal. If I had been listened to then, some Members might not be here today because others might well have survived; I suppose that outcome was rather double-edged. The reputation of Parliament might also have been partly salvaged if that resolution had been listened to, but it was not.

On this motion, I listened to the non-answer given to the hon. Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg). I have a question about the impact on the British overseas territories if this goes through. Plenty of Parliaments across the world, not least those in the Commonwealth, listen to and watch what we do, and they copy and emulate it. We are not just talking about a possibility in some future stage of less democratic times under this Government. Plenty of Members of Parliament have been arrested and disappear, and it still happens to this day. They are taken by regimes citing the law, and therefore decisions we make have to be thought through for their consequences.

Ironically, the first name on the motion is that of the Leader of the House of Commons, the right hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling). He is citing the human rights law here, but he is the man in Cabinet demanding we get rid of the human rights law. It seems that the rest of the country, including my constituents, can have no human rights, but we will create some extra ones tonight for Members of

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Parliament—exclusively. That is precisely what this proposal does. It says that MPs will give themselves some special rights in law that do not apply to everybody else, and that is wrong. That principle is wrong and that practice is wrong. Until the question, theoretical though it may be, is properly answered, which it has not been, this becomes a double-edged sword in law for us as well. If people wish to change the law in relation to what happens when people are arrested, they should change the law. There is plenty of time in the parliamentary agenda for people to change the law. There are plenty of opportunities for the Government to change the law. This is not the way to change it for Members of Parliament, and therefore we should oppose this proposal.

7.52 pm

Mr Charles Walker: With the leave of the House, Madam Deputy Speaker, I shall respond to the debate. I think the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann) missed my speech, because I think I did answer most of the questions he raised. I hope I answered the one put by my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg), as I tried to do so twice.

The hon. Gentleman talks about creating another law for Members of Parliament. No, what we are doing is bringing Members of Parliament in line with the law—the law that governs our constituents. I greatly enjoyed the speech made by the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr Skinner). He is a fantastic orator, and whatever he has to say, I always enjoy listening to it, so I thank him for being here this evening.

Let me try to answer the shadow Deputy Leader of the House’s questions. There were quite a lot of them and I am not very good at writing very quickly. If I fail to answer any of them, she can come back in. First, I wish to draw the House’s attention to “Erskine May’s” first edition. It records the case in 1815 of a Member

“convicted of a conspiracy”

and

“committed to the King’s Bench Prison.”

He escaped custody and took refuge in the Chamber of the old House of Commons, on the Government Front Bench, where the prison “marshal” found him and took him back into custody—rearrested him. Even though the marshal had come right into the House, albeit when it was not sitting, to take the Member into custody, the committee of privileges found that no breach of privilege had occurred. This measure is not to protect us; privilege has never protected us from being arrested for criminal activities, and it is a myth to suggest otherwise.

If a Member is arrested and chooses to tell the House of his or her arrest, or chooses to the tell the media of it, they are perfectly entitled to do that. What we are suggesting—what this report suggests and puts to the House—is that there is no automatic notification of the arrest of a Member, in line with the rights that extend to all of our constituents.

Let me just say something about social media. We cannot govern social media, but a lot of what appears on social media is hearsay and gossip. Let us also not forget that the media in this country have been very good at extracting information illegally, through the payment of cash to public officials, and some of those public officials have gone to prison for that. Both the Metropolitan Police Commissioner and the Home Secretary

10 Feb 2016 : Column 1701

recently wrote to the College of Policing, reiterating the fact that police officers must not under any circumstances, unless it is to do with safeguarding, release the name of an individual on arrest. Details of their age can be given, but not their name.

Many people mistakenly believe that the point of arrest happens towards the end of an investigation. Actually, it does not. It happens very early on in an investigation. Indeed, someone could present themselves voluntarily to a police station to be arrested and then be released on bail. The Deputy Leader of the House asks where this would have made a difference in recent times. There were three arrests notified to the House between 2011 and 2014 where this would have made a difference. In reality, it probably would have made a difference in only two of the arrests, because one of the acts for which the individual was arrested was committed in public, in the precinct of this House, so it was seen and reported by many people.

There were two colleagues—one in 2011 and one in 2014—who were arrested. Their names appeared on the front of national newspapers and they suffered huge reputational damage. In both those cases no charges were brought. It would not make a huge difference to a lot of people, but it would certainly make a difference to some people in this House.

On circulating the procedures, there is a protocol attached to our report and that will be circulated by the Clerk of the House and those who work in his office to police constables across the country. That will happen only when—and if—this House approves the motion here this evening.

The hon. Lady asked when privilege would have applied, and I gave an example in my speech. There was clearly the case of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Damian Green) whose offices on the precinct of the House of Commons and at home were entered by the police. That would have been a matter of privilege, but it would not be for me to determine whether that encroached on privilege, but a matter for the Clerk, in discussion with the Speaker and the legal counsel. That is the best example.

The hon. Lady also asked why there were no reports for 30 years—between 1978 and 2008. It was probably because this process fell into disuse—it is nothing more sinister than that. The reason that more arrests were reported goes back to what happened in 2008 when the police entered the precinct of the House of Commons without any advance notification. The Serjeant at Arms at the time was rather taken by surprise. It was a bit of a procedural disaster. An edict then went from the Speaker’s Chair, saying that we need to be notified of action. The police being diligent then started notifying the Chair of all arrests and actions, and that is where the difficulty arose.

I have some scribbled notes here. I hope that I have answered most of the hon. Lady’s questions. There is

10 Feb 2016 : Column 1702

still the ECHR question, and there has been some gentle chiding of the Leader of the House. I did say in my speech that, regardless of what we think about the ECHR—whether we like it or love it—regardless of what we think about data protection—whether we like it, love it, or tolerate it—the truth of the matter is that, as of today, they are the law of the land. As I said in my speech, we have a duty in this place to obey the law of the land. I know that some people have a great conscience and sometimes take part in demonstrations and get arrested. When they do get arrested, they want that to be in the public eye because that is part of their action. The hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas), for example, was recently arrested, but that was very much in the public eye. I hope that I have answered most of the questions put to me by the shadow Deputy Leader of the House.

Sir Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): It is worth emphasising this point, because we had quite an incendiary speech from the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann), and we need to nail this argument on the head. As a member of the Procedure Committee, with its Chairman sitting next to me, I can say that no extra privilege of any sort is being given to any Member of Parliament. We are being put on exactly the same level as members of the public.

Mr Walker: I can assure my hon. Friend that that is the case. He is right—no Member of this House is above the law, but likewise no Member of this House is below the law. We have to be equal in the eyes of the law, and that is what this report tries to do.

Question put and agreed to.

petition

Proposed Sale of the Kneller Hall Site

8 pm

Dr Tania Mathias (Twickenham) (Con): I present a petition on behalf of the residents of my constituency who oppose plans by the Ministry of Defence to sell off the site of Kneller Hall, the home of the Royal Military School of Music. I am grateful to all the constituents who took the time to add their names.

The petition reads:

To the House of Commons,

The petition of residents of the Twickenham constituency,

Declares that the Ministry of Defence’s proposed sale of the Kneller Hall site should not go ahead; further that the site has played an important role in the local community over many decades; and further that the Royal Military School of Music is historically important.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to stop the sale of the Kneller Hall site.

And the petitioners remain, etc. [P001672]

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Autism Sunday Campaign

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Jackie Doyle-Price.)

8.2 pm

Andrew Rosindell (Romford) (Con): I would like to begin by asking you, Madam Deputy Speaker, to pass on my thanks to Mr. Speaker for selecting this debate this evening, and to express my gratitude at having been given the opportunity to inform the House about Autism Sunday, also known as the international day of prayer for autism and Asperger’s syndrome.

I declare an interest. I am a patron of the Romakey International Education Services charity based in my constituency. That charity provides young people with learning disability and autism with the necessary support to move from school into independent adulthood.

Autism Sunday was established to highlight the need to understand autism, and was one of the first global events of its kind. It was launched in 2002 here in the United Kingdom, with an historic service at St. Paul’s cathedral. The size of the issue cannot be underestimated. In my own borough, the London borough of Havering, it is estimated that there are over 1,412 adults on the autism spectrum. Nationally, there are over 750,000 people with autism, and it is estimated that there are up to 65 million people with autism around the world.

Mrs Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend on obtaining a debate on this important subject. Does he agree that alongside Autism Sunday, initiatives such as the world autism awareness week, which is from 2 to 8 April this year, are pretty important? Does he welcome what the National Autistic Society is doing in that week—launching a public awareness campaign, because it is important that we continue to increase awareness of autism, and understanding among the general public, particularly as the incidence seems to be on the increase?

Andrew Rosindell: I thank my right hon. Friend for her helpful intervention. Of course, we can work in our constituencies to make people aware of the effects of autism, but national organisations such as the National Autistic Society are doing a brilliant job of promoting more understanding of the issue across the United Kingdom.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): May I also congratulate the hon. Gentleman on bringing this matter to the House for consideration? A large number of my constituents also have autism or autistic children. About 2,000 children in Northern Ireland have been waiting more than 20 months for a diagnosis. It is clear to me as an elected representative, and probably to the hon. Gentleman as well, that early diagnosis is critical if children are to get the correct treatment and the help they need. Does he agree that greater priority needs to be given to autism diagnosis, especially given the rising number of autistic children and adults across the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?

Andrew Rosindell: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: more needs to be invested in diagnosis. I commend him on the work he is doing in Northern Ireland to ensure that there is more awareness of this condition.

10 Feb 2016 : Column 1704

Autism Sunday was founded by British autism campaigners and committed Christians, Ivan and Charika Corea, who live in Buckhurst Hill, in Essex. It began as a small acorn of an idea, hatched in their front room, but today it has grown into a major global event celebrated in many countries throughout the world. This year, it will take place this coming weekend, on Sunday 14 February. 

Our own Prime Minister has personally supported Autism Sunday, stating:

“I would like to express my support for Autism Sunday. As many as one in a hundred people could be affected by some form of autism, and it is important that we recognise and raise awareness of the difficulties and challenges that they can face.”

Autism Sunday is now a permanent fixture in my constituency.  Ivan Corea is a teacher at the Frances Bardsley Academy For Girls. When he joined the school in 2009, he set about creating awareness of autism, not only in the school, but across the whole of our local community in Havering.

In January this year, that culminated in a very special event in Havering town hall, when the mayor of Havering, Councillor Brian Eagling, and the leader of Havering Council, Councillor Roger Ramsey, presented a civic award to the Frances Bardsley Academy For Girls autism and disabilities club and to the school’s autism ambassadors, many of whom are here today watching our proceedings, for reaching out to the most vulnerable sections of society in our local community.

The club has been working in partnership with local autism campaigners Ade and Ronke Ogunleye, who run the RIEES Autism Club based at the Romford Baptist church. That work has received praise from the leader of the council, Councillor Roger Ramsey, who stated:

“To my memory, there has never been such a successful relationship between a secondary school and a local charity regarding autism in this borough and the FBA”—

Frances Bardsley Academy—

“Ambassador Programme has been of supreme service to the community. Through volunteering in the community, members have helped support those with autism, as well as their parents and carers, who are often just as much in need of support.”

The Frances Bardsley autism and disabilities club has been working closely with the Step Up To Serve charity, whose patron is His Royal Highness Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales. Charlotte Hill, the chief executive officer of the charity, which is running the #iwill campaign, said:

“We are delighted that the Frances Bardsley Academy for Girls Autism & Disabilities Club has pledged to support our work, and shared their progress during #iwill week to inspire others to take part also. If we are to make involvement in social action the norm for 10-20 year-olds we need partners to commit to tangible actions just as they are doing. The involvement of the FBA Autism Ambassadors of the Autism & Disabilities Club will undoubtedly help us progress towards our goal.”

I must pay tribute to the school’s headteacher, Julian Dutnall, who was recently presented with a special award by RIEES for showing outstanding leadership in promoting charitable giving at the school. Frances Bardsley has a thriving charity committee raising funds for a number of local, national and international charities, and Julian Dutnall has talked about the need for students to give back to the community and the need to show compassionate leadership to the most vulnerable sections of our society.

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The chair of governors of Frances Bardsley Academy for Girls is the Rev. Father Roderick Hingley, who also serves as priest of the church of St. Alban Protomartyr in Romford. He has been hugely supportive of Autism Sunday. When Ivan Corea approached Father Hingley with regard to establishing the first ever Havering Autism Sunday service at St.Alban’s church in 2010, he saw the need to reach out to parents, carers and the autism community, and agreed to host the annual service. I have witnessed at first hand the moving partnership between the Frances Bardsley autism ambassadors from the sixth form and young people with autism—surely a model of how a school can make an impact in this area.

All this work has certainly helped to act as a catalyst for change in the London borough of Havering. Frances Bardsley Academy for Girls is fully behind Autism Sunday 2016. Indeed, class 7E created school history by organising the first ever year 7 assembly on Autism Sunday, finishing with a flourish as they sang the Nimal Mendis song for autism, “Open Every Door”. In so doing, they have raised much more awareness of the condition with their peers. I would also like to mention the assistant headteacher, Julie Payne, who has led school assemblies on the importance of Autism Sunday, and music teacher Amy Johnson and the Frances Bardsley chamber choir, who always perform on Autism Sunday and will do so this year,.

As the MP for Romford, I am immensely proud of what has been achieved so far, but there is still a long way to go before all adults with autism start receiving the care and support they need. For example, in a recent National Autistic Society survey, 70% of adults with autism said that they are not receiving the help they need from social services. Furthermore, only 23% of those who did have contact with social workers felt that they had a good understanding of the condition and its effects. This must change. The Government’s current review of the implementation of the strategy is a unique opportunity to urge local authorities and Ministers to ensure that they live up to their commitments.

Times are challenging, but that must not be used as an excuse for failing to meet obligations to adults with autism and their families. With the right support, many adults with autism can work for and participate in their communities. Difficulties in communication and social interaction might mean that someone with autism finds it hard to find and keep a steady job. They might find it challenging to prepare a CV, or find that they need support in preparing for an interview. Moreover, once they have a job, they might find it difficult to work with people who do not understand the complexities of their condition.

A number of barriers to successful implementation of the autism strategy have been identified. The good news is that there will be simple yet effective solutions to these challenges. For example, an innovation fund would support local authorities to improve the services currently available to adults with autism and help them to develop an understanding of the best way to deliver services and highlight areas of best practice. An autism awareness scheme would also allow volunteers and community groups to tap into resources that would help them to develop a programme of autism awareness and training in their local areas. That can be achieved in the simplest of ways, through things such as adaptations to public

10 Feb 2016 : Column 1706

buildings and local businesses, autism awareness training for front-line staff in public services and more autism-friendly activities.

I conclude by urging the Minister to consider my proposals. In so doing, I commend to the House the work of the Frances Bardsley Academy for Girls autism and disabilities club and the important concept of Autism Sunday, which is a beacon of light and compassionate leadership in action in my constituency, reaching out to those who need that support most of all.

8.15 pm

Mrs Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Andrew Rosindell) on obtaining the debate. As chair of the all-party group on autism, I am privileged to have an insight into this area. I am glad to see my predecessor as chair of the all-party group, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South Swindon (Robert Buckland), who has done so much work on autism, on the Front Bench next to the Minister.

I congratulate Ivan Corea and the Frances Bardsley Academy for Girls, because initiatives such as theirs really help to demystify autism. It is important that we hear from the Minister how we can mark Autism Sunday and Autism Awareness Week in Parliament. I am proud of the fact that when we hold APPG events, we try to make admission to Parliament autism-friendly. We put aside a silent space where people can feel calm, and we have made the Serjeant at Arms and all who usher people into this place aware of the little things that can make life much more comfortable for people with autism.

Too many families and individuals still experience judgmental attitudes or face isolation or unemployment, because of the misunderstandings that surround autism. Although 99% of the public say that they are aware of autism, an astonishing 87% of people who are affected by autism do not think that the public have a good enough understanding of it, and more needs to be done to deepen that understanding. My hon. Friend the Member for Romford has done a great deal tonight, and so have his constituents, who may be listening to the debate. May they go from strength to strength, and may they bring about more awareness of autism with their wonderful work.

8.17 pm

The Minister for Children and Families (Edward Timpson): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Andrew Rosindell) on securing this important debate. He has afforded the House the opportunity to raise awareness of autism and mark Autism Sunday in Parliament, albeit on a Wednesday. As my hon. Friend has mentioned, Autism Sunday is an event with worldwide recognition, as well as being a permanent fixture in his own constituency. That is a fantastic achievement, of which Ivan and Charika Corea, who have grown the event since 2002, should be proud.

I commend Ivan Corea for his promotion of autism awareness in Romford through his work at the Frances Bardsley Academy for Girls, his role in creating FBA autism ambassadors and the #Iwill campaign, which I know well. Such local partnership working is vital if we are to change the lives of people with autism, to ensure that they achieve and lead fulfilling, happy lives. It was uplifting to hear about the incredible impact that Corea’s

10 Feb 2016 : Column 1707

vision has had in and around Romford, and I am sure that it reverberates much further.

As we have heard, autism is a lifelong condition that affects how a person communicates and relates to people around them. As a result, people right across society, from school teachers and bus drivers to general practitioners, need to be aware of autism and what it means for those who live with it.

I will start by outlining the framework that is in place to improve the lives of people with autism. Since the Autism Act 2009, which was spearheaded by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan)—I thank her for reminding us that world autism awareness week is from 2 to 8 April—the 2010 cross-Government autism strategy was updated by the “Think Autism” strategy in 2014 and new statutory guidance in 2015. The aim of all of this work was further to improve the care and support that local authorities and NHS organisations provide for people with autism.

“Think Autism” placed greater emphasis on involvement and awareness within the local community and on ways of looking differently at support and engagement. That is very much what is happening in Romford, as we have heard. It moved the original vision of the strategy on, including to an increased focus on areas such as young people, criminal justice and employment.

The reason why we have kept up the momentum is that there is more to do to ensure that all those with autism get the help and support that they need. Last month, we published a progress report, which is designed to challenge local partners delivering a wide range of services, such as health, education, children’s services, adult services and transport to “Think Autism”. With over 500,000 people in England estimated to have autism, this was done for a very good reason: because it matters.

These organisations and services come into contact with people on the autistic spectrum daily. By engaging with them effectively, we can ensure that such people do not miss out on accessing services and support. By doing so, we can bring about a positive influence on their mental and physical health. That is why it is so important that the Department of Health is continuing to make autism a top priority for the NHS. The NHS mandate sets the priorities for the NHS, and signals what the Department of Health will hold the NHS accountable for. Next year, it will include an important call on the NHS to reduce health inequality for autistic people.

In launching “Think Autism”, we wanted to promote innovation and awareness, and we made available over £4 million to do just that. My hon. Friend the Member for Romford rightly argued strongly for a further drive on innovation in how we deliver services for people with autism. Until last year, the Department of Health ran an innovation fund of £1 million to promote innovative local ideas, services or projects that could help people in their communities. Forty-two projects were chosen, with a focus on people with autism who do not qualify for social care support. The projects focused on four key areas: advice and mentoring, gaining and growing skills for independence, early intervention and crisis prevention, and support into employment.

10 Feb 2016 : Column 1708

Some £3 million has been given out in capital funding to councils, so that they can make public spaces, such as inquiry offices and libraries, more autism-friendly, and provide IT and technology to make life easier for people with autism. For example, in the London Borough of Havering in my hon. Friend’s constituency, funding was allocated to improve autism-friendly safe spaces, allowing people with autism greater access to Romford town centre. I know that that is an opportunity that he would not want anybody to miss.

As a Minister in the Department for Education, I have a particular focus on the education of children and young people with autism. A key part of that are our recent fundamental reforms to the new nought-to-25, family-centred, outcomes-focused special educational needs and disability system. We have made changes to the law to ensure we provide the support that children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities require. The work I have seen so far, which is putting families at the heart of the process, is in many ways inspiring, but we know that we still need to do more to engender the culture shift necessary to achieve that end. I am pleased that we were recently able to announce an additional £80 million to boost support for children with special educational needs and disabilities during the next financial year to help to ensure that our reforms have real impact on the ground, including for children and young people with autism.

We are doing specific work to help to support children and young people with autism. First, we want to ensure that all education staff are able to recognise and support children with autism in schools. We have therefore funded the Autism Education Trust from 2011 to 2016 to provide training for early years, school and further education staff. To date, the AET has provided training for about 87,000 education staff. I know that the trust is aiming to reach the milestone of 100,000 trained staff this summer. I hope that I will be able to celebrate that achievement with it.

Secondly, we know that young people with autism can find dealing with change particularly hard, so it is important that they make a successful transition from school to post-16 provision. We have therefore funded the Ambitious about Autism charity from 2013 to this year to develop an innovative, integrated model of transition support. That model enables more young people with complex autism and learning difficulties to access further education and training beyond school, helping them more successfully to move on to adult life and work.

We know that a disproportionate number of children with autism are excluded from school. As a result, we have funded the National Autistic Society to provide families with information and advice on exclusion and alternative provision, and to support education professionals with advice and guidance on early intervention to reduce the risk of exclusion.

Finally in relation to children and young people, the expansion of the Government’s free schools programme has benefited many children with special educational needs and, specifically, with autism. Several specialist autism free schools have opened, including Church Lawton School, which is near my constituency in Cheshire. There are 11 more free special schools in the pipeline, of which seven are specifically for children with autism. That demonstrates the demand and desire of parents

10 Feb 2016 : Column 1709

and charities that we meet that need and offer a truly outstanding education for autistic children.

Jim Shannon: I applaud the initiative that has been taken by Sunderland football club, although they are not my team, to provide a small room in the stadium where autistic children can go with their parents and enjoy the football match, without the noise that disaffects them. That initiative clearly helps autistic children. Would the Minister encourage other premier league football teams and, indeed, all football teams to do likewise?

Edward Timpson: I agree wholeheartedly with the hon. Gentleman. The Under-Secretary of State for Disabled People has worked hard with the premier league and football clubs to improve the facilities for and awareness of people with disabilities, whether they be physical, mental or otherwise, at football grounds. There is clearly more that can be done. Clubs such as Sunderland are taking the lead and showing what can be done. With a little bit of thought, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham said, we can go a long way. I encourage every club to look at what Sunderland is doing and to make such easy but important adjustments, so that they can fill the seats in their stadium, which Sunderland has struggled to do this season.

In addition to what we are doing at the Department for Education, my colleagues right across Government are thinking autism. They are doing more to raise awareness of autism and to provide support across a range of Government services. The National Autistic Society is doing excellent work in this area. We wish to support other charities in their endeavours through the strong partnerships that are needed.

The Department of Health has funded Autism Alliance UK to undertake an awareness campaign that seeks to dispel the myths around autism, which still exist all too readily, as well as to improve training, create employment and make reasonable adjustments in how everyday services are provided for people with autism. The alliance is working with local and national businesses, and with providers of services in the private, public and voluntary sectors. In my hon. Friend’s county of Essex, the awareness work has involved another football club, Colchester United, which is having an indifferent season, the Essex County Council equality and diversity service, and councillors in Chelmsford, so it is really starting to reverberate around Essex.

Autism Alliance UK is also working to improve knowledge and awareness of autism in the Department for Work and Pensions by, for example, building an autism network across Jobcentre Plus by training nominated autism leads, including work coaches and dedicated employment advisers.

10 Feb 2016 : Column 1710

To build knowledge and expertise among health professionals, the Department of Health has provided financial support to the Royal College of General Practitioners’ clinical priorities programme on autism, which is undertaking practical work on autism awareness and training for GPs. Health Education England has developed the online MindED portal, which contains learning resources for enhancing the effectiveness of working with children, young people and young adults who are on the autistic spectrum.

Last year, the Department of Health also provided funding to a number of organisations, including the British Psychological Society, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Social Care Institute for Excellence and the National Autistic Society to upgrade their autism e-learning training tools and materials. Those tools will assist GPs, social workers, whom my hon. Friend the Member for Romford mentioned, clinicians and nurses. The intention is to enable the training to have a direct impact on the quality and effectiveness of the services they provide. As a result of building staff capabilities on autism awareness, there will be better outcomes for people with autism and their families.

The Ministry of Justice must play its part, too. It is working to achieve better awareness of autism in the criminal justice system, for victims, witnesses and perpetrators of crime. For example, my hon Friend the Minister for Prisons, Probation, Rehabilitation and Sentencing wrote to prisons last year to encourage them to apply for the National Autistic Society’s autism accreditation. Under the pilot, several prisons are currently in the process of working towards accreditation, and by October 2015 a further 20 prisons had expressed their interest.

Finally, Disability Matters is a Department of Health-funded e-learning tool to provide training in understanding and supporting the needs of people with a disability, and it will help those with autism, too.

As you can see, Madam Deputy Speaker, from this short summary, there is a raft of activity going on to ensure that, across Government, we are “thinking autism” and raising awareness, alongside other events such as Autism Sunday. Our mission is to help people with autism to fulfil their potential, to have full, happy lives and to live as independently as possible. I join my hon. Friend the Member for Romford in embracing Autism Sunday and the golden chance it gives us to raise these issues in Romford and beyond, and I look forward to working with him on this further as we continue to work to improve the lives of all those with autism in our society.

Question put and agreed to.

8.31 pm

House adjourned.

10 Feb 2016 : Column 1711

Deferred Division

Immigration

That the draft Immigration and Nationality (Fees) Order 2016, which was laid before this House on 11 January, be approved.

The House divided:

Ayes 313, Noes 67.

Division No. 190]

AYES

Adams, Nigel

Aldous, Peter

Allan, Lucy

Allen, Heidi

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, Sir Henry

Benyon, Richard

Berry, Jake

Berry, James

Bingham, Andrew

Blackman, Bob

Blackwood, Nicola

Blunt, Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Borwick, Victoria

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Steve

Brokenshire, rh James

Bruce, Fiona

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

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Costa, Alberto

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, rh Stephen

Davies, Byron

Davies, Chris

Davies, David T. C.

Davies, Glyn

Davies, Dr James

Davies, Mims

Davies, Philip

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Dodds, rh Mr Nigel

Donelan, Michelle

Dorries, Nadine

Double, Steve

Dowden, Oliver

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Drummond, Mrs Flick

Duddridge, James

Duncan, rh Sir Alan

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Dunne, Mr Philip

Elliott, Tom

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Mr Nigel

Evennett, rh Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fernandes, Suella

Field, rh Mark

Foster, Kevin

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Francois, rh Mr Mark

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

Glen, John

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

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

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

Howell, John

Howlett, Ben

Huddleston, Nigel

Hunt, rh Mr Jeremy

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

Kinahan, Danny

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Sir Greg

Knight, Julian

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Lancaster, Mark

Latham, Pauline

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Dr Phillip

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leigh, Sir Edward

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, rh Dr Julian

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lidington, rh Mr David

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lopresti, Jack

Loughton, Tim

Lumley, Karen

Mackinlay, Craig

Mackintosh, David

Main, Mrs Anne

Mak, Mr Alan

Mann, Scott

Mathias, Dr Tania

May, rh Mrs Theresa

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

Menzies, Mark

Mercer, Johnny

Miller, rh Mrs Maria

Milling, Amanda

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

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

Offord, Dr Matthew

Opperman, Guy

Osborne, rh Mr George

Paisley, Ian

Parish, Neil

Patel, rh Priti

Pawsey, Mark

Penning, rh Mike

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Philp, Chris

Pickles, rh Sir Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Prentis, Victoria

Pritchard, Mark

Pursglove, Tom

Quin, Jeremy

Quince, Will

Raab, Mr Dominic

Redwood, rh John

Rees-Mogg, Mr Jacob

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Robinson, Gavin

Robinson, Mary

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, rh Amber

Rutley, David

Sandbach, Antoinette

Scully, Paul

Selous, Andrew

Shannon, Jim

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Simpson, David

Simpson, rh Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Chloe

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

Stride, Mel

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

Wilson, Sammy

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wood, Mike

Wragg, William

Wright, rh Jeremy

Zahawi, Nadhim

NOES

Ahmed-Sheikh, Ms Tasmina

Arkless, Richard

Bardell, Hannah

Black, Mhairi

Blackford, Ian

Blackman, Kirsty

Boswell, Philip

Brake, rh Tom

Brock, Deidre

Brown, Alan

Cameron, Dr Lisa

Chapman, Douglas

Cherry, Joanna

Crawley, Angela

Day, Martyn

Docherty, Martin John

Donaldson, Stuart Blair

Durkan, Mark

Edwards, Jonathan

Farron, Tim

Fellows, Marion

Ferrier, Margaret

Gethins, Stephen

Gibson, Patricia

Grady, Patrick

Grant, Peter

Gray, Neil

Hendry, Drew

Hermon, Lady

Kerevan, George

Kerr, Calum

Law, Chris

Lucas, Caroline

MacNeil, Mr Angus Brendan

Mc Nally, John

McCaig, Callum

McDonald, Stewart Malcolm

McDonald, Stuart C.

McDonnell, Dr Alasdair

McGarry, Natalie

McLaughlin, Anne

Monaghan, Carol

Monaghan, Dr Paul

Mullin, Roger

Newlands, Gavin

Nicolson, John

O'Hara, Brendan

Oswald, Kirsten

Paterson, Steven

Pugh, John

Ritchie, Ms Margaret

Robertson, rh Angus

Salmond, rh Alex

Saville Roberts, Liz

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Sheppard, Tommy

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Stephens, Chris

Thewliss, Alison

Thompson, Owen

Thomson, Michelle

Weir, Mike

Whiteford, Dr Eilidh

Williams, Hywel

Williams, Mr Mark

Wilson, Corri

Wishart, Pete

Question accordingly agreed to.

10 Feb 2016 : Column 1712

10 Feb 2016 : Column 1713

10 Feb 2016 : Column 1714