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Mr. Hammond rose--

Yvette Cooper: I apologise for asking that question so late in the debate, but the hon. Gentleman needs to answer before the election, because that target provides patients with a lot of reassurance.

We are also providing investment to increase the number of oncologists, as my hon. Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, South and Cleveland, East said. There will be an extra 1,000 new consultant posts, including hundreds of extra oncologists. However, our proposals are about not just extra investment, but reform involving the work of the cancer collaboratives, NICE and the new national cancer standards.

A huge amount of work is going on to improve cancer care in this country. It will take time; we must be realistic about that. It is about extra investment, but also about reforming the way we proceed--

It being Four o'clock, and there being private business set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means under Standing Order No. 20 (Time for taking private business), further proceedings stood postponed.

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City of London (Ward Elections) Bill (By Order)

As amended, considered.

4 pm

Mr. John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I apologise for not giving you notice of this point of order, but you will understand why when I explain it.

I have just picked up the statement from the promoters in support of the consideration of the Bill, as amended. This is the second statement provided to the House about the Bill. Will you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, consider what procedures should exist with regard to these statements, on the following grounds? The statement has been issued, but it was not possible to challenge it prior to its circulation to all hon. Members, so Members could not refute some of the information within it which I believe to be inaccurate and may well have influenced Members' decision whether to attend and participate today. Would you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, examine the procedures whereby these statements are issued to hon. Members via the Vote Office, so using the offices of the House?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): That is not a question of order for the Chair. Information has been supplied and, as the House knows, sometimes, from even more eminent sources, material is provided at short notice.

Mr. McDonnell: Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I understand that it is not for any Member or for the House to impede the circulation of information to Members from whatever source. However, this statement has been provided to Members with a copy of the Bill via the Vote Office, in other words using the resources of this House, which, I believe, are provided for the facility of Members. If so, there must be a mechanism whereby the information contained in a statement can be challenged by other Members. It may be that a promoter should be required to give notice to interested Members in advance of a statement's circulation so that they can contradict elements within it.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: These are not matters for the Chair. We have a procedure for private Bills and the promoter can deposit material in the House. If the material is in question or debatable, the next three hours have been set aside for such debates to take place. There is no further point of order on that matter.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In view of the ruling that you have just made, that there is no further point of order about the promoter's statement, is it not incumbent on the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke) at least to start the debate with an explanation of the derivation of the statement, the accuracy of the information contained in it and the thinking behind it? Should he not let us know at what level this has been discussed by the City of London Corporation? As my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. McDonnell) has just explained, the statement is given, in effect, an official seal of approval because it is circulated along with official

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House of Commons papers by the Vote Office. If there are serious inaccuracies in it--that could not happen in a statement from a Government Department because it would be challenged--why cannot such a statement be challenged in the case of a private Bill?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: That is not a matter of order for the Chair; it is a matter for debate. I do not know what contribution the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke) may wish to make to the debate. He has hardly had a chance as the first two Members to catch my eye have been the hon. Members for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. McDonnell) and for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn). These are not matters for the Chair, but they may be matters for argument later.

Mr. Corbyn: Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Should the right hon. Gentleman now wish to avail himself of the opportunity of the start of the debate to make a statement on the information that has been circulated and be allowed to have questioning and discussion on it, would that not be--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot change the private Bill procedure to meet a particular point. Information has been provided, but that has nothing to do with the Chair. The Chair's responsibility in these circumstances is to follow the order of business before us and that is what I now propose to do.

New Clause 2

Statement of compatibility with the European Convention on Human Rights

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this it will be convenient to take amendment No. 11, in clause 2, page 1, line 19, at end insert--

Mr. Mackinlay: Many of the arguments relating to the changes proposed to the Bill were well rehearsed in this Chamber a year ago by myself and others, so I will not detain the House by repeating them, other than where it is necessary to put matters in context or to raise new matters with which I have become acquainted during the intervening period.

It has not escaped my notice that we have a different Minister on the Front Bench. I welcome the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston (Ms Hughes); no doubt she has done her homework and read the debates of a year ago. I regret that the Government have acquiesced in this repugnant situation, although I prevailed upon the Minister on the previous occasion. I am a man who always has great faith and perhaps today, with a new

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Minister and after 12 months' reflection, the Government may have changed their attitude to my amendments and generally to the Bill.

Mr. McDonnell: Does my hon. Friend agree that part of the problem with the Bill is that we are now into the third year of its examination? The inconsistency of representation on the Government Front Bench has meant that at different times there has been inconsistency of attitude towards the details of the Bill. Does he agree that that has been a major problem?

Mr. Mackinlay: That may well be. I find it deeply disappointing that a Labour Government support extending the franchise not on the basis of one person, one vote, but to property voters. I am proud that the Attlee Government and others did away with the university vote. The Wilson Government did away with the very thing that we are proposing, in Derry and Londonderry. Here we are acquiescing in it. I do not wish to delay the House and I promised you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I would address my remarks to the amendments. Nevertheless because there is a new Minister present it is right to have said that.

The House will no doubt divide upon this. Although it is a charade and fiction that the Government are neutral on private Bills, we shall see whether every Minister present will support the City of London and the promoters of the Bill. No doubt they will prevail on others to join them in the Lobby and I deeply regret that.

A year ago I discovered the subject matter of my new clause while examining the Bill. I was instinctively opposed to the Bill, so scratched its surface and found that it was flawed in terms of our commitment to human rights. Either the Bill should be amended to meet our commitments under the human rights legislation or it should be rejected. If the Bill is passed, it must be improved in the way in which I have outlined in the new clause.

This is a classic example of where, rarely in this place, we can examine legislation in detail, albeit on the Floor of the House. I hope that I might persuade the few who are present in the Chamber of my case. I know from informal discussions that I have had with Ministers and Officers of the House that the point that I outlined last January is valid.

When we pass what are known as Government Bills, each one has on it a declaration headed "European Convention on Human Rights". For example, the Armed Forces Bill has printed on it:

We do that for Government Bills, but not for so-called private Bills, which have different Standing Orders for their consideration by this and the other House. That is clearly a deficiency. In Government circles--for example, the Lord Chancellor's Department, the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, and the office of the Leader of the House--it is accepted that this issue needs to be addressed. They have had considerable time in which to remedy it.

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One of the consequences of my noting this deficiency in the way in which private Bills are presented, and their deficiency in terms of human rights legislation, has been that I have applied the same objection to other private Bills, which have been frustrated. They are probably very good Bills, but I and other hon. Members have a duty as legislators to ensure that Bills that go through the House and reach the statute book are not flawed.

The promoters of those other Bills had hoped that the Government would, through the usual channels, provide a remedy to the deficiency and allow their Bills to proceed. It was also hoped that the promoters of this Bill would recognise that they should either recommend that my new clause be adopted, or find some other way of ensuring that their Bill was compliant with our human rights obligations. We might hear from my hon. Friend the Minister whether any changes are to be proposed to deal with that matter.

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