The Prime Minister: I do not agree with my hon. Friend about that. Where he is right is of course that Russia faces a threat from Islamist extremism, but so far I have seen insufficient evidence that it wants to work with international partners to follow that through in other theatres—most recently in Syria, where it is perfectly obvious to me that Assad’s brutality and the lack of support for the responsible opposition has

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helped foment the ISIL problem, which is something on which Vladimir Putin and I would take completely different sides.

Mr George Howarth (Knowsley) (Lab): Does the Prime Minister accept that young Muslims are increasingly radicalised not in the mosque or the madrassah, but online in their own bedrooms? I welcome his commitment to revisit the communications data legislation, but does he agree that we need to go even further with close international partners in bringing communications service providers to a realisation that they bear a responsibility for their platforms being used for illegal purposes?

The Prime Minister: The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right about that. There is no doubt that a lot of radicalisation is taking place online—by people watching videos or watching preachers, or what have you—often on the other side of the world. We have worked very closely with internet service providers on the issue of child pornography, and they have agreed in that theatre, as it were, to take some pretty radical action, including banning altogether particular search terms. They are taking some action in terms of extremism and the material we are taking down, but I think that there is probably more we can do by working with them and saying, “This is not a threat to free speech, but it is appalling to have some of the videos that are now shown on the internet.”

Dame Angela Watkinson (Hornchurch and Upminster) (Con): What recent discussions have the Prime Minister and his Ministers had with the leaders of mainstream Muslim organisations in this country to ensure that they are taking as robust a stance as possible in combating radicalisation and extremism?

The Prime Minister: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for asking that question. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has taken a lead on that issue. Along with others and with the support of Members from all parts of the House, he has encouraged faith leaders of all faiths to condemn the outrages that we have seen. I think that the difference can be seen. The response of the community to the appalling murder of Drummer Lee Rigby spoke volumes about how the overwhelming majority of British Asians and British Muslims abhor such appalling behaviour.

Mr Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): Is the Prime Minister aware that it would be inconceivable for us not to have an early debate on this subject, given the interest that has been shown in the House today? Perhaps next Monday would be an appropriate day. Is he also aware that much of the discontent among young Asians in my constituency is due to our perceived weakness over Gaza and our reluctance to distance ourselves from Israel?

Will the Prime Minister think again about how we combat this dreadful bully from Russia? Our country’s history reminds us that if bullies are not faced up to, they continue to bully. If President Putin looks at our remarks and the remarks of the Prime Minister today, he will not exactly be terrified, will he?

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The Prime Minister: On the issue of the debate, I am sure that the authorities will have listened to the hon. Gentleman and that we can find a way to have a proper debate, whether this week or next week. I am sure that that would be worth while.

On Putin and Russia, as I have said before, what we have to do is to make the fact that Russia needs Europe and America more than Europe and America need Russia count. I am not promising that a set of sanctions will suddenly lead to a radical change of mind in the Kremlin, but if the Russians see that they are opting for a completely different and much, much colder relationship between the west and Russia, it might make them pause to think that they are making the wrong decision in not allowing the Ukrainians to make their own decisions about their own country.

Heather Wheeler (South Derbyshire) (Con): Does the Prime Minister agree that removing passports from terrorists who return from Syria and Iraq, barring dangerous foreign nationals from Britain and legislating to prosecute all types of terrorist activity are not a knee-jerk response, but a sensible and prudent approach to keep Britain safe?

The Prime Minister: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her question. The first response should be to gather evidence, prosecute and convict. However, we have learned in this age of the appalling threat of Islamist extremist violence, which is different from some of the treats that we have faced in the past, not least because the people who carry it out not only do not care whether they survive, but seek what they see as martyrdom, that we have to up our response. We have lots of very effective laws and rules. We do not need to overhaul them, but we do, in some circumstances, need to enhance them.

Stewart Hosie (Dundee East) (SNP): I welcome what the Prime Minister said, particularly about blocking foreign fighters entering the UK. However, as he pointed out, there have been 700 from France, 400 from Germany and hundreds more from other European and western countries, many of them travelling on EU passports. Is he confident that the data and intelligence sharing arrangements that are in place are comprehensive and robust, so that such people can be identified as they travel to the UK or to anywhere else?

The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman makes an extremely sensible point. The data sharing is good, but it could be a lot better. At the European Council, we looked specifically at the issue of passenger name records. The directive on that issue has so far been held up by a number of countries, including Germany. We need to make progress on that because the sharing of passenger names and records is vital in keeping us safe.

Angie Bray (Ealing Central and Acton) (Con): I recently organised a meeting between local Somali community representatives and Home Office officials to discuss their deep concerns about the potential radicalisation of their young people. Does my right hon. Friend agree that more can and must be done to support, engage and work with local communities, such as the Somalis, so that they can be part of the battle against extremism? After all, they know their young people far better than anyone else.

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The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend puts it very well. I believe that the cause of what we face is the cancer of Islamist extremism, but we should use everything that we have, including the many interventions that we make in the world, to help predominantly Muslim societies to demonstrate what a compassionate, tolerant, open and generous country Britain is. Britain has done a huge amount to help mend Somalia. Britain is one of the principal aid donors to people in Syria. We need to ensure that in all the communities of this country, those facts and figures and the outlook of successive British Governments are properly understood.

Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley) (Lab): A few weeks ago, the Prime Minister and the Government hosted an important conference on the sexual exploitation of women in war. Will he now tell me exactly what we are doing as far as the Yazidi women are concerned? More than 3,000 of them are being treated abominably by ISIS; they are being sold as sex slaves to the brothels of the middle east. What exactly are we doing to help those women? There was rightly a big public outcry over the 700 Nigerian schoolgirls, but what about the 3,000-plus Yazidi women who are being treated in that way? If they are released, they will find it very difficult to return to their own communities because of their experiences. Will the Prime Minister consider offering asylum to some of them, as France has done?

The Prime Minister: The right hon. Lady is absolutely right to raise the case of the Yazidi people, who are being persecuted by these dreadful, barbaric thugs from ISIL. We have helped directly by funding some of the refugee camps and making sure that they are properly built and prepared in northern Iraq. We were also prepared, over the summer, to take part if necessary in a huge humanitarian airlift operation, which was ready to go when those people were stuck on Mount Sinjar. Fundamentally, the best way to help the Yazidi people will be to ensure that there is an Iraqi Government who are able to confront ISIL and to restore to that country a sense that minorities are to be looked after and not persecuted.

Sir Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): Today is the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Royal Anglian Regiment. At that time, it had four regular battalions and three territorial ones. Now, it has only two regular battalions and just one reserve battalion. Does the Prime Minister accept that, in an increasingly dangerous world, both here and overseas, it is not in Britain’s defence interests to cut the size of the British Army to what it was at the time of Waterloo 200 years ago?

The Prime Minister: I do not agree with my hon. Friend, for this reason: it is in Britain’s interests to make sure that we spend our £33 billion defence budget on the assets that we actually need when facing the conflicts that we face today. So we have state-of-the-art Tornadoes that are able to fly over Iraq and Syria to gather intelligence, and we have brand-new Rivet Joint aircraft that can do similar things. The investment in those platforms, and in the brand-new class of submarines that are able to do similar things, is absolutely vital for our country. Yes, there are difficult decisions involved in

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changing the size and laydown of our armed forces, but unless we make those decisions, we will not have the assets that we need in conflicts such as these.

Paul Flynn (Newport West) (Lab): Will the Newport declaration that follows the Wales NATO summit contain strengthened guarantees to the other small nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, to protect them from Putin land grabs?

The Prime Minister: May I first say how delighted I am that the NATO conference is coming to Newport? I know that the hon. Gentleman and others in Newport will give the many different delegations and world leaders a warm welcome. One of the most important things at the NATO conference will be to send a clear signal that we take our article V obligations very seriously; all NATO members should be aware of that. As I said in answer to earlier questions, we should see more troops from the different nations in the countries of NATO to demonstrate that.

Sir James Paice (South East Cambridgeshire) (Con): I strongly welcome my right hon. Friend’s commitment to article V, but I am unclear as to whether he feels that that extends to the situation in Ukraine. I hear what he says about sanctions, but he will understand that many people question their value. Is it not therefore essential that NATO should make it absolutely clear to President Putin this weekend that Ukraine must not fall under his dominion, that this is down to the Ukrainian people and that NATO is prepared to ensure that this is the case?

The Prime Minister: I agree with my right hon. Friend that we should make it absolutely clear that it is unacceptable for Russia to behave in this way, but we should also be clear about how we are going to respond. I do not believe that we are contemplating—or would contemplate —a military response to the situation in Ukraine, so it would be wrong to threaten that. Instead, we should be threatening something that we can and, in my view, will do, which is to impose a permanent sanctions regime that gets tighter all the time if Russia continues down this path. That would totally reset the relationship that Russia has with the rest of the world.

Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield) (Lab): I agree with the Prime Minister that it is important that our responses to international crises should be based on clear values. May I invite him to agree with me that those values should be applied consistently? He said that the biggest land grab in the west bank in the past 30 years is “utterly deplorable”, and I agree with him. He also said that what appears to be a land grab by President Putin in Ukraine must be met with “economic costs” on Russia being “stepped up”. He said that sanctions work, which is particularly important when a small nation is threatened or undermined by a more powerful one. May I invite him to apply that same logic to Israel’s actions in the west bank?

The Prime Minister: We can draw these parallels, but of course there are differences between the circumstances of Israel and Palestine and what is happening in Ukraine, not least because Ukraine is an independent, sovereign,

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recognised country today. But I do think we should make very clear our reaction to this totally unacceptable land grab by Israel.

Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) (Con): Having served in Operation Warden in the 1990s—the no-fly zone over northern Iraq—and having met Kurdish students at Huddersfield university during the summer, I support targeted air strikes by the UK to support the US in checking the advance of the evil ISIL. Will the Prime Minister take account of the comments of those Kurdish students that the UK taking part in those air strikes would be not only militarily expedient but symbolic of our support for the Kurdish people?

The Prime Minister: I think we should listen very carefully to our Kurdish friends and allies, because they are in the front line against this ISIL monster. The action that they have taken has been effective and brave, and we support the air strikes that the Americans have undertaken. So far, our action has been about supplying them with weapons, support, non-lethal equipment, body armour and suchlike, and as I have said, we are prepared to go further.

Mike Gapes (Ilford South) (Lab/Co-op): The Prime Minister talked about learning the lessons of history. A previous Conservative Prime Minister, 23 years ago, was prepared to use British air power in a military exercise to save the Kurds. Why should we just leave it to the United States, particularly when the Kurdistan regional government have called for the whole of NATO to express solidarity and provide weaponry to them and air power to fight this genocidal caliphate?

The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. As I have said, the question we should be asking ourselves in this House—I am interested in the reactions of colleagues today—is what we can best do to help those on the ground who are doing the vital work in combating ISIL. Up to now our approach has been some military support, some support through intelligence and weaponry and some support through humanitarian aid, but we should continually ask ourselves how we can assist them in a way that also helps to keep us safe back here in the UK.

Steve Baker (Wycombe) (Con): I was appalled to learn that the British terrorist interviewed on “Newsnight” came from Wycombe. Does my right hon. Friend agree that this man has disgracefully betrayed the community that I represent? Given what was said, can he reassure me that if that man presents in the UK, he will face the full force of the law?

The Prime Minister: I very much agree with what my hon. Friend says. This individual is in no way representative of the many hard-working British Asians who live in his constituency and contribute enormously to our country. It is shocking to read someone born and raised in Britain, and schooled in our country, saying, “The only reason I want to come back to Britain is to bomb, maim and kill”. Of course we should ensure that we have laws—we do have such laws—so that people who say and do these things can be prosecuted, but the reason

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for asking what more is required is that sometimes, these cases do not come up to a level of criminal proof, yet these people threaten our country. That is why there were control orders in the past and there are now terrorism prevention and investigation measures, and that is why we are taking steps to strip people of passports or prevent people from coming into our country. Where there are gaps, it is worth asking whether they can be addressed.

John Woodcock (Barrow and Furness) (Lab/Co-op): The Prime Minister’s responses to previous questions imply that he is open to the idea of direct military participation in the current air strikes to protect the Kurds. If that is the case, will he just say so clearly now?

The Prime Minister: I have described the approach we have taken to date, and said that we support American air strikes. I do not think that we should rule anything out. We should act, and a British Government should act, to promote the British national interest and to help keep our people safe. We should consider everything in the light of that. In particular, as I have said, we should ask ourselves how we best help those people on the ground who are doing vital work in countering ISIL. On these issues, I always believe that it is vital to consult, talk with and listen to the House of Commons at every stage.

The House will be reassured to know, however, that if there was a direct threat to British national interests, or if, as in the case of Libya, we had to act very rapidly to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe, the British Government must reserve the right to act immediately and inform the House of Commons afterwards. It is important to set that out, but the House has seen what the British Government have done to date, and I am listening carefully to the views of hon. Members in this debate.

Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con): Tragically, the only way to defeat people who are determined to carry out appalling acts, despite reason, politics, economic sanctions or whatever, is to defeat them on the battlefield. The only way that can be done against ISIS is for someone to go in there and do it. It does not look as if it will be us or the Americans, and it will probably not be the Kurds; the people who seem most likely to be able to do it are the Iraqi Government and their armed forces. Despite it being somewhat distasteful, can we give as much support as possible to the Iraqi armed forces so that they can do the job that no one else seems able to do?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is fundamentally right that, at the end of the day, responsibility for a unified Iraq without the presence of ISIL, and without this extremism and terrorism, is with the Iraqi Government. To do that, an Iraqi Government is needed that includes Sunni, Shi’a and Kurd. We should not see support for the Kurds and support for the Iraqi Government as alternatives. To get rid of the cancer in their midst, we need an Iraqi Government who work with the Kurds.

Grahame M. Morris (Easington) (Lab): The Prime Minister has set out his arguments for the withdrawal of UK passports. Given the strong evidence of Israeli war crimes in Gaza—we have heard about 500 children

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being killed under a terrible bombardment—will British citizens fighting in the Israel defence forces be treated in the same way as those returning from Syria and Iraq?

The Prime Minister: I really do not think that is a fair or reasonable way of describing the situation. As I said, the loss of civilian life was unacceptable, and it is right that these matters are properly investigated. We must remember, however, that the conflict was started by Hamas rockets raining down on Israel, and Israel has a right to defend itself. I think that the hon. Gentleman, when he looks at his words, will come to regret drawing a comparison between a soldier fighting in the Israel defence forces and a terrorist returning from Syria.

Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): In the 50-day conflict between Israel and Hamas, 70% of the Israeli population lived within range of the 4,500 rockets fired from Gaza, and 2,000 Palestinians were killed in response. Given that Britain is one of the biggest donors to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in the Gaza strip, will the Prime Minister work with others such as the United States, Egypt and the Arab League, to demilitarise the Gaza strip so that construction materials and steel can be imported into it and used to rebuild the civilian infrastructure, rather than being ploughed by Hamas into developing a new terror tunnel network?

The Prime Minister: I very much agree with my hon. Friend. In short, we need to see the rockets out, the Palestinian Authority in, and the borders and posts open so that that part of Palestine can be properly regenerated.

Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP): Many of the controls being proposed will be effective only if they also apply to the Republic of Ireland, because of course people could enter the United Kingdom by coming in through ports of entry in the Republic of Ireland and across the land boundary into Northern Ireland. What discussions has the Prime Minister had with the Government of the Irish Republic on the proposals? Is it intended that intelligence will be shared with the authorities in the Republic, or will the proposals apply only to ports of entry in Great Britain, hence creating travel restrictions between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom?

The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. The relationship, including on policing, security and borders, between the British and Irish Governments is probably stronger than it has been for many years, and we should build on that by discussing these measures with them and working together.

Dr Matthew Offord (Hendon) (Con): On three different occasions and in three separate locations, weapons and rockets belonging to Hamas were found in UNRWA schools in Gaza. Given that siting missiles and rockets amid a civilian population is a war crime in itself and will inevitably lead to the loss of civilian lives, and given that lobbing those same rockets into Israel, killing other civilians, is also a war crime, does the Prime Minister agree that Hamas is now guilty of two war crimes?

The Prime Minister: There can be little doubt that Hamas uses people to try and protect its rockets, which is absolutely despicable. As I have said, we need an end to the rocket attacks, a continuation of the ceasefire and political talks that could lead to a better solution.

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Mr Michael McCann (East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow) (Lab): Will the Prime Minister condemn Hamas for violating and rejecting 11 ceasefires? If those ceasefires had taken place, the deaths of hundreds, and potentially thousands, of people could have been prevented. Does he agree that the only way to secure peace between the Israelis and Palestinians is first to ensure that Hamas accepts Israel’s right to exist?

The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. On several occasions during this conflict, a ceasefire was either agreed or implemented, but Hamas broke it with unilateral rocket attacks into Israel. These were attacks directed, we believe, by the leader of Hamas, who of course was nowhere near Gaza at the time. I believe that Hamas bears primary responsibility for what has happened.

Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): I welcome the fact that the Prime Minister has not ruled out air strikes against ISIL positions, but may I ask him what needs to happen that has not happened thus far before he approves such targeted air strikes with the Americans?

The Prime Minister: So far, the Americans have been leading on the air strikes and have not requested assistance from us, while we have been focused on those areas—aid, diplomacy, military assistance to some of the parties—where we can most add value, but, as I say, we should continually ask ourselves: what is in the national interest, how can we best help those on the ground and how can we not just work with our partners such as America, but help ensure that the Iraqi Government, the Kurdish Regional Government and neighbouring countries take the lead, rather than the west feeling it has to impose a solution.

Mr Gerry Sutcliffe (Bradford South) (Lab): I was the Opposition spokesperson on the Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Bill. The Government’s two principal objections to control orders concerned the use of exclusion zones and relocation powers—the two things the Prime Minister now says that the security bodies need. To be fair to him, the deal on TPIMs was a sop to the Liberal Democrats, but will he ensure that the security bodies get the powers they require?

The Prime Minister: Although the hon. Gentleman clearly spent a lot of time on the Bill, he seems to have ignored one crucial point, which is that TPIMs include exclusion zones; I think it is the relocation powers he is referring to.

Henry Smith (Crawley) (Con): I commend the Prime Minister on his statement. Will he give a little more information on when airlines will be required to introduce more stringent checks on suspects and foreign terrorists to block them from entering ports such as Gatwick and others around the UK?

The Prime Minister: I can quite understand, given my hon. Friend’s constituency interest, why he asks this question. At the moment, we have good security co-operation, but on a non-statutory basis, with countries flying into the UK. These measures will put it on a statutory basis that if they do not have proper passenger checks, share information in a timely way or have proper security checks, we can legally prevent a plane

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from taking off from or landing in the UK. These are the sorts of arrangements that the Americans already have in place. It is time for us to have them too.

Mark Hendrick (Preston) (Lab/Co-op): Russia is invading Ukraine by stealth. I accept that EU sanctions will bite in the mid term and longer term, but in the meantime Putin is quite happy to let his troops carry on and take eastern Ukraine. Will the Prime Minister look seriously at arming the Ukrainians, because otherwise the state will not exist as we know it today?

The Prime Minister: As I said, I think what is required is a military de-escalation, rather than a military escalation. What we saw, if we go back over recent weeks, was huge advances by the Ukrainian military, almost closing out the rebels from some of the cities in eastern Ukraine, and now we have seen this military response. That only goes to demonstrate that more military assets being provided in either case will simply lead to an escalation, rather than what is required, which is a proper political discussion about how to have a permanent ceasefire and a peaceful resolution that allows the Ukrainian people to make their own choices.

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): Church leaders and others in my constituency have raised with me the plight of the Christian Church in many parts of the middle east. Will the Prime Minister reassure them that the Government are doing all that can be done to help those persecuted Christians?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend makes an important point. We should of course ensure that we protect Christians, but we should also ensure that we protect other minorities. The Yazidi people—where we were prepared to undertake a substantial airlift operation—is a case in point. This is absolutely at the heart of our foreign policy—protecting minorities, protecting religious freedom and protecting the rights of Christians and others to practise their faiths.

Mr Jamie Reed (Copeland) (Lab): The Prime Minister is absolutely right: de-radicalisation is critical, but so too is community cohesion. What specific proposals does he have to ensure that no community in our country feels that it is being marginalised or brutalised, or under attack or constant suspicion?

The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman puts it well. We need to be intolerant of intolerance and very clear that supporting extremism that falls short of violence, as well as supporting violence, is not acceptable. At the same time, we need to take people with us, because among the most effective groups, organisations and people are those from Muslim communities themselves who want to confront the problems—perhaps in a local mosque or a community centre, but more commonly online or in other forums. We need them to help us do this job.

Mr John Leech (Manchester, Withington) (LD): A number of innocent British nationals of Syrian descent have already faced problems, including frozen and closed bank accounts, when returning from supporting

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humanitarian efforts in and around Syria. How will the Prime Minister ensure that innocent British nationals returning to the UK are not labelled as suspected terrorists?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend makes an important point, but I have to say that I think the first piece of advice we should give to any British national thinking of travelling to Syria to help on a humanitarian basis is that there is an enormous amount of good humanitarian work being done that they can help to support and fund without leaving the United Kingdom. I think that should be the first port of call. Obviously, in terms of returnees, we need to make sure that what we do is targeted at those who are intent on causing trouble.

Mrs Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): Murder, rape and abduction have been used against women in Iraq by ISIS and across Syria. Britain hosted a conference on ending sexual violence against women. We have also signed UN resolution 1325. What women need is a place at the table when discussions take place about peace and the resolution of conflict. Will the Prime Minister commit to ensuring that Britain does its utmost to make sure that women have a place at the conference table, that women are represented and that women are part of the British delegation to the UN conference in Newport?

The Prime Minister: Leading the delegation from Britain will be the former Foreign Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague), who has probably done more than anyone else to put this whole agenda on the table, not just by raising its profile but, as the hon. Lady says, making sure there are actual measures that can be taken, in terms of prosecuting those responsible and keeping proper records of what is now a war crime. She is right about the other points that she makes.

Mr Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend please confirm the exact steps that Russia needs to take over the next week in order to avoid further sanctions? If sanctions are required, will he please confirm that they will be tough and substantial and that Mr Putin will notice this time?

The Prime Minister: The steps that need to be taken are to stop supporting the separatists in eastern Ukraine with men and material, and also to release hostages and get out of the border posts that are part of Ukraine’s sovereign territory. Those steps, I think, would signal a change of heart from Russia and would result in an easing rather than a growing of the pressure. I do not accept that what has been done so far has not been noticed, but we have to show resolve in permanently turning up the dial if Russia continues in the wrong direction.

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): The Prime Minister knows—indeed, he has acknowledged in response to my hon. Friends—that young Muslims at risk of radicalisation are more likely to listen to peers and people in their own community than they are to police officers or representatives of the Government who they believe has failed to protect the people of Gaza. Why, then, has he cut £15 million from the Prevent communities budget and will he take the opportunity today to say

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that he will put that money back into that sort of voluntary community-based action that will persuade these young people away from radicalisation?

The Prime Minister: We do work through Muslim and other organisations, and we should do so. We did make changes to Prevent, not least because, when we reviewed it, we believed that some of the funded organisations were not confronting the problems of extremism. That needed to change.

James Wharton (Stockton South) (Con): I was in Kiev on Saturday and heard at first hand about some of the challenges that Ukraine faces. Villagers there are banding together to buy body armour and helmets for soldiers going east. I ask the Prime Minister to look again at whether we can supply equipment to the Government of Ukraine and, specifically and urgently, to look at what we can do to help by sharing military intelligence data, which I am told is so badly needed in the fight for democracy on Europe’s borders.

The Prime Minister: Let me reassure my hon. Friend, who makes a very good point—I am glad that he was able to travel to Kiev to listen to the views of people there—that we are supplying non-lethal equipment. Body armour and things like that will help the Ukrainian army, and I think it is right to give those things, but as I said and for the reasons I gave, I do not think we should supply it with arms.

Mr Khalid Mahmood (Birmingham, Perry Barr) (Lab): Instead of having an intimate weekend meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister, who I see is not in his place, would it not have been more productive for the Prime Minister to see the Home Secretary and speak to her about replacing the lost passport control officers’ jobs and to work with the security services to ensure that they have control over those leaving and returning, which would enable us to gather real intelligence about what is going on and how we can stop some of the radicalisation that is taking place?

The Prime Minister: Let me first reassure the hon. Gentleman that I had a very good meeting with the Home Secretary on Friday, when we discussed these issues. On checks for those applying for passports, there has not been a reduction in the level of scrutiny. In all these organisations, of course, we have to seek efficiency and make sure that we use all the modern technology to get the job done.

Michael Ellis (Northampton North) (Con): If at some date in the future my right hon. Friend were minded to engage in military action—punitive military action—against what we know to be the mediaeval barbarism of ISIL, would he be minded to consult this House?

The Prime Minister: I always believe in consulting this House. I did so over Syria and over Libya. What I—as well as the Foreign Secretary and Defence Secretary—will try to do is to keep the House permanently updated. As I said in answer to a previous question, that is the right approach and it has been taken by successive Governments. If, however, something needed to be done urgently to protect a particular British

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national interest or to prevent some humanitarian catastrophe, it might be necessary to act and then come to Parliament. I have said nothing new in that, but it is important for people to understand the situations we face.

Susan Elan Jones (Clwyd South) (Lab): I very much welcome what the Prime Minister said about the importance of tackling the extremist narrative. Is he aware, however, that his parliamentary candidate in Dudley North told The Independent on Sunday:

“Jihadist narrative answers the questions that these young people ask”,

and that

“IS provides an opportunity to do something real, exciting and spiritually nourishing.”?

Those comments are preposterous; what does the Prime Minister propose to do about them?

The Prime Minister: I will check the context of those comments, as I expect the candidate went on to say how wrong that is, which I know is his view. It is unreasonable to cite what I suspect is a partial quote rather than the whole thing.

Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham) (Con): On tackling extremism and radicalisation, I welcome the fact that more than 1,000 individuals have been diverted from entering extremism and jihadism through the Government Channel programme. As someone from the Muslim community whose father was an imam, I would like to ask what further steps the Government are taking to engage with the Muslim community to tackle the evil of radicalisation and extremism affecting some young Muslim men in our society. Linked to that, I note that the extremism taskforce has made its recommendations. Will the Government be appointing a specific individual to monitor the implementation of those recommendations across Government Departments and to recommend further specific action?

The Prime Minister: On my hon. Friend’s latter point, the extremism taskforce came up with a number of recommendations, most of which have been put in place or are being put in place. They concern banning hate preachers and ensuring that we confront extremism and root it out at places such as universities and, I am ashamed to say, our prisons, where there have been problems. On his questions about what more we can do, the Channel programme is successful. There is a programme of engagement to divert young people from this cancerous organisation. As I said earlier, one element of that is to demonstrate some of the things that the British Government do throughout the world to support minorities, stand up for human rights and help Muslims in a variety of ways in a variety of countries.

Mr David Anderson (Blaydon) (Lab): At the end of this summer we are seeing relations between the west and Russia at their worst level for three decades, 2,000 innocent people killed in Gaza and genocide in Kurdistan. The Prime Minister said this is the most serious threat that we have ever faced, yet he chose not to recall Parliament. Can he explain why he thought we should not have our say in a proper debate so that hon. Members on both sides of the House could make their comments? Last year, it was decided within 48 hours to

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recall the House to pay tribute to Margaret Thatcher, who presided over a Government who watched Saddam Hussein kill innocent Iraqis by the thousands.

The Prime Minister: Last year we recalled Parliament because there was a particular issue that needed to be addressed: the role that Britain would or would not play in combating the use of chemical weapons in Syria. This year I do not think that it was necessary to recall Parliament. To have done so at certain stages might have almost shown that somehow we were reacting to individual terrorist events, ghastly as they were. Now Parliament is back, there is plenty of opportunity to ask questions and have debates.

Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con): I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement that Israel was right to defend itself against the missile barrage from Hamas. Does he agree that the difference between Hamas and ISIS is one of degrees? Does he also agree that Iran remains a serious security threat and that our enemy’s enemy is not our friend?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend makes an important point. If one saw the shocking pictures of Hamas lining people up and shooting them in a firing squad, one could see the nature of the organisation with which one is dealing. It is an important issue. I support a Palestinian state. I want the Palestinians to achieve that goal, but Hamas is a terrorist organisation. It believes in targeting innocent people and murdering them to pursue its objectives. It does not even recognise the right of the state of Israel to exist. Therefore, we have to start our discussions with a recognition of the true nature of the organisation that we are dealing with. He is right about that.

Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) (Lab): People throughout Britain have been absolutely appalled by the scenes in Gaza, Iraq and Syria this summer. What impact have all the Foreign Office resignations and the removal of the Foreign Secretary, at an incredibly difficult time for the Foreign Office, had on the British Government’s capacity to respond?

The Prime Minister: The new Foreign Secretary has had a full in-tray but he has handled these issues and discussions with huge calmness and ability. People have seen that over the summer. Obviously, it is a matter of regret that Baroness Warsi decided to resign. On the other change in the Foreign Office, we have a new Minister for Africa, who I know will bring a lot to that job. Overall, we have a very strong team of Ministers who are more than capable of tackling these issues.

Richard Drax (South Dorset) (Con): Thank you, Mr Speaker. I apologise for leaving the Chamber; I had to go to a statutory instrument Committee. I heard a question earlier about how much money we are spending on defence. Will the Prime Minister consider, bearing in mind what is going on in the world, that 2% is simply not enough?

Mr Speaker: Order. It is very candid of the hon. Gentleman to inform me, and some hundreds of other people, that he absented himself from the Chamber for a period. It was a fact of which I was unaware, but full marks for 100% candour.

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The Prime Minister: I think it is important that we meet the 2% figure. Greece is the only other European member state to meet that figure. What matters even more than that is the capability of what we are buying. We have made some very difficult decisions, including the reduction in the size of the regular Army, but that is so that we can invest in the modern equipment and modern capabilities that our armed forces need. When we consider that it is one of the top five military budgets anywhere in the world, with some staggeringly good equipment being produced even as we speak, I think that we get very good value for money.

Andy McDonald (Middlesbrough) (Lab): Over and above the Prime Minister’s very welcome words of condemnation regarding the annexation of yet more lands around Bethlehem, what practical steps does he intend to take so that Israel reverses this latest, and counter-productive, land grab and commits properly to a two-state solution?

The Prime Minister: We will continue to work with our allies to condemn this action and to make that clear in international forums. We will continue with our action to support and fund the Palestinian Authority. But at the end of the day, we need talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis. We cannot decide these issues for them; they need to sit down and talk with each other.

Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con): The Prime Minister rightly said that ISIL activities are deplored by the vast majority of British Muslims, but, none the less, various events and reports this summer have led to a growing unease about the role of Islam in our country. The battle that is harder than the one for air supremacy on the Iraqi border is therefore the one for community cohesion here in the UK. I believe the time has come for a charter, which would be a public commitment by community and faith leaders, especially including mosque committees, against extremism and for our values to help to prevent citizens from acting against our country. This could be done locally—I would happily lead on it Gloucester—but does my right hon. Friend agree that a single national charter implemented across the country could have the real benefit of bringing our communities together, which is our best defence against extremism of all kinds?

The Prime Minister: I think my hon. Friend makes an interesting suggestion. I would say that these initiatives have far greater power if they are generated by the communities themselves. It has been noticeable how many leaders of Britain’s Muslim communities—mosques, community groups and others—have come out and condemned what ISIL stands for and the other things that we have seen. So if there was going to be such a charter, I would want to see it generated from within that community rather than imposed on it.

Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab): The Prime Minister has made very brief reference to the sanctions against Russia. Will he give us more detail on what additional sanctions he pushed for and what additional sanctions have been agreed by the EU states?

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The Prime Minister: What I pushed for was further so-called tier 3 sanctions, which are real economic sanctions in the areas of finance, energy and defence. We have tasked the European Commission, within a week, to come up with a set of new proposals. What I pushed for specifically was to make sure that we start filling in some of the gaps that have been left in previous financial energy and defence sanctions. I mentioned the case of syndicated loans, where the action that has been taken on the financial front has seen the Russian stock market fall and the rouble fall, and Russia’s growth rate has now been downgraded to, I think, zero or below. So further measures on that level—which will affect Britain, but we should be prepared to take that pain—would be good.

Mr David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): The Prime Minister spoke of a humanitarian catastrophe prompting further military action, so how would he describe what has happened to the Syrian Christians and the Yazidis facing genocide? How much worse can it get for mothers who have been forced to throw their children off a mountainside rather than have them suffer at the hands of jihadists—suffer a fate worse than death? Will he justify why we are not using all necessary military action, including air strikes, to repel genocide?

The Prime Minister: Let me take, for instance, the case of the Yazidi people, where there was military action by the Kurds, supported by us, and, indeed, some military action contemplated by the Americans that would have been supported, and potentially facilitated, by us. Of course, the role we were prepared to play was to take part in a humanitarian evacuation. That would have involved British transport planes and helicopters and, indeed, British troops in the Kurdish areas of Iraq to support, maintain and look after those helicopters. So I do not accept that we will not intervene where there is a potential humanitarian crisis; we would, we will, we have in the past, but we should, as I say, ask ourselves the question, “What is in our national interest, what is the best way to proceed?”

Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab): The suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza, not just in this most recent conflict but over many years, continues to be a source of great distress and concern in my constituency, and this latest land grab will of course have further infected the situation. What recent—very recent—discussions has the Prime Minister had with the Americans in relation to this matter, since it is widely perceived that any lasting solution will depend on their influence with Israel and there is real concern that, with so many other international conflicts, their eye, and our eye, may be taken off the ball in Gaza as we deal with other threats?

The Prime Minister: I did discuss this issue with President Obama when we spoke during August, and to be fair to him he has taken a tough line over the need for a ceasefire and was very clear with the Israeli Prime Minister, as was I, about the need for a ceasefire and about the frankly unacceptable level of civilian casualties. Now we have the ceasefire, it should be about trying to get Gaza up and running again. That means the Palestinian Authority taking control, the rockets being taken out and the important restrictions being lifted so that that place can function properly.

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Jeremy Lefroy (Stafford) (Con): The people of Jordan and Lebanon have shown immense hospitality to refugees from Syria and elsewhere and yet are under incredible pressure from the crimes perpetrated by President Assad, ISIL and others in that region. What support is the United Kingdom Government giving to those two countries which find themselves in this position?

The Prime Minister: Perhaps the best assistance we can give, which we have been giving, is assistance with their humanitarian aid programmes for the refugees who are inside the borders of Lebanon and Jordan, and I have seen some of that work at first hand. We should also continue to think about what else we can do, in terms not just of humanitarian aid, but also political, diplomatic and even potentially some military support, to help those countries.

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): On the deteriorating situation in Ukraine, can the Prime Minister set out what he believes to be achievable at the meeting of the contact group that is taking place in Belarus literally as we speak? Will he also set out to the House some of the actions he will be prepared to countenance— we have heard plenty of what he is not prepared to countenance—should there not be adequate progress towards a ceasefire?

The Prime Minister: First, in terms of what Britain has been prepared to do, I would say that at the last few European Councils Britain has been perhaps the leading voice for taking tough sanctions measures. That has been something Donald Tusk, the Polish Prime Minister, and I have worked on very closely with our colleagues from the Baltic states. Britain, which frankly has quite a lot to lose in terms of financial services, has been at the absolute front end of arguing for those changes, of which I am proud, and we will continue to do that. In terms of the steps that need to be taken, President Poroshenko has set out a peace plan that involves respecting the rights of Russians and other minorities, and what we need is for the Russians to go along with that peace plan and to start to de-escalate the situation.

Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend tell the House how far he and the Government are willing to go to protect the Christians in northern Iraq, as there are many who believe that the very existence of Christianity in the middle east is under threat?

The Prime Minister: With others, we should be working to protect these minorities, including the Christians in northern Iraq, and I set out to my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes) the sort of steps we would be prepared to contemplate. We should not rule out future measures; we should use all those things that we have at our disposal, while recognising that there is not some unique military solution that can be put in place.

Paul Blomfield (Sheffield Central) (Lab): On a number of occasions this afternoon the Prime Minister has repeated his welcome condemnation of the Israeli appropriation of Palestinian land, but does he

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recognise that over many years words alone have failed to move the Israeli policy of illegal occupation and that now is the time for concerted action to force the Israeli Government to shift their policy?

The Prime Minister: To be fair, the reason I have repeated myself is that I have been on my feet for about two hours so there is bound to be some repetition—and even hesitation and deviation at moments. The point I make is that we have in the past been prepared to back up our actions, as we did with other EU partners over the issue of research grants to Israel. However, as I said, the first step is to make absolutely clear our condemnation of this, and I will work with others to make sure it is reversed.

Paul Uppal (Wolverhampton South West) (Con): One reason why so many young people of a south Asian heritage, be they men or women, are put on the conveyor belt towards extremism is that they often have the baggage of a dual cultural heritage. I have been on this journey so I know that the pressures placed on them by extended family and their own community groups are acute and powerful, but within the vacuum there is often a lack of British identity. May I impress on my right hon. Friend the fact that it is crucial we have a debate that propagates the view that someone can have a traditional view of Islam, which stresses justice, faith and truth, but within that they can essentially be British, and that to do that in a pragmatic way is quintessentially British?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend has put it extremely well. It is perfectly possible for people to come to this country and integrate in our way of life while maintaining their own religion and faith and the traditions that go with them. Over the years, Muslims, Hindus and Jews have all managed to do that in Britain, but perhaps we need to do more to help it to happen. That is where the debate goes into how we teach in schools, how we try to integrate communities and how we promote the use of English. All those things are important steps on that journey.

Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab): Four weeks ago, I led a multi-faith delegation from Oldham in presenting a petition to the Prime Minister asking for Parliament to be recalled in order to have a debate on how we can support sustainable peace in Gaza and Israel. Two weeks later, I wrote asking what progress had been made on the recall and whether we could also debate the ongoing crisis in Iraq. I am not still clear why the Prime Minister decided not to recall Parliament, as surely these matters deserved our attention during recess.

The Prime Minister: I always look at the arguments people make for the recall of Parliament and think about it carefully. What I said while Parliament was in recess was that I did not rule it out and we should keep it under review, but I did not think it was necessary, because there was not a specific decision that Parliament was being asked to make. It is good that we are now back and we can debate these issues.

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Mr Rob Wilson (Reading East) (Con): I welcome the ramping up of sanctions by the European Union, but does the Prime Minister agree that what is happening in Ukraine is naked Russian aggression? Is it not time for the west, led by NATO and the US, to honour its obligations to Ukraine and face down this threat?

The Prime Minister: I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend that it is relatively clear what is happening: Russian troops with Russian equipment are on Ukrainian soil. The evidence for that now is overwhelming, and I think our response should be very clear about how unacceptable that is. We should be making use of the great strength we have, which is that Russia needs America and Europe more than America and Europe need Russia. We need to make that relationship pay and play so that the Russians change their approach, but it will not be an easy step to take. I do not think it would be right to try to find some military response to this, but if we make our influence and our power felt, Russia will see the consequences.

Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP): Those of us who have lived under the actual activity of terrorism for most of our adult lives will welcome any statement or action by this Government, or indeed any Government, to protect citizens, our citizenship and our land and property. I therefore welcome the steps that have been outlined today by the Prime Minister, but could he go further? If a person arrives at a British port internally with their passport and the officer decides to hold that passport, will the individual also be detained? If not, would the Prime Minister consider detaining those heading to the airport who are going to have their passports seized or those returning, in an internment-like situation?

The Prime Minister: The point of taking away the passport at the border post as we are proposing is that we are then able to investigate the individual and to give ourselves some time to do that, but I will look at the other suggestions that the hon. Gentleman makes.

Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD): The Prime Minister presented two options for terrorism prevention and investigation measures. May I strongly urge him not to go down the route of internal exile without trial, which is not consistent with the British values we are trying to defend, but to make use of exclusion measures that are already in the legislation?

The Prime Minister: Of course I listen carefully to the hon. Gentleman, but I also listen carefully to the police, the intelligence services and those who work around the clock to keep us safe. Their point of view is not that we need some wide-ranging piece of legislation, but that they have identified some specific problems that need to be dealt with. My responsibility as Prime Minister whose most important task is to do everything possible to keep our people safe is to listen to them, to bring the ideas based on those concerns to this Parliament, to debate them and then to put them in place.

Mark Durkan (Foyle) (SDLP): The Prime Minister has stressed the need to counter the extremist narrative. Clearly, he recognises that there are those who are

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sowing alienation, radicalisation, extremism and subversion, but does he also recognise the danger of helping to fertilise what they are trying to propagate? I am talking about when Governments appear to adopt double standards and inconsistency in relation to clear violations of international law, not least in respect of Gaza, and then in domestic law appear to create a twilight zone around the very basic concept of citizenship.

The Prime Minister: I do not accept that we are operating any sort of double standards. I have set out the situation very clearly with respect to Israel and Gaza, and also the problems that we face with ISIL. It will be for hon. Members to decide whether or not they want to support that.

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Points of Order

5.36 pm

Jesse Norman (Hereford and South Herefordshire) (Con): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I welcome the remarks that you made in your statement earlier about the need for a pause for consultation and for good will and consensus on the appointment of Ms Carol Mills. Do you agree that, at least as regards the procedural and constitutional aspects of the Clerkship, she is not qualified for the role? If so, is it your intention to withdraw the letter of recommendation, at least for the period of the pause and consultation?

Mr Speaker: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order and the terms in which he expressed it. I say to him that it is not for me to withdraw a name. A decision was reached by a panel. I hope that hon. and right hon. Members will accept that it would not be seemly to comment on the characteristics of, or performance by, individuals participating in a still ongoing process. I referred to the need for a pause and I meant it. I talked about hearing the views of colleagues and I meant it. I also talked about the need to proceed with good will and by consensus. I stand by that and I hope that is regarded as helpful.

Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Will you advise me and Members of this House how we can support your proposal to separate the functions of the Clerk of the House and the chief executive? I came to the view when I was Leader of the House in 2003-05 that that was essential. The Clerk needs to be an experienced and specialist expert in parliamentary procedure. The chief executive, however, has a different function. Managing a £200 million budget and 1,500 staff requires very different skills. As Leader of the House at a time of serious security breaches, I recall having to overcome serious resistance among vested interests and fiefdoms in this House, some of which are still here, against the appointment of an independent, professional head of security. Nobody today thinks that that was anything other than absolutely necessary. I urge you, Mr Speaker, to stick to your guns on this separation of the functions.

Mr Speaker: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman who speaks with the experience of a former Leader of the House. People can express their views on the Floor of the Chamber, in letters to me or to the Leader of the House or the shadow Leader of the House or in the form of one-to-one conversations. I want to hear what people have to say. The right hon. Gentleman has started that process, but it is open to others to continue it. Let me repeat that I wish to hear all views from all Members from all parts of the House.

Sir Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton) (Con): Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Will you confirm that the advisory panel constituted for the purposes of this appointment is now defunct and that inasmuch as you intend to go back to the House and its representatives, you will do so only to the House of Commons Commission?

Mr Speaker: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that point of order. I do not know whether it is technically correct to say that the panel is, as he puts it,

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defunct, but I offer him the assurance I think he seeks that of course matters must proceed by reference to the House of Commons Commission, which meets on Monday 8 September and on the agenda of which there is, of course, an update on this matter.

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I join other colleagues in welcoming what you said at the start of the sitting today. Do you envisage this pause lasting any particular period of time, and will it include any examination of the candidates by the relevant Select Committee?

Mr Speaker: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. I think that it is sensible to proceed in a timely way and that is why I referred to a modest pause although, of course, I am in the hands of and ready to be guided by the House. With reference to the possibility of pre-appointment scrutiny, to which, I think, the right hon. Gentleman refers, if that is what the House wants that is what the House should have, a point that I think I conveyed with a modicum of clarity in my statement earlier this afternoon.

Mr Andrew Lansley (South Cambridgeshire) (Con): Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. The efficient conduct of House business requires the House to know to whom the House service is accountable at any given time. Will you confirm to the House—I hope you will—that when there is a vacancy for the office of the Clerk the Clerk Assistant leads the House service for this purpose and, under the Parliamentary Corporate Bodies Act 1992, may exercise the functions of corporate officer and accounting officer for these purposes and is therefore both the leader of the service and the corporate officer for the time being?

Mr Speaker: The short answer is yes. The right hon. Gentleman is a wily enough hand to know that it is a good idea to be aware of the answer to a question before posing it. He has proved that he meets that test.

Hazel Blears (Salford and Eccles) (Lab): Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Clearly, the House has changed even during the 16 or 17 years I have been a Member and it is now a complex and in many ways a very professional organisation that has responsibilities for human resources, corporate finance and a series of other issues that might not have been so important 20, 30 or 40 years ago. Many of the changes you have overseen with colleagues on the House of Commons Commission have made this place more efficient and more professional in my view, but it is important when we are appointing a person of such seniority in this House that we should take a very clear look at the responsibilities of the role. The managerial and professional responsibilities are very different, in my view, to the constitutional and historical responsibilities of a Clerk. I am delighted that we are having a pause, but I would say to the House that we should not simply go back to what we have always known because today the House of Commons is a very different place from in days gone by, and this is a real opportunity to do something that takes the House forward in a very positive way.

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Mr Speaker: I thank the right hon. Lady warmly for what she has said and she will know that I concur with those sentiments.

Crispin Blunt (Reigate) (Con): Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. In the generally successful history of the British Army, some of the most celebrated actions from Corunna to Gallipoli to Dunkirk have involved evacuations from hopeless positions. May I congratulate you on successful disengagement from the opposition forces you have run across? To complete a successful evacuation of your position, I urge you to remember that there are very many of us who do not take the same view as the former Leader of the House, the right hon. Member for Neath (Mr Hain), and that to cover the evacuation it will not be necessary for there to be an unnecessary reorganisation of the affairs of the House. I look forward to your taking views on this matter during the course of the process.

Mr Speaker: I appreciate what the hon. Gentleman has said and the good humour with which it has been said. I first met him, if memory serves me correctly, 25 years and two months ago in Bristol and I have the greatest respect for him. Yes, of course I am aware that there are different views. My responsibility is to hear and seek to heed them. That is what I propose to do.

Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your guidance, if I may. On the day Parliament rose for the summer, the Government published the Oakley report on the communication and understanding of jobseeker’s allowance sanctions. This is the first opportunity I have had to raise the matter. How can the House scrutinise the Government when they behave in such an undemocratic way? When can we expect a statement from the Government on the inquiry, which is of immense importance to hundreds of thousands of people throughout the country?

Mr Speaker: The short answer is that, at the moment, I do not know. I hope that the hon. Lady will be satisfied—it is perhaps helpful to her cause—that the Leader of the House, who is the ultimate parliamentarian, is in his place. He will have heard what she had to say, and no doubt she will have an opportunity to repeat it at business questions. She will find other occasions on which she can air her concerns.

Mr Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) (Con): On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker—[Laughter.] I meant Mr Speaker. I am looking forward to this response. Mr Speaker—I say that so that it can be cut properly—I am grateful for your statement at 2.30 pm. I understand the personal trauma and uncertainty that Carol Mills must now face. The fact is that she does not know whether she has or does not have a job. Can you assure the House that she will be kept fully informed about what is going on, and that she will know exactly where she stands?

Mr Speaker: The hon. Gentleman served in that capacity as Deputy Speaker and did so with great distinction and loyalty, which is appreciated in all parts of the House and certainly by me. Yes, he has made a very human point, and people will empathise with it. I am in touch with the person to whom he refers, and

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others are. It is important that clarity is established as soon as is compatible with the rights and responsibilities of the House being met and discharged.

Mr Rob Wilson (Reading East) (Con): Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Following your statement at 2.30 pm today, it may be helpful if you could confirm to the House the mechanisms by which the House can hold your decisions and your office to account on a regular basis. In the light of the current difficulties that we face over the employment of a senior Clerk, could you also confirm whether any of the participants are taking legal action?

Mr Speaker: I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. The short answer to him is that I am of course accountable to the House. I chair the House of Commons Commission and hear what it has to say—that is a perfectly proper state of affairs. My understanding is that no legal action has been taken against the House.

Dan Byles (North Warwickshire) (Con): Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Having been involved with organising significant organisational change in other organisations—in the military, and in the NHS as a non-executive director of a trust—I know that it is often rife with unintended consequences. The decision to split the Clerk’s role into two is a significant change. Can you assure the House that the decision will not be taken lightly, and that it will be looked at rigorously and robustly, recognising the significant piece of organisational change that it is?

Mr Speaker: Yes, I think I can offer the hon. Gentleman the assurance he seeks. It would be a significant change, and would have to be decided upon by this House. I have sufficient respect for the self-respect and rigorous approach to their duties of colleagues to realise that, of course, they will want to go about their scrutiny seriously before taking any such step.

Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con): Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. It is usually unwise for a politician to admit total ignorance, but I have done it before and I intend to do it again. I have to confess that, until this dispute about the Clerk arose, I had not the faintest idea, despite being a Member of this House since 1997, that the Clerk of the House, an expert in procedure, was, by default, also the chief executive of the House. Now that you have sufficiently educated ignorant hon. Members like me about that important distinction, and perhaps about the need to look at the matter rather more rationally than in the past, may I suggest that, as so many other people and bodies are so

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anxious to seize from you the poison chalice of this decision, you should give it to them with maximum rapidity?

Mr Speaker: The hon. Gentleman has been wisely advising me on all sorts of matters since I first came to know him in October 1983. I have very rarely regretted taking his advice, and very much doubt that I would do so on this occasion either.

Christopher Pincher (Tamworth) (Con): Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I am grateful for your statement earlier in which you made it clear that you believe that the role of the Clerk should be split and the role of the chief executive should be created. Has any estimate been made of the cost of that additional role, and when might that be made clear?

Mr Speaker: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. Two points: first, I said what I did not in any mission to browbeat the House, which it is not for the Speaker to do, but simply because I think that there is something to be said for having a view and being prepared, honestly and openly, to express it, and that is what I have done. Secondly, on the subject of costs, there has been to my knowledge no particular assessment of that. There is a consideration of cost; there is also a consideration, resulting from efficient management and strategic direction, of potential savings to the House. If those issues are to be explored, they need, again, to be explored rationally and in the round.

I am extremely grateful to colleagues for the points of order, for the terms in which they have been expressed, and for the opportunity for this issue to be aired.

I am very conscious that 35 hon. and right hon. Members seek to contribute to the three debates to take place under the auspices of the Backbench Business Committee, with which, I hope, we can shortly proceed.

bill presented

Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Grahame M. Morris, supported by Greg Mulholland, John Cryer, Valerie Vaz, Paul Blomfield, Kevin Barron, Ian Mearns, Andrew George, Charlotte Leslie, Caroline Lucas, Rosie Cooper and Ian Lavery, presented a Bill to amend the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to apply its provisions to private healthcare companies and other bodies seeking health service contracts; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 5 December, and to be printed (Bill 84).

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Backbench Business

Hospital Car Parking Charges

5.51 pm

Jackie Doyle-Price (Thurrock) (Con): I beg to move,

That this House welcomes the Government’s guidance that hospital car parking charges should be fair and proportionate; notes that some hospitals are still charging patients and their visitors excessive fees of up to £500 per week; further notes that the charity Bliss has said that parents with premature babies are having to pay on average £32 per week; further notes that for many patients it is essential that they travel to hospital by car; believes that such charges affect vulnerable patients at a very difficult time; and urges the Government to consider ways in which hospital car parking fees can be reduced.

I am extremely pleased to be able to open the debate and I am grateful to the Backbench Business Committee for making time to discuss this important issue, which has been impacting on so many constituents up and down the country. Before I go into my arguments, I must pay tribute to the work of my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Robert Halfon), who has done so much to highlight this issue and many others that directly impact on ordinary hard-working people. It is incumbent on all of us in the House, when people’s loved ones are ill or they themselves require hospital treatment, to ensure that the national health service makes the conditions appropriate for them to access the treatment that they need, and car parking charges get very much in the way of that. I reiterate that I thank my hon. Friend for his efforts to push this matter up the political agenda.

Hospital car parking charges have largely been abolished in Scotland and Wales, but that is not the case in England where 79% of hospitals continue to charge, often at punitive rates. For so many of our constituents driving to hospital is not a choice; it is essential. Many of them are undergoing treatment which means that travel by public transport is simply not an option, particularly when they have to be accompanied by members of their family. Members of their family will also wish to visit them if they have a prolonged stay, and they, too, should not be faced with punitive car parking charges. To put it simply, hospital car parking charges are a tax on NHS treatment.

Jesse Norman (Hereford and South Herefordshire) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend on procuring this debate, and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Robert Halfon) on his leadership of the campaign. Does my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price) agree that at the root of this—I come from Hereford, where hospital parking charges are reportedly some of the highest in the country—is a private finance initiative contract in many cases, which it is often almost impossible for the hospital in question to control? Therefore, there must be wider action to control PFI costs alongside hospitals to support the people whom we are trying to help.

Jackie Doyle-Price: My hon. Friend is quite right. He has done much to highlight some of the PFI contracts, the long-term consequences of which we are now having to deal with, where the contractors may have been rather more savvy in negotiating a deal that suits them

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rather than the patients. We must remember that the NHS should serve the interests of patients, not the providers of any contracts or services within it. I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend and I hope that the Minister will consider what more can be done to challenge some of the contracts.

Mr Geoffrey Robinson (Coventry North West) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Lady and the hon. Member for Harlow (Robert Halfon) on securing the debate. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry South (Mr Cunningham) was also involved in that.

The hon. Member for Hereford and South Herefordshire (Jesse Norman) touched on the heart of the problem. I was an ex-Paymaster General when the Coventry bid was pushed through as a PFI project. We have a magnificent new hospital, but people’s impression of it is not how good the facility is, but how high the car parking charges are, necessitated, unfortunately, by the PFI contract. Does the hon. Lady agree that the key point to put to the Treasury is that these PFI contracts are often too onerous to be sustained by the normal income that the NHS can expect a hospital to generate, and, in particular, the car parking fees built into that are too high?

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Dawn Primarolo): Order. I remind Members that about 37 Back Benchers want to speak in three debates that must finish at 10 o’clock, and we must also take the Front-Bench speakers and the proposers. We need interventions to be short, pithy and to the point, and Members must be disciplined if everybody who wishes to speak is to be able to do so. Time is of the essence.

Jackie Doyle-Price: The hon. Gentleman reiterates the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford and South Herefordshire (Jesse Norman). We have all learned a lot of lessons from poorly negotiated PFI contracts. It is worth noting that in Scotland and Wales, the movement to get rid of NHS car parking charges has not been limited by those contracts, and there are ways to see those contracts through.

Bill Wiggin (North Herefordshire) (Con): My friend and neighbour, the hon. Member for Hereford and South Herefordshire (Jesse Norman), has already touched on the shocking situation that we have in Herefordshire, but it is made worse by the county council putting double yellow lines almost everywhere in the city. Ambulances do have to get through, but could not more be done by local authorities to ease the burden on patients?

Jackie Doyle-Price: Absolutely. It is always a good idea for public bodies to be more co-ordinated in how they approach such matters. No hospital acts in isolation, and car parking charges are often a function of how expensive local car parking is.

I welcome the recent announcement by the Department of Health to strengthen the guidelines given to NHS trusts on the implementation of car parking charges. They include the important provision that relatives of people who are seriously ill or in hospital for a long period should also be entitled to discounted or free parking. The guidelines are clear and welcome, but they do not go far enough. It is important that the House

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sends a clear message to the management of NHS trusts throughout the country that punitive car parking charges are wrong and will not be tolerated.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Member for Harlow (Robert Halfon) on securing the debate; I assisted—if that is the right word—him in that. Does the hon. Lady agree that although car parking charges are far too high for a number of groups of people—my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry North West (Mr Robinson) and I have been campaigning for years in Coventry to get them reduced—it would take the muscle of the Secretary of State to help here, because not all car parking charges are based on PFI. There are hospitals that do not have a PFI, but those charges are built into their budgets.

Jackie Doyle-Price: The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. It is crucial for the Secretary of State to give clear and robust messages about what he expects from NHS trusts. This Secretary of State has probably done more in his period of office to put the patients at the heart of the NHS. We are talking about a rebalancing of the relationship between the patient and the provider. It is simply not appropriate for NHS trusts to decide their car parking charges without considering the impact that those will have on the welfare of patients.

Mr Frank Field (Birkenhead) (Lab): This debate has been part of a campaign initiated by the Opposition on rip-off Britain, and I congratulate the hon. Lady and the hon. Member for Harlow (Robert Halfon) on getting a debate on one aspect of that. I totally welcome the Secretary of State’s guidance on this matter, but we know from our local areas that some hospital trusts will gently put two fingers up to what the Secretary of State says. I very much hope that when the Minister replies he will say what plan B is for those hospitals that continue to charge excessively those who need to continue to visit their relatives in hospital.

Jackie Doyle-Price: I humbly suggest to the right hon. Gentleman, who is not backward in coming forward in expressing his views, that it is up to us in this House to challenge the leadership of our trusts where we think they are being unfair with their car parking charges. Quite frankly, we should be prepared to make lots of noise about that when it occurs.

Several hon. Members rose

Jackie Doyle-Price: I would like to make a little more progress.

The guidance confirms that it is up to local trusts to decide how much and whether they charge for parking but that charges should be proportionate and concessions available. I think we have all seen many examples where charging policy could in no way be described as fair or proportionate. I make particular reference to London hospitals. The Royal Free hospital charges a staggering £72 a day. My constituency is just outside London, but when some of my constituents need to access specialist treatment they are sent to London hospitals. They travel some distance and the fact that they then have to pay punitive charges to access treatment is simply not acceptable.

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Lorely Burt (Solihull) (LD): On the ability of trusts to make their own concessions, I want to shed a glimmer of light on an example in my own Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust. It is possible for relatives to buy 20 visit passes for £10, no matter how long they stay. All they need to do is obtain a signature from the ward sister. There are compassionate ways of treating families who need to make regular and sometimes long visits to hospital.

Jackie Doyle-Price: My hon. Friend highlights exactly the kind of initiative that we in this House would expect the local management of trusts to undertake. On having a fair charging policy, we should not have simple flat fees and expect all patients and visitors to pay them. We should be thinking about the best possible opportunities to enable patients to get better when they are being visited by their families and to access treatment without being worried about parking charges.

Karen Lumley (Redditch) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that NHS managers could learn from private providers, which in my constituency of Redditch provide two hours’ parking for £1.20, whereas my local hospital trust charges £3?

Jackie Doyle-Price: My hon. Friend has put a very important point on the record. It illustrates again that when management thinks about patients rather than managing the accounts, it can come up with solutions that are good for the patient.

We have all had many representations from individual patients about the costs they have incurred personally. We have also heard from pressure groups. In particular, Macmillan has highlighted that cancer sufferers have found parking charges to be a very costly element of their treatment, adding significantly to the financial strain for people who are going through prolonged periods of treatment. As I have said, some of them are losing considerable amounts of earnings during that process. We need to be making it easier for them to get better and overcome their debilitating illness.

Guy Opperman (Hexham) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friends the Members for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price) and for Harlow (Robert Halfon) on securing this debate. Of course, it is patients and their families who are the main people affected by this particular issue, but does my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock agree that surely it is wrong that NHS staff, who do such an amazing job in all our hospitals, are in many cases, particularly in my area, required to pay for the parking in the area where they work, thereby reducing their own salary?

Jackie Doyle-Price: My hon. Friend raises a very important point. One objection to our campaign on parking charges is that somehow the money would be taken away from health care, but I do not believe that is the case at all. He mentions staff. In order to get the best conditions for care, we need to make it easier for people to go out and work, and access to cheap parking is very much a part of that.

Alison Seabeck (Plymouth, Moor View) (Lab) rose—

Stephen Lloyd (Eastbourne) (LD) rose—

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Jackie Doyle-Price: I would like to make a little more progress.

These charges are a tax on the sick. They hit patients and their families when they are at their most vulnerable. It is incumbent on hospital trusts and us in this House to make sure that we create the conditions for patients to have the support to aid their recovery. Simply levying high parking charges will not aid their recovery. We all know that receiving visitors will help. We should be making it easier for them to visit their loved ones.

Alison Seabeck: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Jackie Doyle-Price: I will—persistence pays!

Alison Seabeck: I appreciate the hon. Lady’s giving way in this very interesting and extremely worthwhile debate. Does she share my concern that, in seeking to get profits from car parks, the issue raised by the hon. Member for Hexham (Guy Opperman) about staff being sidelined or being asked to pay more is a problem? We certainly have that problem in Derriford, where staff are now finding it very difficult to park anywhere, if at all.

Jackie Doyle-Price: Absolutely. This comes back to the issue of challenging trusts as to whether the car parking charges are fair. We have had push-back from a number of trust managers who say that it costs money to operate and maintain the car parks, partly because of some of the PFI contracts that have been mentioned. It is simply not good enough, however, for hospital trusts to pass on costs to staff and vulnerable patients when they need to be more challenging about how they manage their finances and not simply take from the patients. Nor is it enough for trusts to argue that charges are reasonable for their area. That is like writing an open cheque and allowing London hospitals to levy extremely high charges. It simply is not good enough. There is, in effect, a parking lottery in the NHS, with some patients able to access health care without any charge for parking their car, while others pay extremely handsomely for the privilege. I find that scenario completely incompatible with an NHS that should be free at the point of use.

I was shocked to discover that 74% of hospitals make more than £500,000 a year from their car parks, and even more shocked that more than 40% raise more than £1 million. I recognise that there are many reservations about the removal of car parking charges because of the amount of revenue received, but I do not buy it: I think there is lots more that hospital trusts can do to replenish any gaps that might occur in their revenue as a result of removing car parking charges.

I want to refer to my own local trust of Basildon in that regard. Some will know that Basildon has a very troubled history. It was one of the hospitals that went into special measures following the inquiry into Mid Staffordshire and it has had very high death rates. In the past year, however, since a change of leadership in the hospital trust, it has made massive advances, and it was the first to come out of special measures.

One of the things that the new chief executive has done is to recruit 200 new nurses, and in doing so she has managed to cut the pay bill because she is no longer relying on agency staff. We can all find other ways of replenishing the money that might be lost as a result

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of reducing car parking charges—not least, I might add, through some patients getting better quicker because they will get more visits from their families. That makes perfect sense to me.

Stephen Lloyd: I thank my hon. Friend for giving way and for facilitating this very important debate. One area she has not yet touched on is the impact on built-up areas such as the one surrounding Eastbourne district general hospital. The car parking charges at the DGH are really quite high, so instead of using the car park people are parking around and about, which is making it very difficult for residents. If it is done badly, it is bad for residents—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Dawn Primarolo): Order. Short means not many words. A large number of Members are waiting to speak. The hon. Member for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price) has now been on her feet for 17 minutes. This is going to be a severely curtailed debate and Members will get only a minute or two unless we can start making some progress. Remember that interventions must be short if there are to be any more. I wonder whether the hon. Lady would consider, in respect to her colleagues who wish to speak, drawing her remarks to a close.

Jackie Doyle-Price: Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker—I certainly will. My hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Stephen Lloyd) makes a very good point. I would also add that money could still be made by reducing car parking charges but enforcing action against those who should not be using the car park.

In deference to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, I shall make my comments briefer and move to a close so that other Members can speak, but I just want to reiterate this final point. The NHS is supposed to be free at the point of use, but it is not when patients who have to drive are paying through the nose. Hospital car parking charges are a tax on the sick. We should send a strong message to the managers of all hospitals that we expect them to take steps to reduce this financial penalty on the most vulnerable in our society.

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Dawn Primarolo): Order. I will start with a time limit of five minutes. Because we need to get through two other debates, the five-minute limit will apply to all the debates and it may be necessary to reduce it further in fairness to Members who are still waiting to participate in the remaining debates. From now on, you have five minutes maximum on the clock for speeches in this debate.

6.10 pm

Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Member for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price) on securing this debate. I start with the point on which she finished, which is that the NHS is supposed to be free at the point of use. When we set sometimes exorbitant charges at different hospitals, we are effectively taxing the ill and their families.

Members have talked about the families of patients in hospital for the long term, with all the costs involved for relatives who visit them. This is honestly not a party

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political point, but in 2009, when my right hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown) was Prime Minister, the Labour party suggested that those who had family members in hospital for a long time should get special permits to enable them to visit without having to pay each time, but that was scrapped in 2010 when the current Government came in. I ask them to reconsider that proposal. One way in which they could act very positively would be to have a similar provision such that the family of those in hospital for the long term can get and use special permits. That would certainly deal with the problem of the long-term ill.

There is another group of people whom we have not mentioned. We now have an elderly population and most older people have not just one health issue, but several health complications, so they often end up having to go to hospital to see consultants and doctors for six, eight or nine different illnesses or health issues. Each time they go, they or the person accompanying them has to pay hospital parking charges.

I give the example of my mother, who is 82 years of age. She has several different health issues, and every time I take her to my local hospital—I am her carer—it costs £3, just for five or 10 minutes. I am in the privileged position of being able to afford that, but there are many people in my constituency, who have caring responsibilities for adult and often elderly family members, who may only be on the minimum wage.

Lilian Greenwood (Nottingham South) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that for the many elderly people who do not drive, public transport is a really important issue, just like parking charges? Is she aware that Queen’s medical centre in Nottingham is soon to have the first dedicated hospital tram stop, which will improve access for older and disabled people in particular?

Yasmin Qureshi: I did not know about the Nottingham tram, but I am pleased that people there will have a tram stop to deal with the problem. Something like that would be brilliant in my constituency. There is a bus that goes to my hospital, the Royal Bolton, but because of its location the service is not frequent, so getting there is quite difficult. Such public transport solutions can help people as well. My hon. Friend is absolutely right that many older people cannot drive, so they also have that challenge.

Perhaps we do not think enough about the number of appointments most older patients have, as do those who are generally ill and have to go in and out of hospital for appointments numerous times. The way forward may be to abolish car park charging full stop, so that a scheme can be applied nationally. The minute we have a discretionary system and leave each hospital trust to decide for itself, some—perhaps because where they are located means they have a large parking space—can charge a small amount, such as 50p, while other hospitals that lack space because of where they are must charge a bit more. Leaving things to discretion means having, as everyone says, a postcode lottery. A better solution might be to make special dispensation, across the whole country, for those going to hospital appointments or those who are in hospital for some days.

Although I have a legal background, I am not normally an advocate for a lot more law, because it is not always a good idea to have loads of legislation. In this case,

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however, it is worth thinking about having legislation or a directive with the even more novel approach of abolishing such charges altogether. At the end of the day, nobody goes to hospital for pleasure; they go out of necessity and because they are unwell. Therefore, a hospital that raises £500,000 or £1 million, with all the budget it has—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Dawn Primarolo): Order.

6.16 pm

Paul Burstow (Sutton and Cheam) (LD): To pick up the last point made by the hon. Member for Bolton South East (Yasmin Qureshi) about perhaps abolishing such charges outright, later this week the King’s Fund will publish the conclusions of the Barker commission. It is looking at several questions about the future of our health and social care system, and I am sure that it will say things about charging issues and how we pay for parking. It seems to me that such questions must be looked at in the round, and in the context of the overall resources available to the NHS, by asking how to make the best use of those resources to deliver the best possible outcome for patients.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price) on bringing this matter to the House, as she is absolutely right to do. Hard-working families face difficulties because of the inconsistent way in which different NHS trusts go about applying their policies, and it is right to highlight those that chose to see car parking as another cash cow at the expense of their patients. Hon. Members have spoken about the issue of the PFI and how it further complicates the picture—indeed, it ties the hands of NHS trusts—which is an incredibly important point. The Government need to do more to deal with the mess around PFI so that these things can be sorted out.

Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire) (LD): My right hon. Friend will know that hospital parking in Wales is free, but many of my constituents go to Hereford county hospital, which is a PFI hospital. A radiotherapy facility has just been opened there, but that fact is dampened by my constituents having to pay large parking fees.

Paul Burstow: Other Members have already quite rightly intervened to point out how exceptionally high and punitive car parking charges are in that area. If this debate does nothing else, I hope that it make that trust understand that it needs to look to its laurels, review its parking policies and perhaps introduce fairer charging for the future.

That matter relates to why I wanted to talk about what has been going on in my own patch. Back in 2010, the consumer organisation Which? published a study highlighting my local trust as a particularly bad one, including as one that was quite willing to use clamping regularly as a way to enforce its charging policies. I am pleased to tell the House—this is a model of what others could and should be doing—that the work by Which? spurred my Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust into action: it undertook a review, which involved its patients and carers, and its policy now reflects much of the good practice that we have already heard about in this debate. There is a discounted

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rate of £5 a week for out-patients who visit three or more times a week, those who are going in for dialysis, cancer patients who visit two or more times a week, cardiac rehabilitation patients and immediate family members of patients receiving intensive care or high dependency coronary or neonatal care. In other words, there is an effective policy that makes it affordable for people to visit their loved ones or to get the treatment that they need. More parking for disabled people also came out of the process. There is also a recognition that some people do not want to stay for long, but want to drop someone off or pick someone up. The trust has therefore introduced more short-stay dropping-off places. If the trust delivers an appointment an hour or more late, the parking fee is refunded. Those are the sorts of policies that other trusts could copy.

It is clear from the work published by Macmillan and others that too many trusts are not even following the guidance, let alone striving to be leaders in the field or to follow best practice. As the Care Quality Commission rolls out and refines its inspection regime for hospitals, it could do more in this area. Perhaps the Minister could ask the chief inspector of hospitals to ensure that car park charging policies are examined. For hospitals that are striving not just to pass muster in inspections, but to be leaders in their field, this is another area in which they could do so.

Finally, concessions and discounts are only part of the solution. They are only as good as the publicity about them and the public awareness of their existence. It is difficult for people to access something that they do not know exists. It is therefore important to ensure that there is information at the point of use so that people do not wind up paying more than they need to. Will the Minister look at the idea that I and others have put forward recently of a carer’s passport? Some hospital trusts already have it. It is about actively identifying more carers so that they and their families can benefit from concession and discount rates, as well as other facilities to support and ease the burden on family carers.

The hon. Member for Thurrock and her colleagues who secured this debate are absolutely right that punitive car parking charges and car parking being seen as a cash cow within the NHS cannot be acceptable, as Members on both sides of the House—judging by what has been said so far—are clearly indicating. I hope that in responding to the debate, the Minister will ensure that the NHS gets that message and changes in the ways that hon. Members are suggesting.

6.22 pm

Nic Dakin (Scunthorpe) (Lab): I rise to make a brief contribution to the debate. I congratulate the hon. Members who secured the debate. Already, we can see the value of it, not least from the way in which the last speaker drew attention to the sort of best practice that should be considered by trusts up and down the land.

In my patch, I have been very concerned about the rise in car park charges at Scunthorpe general hospital. I presented a petition to the House on behalf of local residents and patients in September 2013, which argued that the rises in car parking charges should not go

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ahead. At the time, the Secretary of State advised me that every trust has the autonomy to make decisions locally and that the provision of car parking for patients, visitors and staff should reflect the local situation. I am pleased that he has now gone further in the guidance that he has issued, which I hope will help people such as my constituents, who are taxed for being ill or for visiting the hospital. As the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Stephen Lloyd) pointed out, the impact on parking in the local area is also a problem for local residents. For those two strong reasons, it is important that the movement on this issue is welcomed and that it goes even further.

David Wright (Telford) (Lab): I believe that hospital parking charges should be abolished. The car parks in Telford and Shrewsbury could easily be managed without charges. Some people have expressed the concern that people will overflow- park in hospital parking areas. Tickets could still be issued to ensure that parking spaces are controlled, but it could be made free. The House should push the Government and the Opposition to make a commitment to abolish parking charges at hospitals in the medium to long term.

Nic Dakin: I very much agree with my hon. Friend’s point. That has been the thrust of the contributions to the debate. I hope the Minister and the shadow Minister are listening to the voice of the House, which reflects the voice of our constituents as patients and residents who live close to hospitals. Hospital car parking charges should be got rid of in the interests of better, more open and fairer access to health care. The hon. Member for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price) made the point well that increasing the number of visitors increases the speed of recovery. It should therefore be welcomed and facilitated as part of the healing process.

Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con): As the hon. Gentleman knows, we share the same hospital trust. Patients are prepared to accept that more services are being shared between our two hospitals at Scunthorpe and Grimsby, but does he agree that patients face the double whammy of increased travelling costs and car parking charges at the other end?

Nic Dakin: The hon. Gentleman and I work well together on local issues such as health care. He makes the sound point that as we rationalise the way in which hospitals perform to maximise health outcomes, there will be more travelling by patients. Why should there be an added barrier to that travelling and to access? People should not have to focus on things like that, rather than on better health care, when there have to be discussions about where services will be delivered, as there have to be in north Lincolnshire. That is a sound and positive point that supports the point that was made by my hon. Friends the Members for Bolton South East (Yasmin Qureshi) and for Telford (David Wright), which is that the best way forward would be to have free car parking at every hospital as standard.

David Wright: My hon. Friend makes a sound point about rural areas, but it is often difficult for people in urban areas to use public transport as well. Sometimes, people have to change buses several times to get to a hospital. If people in Telford want to go to Shrewsbury, they have to change buses multiple times.

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Nic Dakin: My hon. Friend makes a sound point. The hon. Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers) and I represent rural areas as well, so the point is well made and well received.

Rosie Cooper (West Lancashire) (Lab): Everybody in the House wants free car parking at hospitals now, but what does my hon. Friend think we can do in the interim to ensure that hospitals stop private car parking companies targeting the disabled and those who arrive in emergency situations? None of that will stop now without proper enforcement.

Nic Dakin: I very much agree with my hon. Friend. I am sure that the Minister and the shadow Minister will take that point on board and listen to the other points that have been made in the debate. That will put pressure on hospital trusts to respond positively to the point that she has made.

6.28 pm

Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price), who has worked with me from the beginning on this debate on hospital car parking, and the many other Members who have been involved, including Opposition Members.

We face three problems on hospital car parking. First, it has become a stealth tax on the most vulnerable. It has hit parents who cannot afford to visit their premature baby in hospital. The charity Bliss states that about 30% of parents of premature babies are unable to visit their baby because they cannot afford the hospital car parking charges. Those who can pay an average of £32 a week to visit their sick child. I do not want to live in a country where parents cannot afford to visit their sick children. It was never envisaged that people with cars would subsidise the national health service.

My hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock set out some hospital car parking charges. The most shocking are those at the Royal Free hospital in London, which I know because, sadly, both my grandparents passed away in that hospital. It costs £500 a week to park a car at that hospital. If there was ever an example of how hospital bosses have used car parking charges as a stealth tax, the Royal Free hospital provides it.

People say that we have to have these charges, but why is there such a wide range of charges across the country? Why do 25% of hospitals not charge at all? I am ashamed to say that my own county of Essex is one of the most expensive areas outside London for hospital parking charges. Why do so many hospitals in the north of England not charge at all?

Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con): My hon. Friend has done a fantastic job of leading this campaign. On the subject of neonatal intensive care, there is an added problem. Because of the shortage of facilities, parents often have to travel long distances and pay for accommodation in order to stay near their children overnight. It adds insult to injury that they have to pay hospital parking charges as well. This is a treble whammy, and the charges are particularly unjustified in such cases.

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Robert Halfon: My hon. Friend highlights the problem exactly. It applies not only to the parents of premature babies but to people with cancer. Indeed, 10% of hospitals do not give people with cancer any kind of concession at all.

There is also a problem of transparency. No one knows why such huge increases in charges are taking place, and no one knows exactly what the money is being spent on. Southend hospital, in Essex, charges £2.50 for the first hour’s parking. It was highlighted on BBC Essex recently that the hospital had spent more than £7 million on a new multi-storey car park. Even Harrods and Selfridges would not spend £7 million on a car park. The hospital increased its charges in 2011 and raked in nearly £1.4 million in parking fees alone. It was never envisaged that hospital parking should become a cash cow or a tax on the vulnerable and the sick.

We should also remember that it is not only the patients, the vulnerable and those who are visiting them in hospital who face this stealth tax. It is also a tax on nurses, who are paying an average of £200 a month just to park their cars so that they can do their job. If we had to pay that amount to park our cars here at the House of Commons, I am sure that the practice would be stopped immediately. I also want to mention the concessions for people with disabilities. We often need a PhD to understand all the different rules and regulations involved. We need clear guidelines, and I welcome what the Government have said about this over the past week.

Steve Baker (Wycombe) (Con): I want to set in context what my hon. Friend has just said about the scale of these charges. I have just checked the cost of parking at Chiltern Railways’ new multi-storey car park in Wycombe, and it is only £7.50 a day. I say “only” because that seems quite good value given that some people are paying £500 a week for hospital parking. Does he share my amazement that hospitals manage to provide so little parking for so much expense?

Robert Halfon: My hon. Friend hits the nail on the head. As I have said, this has become an easy way for hospital bosses to raise money, and there has been no dialogue with the public about it.

People say that the money could be spent elsewhere, but I believe that hospital parking is as much a front-line service as anything else. It is as important as how many nurses and doctors there are. I am glad that the Government have spent an extra £12.5 billion and that there are 3,000 extra nurses since the coalition came to power, but hospital parking is as much a front-line issue as those things and it should be put into the general pot of NHS spending. It should be taken into account in the same way as spending on nurses and doctors and on machinery. That is often forgotten.

The hon. Member for Bolton South East (Yasmin Qureshi) said that no one goes to hospital out of choice; people go because they have to, or because they have to visit relatives or friends. They should not suffer in the way that they do. They should not have to face the stress involved. Many of my constituents have contacted me to tell me of the stress they face when, having paid at the car park machine, they have to wait for a doctor’s appointment that should have been at, say, 11 but does not take place until 1 o’clock. Through no fault of their

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own, they have to pay extra car parking charges as a result. How can that be right? Again, I welcome what the Government have said about that.

We need to look at this as part of the front-line spending on the NHS. Estimates suggest that it would cost between £200 million and £250 million to scrap hospital parking charges. I believe that the Government should set up a special fund, possibly paid for by using more generic drugs, and I urge the Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich (Dr Poulter) to look at that proposal. I welcome the fact that he has listened, and that the Government have published some really tough guidelines for hospitals. I recognise that they are not the ten commandments; they are not written down on tablets of stone, and we cannot force hospitals to comply with them. They are the next best thing, however.

I put it to my hon. Friend the Minister that if hospitals do not comply with the guidelines, and that if they continue to fail to offer proper concessions to people with disabilities, to use hospital parking as a stealth tax on the vulnerable, to charge their staff for parking and to perpetuate the lack of transparency which means that no one can understand what the revenue is being spent on, we should scrap hospital parking charges completely, as Opposition Members have suggested. I hope that we are already moving in that direction.

6.35 pm

Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con): It is an honour to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Robert Halfon), who has been at the forefront of this campaign. I trust that, now that he has the ear of the Chancellor, he will use that power to persuade our right hon. Friend of what needs to be done. Earlier this year, I went to see the Chancellor with a delegation led by my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski), and we put it to him that hospital parking charges should be scrapped altogether. I note that it is now estimated that the cost of doing so would be £200 million. At the time, it was £90 million.

We should look at this matter strategically and say that anyone who is going to hospital for treatment or to visit people who are suffering in hospital and who need to be there for an extended period of time should be exempt from all charges. It is difficult to introduce such a policy across the country for the simple reason that hospitals are in different locations. Some are co-located with stations, for example, and have decent public transport links. Others do not, however. We need a policy whose presumption is that anyone using the hospital car park because they are using the hospital services as I have described should be able to do so free of charge.

Such a policy could be implemented by requiring people to pay on exit. They could obtain a ticket on entry and have it stamped by a ward sister or a similarly appropriate medical person in order to exempt them from paying the charge. That would prevent commuters and others from abusing free hospital parking places.

I trust that we can look at this matter as a sensible investment. We clearly cannot expect the Department of Health to find the money itself. We expect it to provide the funding for treating people who are sick.

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We should look to the Treasury to provide the health service with the necessary funds to enable this initiative to take place.

Mr Marcus Jones (Nuneaton) (Con): I completely agree with my hon. Friend that hospital parking charges should be scrapped. In the meantime, however, does he agree that when a hospital is at fault for delaying or cancelling an appointment, the patient should not have to pay more for their parking as a result?

Bob Blackman: I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention.

I was just coming on to the specifics of my area. My constituency and others now have centres of medical excellence, which means that people have to travel long distances for the treatment that they need. Many of them have to use their cars, because public transport is not an option. Over the past 18 months, I have witnessed people suffering when their appointment was delayed and they had to rush out to the car park to pay more at the pay and display machine. Such an encumbrance is unfair on people who need to receive important medical treatment, and it should without doubt be scrapped.

The guidelines should also stress strict adherence to a policy of paying on exit for the appropriate length of time spent in the car park, as opposed to using pay and display arrangements that involve people guessing how long they are going to spend in the hospital. I have witnessed at first hand people having to guess in that way and then finding that they do not need all the time they have paid for.

In my own area there is Northwick Park hospital, which is the centre at which many people from north-west London are treated, and Central Middlesex hospital, which is in the middle of an industrial estate and almost inaccessible by public transport, so anyone going there has to drive. There is no pay-on-exit facility available. In fact, the trust took away that facility and insisted that the parking area that was built for it be replaced with pay-and-display parking. It was a nonsensical decision, and I trust that the trust will review it and revise it accordingly. We also have Ealing hospital, which has a similar problem of not being anywhere near any public transport facilities. The tube lines run into the centre of London rather than radiating around the outside, so people travelling locally have to drive and use the car parking facilities.

I wish to touch on a specific case that I came across recently, that of Mr Francis Bacon, a registered disabled driver who suffered a serious puncture while driving to a hospital appointment. He was unable to move his car, which some good samaritans pushed on to the pavement while he went to get help to change his tyre. He got his tyre changed by some good people who came and helped him and put him on his way. Sadly, a parking operative from Ealing council had come along and put a penalty notice sticker on the car, because Mr Bacon had had the temerity to park on the pavement. He could not move his car—his car was disabled, and he was disabled—yet he still got a parking ticket. Despite protestations from everyone concerned, Ealing council refused to cancel the ticket, which is typical of the wrong attitude of both local government and hospital trusts themselves. We need them to work in harmony to promote parking arrangements that suit and protect

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everyone. I trust that we can use this opportunity to encourage the Chancellor to provide extra funds so that we can do away with car parking charges once and for all.

6.42 pm

Mr Stewart Jackson (Peterborough) (Con): I join in the congratulations to my hon. Friends the Members for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price) and for Harlow (Robert Halfon). This is precisely the type of issue for which the Backbench Business Committee was established, so that we can try to alleviate the problems of people who feel their voice is rarely heard when set against a big bureaucracy.

Parking charges are an important issue because there are both philosophical and practical problems with them. Philosophically, it was never the intention that patients should be forced into a back-door stealth tax by virtue of the fact that they drive a car and need to park at a hospital. Health care has always been funded through general taxation, not patient charges, and that principle has been established by all parties. Also, surplus income has been ring-fenced for NHS activities. We run the risk of undermining the philosophical underpinning of the NHS. I accept that this is a cross-party matter, because Labour also sought to deal with it when it was in government.

In practical terms, parking charges cause real hardship for the simple reason that they are a regressive type of taxation that hits the elderly, the poorest and the sickest at the most vulnerable times in their lives. We have heard about various cases today. There are bigger issues involved in the debate, too, including our friends the West Lothian question and the Barnett formula. There is a question of fairness and equity, because people in Wales and Scotland do not suffer a similar encumbrance. Effectively, my constituents in England make a capital payment for free parking at health care facilities in Wales and Scotland, which cannot be right.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford and South Herefordshire (Jesse Norman) said, there is a bigger strategic financial issue to consider—the impact of the private finance initiative, particularly schemes such as that in my local trust, the Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which incidentally has a structural annual deficit of £40 million and so finds it difficult to deal with such matters. Both the Treasury and the Department of Health should consider the irreducibility and intractability of the debt encumbrance on such trusts, which forces them to seek finance in that way. I hope that Ministers will think in such wider strategic terms.

David Wright: I agree with pretty much everything that the hon. Gentleman has said. One big problem is that many hospital trusts have gone into fairly long-term contractual arrangements with private sector car parking providers. Alongside the broader points that he makes about hospital funding and PFI, the Government should examine the structure of the parking contracts that hospital trusts have put in place. One of the few ways in which they can help in that regard is through national guidance. The Government should take a lead and say to hospital trusts, “You must review this.”

Mr Jackson: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right, and he touches obliquely on another issue—that of transparency, which some of my hon. Friends have

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mentioned. It should not just be through freedom of information requests by my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow that we get the relevant data before us. Incidentally, my local trust substantially increased its parking revenue from £1.56 million to £1.71 million in one fiscal year. Transparency throws up some perverse practices, such as the fact that at Stamford hospital, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham and Stamford (Nick Boles), a small community hospital, there is no requirement to pay for parking, but people have to pay at Peterborough hospital, which serves virtually all my constituents. I do not think that is right.

I believe that there is a direct correlation between a wider lack of NHS transparency and high car parking charges. I cannot prove that, but it is my instinct. I say that having found out only a few weeks ago that the interim chief executive of the Peterborough trust was paid more than £400,000 a year for a four-day week. He did a good job, but at some cost to the taxpayer. Parking charges fall within that narrative, because patients should be allowed to know the costs of parking and the income received from it. As my hon. Friends have said, people parking at hospitals are vulnerable, stressed and upset, and things outside their control—bureaucracy, delay, getting the wrong treatment or whatever—can mean that they have to stay at a health care facility, such as a big acute district hospital, for longer than they would otherwise have to.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) made a good point about centres of excellence. In my area, the eastern region, people have to travel 30 or 40 miles. Someone with a child who has a poorly heart might have to travel from south Lincolnshire to Addenbrooke’s hospital or other places, which is difficult.

It would be churlish not to mention the Government’s guidelines. I welcome them, but we need to be tougher and we need a fiscal incentive for trusts to do the right thing—hopefully, abolishing parking charges. We need to punish trusts if they arbitrarily disregard the Government’s guidelines. Hopefully my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow, with his legendary powers of persuasion that we have seen in the past four years, will ask the Chancellor to take the appropriate action. Ultimately, we should work to abolish parking charges completely, because they are an insidious, pernicious tax on the most vulnerable people in our society.

6.48 pm

Heather Wheeler (South Derbyshire) (Con): Some of my colleagues have talked about parking arrangements needing to change so that instead of getting a ticket at the beginning of their stay, people pay at the end. South Derbyshire has free car parking for everything, but it does not have a hospital, so my constituents have to travel to Burton, to Glenfield in Leicester or to the Queen’s medical centre in Nottingham, and they have to pay. Burton hospital has changed its arrangements, along with a company called ParkingEye, and there has been a huge outcry. Part of the arrangement is that people have to remember when they came in, and when they go out they pay according to when they came in. They do not get a card that tells them when they came in. They might be rushing to take a child into A and E, or they might be a bit elderly and have eyesight that is not so good—I am coming and going with my glasses

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these days, so I feel their pain. A number of constituents have come to me in absolute outrage, because when they get it wrong they get a £70 fine. I am delighted that on every occasion I have been able to appeal to the chief executive and get that fine removed, but what an incredible waste of her time and mine, let alone the angst and anger of constituents.

We love our local hospitals. Burton hospital has been going through tough times, but it is our hospital. This system has been imposed on my constituents, and I am not happy about it. Fortunately, I have a good working relationship with Helen Ashley, the chief executive, and she is trying her best for our local hospital. She has reviewed the arrangements for ParkingEye and got it to make the press button keyboards and wording on the signs bigger, and to put more signs all the way round, but still the principle applies—what a daft system! I cannot believe the hospital has ended up going down that route and think that national guidelines would be excellent. Like everybody else, I congratulate my hon. Friends on securing this debate and the Minister on setting out guidelines over the past few days. That is a major step forward, but I implore hospitals, who are there to serve the public—just as we are in this Chamber—for goodness’ sake to put the patient first.

6.51 pm

Mr Robin Walker (Worcester) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price) on introducing the debate, and my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Robert Halfon) on his excellent speech and championing of this cause.

This is a huge issue in Worcester and has been for the eight years I have been banging on doors in the area. It came up regularly over the summer recess, so I apologise to the House if I am a little parochial in my arguments. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford and South Herefordshire (Jesse Norman) pointed out, the private finance initiative is a big part of this. In Worcester it is a big part of the problem with capacity rather than just cost, and a lot of the land that was originally intended for parking was sold off because of the appallingly bad negotiations over PFI by the previous Labour Government.

Parking is not just a problem for patients, as the motion states, but for family visiting and—as my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Guy Opperman) pointed out—for staff. On top of that, it is a massive problem for people who live in the local area around the hospital when staff are effectively encouraged to park for free in residential streets. I have had complaints over the years from residents of Leopard rise, Aconbury close, Darwin avenue and Linksview crescent, which are all close to Worcestershire Royal hospital, about people not being able to park outside their homes.

Charges at Worcestershire Royal hospital are not quite as high as those mentioned in the motion, but as my hon. Friend the Member for Redditch (Karen Lumley) pointed out, they still start at £3 for two hours, which is more than people are charged for parking in Worcester city centre. For many people, costs can swiftly mount up. Someone visiting for one hour each day for a week could end up paying at least £21, and information about concessions, which is badly needed, does not always reach those who need it most. The hospital trust currently

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makes more than £400,000 profit on its parking overall, and by contrast with the new guidelines there is no difference in charges for the disabled and other users of parking spaces. There are some reserved bays, but 52 bays out of 1,543 does not seem enough to me or most of my constituents.

As I said, parking capacity is a massive problem for staff, and it is about to become much worse because the park and ride used by many staff was, until recently, subsidised by the county council. It has had to reduce that subsidy, and the hospital trust has agreed to take it over, but only temporarily. This is an urgent time for the Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust to review its approach to charging staff and the public.

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): May I reinforce the hon. Gentleman’s point about staff? Enabling nurses in particular to park near where they work means that hospitals can recruit nurses. In my constituency, if nurses live within five miles of the hospital, they are not able to get a parking space and have to pay high charges. In practice, most of them get on the train to St Mary’s in Paddington and work there rather than in Slough. That means that my constituents get a less good quality of care.

Mr Walker: The hon. Lady makes an excellent point, and I welcome the fact that the Government’s new guidelines suggest a concession for staff who may not be able to get to work by public transport. That is important, but it would be so much better if the charges were not there in the first place.

Concessions for patients at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust are largely good. There are £1 tickets for a day, including for terminally ill patients, people undergoing coronary care and those in an intensive therapy unit or in oncology and paediatrics, but not for those who may have suffered a premature birth, for example, or have complexities during maternity leave—my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow was right to raise those issues. The concessions are also for relatives attending the bereavement office but not for other relatives. An £8 weekly ticket is available for next of kin, which most people do not know about, and there are £1 weekly tickets for renal patients and people undergoing radiotherapy, but they still have to be applied for on the wards, and only after people have paid £3 for parking in the hospital in the first place. That is one of the absurdities of the current system of charging on entry, rather than on exit as the Government suggest.

I would like much better advertising of concessions, and I think a simpler system would be good as it would be easier for people to understand. As many colleagues have said, getting rid of parking charges altogether would put us in a better place. My only worry about that would be if it disincentivised hospitals from investing in capacity, because in hospitals like mine there is a clear need for new capacity. Lack of parking capacity at Worcester has been made worse by temporary disruption from the construction of a new radiotherapy unit—something I strongly support. Other hospitals, however, such as that in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Andrew Jones), have delivered multi-storey car parks in time for such upgrades to their hospital, and I wish that Worcestershire Royal hospital had been able to do that.

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I welcome the fact that the planned breast unit at the hospital will come with its own parking, which I hope will contribute to addressing overall demand. I have raised the concerns of my constituents about hospital parking time and again, but it is right to show leadership in the House and for the Government to address the matter properly.

My final point is about accessibility and ease of payment. Asking people to pay in cash up front is unacceptable in this day and age. Worcester city centre has schemes where people can pay for parking by card or with their phone. People use those schemes; they are popular, and I urge Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust to consider how it can implement such a scheme to make it easier for people who do not have ready cash to hand. If I take one thing from this debate it is that I hope my trust acts like that of the right hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Paul Burstow), and reviews its policies on these issues immediately, taking a lead from the guidance the Government have set and the arguments made in the House.