I asked a number of questions in the House of Commons yesterday, which can be found below.
Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): If the Government’s record in tackling lethal air pollution is as good as the Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Dan Rogerson), claimed earlier, why is Britain facing unprecedented fines and legal action in the European courts for failing on every single air quality measure?
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Dan Rogerson): I am happy that the right hon. Gentleman is focusing attention on this. As he will no doubt be aware, one of the key factors is transport fuels, especially diesel, and the failure of vehicles to meet in real-world conditions what was shown by testing when they were approved for use. We must make improvements at the European level on vehicles standards and testing. We also make funds available to local authorities to help them take measures locally to deal with air quality. It is a crucial issue.
Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): What the Church Commissioners’ policy is on paying the living wage.
Canon Sir Tony Baldry: The Church Commissioners and the Archbishops Council are committed to paying the living wage and ensuring that all staff and contractors who are employed at directly owned commercial and residential properties are paid at least the living wage. Other parts of the national institutions, including the Church of England, are committed to paying the living wage and are following the Living Wage Commission’s recommendations to put in place a transitional programme that involves all staff being paid the living wage by 2017.
Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): Given the collapse of our bass stocks, and the fact that the latest figures show a worrying 30% increase in the number of commercial landings of bass, will the Minister please finally take meaningful action to save our bass? Will he, for instance, provide for an immediate increase in the minimum landing size, which is something that I signed off 10 years ago when I was the fisheries Minister?
George Eustice: I know that the right hon. Gentleman has been pursuing this issue. As he will know, at the December Council we argued strongly for measures to be taken on bass. We pressed the European Commission to take emergency measures to ban pair trawling, which was done in the new year. We are currently discussing with other member states and the Commission the possibility of a bag limit for anglers, and also catch limits for the remainder of the commercial fleet. I can also tell the right hon. Gentleman that we are considering raising the minimum landing size nationally.
Personal Sex and Relationship Education
Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): Is not the hon. Gentleman making a strong argument for mandatory personal sex and relationship education in schools, which is something the Opposition now support? Sadly, his party has not quite got there yet.
Mike Freer: The right hon. Gentleman makes a good point. If he bears with me for just a minute, he might find that I am in agreement.
We have to accept that many teenagers will become sexually active, yet sex and relationship education—SRE—remains poor. The National Aids Trust recently published a report showing that in SRE there is little teaching about, among other things, same-sex awareness or HIV transmission. Teachers can be nervous of sex education full stop, let alone same-sex issues, sexual health or, in particular, HIV. That is compounded when schools struggle with homophobic bullying, which can contribute to teenagers feeling uncomfortable about seeking advice or information about their attractions or about having a safe sexual relationship when the time comes.
Devon NHS Financial Crisis
Mr Ben Bradshaw (Exeter) (Lab): May we have a statement from the Health Secretary about the Government’s plans to intervene in and support the most financially challenged NHS areas in England? As my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Paul Farrelly) told the Prime Minister yesterday, his area faces a £200 million deficit, and my own area of Devon faces a deficit of £430 million. I was told that an announcement would be made this week, alongside the new integration pilots, but that did not happen. Will the Leader of the House assure us that the Government are not seeking to bury bad news in the run-up to the general election?
Mr Hague: The House has had innumerable opportunities to debate health matters over the last few months, and I am sure that they will be discussed further during the Budget debates. The national health service is benefiting from 9,500 more doctors and 7,500 more nurses than it had in 2010, but if my right hon. Friend the Health Secretary has any further announcements to make before the election, he will of course be able to come to the House and make a statement in the usual way.