My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has given notice of a previous commitment that keeps him from the House today. In his absence, I should like to announce the business for the coming weeks, as follows:
Monday 10 July—A debate on the BBC on a Government motion.
Tuesday 11 July—A debate on the Intelligence and Security Committee annual report 2005-06 on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.
Wednesday 12 July—Opposition Day [18th Allotted Day]. There will be a debate on home information packs, followed by a debate on progress towards the millennium development goals. Both debates will arise on an Opposition motion.
Thursday 13 July—Remaining stages of the NHS Redress Bill [Lords].
Friday 14 July—Private Members’ Bills.
The provisional business for the following week will be:
Monday 17 July—Remaining stages of the Compensation Bill [Lords].
Tuesday 18 July—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Health Bill, followed by consideration of Lords amendments to the Government of Wales Bill, followed by motion to take note of the outstanding reports of the Public Accounts Committee to which the Government have replied. Details will be given in the Official Report.
Wednesday 19 July—Opposition Day [19th Allotted Day]. There will be a debate on an Opposition motion in the name of the Liberal Democrats. Subject to be announced.
Thursday 20 July—Remaining stages of the Commissioner for Older People (Wales) Bill [Lords], followed by a debate on international development on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.
Friday 21 July—The House will not be sitting.
I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for 20 July will be:
Thursday 20 July—A debate on boundaries, voting and representation in Scotland.
The information regarding business on Tuesday 18 July is as follows:
The following reports fall within the scope of the motion
2005-06 Fourth Report Fraud and error in benefit expenditure HC 411 (Cm 6728) Seventh Report The use of operating theatres in the Northern Ireland Health and Personal Social Services HC 414 (Cm 6699) Eighth Report Navan Centre HC 415 (Cm 6699) Ninth Report Foot and Mouth Disease: applying the lessons HC 563 (Cm 6728) Twelfth Report Helping those in financial hardship: the running of the Social Fund HC 601 (Cm 6728) Thirteenth Report The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Tackling homelessness HC 653 (Cm 6743) Fourteenth Report Energywatch and Postwatch HC 654 (Cm 6743) Fifteenth Report HM Customs and Excise Standard Report 2003–04 HC 695 (Cm 6743) Sixteenth Report Home Office: Reducing vehicle crime HC 696 (Cm 6743) Seventeenth Report Achieving value for money in the delivery of public services HC 742 (Cm 6743) Eighteenth Report Department for Education and Skills: Improving school attendance in England HC 789 (Cm 6766) Nineteenth Report Department of Health: Tackling cancer: improving the patient journey HC 790 (Cm 6766) Twentieth Report The NHS Cancer Plan: a progress report HC 791 (Cm 6766) Twenty-first Report Skills for Life: Improving adult literacy and numeracy HC 792 (Cm 6766) Twenty-second Report Maintaining and improving Britain’s railway stations HC 535 (Cm 6775) Twenty-third Report Filing of income tax self assessment returns HC 681 (Cm 6775) Twenty-fourth Report The BBC’s White City 2 development HC 652 (Second Special Report, HC 1139, 2005-06) Twenty-fifth Report Securing strategic leadership in the learning and skills sector HC 602 (Cm 6775) Twenty-sixth Report Assessing and reporting military readiness HC 667 (Cm 6775) Twenty-seventh Report Lost in translation? Responding to the challenges of European law HC 590 (Cm 6775) Twenty-eighth Report Extending access to learning through technology: Ufi and the learndirect service HC 706 (Cm 6775) Twenty-ninth Report Excess Votes 2004–05 HC 916 (N/A) Thirtieth Report Excess Votes (Northern Ireland) 2004–05 HC 917 (N/A) Thirty-first Report Northern Ireland’s Waste Management Strategy HC 741 (Cm 6843) Thirty-second Report Working with the voluntary sector HC 717 (Cm 6789) Thirty-third Report The Royal Parks and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain HC 644 (Cm 6789) Thirty-fourth Report Returning failed asylum applicants HC 620 (Cm 6863) Thirty-fifth Report The refinancing of the Norfolk and Norwich PFI Hospital HC 694 (Cm ????) Thirty-sixth Report Tackling the complexity of the benefits system HC 765 (Cm 6863) Thirty-seventh Report Inland Revenue Standard Report: New Tax Credits HC 782 (Cm 6863) Thirty-eighth Report Channel Tunnel Rail Link HC 727 (Cm 6863) Thirty-ninth Report Consular services to British nationals HC 813 (Cm 6863) Fortieth Report Environment Agency: Efficiency in water resource management HC 749 (Cm ????) Forty-first Report The South Eastern Passenger Rail Franchise HC 770 (Cm ????) Forty-second Report Enforcing competition in markets HC 841 (Cm ????)
Fraud and error in benefit expenditure
HC 411 (Cm 6728)
The use of operating theatres in the Northern Ireland Health and Personal Social Services
HC 414 (Cm 6699)
HC 415 (Cm 6699)
Foot and Mouth Disease: applying the lessons
HC 563 (Cm 6728)
Helping those in financial hardship: the running of the Social Fund
HC 601 (Cm 6728)
The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Tackling homelessness
HC 653 (Cm 6743)
Energywatch and Postwatch
HC 654 (Cm 6743)
HM Customs and Excise Standard Report 2003–04
HC 695 (Cm 6743)
Home Office: Reducing vehicle crime
HC 696 (Cm 6743)
Achieving value for money in the delivery of public services
HC 742 (Cm 6743)
Department for Education and Skills: Improving school attendance in England
HC 789 (Cm 6766)
Department of Health: Tackling cancer: improving the patient journey
HC 790 (Cm 6766)
The NHS Cancer Plan: a progress report
HC 791 (Cm 6766)
Skills for Life: Improving adult literacy and numeracy
HC 792 (Cm 6766)
Maintaining and improving Britain’s railway stations
HC 535 (Cm 6775)
Filing of income tax self assessment returns
HC 681 (Cm 6775)
The BBC’s White City 2 development
HC 652 (Second Special Report, HC 1139, 2005-06)
Securing strategic leadership in the learning and skills sector
HC 602 (Cm 6775)
Assessing and reporting military readiness
HC 667 (Cm 6775)
Lost in translation? Responding to the challenges of European law
HC 590 (Cm 6775)
Extending access to learning through technology: Ufi and the learndirect service
HC 706 (Cm 6775)
Excess Votes 2004–05
HC 916 (N/A)
Excess Votes (Northern Ireland) 2004–05
HC 917 (N/A)
Northern Ireland’s Waste Management Strategy
HC 741 (Cm 6843)
Working with the voluntary sector
HC 717 (Cm 6789)
The Royal Parks and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain
HC 644 (Cm 6789)
Returning failed asylum applicants
HC 620 (Cm 6863)
The refinancing of the Norfolk and Norwich PFI Hospital
HC 694 (Cm ????)
Tackling the complexity of the benefits system
HC 765 (Cm 6863)
Inland Revenue Standard Report: New Tax Credits
HC 782 (Cm 6863)
Channel Tunnel Rail Link
HC 727 (Cm 6863)
Consular services to British nationals
HC 813 (Cm 6863)
Environment Agency: Efficiency in water resource management
HC 749 (Cm ????)
The South Eastern Passenger Rail Franchise
HC 770 (Cm ????)
Enforcing competition in markets
HC 841 (Cm ????)
The reference number of the Treasury minute to each report is printed in brackets after the HC printing number.
I thank the Deputy Leader of the House for giving us the business for the coming fortnight.
At business questions last week, I noted that Monday’s BBC debate was taking place the day before the BBC’s annual report was due to be published. I am pleased that the Leader of the House has acted on that, although he has chosen to change not the date of the debate but the publication date of the BBC’s annual report. I understand that that will now come out this Friday, but I am grateful for the action that has been taken.
I am sure that the Deputy Leader of the House will have noted the vote in Standing Committee this morning that has changed the Company Law Reform Bill into the Companies Bill. Interestingly, the Minister for Industry and the Regions and the Solicitor-General took different sides in the vote. It is good to see that the Government know what they are doing. A more serious point is that there are to be 400 new clauses to the Bill. They have yet to be tabled and the Government have refused to allow the Committee time to consider them. Will the Deputy Leader of the House ensure that there is enough time on Report to discuss those significant changes?
The forthcoming business made no mention of the Road Safety Bill, which left Committee in April. The need for the Bill is recognised and it has broad cross-party support. Why are the Government dragging their feet when it comes to completing its passage through the House?
Today, the Select Committee on Education and Skills published its report on special educational needs. It refers to the 2004 SEN strategy “Removing Barriers to Achievement”, which sets out the Government’s vision on SEN. The Select Committee notes that the guidance given to local authorities states “unmistakably” that
“the proportion of children educated in special schools should fall over time”.
In evidence to the Committee, however, the Education Minister Lord Adonis said that the Government
“have no policy whatever, I should stress, of encouraging local authorities to close special schools”.
The Select Committee goes on to say:
“What is urgently needed is for the Government to clarify its position on SEN—specifically on inclusion…It is the view of this Committee that…the SEN system is demonstrably no longer fit for purpose and there is a need for the Government to develop a new system that puts the needs of the child at the centre of provision.”
May we therefore have a statement from the Education Secretary before the recess, clarifying the Government’s policy on SEN?
Yesterday, another British soldier was killed in Afghanistan. I am sure that hon. Members from all parties will join me in sending condolences and sympathy to his family. May we have a statement before 24 July—from the Defence Secretary, and not a junior Minister—on any planned increase in the deployment of troops and/or equipment in Afghanistan?
Yesterday, the Secretary of State for Health announced funding for community hospitals. She somehow omitted to mention the 81 community hospitals that have closed, or which are threatened by closure or the loss of services. Examples are St. Marks in Maidenhead, which may lose services, and Townlands in Henley, which is under threat of closure. Both those hospitals serve my constituents. She said at Hansard, column 817, that primary care trusts might want to extend their local investment finance trust schemes, known as LIFT schemes. Did she not know that the Public Accounts Committee said that LIFT projects cost eight times more per patient than the accommodation they replace, and that the higher cost could squeeze out other spending on primary care? May we have a debate on community hospitals?
By the way, do not the Government realise that it is all very well giving money to build new premises, but the problem for the health service today is finding the money to staff them and to treat patients? The Government get more like a “Yes, Minister” sketch every day. Talking of which, up to now, Ministers have told us that we should not talk about job cuts in the NHS, yet today the Health Minister, Lord Warner, has written to Members and his opening sentence is:
“I wrote to you in May clarifying the position on job cuts within the National Health Service.”
Perhaps all Ministers could use the same language in future.
May we have a debate on control of policing? The Government are apparently to set up a national policing board chaired by the Home Secretary. Exactly how do they think policing will be improved by putting it under the control of the Home Office—the very Department that the Home Secretary has said is dysfunctional and not fit for purpose?
Finally, last week in business questions, the Leader of the House said that we had
“squandered some Opposition days on the most eccentric subjects”—[Official Report, 29 June 2006; Vol. 448, c. 390.]
Since the new Leader of the House took office, we have had Opposition day debates on the BBC, housing and planning policy, tax credits, volunteers and carers and the NHS. Which of those subjects does the right hon. Gentleman consider eccentric? Or is it just that on the health service, the work of carers or problems with tax credits the Government simply do not want to know?
I thank the right hon. Member for being as predictable as ever.
The whole House will want to express its condolences to the family of the brave soldier who was tragically killed yesterday in Afghanistan. As the Prime Minister made clear to the House yesterday, commanders on the ground are the judges of their resources. Anything they need and ask for to protect our troops will be given to them.
The large number of clauses for the Companies Bill results from the fact that it is a consolidating measure, and I thank the Opposition for their general support in respect of that. I am sure that there will be adequate time on Report to cover any outstanding issues. The Bill is important and its time is ripe.
We are determined to get the Road Safety Bill right. I hope that we can count on the support of all Members of the House for some of the key measures that have been taken, such as speed cameras and speed humps, where appropriate, and other devices, which in my constituency in Edinburgh and the borders have resulted in no child deaths for the past three years. For the first time since records began in 1927, no children have been killed. I shall look with confidence to support from all the Opposition parties for appropriate road safety measures.
I commend the work of the Select Committee on Education and Skills, which reported today on special educational needs. It is important to reflect that, in recent years, spending on such children has risen by 50 per cent., from just under £3 billion to £4.5 billion. I hope that the right hon. Member and the House will forgive me for saying that it may take a little longer than the two weeks or so available to us for the Government to formulate a considered response to the report, but we shall make an appropriate response and I am sure that there will be ample opportunity for the House to discuss it.
As the right hon. Member knows, a major review of policing is being undertaken. It is right that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is considering the best way of making police forces more effective and making the input and experience of the police more effective in formulating Government policy. It is also right that we ensure that the best practice of the best police authorities is extended to others.
The right hon. Member mentioned community hospitals, but she neglected to say that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health yesterday announced £750 million as an investment for those community hospitals. The right hon. Member also voiced her concerns about falling hospital numbers, but my right hon. Friend would want me to remind the right hon. Member that, in her strategic health authority, there has been a 22 per cent. increase in the number of nurses—up by more than 2,700—and there are 1,418 more doctors, a 40 per cent. increase. I am sorry that she is not absorbing those facts.
As for the Opposition days that the right hon. Member wanted to defend, hon. Members believed that there were more serious issues than back gardens and one or two of the other things that have been chosen for Opposition days. Indeed, I await with interest the many suggestions that will come in the next few minutes from hon. Members for important debates that should be held, and I hope that I will be able to suggest an adequate slot for them.
Is my hon. Friend aware of the serious concerns in my constituency about the fate of the George Eliot hospital? [Hon. Members: “Ah.”] No, it is not the Government; they have poured a great deal of money into the health service in my area and we are grateful to them for that. However, the acute services review is suggesting that things should happen at that hospital that will be bad not only for my community, but the communities around us. All the people who have made those suggestions are unelected quango people. May we have a debate to talk about not only how the acute services review affects Nuneaton and other areas, but how those non-elected people can bear down on our constituents?
I share the concerns expressed by my hon. Friend and, as he rightly said, it is for the primary care trust to take account of local views and strategic needs locally and to take appropriate actions. I hope that the PCT listens to the sort of concerns that he and others are enumerating and that it takes whatever action is appropriate to ensure that the 3,000 more front-line staff available to the strategic health authority are best deployed to ensure that waiting lists are cut further and that the most appropriate treatment is given in the most efficient manner to his constituents.
Many of my constituents will be surprised by the hon. Gentleman’s disparaging remarks about back garden land, not least because many of them find it hard to understand how the Government have designated back gardens as brownfield sites, thus making them ripe for development.
The statement contained no reference to the Welfare Reform Bill. Is it still the Government’s intention it should have a Second Reading before the summer recess? Given that the Government intend to leave most of its detail to regulations, will the hon. Gentleman ask the Leader of the House to use his good offices to ensure that, if it receives a Second Reading, the regulations are published in draft form before the Bill is debated in Committee?
May I draw the attention of the Deputy Leader of the House to early-day motion 393, entitled “Protecting Runaway Children”, which has been signed by 394 hon. Members on both sides of the House?
[That this House warmly welcomes the Children’s Society’s Safe and Sound campaign to make England safe for the 100,000 children who run away from home or care each year; is alarmed at the Society’s findings that almost half of all children who have run away for over a week are physically or sexually hurt; calls on all local authorities to put into place the safeguards recommended by the Department of Health to protect young runaways; and further calls on the Government to undertake an early evaluation of the six pilot schemes for flexible community-based accommodation for young runaways across England which have now completed their first year, in order that the lessons can be incorporated in the swift establishment of a national network of safe places for children and young people.]
May we have some time to debate the issues that that early-day motion covers, to explore what more needs to be done to safeguard the welfare of the 100,000 children who run away each year—in particular, by securing for them long-term funding for a national network of safe shelters for children and young people?
Given the concern about the lack of give and take in our extradition arrangements with the United States, can time be made for a debate on Second Reading of the Extradition (United States) Bill, which receives its First Reading today and is promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Clegg), so that extradition proceedings require the presentation of prima facie evidence to a judge before a person can be extradited to the US?
Finally, given the overwhelming decision of the House yesterday to agree to the dates of our summer recess, can the Deputy Leader of the House confirm what arrangements are in place to ensure a rapid recall of the House if events require that to happen?
The Welfare Reform Bill will be adequately debated and considered. I appreciate the concerns and the expertise that the hon. Member brings to the issue. There are hon. Members on both sides of the House who take a particular interest in welfare reform. It is important that we get the measures right and that we give opportunities to people who feel that they are not only jobless, but excluded from the job market, to enter that market in an appropriate way.
Protecting runaway children is vital. I am sorry that I cannot promise a debate on that matter here before the recess, but there may be other avenues for it to be debated and for Ministers to respond.
On extradition, the Prime Minister has made it clear that, as he said yesterday, he wants his officials to investigate the support that is available to the people in the specific case that has been mentioned. However, there are no plans at present to amend our extradition laws and I do not see such changes planned in the foreseeable future.
The hon. Member also raised the important issue of the recall of Parliament. There are precedents for recalling Parliament, as he will know. Parliament has been recalled several times. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will, of course, liaise with his opposite numbers and Mr. Speaker should such a demand or eventuality occur, and Parliament would be recalled in the normal way.
As we recall again this week the 52 people who were murdered and the many who were seriously injured on 7 July, will my hon. Friend carefully consider a statement to explain why there is so much delay in compensation being given—the final sums—to those who were most seriously injured? I am talking about those who lost both legs, or arms, or, in the case of one person, both legs and an eye. Is it not totally unacceptable that there should be so much delay, bearing in mind the anguish of the people involved? The last thing that they should be concerned about is having to fill in endless forms to get the compensation that is their right. That has nothing to do with the compensation measure that is to be debated the week after next. I seriously urge Ministers to give this matter top priority.
I know that everyone will be grateful to my hon. Friend and other hon. Members for highlighting this case. I know that the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Sutcliffe) responded, I hope sympathetically, to my hon. Friend when he raised the matter in an Adjournment debate on 3 July. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary also undertook to write to him setting out how the compensation payments could be made more speedily and reminded the House that, at that stage, 370 awards, totalling £2.3 million had been made, and in 217 cases a final award had been accepted. I appreciate the anguish that is caused by people having to wait for a final settlement, and so does my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, who is addressing the issue seriously.
The Leader of the House has been charged by the Prime Minister with two sensitive and important tasks: dealing with the roadblocks to House of Lords reform and with party funding. Safe in the knowledge that his boss is not here, will the Deputy Leader of the House give me an assurance that, before the House rises, the Leader of the House will make a statement on the progress that he has made with both tasks?
I can tell the right hon. Member that my right hon. Friend will be here next week to answer that. There are no plans at present to give such a statement, because talks with the Opposition and other parties have not reached any conclusion and it might be premature to make a statement on party funding at this stage. There will, of course, be ample time to debate and deliberate on this issue when the report from Sir Hayden Phillips is published.
On the House of Lords, I am pleased to inform the House that my right hon. Friend is making progress in the range of options that are available to the House and hopes at some stage in the not-too-distant future to be able to put proposals before the House. I hope that, unlike the last time such proposals went before the House, we come to a majority view on the future composition of that institution.
Will my hon. Friend join me in welcoming the statement by the Secretary of State for Transport today giving an extra £244 million to the Greater Manchester passenger transport executive to enable it to start the construction of the extensions of the Metrolink within the next two years? Will he make time for a debate on other transport issues in Greater Manchester?
I do welcome that and I know that it will be widely welcomed in Manchester. Although I cannot give an undertaking for a debate, I know that my hon. Friend will want to take the opportunity at Transport questions next Tuesday to thank my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in person and to press him on the timetable and other issues that concern her.
May we have a statement from the Prime Minister to explain his interview in The Times today calling for the formation of a Great Britain football team? Is it the Prime Minister’s wish to have such a team just for the Olympics or does he wish, like previous Labour Ministers, to abolish the Scottish football team altogether? With so much to do and so little time in which to do it, why is the Prime Minister attempting to bully the Scottish Football Association and the Welsh authorities into doing something that they believe would jeopardise their position in international football?
The hon. Member leads me into the Scottish minefield. He will forgive me if I tread delicately through it—suffice to say that I did enjoy going, at my own expense, to see Scotland play Italy earlier this year, when they acquitted themselves very well. I have no hesitation in saying that I deeply regret England’s loss in the World cup. As for whether there should be a United Kingdom football team, or, I suppose, a British Lions team—a British Lions team does not in any way threaten the individual states having teams playing rugby—that is a matter for FIFA and for the Scottish federations, too.
May we have an emergency debate on the political crisis that is gripping Leicester city council following the decision of the leader of the Conservative group to regard himself as a Liberal Democrat? He told the Leicester Mercury last night:
“I am to be considered a member of the Liberal Democrat group”
for the purposes of voting. He is also considering himself to be a member of the Conservative group for the purposes of leading that group. At the same time, several Liberal Democrats have now been expelled from the Liberal Democrat group and have formed their own “Focus” group. May we please have an urgent debate on this important matter so that those issues can be cleared up once and for all?
I would like to have an urgent debate, but, more importantly, I would like to have an urgent vote. I understand that the electors will be able to vote next year. Doubtless they will look at the chaos in the Liberal Democrat and Conservative groups on that council and choose to vote Labour.
Despite the answer given to my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May), it is essential that we have a debate on the future of community hospitals. I have two in my constituency, in Swaffham and Thetford, and I am extremely concerned about their ability to cope with local needs as the acute hospitals in King’s Lynn, Norwich and the eastern region face cutbacks. The Secretary of State for Health has promised that community hospitals will be safeguarded, but there is little evidence that that promise will be fulfilled.
I regret that I do not believe that there will be Government time for a debate, but I urge the hon. Member to make representations to Opposition Front-Bench Members to see whether one of the subjects that they have chosen for debate—perhaps home information packs—might be delayed in order to debate what he rightly considers an important issue.
Four people were killed and 102 were injured in the Hatfield rail disaster. Subsequently, Railtrack was fined the derisory sum of £3.5 million and Balfour Beatty the token amount of £10 million. Is the Deputy Leader of the House as shocked and astonished as I am that the Appeal Court yesterday reduced Balfour Beatty’s fine by 25 per cent. on the basis that it pleaded guilty at the court hearing? Does that not show that a privatised rail system elevates profit above the safety of passengers and staff? Will he arrange a debate on the whole debacle, which might also allow us to consider the possibilities of returning the rail system to public ownership and introducing a law whereby company directors could be jailed for encouraging their more junior managers to abandon safety in the pursuit of profit?
Without commenting on the individual case, may I say that there is concern that there are not appropriate sanctions against the tiny minority of directors who are highly irresponsible? The Government have been considering appropriate legislation, or the appropriate strengthening of existing legislation, to take account of the concerns that my hon. Friend voices.
This morning, I have been struck once again, as no doubt you have, Mr. Speaker, by Members’ eloquence. However, communicating is not so straightforward for many people with disabilities such as cerebral palsy. Those afflicted thought that they were finally getting the help that they needed when the Department for Education and Skills launched the communications aid project in 2002 to provide technology and support to more than 4,000 children. However, only this year, the scheme was suddenly dropped, cruelly leaving 500 children on the waiting list. The House deserves a statement that makes clear what steps the Government plan to take to ensure that local health and social care agencies are meeting vulnerable children’s communication needs. We must listen and speak for those who cannot.
I take the hon. Member’s comments very seriously. Although I cannot promise a statement, I will make sure that the Secretary of State for Health responds directly to him on that issue. I will ask her to place a copy of the correspondence in the Library.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that point. I am sure that his concerns are widespread throughout the House. The United Nations Security Council met yesterday. The UK supports urgent action and the adoption of a tough resolution that urges the Government of North Korea to refrain from further launches and return to the six-party talks immediately. I hope that the North Korean Government will respond to the UN Security Council and the unanimous condemnation of the actions that they have taken.
Now that London has a dedicated policing team of six front-line officers for each local authority ward, will the Deputy Leader of the House find time for a debate on rolling out that excellent scheme to the rest of the country so that residents in Cheadle and elsewhere can enjoy genuine community policing, more bobbies on the beat and the high-visibility policing for which areas such as mine are crying out?
Obviously, that was a manifesto commitment by the Labour Government, so I am glad that it is being carried out. Additional policing has been provided in some areas without the support of Liberal Democrats, I am sorry to say. I can give the hon. Member chapter and verse on that. It is certainly true that Liberal Democrats in Edinburgh voted against funding 32 extra police officers. Setting aside the party political points, I know that people want to ensure that the 14,000 extra police who have been funded since 1997 are visible in the community and are carrying out work. I will ensure that the Home Secretary is made aware of the hon. Member’s comments and question.
When may we have a debate on the future use of reservoirs that are allegedly no longer needed for their water supply? In Cardiff, North, Western Power Distribution is planning to concrete over part of the Llanishen reservoir, despite huge public opposition and the fact that a site of special scientific interest has been identified. There is also a successful yachting club on the reservoir. The area has been a beauty spot for many years, but that is being replaced by spiked metal poles and barking Alsatians. When may we have a debate about such changes?
Obviously, the appropriate body with which to raise that is the Welsh Assembly Government—I am sure that my hon. Friend has done that, too. It is important that the amenity of local areas is taken properly and fully into account when reaching such decisions. I will ensure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is made aware of general concerns about the possible loss of the use of reservoirs, which sounds somewhat paradoxical at a time of water shortages.
Although the Deputy Leader of the House appears to believe that debating house building is frivolous, may we have a debate on the implications for the house-building targets that are being imposed on our local authorities of the level of net immigration into this country? Ministers have made 17 statements to the House about house building over the years, but they have not discussed or quantified the implications of net immigration for those house-building targets in any of them. In the light of the remarks of the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) that we neglect these issues at our peril, should there not be an opportunity for those of us who believe that immigrants are decent, hard-working and loyal members of the community none the less to consider rationally and calmly whether the implications of the current level of immigration for house building in the most densely populated major country in Europe are acceptable?
I believe that the right hon. Member is wrong. There has been ample opportunity to discuss the subject in previous debates, although the issue was perhaps not such a hot topic then because it was not being linked to immigration. I do not believe that immigration is a major driver behind the need for more housing. The break-up of marriage, the smaller family unit, the fact that people are delaying getting married or forming relationships until their 30s and 40s and the fact that a vast number of people now choose to live singly because they like that lifestyle make a far bigger contribution to demand on housing and the shortage of housing than immigration. I would welcome a debate on the subject.
May I draw my hon. Friend’s attention to early-day motion 2145, which is in my name, on labour rights in Iraq?
[That this House applauds the recent Labour Friends of Iraq (LFIQ) delegation to Erbil and Sulamaniyah to meet unions, parties, and ministers from Iraqi Kurdistan as well as 22 union leaders from Baghdad, Basra and Babel; is concerned that Iraqi Ministers, through Decree 8750 of August 2005, have frozen the monies of unions including those affiliated to the Iraqi Workers' Federation, leaving organisations which represent up to a million Iraqis and which are the bedrock of a non-sectarian civil society unable to organise and play a positive role in both the workplace and in wider society; fears that some may create sectarian client unions; urges the British Government to make representations to the Iraqi government to lift Decree 8750 and the continuing ban, first introduced in 1987 by Saddam Hussein, on public sector trade union organisation; is concerned that this ban is the basis of hostile actions against the Port Workers' Union in Khour Al-Zubeir; further notes that the LFIQ delegation was told repeatedly by union leaders and others of the potential of private foreign investment in Iraqi Kurdistan, whose Parliament is keen to encourage investment, not least in tourism and mineral extraction; and believes that those concerned for Iraqi democracy should heed the call of the Iraqi unions for urgent assistance to retrieve their independence and to increase their power as a social partner in reconstructing Iraq, which has long been isolated from modern thinking and must contend with the enormous physical and psychological legacy of dictatorship, sanctions and war.]
May we have a debate about the ongoing injustice in Iraq of the so-called democratic Government continuing to deny rights to trade unions and to hold all trade union assets, in direct contravention of International Labour Organisation conventions?
The Government have made direct representations on the position of Iraqi trade unions and voiced similar concerns to those expressed by my hon. Friend. I know that he visited Iraq as part of a delegation and met Iraqi trade union leaders. I understand that that has been reciprocated and that they are here today—I hope to meet them later on with him. I hope to be able to assure them that we will continue to make representations on this issue. We firmly believe in the value of trade unions.
Last week, an education order that will have a far greater impact on education in Northern Ireland than the Education and Inspections Bill will have on education in England went through in a Committee Room upstairs after a paltry two-and-a-half hour debate. That caused immense anger in Northern Ireland. The order is opposed by the vast majority of people, and it might not be reversed, even if devolution were returned. Will the hon. Gentleman ensure that there will be an opportunity to debate the order properly in the House? Will he outline what plans he has to ensure that all Northern Ireland legislation is treated in the same way as the rest of UK legislation, rather than being fast-tracked through Orders in Council?
As the hon. Member knows, we have made detailed plans, and we hope that by 24 November the anger he mentions will be channelled to ensure that the Assembly reconvenes and undertakes that practical work. He objects to that work being undertaken by the House—with some justification, I am sure—so I look forward to his working with us to ensure that that reconvening comes about, and I urge all parties in the process to join us. I am sorry that he thinks that the debate was not adequate, but I shall certainly look at the issue and get back to him.
The Deputy Leader of the House will doubtless be aware that I have raised the issue of Remploy on a number of occasions, as it is very important to many of my constituents who are employed by the Remploy factory in Dundee, and it is emblematic of the general debates about the way in which we should help people with disabilities back into work. Bearing that in mind, will my hon. Friend use his good offices to ensure that when PricewaterhouseCoopers’ review of Remploy is published it will be accompanied by an oral ministerial statement so that right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House have the chance to question the relevant Minister?
Whether or not it is accompanied by an oral statement, I am sure that there will be a chance to question the Minister. Obviously, there are regular questions on work and pensions. The next such question time is on Monday, but I do not think that PWC will have reported by then. Once the report is available, I am sure that my hon. Friend will find a way to ask questions. If the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions makes an oral statement, my hon. Friend will have an opportunity to do so, but there will be other opportunities, too.
I am sure that the Deputy Leader of the House is aware that my hon. Friend the Member for East Devon (Mr. Swire), the shadow Culture, Media and Sport spokesman, has written to the Deputy Prime Minister to ask for the names of three civil servants who recently accompanied him to the ranch in Colorado. In his reply, however, the Deputy Prime Minister omitted the names. I hope that the Deputy Leader of the House believes that that information should be in the public domain, so what will he do next week to ensure that it is placed in the public domain?
May we have a debate on irresponsible and dangerous journalism? My hon. Friend will be aware that the BBC was rightly criticised this week for attempting to entrap young Scots, but may I point out, too, that The Sun recently described Scots as “Tartan Tosspots” and said that the answer to the West Lothian question was to build Hadrian’s wall higher. Even more worryingly, however, it celebrated the fact that Scots died younger than their English counterparts. If such comments were made about any other race or religion there would rightly be a public outcry. When the Prime Minister next meets Rupert Murdoch will he ask him whether that is The Sun’s official view?
I will not comment on any one paper, but I deplore any such statements, just as I deplore the anti-English tone set in recent weeks by much of the Scottish media. My hon. Friend makes an important point—newspaper editors pick on any one group at their peril. He mentioned a newspaper whose circulation, I am sure, has not recovered in Liverpool after its comments about Liverpudlians. I urge newspaper editors and hon. Members to be cautious in their use of language about any group, whether it be a minority group such as the Scots or a majority group such as the English.
The Deputy Leader of the House will be aware that one thing the Government are good at is exporting manufacturing jobs. Birmingham faces the loss of HP Sauce, and this week hundreds of job losses were announced in Cornwall, mainly as a result of energy prices. Trade unions and business are concerned about the energy penalty in the UK, so a debate is urgently needed. If we held such a debate after the recess, it would be too late to have an impact on the situation, so may we have an early debate on manufacturing, particularly in the light of the energy crisis?
The hon. Member may not have attended Trade and Industry questions, in which hon. Members asked about energy. My colleagues share those concerns, and they are working with energy producers on supply and pricing, which are important matters. In the past, British companies, in contrast to their foreign competitors, have benefited from low-cost contracts, but there is no doubt that recently they have been feeling the pressure. Of course, climate change prompts the question of the charges that we will impose on fuel and what impact that will have on business, but that is a subject for another debate.
As a native of east Yorkshire, may I welcome the Government’s efforts to commemorate the life and work of William Wilberforce, both in this country and in north America? Can we find parliamentary time to commemorate him—he was, after all, Member of Parliament for Hull—and would not such an occasion bring a smile to the face of one of the present Members of Parliament for Hull?
I wholly endorse what the hon. Member said about William Wilberforce. The issue has been raised by other hon. Members who share the hon. Gentleman’s views, and we are looking at an appropriate way to recognise a terrific champion of the oppressed and one of history’s great figures.
May I please reiterate the request by my right hon. Friend the shadow Leader of the House for a debate in Government time on the Floor of the House on special educational needs, in which I declare an interest as the father of a two-and-a-half-year-old boy who will almost certainly have such needs? Given the publication today of a report by the Select Committee on Education and Skills and, importantly, the widespread concern about the virtual omnipotence of local education authorities, which assess, decide, pay for and, more often than not, provide for those needs, is it not vital that we have an opportunity to air the issue in the Chamber and to decide a credible and attractive policy for some of the most vulnerable children in our community?
The programme before the summer recess is under considerable pressure, but we will do our best. I will consult my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, and tell him the views of the hon. Member and other hon. Members about the importance of the issue. May I say, too, that I am heartened that so many Members show such concern about this important issue?
May we have a debate on sentencing policy for very serious crimes? Such a debate would enable hon. Members on both sides of the House warmly to endorse the 28-year minimum sentence to be served by the vicious killers of Jody Dobrowski, who was murdered for no reason other than that he was a homosexual. That 28-year sentence will undoubtedly act as a deterrent. A debate would also give us an opportunity both to ask why murderers who kill people in exactly the same way as Mr. Dobrowski’s murderers do not have to serve anything like the same sentence and why that deterrent is not deemed necessary in such cases.
This is a serious issue. As I have said, I do not think that the pressures on the parliamentary programme will allow a debate before the recess, but I am sure that there will be an opportunity in the spillover or the new Session for a debate on this important issue, in which all hon. Members will want to take part.
It is helpful that the Deputy Leader of the House has put on the record the fact that the Government have been so long in office that they can dismiss people’s concerns about the loss of green space in our towns and cities as trivial or irrelevant. Our constituents, and some of his hon. Friend’s constituents, will be interested to discover that that is the case. However, can he say whether the Government Whips will object to my private Member’s Bill when it is debated next week, as they did last time?
No, I am not aware of the arrangements for that debate. I am sure that if the hon. Member has adequate support for his private Member’s Bill he will secure a closure, just as other hon. Members do. A measure of his support will be whether 100 Members are in the Chamber to secure that closure and the Bill’s progress.
Has the Deputy Leader of the House seen early-day motions 2445 and 2038 relating to access to inhaled insulin products for diabetics?
[That this House disagrees with the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence’s recent technology appraisal document which proposes the restriction of access to inhaled insulin products on the NHS to patients with ‘a proven injection phobia diagnosed by a psychiatrist or psychologist’; is concerned that diabetes sufferers often delay treatment for as long as four years due to a fear of injections, risking the complications of heart disease, blindness and kidney failure, a situation that will only be compounded by attaching the unfortunate stigma of mental illness to those with a phobia of needles; expresses concern at the additional workload that will be placed on already overstretched NHS psychiatric services; and believes that the judgement of expert clinicians should be trusted in managing each individual patient’s condition.]
As the hon. Gentleman knows, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence says that before people may have access to such products, there must be a letter from a psychiatrist or a psychologist stating that they have a phobia about needles. Some diabetics inject four or five times a day. This is surely a quality of life issue, not just a phobia about needles. May we have a statement from a Minister in the Department of Health to say that inhaled insulin products will be made widely available to any diabetic who wants access to them?
May we have an urgent debate on unemployment in Shropshire? Is the Deputy Leader of the House aware that today the Office for National Statistics confirmed to my office that between May 2005 and May 2006 unemployment in Shropshire rose by a whopping 30 per cent. and in The Wrekin parliamentary constituency by 32 per cent.? Does not that underline the importance of the Ministry of Defence giving the defence training review to RAF Cosford, thereby safeguarding 2,220 jobs and expanding jobs throughout Shropshire and the west midlands?
I have spent my political life condemning unemployment and fighting for more jobs, and, although there are 2.5 million more jobs since 1997, I obviously regret any job losses. No Government have done more than the present Government to ensure that people who do lose jobs, often for structural reasons in the economy, are re-employed, often in skilled jobs, and reskilled. That has happened time and again in community after community in Britain, so I am happy to ensure that the local Jobcentre Plus works with the hon. Gentleman and his constituents to look at the skills that they have and the opportunities that are available to ensure that that trend, which has given us more people in work than at any time in our history, continues.
I have noticed that the Government have slipped out a U-turn in a written statement today on Sunday trading. Will the Deputy Leader of the House urge the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to make an oral statement or even make time for a debate on the matter, or is the Government’s reluctance to debate the subject on the Floor of the House in any way linked to the fact that the constituents of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry are able to enjoy the benefits of deregulation of Sunday trading, yet are depriving my constituents and people in England generally of the same opportunity to work and shop, if they want to, on a Sunday?
It is very important that the Secretary of State has put out a statement in an appropriate manner. He was in the Chamber an hour ago answering questions at the Dispatch Box. The position on Sunday trading is clear. There is no demand. In the consultation of 1,000, the representations were from hon. Members, Church groups and others overwhelmingly for the status quo in England. The Scottish system is quite acceptable to people in Scotland, where there is no demand for change either. Indeed, there are some communities that I could name in the United Kingdom where any opening of a retail outlet on a Sunday is not only frowned on, but does not happen. We live in a pluralistic society. My right hon. Friend, having held a consultation and taken the evidence, has concluded that there is not an overwhelming demand for change. I would be happy for a debate to be held in the House, to see how many hon. Members on the Opposition as well as the Government Benches support change, but the early-day motion demanding the status quo was signed by well over 200 people. I remind the hon. Gentleman that it is not just Church groups and others that objected to an extension of Sunday trading. The workers, through the shop workers union, USDAW, objected to their hours being extended. I am not sure whether I have an interest to declare in that, since my constituency has had support from USDAW in the past. If so, that is duly noted.