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Wednesday 16 JanuaryOpposition Day [7th Allotted Day]. Until Seven o'clock there will be a debate entitled "State of the Railways" followed by a debate entitled "The Crisis in the Care System". Both debates will arise on a motion in the name of the Liberal Democrats.
I should also like to inform the House that, on Wednesday 16 January 2002, there will a debate on the sixth environmental action programme in European Standing Committee A. Details of the relevant documents will be given in the Official Report.
|Report No:||Title||HC No.||Publication Date||Govt Reply|
|38||Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food: The Sheep Annual Premium Scheme in England||36224||November 2000||Cm 5021|
|39||HM Customs and Excise: Revenue from Gambling Duties||4238||November 2000||Cm 5021|
|40||National Savings: Public-Private Partnership with Siemens Business Services||56615||November 2000||Cm 5021|
|41||The Gaming Board: Better Regulation||61116||November 2000||Cm 5021|
|42||The Management and Control of Hospital Acquired Infection in Acute NHS Trusts in England||30623||November 2000||Cm 5021|
|43||Hip Replacements: Getting it Right First Time||51313||December 2000||Cm 5071|
|44||Ministry of Defence: Accepting Equipment Off-Contract and into Service||31930||November 2000||Cm 5078|
|45||Ministry of Defence: Acceptance of the Chinook Mk 2 Helicopter||97530||November 2000||Cm 5078|
|46||Ministry of Defence: KosovoThe Financial Management of Military Operations||58221||December 2000||Cm 5071|
|47||The National Health Service ExecutiveValedictory Hearing: Sir Alan Langlands||62419||December 2000||Cm 5071|
|Report No:||Title||HC No.||Publication Date||Govt Reply|
|1||Inpatient Administration, Bed Management and Patient Discharge in NHS Acute Hospitals||13525||January 2001||Cm 5127|
|2||Public Trust Office: Unclaimed Balances Held in Funds in Court and the Office's 199899 Accounts||14231||January 2001||Cm 5127|
|3||Emergency Aid: The Kosovo Crisis||14314||January 2001||Cm 5127|
|4||Grants made by the National Lottery Charities Board||16816||February 2001||Cm 5127|
|5||The Draft Social Security (Inherited SERPS) Regulations 2001||24318||February 2001||Cm 5127|
|6||Review of Audit and Accountability for Central Government||2602||March 2001||Cm 5201|
|7||Excess Votes 19992000: Class X, Votes 2 and 3||2849||March 2001||N/A|
|8||Maintaining the Royal Palaces||7714||March 2001||Cm 5201|
|9||Managing Finances in English Further Education Colleges||28321||March 2001||Cm 5201|
|10||Parole||34929||March 2001||Cm 5201|
|11||The Housing Corporation: Overseeing Focus Housing Association||3652||May 2001||Cm 5261|
|12||English Heritage: Access to Properties||2653||May 2001||Cm 5201|
|13||The Refinancing of Fazakerley PFI Prison Contract||3725||July 2001||Cm 5261|
|14||Ministry of Defence: Managing Reductions in the Number of Vacant Family Quarters||3915||July 2001||Cm 5261|
|15||Strategic Rail Authority: Action to Improve Passenger Rail Services||39218||July 2001||Cm 5261|
|16||The National Blood Service||20711||July 2001||Cm 5261|
European Standing Committee ARelevant European Union Document: 5771/01, Sixth Environmental Action Programme of the European Community. Relevant European Scrutiny Committee Report: HC 28-xi (2000-01); HC 152-i and HC 152-ii (2001-02).]
May we have an urgent statement on a very serious allegation that has been raised todaywhat I would have to call the "cash for no question" issue? It would appearI can scarcely believe thisthat the hon. Member for Norwich, North (Dr. Gibson) had a question down to the Prime Minister, but that the powers-that-be in the Government persuaded him to withdraw his questionwhich was going to be about the inadequacy of funding for a hospital in his constituencywith the promise of £200,000 additional funding for the hospital.
We are used to allegations about cash for questions, but the amount seems excessive, and to be an example of regrettable parliamentary inflation. Apparently, the going rate for the withdrawal by a Government Back Bencher of a questionpresumably to avoid embarrassment to the Prime Ministeris £200,000. I hope that the Leader of the House will assure us that an urgent statement on this serious matter will be madeif not today, then tomorrowbecause we need to get to the bottom of it and to be assured that the allegation is untrue. If it is true, we need to be told how the tactic can be justified.
I hope that the Leader of the House will also make provision for the Deputy Prime Minister to come to the House and explain his response to the unusually truthful statements from the Minister for Europe. Today's press report that Minister as saying:
We started transport investment far too late . . . We should have been more radical earlier."
The transport system has been going to pot since the day Labour won power.
John Prescott, who told us for years what he would do to put it right, messed it up once he got the chance.'"
Mr. Cook: First, I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his good wishes for the new year. I am very happy to accept them, however late they may come in the course of the parliamentary Session. I shall observe only that it is plain that the Christmas and new year recess has in no way softened his approach to these exchanges, but I would have been surprised and disappointed if it had.
I have no insight into why my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Dr. Gibson) may not have asked his question. That is entirely a matter for him to decide. However, I am taken aback that the right hon. Gentleman should complain about a case in which an hon. Member, finding that an issue that he has raised has been satisfactorily resolved, decides not to continue to press that issue in the House. I should have thought that resolving the problems of our constituents was what Parliament was for. If this constituency matter has been resolved, I can only commend the speed with which that has been achieved.
I turn now to the railways. The right hon. Gentleman may not have been present in the House when we debated transport matters in the 1970s and 1980s. Had he been present, he would have heard a number of speechesby me, and by the Deputy Chief Whip, my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Keith Hill)making the point that investment in Britain's railways was among the lowest in Europe, and that that had caused a relative decline in the quality of our railways. That is why this Government have set about increasing investment in the railways.
I remind hon. Members of what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said yesterday. He told the House that, in the previous Parliament, this Government increased by half as much again the annual investment in the railways inherited from the previous Conservative Government. In this Parliament, we shall double that amount. Every year of this Parliament, this Government will be investing three times as much as the average for the last years in office of the previous Conservative Government.
My right hon. Friend the Minister for Europe drew attention to what has been a matter for discussion in the Labour party and in the pressthat, for the first two years of this Labour Government, we followed the investment