In Parliament – September

Universal Credit – 5th September 2013

Nigel Mills MP: When the Select Committee visited the north-west we saw universal credit working, albeit in a limited manner, and being well received by the staff working with it. It was having a positive impact on the claimants they were working with. Surely, however, it is right not to roll out this programme so fast and risk millions of people not getting the benefit that they are expecting to get. So may I urge the Secretary of State to say to the House that he will not rush this and that he will get it right before it is rolled out to more people?

Iain Duncan Smith MP (Secretary of State, Work and Pensions; Chingford and Woodford Green, Conservative): I agree, and I must say what the problem has been throughout all this. When I introduced the pathfinder, which said that there would a delay in the way we rolled this out, Labour criticised us for delaying the roll-out. Then, later on, it criticised us for not doing it properly. The reality is that we are doing this properly. We will not do it against artificial timetables, but it will be done in the overall four-year timetable and it will be effective.

Treasury – Tax Avoidance – 10th September 2013

Nigel Mills MP: What recent progress he has made on his plans to tackle tax avoidance.

David Gauke MP (Exchequer Secretary, HM Treasury; South West Hertfordshire, Conservative): The Government continue to make strong progress on tackling tax avoidance. Following on from our announcement at Budget 2013, we have introduced the UK’s first general anti-abuse rule, which will act as a significant deterrent to abusive avoidance. We have completed our consultations on avoidance using partnership rules and the use of offshore intermediaries, and we have just launched a consultation on new information requirements and penalties for the promoters of tax avoidance schemes.

Nigel Mills MP: I welcome the measures that the Minister has announced. My constituents want to see everyone paying the tax they owe on their income. Does the Minister think that any measures are required to make sure that trade unions do that as well?

David Gauke MP (Exchequer Secretary, HM Treasury; South West Hertfordshire, Conservative): First, I add to the words of Mr Speaker and, perhaps, wish good luck to my hon. Friend’s future wife. He draws attention to a story that we have seen in the last few days; allegations of tax avoidance against Unite and against Labour. Maybe the links between the two are closer than we realised.

Health – Accident & Emergency – 10th September 2013

Nigel Mills MP: I welcome the extra £4.5 million for the Derby hospitals trust. On a separate matter, can the Secretary of State reassure my constituents that if they ring 111 they will now get a quality service that gives them the advice they need?

Jeremy Hunt MP (Secretary of State for Health; South West Surrey, Conservative): I thank my hon. Friend for mentioning the support that we are giving to Derby, which I hope will be a great help over this winter and next winter. Improving 111 is an important part of the long-term solution for A and E. If there is one thing that could persuade people not to go to their local A and E, it is to pick up the phone and get a good service. We have 92% satisfaction rates with 111 now, after the teething problems earlier in the year, but I think it can be even better. One of the things that would make the biggest difference is if we did something that has never happened before, which is to make it possible for doctors at the end of the 111 lines to access people’s medical records, with their consent. Then people would be talking to someone who knew about them, their allergies and their medical history. That is a big change. It never happened under the previous Government. Their attempts—[Interruption.] NHS Direct had no access to people’s medical records, which is what we are talking about. That would be a profound change and could make a big difference.