Playscript of Demos, a play by Tim Price to be staged at the Traverse Theatre as part of the Write Here new writing festival.
OCCUPOYCCUPY Demos TRAVERSE THEATE COMPANY By Tim Price Tues 24 April (7.30pm) www.traverse.co.uk 0131 228 1404 Demos By Tim Price 2/4/2012 Demos: the people of a nation regarded as a political unit. Demos is a verbatim play, made up of two plays. The first ‘Sort your shit out people’ is the recorded minutes of the General Assembly for the Occupy London Stock Exchange camp at St Paul’s Cathedral, which took place on 13/12/2011. The General Assembly is where the movement gathers to decide things by consensus, and ‘Sort your shit out people’ is a verbatim record of that meeting. The original minutes opens with ‘Explains consensus and hand signs’ which opens every GA and is therefore not recorded in minutes, so the author has inserted a record of the same introduction to a GA on 23/10/2011 given by the same facilitator. Although this introduction is not from the 13/12 the consensus and hand signals introductions vary very little, but it must be noted that these are introductions at two different times in the Occupation. The Occupy Movement uses the phrase ‘This is what democracy looks like’. Demos present two examples of working democracy in London. It is suggested that the audience discuss the plays immediately afterwards, and vote on which play looks most like democracy. Sort your shit out people: Saskia the facilitator Phil the facilitator Security Legal – Occupiers 1-45 Part of the grammar of a GA is that, while someone speaks, members of the assembly will variously show their feelings through the twinkling hand signals. He walked into that one! The second play ‘He walked into that one!’ is the Hansard record for Prime Minister’s questions, a day after ‘Sort your shit out people’ was recorded at Tent City Occupy LSX. ‘He walked into that one!’ is the final PMQs for 2011 and is a verbatim record of the debate that took place on 14/12/2011. Although not recorded in the Hansard document, the author has inserted a line from the Speaker to invite each MP to ask his or her question, as this is the form. The Prime Minister David Cameron (Con) Richard Fuller (Bedford) (Con) Edward Miliband (Doncaster North) (Lab) Speaker of the House John Bercow (Con) Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con) Mr David Blunkett (Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough) (Lab) Justin Tomlinson (North Swindon) (Con) Yvonne Fovargue (Makerfield) (Lab) Simon Wright (Norwich South) (LD) Mrs Jenny Chapman (Darlington) (Lab) Sheryll Murray (South East Cornwall) (Con) John Robertson (Glasgow North West) (Lab) Julian Sturdy (York Outer) (Con) Rushanara Ali (Bethnal Green and Bow) (Lab) Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con) Mr Bob Ainsworth (Coventry North East) (Lab) Chris Kelly (Dudley South) (Con) Thomas Docherty (Dunfermline and West Fife) (Lab) Richard Drax (South Dorset) (Con) Mr Kevin Barron (Rother Valley) (Lab) George Eustice (Camborne and Redruth) (Con) Mr Brian Binley (Northampton South) (Con) Mrs Anne McGuire (Stirling) (Lab) Mr Adrian Sanders (Torbay) (LD) John Cryer (Leyton and Wanstead) (Lab) David Rutley (Macclesfield) (Con) Mr Russell Brown (Dumfries and Galloway) (Lab) Sort your shit out people The General Assembly for Occupy LSX â€“ held in Tent City University, because of the weather. Saskia: I'm sorry for those of you who have heard all this before, but I think it's really important to start every meeting with an explanation of what the process is. We are operating direct democracy by consensus. Is there anyone here who'd like to come and help explain the hand signals? Yes, we have a volunteer. Volunteer approaches. So, in order to make meetings work effectively, keep your points positive and proactive. Try not to repeat the points that were made before. We have some quite important hand signals that, if you've not seen them before, my friend here is coming over to help explain. Volunteer: Signal number one is put your finger up if you'd like to speak. Everybody do that, don't shout. If you can't hear do that Raise hands/put the volume up! If you've got a technical point which is not about the topic of conversation but is something like a tent is on fire or if wrong information was given out, like we'll meet you at four pm but actually it's five, put your hands in a T shape. That's a technical point. If you have a point directly relating to something someone's just said and you'd like to jump the queue. Point with both hands. This one's if you agree with what's being said Raise hands, fingers twinkling. That's a really nice one, I feel glad when I do it. And if you really disagree it's that one. Arms crossed in front. Some of you know more than me, why didn't you volunteer? Saskia: If you agree with what someone's saying, it's good to let them know you agree Raised hands, fingers twinkling. Now, we have a little group to sing, please listen beautifully. (insert group and song name) Group plays… Applause. Saskia: Thank you. We will start with a positive announcement. The Multi-faith group: Invite everybody to hear Reverend Jesse Jackson, veteran of American civil rights movement, speak at Thursday 3pm in front of St Paul’s steps. If the weather is bad it will be in Tent City University. Are there any more announcements? Announcement: Eight million people killed by dictator in Congo. Tomorrow at 12 o’clock in front of congress embassy there is a demonstration. Gather here at 11am if you want to go and support. Announcement: This weekend Edinburgh will be hosting the second UK-Ireland Occupy meeting. Saskia: Discussion will be about aims, but before we will hear about an incident yesterday. Security: It is everybody’s individual choice to call the police if they have been threatened or attacked. I did not get involved to report people to the police. But when we have a situation where people are not being respected and being attacked then I feel it is important to report the situation to the police. I have received death threats and reported this to the police. I hope the people who spat in my face and threatened to kill me will face a stiff sentence. I encourage people to stand with me to make sure these people face justice. Occupier 1: Why did you approach these people? Security: They were trying to put up a tent in a place that was not allowed. As soon as I said something, my life was threatened. Occupier 2: It seems to me the people shouting about how they don’t like Occupy are the people who don’t contribute. Occupier 3: I have been abused, had people call me names and I have had enough of it. It needs to stop. Occupier 4: I got strangled by the security guy for challenging the finance group. Why has nothing been done about that? Security: That will be addressed. Occupier 4: You guys wind me up. Occupier 5: The tranquillity team have been doing a great job keeping people safe and looking after the cathedral. Occupier 4: They still wind me up. Security: This is not a separate jurisdiction. If somebody acts violent towards me, I will call the police. It’s your responsibility to decide what to do. Occupier 6: You should ask yourself why you’re here. You don’t call the police. Occupier 7: We are all friends here. I don’t go quickly to the police. We have Tranquillity. We have a scheme first to communicate with people. If they don’t communicate, then if they still want to use violence, we go to second step. But not first to the police. Everybody should respect each other. Occupier 8: It’s all concepts of grown ups. We’ve gathered here for a common reason. It’s being lost. We have to learn how to live with everybody. The bells are too loud for children. There’s not much listening. Even when the girls were playing there wasn’t much listening. Applause. Saskia: On that note, let’s move on to the next point of agenda. Occupier 9: Why are only some working groups on the website? Occupier 10: There is a meeting tomorrow at 6pm. Tammy: I came to Occupy for politics. I have met some of the most amazing people here. I met people who it’s hard to get on with. We have to take care of each other. If people are being violent it breeds fear. Not a society where women are scared to go to the toilet during the night. I’m supposed to be in court on Monday. I’m afraid that’s not going to happen. I’m not sure what it is that I’m going to be spending three days defending. Do you want me to defend the right to get pissed and abuse each other; not to be reported to the police when if they committed these acts on the street they would be arrestes? I’ve lost my flat. My struggle to spend time with my kids has been made more difficult. Sort your shit out people! Applause. Occupier 11: Let’s have some silence for 2 mins. 30 seconds silence. Occupier 12: Why’s it silent? Everyone: Shhh… 90 seconds silence. Applause. Occupier 12: I apologise for the interruption. Facilitator changes from Saskia to Phil. Phil: I am going to take questions on the last point that was raised. Occupier 13: I am here to reform family law system, which is very unfair to women and men. The issue is how we talk to people. Important to be mindful of what you say. Think about how what you say will make somebody feel. Not sure what transpired yesterday, but it is important to be mindful. … If we make decisions we need to write it down. Probably repeating myself but I will keep saying these things over and over again. Let’s make this a transparent movement. Phil: Thanks very much. How do people feel about moving on? Going to take some more points… Occupier 14: If Tammy goes we don’t have a case. Occupier 15: I have been coming every now and again. It’s been great to do this. Everybody should take a step back and think about why you’re here. Occupier 16: Just want to say something about Tammy. I stick by what Tammy. She is crying her eyes out. Occupier 14: I don’t care, it’s her own ignorance. Ensemble erupts into disruption. Ad lib disagreements amongst ensemble. Phil: I’m going to take one last point. Occupier 17: I’m a trained para-legal with 20 years high court experience. I came to help the legal team. We do have a case. We have been very badly advised because they have served the document on the world and not on the Occupy (“persons unknown”). Honestly, City of London doesn’t have a case. Nobody should have made a statement because that would identify you. Ensemble erupts into louder disruption – ad lib disagreements and acrimony amongst ensemble. Phil: Because process has been abused so much, we are not going to continue with the general assembly. It is clear that nobody wants to have a general assembly. So the general assembly is over. Several minutes of Ad lib general discussion about what’s just happened, disruption as Occupiers move about, giving up on the meeting whilst some Occupiers try to make sense of what’s just happenede. Occupier 17: Mic check! Everyone: MIC CHECK! Occupier 17: The general assembly will continue shortly. Assembly gathers again. Facilitator changes back from Phil to Saskia. Saskia: The purpose of consensus is to reach unity, for someone to make a proposal and to find something that we are all in agreement. The goal is unity. There will be opportunities to make amendments to proposals and pass comment. So we’ll go through a few hand signals now. We have speaking signs which we’ll do first. If you want to talk we do this: Demonstrator puts hand up. If you want to make a direct response to a point made, if someone has misinformed the group and you need to clear it up immediately we do this. Demonstrator points. If someone has made a point that you want clarifying, you want them to explain more we do this. Demonstrator makes a ‘C’ out of one hand. If someone strays off topic, goes into a digression, we make this: Demonstrator makes a triangle out of both hands. That means point of order and is a way of asking the speaker to get back onto the point of order. We also have a group of hand signals that help us just check the temperature on ideas. So if you agree with something we do this. Demonstrator uses both hands in ‘up twinkles’. If there is something you don’t agree with, we do this. Demonstrator uses both hands in ‘down twinkles’. If you oppose something we do this Demonstrator makes a fist. If you absolutely feel a terrible idea is being proposed, and it’s the kind of idea that would make you leave the movement we have a block. Demonstrator crosses arms above his/her head. I Will read out the initial statement. And then take points from people about what has been achieved. Then if people still want, we will break into groups to discuss what else we want to do. Saskia reads out the initial statement: Initial Statement. This initial statement was collectively agreed by over 500 people on the steps of St Paul’s on 26 October 2011. Like all forms of direct democracy, the statement will always be a work in progress and is used as a basis for further discussion and debate. The current system is unsustainable. It is undemocratic and unjust. We need alternatives; this is where we work towards them. We are of all ethnicities, backgrounds, genders, generations, sexualities dis/abilities and faiths. We stand together with occupations all over the world. We refuse to pay for the banks’ crisis. We do not accept the cuts as either necessary or inevitable. We demand an end to global tax injustice and our democracy representing corporations instead of the people. We want regulators to be genuinely independent of the industries they regulate. We support the strike on the 30th November and the student action on the 9th November, and actions to defend our health services, welfare, education and employment, and to stop wars and arms dealing. We want structural change towards authentic global equality. The world’s resources must go towards caring for people and the planet, not the military, corporate profits or the rich. The present economic system pollutes land, sea and air, is causing massive loss of natural species and environments, and is accelerating humanity towards irreversible climate change. We call for a positive, sustainable economic system that benefits present and future generations. We stand in solidarity with the global oppressed and we call for an end to the actions of our government and others in causing this oppression. This is what democracy looks like. Come and join us! Applause. Occupier 18: How was statement created? Saskia: It was created by consensus on the first day. It was later changed by consensus to include an amendment from the environment group. Occupier 19: How do you want to achieve it? Saskia: That’s what we’re working out. What do people think we have achieved? Occupier 20: We have created a lot of hope that change is possible. Occupier 21: There are a lot of people who dislike what is happening, and we have brought it into the public eye. We keep people thinking about these issues. Occupier 22: Have brought a lot of hope to people who are asking “what can I do” – you can come and join Occupy and help work it out. Occupier 23: Talking about politics and economics was an erudite thing, now we have general members of the public wandering in joining is the discussion. That’s probably the best thing we’ve done. Occupier 24: We are learning how to tolerate each other, how to communicate with each other, how to question the current system. We are going to make a solution for all the major problems. We don’t leave it to parliament, politicians. We are questioning the system, directly by the people. We respect all views and good ideas to be open for all ideas, and make it deeper and deeper and really change the system. Occupy 25: Nothing more incredible to be debating all the issues with people you wouldn’t meet. The personal issues are taking away all the good that comes from debating the issues. Probably not the best environment to be sleeping, not staying here but imagine it wouldn’t be very pleasant. Hope the people here can work through these issues. I know it’s difficult, me and my wife have arguments. But hope you can resolve these issues and then resolve the bigger issues. Occupy 26: We have exposed all the corruption in the city etc. I feel privileged to be here. Occupy 27: We are asking questions. The strength is our plurality. We are fighting for the same thing. Bringing divided groups together. Need to be careful to keep the diversity, so we represent the 99% (if that’s what we want to do). Occupy 28: I have been with the library. It is a good model. Free food, free tea and coffee. It’s good to keep it open. We can apply it to everything, like laptops. When we achieve that... Occupier 29: One thing that hasn’t come out: people who have found a community, who will accept them. Stories that have brought tears to my eyes. Occupy 30: We are relearning to live as communities. We have been atomised by individualistic society. We are told to be selfish, and are trying to learn what it means to live as a community. Applause. Saskia: I would like to add, it’s difficult to see when you’re inside the camp. There is an incredible amount of discussion out there, online, etc. One thing that is empowering is that we are supporting each other. The problems we are having are the problems of our society. If you look at the broadcasts, Occupy is framing the debates. We have changed the debate. Occupier 31: I’m very honoured and privileged to sit down with beautiful people who are standing up for issues that are affecting normal people. Occupier 32: Why we were arguing amongst ourselves, there was a beautiful full moon with a double rainbow, and the masons were having a dinner up the road. Saskia: Anybody else? Occupier 33: There are lots of issues: some have been addressed by political and social hierarchy and they would not be addressed if we had. Occupier 34: We have been brave enough to show that we don’t have all the answers. Occupier 35: I’ve been here for two weeks, and I’m getting annoyed with people who don’t contribute to any of the working groups. Saskia: We’ve had that conversation earlier. Occupier 36: Some people do have some answers, and it’s been good to get these people together. People are starting to have conversations that they wouldn’t have had. We are getting to the answers. We have only been here 8 weeks. Most political parties have been around for ages. Give us some time. Saskia: There are complex issues and we are working together on them. Do you have a point sister? Occupier 37: When I came I volunteered in the Info tent, there are so many people who are extremely supportive. It’s really the struggle of the 99% here. Saskia: My mum and dad have said there is overwhelming support. The vicar enjoyed receiving a copy of the Occupied Times. Would you like to break into small groups? Temperature check… Okay. Assembly breaks into 3 discussion groups of between. Groups gather together in a huddle to discuss the issues for several minutes. Saskia: Let’s feedback… Occupier 38 - Group 1: We talked about the immediate issue: trying to find out what’s going happen; have a back up plan if the court case doesn’t go to plan. Overall aim is to have tent city stay here, to have a presence so people can come a debate in a civilised manner, if court says people can’t camp here. Want to keep presence here, so we feel there is still a movement. That’s the main thing. Beyond that, keeping transparency and communication between people. There were solutions in other groups, I overheard bits, would be interested to listen to them… Saskia: Group two? Occupier 39 Group 2: Have done good things. Lots of people feel very safe here. Do you feel safe here? Yeah, some of you. Do all of you feel safe all the time? We have to address the time when people don’t feel safe. There are some who are vulnerable. We could do that in a couple of ways. We could work on the sexism angle. You like that? We came up with a few ideas. People could come together to discuss their roles from a gender perspective. Another idea, we could swap gender roles. You’d like to see me in a dress right? We would have an understanding of what it means to be the other person. The other thing was discrimination in general. We didn’t know what to do about that. But we could get together and talk about it. The general assembly must be a moral and ethical hub for the whole thing. That’s probably why we get back people trying to destroy it. If people respect the process then things will work. Propose a discrimination working group. Saskia: You might want to call it an anti-discrimination working group? Occupier 40 Group 2: Well that seems a bit negative, but we can work on the name. Is there any enthusiasm for that? Group agrees with ‘up twinkles’ hand signals. That’s all from our group. Occupier 41: A lot of people who are abusive are not here. I was called a “chink” but I am Vietnamese. Had to go out of my tent…. Saskia: Thanks for your point. Let’s carry on with the feedback. Occupier 42 Group 3: One of the aims is to achieve and win our aims. To set ourselves reasonable goals, things we know we can achieve. Really nice aim from our group: plant fruit and vegetable plants. Make better records, how to preserve conversations, how we can disseminate. We win a lot by sharing our experiences. Another aim is to practice what we preach. To look at collaborators and partners, to build links and relations to work with existing groups. That would be very valuable. Another: local general assemblies, create template so other people can do it. Also: to Occupy people into seats of power – why can’t we have people standing for Mayor? Also: to looks at empty spaces for workers, to make a report about empty buildings and make something meaningful and useful. Saskia: Are there any others? No. The hour is getting late. Thanks for coming back to continue this general assembly. Finally, I have a sad announcement. Somebody is looking for Eileen Glass, she lives in Birmingham, 50s, wears long fake-fur coat, she has gone missing. We have a mobile number for her daughter. Comment: I know something about this… Saskia: Great, that’s us looking after each other. Any shoutouts? Occupier 43: Woman’s meeting Thursday 5.30-7pm. Not to be separatist but discuss things. Occupier 44 (Shelter): Anybody doesn’t have a place? No. Great! We are doing our job! We had a lot of tents blowing away in the wind. Are going to work through camp fixing things up. Please help us at 10.30am tomorrow. There is another weather warning for Thursday. Recommend you secure your tent to the pallet. Not recommending connecting tents to other tents. Occupier 45: There are some roadworks just down the road. There are some big rocks. We can use them to hold down the tents whilst we wait for better materials. Several Occupiers break off to discuss securing tents... Saskia: Anybody willing to go help collect cardboard? Yes, one, two, three, four. Great! Occupier 45: Somebody don’t close their tent, and when it rains everything gets wet. Response: People need to close their tents. Saskia: Okay, brothers and sisters. Thanks for your solidarity. Occupy everywhere! He walked into that one! Prime Ministerâ€™s Questions, the House of Commons. Mr Speaker: The right honourable gentleman Mr Richard Fuller. Richard Fuller (Bedford) (Con): Can I ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 14 December? The Prime Minister (Mr David Cameron): I am sure that the whole House will wish to join me in paying tribute to Sapper Elijah Bond of 35 Engineer Regiment, who died in Queen Elizabeth hospital, Birmingham last Thursday as a result of wounds that he had sustained in Afghanistan. He was a dedicated and highly professional soldier, and at this tragic time we should send our condolences to his loved ones, his friends and his colleagues. This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall have further such meetings later today. Richard Fuller: Let me associate myself and, I am sure, all other Members with the Prime Ministerâ€™s words about Sapper Elijah Bond. The people of Bedford and Kempston will be disappointed that this weekâ€™s report on the financial crisis in the Royal Bank of Scotland contained no provision for the criminal prosecution of executives, directors, regulators and Ministers for their failures. Can the Prime Minister assure me that, unlike the last Government, his Ministers will reinforce financial regulations, and will not undermine them as the shadow Chancellor did when he was in office? The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is right, and as he will know, we are considering specific extra measures. We are considering sanctions in relation to what was done by people on the board of RBS. However, the report was not just damning about the board of RBS; it was damning about the politicians who were responsible for regulating RBS. And it did not just name politicians who are no longer serving: it also named the shadow Chancellor. The Speaker: Mr Edward Miliband. Edward Miliband (Doncaster North) (Lab): I join the Prime Minister in paying tribute to Sapper Elijah Bond of 35 Engineer Regiment. He bravely gave his life in trying to improve the lives of others, and all our thoughts are with his family and friends. As we approach Christmas, our thoughts are also with all our troops who are serving so bravely in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Many will be spending Christmas away from their families and friends to ensure a peaceful Christmas for us, and we owe them a huge debt of gratitude. In this, the last Prime Minister’s Question Time of the year, let me remind the Prime Minister of what he had to say in his new year message of 2011. He said: “Uppermost in my mind as we enter the New Year is jobs.” In the light of today’s unemployment figures, can he explain what has gone wrong? The Prime Minister: First, let me join the right hon. Gentleman in his fitting and right tribute to our forces at Christmas time—those who are serving in Afghanistan, but also those who are serving in other parts of the world. One of the things that strike you most in this job is that they are the best of the best. They are brave, they are courageous, they are dedicated, and their families, too, give up a huge amount. I join the right hon. Gentleman in saying that. Let me say about the unemployment figures that any increase in unemployment is bad news and a tragedy for those involved, and that is why we will do everything we can to help people back into work. That is why we have the Work programme, which will help 2.5 million people; that is why we have the massive increase in apprenticeships that will help 400,000 people this year; and that is why we will give particular help to young people through the youth contract and through the work experience places. We will do all we can to help people back into work. Edward Miliband: But the figures show that the Prime Minister’s economic strategy is failing. The Chancellor said at the time of the spending review last year: “private sector job creation will far outweigh the reduction in public sector employment.” Will the Prime Minister confirm that over the last three months, for every job being created in the private sector 13 are being lost in the public sector? The Prime Minister: Let me give the right hon. Gentleman the figures. Since the election, in the private sector there have been 581,000 extra jobs. In the public sector, he is right that we have lost 336,000 jobs, so we need private sector employment to grow even faster. But let me make this point to him, because I think this is important: whoever was in government right now would have to be making reductions in public spending. The only way you can keep people in work in the public sector while doing that is to cut welfare—something we are doing and he opposes—or to freeze public sector pay—something we are doing and he opposes—or to reform public sector pensions—something we are doing and he opposes. So it is all very well standing there and complaining about the rise in unemployment, but if we do not take those steps, we would lose more jobs in the public sector. Edward Miliband: I think the whole House will have heard that the Prime Minister cannot deny that the central economic claim that he made—that the private sector would fill the gap left by the public sector—has not been met. He has broken his promise, and today’s figures also confirm that youth unemployment not only remains over 1 million; it is still rising, and long-term youth unemployment has gone up by 93% since he made his new year pledge on jobs. Is not the reality that he is betraying a whole generation of young people? The Prime Minister: We will not take lectures from a party that put up youth unemployment by 40%. That is the case—even the right hon. Gentleman’s brother admitted the other day that youth unemployment was not a problem invented by this Government; it has been going up since 2004. But let me explain what we are doing to help young people get a job. Through the youth contract we are providing 160,000 new jobs with private sector subsidies. With the 250,000 work experience places, half those people are actually getting jobs and getting off benefit within two months. That is 20 times more effective than the future jobs fund. But the absolute key to all this is getting our economy moving. We need private sector jobs. It is this Government who have got interest rates down to 2%—that is why we have the prospects of growth— whereas the right hon. Gentleman’s plans are for more spending, more borrowing and more debt: more of the mess that we started with. Edward Miliband: The truth is that the Prime Minister’s promises to young people for next year are as worthless as the promises he made in 2011. Let us turn from his broken promise on jobs to his broken promise on the coalition. And Mr Speaker, let me say that it is good to see the Deputy Prime Minister back in the House. This is what the Prime Minister said— Hon. Members erupt into noise - Interruption. Calm down. This is what he said in his new year’s message for 2011—and I will place a copy in the Library of the House, just so that everyone can see it: “Coalition politics is not always straightforward…But I believe we are bringing in a “ whole new style of government.” Hon. Members erupt into noise - “More! More!” There is more: “A more collegiate approach.” I am bound to ask, what has gone wrong? Hon. Members: Answer! The Prime Minister: I will answer. No one in this House is going to be surprised that Conservatives and Liberal Democrats do not always agree about Europe, but let me reassure the right hon. Gentleman. He should not believe everything he reads in the papers. It’s not that bad—it’s not like we’re brothers or anything! Hon. Members: “More! More!” He certainly walked into that one. Edward Miliband: I think our sympathy is with the Deputy Prime Minister. His partner goes on a business trip and he is left waiting by the phone, but he hears nothing until a rambling phone call at 4 am confessing to a terrible mistake. How is the Prime Minister going to pick up the pieces of the bad deal he delivered for Britain? The Council came to conclusions on Friday morning, but the treaty will not be signed until March. In the cold light of day, with other countries— Hon. Members erupt into noise - Interruption. Mr Speaker: Order. Some very, very foolish person shouted out “Stop”. The person who did that will stop, because people in this place must be heard. If there is a Member here who does not think so, I invite that Member to leave the Chamber. Edward Miliband: In the cold light of day, with other countries spending the weeks and months ahead trying to see whether they can get a better deal for themselves, would not the sensible thing for the Prime Minister to do be to re-enter the negotiations and try to get a better deal for Britain? The Prime Minister: First, I make no apologies for standing up for Britain. In the past two days we have read a lot about my opinions and we have read a lot about the Deputy Prime Minister’s opinions; the one thing we do not know is what the right hon. Gentleman would have done. While he was here on Monday his aides were running around the Press Gallery briefing that he would not have signed up to the treaty. Well, here is another try: what’s your answer? Mr Speaker: I have no answer on this matter whatsoever— Hon. Members erupt into noise - Interruption. Order. I am glad the Minister of State, Department of Health, the right hon. Member for Chelmsford, has returned from his travels. We wish him a merry Christmas, but in his case it should be a quiet one. Edward Miliband: There was a better deal for Britain that the Prime Minister should have got, and that is what the Deputy Prime Minister himself says. Here is the truth: last week the Prime Minister made a catastrophic mistake, and this week we discover that unemployment is at its highest level for 17 years. This Prime Minister thinks he is born to rule. The truth is that he is just not very good at it. The Prime Minister: Even the soundbite was recycled from a previous Prime Minister’s Question Time. On Wednesday the answer was no. Today—I think—the answer is maybe. This Leader of the Labour party makes weakness and indecision an art form; that is the fact. The right hon. Gentleman gave me my end-of-year report; let me give him his. He told us at the start of the year, in his new year’s message, that the fightback started in Scotland. Well, that went well, didn’t it? He told us that he would have credible plans to cut the deficit, but we still have not seen them. He said that he would stand up to vested interests, yet he backed the biggest strike for years. We all know that he has achieved one thing, though. He has completely united his party. Every single one of them has asked Santa for the same thing: a new leader for Christmas. Hon. Members: Hear, hear! Mr Speaker: Order. I am sure Government Back Benchers want to hear their own colleague, Mr Martin Vickers. Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con): Thank you, Mr Speaker. Yesterday’s announcement about local television was good news for my constituency, where Channel 7, the sole survivor from the original batch, is based. Does the Prime Minister agree that local broadcasting strengthens local communities and advances the big society? If he is in north Lincolnshire in the near future, will he find time to pay Channel 7 a visit? The Prime Minister: I would be delighted to do that. I do not have any immediate plans to visit north Lincolnshire, but I do support local television. I also think that north Lincolnshire had some very good news with the Siemens plant going into Hull. That is excellent news for the whole region. Mr Speaker: Mr David Blunkett. Mr David Blunkett (Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough) (Lab): In the early new year the Government intend to announce a wholesale revision of the national curriculum. May I put it to the Prime Minister that it would be perverse—in fact it would be absurd—to require those coming from abroad to settle in Britain to learn about our democracy and to take citizenship courses while withdrawing the teaching of citizenship and democracy to our own children in our schools? The Prime Minister: I listen very carefully to what the right hon. Gentleman says, because I agree with some of the proposals about citizenship that he put forward when he was Home Secretary. Many Members will have been to the citizenship ceremonies that he was responsible for, which have been a good addition to our country and our democracy. On behalf of the whole House, I pay tribute to him for that. We will look very carefully at what he says about the curriculum, but the key aim has to be to making sure that we teach the basics properly and well, and that we test on those basics, because if someone cannot read and write properly, no lessons in citizenship will mean anything at all. Mr Speaker: Justin Tomlinson. Justin Tomlinson (North Swindon) (Con): Ninety-one per cent of people who get into financial difficulty believe they would have avoided doing so had they been better informed. Therefore, ahead of tomorrowâ€™s debate on financial education, will the Prime Minister support our calls for compulsory financial education for young people? The Prime Minister: This very much links with the previous question. I strongly support teaching young children about the importance of financial education, but the point of having a proper review of the curriculum is to make sure that we know what is absolutely essential and core and what can be included as extra lessons. Mr Speaker: Yvonne Fovargue. Yvonne Fovargue (Makerfield) (Lab): Unemployment is going up and living standards are being squeezed. Many more people are being forced into the hands of the payday lenders and fee-charging debt management companies. Will the Prime Minister act to protect ordinary people who are being preyed on and ripped off? The Prime Minister: The hon. Lady speaks with great experience, because she worked for Citizens Advice before coming to the House. She stands up for Citizens Advice and is right to do so. All of us know what a brilliant job it does in our constituencies. She will know that the previous Government wrestled with the issue of how best to regulate doorstep lenders and other lenders, and the danger of driving people into the hands of loan sharks if we got rid of the regulated sector. I am very happy to discuss this further with interested colleagues. It is a very difficult subject to get right, but the Government are working at it. Mr Speaker: Simon Wright. Simon Wright (Norwich South) (LD): Does the Prime Minister share my concern about the impact of pocket-money priced alcohol on the state of our nationâ€™s health and antisocial behaviour in our town centres, as well as about the damage it does to our community pubs? The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman makes an extremely important point. There is no doubt in my mind that very-low-cost alcohol is part of the problem in our town centres. One of the answers that the Government have already come up with is to ban the deeply discounted selling of alcohol, but we need to look at the broader question of low-cost alcohol. I have noted very carefully the letter in the papers this morning from a whole set of people with great expertise on this, and we are looking carefully at the issue. Mr Speaker: Jenny Chapman. Mrs Jenny Chapman (Darlington) (Lab): This morning we learned that the Teesside airport is up for sale and it seems that, as unemployment is sky-rocketing in the north-east, our planes may be grounded. Is not the loss of infrastructure and jobs in the north-east further evidence that this Governmentâ€™s economic plan is a catastrophic failure? The Prime Minister: The key thing about the future of Durham Tees Valley airport, which is a vital airport, is not necessarily who owns it but whether it is being invested in and expanded. Is it working well? That is the key question, and that is the question that I know my right hon. Friend the Transport Secretary is looking at carefully. Mr Speaker: Sheryll Murray. Sheryll Murray (South East Cornwall) (Con): Has the Prime Minister seen the OECD and National Institute of Economic and Social Research findings this week, which show that soaring immigration was caused not by the prospect of prosperity but by the open-door policies of the previous Government—and will he prevent that from happening again? The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The report said specifically that “the increase in net immigration to the UK was not driven primarily by the economic performance of the UK or other countries.” Instead, the report points to immigration policy. The fact is that the previous Government quadrupled immigration and let an extra 2.2 million people into the country. The answer is to deal with the bogus colleges, and we are doing that; to put a limit on economic migration from outside the EU, and we are doing that; and to have proper border controls and a border police command, and we are doing that as well. Mr Speaker: John Robertson. John Robertson (Glasgow North West) (Lab): The autumn statement saw 400,000 Scottish children lose more than £40 million as a result of changes in the tax system. In my constituency that meant that £600,000 was taken from children. Why is the Prime Minister taking money out of children’s pockets, while allowing it to remain in the pockets of bankers? The Prime Minister: I am afraid the hon. Gentleman is just plain wrong: the child tax credit is going up by £135. He talks about the bankers, but it is this Government who have put in place a bank levy that will raise more every year than Labour’s oneoff bonus tax raised in one year. Mr Speaker: Julian Sturdy. Julian Sturdy (York Outer) (Con): As a York MP, I am extremely proud of our cityâ€™s vibrant tourism sector. Does my right hon. Friend agree that tourism plays a key role in our local economies? Will he ensure that northern tourist attractions in particular are promoted in the run-up to the Olympic games? The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend makes an important point. Millions of people will be coming to this country for the Olympic games. We need to encourage them not just to go to the Olympic games, but to visit other parts of the country and to return to Britain for a subsequent visit. We will be running all sorts of promotions and schemes to encourage that. If we could encourage people more generally to visit other places as well as Londonâ€”York has many great tourist attractions and things of historical importance to seeâ€”we would drive a huge amount of jobs and growth in our regions. Mr Speaker: Rushanara Ali. Rushanara Ali (Bethnal Green and Bow) (Lab): On 16 December Bangladesh will mark its 40th anniversary as an independent nation, following a war that cost 3 million lives. I want to pay tribute to the contribution made by this Parliament in supporting the people in their fight for liberty and self-determination. As Bangladesh is the country that is the second most vulnerable to climate change, with an estimated 15 million to 20 million people likely to be affected in the coming decades, does the Prime Minister agree that it is now more important than ever to support developing countries against the devastating effects of climate change? The Prime Minister: I absolutely agree with the hon. Lady. The whole House should recognise what she has done in raising the issue at this time, as Bangladesh approaches this important anniversary. Britain can be proud of the fact that we have very good relations with Bangladesh, and our aid programme in Bangladesh is now of the leading ones from anywhere in the world into that country. We are spending specific money on helping the Bangladeshis with climate change, meeting all the promises that we made. I have met the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. One of the issues that we do have to raise, though, is that there are human rights issues in Bangladesh, and we should not be scared of raising them with the authorities in the proper way. Mr Speaker: Philip Hollobone Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): An EU-wide agreement on prisoner transfers comes into force this month, which will enable the UK to repatriate to jails in their own country any EU nationals imprisoned here. Given that some 13% of our prison population is made up of foreign nationals, will the Prime Minister ensure that our EU partners stick to these new rules and take their criminals back? The Prime Minister: If my hon. Friend, with his strong views, is asking a question about a successful EU scheme, it really must be Christmas, so his question is very welcome. He is absolutely right: 13% of our prison spaces are taken up by foreign nationals. That is hugely expensive, and the EU-wide agreement gives us a great opportunity to return people to their national prisons and save money at the same time. Mr Speaker: Mr Bob Ainsworth. Mr Bob Ainsworth (Coventry North East) (Lab): Is freezing the pay of young privates and corporals while they are fighting in Afghanistan, without reference to the Armed Forces Pay Review Body, a breach of the military covenant? The Prime Minister: It is this Government who doubled the operational allowance, which is the best way to get money to the privates and the corporals in Afghanistan who are doing such a good job. The operational allowance, being a flat cash sum, is of disproportionate benefit to relatively low-paid people in the armed forces, whereas obviously a percentage increase would mean more money for the generals, the colonels and the brigadiers, rather than for the people on the front line. Looking at the operational allowance is crucial, but this Government have not just done that. We have extended the pupil premium to forces children, we have increased the council tax rebates for those who are serving, and for the first time we have written the military covenant into the law of our land. Mr Speaker: Chris Kelly. Chris Kelly (Dudley South) (Con): I commend my right hon. Friend for protecting our national interest by exercising the veto last Friday. The people of Dudley South thank him for it. The deal that he vetoed commits eurozone members to restricting structural deficits to below 0.5% of GDP. Did the Prime Minister appreciate that this is 16 times the UK structural deficit left by Labour? The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend makes a good point, which is perhaps why the leader of the Labour party is struggling so much to tell us what his view is on the proposed treaty. On one hand he wants to join the euro, if he is Prime Minister for long enough, and on the other hand he wants to sign a treatyâ€”[ Interruption. ] That is rubbish? He does not want to be Prime Minister for long enough! He wants to join the euro, he wants a deal with very tough budget deficit limits, and he wants to increase spending, borrowing and debt. He tells us that he has a five-point plan, and I can sum it up in five words: â€œLet us bankrupt Britain again.â€? Mr Speaker: Thomas Docherty. Thomas Docherty (Dunfermline and West Fife) (Lab): Perhaps the Prime Minister could tell us why the Deputy Prime Minister did not support his position on Europe on Monday, and why not one single Liberal Democrat MP voted with the Prime Minister last night. The Prime Minister: Last night there was something of a parliamentary rarity: a motion tabled by an opposition party praising the Prime Minister. I am very grateful to colleagues in the Democratic Unionist party. I suspect that many people concluded that Labour simply would not get its act together and did not think that it was worth voting, and as a result we won very easily. Mr Speaker: Richard Dax. Richard Drax (South Dorset) (Con): I am sure that the whole House will join me in thanking a remarkable man who has served this country and this place with courage and distinction for nearly 50 years. Eddie McKay, who is in the Gallery right now, has been a Doorkeeper here for 23 years and retires on Tuesday. Before coming to this place he served with distinction with the Scots Guards, leaving after 23 years of service as a senior warrant officer. In the Household Division, you are not promoted to drill sergeant unless you are exceptional. He saw action on Tumbledown mountain during the Falklands war in 1982. His company, G company, 2nd Battalion Scots Guards, led that successful and audacious night assault. May I ask the Prime Minister, on behalf of us all, to wish Drill Sergeant Eddie McKay a happy retirement and a happy Christmas? The Prime Minister: I thank my hon. Friend for raising this issue and, on behalf of the whole House, very much thank Eddie for his incredible service. I think that in this House we sometimes take for granted the people who work so hard to keep it working and keep it going, and I sometimes wonder what they think of all the antics we get up to in this House. We are incredibly grateful that he, after the incredible service he gave our nation, came here and worked so hard for so many years. We are all in his debt, and send him good wishes for his retirement. Mr Speaker: Kevin Barron. Mr Kevin Barron (Rother Valley) (Lab): Youth unemployment figures published this morning show that in the last quarter, 22% of 16 to 24-year-old economically active citizens are unemployed—an increase of 1.2% on the previous quarter. The Prime Minister ranted earlier in Question Time about what the Government are doing about youth unemployment in this country. Can he tell us why it is increasing? The Prime Minister: Every increase in youth unemployment is unacceptable— Hon. Members erupt into noise - Interruption. I will tell the House exactly what is happening. The number of 16 to 18-year-old young people not in employment, education or training is actually going down, but the problem, as the hon. Gentleman rightly says, is that 18 to 24-year-olds are finding the job market extremely difficult. Hon. Members: “Why?” The reason why unemployment is going up is that we are losing jobs in the public sector and not growing them fast enough in the private sector, so we need to do everything we can to get our economy moving. The absolute key to that is keeping our interest rates low. We now have interest rates down to 2%. If we followed his party’s policy of extra spending, extra borrowing and extra debt, interest rates would go up, more businesses would go under and we would not get our economy moving. Mr Speaker: George Eustice. George Eustice (Camborne and Redruth) (Con): Many Members will have encountered examples of banks using the threat of receivership to extract new charges and higher interest rates from their business customers. Does the Prime Minister agree that it is wrong for banks to use what is effectively an extortionate bargaining position in this way, and will he agree to meet me to discuss some of the proposals I have outlined to limit the power of receivers and require banks to obtain a possession order before selling up small businesses? The Prime Minister: I am very happy to meet my hon. Friend about this issue. It is vital that we not only get our banks lending properly, and lending to small businesses, but ensure that they behave in an ethical and proper way as they do so. We are addressing the first issueâ€”the quantity of lendingâ€”through the national loan guarantee scheme and the other credit-easing measures that the Chancellor set out in the autumn statement, but we also need to ensure that the practices that the banks follow are fair, and seen to be fair. They have an interest in making sure that small businesses are in good health, and they need to follow those sorts of procedures to ensure that that happens. Mr Speaker: Russell Brown. Mr Russell Brown (Dumfries and Galloway) (Lab): Youth unemployment in Dumfries and Galloway has risen by 65% over the past 12 months, and with the British Retail Consortium indicating that almost one in three jobs there are filled by under-25s, does the Prime Minister recognise that the predicted squeeze on the retail sector will only increase the chances of youth unemployment increasing across the entire country? The Prime Minister: The thing that would put the biggest squeeze on the retail sector is interest rates going up. Just one percentage point increase in interest rates would see the typical family lose ÂŁ1,000 a year through extra mortgage payments. Everybody knows we are in a difficult economic situation and we have to take difficult decisions, as there is effectively a freeze across the eurozone, but the most important thing is to keep those interest rates low, so that people have money in their pockets and we can see some good retail recovery. Mr Speaker: David Rutley. David Rutley (Macclesfield) (Con): East Cheshire hospice and many other hospices across the country run Christmas tree collection services that help many families to recycle their Christmas trees in an environmentally sensitive way. Will the Prime Minister join me in this festive season in supporting the great work that such charities do in collecting trees to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds for the important work of our hospices? The Prime Minister: I certainly join my hon. Friend, at this time of year, particularly, in praising the amazing work that hospices do. Many hospices do not receive a huge amount of Government funding, and they have to be very ingenious about how they raise money from people up and down the country. Collecting and recycling Christmas trees so that we do not just leave them outside the house but do this thing properly is an excellent idea. I am sure that the whole House will want to join me in praising the work that hospices do, particularly at Christmas time. Mr Speaker: John Cryer. John Cryer (Leyton and Wanstead) (Lab): For the past 18 months the Prime Minister has been promising legislation to create a register of lobbyists, but nothing has happened so far. Will he give us a publication date for a consultation paper leading to legislationâ€”or could he take on my ten-minute rule Bill, which is already published? I am a generous sort of bloke, so he can have it now and get it on to the statute book. The Prime Minister: I am a generous sort of bloke too, so I can tell the hon. Gentleman that the lobbying proposals will be published within the next monthâ€”so this Government will have moved faster in 18 months than the previous Government did in 13 years. Mr Speaker: Adrian Sanders. Mr Adrian Sanders (Torbay) (LD): The Prime Minister will have seen the news this morning of the study on the excess deaths of people with diabetes—unnecessary deaths, if the condition is treated correctly. The national service framework for diabetes comes to an end in 2013. Will the Prime Minister look at NSFs as a way of meeting the challenges in the health service and the health service budget, and helping people with diabetes? The Prime Minister: I am very happy to look at the national service frameworks, as the hon. Gentleman suggests. The key issue with diabetes is that we need to raise the profile of the condition, because many people have it and do not know they have it— but also to look at the public health issues, because the explosion in diabetes is partly due to bad diet and obesity in childhood. We need to address those issues; otherwise we are always going to be dealing with the disease rather than trying to prevent it. Several hon. Members rise. Mr Speaker: I am in a generous mood too, and it is always a delight to listen to my colleagues, so we will have a little more. Ann McGuire. Mrs Anne McGuire (Stirling) (Lab): Earlier this week in the other place, the coalition Government voted down, by a majority of two, a proposal to protect the benefits of disabled children. Is reducing benefits for disabled children by over £1,300 a year something that reflects the Prime Minister’s often repeated mantra that we are all in this together? The Prime Minister: First of all, we are not cutting benefits for disabled children. Actually, we are uprating all those benefits by 5.2%, so people will see an increase in the benefits that they receive next year. Mr Speaker: Last, but never forgotten, Mr Brian Binley. Mr Brian Binley (Northampton South) (Con): The Prime Minister will be aware that capacity levels on the west coast main line are intolerable and getting worse. Does he share the concerns of rail users that delays to High Speed 2 will only make their journeys more unpleasant? Will he provide the assurance that they seek about the future that he promised them? The Prime Minister: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that question. Clearly the country has a choice. Because the west coast main line is as congested as it is, we need to replace it with either a traditional line or a high-speed line. It is well known that the Governmentâ€™s view is that a high-speed line is the right answer. That is why the consultation has been conducted. Not only will it be good for people who use the west coast main line; it will be a successful regional policy that will link up our great cities, shrink the size of our country and ensure that all parts of the country can enjoy economic prosperity and growth. Mr Speaker: I appeal to right hon. Members who are leaving the Chamber to do so quickly and quietly so that we can all listen attentively to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairsâ€”preferably facing the House or the Chair.