Madeleine Moon MP

Labour Member of Parliament for Bridgend

This Week in Parliament 23rd - 27th February


MPs and their second jobs dominated a large part of the business of the week following the media stories around Jack Straw and Malcolm Rifkind and on Wednesday, in PMQs and in an opposition debate Labour attempted to tighten the rules around MPs and other paid work.

The week began with a different scandal, however, with the Chancellor taking questions form MPs on revelations of HSBC's tax avoidance activities in Switzerland.

My week was as varied as ever and included me speaking in Defence Questions, during a statement on Ukraine and in a debate on Police Widows' Pensions.


Defence Questions

With the end of this Parliament fast approaching this was the penultimate opportunity to put questions to the Ministry of Defence. MPs pressed Ministers on the ongoing turmoil in Ukraine, as well as the UK's response to Russian aggression generally. 

Mrs Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): How many service personnel were dismissed from the Army, demoted or otherwise penalised as a result of having received a police caution between 2008 and 2011. 

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Anna Soubry): Initially, in reply to the hon. Lady’s campaign, I said that the figure was 1,500, but we have made further inquiries because our aim is to contact everybody. We now think that the figure is nearer to 1,200—1,000 in the Army. As we make those inquiries, it is important to appreciate that not everybody who was penalised in some way had that happen as a result of their receiving a police caution—other matters may have been involved as well—so we are exploring all that.

Mrs Moon: The Minister will be aware that at least 58 of those personnel were discharged from the armed forces. On a rough calculation of losing, say, a £25,000 salary for just one year, compensation of over £1.25 million would be due. What assessment has she made of the cost to the defence budget of the military law-breaking and cover-up that was involved?

Anna Soubry: As I have explained, we are identifying all the individuals so that we can contact them and advise them accordingly. I have made it very clear that I want to see action by the three armed forces to anticipate what may come forward so that we do not suffer any more delay and there are no injustices.

Vernon Coaker (Gedling) (Lab): Does the Defence Secretary agree that episodes in recent months in which RAF jets have been scrambled to escort Russian bombers close to our airspace, aircraft from our NATO partners have been asked to help locate a suspected Russian submarine off the west coast of Scotland, and the Royal Navy has been seen escorting a Russian warship in the English channel are very serious and risk a very serious incident? Will he tell the House how is he meeting these ongoing challenges and assure us that gaps in our military capability such as the lack of maritime patrol aircraft do not hinder us in any way in responding to such events?

Michael Fallon: These are indeed serious issues and serious threats. So far as the incursion of Russian aircraft around British airspace is concerned, we have successfully intercepted all of those potential incursions and they have been shadowed by our quick-reaction aircraft based at either Lossiemouth or Coningsby. Our Royal Navy has picked up and shadowed the transit of Russian ships through the channel. We will, of course, respond, though not in the sense of being provoked; we will ensure that any potential incursion into our airspace or maritime area is properly dealt with.

So far as maritime patrol aircraft are concerned, of course we will look at that capability again in the new review, but we share capabilities with our NATO allies. We helped to lift French troops into Mali and, in return, we share other capabilities with NATO allies.

Vernon Coaker: I thank the Defence Secretary for that answer. He will, of course, be aware of ongoing events in eastern Ukraine and concerns about the stability of other areas in the region. He recently talked of Russia seeking to “test” NATO, so, while our response needs to be calm and considered, it also has to make strategic sense. What is the Defence Secretary’s latest assessment of the implementation of the ceasefire agreement, especially in the light of the deadly incident in Kharkiv yesterday; and what role is Britain playing, as a leading member of NATO, to reassure our partners of the fortitude, resilience and involving nature of that alliance?

Michael Fallon: It is pretty clear that the ceasefire agreement is not being properly respected. Russia needs to get back to the terms of that agreement and ensure that the fighting stops, that the heavy armour and other equipment I have referred to are withdrawn and that the territory of Ukraine is therefore respected. We have already been supplying non-lethal aid to Ukraine, as the hon. Gentleman knows, and we are continuing to consider what further help to provide in terms of training that might help to reduce the number of casualties and fatalities and build up the capability of the Ukrainian forces, which have been subject to an awful onslaught.


Urgent Question on HSBC tax avoidance in Switzerland

Also on Monday, Labour's Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Ed Balls called George Osborne before the house to answer questions relating to the revelations that HSBC's Swiss subsidiary had been helping thousands of customers dodge and allegedly evade tax.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr George Osborne): The allegations about tax evasion at HSBC Swiss are extremely serious and have been the subject of extensive investigation by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. Money has been recovered for the Exchequer, and HMRC continues to be in active discussion with our prosecuting authorities. The chief executive of HMRC and the Director of Public Prosecutions have confirmed that they have the necessary resources to carry out their work on this matter, and if they need more resources they will get them.

The House should know, however, that in each and every case the alleged tax evasion—both by individuals and the bank—happened before 2006 when the shadow Chancellor was the principal adviser on tax policy and economic affairs to the then Labour Government. News that the French had got hold of the files with the names of the bank accounts became publicly known in 2009 when the shadow Chancellor was sitting on the Government Benches, and the files were requested and recovered by HMRC before May 2010, when he was a member of the Cabinet.

The right hon. Gentleman has written to ask me five questions about my responsibilities. I will answer each one directly, and in return he can account for his own responsibilities. He asked about what he calls the selective prosecution policy pursued by HMRC, and whether that decision was made by Ministers. Yes, that decision was made by Ministers, and the Inland Revenue’s overall approach to prosecuting cases of suspected serious tax fraud was set out in the Official Report on 7 November 2002, column 784W, in an answer by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown). That was confirmed again when HMRC was created in 2005—again by the right hon. Gentleman. I have increased resources for tackling tax evasion, and as a result prosecutions are up fivefold. I have answered for my responsibility on that question; perhaps the right hon. Member for Morley and Outwood (Ed Balls) will answer for his and tell us whether he drafted that policy...

Ed Balls: ...Finally, the Chancellor has been dragged to the House to answer questions about the HSBC scandal, which broke a full two weeks ago. At a time when the living standards of working people are squeezed, when our public services are under pressure, when HSBC is paying out high bonuses and when the amount of uncollected tax has gone up under this Government, we need proper answers, not another Chancellor sweeping these issues under the carpet as we have heard today.[Interruption.] I think the hon. Member for Northampton North (Michael Ellis) should listen to these questions and then the Chancellor can tell us whether he actually has any answers. Don’t you agree, Mr Speaker?

Detailed information was passed to this Government in May 2010 about 1,100 HSBC clients—[Interruption.]

Mr Speaker: Order. These exchanges are not, frankly, to the advantage of this House. They will be conducted in a more decorous atmosphere. I say to Members on both sides who are calculatedly trying to whip it up and are shouting at the tops of their voices, some holding very senior positions in this House: cut it out or get out.

Ed Balls: We know when they shout that it is because they have something to hide, Mr Speaker. That is the truth.

First, let me ask the Chancellor about what he knew and when. Two weeks ago, Downing street announced that no Minister found out about the HSBC issues until two-and-a-half weeks ago. At the weekend, the Chancellor said that he should not be involved in the tax dealings of any individual bank. Today, he has told us he knew in 2009. If he knew about systemic abuse on this scale in 2009, why did he not act when he became Chancellor? That is the first question.

Secondly, given that the Chancellor says he knew about this in 2009, why, five years on, has there been only one prosecution after the provision of 1,100 names? We know that in November 2012 HMRC confirmed that the Government had adopted a selective prosecution policy. Let me ask the Chancellor: given he knew what was happening at HSBC, did he confirm he wanted a selective prosecution policy in these cases?

Thirdly, why in 2012 did the Chancellor sign a deal with the Swiss authorities that has prevented the UK from actively obtaining similar information in the future? The agreement states that the UK and Swiss Governments will

“not actively seek to acquire customer data stolen from Swiss banks”.

Why sign up to a declaration that clearly impedes HMRC’s and the Government’s ability to act in the future? Two weeks ago, they told us it was because they did not know, but we now know that the Chancellor has known for six years. Why did he sign that deal? 



Police Numbers in Wales

Labour's Chris Evans MP organised a debate noting his concern, on the loss of police officers from forces across Wales over the past few years.


Chris Evans (Islwyn) (Lab/Co-op): Mr Caton, thank you for calling me to speak so early. I am glad I arrived early, because otherwise I could not have done so.

I called for this debate because everybody cares about police numbers. Everybody wants to feel safe in their homes and safe on the streets, and everybody wants to walk the byways free of antisocial and other nuisance behaviour. I am concerned that, as a result of decisions taken by this Government, Wales in particular has lost 500 officers from its service: North Wales police has lost 92 officers; South Wales police, 154; and my force in Gwent has lost 226 officers. The reductions in police numbers across Wales is the equivalent of Gwent police losing a full third of its officers. The fall in numbers is having a dramatic effect not just on our police, but on our constituents and businesses. In fact, police officers have said unequivocally, “Public safety is at risk.”

Last Wednesday, public safety was in the minds of people in Newbridge, when I attended a public meeting there. We talked about problems relating to antisocial behaviour in particular. I felt sorry for a police officer who told me that, unfortunately, due to cuts he could not bring in the CCTV they wanted and could not cut down on the antisocial behaviour, and that there was a real problem that impacted on public safety throughout Newbridge.

Research by the Police Federation has found that crime is not falling. Instead, it is not being reported or is being recorded incorrectly. In Wales, overall, crime has risen by 3%. Violent crime is up a fifth, with 38,000 violent attacks and 14 murders. Sexual offences are up by a shocking 30%. It is not as if Ministers can claim they did not know this would happen. Back in 2011, the Welsh Assembly launched an inquiry into the impact of policing cuts. The evidence taken during the inquiry came from a wide range of civil society. The advice was compelling and the outcome clear. The cross-party committee in charge of the investigation stated in its report that cuts to police numbers would be damaging, would impact on communities and would reverse progress made in the past decade. Equally, the Welsh Local Government Association said that reductions in police numbers would present a:

“huge challenge for community safety and in continuing to tackle and reduce crime and disorder.”

It is clear that the loss of police officers has had a dramatic effect on the safety of our communities. The Government have claimed that officers have been lost only in respect of back-office functions. Although this may be so, it is shocking that Ministers do not recognise how important so-called back-office functions are to combating crime. Back office is more than just admin and human resources: it is, among other things, anti-terrorism intelligence, child protection, domestic violence units, family liaison, witness services and, crucially, 999 call handlers. Can the Minister honestly say that these functions are not vital to tackling crime?


The Minister for Crime Prevention (Lynne Featherstone): What a pleasure it is to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Caton. I congratulate the hon. Member for Islwyn (Chris Evans) on securing this debate. I recognise that issues connected with the strength and capability of policing in our communities rightly continue to be of interest to all Members. I apologise on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims, who was unable to attend today because of prior diary commitments.

I will respond to the points made by the hon. Gentleman in a few moments, but before I do, I will reflect on some significant achievements by police forces in Wales. First, it is worth highlighting the contribution of Welsh police forces to the overall reduction in crime that we have seen since the coalition Government took office. As we have said a number of times, crime as measured by the independent crime survey for England and Wales is down by more than a fifth since 2010, and now stands at its lowest level since the survey began in 1981. Chief constables and police and crime commissioners have demonstrated that it is possible to deliver more for less and to prioritise resources at the front line. Communities in Wales are safer than they have been for decades.

Like forces elsewhere, Welsh forces are collaborating with one another and with other public services to transform the policing landscape. That is helping not only to achieve necessary savings, but to deliver better outcomes for the public. For example, North Wales police and Cheshire constabulary have recently merged their armed policing units to improve response times and cut costs. Dyfed-Powys, Gwent and South Wales police forces collaborate across a number of areas, including firearms, crime recording, mobile data, forensics and procurement.

Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab): I apologise for not realising that the debate started early. I am very concerned and would like the Minister’s opinion on the fact that the police and crime commissioner for Dyfed-Powys has withdrawn his funding for the monitoring of CCTV cameras. That was a partnership with the county council, which clearly cannot make up the shortfall. Does she agree that that decision is short-sighted? We have low crime figures now, but that could start the reversal of the trend.

Lynne Featherstone: As the hon. Lady knows, it is a matter for decision locally by the PCC. That is the whole point. The PCC has to judge the correct way to proceed on the spot. I am sure that she is more than capable of taking the matter up with the PCC directly.

The police and crime commissioner for Gwent, Ian Johnston, has announced plans for a new victims’ hub, which will bring together a range of agencies and organisations to enable the force to work more effectively and efficiently with victims of crime. Through the police innovation fund, we have provided funding that will further enhance collaboration, as well as improve digital working and introduce new means by which the public can make contact with their forces. In 2014-15, Gwent and South Wales police forces received £837,000 from the innovation fund to develop an app that will allow officers to record and upload statements from a crime scene to a shared system. That will free officers from having to return to base, allowing them to spend more time on patrol.



Prime Minister’s Questions

In the wake of the shocking revelations around MPs Jack Straw and Sir Malcolm Rifkind, PMQs was dominated by the issue of MPs and second jobs. Labour's Ed Miliband challenged the PM to back Labour's proposal to greatly restrict the other types of employment MPs can have, but the PM refused to agree.

Later in the day, Labour held a debate and a vote on the issue of  MPs second Jobs, see later in TWIP for details*

John Woodcock: British support in Ukraine is welcome, but combined efforts against President Putin’s naked aggression have been woefully lacking. When the Prime Minister leaves office in 70 days, is he content for his place in history to be the Prime Minister whose weakness left Britain mired in years of conflict?

The Prime Minister: At the end of this Parliament, I believe that Government Members can be proud of the fact that we closed the massive black hole in our defence budget left by Labour. We can be proud of the fact that we see Voyager airplanes flying out of Brize Norton. We can be proud of the fact that we are building two aircraft carriers. We can be proud of the fact that we have got the Type 45 destroyers. We can be proud of the fact that submarines are rolling out of the hon. Gentleman’s constituency and into the seas of the Atlantic to keep our country safe.

Sir William Cash (Stone) (Con): Last year my right hon. Friend strongly supported my Bill, which became the International Development (Gender Equality) Act 2014, to protect women and girls from female genital mutilation and similar abominations. My amendment on Report to the Serious Crime Bill to protect young girls and women at risk from FGM in this country gained 272 votes. There were many deliberate abstentions, but it was defeated by a three-line coalition Whip. Following a letter from the Minister before the Report stage, several matters remained unresolved. I tried to intervene but I was not allowed to do so. Will my right hon. Friend write to me to explain how these young girls and women will be fully protected under the guidelines under the Act and otherwise?

The Prime Minister: I commend my hon. Friend for his Bill and for the campaign that he has waged in favour of that Bill and of equality in how we deliver aid and in this vital area. On the specific issue of the piece of legislation that he is referring to, my understanding is that we believe that the law as drafted covers the point that he is concerned about. I will of course write to him. But let me be absolutely clear: I think the work that we are doing, supported right across the House, in terms of combating FGM and forced marriage, and making sure that there are real rights for women in our country and across the world, is of vital importance.

Edward Miliband (Doncaster North) (Lab): The reputation of every Member of this House is damaged when we see revelations such as those that we have in the past couple of days. Can I take it from the Government’s amendment today on second jobs that the Prime Minister is proposing no change to the current system?

The Prime Minister: Let me start by agreeing very much with the right hon. Gentleman that the allegations made against two very senior Members of this House of Commons are extremely serious; they need to be properly investigated. I believe that both Members have done the right thing by referring themselves to the House of Commons standards commissioner, and in having the Whip withdrawn and, indeed, retiring from this House. I think that is vitally important.

I certainly do not rule out further changes, but the most important thing we can do is to make sure we apply the rules: paid lobbying—banned; non-declaration of interests—banned; and making sure wrongdoing is investigated and punished. We are not making no change; we have just passed a lobbying Act, and we have also passed a recall Act so that people can sack their MP.

Edward Miliband: The Prime Minister does not rule out further change, and he has a chance to vote for change tonight. This is what he wrote in 2009:

“Being a Member of Parliament”—[Interruption.]

Mr Speaker: Order. The questions will be heard, and the answers will be heard. It is a very simple point, which I hope everyone can grasp.

Edward Miliband: This is what he wrote in 2009:

“Being a Member of Parliament must be a full-time commitment…The public deserves nothing less.”

He went on to say:

“Double-jobbing MPs won’t get a look-in when I’m in charge”.

What has changed?

The Prime Minister: The right hon. Gentleman says we should look at the specifics. The difficulty with his specific proposal is that it would allow, for instance, someone to be a paid trade union official, but it would not allow someone to run a family business or a family shop. Like many of his proposals, it is not thought through; it is whipped up very quickly. If he thought it was such a good idea, why did he not put it in place four years ago?

Edward Miliband: Let us agree now that we will rule out anyone being a paid trade union official, a paid director or a paid consultant. Say yes, and we can restore the reputation of this House... 

Police Widows Pensions

During this short debate in Westminster Hall, MPs called for the overhauling of “unfair” rules to allow thousands of police widows to remarry without losing their pensions.

Mike Penning, the policing minister, told MPs in the debate that there was a compelling case to close the loophole that can hit the bereaved financially if they find another partner.


Richard Graham: It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Williams, and a real pleasure to be able to speak on an issue that is important to Members from all parts of the House. The happiness of the many individuals involved and the reputation of the Government and the House for ensuring that, as far as possible, justice is done for those who for no reasons of their own find themselves in a difficult situation hinge to some extent on the decisions made on this matter by Ministers and, in due course, the Government.

I will sketch the background to how I came to bring this debate to the House, run through some of the examples I hope the Minister will consider, and summarise by making the argument that the Government should reconsider how police widows’ and widowers’ pre-1987 pensions are treated. Just before Christmas last year, I received an e-mail from the Police Federation outlining a situation of which I had until then been unaware. It pointed out that the Police Pensions Regulations 1987 did not allow a number of police widows and widowers to marry or cohabit without losing their right to a police widow’s or widower’s pension for life. The e-mail highlighted the case being made by PC Colin Hall’s widow, Cathryn Hall, who was widowed at the age of 24 in 1987 and left to bring up her four-year-old daughter alone.

Cathryn, who is with us today—as are some 15 other widows and widowers—was faced with a difficult decision: to keep her police widow’s pension or to move in with her partner, which would mean that she was no longer eligible to receive the pension. She set up a petition, which has more than 71,000 signatures. The campaign, which I was unaware of until Christmas last year, is one I would like the police Minister to consider. In the petition, Cathryn describes how her husband Colin died and life after his death, and she makes the case as to why she and other widows should be treated in the same way as those whose pensions are covered by the change in the 1987 regulations. She makes the point that the Minister is in a difficult position in balancing the sacrifices of police officers and their widows or widowers against those of members of the armed forces, for whom significant changes were made on Remembrance Sunday last year.

Since I have been in contact with Cathryn Hall, she has kindly introduced me to a number of other widows and widowers, including two from my county of Gloucestershire: Sharon Jones and Julie Shadwick, both of whom have sad stories to tell. Many others have been in contact with their MPs, but there is not time, alas, to read out all their stories. I will mention Sharon’s story. She was married to Ian Jones, a chief inspector in the Gloucestershire police force, who was killed in an accident in June 2005. She survived on the pension that the service provided and brought up three children on her own. She recently met another man and married him at the end of October 2014, which, as she writes,

“brings me a wonderful opportunity to start a new life. However, as a result of this, I have lost my pension entitlement which I object to most strongly. I am being penalised for finding new love after 10 years alone.”


Mrs Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): Does the hon. Gentleman accept that it is not just the widows, but the children who are impacted by these decisions? As a Parliament, we talk a great deal about the importance of children being brought up within a loving family. If we are condemning widows and widowers to live alone and to have their children outside of a loving family, that is also wrong and something we should address and right.

Richard Graham: As so often, the hon. Lady makes a good point. Children are often the people we do not mention when we discuss these issues, but they can suffer the most. I am grateful to her.

What changed in 2006 was society’s perception of fairness, and the new scheme in 2006 recognised that. All new recruits since 2006 and anyone who transferred to the new scheme—there were some who did not—now knows that should the worst happen, their loved ones will receive their pension for life, irrespective of whether the survivor remarries or forms a new partnership. That applies to unmarried but cohabiting partners, too. The new regulations did not apply retrospectively to those who had left the service before 2006 or had died before that date. For those who are penalised in that way, such as Cathryn Hall, the many who are here today and the other 800 to 900 widows and widowers—most of them are widows—it must be frustrating to have remarried and seen financial disadvantage relative to those who were widowed later. It is an issue of fairness.


The Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims (Mike Penning): I reiterate the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham)—it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Williams.

I want to indicate from the outset that, although the debate is short, if anyone has not had an opportunity to contribute so far, I am happy to take interventions. My hon. Friend was very generous in taking interventions, but it is absolutely right that colleagues who have been present from the start of the debate and want to contribute should be able to do so.

As my hon. Friend mentioned, I approach the issue of police widows’ pensions not only as a former uniformed guardsman but as a former firefighter. I served alongside the police on many occasions—some of those situations were very dangerous and the police put their lives in danger—as well as with the other emergency services. My hon. Friend touched on the fact that, through its devolved powers, Northern Ireland has already acceded to the widows’ requests. I was the Northern Ireland Minister at the time and, although that matter is devolved, I can assure Members that I was lobbied very heavily in Northern Ireland. I hope that I was part of that decision.

Before I took on ministerial responsibilities for policing fairly recently, I was at the Department for Work and Pensions. My Parliamentary Private Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Steve Brine), who is sitting behind me but is not allowed to speak because of protocol, was already lobbying me. We were already discussing the matter before fate decided that I was going to be the Minister with responsibility for policing in England and Wales.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friends the Members for Gloucester and for Winchester for their campaigns on behalf of not only their constituents but the constituents of Members from both sides of the House. I thank colleagues for writing to me—some of them many times; some because they wanted to know the exact position—and I congratulate the campaigners on their online petition, which is growing daily. cm150225/halltext/150225h0001.htm#15022587000001 


Urgent Question on Service Personnel Ukraine

Following the Prime Minister's announcement that the UK will be sending around 75 armed forces personnel to Ukraine on a support mission, the Defence Secretary was called before the House to give more details on the proposal. 

Mr Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab) (Urgent Question):To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the deployment of UK personnel to train Ukrainian forces.

The Secretary of State for Defence (Michael Fallon): The Government’s position from the outset has been that we deplore Russian aggression in Ukraine. We do not believe that there is a military solution. There needs to be a diplomatic solution, which can be enabled through sanctions, pressure and the economic weight of Europe and America. Obviously, however, as the Prime Minister has said, where we can help a friend with non-lethal equipment, we should do so.

The second Minsk agreement of 12 February provided a framework for stabilising the situation in eastern Ukraine. We want it to succeed and we urge all sides to take the necessary steps to implement it. In light of continued Russian-backed aggression in eastern Europe, the UK is committed to providing additional non-lethal support to the Ukrainian Government to help their forces deal with the pressures they are facing. As the Prime Minister confirmed in Parliament yesterday, we are providing additional non-lethal support by sending advisory and short-term training teams. This support, provided at the request of the Ukrainian Government, will help their armed forces develop and maintain the capacity and resilience they need, and help reduce fatalities and casualties.

Support to the Ukrainian armed forces is not new; we have been providing it for some time. This includes support on anti-corruption, on defence reform and on strategic communications and procurement. Over the last year, we have also provided personal protective equipment, winter fuel, medical kits and winter clothing for the Ukrainian armed forces.

 As part of the wider Government effort to support Ukraine and ensure a robust international response to Russia’s aggression, UK personnel will now provide to the Ukrainian armed forces medical, logistics, infantry, and intelligence capacity-building training from mid-March. Most of the advisory and training support will take place in Ukraine, but well away from the areas affected by the conflict in the east of the country. The number of service personnel involved will be around 75.

In respect of medical support, we will provide combat life-support training through a “train the trainer package” to multiply the numbers trained. The logistics team will identify and help improve deficiencies within Ukraine’s logistics distribution system. The infantry training package will focus on protective measures to improve survivability, and the intelligence capacity building team will provide tactical-level analysis training. We are considering further requests from the Ukrainian Government for support and assistance, and we will work closely with key allies through the Ukraine-US-UK-Canada joint commission. In the meantime, Russia must abide by its commitments at Minsk. That means making the separatists withdraw their heavy weapons, stopping continued separatist attacks so that an effective ceasefire can hold, and allowing effective monitoring to take place...

Mrs Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): The Secretary of State said that the 75 trainers would “mostly” be in Ukraine. Where else will they be operating from? If any Ukrainians are coming to the UK for training, can we have an absolute assurance for the citizens of the UK that we will not face another incident such as those in Bassingbourn, where we were training Libyans and members of the Cambridge community were assaulted? Can we have an assurance about how many are coming to the UK and where else they will be trained?

Michael Fallon: It is slightly unfortunate that the hon. Lady has compared the general purpose force we were attempting to train—a very raw force of recruits from Libya—with the Ukrainian armed forces. She asked me a straightforward and quite reasonable question about where else the training might be. There will be, and has already been, some training in the UK, but there can also be training in countries alongside Ukraine. We are looking at where the training can best be provided, but it is likely that most of it will be provided in Ukraine, in the Kiev area or elsewhere in the west of Ukraine, areas that are very familiar to the British military as we have been on exercise there in the past. 


MPs and paid directorships and Consultancies (Second Jobs) Debate

Following the Leader of the Opposition's statement in PMQs earlier in the day, the House debated a Labour motion on whether or not to ban MPs from holding paid directorships and working for consultancies. In an effort to work with the PM Labour attempted to reword its amendment to address the PMs concerns over trade union officials, however as you can see below, the Government not only blocked this idea, but also voted against the motion. 

Ms Angela Eagle: I beg to move,

That this House believes that, as part of a wider regulatory framework for hon. Members’ second jobs, from the start of the next Parliament no hon. Members should be permitted to hold paid directorships or consultancies.

I wonder whether the Leader of the House could indicate—he could even shout over the Dispatch Box—before I begin my speech whether, in the light of the attempts by the new chair of the parliamentary Labour party to give the Prime Minister what he said he wanted at Prime Minister’s questions today, it is his intention not to move his amendment to today’s motion.

The First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr William Hague): I will most certainly move the Government amendment today. It is an excellent amendment. It is not my role to facilitate the Opposition’s making up their policy as they go along throughout the afternoon.

Ms Eagle: I want to make it clear that we are actually trying to facilitate what the Prime Minister said he wanted during Prime Minister’s questions. We are not making up our policy as we go along; we are trying to include all views in it. It is in that spirit that I want to open the debate and move the motion in the name of the Leader of the Opposition, which proposes that this House bans MPs from holding paid directorships or consultancies.

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms Eagle: Let me finish my first sentence. If our manuscript amendment is accepted, the motion would also ban paid trade union officials. The public deserve to be safe in the knowledge that every Member of Parliament works and acts in the interests of their local constituents, and not in the interests of anyone paying them.

Gregory Barker (Bexhill and Battle) (Con): Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms Eagle: Let me make a little bit of progress and then I will give way.

I note that, unusually, the Government have tabled an amendment that simply restates the status quo and would completely obliterate the Opposition motion. I intend to deal with all that, but first I want to take a few minutes to deal with the circumstances in which the House of Commons finds itself, and argue that the time has come to make a decisive break with the status quo on Members’ remunerated interests. I believe the current situation has become untenable.

I do not intend to talk about the detail of what was revealed in the “Dispatches” programme on Monday. I think we should concentrate in this debate on developing a solution to this recurring problem. Those events are being dealt with by the independent Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, and that investigatory process must take its course, although that I note that the court of public opinion has already pretty firmly made up its mind. If the rules were clear and easy to follow, rather than riddled with grey areas and open to endless convenient interpretation, perhaps we would not find ourselves repeatedly having to deal with newspaper headlines such as the ones we have witnessed once more this week. It is undeniably true that these headlines bring this place into disrepute, as far as voters are concerned. Theirs is the opinion, I believe, that we must take the most seriously. They are, after all, the people whom we have been sent here to represent.

Philip Davies: I just wondered on what basis the Leader of the Opposition thought he was an authority on being a world-leading constituency MP. He happens to be my mum’s MP and the MP for the area in which I was born and brought up. It happens to be the consensus of opinion there that he does not really care about Doncaster. He is hardly ever there. In fact, he is known locally as Ed Moribund. Why should those of us who work hard in our constituencies week in, week out take any lessons from the Leader of the Opposition on what it takes to be an effective constituency MP?


Business Statement

Ms Eagle: 
I thank the Leader of the House.

Monday and Tuesday are estimates days, and we shall have a chance to scrutinise Government waste, but the form of the debates will allow us only to scratch the surface of those overspends. Does the Leader of the House agree that rather than three days being allocated for debate, the estimates process needs to be made much more rigorous? Will he support our plans for a yearly session of budget questions to each Department, so that Secretaries of State can be held to account directly for their spending decisions?

Yesterday my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Glenda Jackson) described what seemed to be a worrying case of the blatant misuse of public resources for party-political purposes. After she had passed an e-mail from a concerned constituent to the Prime Minister, her constituent received a party-political reply from No. 10 featuring propaganda about the Conservative Party manifesto. Will the Leader of the House tell us whether party-political letters are being prepared at public expense and civil service neutrality is being undermined, or whether correspondence intended for the Prime Minister is being passed directly to the Conservative party? Will he tell us why this seems to be a developing theme with this Government, with millions of letters to small businesses on No. 10 headed paper filled with Tory propaganda, Government announcements conveniently located in marginal seats, the Prime Minister and Chancellor travelling the country on public money on their “long-term economic scam tour” and the unexplained 22% rise in the Government’s external communications bill just as the election is approaching? Will the Leader of the House also arrange for an urgent statement from the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General on these disturbing developments?

Today, we have had the last set of quarterly migration figures before the election and it is clear that the Prime Minister’s pledge to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands is now in tatters. Instead of net migration’s being reduced, it is now higher than it was at the start of this Parliament and illegal immigration and exploitation are getting worse. Will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement from the Home Secretary on the huge failure in her Department?

Figures released this week show that the number of people on zero-hours contracts has soared, but in this place we have had the sorry sight of the Conservative party defending the right of its MPs to earn millions of pounds on the side. Our motion yesterday was a sensible solution to the widening gap between the rules we have in this place and the standards the public expect of us. In a democracy, when we are out of step with public opinion we must change. The Government voted against banning paid directorships and consultancies, so I want to ask the Leader of the House whether his party is ready to contemplate any form of change.

I have been reading an interview this morning with the Prime Minister in woman&home magazine. In it, he praised his wife and said that behind every great man there is a great woman. Surely he meant that behind every great man there is a very surprised woman.

I am getting a bit worried, Mr Speaker. During questions yesterday, the Prime Minister boasted of how successfully he combines his job as Prime Minister with being the Member of Parliament for West Oxfordshire. That must be easy, because the constituency of West Oxfordshire does not even exist. Last week, the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes) knocked on the door of a local resident claiming that he was their MP, but was greeted by the wife of my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr Love), who pointed out that he was in fact canvassing in the wrong constituency. I do not know about second jobs, but perhaps they should pay a bit more attention to their first ones. It is of course possible that they both just had a mind blank, like the leader of the Green party, who was involved in an eco-friendly car crash at the LBC studios on Tuesday. I gather that following her interview the Green party has joined the Conservative party in campaigning to be excluded from the leaders’ debates.

Although some Government members do not seem to know quite where their constituencies are, the hon. Member for Bosworth (David Tredinnick) appears to have left his for another planet entirely. He has been formulating the new Conservative health policy and not content with wasting £3 billion on a top-down reorganisation of the NHS, he told a journal this week that the way to take the huge pressure off doctors is astrology. He claimed that it is a useful diagnostic tool, enabling us to see strengths and weaknesses via the birth chart. It is unclear whether he thinks that the Chancellor would have met his deficit reduction targets if only he had not broken that mirror.

One person losing his constituency by choice is the Leader of the House. Asked at the weekend why he was leaving Parliament, he replied, “I’ve been Foreign Secretary and I’m determined not to be Prime Minister.” If I may say so, that goes some way to explaining his time as Leader of the Opposition.

Debate - European Union and National Parliaments
One of the House of Lords' functions that distinguishes it from the Commons is the scrutiny the House and its committees focus on the operation of the European Union. On Monday, the House looked specifically at the place of national legislatures in the Union in response to a report by the European Union Committee on "The Role of National Parliaments in the European Union"

Lord Boswell of Aynho (Non-Afl): My Lords, this is not just a debate about a Select Committee report, or about internal parliamentary processes. It is also by extension a debate about the future of the European Union and the United Kingdom’s relationship with it, so I am delighted that so many noble Lords are here to debate this vital issue.

Today, Europe faces huge, almost existential problems, and the economic crisis has thrown the deficiencies of the Treaty of Lisbon into stark relief. Growing disenchantment and disillusionment with the EU is evident in the continuing fall in participation in elections to the European Parliament, the rise in extremist parties across Europe, and the lack of trust between elected officials and their electorate. The question of democratic legitimacy now needs serious public debate so that the people of Europe can contribute to finding an answer. This is not just a crisis of public confidence in the Union, it is also a crisis of public confidence in politics more generally. Not every vote for UKIP is in my view necessarily a vote to leave the European Union—often it may simply be a protest vote, a vote for “none of the above”. However, we will never succeed in overcoming the Europe-wide democratic deficit unless we also look at and address our own shortcomings. It is not “their” problem over in Brussels, it is also our problem here in Westminster.

Giving national parliaments a more positive and active role in European affairs is not a panacea, but it is a key component in addressing the European democratic deficit. That view is widely shared across Europe, and I pay particular tribute here to the work of our colleagues in the Dutch Tweede Kamer and the Danish Folketinget, which is highly consonant with our report. The European Commission and the United Kingdom Government have also given their support. The Commission has expressed enthusiasm for better engagement with national parliaments as a natural extension of the existing political dialogue. The new Commission First Vice-President, Frans Timmermans, is particularly supportive, and his enhanced role within the new Commission overseeing relations with national parliaments and the issues of subsidiarity and proportionality, is very much to be welcomed.

The problem is in moving beyond easy generalities and warm words. Underlying the general agreement that national parliaments should have a greater role, there are many different political perspectives. Some in the European Commission may see strengthening national parliaments as a way to increase democratic control of the actions of national Governments in the Council of Ministers. In statements by Her Majesty’s Government, their emphasis on national parliaments sometimes acquires a tinge of slightly Eurosceptic flavour, while at the other end of the spectrum, some in the European Parliament fear that proposals to increase the role of national parliaments may simply undermine their own authority. There are also significant practical organisational problems in mobilising national parliaments to action. Against that backdrop, perhaps it is not surprising that whenever it comes to taking specific and concrete action, everything suddenly seems too difficult.


Lord Davies of Stamford (Lab): My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, has already made the important point that bringing national parliaments closer to the institutions of the EU, and particularly to the Commission, so as to improve familiarity of national parliaments with the issues and to enhance the influence of national parliaments on decisions being taken in Brussels is a cause that unites all three major parties in our democracy. It unites Eurosceptics and Europhiles. All those categories are well represented here this evening. Not surprisingly, UKIP is not represented here. Their representatives do not turn up much when they get elected to the European Parliament: they have the worst record for attendance there, a quite disgraceful one. They have not turned up tonight and they have demonstrated once again that they belong to a party that is very interested in demagogy, but not in doing an honest day’s work or even an honest evening’s work on European policy.

I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, on this report, which he has produced with his colleagues. I also commend him on the great energy and engagement that he has brought to his considerable responsibilities and the robustness with which he is prepared to talk—we had an example of that earlier this evening—both to our own Government here and to the European Commission, or to anybody else who might be relevant when that is required, in order to make clear the strong, serious position of this House and its committees on European-related subjects.

I agree with an enormous amount of what has been said this evening. I agree very much with the noble Lord, Lord Tugendhat, on the latter part of his remarks, about the desirability of involving the departmental Select Committees in the scrutiny work much more systematically than happens now. I take this opportunity to add to the proposals made in this very interesting document with tuppenny-ha’penny-worth of my own suggestions, and I will make three proposals.

Forward to Friend
Defence Select Committee questions the Secretary of State

On 2 July 2014 the Defence Committee announced a new inquiry into Future Force 2020. This followed the Committee’s earlier work looking at the Future Army 2020.

The 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review set out the Government’s plans for the Armed Forces called Future Force 2020. The Committee is particularly concerned about the relevance, size and quality of the Armed Forces. As the Chief of the Defence Staff said recently:

"Our approach has been through an equipment lens which has emphasised technical overmatch in force-on-force conflict. And whilst exquisite technology has been projected as the key to operational superiority, manpower has been seen more as an overhead and activity levels have been squeezed."

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