Regional Public Sector Pay 26 June 2012
Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): How can it be fair for small businesses outside London and the south-east to have to compete for staff paid on national rates working in public offices? Given that the last Government committed us to local pay nearly 10 years ago, and that it already operates in the Courts Service, what is the problem with encouraging other departments to follow suit?
Miss Smith: My hon. Friend makes a valuable point that I am sure the independent pay review bodies will consider. If I were to put a number on the average premium for working in the public sector, I could name 18% in Wales.
Michael Responds to the Government’s Civil Service Reform Plan 19 June 2012
Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): Is it fair that businesses outside London and the south-east must compete for staff against public offices whose pay and conditions are set nationally? If local pay works so well and flexibly for the Courts Service, why would we be squeamish about extending it?
Mr Maude: At the risk of my hon. Friend’s eyebrows going into overdrive, no final decisions have been made. He makes the argument. We have invited the pay review bodies to look at that proposal but no decision will be made until the evidence has been properly examined and the existence or otherwise of a strong rationale has been established.
Queen’s Speech debate 14 May 2012
Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): I thank the shadow Secretary of State for giving way so early in his speech. Does he not recall the Governor of the Bank of England describing the Government’s economic policy as a “perfectly sensible” “textbook response”? Why is the Governor wrong and he right?
Mr Umunna: In case the hon. Gentleman has not noticed, we are in a double-dip recession. That says something about his party’s policies, given that, as I have just said, it inherited an economy that was growing, unemployment that was falling and a recovery that was setting in ….
Michael Fallon: Was the Governor of the Bank of England wrong?
Mr Umunna: I am not saying that the Governor of the Bank of England was wrong. What I am saying is that we need growth for a credible fiscal policy. Many, including Government Members, would not necessarily argue that the Governor has always been right, particularly during the 2008-09 crisis.
Unemployment 6 December 2011
Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the independent OBR forecasts that there will be 1 million more people in employment by 2016, even including the reduction in public sector employment? Does he agree that the route to higher employment lies not through yet more borrowing but through getting control of our deficit and opening up opportunities and improving skills, not least through the apprenticeships that the Government are introducing?
Danny Alexander: I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend’s assessment. He is right that the OBR forecasts the net creation of 1 million more jobs and the creation of 1.7 million jobs in the private sector over the forecast period. It forecasts that unemployment will fall to 6.2% by 2016, reflecting the fact that the commitments we have made will deliver for the British economy.
Northern Rock 21 November 2011
Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): The big plus here is that from January we will have a strong challenger retail bank. Will my hon. Friend assure me that in taking forward the Vickers proposals, he will get on with creating other challenger banks, not least as alternative sources of support for small businesses?
Mr Hoban: My hon. Friend is right. From 1 January we will see a strong challenger on the high street from a business that has a reputation for taking on incumbents and offering a better deal for consumers. That is one of the great attractions of Virgin Money in this transaction. We want to take more action to improve competition on the high street. We are working closely with challenger banks to find ways of removing barriers of entry to the market so that they can grow their market share. One of the Government’s key commitments is to improve competition on the high street for both business and retail customers.
Transport: The Dartford Crossing 10th November 2011
Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): Will my hon. Friend accept that there is a persistently serious problem of peak-hour congestion, both northbound and southbound, which is costing everybody an awful lot of time and money? Why cannot we have earlier and clearer signage and much better traffic management at the point of the toll booths themselves?
Mike Penning: We are aware of the congestion at the toll, but most of that is caused by the barriers. An archaic method of collecting tolls is in place. We will introduce free-flow tolling as soon as we can. A lot of construction work needs to be done but, at the end of the day, the biggest problem is that the M25 is such a success we need to have another crossing over the Thames.
G20 7th November 2011
Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks, Conservative): Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the biggest single fillips to global growth would be breaking the deadlock over the Doha round? Can he say how confident he is now that the approach of willing coalitions will help make progress on this issue under the Mexican presidency?
David Cameron (Prime Minister; Witney, Conservative): I thank my hon. Friend for that question. The point about Doha is that it is not progressing in the way that it was meant to. There is a gridlock between many of the developing countries and, particularly, countries such as America that do not see enough in the round for them. So it seems that the only way forward, if we want to see more global trade deals that are good for all those participating, is to have coalitions of the willing—countries that want to push ahead. That is what has been sanctioned at the G20, and that is what we can now push ahead with.
Education: In-service Training 18th October 2011
Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): Whether academies are able to move in-service training days to dates outside term time.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education (Tim Loughton): Academies are able to allocate time for teachers’ learning and development, including training days, at the most suitable time for the academy and its staff, including outside an academy’s published term time.
Michael Fallon: Given the inconvenience to some parents when in-service training days are simply tacked on to the half-term holiday, does my hon. Friend agree that the evolution of academies and free schools provides an opportunity to see how we can better match the training needs of teachers to the school year?
Tim Loughton: My hon. Friend makes a very good point. Of course, one advantage of academies is the flexibility that they can offer in training their teaching staff. Of course, that is also an advantage for the pupils and their parents, who may have to make arrangements for child care when training days are taken during term time. That flexibility is available to academies, and I hope that it will benefit everybody.
Jobs and Growth 12th October 2011
Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): The former Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, said yesterday:
“I think the economic proposition that Labour puts at the moment is unconvincing.”
How can the right hon. Member for Morley and Outwood (Ed Balls) convince the House and the country when he cannot convince his former Cabinet colleague?
Ed Balls: Unemployment is rising and growth is flatlining. The Prime Minister said just a few months ago that the only person supporting me was The Guardian leader writer. Since then, what have we seen? The OECD and the International Monetary Fund are saying that the Government should change course. What has happened to The Guardian leader writer? He has become the speech writer to the Prime Minister.
To those who say that these are just the effects of a world economic crisis now hitting Britain—the same people who absurdly claim that the global financial crisis was all the fault of the British Labour Government, but who now want to blame the British growth crisis on the rest of the world—I say yes—
Yes, the deepening euro crisis and the weaker US recovery have made things harder for British exporters in the past three months, but one cannot blame the eurozone or the world economy for the collapse of economic recovery here in Britain when, since last autumn, our economy has grown more slowly than that of any EU country except Greece and Portugal, when we have the highest level of inflation of any EU country except Estonia and Latvia, and when, over the past year, we have seen a bigger rise in unemployment than the EU average, when most EU countries have seen unemployment not rising, but falling. I know the Chancellor does not like it, but those are the facts. The Prime Minister said today, “I accept responsibility for everything that happens in our economy”. I hope the Chancellor will do the same today.
Eurozone 10th October 2011
Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): What was the point of the European Banking Authority conducting two rounds of stress tests that excluded any serious test of banks’ exposure to sovereign debt? Surely it is in the interests of eurozone Governments to have such exposure made more transparent and to start facing up to how to tackle it?
Mr Osborne: My hon. Friend makes a very good point. We repeatedly argued that the stress tests should be tougher and more credible, but there were strong vested interests that did not want to see that happen and did not want to confront some of the problems in their own banking system. They are now having to confront those problems, however. The fact that Dexia passed the test, and that when it identified a capital shortfall it was in the low billions of euros across the entire European continent—given that tens of billions of euros were required to deal with the Irish problems that occurred around Christmas—demonstrates that those tests were not credible enough. To be fair, I do not think this is an EBA problem; it is more a problem with the membership of the EBA, but the association is now, with our support and encouragement, finally conducting what I think will be a much more credible set of assumptions for the European banking system.
Private Finance Initiative (Westminster Hall) 23rd June 2011
Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): While my hon. Friend (Mr Jesse Norman) is on the subject of a voluntary rebate, is he aware of the research from the university of Adelaide showing that the average profit made when PFI equity on hospital projects is sold on was more than 66%. Is it not the case that we should be looking at something more than voluntary?
The Economy 22nd June 2011
Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): I am grateful to the shadow Chancellor for giving way so early in his speech. While we are on the issue of credibility, will he explain why his sudden, completely unfunded £13 billion tax cut did not appear to be either agreed or even discussed with the shadow Cabinet? When the former Labour Chancellor was asked nine times this morning whether he agreed with it, he failed to endorse it. Why is the shadow Chancellor so isolated?
Ed Balls: The former Labour Chancellor is not in the shadow Cabinet, as the hon. Gentleman will know—[Interruption.] He chose not to stand for the shadow Cabinet. We voted against the VAT rise earlier this year. The Leader of the Opposition said some months ago that it should be reversed. I repeated that claim last week and what I know, as it happened last week, is that when I go to speak to my leader, he understands the issues and backs me up, which is more than could be said for the Education Secretary, the Health Secretary, the Environment Secretary, the Lord Chancellor—and, I fear, quite possibly for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, too, if things carry on as they are.
Debt Level (GDP) 21st June 2011
Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): How much greater would our public sector debt be if we adopted the completely unfunded and opportunistic proposal for a £13 billion VAT cut from the very people who racked up all the debt in the first place?
Mr Osborne: My hon. Friend draws attention to the completely ludicrous policy put forward by the shadow Chancellor last week—it was mentioned just on that Thursday, and has not been repeated by any Labour politician since—for a £13 billion unfunded tax change, or £51 billion over the Parliament. The policy is totally incredible, and was rejected by every serious economic commentator on the day. It just shows how far those on the shadow Front Bench have to go to make good for the mistakes that they made in office.
Bank Lending (Small Businesses) 9th June 2011
Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend reassure us that he is ready to do a little more than just monitor this situation? In particular, he should not allow banks to get away with the excuse that the demand is not there, when it is the price of the loan and the terms attached to it that are so often too difficult for struggling small businesses who need the credit.
Vince Cable: My hon. Friend is right that there is a problem of discouraged demand. We have just launched a major survey to drill down a little further into the complex facts of bank lending and to find out how serious the problem of discouraged demand actually is. However, this is not just a question of monitoring the situation. A key element of the Merlin agreement is that senior executives in the banks will have their remuneration linked to their performance on small business lending. I am currently insisting that they provide more information about how those incentives work.
Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation 24th March 2011
Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): If all that is true, can the shadow Chancellor explain why the deficit here was the worst in the G20?
Ed Balls: The hon. Gentleman knows the answer. We went into the downturn with a deficit that was low and covered our borrowing for investment. [Interruption.] It was low. We had low national debt-lower than France, Germany or Japan. We then had a global financial crisis, which hit the American and British economies hard. Our economy had a larger financial services sector than others-that was precisely why we did not join the single currency in 2003-so of course America and Britain were harder hit than other countries by the financially driven recession.
VAT (Road Fuel) 22nd March 2011
Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): Will my hon. Friend confirm that the Government inherited plans for six increases in fuel duty from their predecessor, four of which have yet to come into effect? Of all the groups of people who are quite reasonably concerned about the increasing cost of fuel, surely the least qualified is the Labour party.
Justine Greening: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. In fact, the previous Government introduced 12 duty rises during their time in office. As he pointed out, they also legislated for a further six rises, bringing in the fuel duty escalator, and these would have been on top of inflation rises.
Education (Topical Questions) 7th February 2011
Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): Will Ministers be prepared to look again at the rather puzzling exclusion of classical civilisation from the list of humanities scored in the English baccalaureate? Is classical civilisation not a humanity?
Michael Gove: I am tempted to reply, “Timeo danaos et dona ferentes,” which, broadly translated, means, “Beware of geeks bearing gifts.” However, my hon. Friend is an impassioned champion of both Latin and Greek and the wider application of the classics in state schools. Latin is now on offer in more state schools than independent, fee-paying schools, and Latin and Greek are included in the English baccalaureate, along with modern foreign languages. His impassioned advocacy of classical civilisation certainly weighs with me.
Rail Services – West Kent (Westminster Hall) 19th January 2011
Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): My constituents in Sevenoaks would certainly endorse all the points that my right hon. Friend has made, but does he agree that rather than a blame game between Southeastern and Network Rail over what happened in the winter, we now need a much more effective system of compensation for services that were cancelled or could have been run than we have at present and that the current penalty arrangements need to be thoroughly re-examined in the light of what happened in December?
Treasury: Manufacturing Sector (Comprehensive Spending Review) 21st December 2010
Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend not agree that the record borrowing figures announced today simply serve to underline the seriousness of the situation to which the spending review was addressed, as well as the importance of sticking to the fiscal plan that has been agreed and not deviating from it in the slightest?
Mr Osborne: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. This country has a record budget deficit; that is the situation we have inherited. We have made some in-year reductions, which have made it slightly less worse this year than it otherwise would have been, and then we have measures next year to try to bring the budget deficit down. Every one of those measures has been opposed by Opposition Front Benchers. They have put forward not a single plan, not a single proposal, to reduce the budget deficit, but our proposals have provided this country with economic stability, in a very unstable European continent.
Financial Assistance (Ireland) 22nd November 2010
Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): Does the Chancellor agree that, when we end up having to lend very large sums of money to other countries, the Government should always be able to do so at their discretion, in a way that is accountable to this House and not at the mercy of being outvoted by other European countries?
Mr Osborne: My hon. Friend makes a very good point. As I say, a bilateral loan will be debated in this House and require the Government to take primary powers, so it is within the control of all Members, and we are accountable to the taxpayers of Britain for that. I have explained the situation, so I will not go over it again, but we are part of the European mechanism, which involves a qualified majority vote, and even if we had exercised a no vote we would have been completely outvoted. That is why I want to see that the UK is not part of the permanent bail-out mechanism, which will be discussed at the December Council.
Finance Ministers’ Meeting (Ireland) 17th November 2010
Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): Irrespective of our obligations under the new European mechanism, which the Labour Chancellor agreed, will my hon. Friend confirm that there is a strong British national interest in securing a stable banking system on both sides of the Irish sea?
Mr Hoban: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We have strong economic ties with Ireland, which is one of our biggest trading partners. Our economies are closely interlinked, and it is therefore in our national interest to ensure that the Irish economy and banking system are stable.
UK National Debt 13th July 2010
Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): Given that the IMF report said that we would have had the highest public borrowing in the G20 this year and the worst structural deficit in the OECD, has the Chief Secretary, the Chancellor or any Treasury Minister yet received a formal apology from the Labour party for the appalling state of the economy?
Danny Alexander: Sadly, there has been no formal apology. Labour Members are free to offer one during this questions session should they wish to. In fact, with the revised Office for National Statistics forecasts of the last couple of days, we have seen the predicted reduction in the size of the economy go from 6.2% to 6.4%. Even after they have left office, their recession is still getting worse.
Education Funding 5th July 2010
Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that now there should be an inquiry into the abuse of the end-of-year flexibility rules by previous Ministers, under which so much false hope was extended on the basis of commitments that were not properly funded?
Michael Gove: My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. In the past three years the dramatic rise in the Department for Children, Schools and Families’ reliance on end-of-year flexibility has been striking. In effect, the Department was relying on underspends throughout the Government to sustain its own programme, including the so-called September guarantee-the guarantee of school and college places for 16 to 19-year-olds. The agreement that the Department entered into with the Treasury in order to rely on underspends elsewhere is not one that we believe to be either sustainable or prudent.
European Council 21st June 2010
Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend (The Prime Minister) agree that the striking unanimity on urgent deficit reduction shows how right the Government are to get on with it? May we take it from his statement that Britain’s liability towards future eurozone stability will not extend beyond the measures agreed by the former Chancellor on 9 May?
The Prime Minister: I can give that assurance. It is absolutely our view that we should not go further than the last Government, in our view, mistakenly went. Britain has advantages from staying outside the euro. I have never supported our membership of the euro and never will, because I have always believed that, once we join the euro, the pressures for single economic government get greater and greater, and that is what we are seeing within the eurozone. But it is in our interests for the countries of the eurozone to sort out their problems. We should not stand in their way, as they try to do that. Our conditions should be that we will not support something that transfers power from Britain to Brussels, and we will not support something that takes us further into financial support for the eurozone, but we should be in favour of measures to make sure that that zone works.
Public Spending 17th June 2010
Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): Is it not pretty clear that some of those projects were hastily scribbled cheques on a long overdue account? Would not today’s painful announcement have been completely unnecessary if Labour had carried out a proper comprehensive spending review last autumn, building into it a sustainable reserve?
Danny Alexander: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. If there had been a spending review, we would not be in this position now. As it is, out of the £34 billion of commitments that the previous Government made in that period, we have had to cancel £2 billion and put £9 billion into the spending review. The choice is obvious: profligacy on the one side, responsibility on the other.
Economic Growth 8th June 2010
Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): I welcome the Chancellor to his position. Will he give an absolute assurance that the coming Budget, and future Budgets, will always be presented first to Parliament, and that they will not have to be pre-notified to, or approved by, Brussels?
Mr Osborne: My hon. Friend has my absolute assurance that I would not sign up to that. Indeed, I have made that position clear to ECOFIN, and my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who is taking my place at today’s ECOFIN meeting, has also done so. It is absolutely certain that future Budgets will be presented first to the House of Commons.
Capital Gains Tax 3rd June 2010
Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): Can the Secretary of State reassure us that any changes to the capital gains tax regime will not reduce investment in business, particularly in new start-up businesses, and will not undermine schemes of employee share ownership?
Vince Cable: As the hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well, the coalition agreement envisages the reform of capital gains tax as a way of making the tax system fairer and, among other things, creating revenue to help lift the tax threshold and lift very large numbers of low earners out of tax. We are conscious of the impact of capital gains tax on business, and we want to make it clear that any reforms will acknowledge the role of entrepreneurship, and not damage it.
Government Spending Cuts 26th May 2010
Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend accept that although there were, obviously, extenuating circumstances on Monday, it is always best if these announcements can be made to Parliament first? Will he also confirm that the economic recovery is unlikely to be jeopardised by cuts to the cost and bureaucracy of quangos? It is far more likely to be put in danger by a Government who would simply sit on their hands for the next 12 months.
Mr Laws: I agree with both my hon. Friend’s points. First, he is right that we will seek, wherever we can, Mr Speaker, to make sure that these statements are made in the House, and we welcome the scrutiny from Members on both sides. Secondly, I agree with my hon. Friend about the importance of cutting quangos. No serious economist believes that the actions we have taken this week will jeopardise the recovery. If the shadow Chancellor were being straightforward with us, he would acknowledge that the previous Government were already taking action to seek to deal with the deficit by tightening policy-for example by putting the rate of value added tax back up to 17.5%.
VAT Churches 30th March 2010
Mr. Fallon: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what representations he has received in favour of the extension of the provisions of the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme beyond March 2011; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Timms: Treasury Ministers and officials receive representations from a wide variety of organisations in the public and private sectors as part of the process of policy development and delivery. As was the case with previous Administrations, it is not the Government’s practice to provide details of all such representations. The future of the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme beyond March 2011 will be considered in the spending review later this year.
Road Works 25th March 2010
Mr. Fallon: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Transport what progress his Department has made on amending the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions Order 2002 in order to enable the installation of portable pedestrian crossings at road works. 
Mr. Khan: The Department for Transport consulted on draft amendments to the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002 between September and December 2009. These include proposals to permit portable pedestrian facilities. Officials at the Department are considering the responses received and will be revising the draft regulations to address the issues raised.
River Thames – Angling 25th March 2010
Mr. Fallon: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on what evidence the decision was taken to restrict the eel-fishing season in the Thames; and if he will place in the Library a copy of that evidence. 
Huw Irranca-Davies: To ensure compliance with the European Eel Regulation (EC) No 1100/2007, The Eels (England and Wales) Regulations 2009 (No. 3344) establishing measures for the recovery of the stock of European eel came into force on the 15 January 2010.
As part of the Eels Regulations, close seasons have been introduced to curtail fishing effort at times of particular pressure on the stock: 26 May 2010 to 14 February 2011 for eels 12 centimetres or less, and 1 October 2010 to 31 March 2011 for all other eels.
The 2010 close seasons were set nationally and coincide with peak runs for elvers and with the main silver eel net fishing season. The close seasons will be in force for one year to provide time to assess stocks in each river basin.
In 2011, both adult eel and elver close seasons will be set through Environment Agency (EA) byelaws and will be specific to individual river basins to match local circumstances. The EA met with representatives of Thames eel fishermen in January this year to discuss the revision of byelaws.
Unemployment 3rd November 2009
Mr. Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): Given rising unemployment, and the fact that this country has been in recession for longer than any of its major competitors, how can Ministers still claim that we were better prepared?
Mr. Byrne: The truth is that the recession is hitting different countries differently. If we look at the United States, the unemployment rate is 10 per cent; if we look at France, the unemployment rate is 10 per cent; and if we look at Germany and Japan, the fall in their respective gross domestic product is greater than ours. The fact that we have been able to put in place a fiscal stimulus worth 4 per cent. of GDP, as well as keeping interest rates low—together supporting up to 500,000 jobs—is in part because we went into this recession with the second lowest debt in the G7.
Banking Reform 3rd November 2009
Mr. Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): Does not the new contingent capital guarantee provided to RBS show that the Governor’s concern about the amount of moral hazard remaining in the system is still unanswered?
Mr. Darling: What it shows is that, given the nature of RBS and that it may need more capital, we and the FSA believe that the £25.5 billion-worth of capital that we are putting in is the right thing to do. On the more general point, we are trying to get a safer, more stable banking system, because that is the only way in the long run to get back to a situation in which people realise that there is inevitably a degree of hazard in the industry. What we want to avoid is taxpayers being stuck with the downside when things go wrong.
Nimrod Disaster 29th October 2009
Mr. Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): Will there be a follow-up statement on the lessons of the Nimrod disaster, and how many of the named individuals do the Government expect to accept responsibility and resign?
Ms Harman: The Secretary of State for Defence made a statement to the House yesterday, and there will be Defence questions next week if there are any further points that the hon. Gentleman wishes to pursue.
Children’s Commissioner 19th October 2009
Mr. Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that he has form here, as he was the chief adviser to the then Chancellor when they both brushed aside the Treasury Committee’s rejection of the appointment of Christopher Allsopp within hours of the recommendation being made? What is the point of having pre-appointment hearings if Government Ministers are going to ignore them completely?
Ed Balls: It is very important that these things are considered very carefully by the Government in a non-political, non-partisan and non-personal way. It is also very important to approach these issues in a non-partisan and non-political way. My experience of the Treasury Committee suggests that that was always how it approached these matters, so we took its recommendations very seriously. I have to say, however, that Mr. Allsopp turned out to be an excellent member of the Monetary Policy Committee and a great advocate for growth and jobs in our country. I suspect that, in retrospect, the hon. Gentleman probably agrees with me that we were right not to go with the Treasury Committee’s recommendation on that day. As I have said, Mr. Allsopp turned out to be an excellent member of the MPC, but we took the hon. Gentleman’s views very seriously indeed.
Equitable Life 21st July 2009
Mr. Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): Why will the Chief Secretary not announce a long-stop date by which the Government expect the bulk of those ex gratia payments to have been made? Does he expect it to be in this financial year?
Mr. Byrne: That is an extremely reasonable point to which I am entirely sympathetic. However, until Sir John has done his first run-through of the information from literally hundreds of thousands of policyholders, that being the exercise on which he is now embarked, it will be difficult for us intelligently to present that long-stop date to the House. However, it is my ambition to come back with that date at the earliest possible opportunity.
Bank Lending (Small and Medium Businesses) 14th July 2009
Mr. Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): Can the Chancellor confirm that lending to business under the small firms loan guarantee scheme and the enterprise finance guarantee scheme was only £178 million in the year just finished—less than half the original target—and that despite the taxpayer billions and all the Government’s promises, new lending to business is still falling in this financial year? Why?
Mr. Darling: At the beginning of this year, the take-up of lending was slower than we expected, not only on the supply side, on the part of banks, for the reasons that I mentioned, but because, as the hon. Gentleman will know, we saw a very substantial downturn in the economy at the end of last year and the beginning of this year. The result has been that the rate of lending has not been as high as we would have liked. However, all the mechanisms are now in place—certainly the funding is in place—and it is now important to ensure that lending takes place and gets put into the economy as quickly as possible.
Equitable Life 9th July 2009
Mr. Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): Given that a clear majority of those who can sign early-day motions have signed the motion on Equitable Life, why does not the Leader of the House simply list it as the subject of the topical debate next week? Or does she think that 307 Members of this House can be persistently and consistently ignored?
Ms Harman: Everyone—all Members of the House—are concerned that there should be justice for the Equitable Life policyholders. There has been a debate on the subject in Westminster Hall and a statement in this House. We all agree that the policyholders should receive ex gratia payments, and the Government are setting about enabling that to take place.
Reforning Financial Markets 8th July 2009
Mr. Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): The Chancellor seems to have trebled the confusion over responsibility for financial stability by spreading it between the Bank of England, the FSA and the new council for financial stability. Will he explain what powers the new council will have? Page 138 of the White Paper seems to give it three new statutory duties just to discuss risk.
Mr. Darling: The Bank of England has a statutory duty in relation to financial stability as well as monetary policy. The hon. Gentleman will know that the Banking Act 2009 gave it powers to deal with a bank that has failed. The FSA deals with the individual supervision of banks, and I announced today that it can now have different rules for different individual banks. That is quite an important change, especially with regard to the matters raised by the Liberal Democrat spokesman, the hon. Member for Twickenham (Dr. Cable). We have one body looking at the overall system, and one looking at the particular. They need to work together and, as I said, whether one likes it or not, the Treasury needs to be at the table because of the fiscal consequences of any action that might have to be taken.
Prime Minister’s Questions: Cross-Border Supervision 23rd June 2009
Mr. Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): Beyond the need for more co-operation and closer financial surveillance, has not the Prime Minister now conceded that the mediation proposed on cross-border supervision will in fact now be binding on our national regulator?
The Prime Minister: No, Mr. Speaker. Only in two instances is the mediation binding and these two instances are in the interests of Britain. The first is if there is a dispute between home and host country. I can think of many instances where the possibility of such mediation would be in the interests of our country. The second is in the application of the rules. If we have common rules—we want common rules not just in Europe, but around the world—it makes sense to show that these rules are being observed.
Savings 9th June 2009
Mr. Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): How can the Treasury properly promote a savings culture when it is led by a Chancellor who last week was scheduled to be sacked? [Hon. Members: “Where is he?”] If the Prime Minister does not have any confidence in the head of the Treasury, why should the rest of us?
Kitty Ussher: Well, I am delighted to be able to report to the House that the Chancellor is currently at ECOFIN fighting for this Government’s interests, and in particular ensuring that the UK’s interests are represented as the European Community discusses the de Larosière report, which is entirely relevant to the City of London as it deals with the European supervisory framework. I think that that is exactly the right thing for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to be doing, and it is in direct contrast to the policies of the Opposition, which are to reduce the influence of our country in Europe by leaving the European People’s party and refusing to engage.
G20 Summit 2nd April 2009Mr. Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): Would the Chancellor explain more fully why the Prime Minister said at his press conference that there had been an agreement on a common approach to the toxic assets, when that is not in the communiqué? Some countries are isolating their assets, others are trying to sell them off, and here at home the right hon. Gentleman is trying to insure them. Where is the common approach?
Mr. Darling: The common approach is that all of us agree that we need to isolate and then remove the effect of toxic assets on the ability of banks to lend. That can be accomplished through insurance, which is what we are doing here, or through the so-called good bank-bad bank split, which we have taken here on two occasions. It can involve a combination of the public and private sector—something that we are doing partially, and which the Americans are doing. It is important—and the Chairman of the Select Committee is looking at this—that we use the right approach. It will vary from country to country, and it will vary from bank to bank, but the right approach must be to get lending going. That is a common approach.
Dunfermline Building Society 30th March 2009
Mr. Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): Is it not extraordinary that the provision of another £1.6 billion of public money to rescue another failed institution no longer seems extraordinary? Can the Chancellor explain why the regulator allowed the Dunfermline building society to over-commit itself so recklessly in 2006 and 2007 in commercial property and sub-prime?
Mr. Darling: The hon. Gentleman is right, in that the action that Governments are taking all over the world simply would not have been contemplated three or four years ago. He asks a pertinent question about supervision, and I said earlier that I want to get a report on that,
because there probably are lessons to be learned. The issue comes back to a point that has come up time and again with Bradford & Bingley, HBOS and RBS: what were the management doing? What questions were being asked? When the money was coming in, surely someone was asking how and on what basis it was coming in. We have to tackle the management weaknesses, which fundamentally led to the problems, and we have to learn the lessons in relation to supervision and regulation of such institutions.
Economic Growth 26th March 2009
Mr. Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): Why did it take the Governor to warn the Prime Minister that this country simply cannot afford to borrow any more money? Why does the Chancellor not stand up for taxpayers’ interests, resist the banging on the wall from his neighbour next door, and start the long haul of getting our public finances under proper control?
Mr. Darling: I would say two things to the hon. Gentleman. First, the International Monetary Fund noted in its recent report that many countries entered this problem “with greater fiscal space to expand”. It noted that Canada, China, France, the UK and the US were such countries, so we are in a place where we can provide help for the economy. To put it another way, if we had not done so—if we had taken £20 billion out and withdrawn the power that we have given to the Bank of England to ease credit—the effect on the economy would have been absolutely harmful and very damaging, especially to jobs and the future prosperity of businesses.
I made the point in the pre-Budget statement last year that, just as it is necessary to support our economies now, all countries need to live within their means over the medium term. That is why I announced measures to raise money in the pre-Budget report. It is important—and no one should be in any doubt about this—that, yes, we need to take measures now, as I have said, as the Governor has said, as the Prime Minister has said, to support our economy, but all of three of us have also made the point that it is necessary to make sure that in the longer term we have a sustainable position and that all countries live within their means. That may mean making some hard choices, but it is necessary.
The Economy 18th March 2009
Mr. Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): Can we come back to the enterprise finance guarantee scheme? Is the Chief Secretary aware that the Kent and Medway branch of the Federation of Small Businesses has written to me, saying that “awareness of the scheme is patchy—among both business and, somewhat disappointingly, high street banks themselves.” Why are not these schemes better known and working properly in our constituencies?
Yvette Cooper: I am glad that the hon. Gentleman, unlike some of his hon. Friends, concedes that the scheme is up and running and is providing support for businesses. I agree that I want to see us do more to ensure that businesses are aware of it. I point him towards the Government’s new “Real help now” website, which provides substantial additional information that he can distribute to his constituents and to businesses across the community. We all have an obligation to ensure that our constituents and businesses in our areas are aware of the additional help that is available. Unfortunately, that additional help is not supported by Opposition Members because they are not prepared to put in the investment or the finance to support it.
G20 Finance Ministers’ Meeting 16th March 2009
Mr. Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): Will the Chancellor now answer the shadow Chancellor’s point about all these new initiatives? Could he give us one example of a scheme announced since Christmas that is actually helping businesses in our constituencies—a scheme that has been announced and is actually working?
Mr. Darling: Yes, I am very happy to. For example, the scheme to allow businesses time to pay their tax is now helping about 85,000 companies. There are other examples: the VAT reduction is in place, the reduction in basic rate income tax will come in in April, and many schemes have been implemented and are helping people. When the hon. Gentleman asks about such proposals, he must reflect on the fact that he opposes each and every one of them. If the Conservatives had had their way, not one of them would have been in place, because they were not prepared to put a single penny piece towards ensuring help for people and businesses in this country.
Banking (Asset Protection Scheme) 26th February 2009
Mr. Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): Will the Chancellor confirm that the full details of Sir Fred Goodwin’s pension were set out in RBS’s 2007 annual report? If he is really telling the House that he spent £20 billion of our money four months ago and has only just checked out the details of the chief executive’s entitlements, he is even more hopeless and hapless than we thought he was.
Mr. Darling: As the hon. Gentleman knows, that is not what I said.
Quantitative Easing 23rd February 2009
Mr. Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Can you reassure the House that if, as rumoured, the Government are about to authorise the Bank of England to take further steps towards the printing of money, involving some £150 billion-worth of taxpayers’ money, that will be done only through a full statement to the House?
Mr. Speaker: Once again, the matter has been put on the record.
Departmental Holdings (Banks) 12th February 2009
Mr. Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): Can it really be right that the body looking after the taxpayer’s interest in these two banks should be chaired by Mr. Moreno, who appears to have been heavily involved in tax-dodging in Liechtenstein? In the interests of getting a consensus behind United Kingdom Financial Investments, is the Chancellor wise to proceed with that appointment?
Mr. Darling: The hon. Gentleman will be aware that following Sir Philip Hampton’s appointment to chair the RBS board, I asked Mr. Moreno to take his place as acting chair. I will make a decision on the permanent replacement in the near future. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that we should take a firm hand on tax loopholes and on people not paying the tax they should, and I hope that he will have a word with one or two prominent Conservative donors who do not choose to pay their taxes in this country.
Banking Bill 10th February 2009
Mr. Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): In the normal course of events, we would not see the Treasury balance sheet until the Treasury accounts were published, probably at the end of each July. Given the scale of the schemes, which the hon. Gentleman has described so well, should not we have a monthly or quarterly update from the Treasury about the exact state of the balance sheet?
Stewart Hosie: Yes, that would be helpful. However, I am conscious of the need to protect individuals or organisations that may receive assistance. There is a balance to be struck. I am worried that the Government’s alternative to the Lords amendment does not do what the Lords amendment provides for: allowing Parliament to understand the actual and potential commitment. I am less vexed about whether the report is made weekly, monthly, quarterly or six-monthly, as long as we can begin to understand the genuine extent of actual and potential liability.
Lindsey Oil Refinery 2nd February 2009
Mr. Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): Given the union complaint that it is the transport and accommodation of these workers that may be unfairly subsidised, will the Minister clarify the Government’s position? Is it that he wants to be sure that the directive is not being broken, or is he at all concerned to improve its working?
Mr. McFadden: Our concern is twofold. First, we want to ensure that the domestic employment laws passed by this Parliament are properly observed and enforced. On that subject, we have put increased resources—for example through minimum wage enforcement—in place in recent years. Secondly, we want to ensure that the European rules that apply both to UK companies operating elsewhere in Europe and to
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European companies operating here in the UK are properly and fairly applied. In recent days, there have been allegations on both counts that that may not be the case, and that is precisely what we have asked ACAS to look at.
Financial Markets 19th January 2009
Mr. Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): Does the Chancellor not recall, after the first bank bail-out on 13 October, when I specifically asked what due diligence there had been in respect of his £37 billion investment, he replied that “a cautious view” had been taken of the banks’ liabilities. If he was that careless about the £37 billion, what assurance have we got that the next £50 billion is going to be better value for the taxpayer?
Mr. Darling: As I have just explained to the hon. Member for Windsor (Adam Afriyie), we had to take action very quickly and in a very short period. I think that the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Fallon), like most of his colleagues, supported us at that time.
Equitable Life 15th January 2009
Mr. Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): Will the estates of policyholders who have died be able to make a claim, and in which quarter of which year does she now expect the first payments to be made?
Yvette Cooper: Clearly, the issue about people’s estates when they have, sadly, died is important. We will need to take it into account as part of the consideration of disproportionate impact. We will ask the advice of Sir John Chadwick on how that issue should be addressed. I cannot tell the hon. Gentleman the precise time scale or which steps that we will be able to take, but I can tell him that we are keen to do this as speedily as possible.
14th January 2009
Mr. Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): Given that a significant proportion of previous lending volumes in 2006-07 was made by foreign banks and by non-bank lenders, how can we judge whether a £10 billion or a £20 billion scheme will be sufficient, when the Minister has not given us his assessment of the lending gap? Can he give us that figure?
Ian Pearson: The hon. Gentleman makes a key point when he refers to foreign banks and foreign bank lending. One of the significant things that has happened over recent months is that foreign bank lending in the UK has declined significantly. Domestic banks continue to show quite strong figures for lending, but overall there is a credit shortage. The hon. Gentleman will have seen some of the figures published by the Bank of England in its recent lending panel report. I do not need to elaborate as those are a matter of public record. It is important to recognise that this is a key issue. One of the features of our working capital scheme is that by providing bank guarantees as it does, it frees up some capital that will be reinvested in lending, providing additional capital to UK companies in the marketplace. That is important and it is something that the Conservative scheme, to the extent that I understand it, does not do.