Sir George Young: : I am grateful to the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business.
Yesterday, the right hon. and learned Lady said that she would table the motion on Professor Sir Ian Kennedy’s appointment as chairman of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority within the next few days. Will she ensure that the House is given fair warning so that that does not just pop up on the Order Paper by surprise, as the appointment of the Speaker’s Committee on IPSA did last week?
May I repeat the call for a debate on how Sir Christopher Kelly’s report will be implemented? Despite what the right hon. and learned Lady said yesterday, of Kelly’s 60 recommendations, I have counted at least 12 that are decisions that need to be taken by the House, and another 10 recommendations on strengthening IPSA will require primary legislation. That means that more than a third of Sir Christopher’s report requires the attention of the House rather than the independent regulator. The right hon. and learned Lady said yesterday that she did not think that we should be addressing the question of legislating to change the IPSA structure, but is it not clear that that is exactly what we shall have to do if, as she said yesterday, we implement Kelly’s proposals in full?
May we have a statement from the Prime Minister on his assertion on 10 June that Government action has saved 500,000 jobs? Both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor have repeatedly used that figure in the House to justify Government decisions over the past 12 months, but last night the Treasury published documents under the Freedom of Information Act showing that the advice given to Ministers before this year’s Budget was that a figure of
“between 250,000 and 450,000”
could be used, but that any
“public statement should be worded carefully”.
Moreover, the documents make it completely clear that it could be seen as spurious for the Government even to claim that number, because monetary policy, which we have consistently supported, is independent of Government. Will the Prime Minister and the Chancellor take an early opportunity to correct the record?
The Committee on Reform of the House of Commons is due to set out its findings by the end of next week. Will the right hon. and learned Lady confirm that when it is published she will make an oral statement to the House on how the Government plan to take forward that Committee’s recommendations? When might we have an opportunity to debate that Committee’s important report?
Next Monday, we were due to debate secondary legislation on the 2011 census. That debate has been unexpectedly postponed. Given that we have expressed real concerns about the intrusive nature of some of those questions, is that an indication, as we hope, that the Government have decided to reconsider the invasive format of the new census?
May I ask the Leader of the House yet again to provide us with the date of the pre-Budget report? The Chancellor had his opportunity at Treasury questions on Tuesday, but did not take it. There are reports that the Prime Minister is clashing with the Chancellor over the former’s plans for a massive new spending spree before the election. Do the Government not owe it to the public to come clean on their spending plans?
Finally, on the economy, may we have a statement on the recent outburst from the Government’s enterprise tsar, Lord Sugar—that the majority of small firms are just “moaners” who need not a bank but an insolvency practitioner? Is that not a rather unusual way to champion a sector that is normally referred to as the lifeblood of the economy? With the Federation of Small Businesses calling for Lord Sugar to go, does the Leader of the House think that he still has the confidence of the companies that he is meant to be representing? Or is it time to say, “You’re fired”?
Ms Harman: I have undertaken to the House that we will bring forward the motion as soon as possible to endorse your choice, Mr. Speaker, of Professor Sir Ian Kennedy as the chair of the new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. Notification to the House will be made in the normal way.
On the issue of decisions that need to be taken by the House and those that would need legislative change, it is helpful to look at the Kelly report proposals for substantive changes in respect of a new allowance system. Effectively, Sir Christopher Kelly has proposed a new allowance framework, and that should be the priority, along with setting up the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. As far as the House is concerned, we need to help the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority get on with its work by endorsing the appointment of the chair. It will then be for the authority to take forward the Kelly proposals and implement them. That is the central and important objective. The other issues can be looked at, but they are not germane to the aim of having a new allowance system, based on Kelly’s proposals, in place and ready for the new Parliament.
The right hon. Gentleman asked about the half a million jobs that would have been lost had the Government not taken action. Perhaps I may identify for him the action that we have taken which, had the Conservatives been in government, would not have been taken, but which has made such a difference in protecting jobs. First, we brought forward capital projects, which not only ensures good capital investment in schools and health centres, but provides jobs. If we had not done that, it would have cost jobs. We also brought forward our time to pay proposals for businesses, so that they are not put out of business because they cannot pay their taxes as a consequence of the global financial crisis and the credit crunch—
Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): This is a party political broadcast.
Mr. Speaker: Order. May I say to the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton) that I require no assistance from him— [ Interruption. ] Order. I am chairing the proceedings. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to participate, he should sit and listen.
Ms Harman: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Some 200,000 businesses have been able to defer payment of tax and stay in business through the difficult economic times, and that has saved jobs. If those firms had been put out of business because they had been made insolvent by HMRC, that would have cost jobs. Then there is the temporary 2.5 per cent. VAT cut, which helped the economy, and that has helped jobs.
We have also taken other fiscal stimulus measures, including the increase in child benefit and pensions. All those measures have preserved at least half a million jobs, and we therefore stand by that figure. There will be further discussion in the pre-Budget report about the economy, and our plans will be laid out. If hon. Members want to ask anything else, they can discuss the matter, no doubt, in the economic part of the debate on the Queen’s Speech.
The right hon. Gentleman asked for an opportunity to debate the proposals from the Reform of the House of Commons Committee, and I will look for, and discuss with him, when is the best opportunity for the House to discuss those important proposals. He also asked about the census. I do not know the answer to that question. I will have to find out—or perhaps someone will tell me before the end of business questions. If they do, I will interpose it in an answer to somebody else’s question.
I think that is it. [Hon. Members: “Lord Sugar?”] That is certainly it.