Speeches and parliamentary questions in the House of Commons in the 2008-9 sessionWhile speaking in the chamber of the House is a high profile activity for an MP, much other work is done elsewhere, in committee, as well as a large casework load for constituents.
05/11/09 National Energy Action
22/10/09 High-speed Rail
19/10/09 Maggie Atkinson
25/09/09 North East Regional Grand Committee - Regional Economy
16/07/09 The North-East and electric vehicles
14/07/09 Equipment for the Troops, Jobs for BAE
01/07/09 Railways (North of England)
30/06/09 Turks and Caicos Islands
25/06/09 Dualling the A1
23/06/09 Smoking in public
17/06/09 Tribute to the Speaker
09/06/09 Carers' Week: Carers' Allowance
08/06/09 Reducing Smoking
19/05/09 Osteoglophonic Dysplasia
15/05/09 Radiography: Manpower
11/05/09 Incapacity Benefit Claimants
30/04/09 Membersí Allowances
30/04/09 Call for debate on Carers Allowance
29/04/09 Tories not the answer
20/04/09 UK Sport and Gateshead
23/03/09 Neighbourhood Policing Schemes
13/03/09 Statutory Redundancy Pay (Amendment) Bill
12/03/09 Items for the Budget
10/03/09 Integrated Ticketing
03/03/09 Tories and the Regional Agenda
02/03/09 Regional Olympics Benefits
04/02/09 Improvement in public transport
16/12/08 Smoking - costs to retailers
11/12/08 Call for debate on Carers
10/12/08 Welfare Reform: Elderly Disabled
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): Are Ministers aware of the reception held in the House yesterday by National Energy Action, which among other things drew attention to the health through warmth programme? Will they congratulate npower and all those involved in the programme? How can the Department help that programme to continue and grow?
Mr. David Kidney, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Energy and Climate Change: I am delighted to congratulate my hon. Friend on raising this issue and the health through warmth programme, which also exists in my constituency. I have visited schemes in the past and I offer to draw attention to the successes of the programme soon, because it is one of the ways in which organisations such as local authorities, the health service and energy companies come together to identify people in need of help to insulate their homes, improve their health, save on their budgets and cut carbon emissions at the same time.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): Successive Governments have spectacularly failed to tackle the north-south economic divide in any meaningful way. Businesses and politicians in the North-East now believe that one way to tackle the north-south divide is to make the travelling times between the two shorter and bring the two closer together. Those are the priorities for the North-East in terms of high-speed rail. Does the Minister share them?
The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Mr. Sadiq Khan): My hon. Friend makes an extremely important point about the vision we have for high-speed rail. One of the things we deliberately asked High Speed 2 to look into was the benefits of extending the high-speed link to Manchester, Yorkshire, the North-East and Scotland. It is important that, when HS2 reports this year, we consider the report and come back with proposals next year. The alternative is short-term gimmickry to get a standing ovation at party conference.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): Gateshead council has a proud history of appointing good officers. Indeed, over the years many of its officers have advised Governments. In fact, it was a Gateshead housing officer who advised a previous Conservative Government on the sale of council houses, so the idea that Gateshead officers are tied to a particular political party is nonsense. I know Maggie Atkinson - of course, I know a lot of people but that does not necessarily mean they are good candidates for the position we are discussing. I know about the work that she has done in Gateshead, and I know about the educational achievements and health improvements among children that we have had in Gateshead under her leadership. I know of her firm interest in the interests and rights of children, and I know that she is a strong character who believes in what she is doing. The idea that she would be bullied by anyone, let alone the Secretary of State, is nonsense.
Ed Balls, Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families: I am trying to make progress today, Mr. Speaker, for children and young people. I fully accept the points about the lady's track record in Gateshead.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): Does the Leader of the House welcome, as I do, the news that Nissan of Sunderland is to move into the mass production of electric vehicles? Is she aware of the wider involvement in this field of North-East companies, not least Sevcon in my constituency, which produces the control systems that make electric vehicles an attractive and practical proposition? May we have an early debate on how these developments might contribute to Building Britain's Future and the fight against climate change?
The Leader of the House of Commons (Ms Harriet Harman): This is a very important part of our manufacturing agenda. More jobs are going to be green jobs. The automotive industry has a strong future, especially with environmentally friendly cars. I strongly endorse the points that my hon. Friend has made and will look for an opportunity for us to consider the matter in the autumn.
[David later commented:
"The North East is at the forefront in development of electric vehicles. So, it is great news that Nissan is to take this into mass production. They will get every support and encouragement from the Government and North East MPs."]
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): Procuring the right up-to-date equipment is vital for our troops, but it can also provide skilled work for British workers, not least in my constituency at BAE Systems in Scotswood Road in Newcastle. What prospect is there of an announcement early in 2010 on the future rapid effect system - FRES - the Warrior upgrade and the Scout and AFV support vehicles?
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Quentin Davies): Just a week ago we issued draft invitations to tender for two important land vehicle projects. One is for the Scout vehicle and the other is for the Warrior upgrade. I remain hopeful that we can sign contracts for those two vehicles early next year, following the invitations to tender, the responses to those, which we have asked for by October, and our evaluation of those bids.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): Will the Foreign Secretary update the House on the situation with regard to the Turks and Caicos Islands? Notwithstanding the serious problems that have arisen there, does he agree that it would be far better for Her Majesty's Government to work with the new democratic Government than to take the draconian step of returning the islands to colonial rule, which would be unpopular not only in TCI but right across the wider Caribbean?
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband): It is important that we make sure that there is no corruption in the Turks and Caicos Islands. I pay tribute to the report by the Foreign Affairs Committee on this matter, which pointed us to the process that has led, first, to an interim report, and secondly to a final report, which we hope to publish soon. It would be wholly inappropriate for us to take no action whatsoever with regard to very serious issues that have been highlighted by the commissioner.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): I wonder whether Ministers have yet had the opportunity to speak to their counterparts in Holyrood about the importance of the A1 between Newcastle and Edinburgh to communities on both sides of the border, not least given its appalling safety record. Does the Minister agree that the regional funding allocation system is totally inadequate to deal with the urgent need to upgrade that road? Will he enter into discussions about bringing about a definitive plan to finance and implement urgently the dualling of the road from Newcastle to Edinburgh?
Mr. Sadiq Khan, Minister of State, Department for Transport: The requirements for being categorised as a road of national importance are based on the amount and type of traffic flow on the road, and take into consideration whether traffic is redirected on to other routes. The case for the A1 north of Newcastle is not robust enough for us to consider re-categorisation, but I am happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss this matter, because I know it is of real concern to his constituents.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): But if the display of tobacco products encourages young people to take up smoking, what influence do the crowds of people whom we see on the streets outside pubs and clubs have on young people? Would it not be better for these smokers to be hidden away - inside the building in a controlled environment, rather than on the streets, where children can see them?
Gillian Merron, Minister of State, Department of Health: My hon. Friend is, as always, very inventive in making his point. As I said, we are looking ahead to a new tobacco control strategy. We have just finished the consultation and 100,000 responses were received. I look forward to seeing what further measures we may take.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): I want to make a personal tribute to you and your speakership, Mr. Speaker. Yours has been a remarkable journey from ordinary working-class lad from Glasgow to one of the highest offices in the land - Speaker of the House of Commons. You are a tribute to our democracy and an example to us all.
You have served with dignity and distinction, often in the face of the inherent snobbery that still persists in some parts of the British establishment. On a personal level, I thank you for your kindness to me, not least when you agreed some years ago to meet my good friend Frank Duffy and me in your apartments - I am sure you remember that. Frank Duffy is another working-class trade union activist from Glasgow, but it was Frank's father whom you admired so much, for his trade union activities in Glasgow. We were accompanied that day by Frank's daughter Carol Ann and her daughter Ella. Carol Ann was recently appointed poet laureate, and her father Frank and her daughter are very proud of that. As memorable as that appointment is, however, I am quite sure that they will always remember with great fondness their visit to Speaker Martin's Apartment and your allowing Ella to bounce on the bed.
I congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, on your term of office and thank you for your kindness. I wish you and your family a long and happy life ahead.
Mr. Speaker: Before I put the motion, I am reminded of an incident involving a councillor who had served a long time in the Cowlairs ward, which the Prime Minister mentioned. We decided to give him a farewell dinner, at which so many good things were said about him that he stood up and said, "I didn't realise how much you liked me; and I think I will stay on." [Laughter.] I can say that your Speaker is demob happy. I am very touched by the tributes, particularly those to Mary and my family. I now put the motion to the House.
Question put and agreed to.
Resolved, nemine contradicente,
That this House records its warm appreciation of the manner in which the Right Honourable Michael Martin has occupied the office of Speaker; expresses its thanks for the humanity and good humour with which he has presided over the affairs of the House at a most challenging time; congratulates him on the kindness and openness he has shown to all Members and for establishing a Speaker's conference to examine engagement of Parliament with an increasingly diverse society; and accordingly unites in sending him its wishes for a long and happy retirement upon his departure from the Chair.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): Ministers will be aware that this week is carers week. Could the appropriate Minister from the Treasury meet the appropriate Minister from the Department for Work and Pensions to try to find the finances to end the unfairness in the carer's allowance, which is completely lost following a very small increase in earnings or on retirement, despite the fact that the caring role and responsibility continue?
The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Kitty Ussher): This being my first day as a Treasury Minister, having previously been at the Department for Work and Pensions, I can say I will be delighted to hold such a meeting.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): I, too, congratulate my right hon. Friend on his appointment; I am sure that he will make an excellent Secretary of State, and I hope that he also proves to be a tolerant one. Is he aware that in Canada, Iceland and Thailand, which are the only countries to have introduced a comprehensive retail display ban, there is no evidence to suggest that it has had any effect on youth smoking rates or consumption? Indeed, the Prime Minister of New Zealand has ruled out such a ban, stating:
"There's no international evidence it actually works" .
On what basis is my right hon. Friend taking this measure forward?
The Secretary of State for Health (Andy Burnham): I am grateful for my hon. Friend's kind words of congratulation. I stand to be corrected, but what I read of the evidence over the weekend suggests to me that in both Iceland and Canada measures to restrict point of sale materials did have an effect on smoking prevalence among young people. In Iceland, the fall in smoking prevalence among 15 to 16-year-olds between 1999 and 2007 was most rapid in the period immediately following the display ban introduced in 2001 - smoking prevalence for that age group fell by more than 40 per cent. during that period. I would argue that it is not correct to say that there is no evidence to demonstrate the effectiveness of this proposal, but I agree that it should be introduced in a way that does not make it even harder for small shops to trade. We all have concerns about the high streets in our constituencies, the community facilities and the community shops and services. It is not our intention to make those commercial pressures even greater, nevertheless there are steps we could take to reduce smoking among young people. Where there is evidence to suggest that things that we could do could have an effect, we are duty-bound to consider them.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): To ask the Secretary of State for Health
Ann Keen, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health: The number of children under the age of 10 years who are diagnosed with developmental dysplasia of the hip is not collected centrally.
Data relating to the specific cost to the national health service of treating children under the age of 12 years with late-diagnosed development dysplasia of the hip is not collected centrally.
The Department is not currently funding research into dysplasia of the hip in newborn children. However, there has been an Ultrasonography in the diagnosis and management of developmental hip dysplasia trial (UK Hip Trial) conducted at 33 hospitals in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland by researchers from Oxford and London Universities. This found no significant benefits in costs from screening with ultrasound rather than the Barlow and Ortolani tests used currently.
The Medical Research Council, one of the main agencies through which the Government support medical and clinical research, although not currently funding any research directly relating to developmental dysplasia of the hip, is funding the UK resource of new models of bone and mineral disorders, a £1.86 million research project, which may lead to further understanding of the condition.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps his Department is taking to combat the shortage of qualified sonographers. 
Ann Keen, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health: The national health service is best placed to determine the workforce it needs to deliver high quality service for patients. The Department is committed to supporting the NHS to do this by ensuring information such as supply and demand of sonographers is well understood throughout the NHS, and that workforce planning and education and training decisions reflect this.
For example, the Department and NHS Workforce Review Team work to produce a list of shortage occupations for the Migration Advisory Committee. Registered therapeutic radiographers and sonographers are included in the list, which comprises skilled occupations where there are shortages that can sensibly be filled by enabling employers to recruit migrants from outside the European Economic Area (EEA).
The NHS Next Stage Review document "A High Quality Workforce" outlined improvements for the workforce planning system, including a Centre for Workforce Intelligence and Professional Advisory Boards to provide expert research, analysis and co-ordinated clinical advice to the NHS. A copy has been placed in the Library.
This will help to ensure that the NHS has the right workforce with the right skills to deliver high quality care for all patients.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): My right hon. Friend will know that it is not only those people who suffer from incapacity but those who care for them who find it difficult to move back into work, not least because if they earn one penny more than £95 a week they lose their entire £55 carer's allowance. When will my right hon. Friend remove that disincentive to work?
The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (James Purnell): My hon. Friend makes an important point, and we are improving our help for carers to get back into work. Carer's allowance is clearly supposed to be a replacement income for people who cannot work, and therefore it has never had that structure in the past. However, we said in the carer's strategy review that we would keep on looking at the issue, and we will do so.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): Will my right hon. and learned Friend give way?
The Leader of the House of Commons (Ms Harriet Harman): I will give way one more time, but then I must get on.
Mr. Clelland: Before we move off the point about giving guidance to the Kelly Committee - that, I take it, is what the first motion does - there seems to be a contradiction in the first motion. Paragraph (2) recognises that Members of Parliament
"undertake parliamentary duties both in Westminster and their constituency".
Indeed they also undertake such duties outside Westminster and their constituency, which is not mentioned. The motion goes on to say that
"any new arrangements...ought to...take account of hon. Members' attendance at Westminster".
Why is that?
Ms Harman: I ask my hon. Friend to bear with me. I will answer his question as I get on with my speech. The first motion invites the House to express the opinion that new arrangements should take account of attendance at Westminster, be transparent and accountable, and reduce the cost to the public. The amendment in the name of the Chair of the Standards and Privileges Committee, the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young), welcomes the inquiry but deletes that opinion, invites the Kelly committee to get on with its work, and asks that we consider the recommendations as soon as they have been made. In the consultation paper that Sir Christopher Kelly recently issued, "Review of MPs' Expenses - Issues and Questions", he said that he will indeed consider whether the payment of allowances should be linked to attendance and a flat-rate daily payment. In that consultation paper, the Committee on Standards in Public Life says, on the issue of a flat-rate allowance, that
"The Committee will consider this proposal alongside other options for reforming the current system."
Sir Christopher Kelly also says that he will look at how we ensure best value for the taxpayer. In light of that, it does not seem necessary for me to divide the House on the amendment, and I am minded to accept it. The important thing is that we endorse the Kelly inquiry, that it presses on with its work, and that we take the further steps in the other resolutions, to which I now turn.
Mr. Clelland: Will my hon. Friend give way?
Dr. Tony Wright (Cannock Chase) (Lab): I said that I would not give way again, but I shall do so one final time.
Mr. Clelland: I thank my hon. Friend. He made the point about the need for Members to be compensated on the basis of what they actually spend. While one might be able to see the merit in that, is there not a danger that we will all be driven down to the level of what the hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Boswell) called the "anoraks"?
Dr. Wright: I hope not. If we have definable essential items that we claim for, I cannot see anything wrong with that system. That is what we think the system ought to be. Having established the principles, we should crack down ruthlessly on any evidence of abuse of any new system.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): My right hon. and learned Friend will be aware, as we have discussed the matter previously, of the important role of carers in our society. She is also aware of the great stress put on carers by looking after someone who is infirm, elderly or disabled - it is often so stressful that the carer's own health suffers. Such caring is as stressful as looking after a child, yet child allowance is paid to parents regardless of their income as a matter of right. Carer's allowance is paid only to certain categories of carers, can be cut off if earnings rise a few pence above £95, and is not paid to retired carers. May we have an early debate on carer's allowance to come up with a fairer system for carers?
The Leader of the House of Commons (Ms Harriet Harman): I will look for an opportunity to debate carers, which is an issue of growing concern. My hon. Friend might be able to choose the issue for a Westminster Hall debate. He will be interested to know that the Equality Bill includes provision to prevent people from being discriminated against because they are carers: for example, someone who applies for a promotion at work and is told, "Sorry, we know you are caring for your elderly mother, so you can't have promotion because we don't think you are committed to work." We must do everything possible to support carers and to enable them to work as well as care, if that is what they want to do. The number of over-85s in this country is set to double over the next two decades, so family care is a central issue.
David has also tabled an Early day Motion about this:
That this House believes that to mark the end of Carers Week positive action should be taken to improve support to carers by ending the anomaly of the cliff edge effect of earnings rising slightly above the carers' earnings limit, resulting in the loss of the whole allowance; and calls on the Government to make carers' allowance a fixed allowance, up-rated at the same time as other state benefits and paid to all carers, regardless of income and including retired carers, in the same way as child benefit is paid to all parents regardless of income.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): In all the complex issues that the Government have to deal with, all the international discussions that have gone on over the past few months, and all the important questions that have to be addressed, is there a single question of any significance whatsoever to which the answer is the Conservative party?
The Prime Minister: No, there is no economic problem we face to which the answer is the Conservative Leader of the Opposition.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): Is the Minister aware that the way in which large amounts of public money - £500 million, I believe - have been distributed by UK Sport through the governing bodies of sports is threatening the viability of state-of-the-art facilities in places such as Gateshead stadium? Will she look into that? Will she assure the House that the way in which money is distributed will not threaten the future of facilities such as those in Gateshead stadium, and that the preparation for the Olympics will, as she has said in the past, benefit all regions?
Tessa Jowell, Minister of State, Cabinet Office: I thank my hon. Friend for his question. I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport will have been listening to his concern. My hon. Friend will also be aware of the benefit being brought to venues around the country from their designated status as potential training-camp venues. I am sure that he will be a powerful advocate for the venues in his region that have been so designated.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment she has made of the effectiveness of neighbourhood policing schemes. 
Mr. Coaker, Minister of State, Home Office: Thanks to Neighbourhood Policing every community in England and Wales now has its own team dedicated to working with the local community to tackle the issues that matter to local people.
The Policing Pledge reinforces this offer. It guarantees national minimum standards of service, alongside a commitment to making Neighbourhood Policing teams accountable to the public through monthly public meetings and other public consultations.
Mr. Pat McFadden,Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform: We share a common aim, which is to ensure that people at work get a fair deal in our response to the recession. The context should be wider than the measures my hon. Friend proposes in the Bill.
This Government have introduced a number of measures that were attacked by the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Djanogly), but which I stand by. They include the extension of paid leave, the extension of flexible working, measures to help people to balance the responsibilities of work and family life, and measures to get lending flowing in the economy so that we can minimise the number of people who lose their jobs as a result of the recession. It is important to set discussion of the Bill in that context because, whatever happens to it - whether it proceeds or not - concern for working people will still be right at the heart of the Governmentís response to the recession.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge) (Lab): I am listening carefully to my right hon. Friend, but what is it about this Bill that would prevent the Government from pursuing those laudable measures in any case?
Mr. McFadden: The Bill would not block those measures, and I do not suggest that it would. I say to my hon. Friend, my hon. Friend the Member for Chorley and others that it is important that we remember those measures, talk about them and ensure that the public understand that the Government have a response to the recession that has their interests at heart.
Mr. Clelland: I cannot help noticing that my right hon. Friend has a considerable sheaf of papers in front him. If the Prime Minister does support the Bill, will that in any way alter the content of the Ministerís speech? Should he be sending out a runner to find out what the latest news is?
Mr. McFadden: I think that my hon. Friend will find that I am always happy to be guided by the Prime Minister, as are all Ministers of the Crown.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): Will the debate on 31 March give Members the opportunity to influence the content of next monthís Budget? In that way, the Chancellor might be advised that as important as supporting the banks are the issues of more support for carers and pensioners, the extension of concessionary travel to students in further education and training, improvements to our transport infrastructure, reductions in class sizes and improvements in compensation for redundant workers.
Harriet Harman, Lord Privy Seal, Leader of the House of Commons and Minister of State, Government Equalities Office: Those are important points for my hon. Friend to draw to the Chancellorís attention. We need to help people now and stabilise the economy, and all the things that my hon. Friend mentioned, such as investment in education and in our transport infrastructure, are important for the future. We have an agenda of care and concern for those in retirement and carers. We have to make sure that there is real help for the future, as well as practical help now.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): : If he will bring forward proposals for a national strategy for integrated ticketing across different modes of transport. 
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Jim Fitzpatrick): As I am sure my hon. Friend is aware, work is already under way on an integrated ticketing strategy for England. The intention is to publish a consultation paper on this subject later in the year. Officials are meeting key stakeholders to make progress on the consultation paper.
Mr. Clelland: Is the Minister aware of the advanced plans from transport stakeholders in the north-east for a regional smartcard travel scheme across all modes of transport? Is he willing to discuss with the regional development agency, One NorthEast, the £5 million shortfall that is now the only obstacle to an early introduction of smartcard travel across the region, with all the benefits that that would bring?
Jim Fitzpatrick: The prioritising of schemes for regional fund allocation funding is a matter for each region. In respect of the Nexus scheme in the north-east, the Department for Transport has approved £12.8 million to replace all ticket machines on the system with modern versions that take notes and cards. That is not smartcard ticketing, but readers can be installed at a later date. I hear what he says about the shortfall and the RDA. I am always happy to look at anything that he asks me to, but obviously I cannot give any commitments on funding.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): rose -
Alan Duncan: I have hardly got off the ground, but I will give way.
Mr. Clelland: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. He suggested that the regional agenda was dead. If that is the case, why has his party appointed him to be a regional representative in the North-East?
Alan Duncan: I am not a regional -
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I am prepared to allow the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Alan Duncan) some introductory remarks, because the Minister did exactly the same, but I hope that he will come back to the precise motion before the House before too long.
Alan Duncan: I am happy to concentrate exclusively on the motion. I hope that the hon. Member for Tyne Bridge (Mr. Clelland) will therefore forgive me if I write to him on the matter that he has raised.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): At the beginning of the Olympics process, we were given assurances that the benefits - not least the economic benefits - would spread across all regions. Will my hon. Friend publish a list of companies in the North-East of England that have so far won contracts for the Olympics project and the total value of those contracts?
Gerry Sutcliffe, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Culture, Media & Sport: My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Olympics has made sure that there is transparency in all these things, including the openness of contracts. A list will be published shortly. We are keen to make sure that for the whole of the UK not only are there contractual benefits for businesses, but that people from my hon. Friendís constituency, for example, will be able to volunteer, and hopefully some athletes from his constituency will be in the Olympic games. We want to make sure that, although the games are important for London, they are successful for the whole of the UK.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): Rumour has it that the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Paul Clark) will be in the North-East next week to launch the initial implementation of the Local Transport Act 2008. This is a good Labour Act which has the potential to bring about the biggest improvement in public transport for many decades, but is my right hon. Friend aware that the Conservative party is committed to repealing the Act if it ever comes to power? Is that not just one more good reason for people to vote Labour at every possible opportunity?
The Prime Minister: I am surprised at the Conservative attitude to public transport, particularly the need to improve bus services around the country. I believe that the new transport Act has been widely welcomed because it recognises that country buses in particular are a lifeline to many communities. The Act is about giving options to local authorities, not being prescriptive about what they should do. It is for local authorities to take advantage of the new powers. My hon. Friend is telling me that Labour local authorities will take that advantage; I hope that Conservative authorities will serve their public as well.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): Regardless of the merits or otherwise of the proposals, does my right hon. Friend accept that carrying out the proposed work will involve costs to small shopkeepers? Does he have an assessment of those costs, and does he have any plans to compensate retailers for them?
The Secretary of State for Health (Alan Johnson): I accept that there are issues for small retailers, and of course there will be a cost. The Save Our Shop campaign is the brainchild of the Tobacco Retailers Association, which is an offshoot of the Tobacco Manufacturers Association, which represents Imperial Tobacco, Gallahers and others in the smoking industry. The campaign is estimating the cost at something like -
Mr. Clelland: Make smoking illegal, then.
Alan Johnson: This might be totally irrelevant to the question that my hon. Friend asked, but the campaign has put the cost at something like £6,000. There is no evidence whatever for that. The evidence from the countries that have introduced these measures is that there is a maximum cost of £1,000. In Canada, it was £500. The cost of putting up the displays is met by the tobacco manufacturers - by the cigarette companies themselves. We will of course offer assistance to small businesses. That is why we are saying that this measure will not be introduced for small shops until 2013. That will give us plenty of time to have a full consultation and to ensure that this will not damage those businesses.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): Has my right hon. and learned Friend seen the recent report "Carers in Crisis", which shows, notwithstanding the improvements the Government have made, that carers continue to struggle and their true worth continues to be undervalued and under-rewarded? May we have a debate soon on the huge contribution that carers make to our country, as that would provide an opportunity for Ministers to spell out what more they intend to do to ensure that carers are supported properly?
Rt Hon Harriet Harman, Leader of the House of Commons: I will look at finding time for a debate specifically on carers. The increase in the number of people with disabilities and in the number of people aged over 85 means that the issue will only get bigger. Most people want to ensure that their families can provide care, and that is what most families want. We have already taken action on the right to request flexible working for carers, and important services - the local authority health service, voluntary and respite services - support family carers. Providing cash to those who are unable to work as often as they would have been because they are caring is also important. I will consider the points my hon. Friend has raised and see whether we can find an opportunity to debate the matter.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge): I have a constituent who, after working all his life, was diagnosed with a serious, life-threatening disease in his early 60s. He is now 63 and the Departmentís doctor has decided that, following treatment, he can now return to work and his incapacity benefit has been stopped. At his age, it is unlikely that the jobcentre will look seriously for a job for him and it is even more unlikely than any employer will take him on. Will my right hon. Friend consider allowing people of that age and in those circumstances the opportunity to self-certify for incapacity benefit - for the higher levels of the new benefit that he is proposing?
James Purnell, Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions: I do not know if we can go as far as self-certification, but I know that my hon. Friend has met ministerial colleagues about that case, which he feels is distressing. Those decisions are taken independently of Ministers by medical professionals, but I am happy to look at the case and see whether any general lessons can be learned for the work capability assessment, which will part of the employment and support allowance regime.
Reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO
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