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Mrs. Beckett: That question comes rather rich from the right hon. Gentleman. Yesterday, during the debate on the Royal Parks (Trading) Bill, one of his hon. Friends said:


It is not just legislative time; it is time for worthwhile debate.

I entirely share the view that a debate about House of Lords reform would be worth while, enabling Opposition Members to explain how they have proceeded, in one swift movement, from resisting any reform whatever, to wanting a Chamber that will be a rival to this one. I know that the right hon. Gentleman holds that view.

Some Opposition Front Benchers shake their heads. They should be aware that the right hon. Gentleman has now made publicly clear his belief that we should set up an elected Chamber that should be a rival to this Chamber. That is an important issue, which the House should discuss--but, while we are taking up time on the Floor of the House with matters that do not need to take up so much time, there is no time available to discuss matters of that kind.

Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley): As the Government can carry over legislation, will my right hon. Friend announce at an early date that certain measures will be carried over, which will ensure better scrutiny and assist the Government timetable? May I make another helpful suggestion? As well as debating the Wakeham report, we should debate the Jenkins report, which would perhaps provide the Government with an opportunity to say that, having looked more closely at how proportional representation works, we shall take no more part in it and ditch it in the wastepaper basket?

Mrs. Beckett: At present, I am unable to make proposals for Bills to be carried over. My hon. Friend will

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know that such matters have to be discussed and agreed across the House, but I am aware that he proposed the idea to the Modernisation Committee and that it is one of many proposals that he has made that are designed to help the House handle its legislative business more effectively. On the Jenkins report, he will recall that we have debated that matter, but I shall, of course, bear his request in mind.

Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield): The right hon. Lady will be aware that the Government are considering future uses of the dome. Can we have an urgent debate on exactly what the dome will be used for, before the closure of the tacky exhibition that is on in the dome--I guess in the next two or three weeks? Is she aware that there are now only two finalists for those who will run the dome? Is it not a disgrace that one of them is Mr. Robert Bourne, who--surprise, surprise--gave £66,000 to the Labour party over the past two years: another crony?

Mrs. Beckett: I take note of the hon. Gentleman's remarks about the dome, but he will know that many of those who have visited it, including many thousands of children, have taken much pleasure and enjoyment from it. He makes a remark about the process of selection. He should know that that decision-making process was initiated by the millennium commissioners. They made recommendations to the ministerial group at a meeting chaired by Lord Dalkeith, so there is clearly an independent element, as there rightly should be, in that process.

Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West): Although the Government are to be congratulated on the substantial sums of new money that they have given to pensioners in innovative ways, my right hon. Friend will be aware of the widespread anger at the 75p a week increase in pensions. The word that is almost universally linked with that increase is "insult". Is she aware that pensioners--many of whom visited the House yesterday to make this point--have contributed to the pension scheme all their working lives and that they would like to be paid their pensions as an entitlement, not given what they regard as handouts?

Mrs. Beckett: I understand the concern, and the irritation, felt by many pensioners. I also understand my hon. Friend's point. I know that many pensioners resent the way in which the heating allowance is paid, but that does mean that it is tax free. Similar sums made available through the weekly payment would not be tax free, so there are arguments for and against the mechanisms that the Government have used. However, it is clear that this Government have cut VAT on fuel and have provided substantial extra resources for pensioners in the Budget and will continue to do so.

Mr. Paul Burstow (Sutton and Cheam): May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day motion 732?

[That this House notes with concern the growing number of reported cases of inappropriate use of not for resuscitation (NFR) orders; believes that there is a gap between guidelines and practice which leaves patients and family members uninvolved in the decision to mark a patient's records 'NFR'; notes that research reported in the British Medical Journal found that two out of three

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patients with NFRs were not involved in the decision and that patients with NFRs were 30 times more likely to die; and calls on the Government to take urgent action to stamp out this immoral practice and issue clear instructions to the NHS on the use of not for resuscitation orders.]

It highlights the growing number of cases of inappropriate use of not-for-resuscitation orders in the NHS. Two out of three patients are not even consulted when those orders are put on their records. It is 30 times more likely that those with an order on their medical records will die during the course of their treatment in the NHS. Given that Age Concern reported only yesterday that almost three quarters of GPs believe that there is an age-based rationing of health care in the NHS, can the Secretary of State for Health make a statement on what the Government are doing to stamp out the immoral and unacceptable practice of using such orders without consulting?

Mrs. Beckett: The Government have made it plain that there should be clear guidelines on resuscitation policy, in hospitals or anywhere else in the health service. The Government are committed to ensuring the development of best practice throughout the NHS. We are aware of the anxiety that is being expressed and will continue to try to deal with it.

Dr. Phyllis Starkey (Milton Keynes, South-West): I express my profound thanks to the Leader of the House for her announcement about timetabling several Bills. I also thank her for making it clear while at least one of the usual suspects from the Opposition Benches was present that a more appropriate way of using parliamentary procedure would be to raise specific issues in Committee instead of on the Floor of the House. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is in the interests of all parties for the public to retain confidence in the House and that the goings-on this week were guaranteed to convince the general public that the House was not relevant to them? Does she also agree that silly debating games have no place in what should be the prime legislative Chamber of this country?

Mrs. Beckett: I have a great deal of sympathy with my hon. Friend's remarks. Perhaps she knows that there has already been public and press comment on the folly of trying to impede the passage of, for example, Royal Parks (Trading) Bill, which deals with illegal trading that has implications for food safety, public order and several other important issues. The public would want the House to address those issues properly. There is no question of not discussing matters, but it must happen in the right way at a time that the House provides for such discussion. We should not exploit the opportunities of the House to delay business.

Mr. John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings): The Leader of the House will no doubt be as concerned as me about the letter to the Prime Minister from head teachers in Durham, which complains that schools there are falling to pieces. The state of schools is so bad that it adversely affects the quality of teaching and learning. The Government have given barely a quarter of the money that is needed to repair those schools. Will the Leader of the House provide for a statement that reconciles the comments

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of those who are at the sharp end, and do the job of educating children, with the increasingly unconvincing bluster and hyperbole of the Prime Minister?

Mrs. Beckett: I am glad that the hon. Gentleman asked me that. I was the Minister responsible for schools in the last Labour Government. We left the Conservative party a backlog of repairs and construction that needed to be tackled--most of it was inherited from the early 1970s, when the Conservative party was in power--of some £100 million when our capital budget was of the order of £10 million. I was seriously worried about that, but recognised with relief that, thanks to the changes that that Labour Government had made, North sea oil would provide substantial resources, which would make it possible to shorten the time scale necessary to tackle that backlog. The money was not used in that way. It was the equivalent in today's terms of £35 million every day for a solid 17 years. Yet when we came to power, we found a backlog of £3 billion to £4 billion. The hon. Gentleman should look to those on the Opposition Benches for the explanation of the poor state of schools.


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