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5. Albert Owen (Ynys Môn): What recent discussions he has had with the appropriate Government Ministers and Departments relating to increased security measures at ports, RAF bases and nuclear installations in Wales; and if he will make a statement. 
The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Paul Murphy): I am in regular contact with Cabinet colleagues through the civil contingencies committee, of which the First Minister and I are both members.
The Government have taken all prudent measures to protect infrastructure installations including those to which my hon. Friend refers.
Albert Owen: I thank my right hon. Friend for his response. He will be aware of the concerns of my constituents in Ynys Môn, an area with a major ferry port, an RAF training base and a nuclear power station. He will further be aware of the cost implications of additional security measures for the two companies in the port. Has he raised with the Cabinet the possibility of grant aid? If so, what was the response?
Mr. Murphy: I understand my hon. Friend's concerns, but I assure him that the Government are doing all in their power to safeguard the people of Anglesey. I understand that Stena has raised the matter with the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions, which is considering the request, but I cannot prejudge the decision to be taken by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions.
In respect of Wylfa, our civil nuclear sites apply stringent security measures, regulated by the Office of Civil Nuclear Security, and work with the Health and Safety Executive. Both bodies have reviewed their precautions in the light of 11 September and are making recommendations to the Government. Clearly, it would be wrong for me to go into further detail, including the details to which my hon. Friend referred.
Mr. Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire): Given that many of the military personnel who may soon see active service in Afghanistan were trained in my constituency on the Brecon Beacons and the Epynt training range, will the Secretary of State ensure that the Secretary of State for Defence enhances security at the military bases at Brecon and Sennybridge to safeguard the security of the soldiers and communities that live and work in that area?
Mr. Murphy: I understand the hon. Gentleman's point and shall pass it on to the Secretary of State for Defence. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that I cannot comment on individual security details.
Llew Smith (Blaenau Gwent): While I accept the need to increase security at nuclear installations, does the Secretary of State accept that that is only a short-term measure and that the real answer is to bring an end to our nuclear role, thereby removing the risk of terrorist attack on such targets?
Mr. Murphy: I note what my hon. Friend has said.
Hywel Williams (Caernarfon): Following the recent terrorist outrages, will the Secretary of State ask the performance and innovation unit's energy review group to extend its remit to report on the security of nuclear power stations?
Mr. Murphy: We take all those points into account but, as I have said, at these difficult times it would not be
9. Ian Lucas (Wrexham): What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry concerning the progress of settlements of claims in the miners' compensation scheme in north-east Wales. 
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Don Touhig): My hon. Friend the Minister for Industry and Energy recently attended the Welsh coal health claims monitoring group to discuss the operation of the scheme in Wales, following which he and I then met volunteer workers with the National Union of Mineworkers. My hon. Friend will be aware that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales established the Welsh monitoring group specifically to address coal health issues in Wales. I am convinced that the measures discussed, and the actions taken so far by the monitoring group will further speed the process of paying out claims to miners and their widows.
Ian Lucas: I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. While I recognise that this is the largest legal claim in British history and appreciate my hon. Friend's commitment to the issue, does he accept that practical difficulties remain? They include the case of my constituent, Mr. Thomas Evans, who has been waiting two years for a spirometry test. Will my hon. Friend assure me that he will do everything in his power to ensure that the Wrexham assessment centre operates at full capacity in future?
Mr. Touhig: I am aware of the case to which my hon. Friend referred. Mr. Evans had a spirometry test in October 1999; in December 2000, the test was declared invalid and he was given the option of being re-tested. He declined the offer and, as a result, went on to apply for the full second-phase test, the MAP test. I am given to understand by IRISC, the Government's claim handlers, that it wrote to Mr. Evans's solicitors in July asking for a claims pack to be completed and is still awaiting its return. I shall do anything I can to help my hon. Friend speed up that claim. The monitoring group is fully aware of the problems that have been causing difficulties with the operation of the Wrexham testing centre, but we are satisfied that everything is being done to provide the necessary respiratory consultants to carry out all the tests required. If he wishes, I shall look into the case further. I believe that my hon. Friend the Minister for Industry and Energy will also reply to him directly.
Adam Price (East Carmarthen and Dinefwr): We have already heard how bad the situation is in north-east Wales. However, according to the Government's own figures, only 3 per cent. of claims in Carmarthenshire have been fully and finally settled. After all the representations that the Secretary of State has had on the issue from Welsh Members, why does Wales still have the slowest processing rate for full and final claims?
Mr. Touhig: May I, in the friendliest possible way, warn the hon. Gentleman to be wary of statistics? There
In the hon. Gentleman's constituency, and in the two postcode areas to which he referred in his interview in this morning's newspapers, 1,620 claimants have submitted claims and have received £2 million in interim and in full and final settlements. Additionally, a further 613 claimants have made claims under the vibration white finger scheme and have received £1 million. Therefore, about 30 per cent. of all claimants in his parliamentary constituency have received funding
Mr. Speaker: Order. The reply is too long.
Q1.  Mr. Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight): If he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 14 November.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair): This morning, I attended a seminar on primary care trusts and the national health service. I also spoke to President Bush and Chancellor Schroder on the current international crisis. Later today, in addition to my duties in the House, I shall have further meetings with ministerial colleagues.
Mr. Turner: Given that, on 4 July, the Prime Minister promised concessionary travel for pensioners on long- distance coach services, does he sympathise with pensioners on the Isle of Wight who have to cross the most expensive stretch of water in the country to board those coach services? Will he provide similar concessions on ferries?
The Prime Minister: That is a good constituency question. I am afraid that I cannot give the hon. Gentleman that commitment, but I hope that he will join me in supporting concessionary bus fares for pensioners. Such a scheme was rejected for many years under the previous, Conservative Government, but it has been delivered under the current one.
Dr. Hywel Francis (Aberavon): The House will know of the terrible explosion that occurred last Thursday in the No. 5 blast furnace in Port Talbot in my constituency. I am sure that the Prime Minister will wish to join me and the whole House in sending our deepest condolences to the families of the three men who died and to the families of the 13 men who were injured and remain in Morriston hospital. May I also invite the Prime Minister to join me
The Prime Minister: First, I know that my hon. Friend has spoken for the whole House in extending the sympathies of both sides of the House to the families of the victims of this terrible tragedy. I certainly join him in congratulating the emergency services on the work that they have done. I know that the Health and Safety Executive is investigating the incident, and it is too early to speculate on the exact causes. I am sure that that investigation should be allowed to continue, and I hope very much that those parts of the media that are reporting on the issue will have heard my hon. Friend's comments.
Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green): May I associate the Opposition with the Prime Minister's condolences expressed to the constituents of the hon. Member for Aberavon (Dr. Francis) who suffered in that tragic accident?
In the light of today's increases in unemployment, will the Prime Minister confirm that the International Labour Organisation's figures show that the number of manufacturing jobs in this country has fallen to the lowest level since its records began?
The Prime Minister: Of course the fall in employment, the rise in unemployment, is deeply regrettable, but, as I think the right hon. Gentleman will know, these are economic circumstances that are affecting the entire world at present. There have been rises in unemployment in virtually every one of the major western European and American countries. I think most people accept that as a result of low inflation, low interest rates, strong public finances and a huge reduction in unemployment over the past few years, Britain is probably as well placed as any major economy to weather the storms that we are experiencing.
Mr. Duncan Smith: Everyone would accept the existence of difficulties arising from 11 September, but should not the Prime Minister recognise that these latest figures show a fall in manufacturing employment of more than 120,000 in the year to Septemberbefore the events of 11 September? Even his own Secretary of State for Trade and Industry said:
The Prime Minister: Of course it is true that manufacturing industry has been through very difficult times, and indeed was going through difficult times before 11 September. That is happening in many parts of the
I totally disagree with the right hon. Gentleman's claim that this is to do with issues involving tax or regulation. In fact, what has happened in this country is that, since this Government came to power, we have the lowest interest rates we have had for 40 years, the lowest inflation in Europe, and the highest employment of any major European country. If we are talking about the pain of manufacturing, I think that what most parts of manufacturing remember are the early 1990s, when we lost more than a million jobs, output fell by 7 per cent. and interest rates were at 15 per cent.
Mr. Duncan Smith: But this Government have imposed more than £10 billion in extra costs on British business. That is why the director general of the Confederation of British Industry said last week:
The Prime Minister: I think that the right hon. Gentleman is a little unwise to quote the CBI director general. He did not quote all that the director general said last week. The director general also said that the United Kingdom had
As for the right hon. Gentleman's £10 billion figure, I will itemise how it is broken down by some parts of business. The vast majority relates to the minimum wage. [Interruption.] We are in favour of it, and I thought that the right hon. Gentleman was. The vast majority of the rest is to do with the working time directive, which, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, was agreed by the last Government and implemented by us.
Mr. Chris Smith (Islington, South and Finsbury): Does my right hon. Friend agree that, in the quest for a sustainable future for Afghanistan, the role of the United Nations will become increasingly important in securing both international and internal acceptance for a future Administration? Will he give every co-operation that he can to ensure that the UN can indeed find a stable future for that country?
The Prime Minister: I can assure my right hon. Friend that we will do everything that we can to support the United Nations in its work. As he rightly says, we require
Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye and Inverness, West): I share the Prime Minister's desire to fight terrorism in Britain, but does he agree that we should not do so by unduly undermining our existing human and democratic rights here? In that context, will he reconsider the proposed part of the new anti-terrorism legislation that would remove the right to judicial review for special immigration appeal cases? Would not that removal run the risk of sending quite the wrong signal?
The Prime Minister: No, I am afraid that I cannot agree with the right hon. Gentleman, for this reason: it is important that we have the power to detain suspected terrorists whom we cannot deport to another country, for reasons connected with the current state of the law, as he knows. If we do not have that power, there is a severe gap in the legislation. We take this power reluctantly and after careful consideration, but in the present circumstances I do not believe that it would be responsible, for the protection of citizens here, not to have it, although it will be exercised, of course, in a very small number of cases.
Mr. Kennedy: Will the Prime Minister therefore acknowledge that, with our having so recently incorporated the European convention, that reluctance must extend to the Government's feeling that, because of events, we have to opt out of one of its provisions? Can he at least give the House a guarantee that, at the first practicable moment, he will restore article 5, because it would be perverse in the extreme for us to remove civil rights in our own country at the very moment when we are, quite properly, campaigning for them on the international stage?
The Prime Minister: We are not opting out of the European convention. We have the power within the convention, in certain specific circumstances, to ensure that we can exercise particular powers. We have taken those powers to ourselves for this reason: we were in a situation in which suspected terrorists were coming into this country and we were unable to deport them to another country because, for example, that country might have executed them. So, we had a gap in the power and those people were allowed to stay and could not be detained, and they are a threat to our national security. There are not many of them, but they are a threat.
It is very important in these circumstances, particularly when we know that the threat posed by the terrorist network still exists, that we have the powers that we need. However, there are two very important safeguards. First, when we detain, the case is taken to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission. People can present their case there, but we can also present our confidential security evidence. There are also appeals on points of law in respect of the commission's decisions. Secondly, we have made it clearand we will abide by thisthat the legislation must be reviewed and renewed annually. That is what we will do. Those are proper safeguards.
The provisions will apply only in a small number of cases, but I can only imagine the position in the House if we failed to take the powers and ended up with people whom we knew to be suspected terrorists being at liberty in this country to cause difficulty either here or abroad.
Andy King (Rugby and Kenilworth): Does my right hon. Friend agree that the millions of people in Afghanistan who were facing the prospect of starvation this winter will now be secure in the knowledge that aid and food will be given to them, so they can face the winter with peace and security, knowing that their children will not starve to death?
The Prime Minister: We are now able, as I will explain, to get substantially more food and aid into Afghanistan and, most important of all, ensure that it is directed at the people who really need it. We will give every support and help to that programme. That is far easier to do now that the Taliban regime is collapsing.
Q2.  Sir Robert Smith (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine): Last year, 547 sub-post offices closed, but anyone thinking of investing in re-opening one of them would be completely unclear about how the universal bank and the card account will affect that business. Will the Prime Minister therefore ensure that his Ministers in the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department of Trade and Industry get together to end that uncertainty, otherwise, his promise that pensions can be collected from a sub-post office will be a hollow one?
The Prime Minister: They still can be, at present, and we need to ensure that the new arrangements are in place by the time the new system comes in. We will ensure that that is done. Of course, we must ensure that the details of the universal bankexactly how it will workare properly worked out in practice. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would agree.
Q3.  Dr. Richard Taylor (Wyre Forest): As one of the 39 old-age pensioners in the House, I declare an interest in my question. Does the Prime Minister agree with the 2,000 pensioners who visited Westminster on 6 November that it is morally indefensible to ask elderly patients, who have carefully saved for years, to pay for parts of their health care that will be free in Scotland soon?
The Prime Minister: As a result of the changes that we have introduced, pensioners will not have to pay for nursing care that they used to have to pay for. The question is whether we should go further and spend what amounts to £1 billion on personal care. [Interruption.] When we talk about spending money, the Liberal Democrats say yes before even doing the sums or before it is stated what the money is to be spent on. The fact is we do not believe that that is the best use of money.
In respect of different parts of health care, including the amount that will be spent on the hon. Gentleman's constituency, we have to choose priorities. Our belief is that we are making changes in paying for nursing care, but the £1 billion is spent in better ways in other parts of our national health service, and every penny we spend always has to be paid for.
Mrs. Jackie Lawrence (Preseli Pembrokeshire): Is the Prime Minister aware of the carpet of lilies campaign currently being run by the Haemophilia Society on behalf of those haemophiliacs who have been infected with hepatitis C or AIDS as a result of contaminated blood products? Can he give an assurance that the Government will consider the society's requests for action and, in particular, the availability of the blood treatment product, recombinant, throughout the UK, and not just in Wales and Scotland?
The Prime Minister: We are prepared to look at the blood treatment product and how we can help people in that situation. What I cannot offer my hon. Friend is support for the entire range of demands made by that campaign. We sympathise with it and we understand the problems that people face, but she will know that successive Governments have made it clear that there is a limit to the amount of compensation that we can pay.
Q4.  Matthew Green (Ludlow): Is the Prime Minister aware that there is strong public support for a West Mercia health authority, linking Shropshire with Herefordshire and Worcestershire? The Government, however, are consulting on four options. The first three options link Staffordshire with Shropshire and, surprisingly, option No. 4 links Staffordshire with Shropshire. Is that the Prime Minister's preferred method of consultation?
The Prime Minister: As the hon. Gentleman knows, the options were put forward after consulting many people about them, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health will have heard the representations that he has just made.
Rosemary McKenna (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth): On Sunday in my constituency, a moving speech was made by the Rev. Shirley Bench, a Methodist minister from California, at the Kilsyth war memorial. Will the Prime Minister accept her thanks and those of millions of Americans for his support in the successful campaign and will he give the House details of how we will assist in delivering aid to Afghanistan to restore Afghan society as quickly as possible?
The Prime Minister: Obviously, in my statement later I will provide details of the humanitarian help that we will give, but the strength and solidarity that many people in this country have shown with the United States of America has not just been of enormous comfort to people in America, but has shown the strength of the bilateral relations between our two countries. I am sure that what happened in my hon. Friend's constituency was replicated in many constituencies up and down the country.
Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green): Will the Prime Minister tell us whether the number of patients waiting more than 12 months for in-patient treatment has fallen or risen since he has been Prime Minister?
The Prime Minister: Overall, in-patient lists have gone down by around 100,000. It is true that there are certain categories where waiting times have risen, but overall they are down by over 100,000.
Mr. Duncan Smith: The Prime Minister did not answer the question, which is no great surprise, and gave us anything but the facts. My question was: has the number of patients from his lists of those waiting more than 12 months fallen or risen?
The Prime Minister: I said it is correct that the numbers of patients in certain categories of waiting have risen, but overall the numbers of people waiting have fallen. Since our first year in government, when in-patient and out-patient lists went up as we were still abiding by the same financing regime as the previous Government, in-patient and out-patient lists have fallen.
Mr. Duncan Smith: The Prime Minister did not want to answer that question because the reality is that the number waiting a year has not just risen, but risen by more than 13,000. Even that does not tell the whole story, however. If we look around the country, we see that in Leeds there has been a fivefold increase, in Birmingham a 17-fold increase and in west Devon a 68-fold increase in the numbers waiting. The British Medical Association has already said that the Government will fail on the waiting lists initiative, and today even one of his Ministers said:
The Prime Minister: The right hon. Gentleman cited various constituencies and I am surprised that he did not mention his own, but I will do that. In-patient waiting lists are down by almost 4,000 in his health authority area. The right hon. Gentleman was correct in what he said about people waiting more than 12 months, but overall the numbers of people waiting for in-patient treatment have fallen by more than 100,000 and that meets our manifesto commitment. The only reason for that fall and for the fact that there are half a million more operations taking place in the health service today, the new hospital-building programme and the additional nurses and doctors is the extra spending that the Government are putting into the health service. What is the position of the Conservative party in relation to this extra spending? It opposes it. Yes, it is true that the BMA may criticise us over the health service, but the one group of people[Interruption.]
Mr. Speaker: Order. There must be no shouting.
The Prime Minister: The BMA certainly can criticise us, but the one group of people who cannot is the Conservative party. The Conservatives are opposed to the very investment that can make the health service better.
Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire): Should not there now be an end to the bombing in Afghanistan, as many of the military objectives must have been achieved? The areas that are still dominated by the Taliban include many anti-Taliban forces and it must not
The Prime Minister: I can honestly tell my hon. Friend that the trouble with the point he is making is that its credibility would have been improved had he not been saying the same thing a week ago. Had we not carried on with the campaign to make sure that we targeted the front-line Taliban troops, we would not be in the position that we are in today where we can improve the humanitarian situation and set about the reconstruction of Afghanistan. It is important that we carry on until our objectives are delivered, but of course as the situation changes, we change the military package. That is precisely what we should do, but had we stopped when my hon. Friend first asked me to stop, we would not be in the position that we are in today, which is an important one to be in.
Q5.  Mr. Adrian Sanders (Torbay): Will the Prime Minister congratulate his constituent Brian Hunter, who was one of this morning's winners of the Lilly outstanding achievement awards for diabetes? Today is world diabetes day, so will the right hon. Gentleman explain why the national health service framework for diabetes is not now going ahead as planned in 2002?
The Prime Minister: I certainly join in the congratulations to my constituent, and I am delighted that he has received that award. Because of certain points put to the Government in representations from doctors and others, we are still in conversation with them about what is the best type of framework. The hon. Gentleman will know that we now have national health service frameworks operating across a range of different areas of disease. Those frameworks are very good and people welcome them, but they impose an additional work load on doctors. We are in discussion and consultation with GPs about the best way to proceed with the framework for diabetes. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would want us to do that in such a way that the framework gains the support of the medical profession, whose members, after all, are the people who have to implement it.
Q6.  Mrs. Betty Williams (Conwy): Now that my right hon. Friend and his colleagues are sorting out Railtrack[Interruption.] May I ask that the Government now turn their attention to such operating companies as Virgin, which provides a deplorable service between London and north Wales? The service is getting worse week by week because of poor management and worn-out trains.
The Prime Minister: Of course, that is precisely why it is important that we make the necessary changes in the structure of Railtrack. We must also make sure that any additional money we put into the railways gets to the front-line provision of better railways, in my hon. Friend's constituency and elsewhere.
Conservative Members shouted out a moment or two ago, but their transport spokeswoman was asked what a
Q7.  Mr. Andrew MacKay (Bracknell): In light of the unfortunate and confused statements by the Minister for Europe, will the Prime Minister take this opportunity to reaffirm the 1969 pledge that the constitutional status of Gibraltar will not be altered without the consent of the people who live there?
The Prime Minister: The Government have reaffirmed that pledge, and so has my right hon. Friend the Minister of State. I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman is wrong to imply otherwise. Indeed, I reaffirmed it at the press conference held with Prime Minister Aznar on Friday. However, it is important that the Brussels process should go forward. There are genuine political and practical problems that we should discuss with Spain. We hope very much that the Chief Minister of Gibraltar will participate. I think that it is in the interests of the people of Gibraltar that he does. That process should go forward because it is right for the interests of this country and of the people of Gibraltar.
Chris McCafferty (Calder Valley): Is my right hon. Friend aware that Afghanistan has the second-highest rate of maternal mortality in the world? More that 50 Afghani women die every day from complications in pregnancy and childbirth, and one in four Afghani children die before they reach their fifth birthday. Now, only 5 per cent. of Afghani women can read and write. The Taliban did not allow women doctors, lawyers and teachers to work or girls to attend school. Will my right hon. Friend give the House an assurance that he will do everything that he can to ensure that Afghani women are represented at every level in discussions on the social, economic and political reconstruction of their country?
The Prime Minister: The point that my hon. Friend makes is quite right. Of course the women of Afghanistan should be involved in the discussions that will take place. I do not think that there is any group of people in Afghanistan with more to celebrate at the departure of the Taliban regime than Afghan women, who have been subject to brutal oppression over a long period of time. That is one reason among many others why it is good that the Taliban regime's days are numbered.
Q8.  Mr. Mark Francois (Rayleigh): Following on from his very unconvincing answer a few minutes ago, can the Prime Minister explain why waiting times in accident and emergency units are longer than they were four years ago?
The Prime Minister: I do not accept that at all. Money is going in to accident and emergency departments
Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover): Will the Prime Minister rehearse for a few more moments what he had
The Prime Minister: Not for the first time, I think what a loss my hon. Friend is to the Dispatch Box.