The business for next week is as follows:
Monday 9 July—Second Reading of the House of Lords Reform Bill (day 1).
Tuesday 10 July—Conclusion of Second Reading of the House of Lords Reform Bill (day 2).
Wednesday 11 July—Debate on motions relating to the sitting hours of the House of Commons, followed by a debate on a motion relating to VAT on air ambulance fuel payments. The subjects for these debates have been nominated by the Backbench Business Committee. Followed by opposed private business for consideration, as named by the Chairman of Ways and Means.
Thursday 12 July—Motion relating to the reform of the Court of Justice of the European Union, followed by a motion on a European document relating to the EU draft budget, followed by a motion on a European document relating to EU human rights strategy.
Friday 13 July—Private Member’s Bills.
The provisional business for the week commencing 16 July will include:
Monday 16 July—Opposition day (4th allotted day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion. Subject to be announced.
Tuesday 17 July—Debate on a motion relating to the Public Administration Committee’s recommendation for the Prime Minister’s adviser on Ministers’ interests to be empowered to instigate his own investigations, followed by a motion on the summer recess Adjournment. The subjects for these debates have been nominated by the Backbench Business Committee.
I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for 12 July will be:
Thursday 12 July—Debate on banking competition.
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing next week’s business.
Last week I suggested to the right hon. Gentleman that, as Liberal Democrats and Conservative Ministers now spend their time rubbishing each other, it might be better if future parliamentary business were organised so that Government time was divided between the two parties to give both sufficient time to differentiate themselves from each other. I am delighted to see that the Leader of the House has quickly adopted my suggestion, because in announcing two days of debate on House of Lords reform next week, he omitted to draw the House’s attention to the fact that Government time had been so arranged to allow Liberal Democrat Ministers to speak on Monday and Conservative Ministers to speak on Tuesday. It will be interesting to monitor the differences of approach from one day to the next. Will the Leader of the House confirm that in future all Government business will be organised in this way?
We have learnt this week that Network Rail, a publicly funded body, is planning to pay millions in bonuses to senior managers. Government decisions mean that rail passengers are facing fare rises of 11% a year at a time when people are struggling to make ends meet. It is simply unacceptable for Network Rail to pay out millions in bonuses to its top managers. Six months ago the Transport Secretary promised to appoint a public interest director, yet she has failed to do so. The Transport Secretary has the power to stop Network Rail bosses paying themselves massive bonuses at their annual general meeting on 19 July. Will the Leader of the House confirm that the Government will block Network Rail’s plans, and arrange for the Transport Secretary to make an urgent statement to the House?
The Government have set up an independent inquiry into forests. That was done after 500,000 people signed a petition objecting to the Government’s proposal to flog off England’s forests to the highest bidders. The Government’s U-turn on the issue started a trend; they have been U-turning ever since. The inquiry report was published yesterday. Will the Leader of the House confirm that the Government have now dropped their plans to sell off 15% of English forests, and will he say when they will instead set out plans to protect and secure the future of our forests? Will he also arrange for the Environment Secretary to make an oral statement on the Government’s response to the independent inquiry?
The Government ask a bishop to hold an independent inquiry into the future of forests, but refuse to have an independent inquiry into the banking scandal. On Monday, the Government were against holding any inquiry; then they were in favour of a parliamentary inquiry, but against a parliamentary vote; then they were in favour of a parliamentary inquiry and a parliamentary vote, but still against an independent judicial inquiry. The Government have had three different positions in three days. May I urge the right hon. Gentleman to adopt a fourth? The British people want an independent judge-led inquiry, and all the Opposition parties want an independent judge-led inquiry. In fact, the only people opposing an independent judge-led inquiry are Government Members of Parliament and bankers themselves.
Something else the bankers wanted was for the Vickers report to be watered down, which is exactly what the Government have done. On Tuesday, Martin Wolf, the Financial Times economist and a member of the Vickers commission, described the Government’s decision not to implement the recommendation on high-risk derivative trading as “really quite serious”. Will the Leader of the House explain why the Government are watering down the Vickers commission recommendations, and arrange an urgent statement on this matter from the Chancellor?
May I congratulate the Leader of the House on his sterling performance in the recent ConservativeHome league table of Cabinet Ministers? The right hon. Gentleman has surged up the rankings. [Interruption.] Much to his surprise—perhaps he does not follow it—but he has. Conservative Members have put the Leader of the House in the premier league of Cabinet Ministers. However, the part-time partisan Chancellor, who has presided over a double-dip recession, has slumped into the third division. Does the Leader of the House have any tips on how the Chancellor can raise his game?
On the first issue, these two parties are working together harmoniously to repair the damage done by the Labour party. In the debate on the House of Lords on Monday and Tuesday, there will be a seamless approach to the legislation from those who are opening and closing the debates on the first and second day. I remind Labour Members what their policy was when they were in government, and I hope, therefore, that they will support the Government on Monday and Tuesday, both on the motion on Second Reading and indeed on the programme motion. Through the latter, we propose to allocate 10 days in Committee, which contrasts with the four days they allocated on their Lords reform Bill.
The extraordinary corporate governance structure for Network Rail was actually set up by Labour; they are responsible for the decision-making process. We propose to reform it, and I will pass on the hon. Lady’s suggestion about the bonuses to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport.
So far as the forests are concerned, the hon. Lady will have seen the written ministerial statement from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The joke that we just heard from the hon. Lady was the same one we heard in DEFRA questions a few moments ago; I am sure she told it better. The initial response was set out in the written ministerial statement, and there will be a more substantive one next January. We have confirmed that the forests will remain in public ownership.
On the issue of a public inquiry, we are going to debate that. If the hon. Lady is asking for a debate on this issue, I have granted it, and very quickly. Our view, which will be set out later, is that any Committee should have the power to interview witnesses under oath; it should have the power to send for the necessary people; it should sit in public and have full access to the necessary documents and papers. We believe that a Joint Committee of the House will be able to discharge its responsibilities, and we will move on to that debate in a moment.
We have not watered down the Vickers report. We are introducing a banking reform Bill, and in due course the House will have an opportunity to consider our proposals to separate the retail and investment wings of the banks.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for bringing to my attention something I had not noticed before—the league table. One thing that is almost certain after her endorsement is that, next time, my position will be a lot lower.
Order. A very large number of hon. and right hon. Members are seeking to catch my eye, but as the House will know and as I simply remind Members, there is a defence statement to follow and thereafter a heavily subscribed and very important debate. Therefore, it may not be possible for me to accommodate all contributors at business questions in the way that I would usually intend, but maximising the number of contributors depends upon brevity, which will now be exemplified, I know, by Miss Anne McIntosh.
My hon. Friend raises a key issue. We hope to publish very shortly the White Paper on social care together with a progress report on funding. I hope that when we do that, there may be an opportunity for a debate either at that time or subsequently. The issue needs to be addressed as soon as possible, and I think that Members on both sides of the House would welcome a debate on the future regime for social care along the lines my hon. Friend suggests.
Does the Leader of the House realise just how angry Yorkshire Members of Parliament from all parties are about the announcement that the Leeds children’s heart unit will close? There has been a vigorous campaign—the hardest fought that I have ever known in this House—and we have been ignored. Yorkshire has been downgraded in terms of this very important service for children.
Of course I understand the concern of Yorkshire Members at the outcome of the independent review, which was established by the previous Government at arm’s length from Ministers and has now reported. The key motivation was to drive up outcomes for children who suffer from congenital heart disease. There was powerful evidence that the more operations a surgeon performs, the better the performance, which improves the outcome for children. The review has been supported by the royal colleges as well as national charities. Although I understand what the hon. Gentleman has said, I think that the prime objective for us all ought to be to improve the outcomes for children who suffer from this serious disease.
More and more decisions both nationally and locally are being taken by unaccountable officials acting in a quasi-judicial role, leaving elected representatives powerless to influence them. Can the Leader of the House find time for a debate to discuss that growing trend and how it can be reversed?
My hon. Friend will have noticed that in the first Session of this Parliament, we introduced the Public Bodies Bill, which abolished a number of public bodies and repatriated to Ministers powers that had previously been devolved. I hope that he recognises that. The responsibility for the budget of non-departmental public bodies rests with Ministers, and although their day-to-day running has been delegated, the overall efficiency of the organisations remains a matter for Ministers. There will still be opportunities for him to hold NDPBs to account through the responsible Minister.
We understood the need to move the Back-Bench business scheduled for today to make way for the important banking debate that is to be held this afternoon. As the Leader of the House has announced, we have now found slots for the displaced business by cutting it down quite finely, and that would not have been possible without the understanding and co-operation of all lead Members and participating Members. I want to put on the record my thanks for that co-operation.
The Government have placed on the Order Paper for tonight a business motion that will make room for the air ambulance debate on Wednesday 11 July after the debate on sitting hours, and I thank them for doing that. I hope that the House will be co-operative in ensuring that the business motion is agreed to. I know that the Leader of the House cannot provide a guarantee, but will he try to ensure that there are no statements, if possible, on either 11 July or 17 July, the last day of the term, so that we can ensure that Back-Bench business is not further curtailed?
While I am here, the deadline for submissions for the pre-recess Adjournment debate is Monday at 11 am in the Table Office. Thank you for your patience, Mr Speaker.
I am very grateful to the hon. Lady and the Backbench Business Committee for responding to the inconvenience that has been caused to them by today’s urgent debate, and I am glad that she has been able to find time for the two debates that were displaced. I shall use my best endeavours to avoid statements on those two days, but I cannot give a cast-iron guarantee. The business motion on today’s Order Paper will safeguard two hours for the sitting hours debate on Wednesday and guarantee that the rest of the time until 7 o’clock is available for the air ambulance debate. I hope that the House will smile on that motion and let it through without any controversy. I also welcome the public service announcement that she has just made, reminding people to make submissions in respect of the pre-recess Adjournment.
I understand my hon. Friend’s concern about the future of the Alexandra hospital in her constituency. In the first instance, this would be a matter for the local NHS, as any reconfiguration should be driven by local commissioners. She will know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health has set out safeguards—conditions that must be fulfilled before any reconfiguration can go ahead. It must be supported by local GP commissioners; demonstrate strengthened public and patient engagement; show clarity on the clinical evidence base; and be consistent with current and prospective patient choice. In the first instance, I suggest that my hon. Friend engage with the local NHS and share her concerns with it.
The decision to close the Leeds children’s heart unit appears to disregard patient choice, and fails the four criteria for the reconfiguration of services set out by the Secretary of State for Health. Will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement by the Secretary of State on whether he will refer the decision to the independent reconfiguration panel?
I cannot promise an early statement from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health. He was at the Dispatch Box yesterday, dealing with NHS issues. I understand the concern of Yorkshire Members about the decision—of course I do—and I wonder whether it might be an appropriate subject for a debate between now and the summer recess, either on the Floor of the House on the Adjournment or in Westminster Hall.
The Leader of the House may be aware of the campaign for an apology for the victims of forced adoption in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, and early-day motion 92, which is currently the 16th most popular EDM of this Session.
[That this House recognises the suffering that forced child adoptions during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s caused, which took place due to social pressures on women who had children outside of marriage; notes the unacceptable adoption and care practices of the past, such as not giving information about welfare services including housing and financial help which were available at the time and not questioning whether women putting their children up for adoption had given informed consent; further recognises the negligence of previous Governments, with regard to ensuring that the care provided for unmarried mothers was appropriate and that they and their children were not mistreated or discriminated against, resulting in many women suffering traumatising pre and post-natal experiences and children being denied contact with their birth parents; and calls on the Government to apologise in order to go some way toward helping the parents and children who were victims of these practices.]
Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on whether the UK should follow Australia’s lead and issue an apology to victims of this terrible injustice?
I understand my hon. Friend’s concern, and I will share that with the appropriate Minister. As for a debate, the hon. Member for North East Derbyshire (Natascha Engel), who chairs the Backbench Business Committee, has issued an invitation for bids for the pre-recess Adjournment debate, and it strikes me that my hon. Friend’s suggestion would be eminently suitable.
In view of the failure of the Secretary of State for Defence to meet the trade unions in the Ministry of Defence on the issue of cuts and increased privatisation in the civilian side of the service, will the Leader of the House ask the Secretary of State to hold a debate in the Chamber on this matter and also use his good offices to encourage him to hold an urgent meeting with a delegation from the PCS parliamentary group?
Will my right hon. Friend convey my thanks to the Backbench Business Committee for making an accommodation to make sure that the motion on the Prime Minister’s adviser on ministerial interests is dealt with before the end of term? I would like to record my thanks to my right hon. Friend for generously accommodating and showing his commitment to Back-Bench time. May I therefore make a further request about Monday’s business? Will he table a motion to lift the 10 o’clock rule, because it would be a travesty if that debate was so over-subscribed that speeches were truncated? I remind him that Second Reading of the Bill on the Maastricht treaty was spread over two days and went significantly into the night, providing the opportunity for a great many more Members to participate.
On the first point, I used to work for Royal Mail before I became a Member of Parliament, so I am delighted to act as a postman between my hon. Friend and the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, and relay that message. The Government’s view on my hon. Friend’s second point is that a two-day debate on Second Reading is relatively unusual. I can recall only two such occasions in my time in the House, and I believe that a two-day debate on Second Reading, followed by 10 days in Committee and two days on Report, gives the House adequate time to debate that important issue.
Further to the welcome commitment the Prime Minister gave yesterday in Question Time to discuss with the Chancellor the Ulster bank crisis and the role of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, can we have an update next week, by way of a statement to the House, about progress on that issue and about the Ulster bank crisis generally, which it is now believed will continue until 16 July? For a full month, people will have been denied access to normal banking facilities, affecting both businesses and individuals.
I share the right hon. Gentleman’s concern, and I will inquire of the Chancellor whether a written ministerial statement on progress would be appropriate, or if that is not the right way forward, whether a letter can be sent to the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends who represent Northern Ireland constituencies to bring them up to date on progress in safeguarding the interests of the customers of those banks.
Jaguar Land Rover in Castle Bromwich has expanded its plant with a further investment of £200 million, which offers great opportunities to skilled workers in Tamworth, so can we have a debate on what further steps the Government will take to improve skills for young people and school leavers so that they can take full advantage of this opportunity?
The whole House will welcome the good news of a £200 million investment in the Castle Bromwich plant to which my hon. Friend referred. The short answer to his question is the increased expansion of apprenticeships, which is the largest expansion that the country has ever seen: 457,200 starts last year, and another 400,000 this year. I hope that that gives him the answer that he is looking for, as it demonstrates a real commitment to training people to take advantage of this investment.
There were Justice questions on Tuesday, but having listened to the hon. Gentleman’s question I wonder whether it is more appropriate for the Treasury than the Ministry of Justice, if it relates to a fine for the non-payment of tax. Of course, I will relay the issue to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor and ask him to write to the hon. Gentleman with a response to his question.
In my constituency of Dartford, we have seen a near-eightfold increase in the number of apprenticeship places in the past two years, which has helped to reduce unemployment in Dartford. Can we have a debate on the merits of apprenticeships and how they can boost our economy?
I applaud what my hon. Friend says, and I also applaud the e-mail that I believe was sent to every Member by David Way giving a link to those in our constituencies who want to become apprentices as well as a link for firms that want to offer work to apprentices. It is up to every Member of the House to make sure that that information is available so that the funds that the Government have put at the disposal of the apprenticeship scheme can be taken up locally.
I thank the Leader of the House for his helpful replies to my hon. Friends the Members for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) and for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin) on the closure of the Leeds children’s heart surgery unit. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware that more than 600,000 people in Yorkshire signed a petition to prevent the closure, and that the criteria used to make the decision by the Safe and Sustainable review were deeply flawed and did not take into account the post-16 congenital heart defect work that is done so well in the city of Leeds and the Leeds unit. Will he therefore grant time for a debate?
The whole House has now realised the depth of concern on the part of Yorkshire Members about the decision that was announced earlier this week. If there is a petition of 600,000 signatures, that would go through the threshold to trigger a reference to the Backbench Business Committee, which would then have to find time for a debate. In the meantime, I will relay to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health the points that the hon. Gentleman has made about alleged deficiencies in the review, and see whether there is any role for him to play in that respect.
Last month, I had a young lad called Seb from Holmfirth on work experience with me. Seb has had three major heart operations, and a pacemaker fitted at Leeds children’s heart unit. Most of my constituents and I are absolutely appalled at the decision to close Yorkshire’s only children’s heart surgery unit, as are many other Yorkshire Members—and, indeed, Lincolnshire Members. Patient flows and parent journeys have not been given due consideration in the decision. Yet again, may I ask for an urgent debate on this pressing issue?
My hon. Friend has confirmed that concern about the decision crosses the Floor of the House, and it is a matter for all Yorkshire Members. I repeat what I said at the beginning of business questions: this was an independent review, conducted at arm’s length from Ministers and endorsed by the Royal College of Surgeons and by charities with an interest in this field. I cannot promise an early debate in Government time, but I say to my hon. Friend and others who have intervened that I recognise their concern, and I hope that in some way it might be possible to raise these issues on the Floor of the House, given the depth of that concern.
Within minutes of the decision to close the Leeds children’s heart surgery unit being announced, I was contacted by a constituent who has depended on the service provided. As is becoming clear, this issue not only affects the whole region, but unites the whole House, so will the Leader of the House consider again the need for a ministerial statement?
As I said a moment ago, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health was at the Dispatch Box yesterday dealing with NHS matters, although I appreciate that that might have been before the decision was announced. I cannot promise an early statement from my right hon. Friend, but I will leave him in no doubt about the depth of feeling on the issue on both sides of the House when we next meet.
A High Court judge recently ruled that a young Welsh anorexia sufferer should be force-fed, a case that can be interpreted as allowing force-feeding to become a standard treatment for all anorexia sufferers. Can the Leader of the House arrange for a written statement to clarify the Government’s position on this most sensitive area?
The Government take very seriously the problem of eating disorders, which particularly affect those between the ages of 15 and 24. Speaking from memory, I think that more than 1 million people in the UK suffer from eating disorders and anorexia. Speaking from memory again, I think that there is a pathway of treatment that has been prescribed, and those dealing with people suffering from anorexia should follow those guidelines. I will see whether there is any lack of clarity, particularly with regard to force-feeding, and ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health to write to my hon. Friend.
May I reinforce calls for a full and proper debate on the future of children’s heart surgery? Yesterday’s decision to close services at Glenfield hospital in my constituency has come as a devastating blow to patients, families and staff. They have serious questions about how and why the decision was made and the impact it will have on the local and national services the unit provides. A debate would allow those questions to be asked and answered. At present, there is no other way of doing that.
Again, I recognise the depth of concern. I have announced an Opposition day for Monday week and it would be perfectly appropriate for the Opposition, if they so wanted, to choose this as the subject for debate. The Government provide time for Government legislation but do not normally have time available for debates of this nature.
The decision was not made by Ministers, but the closure of the Leeds children’s heart surgery unit leaves the north with only two children’s heart hospitals. It is really important that we have a debate on the decision and the knock-on effect on cardiology services for adults and other members of the community.
Again, I understand my hon. Friend’s concern. The review was not about closing heart services for children; it was about driving up quality and improving chances of survival. The independent review panel decided that concentrating these operations in a smaller number of hospitals will increase the skill of the surgeons and improve outcomes. That is the background. I understand the concern, expressed by many hon. Members, about the consequences and take the point that they would like time for a debate. I cannot promise one in Government time, but I have indicated a number of options, including having a debate in Westminster Hall, going to the Backbench Business Committee and debating the matter as part of the Opposition day debate on Monday week or, indeed, in the pre-recess Adjournment debate.
Tomorrow we return to private Member’s Bills, the first of which is highly relevant in the light of the events of the past week. It relates to the parliamentary role in the appointment of a new Governor of the Bank of England. I hear that the Government are organising for their Back Benchers to talk the Bill out, which means we will again experience the puerile antics that have brought the House into disrepute. What progress has been made on the proposals to debate private Member’s Bills earlier in the week or allow them to be subject to deferred Divisions?
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his good fortune in the ballot for private Member’s Bills. I have no idea what will happen tomorrow, so he will have to await the Minister’s response. It may well be that Conservative Back Benchers are very interested in his Bill, and rightly so. On his last point, the Backbench Business Committee has announced that it wants to have a separate inquiry into the regime for private Member’s Bills, and I am sure that it would be interested in taking evidence from the hon. Gentleman.
The Leader of the House will know that section 2 of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 prevents the police from taking any action against a perpetrator of harassment without violence or violent intent if it took place more than six months previously. Will he find time for a debate to protect those people, such as a constituent of mine, who have been subjected to a sustained campaign of harassment on the internet and by mobile phone? The six-month threshold should be changed.
I understand my hon. Friend’s concern. The Government have put forward some proposals that deal with antisocial behaviour, and the behaviour she outlines certainly strikes me as antisocial. When appropriate legislation is brought forward to deal with this, there might an opportunity to close any loopholes that exist.
We heard a statement yesterday from the Health Secretary in which he talked about steady progress in the NHS, but I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to the funding guidelines for public health, which mean that my region will lose £53 million and my local authority, Durham county council, will lose £20 million. I know that that is in line with the Government’s policy of moving resources from poor areas to rich ones, but may we have an urgent statement or debate on the gerrymandering of public health funding?
I resist any accusations of gerrymandering. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Government have transferred responsibility for public health from the NHS to local authorities, which I think is a perfectly progressive move, and one that has been welcomed by local authorities. The money has been redistributed in what I regard as a fair way. I will certainly raise with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health the hon. Gentleman’s concern that his region has somehow been short-changed, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman will endorse the principle of transferring responsibility and linking it with social care, housing and other responsibilities discharged by local authorities.
If my hon. Friend is very ingenious, he might be able to raise his point during next Thursday’s debate on an EU motion relating to the EU budget. We would expect the UK to benefit significantly from any additional EIB lending of the sort he refers to, and it is of course important that all member states get their fair share of lending.
May we have a debate on the delivery of London bus services? Last night, not for the first time, I and a number of other travelling passengers were invited to leave a bus and stand on the pavement because the driver had been instructed by his manager to turn the bus around before it reached its destination and return to its original point of departure. Those people were left abandoned on the street without any compensation and had to pay an extra fare. Is that really how we are going to treat residents and visitors to London during the Olympics?
May we have a debate on renewable energy and the apparent contradiction between the document “Planning for Renewable Energy” and the national planning policy framework? The Government have accepted, in answer to a written question on 3 July, that there is a contradiction between those documents and a review is under way, but it is causing great confusion for local authorities up and down the land, so can we have the guidance issued promptly?
I will share my hon. Friend’s concern with Ministers at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, who will be at the Dispatch Box a week from today. If he is successful, he might be able to raise the matter during topical questions. I will arrange for a response to be available dealing with the alleged inconsistency to which he refers.
After debates in the Dutch and Canadian Parliaments, those countries withdrew their troops from Afghanistan after great sacrifices in blood and treasure. Should not we in this House answer public opinion, which is strongly in favour of bringing our troops home, adopt a policy of independence from the United States and ensure that our troops are no longer at risk in this increasingly dangerous war?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, there is a commitment to bring our troops home, and it has been put on the record. We are committed to making regular quarterly statements on Afghanistan, and when the next one is due he will have an opportunity to make his case, but the view of the House, as expressed in earlier debates, is that we should rightly honour our commitment, stay with our fellow countries in Afghanistan and give that country the opportunity to build up its police force and armed services so that it can restore law and order on its own.
I recently met a very courageous 11-year-old constituent, Katie Pole, who is dealing admirably with the results of type 1 diabetes. Will consideration be given to holding a debate about that condition in terms of raising awareness and in terms of further medical research to resolve it?
I think that the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), who chairs the Home Affairs Committee, recently had a debate in the Chamber about diabetes, and some issues that my hon. Friend raises may have been raised then. I refer him to the public service announcement, made by the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, that there may be an opportunity before the House rises on Tuesday week to have a further debate about that important illness.
Two days ago, when the Leader of the House announced today’s business, he was unable to assure me that the Back-Bench Business which had to be abandoned would be rescheduled, so I warmly welcome his decision after listening to representations from me and the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee to reschedule the air ambulance debate.
The right hon. Gentleman shows that he listens, and I share the view of other Yorkshire and north Lincolnshire Members that the decision to close the local children’s heart surgery unit is wrong. He has heard those representations, so will he return next week and during his response to business questions advise the House of a time, whether Government, Back-Bench or some other, when we can have that debate, which the House clearly wants and needs?
I am grateful for what the hon. Gentleman said in the earlier part of his question. Between now and next Thursday, I should like to touch base with the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, with the Opposition and with business managers to see whether there is any way in which we can respond to the very strong demand from Members on both sides for a debate about the recent decision on children’s services.
The Stanley Head outdoor education centre, located in my constituency but owned by Stoke-on-Trent council, faces closure. A number of my constituents would like to take on the centre and run it as a community asset, and they have the support of Staffordshire county council and other interested parties, but so far they have not been successful. Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate about community assets, and about residents taking over their ownership to keep them going for the people who use them?
It is, indeed, one of the policies of the coalition Government to enable community groups to take over and run public services when they are threatened with closure. I should like to raise my hon. Friend’s case with my Cabinet Office colleagues, who have responsibility for the policy, in order to see whether there is a way through which enables these services to continue, run by the community group that she mentions.
May we have an urgent debate about how to access funds for zebra crossings, a matter that was raised at Prime Minister’s questions yesterday? On Darlaston road in the Pleck ward of my constituency, a four-year-old boy was knocked down and a woman suffered broken bones on its crossing, but both central and local government cannot find the £30,000 required to upgrade it to a signal-controlled one. We need to do something before there is a death on the crossing.
I am sure that the hon. Lady has raised the matter with the newly elected mayor of Leicester, who has responsibility for the transport budget—[Hon. Members: “Walsall!”] Walsall, sorry. I will raise the matter with the appropriate authorities and see whether there is any way in which we can make progress on that important crossing.
Yesterday, I spent seven hours sitting in a meeting, carefully listening to the decision from the Safe and Sustainable review of children’s heart units. There was a clear disregard for a fundamental principle of the NHS constitution, namely patient choice, as it was said that patients would be managed to use the Newcastle hospital and Lincolnshire patients were barely mentioned at all. In addition, the review goes against the Secretary of State’s recently stated four principles for the reconfiguration of services. This is a fundamentally important issue to many of our constituents, so please may I urge my right hon. Friend to ensure that, at the very least, the Secretary of State gives a statement to the House?
Again, I recognise the strength of feeling, which has been added to by my hon. Friend, whose concern I recognise also. I am not sure that I can usefully add to what I said a moment ago, except to say that I do recognise the strength of feeling on the issue and will try, between now and next Thursday, to find a way through so that we might provide an avenue for a discussion on this important matter.
When my son was a tiny tot, I took him to Leeds children’s hospital, but now my constituents will go to London because it is easier than going to Newcastle—on the recommendation of Sir Ian Kennedy, whose care for families and parents spending time with their children is well known to this House. It is a recommendation, but the decision is that of the Secretary of State, and “suffer the little children of Yorkshire to suffer” is not something that the NHS should support. This Government have the reputation of being a Government of the south, by the south, for the south. We do not want a debate; we want a decision to reject this recommendation and to keep the hospital open.
I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman uses the words that he does. All the physicians who carry out the operations will, of course, remain in post; what we are talking about is where they carry them out. I cannot add to what I have said on several occasions in response to earlier questions, but I will do my best to find an avenue for a debate about this important issue.
If on Tuesday it is the will of this House that the Committee stage of the House of Lords Reform Bill should potentially be without end, where will the Leader of the House look to secure additional sitting days in order to protect Government and other House business?
In the light of what has already been said about Leeds, will the Leader of the House find time for a debate about the quality of decision making in the NHS? Yesterday my local NHS considered a report on removing vascular services from Warrington, based on flawed evidence and dated “June”, although the consultation closed only on 5 June, and it refuses to announce its decision. Yet, the Prime Minister said yesterday that
“changes should not go ahead unless there is proper listening to local clinicians and local people.” —[Official Report, 4 July 2012; Vol. 547, c. 913.]
When are we going to get that listening exercise, instead of managers taking flawed decisions and refusing to look properly at the evidence?
We have moved away from a system in which decisions are taken by managers to a process that is more clinically based; that is what local commissioning is all about. I will raise with my right hon. Friend the Health Secretary the particular concern that the hon. Lady mentions and ask him to write to her.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s clear willingness to try to secure a solution and find time to debate the appalling decision not to designate Leeds as a children’s heart centre, but does he agree with the principle that, before the Secretary of State decides to ratify or not that particular decision, a debate in the House is absolutely crucial in order for him to listen to the arguments for retaining Leeds?
Again, I recognise the force of my hon. Friend’s argument that there should be some opportunity for the House to debate and, if possible, to take a view on that particular decision. I cannot promise an early debate in Government time, but as I have said repeatedly I recognise the strength of feeling on this and will do my best to see whether we can find some time to debate it in the not too distant future.
Newcastle city council is just one authority dealing heroically with the aftermath of last week’s floods. With further flood warnings issued for this weekend, and with little reassurance provided in Environment, Food and Rural Affairs questions this morning on any financial assistance from the Government or on any progress on the flood insurance deal, will the Government make time for a debate about the economic impact of flooding?
The hon. Lady will know of the Bellwin formula, which extends Government help to local authorities that are confronted with significant problems as a result of things such as flooding. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was in Gateshead recently, and she was at this Dispatch Box a few moments ago answering questions about flooding and other issues, but I will ask her to write to the hon. Lady about the specific matter that she raises.
There is clear evidence of market abuse, manipulation, price fixing and mis-selling to small businesses by unregulated big business—I am talking not about the banks, but about Britain’s giant pub companies. So far, Ministers have ignored the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee report and inexplicably recommended self-policing. When will we have a statement from Ministers saying that they will uphold the clear will of the House, expressed on 12 January, and announce a review of this unsatisfactory position in the autumn?
I commend my hon. Friend on his vigorous campaign on behalf of the country’s pubs and understand his disappointment with any decision to remain with self-policing. I will raise his concerns with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and see whether there is anything to add to the statements that he has already made on the response to the Select Committee.
On 19 July, the Government announced their consultation on the draft suicide prevention strategy. That ended on 11 October. We are still waiting for the strategy finally to be announced. The Department of Health website says that the consultation responses will inform the final strategy “in early 2012”. May we have a statement before the House adjourns so that we know when we will have the suicide prevention strategy?
I understand the hon. Lady’s concern at the length of time it has taken to get a response. There are Health questions on 17 July. I will see whether by then there can be a response to the issues that she has raised, as she may be able to ask a question.