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Mrs. Beckett: My hon. Friend is right to say that there is continuing concern about the operation of rail, but I fear that there are no plans to do as the early-day motion suggests and return Railtrack to public ownership, although he will know that we are reviewing whether there are any impediments in the current arrangement to the provision of a safe and efficient rail service. He will also be well aware of the enormous increase in resources that the Government intend to make available to rectify the problems that have arisen as a result of decades of under-investment.
Mrs. Beckett: No, and I am well aware that my hon. Friend would be the last to suggest that moneys should be expended on compensation. Although his suggestion is interesting and we all share his wish to make improvements in rail transport provision, that specific path is not one that, at present, the Government are contemplating.
Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire): Hon. Members on both sides of the House from fishing constituencies will acknowledge and appreciate the fact that Government time has been found on 25 January to
Mrs. Beckett: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his kind remarks. He was one of those Members who pressed for the fishing debate and he understood why we were unable to hold it earlier. Whether it will be possible for the Fisheries Minister to give such a reaction will depend a little on how the European Union discussions go and whether there is something constructive that he can report. However, I undertake to draw the hon. Gentleman's remarks to the attention of the Fisheries Minister, who will, I know, take them seriously and give the House as much information as he can.
Angela Smith (Basildon): My right hon. Friend may not have had the opportunity to read this week's Basildon Evening Echo. Had she done so, she would have read of the tragic death of a brave young woman of 18 who died after waiting two years for a suitable donor for a transplant operation. On looking further into the matter, it was discovered that in 1994 the rules were changed so that kidney and organ donor cards were not sent automatically to chemist shops and GPs, who have to apply for and order them. As a result, there is a great shortage of them and people across the country no longer have the choice to take up a donor card and donate an organ after their death if they want to.
Can we have a debate on the subject to draw it to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health? We must reverse the rules introduced in 1994 and send cards automatically to all chemists and GPs.
Mrs. Beckett: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising an important and serious issue. The House no doubt wishes to convey its condolences to her constituent's family, especially in the difficult circumstances that my hon. Friend describes. I readily admit that I was not aware that the rules had been changed in 1994 in the way that she identifies. I have carried a donor card for more years than I care to remember, and share her view that it is important that as many people as possible who would be willing to be organ donors are able to do so. The most important thing is for people to make sure not only that they carry a card, but that they make their family and friends aware of their wishes in that respect. I will draw my hon. Friend's remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health who, I know, will take them seriously.
Mr. John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings): Perhaps because of my characteristic generosity, I assume that the Leader of the House innocently misunderstood the request from my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning) for a debate on early years education. The right hon. Lady should know that the Select Committee report published today calls for diversity of provision in early years, yet since 1997 we
Mrs. Beckett: I am aware of the wish for diversity. No one on either side of the House would deny that diversity in provision is welcome, and it would be wrong for the impression to be created that there has been some deliberate plan to reduce diversity in provision. To some extent, a re-balancing of provision is taking place as a result of the far greater opportunities for nursery education opened up under the Government. I fear that I cannot undertake to find time for an early debate on the matter. We have just had Education questions, but the hon. Gentleman knows that among the other virtues of Westminster Hall is the fact that there is infinitely more time--four times as much--for discussion of Select Committee reports. He may want to press, through the Liaison Committee, for the report to be one of those debated there.
Mr. Tony Colman (Putney): Will my right hon. Friend arrange for an early debate on aviation policy? The long-awaited consultation paper, "The Future of Aviation", was issued on 12 December. There was no Government statement or debate at that time, nor has there been since, so I urge that upon my right hon. Friend. Will she pass on to her colleagues at the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions my thanks for their decision shortly before the recess that almost halved the number of night flights going over Putney? I hope that that will lead to a total ban on night flights.
My constituents have expressed concern that the consultation paper clearly states that the White Paper will be tabled only after a decision is taken on terminal 5 at Heathrow. It is extremely important that my right hon. Friend arrange for a debate covering aviation policy as a whole, but which particularly takes soundings of the views of the House on terminal 5, which I hotly oppose, as did some 99 per cent. of the people who appeared at the public inquiry.
Mrs. Beckett: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his welcome for the discussions that are under way, and for the changes that have already been undertaken to try to achieve a fairer approach to aircraft noise. I fear that I cannot undertake to find time for a special debate on the Floor of the House, but I can recommend to him, too, the advantages of a debate in Westminster Hall. I also remind him that it is questions to the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions on Tuesday, and he may find an opportunity then to raise the issue.
Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough): I thought that the question asked by the hon. Member for Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush (Mr. Soley) was revealing. Will the Leader of the House acknowledge that the Opposition have played entirely by the rules this week--her rules--and that it would be monstrous and tyrannical if the Government, at the urging of their Back Benchers, tried to change the rules? The only weapon available to any Opposition, which she would have used--and, indeed did use--when she was in opposition, is time. Are the right
Mrs. Beckett: The basic premise of the hon. Gentleman's question is misplaced. In all my years in the House, I have never ever wasted time on fruitless discussion of pointless and trivial matters. I have always planned any Committee stage of which I was part, and have always planned and programmed discussion to make sure that all matters could be aired, so that, in particular, most time is given to the most important matters. I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman's basic premise is mistaken. I am not saying that there have never been Members who use time in the way that he describes, but I have never found that attractive and have never thought that it appeals to public or those who wish us to scrutinise legislation properly.
The hon. Gentleman is right to say, however, that, as with any other place of work, this place works best, most efficiently and most effectively when there is broad consent and understanding of what we are trying to do. We are supposed to be trying to scrutinise legislation, not engaging in self-indulgent time wasting.
Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington): My right hon. Friend will know that, with the change in the American Administration and the Bush takeover, there will be a welcome change in foreign policy on Iraq. Some of us would welcome taking a more aggressive position. Could my right hon. Friend arrange for a debate on Iraq, so that Members' varying and changing views could be well understood by the Government, as we ourselves begin to reform our foreign policy on Iraq?