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Volume 472: debated on Wednesday 5 March 2008

Q10. Is the Prime Minister aware that St. Ann’s hospice in Heald Green in my constituency needs to raise £16,000 a day just to keep going? Is he further aware that the respected charity Help the Hospices claims that Government fund only one third of the total requirement needed? Will the Prime Minister tell us what he will do about the problem and will he agree to meet an all-party delegation to discuss the matter in more detail? (191546)

Of course, I would be very happy to meet an all-party delegation. The work of hospices and the great contribution that they make should be commended in every part of the country. It is true to say that we are providing more finance for hospices than ever before. We will continue to look at what we can do and to value the service that is given by volunteers, as well as professionals, in this area. When we meet, we will discuss the future funding needs of hospices.

Q11. Does the Prime Minister agree, and I think that he will, that holding a referendum on the EU treaty would be tantamount to Parliament’s abrogating its responsibilities? However, does he accept that many people in Britain regard the EU as a bureaucratic monolithic monstrosity that unduly interferes with the economic, social and political issues facing our nation? What will he do to alter that perception? (191547)

I do not entirely agree with my hon. Friend’s second point. We are proposing major changes in the EU so that it is more outward looking, more global in its orientation, more flexible and less bureaucratic. On her first point, let us be absolutely clear that on every other amending treaty for the EU, the decision has been made by this House and not through a referendum. The Single European Act, Nice, Amsterdam and Maastricht were all decided on in this House. It is the Conservative party that has changed its mind, not the Labour party.

Q12. With the prison population at record levels, Prison Service managers are understandably trying to use every available place that they can find. For Members of this House with open prisons in their constituencies, there is a concern that security vetting is being relaxed because there are spare places in open prisons. Will the Prime Minister ensure that there is an investigation and will he guarantee that security vetting will not be relaxed simply because of pressure on prison places? (191548)

I understand that security vetting does take place. The important thing for the hon. Gentleman to recognise is that we have created 20,000 more prison places over the past 10 years. Even this year there will be a rise in prison places from 82,000 to 85,000 and we will create 15,000 more prison places in the years to come. The reason that we are doing that is that we have brought more offences to justice. Five years ago, 1 million offences were brought to justice; now the figure is 1.4 million. That is a tribute to good policing in this country, and it is because we have been prepared to invest in the police services through our public expenditure.

Q13. Over the past few years, cluster munitions have killed and maimed tens of thousands of innocent civilians. Now the Oslo process, involving more than 130 nations, including the UK, offers us a way of ridding the world of those weapons for ever. Can my right hon. Friend commit to showing the same sort of resolve in dealing with cluster munitions that this Government showed when we rid the world of land mines? (191549)

I can tell my hon. Friend that weapons that cause unacceptable harm are something that we have got to negotiate about. We are engaged in a negotiation on this, and of course the Defence Secretary will report back to the House when that negotiation is completed.