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Business of the House

Volume 467: debated on Thursday 15 November 2007

The business for the week commencing 19 November will be—

Monday 19 November—Second Reading of the European Communities (Finance) Bill.

Tuesday 20 November—Second Reading of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (Supplementary Provisions) Bill.

Wednesday 21 November—Opposition day [1st allotted day] there will be a debate on health care- associated infections, followed by a debate entitled “Failure of the Government to Pursue Schools Reform”.

Thursday 22 November—Topical debate—subject to be announced, followed by Second Reading of the Sale of Student Loans Bill.

Friday 23 November—The House will not be sitting.

The provisional business for the week commencing 26 November will include:

Monday 26 November—Second Reading of the Health and Social Care Bill.

Later today, the House will have the first of the topical debates under the new system. I have chosen the subject of immigration. Members should contact me to propose subjects for future topical debates. Each week, the subject I have chosen for a debate on a Thursday will be put on the annunciator on Monday evening.

I thank the Leader of the House for giving us the future business. Last week, I asked her what had happened to regional Select Committees. Yet again she talked about regional accountability, but not regional Select Committees. Will she make a statement on the Government’s position? Do they believe in regional Select Committees or not?

The mandate for EUFOR, the peacekeeping force in Bosnia, expires on 21 November. Its renewal is vital. The 10 December deadline for the final status of Kosovo is approaching, still without any indication of an agreement. May we have a statement from the Foreign Secretary on the situation in the region and the status of EUFOR’s mandate?

When the Government introduced 24-hour drinking, we opposed the decision because of the obvious impact on crime and public health, but the then Home Secretary rubbished our argument, and said:

“This is a committed and coherent effort to promote responsible drinking”.

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics says:

“There is…an urgent need for an analysis of the effect…on…alcohol consumption, as well as on anti-social behaviour”,

but all that we have had from the Prime Minister is a half-hint to the media, some spun headlines and no change in policy, so may we have a debate in Government time on the impact of the ill-considered licensing reforms?

On Home Office targets, the chief executive of the National Policing Improvement Agency says:

“Because…a stolen milk bottle counted the same as…a murder”,

the police concentrate on

“volume crime rather than serious crime.”

After 10 years, five Home Secretaries and countless Criminal Justice Acts, the police seem too busy to solve major crimes, so may we have a debate in Government time on Labour’s total failure to get a grip on serious and violent crime?

Today it has been reported that the Government want to extend the period for which terror suspects can be held without trial to 58 days. The Leader of the House has consistently said that such announcements should be made to the House first, but yesterday, when the Prime Minister made his security statement, he made no mention of 58 days. In interviews two days ago, the Home Secretary refused to set a limit. What changed the Home Secretary’s mind? Why did the Prime Minister not announce the decision to Parliament in yesterday’s statement, and when will the Home Secretary come to the House to make a statement?

At 8.20 yesterday, Admiral Lord West said he was not

“fully convinced that we…need more than 28 days”.

By 9.5 he said that he was “personally, absolutely” convinced. Another Minister in the Government of all the talents, Lord Jones of Birmingham, attacked the Government’s change to capital gains tax, saying that it was a “terrible thing”. Lord Malloch-Brown—another GOAT, currently resident in Admiralty house—believes that we need to talk more to Hezbollah but less to Washington. With every passing week, the Prime Minister’s big tent looks more like a circus marquee, so may we have a debate in Government time on collective ministerial responsibility?

Mr. Speaker, you couldn’t make it up. Finally, may we have a debate on maritime safety, in which we could discuss the appropriate use of maritime flags. Yesterday Admiral Lord West raised the maritime flag D: “Keep clear: I’m manoeuvring with difficulty.” Perhaps the Prime Minister should have raised flag M: “My vessel is stopped and is making no way through the water.” Is it not time that he pulled into port and let another captain take over the job?

The shadow Leader of the House raised a number of serious points, one of which was about regional accountability. The Government remain committed to strengthening accountability, through the House, for regions in England. That is the position that we are taking forward, but we need to discuss how we develop proposals. We have suggested that the issue be looked at by the Modernisation Committee; as the right hon. Lady is a member of it, she knows that it will discuss regional accountability. Our position remains absolutely clear: we want strengthened regional accountability to the House. The exact form of that accountability will be a matter for discussion and agreement within the House.

The right hon. Lady mentioned EUFOR, to which the Foreign Secretary referred when he led the debate on the Queen’s Speech. The right hon. Lady and other colleagues will, if they see fit, have the opportunity to raise the issue again in Foreign Office questions on Tuesday.

The right hon. Lady raised the issue of alcohol consumption; I know that that is a concern among Members on both sides of the House. That may well be a subject for a topical debate, as it seems to be topical almost on a weekly basis.

The right hon. Lady talked about Home Office targets for the police. I do not accept the idea that the police treat the crime of a stolen milk bottle and murder with the same seriousness; I think that that is completely wrong, and a wrong point.

The House had an extensive discussion about detention yesterday, following a statement by the Prime Minister. The Home Secretary has made it clear that she will seek discussions with all parties. We want to have the right powers to protect everyone in this country and the right safeguards for all suspects. Proposals will be brought before the House, hopefully on the basis of an agreement across all parties. We will continue to consult and hope that agreement will be reached.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend find time for a debate on the next round of post office closures? As Royal Mail will not tell me anything of its plans for closures in my constituency, although it tells me in a letter that “as an important stakeholder” I will be “notified” but not consulted, at least a debate would give Members an opportunity to discover how much more damage that pretty awful management is to inflict on the post office network.

The future of the Post Office and individual post offices is important for all Members of Parliament. My right hon. Friend will know that the Government have committed £1.7 billion of investment in the post office network up to 2011. He referred to the post office local area implementation plans. The Government remain committed to national networks, and it is important for all hon. Members to respond and be involved in the consultation. The Post Office should take representations from hon. Members seriously and not simply notify them of the outcome.

Following yesterday’s statement, may we have a further statement outlining the details and practicalities of the e-borders proposals? Given that 90 items of information can be required of people going in or out of our airports, which will be an El Dorado for identity theft, what security measures will be in place at every airport to make sure that that information does not get into the wrong hands?

On 4 July the Prime Minister said that

“the extradition treaty with the United States is a matter for continuing discussion.”—[Official Report, 4 July 2007; Vol. 462, c. 954.]

As many of us still feel that the extradition treaty is one-sided and unfair and needs urgent revision, may we, as a House, join in that continuing discussion?

May we have a statement on the arrangements for the loan to Northern Rock? Yesterday the Prime Minister refused to answer questions on the terms of the loan to Northern Rock on grounds of commercial confidentiality. As that information has been freely available on the internet and is in the hands of every banker, market maker and trader, why is the British citizen—the taxpayer—the only person who is not allowed to know what has been done with our money in that respect?

Lastly, may we have a debate on multitasking, with particular reference to the Home Secretary? When she was reporting the latest fiasco to have befallen the Home Office—only four months after the event—the Home Secretary said that she wanted to be a Minister who acts rather than talks about that situation. May I gently suggest that we want a Minister who does both?

The hon. Gentleman asks about data collection when people leave and arrive in the country. We are clear that as much data as can be captured to help with immigration information and anti-terrorist information should be collected and, subject to appropriate safeguards, shared. He has a regular opportunity to raise such issues at Home Office questions.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the extradition treaty. Nobody in the House should argue that if there is evidence that somebody has committed a criminal offence abroad, such as in America, we should allow them to escape justice in this country and not be extradited. We have to remember that that is the basis of extradition—[Interruption.] There is a question about reciprocity, but we should first say what we want to do in this country. Do we want to harbour criminals from other countries? We certainly do not. Do we want to ensure that those who have committed offences here are brought back? Yes, we do. It is not about doing a deal, but about doing the right thing in respect of each possible offender in each possible country.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned Northern Rock, which would be a suitable subject for an Opposition day debate. The Chancellor set out the position clearly yesterday—that he will bring to the House by way of an oral or written statement any further information that can be made available.

Is it the Government’s intention to bring to the Floor of the House for debate—before they develop the next 10-year strategy—the results of their recent consultations on the current 10-year drug strategy?

The relevant Minister will no doubt bring further information to the House, but my hon. Friend could propose that subject for a topical debate. It crosses a number of areas of concern, so it would be appropriate for such a debate.

Let me return to yesterday’s security statement by the Prime Minister. The Leader of the House will have seen—it was all over the newspapers, television and radio this morning—stories suggesting that the Government are about to extend the detention limit from 28 to 58 days. If so, the Prime Minister should have told us yesterday, or will the Leader of the House confirm that it has all been made up by the media and that there has been no briefing whatever?

What I can tell the House is that the position is as it was set out by the Prime Minister yesterday. Before that, it was set out in a document laid before the House by the Home Office on 25 July, which says:

“The scale and nature of the current terrorist threat… lead the Government to believe that we need to look again at the time limit on pre-charge detention.”

Four options were set out then and hon. Members have set out further options. As the Prime Minister told us yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will seek talks across the parties to determine what proposals we can put before the House.

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that there is now hope of universal agreement that this Parliament has to act in the interests of democracy against the arms race in party political spending, which has grown out of control over recent elections? Does she also agree that, as a democratic Parliament, we should be very cautious about accepting the suggestion of the leader of the Conservative party that we trade off party political donations—they may have to be examined—especially when at the moment there is no national consensus about state funding for political parties? The British public have not yet been properly consulted, so we need to adopt great caution before moving in that direction.

Order. I ask hon. Members to ask about next week’s business. It is easy to get a question in, but we are supposed to be debating the business for next week.

My hon. Friend will have an opportunity—not next week, but in due course—to debate his important point further. Provision is made in the Queen’s Speech for a Bill to ensure correct controls on party campaign funding at elections. I agree that we must tackle the problem of the arms race. No one wants to see more and more money being spent by the parties in an arms race on election spending, particularly when fewer and fewer people are voting, so it is right to move forward on tackling that arms race.

Judith Todd, daughter of the late Garfield Todd, long associated with Rhodesia and Zimbabwe, came to Parliament yesterday to discuss, among other things, the desperate plight of the people of Zimbabwe. Their plight is easily forgotten. When he was Leader of the House, the current Secretary of State for Justice promised that there would be a major debate on this subject here in the Chamber in Government time. Although we had one debate just before the recess, we were promised a debate on the Floor of the House before Christmas. Will the Leader of the House tell us whether we can have that debate? I would like it next week, but that might be expecting too much. Will she promise me a debate on Zimbabwe before Christmas?

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that it might be useful to have a debate next week on the importance of Select Committees in providing checks and balances between the Chamber and the Executive? It has been suggested that we should move forward to regional Select Committees. It seems to me, however, that all parties are having difficulties in providing personnel for the existing Select Committees. Is it therefore a good idea to have many more?

My hon. Friend’s point is one of the reasons why proper consideration of how regional accountability is to be introduced is necessary. I pay tribute to the work of Select Committees. All Members will recognise that they have enormously improved the House’s scrutiny of the Executive. We want to make sure that we bring in strong, robust, credible, regional accountability, but in the process we must in no way damage the important work of departmental Select Committees.

Yesterday, in the statement on national security, to which my party has given broad support, the Prime Minister announced a strengthening of the e-border programme. While we recognise the importance of checking the background of those who enter the United Kingdom, in the absence of that programme being implemented in the Irish Republic, or being applied along the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, people from Northern Ireland are likely to be treated as foreign nationals when travelling to this country. That has grave implications for the Union. Will the Leader of the House arrange a debate to discuss the economic, social and constitutional consequences of the strengthening of the e-border programme?

I will bring the hon. Gentleman’s important and substantive points not only to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland but to that of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. I am sure that they will want to reassure him, and it might be a good idea for him to seek a meeting with them to ensure that the matter is dealt with satisfactorily.

May I support the comments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Mr. Touhig) about post offices, as I am dismayed by the announcement of closures in my area? My point, however, is about yesterday’s security statement. I was pleased that the Government have consulted Muslim women and plan to set up a committee to consider access and influence in mosques. Will my right hon. and learned Friend use her position and talk to other Ministers to ensure that Muslim women in Wales are involved in such important discussions? May we debate the issue next week? The key to capturing hearts and minds lies with Muslim women, and they should be at the centre of any strategy.

I thank my hon. Friend for that point. As she will know, I and the other Minister with responsibility for women have as one of our priorities the empowerment of black and Asian women within their communities. We are also determined to ensure that there are more black and Asian women councillors. Part of the process is to include all communities within democracy so that they feel that they have a real stake in its future.

May I be this week’s shop steward and ask about the Senior Salaries Review Body report on pay and allowances? What could that report conceivably have contained that requires four months for the Government to reflect on it? Is this a unique example of the Government seeking to bury good news?

First I said that it would come shortly. Then I reassured the House that it would come very shortly. Last week it was imminent. Today I can say that the time draws nearer and nearer —the time that will surely come.

The whole House will be aware that the High Peak constituency is the spiritual home of the right to roam. I therefore welcome the Government’s intention to extend the right to roam to coastal areas. At present, however, the intention is to introduce that right as part of the marine Bill. As we all know, the marine Bill has been delayed beyond this Session. Will my right hon. and learned Friend consider, perhaps next week, introducing the right to roam in coastal areas in a stand-alone Bill, separate from the marine Bill, so that we can fulfil our commitment?

It has been announced that the marine Bill will be produced in draft, which will enable full involvement and consultation, not only by Select Committees but by those outside the House. This matter is a priority for the Government, so we will bring the Bill forward. No doubt all those concerned with the matter in my hon. Friend’s constituency will contribute to that process.

May we have a debate in the House on the capacity of local police teams and community safety teams to deliver on Government targets? My part of London now has fewer police than it had a decade ago. Our policing is 24 head-count below the budgeted total that it is meant to have. At the same time, safe and stronger community funds are being cut. Meanwhile, only yesterday, the Prime Minister talked about what needs to be done in communities such as mine to help national security. May we have a debate on the overall Government strategy, so that we can make sure that it works as a whole?

I will bring the hon. Lady’s comments to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, and ask her to write to the hon. Lady. But the hon. Lady is struggling under a misapprehension. Her constituency has more police than 10 years ago.

Indeed it has. There are more police community support officers, and a big investment has been made. I will invite my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to write to the hon. Lady and place a copy in the House of Commons Library, as other Members are showing an interest in this point.

My right hon. and learned Friend might be aware that I have been campaigning for justice for my constituent, Michael Shields, who has now been transferred from prison in Bulgaria to prison in this country. Now that there is confusion about whether it is appropriate for the Bulgarian or the United Kingdom authorities to consider granting a pardon for Michael Shields, will she ensure that there is a debate, or if not, a statement in the House?

I understand that my hon. Friend, who has championed her constituent’s cause, has sought an Adjournment debate. It is important to be able to repatriate to this country people who have committed offences abroad so that they can serve their sentence nearer their families. If the original conviction was made abroad, however, it appears that its overturning must be campaigned for and achieved abroad. No doubt she will bring the matter further to the House’s attention.

All Members of the House will be aware of growing concern over the military covenant. Last week, the nation came together to pay tribute to servicemen and women who made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of their country. Given the Royal British Legion’s campaign to honour the covenant, does not the Leader of the House feel that it is important to have a debate in Government time to consider such issues further?

There are regular defence debates, and perhaps I can take the hon. Gentleman’s point as a suggestion for next week’s topical debate.

Will the Leader of the House consider allowing a debate on the public health impact of nail bars? A constituent has drawn my attention to the fact that the proliferation of nail bars with staff who are not properly qualified is leading to, in particular, problems resulting from the use of methyl methacrylate to attach nail extensions. The chemical damages the nail bed, and is banned in the United States. This issue is of great importance to women in my constituency and throughout the country, and it would be helpful to have a debate about its public health aspects as soon as possible.

I will bring my hon. Friend’s points to the attention of my ministerial colleagues. There has indeed been a proliferation of nail bars, and I think that if there are public health implications we need to be confident that they are being looked into. I will ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health to write to my hon. Friend.

The hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Graham Stringer) has secured a debate on the Barnett formula next week, when no doubt we shall hear the usual nonsense about relative spending in the United Kingdom. Given the finding by Oxford Economics that there is more public spending per head in London than in Scotland, surely we should debate the matter on the Floor of the House and put to bed once and for all the nonsense peddled by the Conservatives about subsidy and Scotland.

As the hon. Gentleman said, there will be a debate on the Barnett formula in Westminster Hall next week.

I strongly endorse what was said by the right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Touhig).

Forty-five days ago, we raised the minimum legal age for purchasing tobacco products to 18. Can the Leader of the House tell us whether, if any of those who entered today’s ballot for private Members’ Bills are successful, the Government will back the sentiments of early-day motion 235, introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South (Ms Butler)?

[That this House welcomes the increased legal minimum age of sale for tobacco products from 16 to 18 years of age; notes that, according to a recent survey by the British Retail Consortium, retail crime has increased by 50 per cent.; notes retailers' concern that they may face intimidation or violence as a result of the change and that smaller independent retailers are at greatest risk; further notes that fixed penalty notices can be issued to those under the age of 18 years who attempt to buy alcohol; considers that if it was an offence for those under the age of 18 years to attempt to purchase tobacco this would act as a deterrent to children from doing so and relieve pressure on shop owners and reduce potential violence; and calls upon the Government to bring forward proposals to bring into line the legal penalties for the attempted purchase of tobacco with that of alcohol as well as increasing support in all areas for under 18s to quit smoking.]

I tabled an amendment, early-day motion 325A1, which reads:

after ‘proposals’, insert both to ban cigarette vending machines from which under 18s can buy tobacco products and’.

The amended motion envisages the creation of an offence of attempting to purchase tobacco under 18—similar to the existing offence involving alcohol, and attracting a fixed penalty notice—and the banning of cigarette vending machines, which constitute a way of overcoming the important public health legislation introduced on 1 October.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend’s persistent campaigning for better public health, which is ensuring that there is less damage to the health of people who take up smoking and continue to smoke. I will draw his comments to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health.

The interpretation of new driving licence regulations involving minibuses in a way that was never intended in the legislation may have disastrous consequences for the ability of schools to field teams and provide sports, extra-curricular activities and, indeed, other types of activity. Is there any prospect of a debate on that?

I will bring the issue to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families as well as that of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, but the hon. Gentleman could also make it the subject of an Adjournment debate.

Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate next week on the impact of unnecessary bureaucracy on farmers? My constituent Mr. John Collinson, who has farmed for 40 years, is now having to attend a course on how to put a trailer on the back of a Land Rover and another course on how to drive cattle from one side of his yard to another. Such bureaucracy imposes an unnecessary burden on a struggling industry, and I hope that the Government will give priority to a debate on it.

I will bring the hon. Gentleman’s comments to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Let me add, however, that one of the most important causes of increased record-keeping among farmers is the importance of public health and disease prevention, and we must ensure above all that that continues.

May I echo the request by the shadow Leader of the House for a debate on the Government of all the talents? Lord West, probably one of the finest naval officers of the post-war years, told the truth and was then undermined by the Government. Lord Drayson has gone racing, Lord Darzi is part-time, Lord Malloch-Brown has confused everyone and Lord Jones will not vote. The only person who has come out of this with any credit is my hon. Friend the Member for Newark (Patrick Mercer), who had to tell the Government what to do.

I will not be suggesting that as a topic for debate. As the House will know, the question of ministerial appointments is a matter for the Prime Minister.

Please will the Leader of the House ask the Minister with responsibility for roads to come to the House on Tuesday and make a statement on the A303 Stonehenge upgrade project? Twenty-one years ago, when the Leader of the House and I were fresh young Members, it was identified as a flagship project. Ten years ago the Culture, Media and Sport Committee branded Stonehenge a national disgrace, and there was a public inquiry. Three years ago the inspector submitted a report to Ministers, but a decision has not yet been announced. We need an announcement, not just for the benefit of my constituents who regularly experience gridlock but for the benefit of the whole economy of the south-west and, above all, for the sake of the heritage aspect of Stonehenge. It is a world heritage site. If we do not get a decision soon we shall have years more dither, and we cannot afford that as a nation.

I remind the hon. Gentleman that he and I are still only approaching our prime. As for the A303, the Department for Transport is considering it. No doubt the hon. Gentleman has made representations which the Department is considering sympathetically.

Early-day motion 279 is entitled “Scope’s no voice, no choice campaign”.

[That this House notes the significant difficulty many disabled people with communication impairments face in getting the Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) equipment they need to communicate; further notes that as many as 600,000 people in the UK could benefit from access to AAC equipment; further notes that without the means to communicate people cannot express themselves freely, discuss ideas or make choices, which severely limits their life chances; further notes that freedom of expression is a fundamental right enshrined in the Human Rights Act 1998; regrets that access to AAC equipment remains a lottery for most people based on age, postcode and education status; further regrets that 23 per cent. of respondents to Scope's recent No Voice, No Choice survey had not had an assessment of their communication needs before they were 16 years old; further regrets that over one quarter of respondents to the same survey had to pay for equipment themselves or ask a charity because they could not get their equipment funded by a statutory agency; and calls on the Government to recognise communication as a fundamental right and ensure that people with communication impairments of all ages get the AAC equipment and support they need so they can lead more independent lives, access work, leisure and education opportunities and fulfil their potential as full citizens.]

May we please have a debate in Government time on the Floor of the House next week on the provision of alternative and augmentative equipment for those with communication impairments who need such equipment? Given that Scope and others have estimated that approximately 600,000 people in the country could benefit from such equipment, given that 23 per cent. of people who need it are not assessed for it until they reach the age of 16, and given that more than a quarter of deserving cases cannot obtain statutory funding for such aids and must therefore either pay for them themselves or secure charitable support, is it not high time that we had a debate on how we can improve provision so that people who are in desperate need can lead independent lives, gain access to education, work and leisure and have the opportunity to realise their full potential?

The hon. Gentleman has just demonstrated that he is one of the talents. He has proved the point that we want to listen to people with deep convictions, a great deal of experience and something to contribute to the Government’s work. I will bring his serious and important points to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, as I know the hon. Gentleman does himself.

Kettering hospital, which my constituents must attend, has the worst rate of Clostridium difficile in the country. Their chance of contracting it is three times the national average. Unfortunately one of my constituents caught the infection on going into hospital, and died some months later. When the relatives went to register the death, the registrar wanted to put something other than C. difficile on the death certificate. When the relatives queried it, the registrar said, “We do not like to put it down because it makes our figures look bad.” May we have a debate in Government time—while the Leader of the House is still in her prime—on the fact that the Government seem to be fiddling the figures rather than dealing with the underlying problem?

An Opposition day debate on hospital-acquired infections will take place next week, and no doubt the hon. Gentleman will be able to raise those points then.

Could one of the early topical debates be on housing expansion and infrastructure, concentrating on the lack of co-ordination between the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department for Transport? The Government’s housing expansion programme for the borough of Kettering envisages the building of 13,100 extra houses by 2021, increasing the local population by a third; yet last week the Highways Agency confirmed that it would issue proposals to restrict local vehicular access from Kettering to the A14, which is the main road through my constituency.

I will take that as a suggestion for a subject for next week’s topical debate. Should I choose it, I imagine that we would hear many Labour Members concerned to ensure that there is more affordable housing to rent and to buy so that people can have the housing they want to meet rising expectations. I would also expect Opposition Members to say that they did not want any extra housing, with the Opposition Front Bench saying different things depending on what day of the week it was.

The Leader of the House will know—I wrote to her last week with the information—that the performance of Government Departments in answering named day questions varies; some are very good, some are very poor. The Ministry of Defence and the Department for Work and Pensions are particularly appalling. The MOD answers only 22 per cent. of named day questions on the due date and the DWP answers only 30 per cent. Mr. Speaker, I know the importance that you attach to Ministers answering questions from hon. Members on a timely basis. What action will the Leader of the House take to get her more recalcitrant Government colleagues to pull their socks up and treat this House with courtesy and respect?

The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. I thank him for the information that he has brought to my attention, which I shall raise forcefully with my ministerial colleagues. The whole point of this House is to hold the Executive to account. Ministers do not operate on their own behalf; they operate in the public interest and are accountable to this place for what they do. Parliamentary questions are very important in that respect, and I shall take forward the hon. Gentleman’s points.