Mr Bob Ainsworth (Coventry North East) (Lab): The Prime Minister talks about the continued importance of NATO and about some of the things that have been agreed, but the agreed changes are largely peripheral and the need for reform is profound. Is there not a danger that the understandable focus on the economic crisis is sucking the life out of the need for reform in NATO? Will he focus on that? Notwithstanding the understandable needs of the economy, will the Prime Minister make sure that the change programme that is so badly needed to get decent interoperability within NATO does not lose its momentum?
The Prime Minister: The right hon. Gentleman speaks with great knowledge of this subject. I would be a little more optimistic: one NATO reform, which I know he would welcome, aimed to cut the bureaucratic and headquarters posts around Europe. To be fair to Secretary-General Rasmussen, he has done an excellent job in delivering that. We have also delivered the ballistic missile defence in interim capability, which is another important step forward for NATO. Where I am perhaps more optimistic than the right hon. Gentleman is that I think the reality of the situation will drive us towards reform. Everyone faces tough budgets, and the fact that America is now providing almost three quarters of NATO’s funding and assets is unsustainable, so other countries are, frankly, going to have to step up to the plate, look at their arrangements and co-operate more, as we are with the French, to deliver more of the teeth and less of the tail. (Hansard, 23 May 2012)
Bob Ainsworth has welcomed today’s news that Richard Lee Primary School, along with six other schools in Coventry, has been prioritised for the Priority School Building Programme.
Richard Lee has been designated as one of the schools in the very worst condition and as a result will have their condition needs met straight away using capital grant.
The full list of schools in Coventry prioritised for the programme is:
|Alice Stevens School *
|Ernesford Grange Community School *
|President Kennedy School
|Richard Lee Primary School *
|St Thomas More Catholic Primary School *
|Whitmore Park Primary School *
|Wyken Croft Primary School *
“I am delighted that all seven school put forward by Coventry City Council have been prioritised for the Priority School Building Programme. Of those seven schools, six (denoted by*) have been designated as being in the very worst condition and work on them will be taken forward straight away using capital grant.
“Richard Lee is one of the six schools in the very worst condition and I’m sure that everyone at the school will be overjoyed to hear of their inclusion in the programme. The news will certainly come as a relief to teachers, parents and pupils who have been forced to work and learn in absolutely dreadful conditions.
“Richard Lee is well led with an engaged and supportive governing body and teaching staff and fantastic pupils and I hope their inclusion in this programme will give them the school building they deserve and that reflects the good work they do there”.
The many local organisations and constituents who have come to talk to me about social care worries will be disappointed to hear that David Cameron and his Government are kicking this important issue into the long grass.
Our adult social care system is in crisis and urgently needs reform. David Cameron had previously committed to introducing legislation “to establish a sustainable legal and financial framework for adult social care”. But in the Queen’s Speech, the Prime Minister only committed to publishing draft legislation on reform of social care law, with no assurances that he would legislate on this issue during this Parliament, and no reference whatsoever to reforming how social care is funded, which is the key challenge for the future.
Organisations like Saga and Age UK are right to be disappointed by what has been announced because they know how urgent the care crisis is.
Over £1 billion has been cut from local council budgets for adult social care since the Tory-led Government came to power and the system has now reached breaking point.
Labour believes this issue is too urgent to kick into the long grass. We initiated cross-party talks on social care funding and we are pushing for urgent progress in them. If the Government is serious about solving this crisis, they needs to grasp the nettle and reform how care is funded as well as provided in future to give older and disabled people the care system they deserve. What’s currently on the table is simply not good enough.
Following some truly catastrophic local election results for the two parties of the coalition government, both David Cameron and Nick Clegg claimed that they would learn lessons from their various defeats.
The perfect opportunity for Cameron and Clegg to demonstrate which lessons they have learnt presented itself last week when the Queen opened Parliament and delivered a speech that outlined exactly what the Government’s priorities were for the next year.
This should have been a Queen’s speech that put building an economy for working people centre stage, but instead it offered no change and no hope. Energy bills, water bills, the cost of getting to work – these are the issues that are worrying families in Coventry, but the Government has absolutely nothing to say about it. In its deafening silence the Government demonstrates how utterly out of touch it is with the real needs of hard-working people.
Two years of Tory government has resulted in a recession made in Downing Street and this is why they had such a disastrous showing in the local elections. There was a lesson to be learnt from the local election results, but the Tories and Lib Dems failed to listen. Last week’s Queen’s Speech was an opportunity for the Government to outline a positive agenda for jobs and growth, but it was an opportunity missed.
Labour won’t make the same mistake. People in Coventry want to see more jobs for young people, real action to tackle rip-off prices and help for families struggling with the rising cost of living. To tackle these issues we have outlined several policies that would help people right now including forcing energy companies to offer elderly people the lowest rate available, a tax on bank bonuses to fund 100,000 jobs for young people and new powers to stop rip-off surcharges by banks and airlines.
The Tories and their Lib Dem allies are out-of-touch with the real needs of people in this country – it’s time for them to focus on creating jobs, getting our economy moving again and helping hard-working families right now.
Mr Bob Ainsworth (Coventry North East) (Lab): The Secretary of State has taken, and is announcing, the right decision today, and I understand how difficult it is to perform that kind of U-turn and how uncomfortable it must be. But I cannot go along with him on the excuse—the reason—that both he and the Prime Minister decided to give for that decision. That is that the facts have changed and therefore we are changing the decision.
I reviewed this decision, taken by my predecessors. The fundamental facts were there at the time and have not changed. We have been up an extremely expensive cul-de-sac for the last 18 months as a result of a shambles of an SDSR, and I can only congratulate the Secretary of State on bringing some sanity to it; but he ought to understand the problem that he will give himself in sorting out procurement work—which, yes, is problematic and was in our time—if he cannot find a way of being straight about why the decision is being taken and the fact that the previous decision was taken in the face of clear advice to the contrary.
Mr Hammond: I refute that last comment absolutely. The right hon. Gentleman is in a better position than many in the House to understand the complexities and the challenges of defence procurement, but to say that the facts have not changed is simply wrong. The risk profile of the STOVL aircraft is dramatically different now from what it was in 2010, when there was a very real risk that the variant would be cancelled. The cost estimates for fitting the EMAL system, and the understanding of the complexity of that task, have matured through the work that we have done since the SDSR. Although I am grateful for the right hon. Gentleman’s endorsement of the substantive decision, he is simply wrong when he says the facts have not changed.