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Mrs. Beckett: First, the right hon. Gentleman asks me to reflect on the time allotted for the Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Bill, and of course I will do so, although the business for the second week is always provisional. If, as he says, a number of issues need to be aired, there may be much to be said for having proper programme motions so that we can be confident of having time to air the issues in which right hon. and hon. Members are particularly interested. On Monday and Tuesday, the right hon. Gentleman's side took a sensible approach, for which we were grateful, and we got through our business efficiently and effectively with all hon. Members feeling that they had had an opportunity to air their concerns.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): Really?

Mrs. Beckett: We cannot take two days for everything.

Mr. Forth: Why not?

Mrs. Beckett: Because there is not enough parliamentary time.

The right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young) asked next about a debate on the Lords. I understand his wish for a balanced diet, but he must appreciate that every Government's priority is their legislative programme. Since we have not been having programme motions, several Bills have taken more time than was allotted--or, indeed, originally asked for. Consequently, we are anxious to ensure that our Bills have proper priority.

I give the right hon. Gentleman the undertaking that he sought on the House being kept informed about Rover. On Lord Levy, I understand that the Prime Minister has answered questions about that matter. The right hon. Gentleman asked finally about a newspaper report--I cannot recall whether he said what paper it appeared in--

Sir George Young: The Times.

Mrs. Beckett: I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. The report was about Government business managers having discussions. It is completely untrue to say that there is not enough time for the Government's programme. Our programme is challenging, but there is certainly enough time, provided that the House deals with its business efficiently and effectively.

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The right hon. Gentleman will find the fact increasingly appearing in biographies of me, I am pleased to say, that I am not one of those politicians who make their way through cultivating the press. I do not leak stories to the press. Anything that has appeared under any byline about my intentions or discussions with business managers has no authority behind it. It comes neither from my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury, nor from me.

Mr. Michael Clapham (Barnsley, West and Penistone): My right hon. Friend may have read early-day motion 439 on deaths from asbestos-related diseases:

[That this House regrets to learn of the death of Sidney Dalton due to mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos whilst working at the former Blackburn Meadows Power Station; calls for a public inquiry into the high incidence of asbestos-related disease amongst former power industry workers; deplores the conduct of his employers Powergen plc in forcing former employees or their widows to take their cases for compensation to the High Court; and reminds the company that under the Electricity Act 1989 they were required to take over liabilities and not just the assets of the former Electricity Generating Board, and that accordingly they have a duty to compensate former workers who have suffered asbestos-related disease.]

She may also have read early-day motion 440, which draws attention to international repetitive strain injury awareness day. She will be aware of the report of the Select Committee on the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs on the Health and Safety Executive, and she may be aware that the Health and Safety Commission will reply, over the next week or so, to the consultation exercise carried out last year. Following that publication, will she endeavour to make time for a debate on health and safety, an important matter in a changing world, and an issue badly neglected by the Opposition during their 18-year Administration?

Mrs. Beckett: I have some sympathy with my hon. Friend's point, and I understand concern across the House about health and safety matters. As I have just said to the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire, I cannot undertake to find time in the near future for a special debate, particularly as my hon. Friend has identified a wide range of issues. I recommend to him the debates in Westminster Hall.

Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall): In his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. George) yesterday, the Prime Minister laid great stress on the importance of the farming summit that he is convening at 10 Downing street on 30 March. Can the Leader of the House give an absolute assurance that there will, as soon as possible after that event--we are getting close to it--be a statement by the Prime Minister or a debate in Government time on the crisis in agriculture?

The shadow Leader of the House referred to the huge amount of business to be undertaken on Wednesday 29 March. May I suggest a means by which we could relieve the pressure? If, instead of trailing announcements about the proposed merger of the Benefits Agency and the Employment Service on the "Today" programme or sneaking out a written answer at the end of Thursday, the Government made a proper statement in the House,

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we could have a proper discussion and hold Ministers to account. Given that the Prime Minister himself--according to the "Today" programme--thought the matter so important that he had to make the announcement himself, why is he not making it to the House?

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover): You don't have to believe everything John Humphrys says.

Mrs. Beckett: My hon. Friend is entirely right. One does not have to believe all that John Humphrys says. [Hon. Members: "Don't you?"] That is no criticism, but a statement of fact which, I am sure, John Humphrys would be the first to endorse.

I undertake that the House will be kept informed about the outcome of the farming summit. The Government recognise its great importance to the industry and to many hon. Members on both sides. I cannot undertake that the statement will be made by the Prime Minister, but the House will be kept informed.

The hon. Gentleman referred to matters being trailed on the "Today" programme and asked for a statement in the House. There is always a balance to be struck on how the public and the House are informed. He will be aware that, as Madam Speaker has pointed out in the past, the Government can make announcements to the House through written parliamentary answers. There is nothing unparliamentary about that. Of course, I understand the pressure and the desire for more statements, but the hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Government have already made far more statements than did our predecessors over a similar period. If we continue to have demands for statements on everything, there will not be time for the debates that hon. Members are calling for.

Mrs. Ann Cryer (Keighley): Would my right hon. Friend consider a debate on residential care for people with a mental handicap and the problems raised for devoted relatives by the complete lack of choice in many areas? The matter is set out in my early-day motion 517 on residential village communities:

[That this House welcomes the strengthened guidance given to health and local authorities last July (HSC 1999/162: LAC (99)28) confirming the rights of people with a mental handicap and their families to make informed choices about residential and other placements, but is concerned that evidence presented to an NHS conference on 28th January indicated that by a ratio of over two to one families claimed they were not being allowed the choice to which this Government is committed; and therefore urges the Government to adopt effective measures quickly to ensure that family choices, including the choice of village-type residential communities, preferred by many families are properly respected by local health and social service authorities and that more serious consideration is given to the evolution of such village communities, as argued for in, Made to Care, by the noble Baroness, Baroness Cox, and the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch.]

Mrs. Beckett: I take heed of the concern aired by my hon. Friend. There are local complaints procedures, if there is unhappiness. However, I take my hon. Friend's point that there is not the range of choice for people with

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such disabilities that one might want. I shall certainly draw her remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health.

Mr. Christopher Gill (Ludlow): I know that you, Madam Speaker, are aware of the real anger in the livestock industry about the failure of the Government to pay agrimonetary compensation up to the maximum allowed. However, you may not be aware that the Agriculture Commissioner, Franz Fischler, has recently stated that the UK is the only country in the European Union that is not paying up to the maximum allowed under the legislation. May we have an early debate so that the Minister of Agriculture can come to the House and explain why the Government are so resolute in refusing to increase those amounts to the maximum allowed? Instead of giving us excuses for his failure, can he give us some reasons for continuing to sell the farmers short?

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