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The Solicitor-General: The Crown Prosecution Service has just reviewed its guidance to prosecutors to give effect to its full commitment to working with the police, the courts, the voluntary sector and local government to combat domestic violence. The CPS has consulted widely with the public and voluntary sector at both national and local level as part of this review. The responses have shaped the changed guidance that is to be launched next month on behalf of the CPS by Cherie Booth, QC.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Julie Morgan) for her work as chair of her local domestic violence forum. She has always been a champion in these issues and has made a real difference at local level.
Julie Morgan: I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for her reply. How have the agencies involved in the Cardiff domestic violence forum been consulted about the new guidelines on domestic violence? As well as the CPS, which plays a full and active role in the forum, other agencies include the police, the health service, local authority services, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, women's aid, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service and the court services. Multi-agency work is difficult and delicate, and it is important for all those agencies to be involved.
The Solicitor-General: My hon. Friend asks how and whom we consulted. I think that most of the organisations that she lists were involved in the consultation. Because of her expertise and long-standing commitment on this issue, I have raised with her what the guidance would include.
It is important to recognise that the guidance, which is designed to guide Crown prosecutors in their decision making, is not written on tablets of stone. It will be published next month and, after further discussion, people may want to propose changes about certain issues. The CPS is accountable and answerable, and it will take such proposals into account. Because this will be on the internet, we will be able to make those changes quickly.
Previously, the guidance has been secret. The CPS is coming out into the open; it is more accountable and transparent. It is not making decisions according to secret guidance; instead it publishes them and is prepared to discuss with partners at local and national level whether the guidance is right.
Mr. Forth: I am grateful to the Leader of the House for giving us notice of the business. When might we expect the Chancellor's autumn statement? The sooner the House is made aware of that, the better.
What on earth is going on in terms of Ministers failing to come to the House to give statements on important matters, so that the House cannot question them? There are a number of examples, the foremost of which has arisen today, regarding the scandalous news from the Audit Commission about accident and emergency units. It is one thing for Ministers to go on the radio in the morning, as is their habit, but why, even if that were to happen firstwhich it should notcannot Ministers come to the House of Commons to answer questions, not from the Humphrys and Naughties of this world, but from Members of Parliament?
The same applies to the letter that we have all had today from the Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for adult skills, the hon. Member for Wentworth (John Healey), about something called the individual learning account programme. The hon. Gentleman says that
I read in a newspaper today that an announcement about terminal 5 may be about to be sneaked out under the cover of our ground troops going into Afghanistan. We have been through this so many times in the recent past. I want a guarantee from the Leader of the House that we will have a proper statement on terminal 5 before anyone else hears about it in any other way so that the many people directly affected by the issue can be properly represented in this House by their Members of Parliament asking questions of a Minister following a statement.
Will the Leader please set an example? Will he give us a lead? Will he give a guarantee that we will not only be the first to hear about these matters but that we will have the opportunity properly to question Ministers about them?
Mr. Cook: I am delighted to tell the right hon. Gentleman that I can give a guarantee that there will be an oral statement in the House on terminal 5. No decision has yet been taken, but when it is, it will be announced in the House by means of an oral statement. The right hon. Gentleman knows the rulesno Minister will speak to the press or anyone else until there has been an oral statement in the House. I am grateful for the opportunity to make the right hon. Gentleman happy. He asked for a guarantee and he has got one. What he wants will happen and I would appreciate his welcome for that.
On accident and emergency departments, it is worth remembering that the figures announced today by the Audit Commission are 18 months old. In the past 12 months, the period for very long stays has halved. Today we have made it clear that we are not satisfied with the position. We want to do betterthat is why we are investing in another 600 nurses for training in accident and emergency departments. It will take us time to reach our target of a maximum wait of four hours in accident and emergency departments. However, I assure the right hon. Gentleman that we will get there a lot faster than the 18 years it took the previous Government to ruin the national health service.
On the individual learning account, I appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman was not present for Education and Skills questions, when the subject was raised orally. I welcome the fact that he has drawn attention to it because we are in difficulty entirely because we have wildly exceeded our target. We set a target of 1 million, and 2.5 million people have come forward to take advantage of the new ILA.
I appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman has recognised that we have exceeded our target. We have more than doubled the figures we were aiming at. I shall try to ensure that we have more statements so that, when we exceed our targets, the House is fully aware of that fact and the right hon. Gentleman can welcome it.
Andrew Bennett (Denton and Reddish): May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to the Marine Wildlife Conservation Bill, which will be debated tomorrow, and press him to consider reforming the way in which private Members' Bills are dealt with? The Bill has widespread support from conservation groups, and wide cross-party support in the House, yet after a lot of work has gone into its preparation it is now rumoured that the Government Whips may intend to sabotage it because the wind power lobby has managed to nobble someone. Would it not be better to have a proper Second Reading tomorrow, get the Bill into Committee and have the small details properly scrutinised, rather than having Government Whips sabotaging private Members' Bills?