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  • Jul 16, 2014:
  • Jul 14, 2014:
  • Jul 8, 2014:
    • Topical Questions | Oral Answers to Questions - Deputy Prime Minister | Commons debates

      My right hon. Friend recently visited Solihull college in my constituency, and saw for himself the brilliant work that it is doing with skills and apprenticeships. Will he join me in welcoming the Birmingham and Solihull LEP growth deal, which will, among many other things, make an aviation engineering training centre a reality, and help Birmingham international airport to become the go-to place for the world's airlines when they need engineering, maintenance and repair work to be done?

  • May 13, 2014:
    • Clause 68 - Partnerships | Finance (No. 2) Bill | Public Bill Committees

      I rise to make a couple of points raised with me by LLPs in my constituency and friends on the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee. I do not want to duplicate the hon. Lady's points, but I want to raise: the legislative tests to determine the status of LLP members; the application of the new rules from the start of the fiscal year, April 2014; and the position of non-UK LLPs.

      The three legislative tests in the Bill for determining whether a member of an LLP is an employee of the partnership rather than a true partner seem a little different from those consulted on before the draft Bill was published. The House of Lords Committee felt that those tests will fail to achieve parity with the outcomes produced by the general partnership rules as the Government intend. Will my hon. Friend the Minister remain open to suggested amendments with the aim of making improvements and clarifications to that?

      Can we consider allowing businesses to apply the changes from the beginning of their own accounting year, rather than the start of the tax year, to reduce compliance costs? Can we look again at ensuring that domestic LLPs are not at a disadvantage relative to non-UK LLPs?

      When are the Government planning to carry out a formal post-implementation review of the changes? Will the review include a rigorous assessment of whether the expected yield has materialised? Like the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood, I suggest that the proposals should perhaps be delayed to April 2015 so that we can get both the legislative approach and the drafting right, which would give LLPs time to adapt. To minimise compliance costs, will the Government consider applying the new rules from the start of the LLP's accounting year, rather than from the start of the fiscal year?

      In summary, this is great legislation, and it is right that we ensure that such loopholes are closed. My questions are purely probing in order to ensure that we do that as effectively as possible.

    • Decentralisation | Oral Answers to Questions - Deputy Prime Minister | Commons debates

      Does my right hon. Friend agree that giving local enterprise greater control over its own destiny has helped to rejuvenate the entrepreneurial spirit of local areas? Will he commend the ambition of Birmingham and Solihull LEP's strategic economic plan, which aims to create 41,000 jobs for a Government investment of only £86 million next year?

    • Decentralisation | Oral Answers to Questions - Deputy Prime Minister | Commons debates

      What recent assessment he has made of progress on the Government's policy of decentralisation in England.

  • May 1, 2014:
    • Older Women's Employment | Women and Equalities | Commons debates

      Women are revered in many societies for their knowledge and wisdom, but the first thing that comes up in a Google search for "employing older women" is toyboywarehouse.com. In America, women will not stand for invisibility or marginalisation and have created OWL-the Older Women's League-to fight for older women in public policy and the workplace. Does my hon. Friend believe that we should do the same in the UK?

    • Clause 16 - Treatment of agency workers | Finance (No. 2) Bill | Public Bill Committees

      This afternoon, we have been discussing tax avoidance and evasion by disreputable employment agencies. One of the strongest things we have done as a Government is introduce the general anti-avoidance rule. Will the GAAR be applicable in the present context, working against people who keep on finding ways around that are strictly in compliance with, but not in the spirit of the rules on tax that should be paid?

    • Clause 16 - Treatment of agency workers | Finance (No. 2) Bill | Public Bill Committees

      I am mindful of your previous comment, Mr Caton. However, I do think it is a little bit rich for the hon. Gentleman to say that if we had stronger trade unions, this would not be a problem. We had a Labour Government for 13 years. That Labour Government tackled many of those issues. It is not just for the trade unions on either side of the House; it is the Government's job as well to ensure that people are not exploited.

    • Clause 16 - Treatment of agency workers | Finance (No. 2) Bill | Public Bill Committees

      I have been working with bona fide employment agencies on this, and I have raised with the Minister the concern of many of them that expenses are being incorporated into the overall rate, which brings the net rate below the minimum wage. HMRC has taken several companies to court for that. The most important thing that this or any Government can do is enforce the existing rules.

  • Apr 30, 2014:
    • Engagements | Oral Answers to Questions - Prime Minister | Commons debates

      Could I gently tell the Prime Minister that Liberal Democrat women not only pull their weight, but are perfectly ready and willing to punch above their weight?

      I recently hosted the premiere of "The Honour Diaries", a hard-hitting film about the honour culture and what can be done to girls and women in its name. I know that issues of female genital mutilation and early and forced marriage are hugely important to my right hon. Friend, so will he please consider viewing the film and showing it at the girls summit on those issues, which he is hosting in July?

  • Apr 28, 2014:
    • High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill | Speaker's Statement | Commons debates

      It is a refreshing change to speak in a debate on a Bill that has overall cross-party support. My party was, I think, the first to commit to high-speed rail, before the heady days of Government ever came along. [Hon. Members: "Where are your party colleagues?"] I am their representative.

      Several colleagues have already mentioned the economic benefits to the United Kingdom of high-speed rail. Nationally, it will create £50 billion-worth of economic benefits to the UK and 400,000 jobs, of which 70% will be created outside London, but I will focus my remarks on the benefits that I envisage for my own region, the west midlands.

      My region will be the first to benefit from high-speed rail, and local councils tell me that it is a once in a century opportunity. By 2026, HS2 will reduce the journey time between London and Birmingham to 31 minutes. It will put 45 million people within two hours of Birmingham airport. With the new runway extension, this will create a synergy that will enhance and ensure investment, tourism and jobs.

      The west coast main line is the biggest mixed-use railway in Europe. It has 12 operators and carries a quarter of the UK's freight. Passenger journeys have increased by 50% in the last decade and now stand at 1.46 billion per year. From Birmingham to London at peak times, there are 162 passengers for every 100 seats. Declaration of interests notwithstanding, that is no fun. S2 will help to ease that pressure, and by doing so it will help the environment.

      Research by Greengauge 21 suggests that freeing up capacity on the west coast main line will improve the service that it can offer. This will encourage more people to shift from road to rail travel, which emits half as much carbon per passenger kilometre. HS2 is often described as carbon neutral, but this research suggests that that understates its benefits to the environment. The environmental statement consultation is now closed, and there will no doubt be more to say about that when the Government publish their response, but I would ask the Secretary of State to pay particular heed to the concerns of the National Trust in relation to Hartwell house, Coombe Hill, Claydon house and the Waddesdon estate.

      The west midlands were hit particularly hard by the recession in 2009. Despite significant drops in unemployment, which are thanks to the tough economic decisions taken by the coalition Government, joblessness there is still above the national average. Birmingham council estimates that HS2 could bring 50,000 extra jobs to the region, raising economic output by £4 billion every year, but we are investing in the existing rail network, too. This Government are putting more money into our infrastructure than any Government since Victorian times, and electrifying 80 times more track than the last Labour Government did. I believe that infrastructure is absolutely key to the future economic prosperity of our country. In particular, it will help the building industry, ensuring more consistent growth instead of the boom and bust that we have seen in the race for short-term results by previous Governments.

      Our rail network was mostly built in the mid-19th century, and we are already outgrowing our infrastructure while the rest of the world is overtaking us. Railway journey times in the UK are actually slower today than they were 15 years ago. Meanwhile, Japan has had the bullet train for 40 years. Turkey will soon have over 1,500 miles of high-speed rail track, compared with just 67 in the United Kingdom. HS2 is a long-term investment for our country's future. If we do not invest in it now, the next generation will be forced to rely on a railway network that is 200 years old. We do not want to be

      another short-termist Government; we want to leave a legacy that will continue for generations and secure the prosperity of our country well into this century and beyond. For all these reasons, we believe that this project should and must go ahead.

  • Apr 8, 2014:
  • Apr 1, 2014:
    • Royal Mail | Oral Answers to Questions - Health | Commons debates

      Does my right hon. Friend agree that, despite the great hindsight shown by the Labour party, the decision was taken on the basis of the risks that we faced at the time? We should not have taken risks at any cost. If we had, the Labour party would be criticising us for a failed privatisation instead of a successful one.

    • Out-of-hospital Care | Oral Answers to Questions - Health | Commons debates

      In my constituency the success of virtual wards has decreased the need for hospital beds. That is welcome, but dementia sufferers, who sometimes need hospital treatment and specialist care to mitigate the additional confusion and anxiety that they experience, do need specialist care within a hospital. Our local dementia unit is under threat of closure. Does the Secretary of State agree that it should not be closed and that that is a wrong decision?

  • Mar 31, 2014:
  • Mar 25, 2014: