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Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby): Can the Leader of the House find time for a debate on the very important issue that was raised by the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) yesterday in the debate on the report by the Select Committee on Standards and Privileges, namely, the relationship of the Prime Minister to the ministerial code and its enforcement? In advance of such a debate, can the Leader of the House make available the suppressed internal Labour party document about the Leicester, East Labour party? We could then discover what the Prime Minister knewhe did know about goings on in Leicester, Eastwhen he appointed the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz) as a Minister. As The Guardian said on 15 March:
Mr. Gregory Barker (Bexhill and Battle): Is the Leader of the House aware that last week I wrote to the Secretary of State for Health and faxed his private office asking for his urgent intervention in the case of a cancer patient in my constituency, since when I have heard absolutely nothing? I wrote to the right hon. Gentleman because the constituent in question was operated on for cancer in November and was told by the surgeon that she would require radiotherapy within four to six weeks. Since then she has been told by national health service managers that she will have to wait up to 16 weeksuntil Marchand that there is no possibility of her having radiotherapy before then.
Unfortunately, that is not an isolated incident in east Sussex, but is typical of the lack of resources and sheer shambles in cancer treatment in the south-east. Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Secretary of State to come to the House, make a statement, accept responsibility for that failure and tell us when he will get a grip on cancer care in east Sussex?
Mr. Cook: Of course the whole House will[Interruption.] Perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Hove (Mr. Caplin) will allow me to respond in my own way. The whole House will, of course, share the hon. Gentleman's concerns about the individual case that he raises. I am not sure that I would serve the House well if I were to commit myself to bringing the Secretary of State for Health to the House for a debate on one case, but I remind the hon. Gentleman that we are committed to increasing substantially the number of cancer specialists
Norman Lamb (North Norfolk): May I draw the Leader of the House's attention to another aspect of the crisis in Zimbabwe: the urgent need for reconstruction in the country if Robert Mugabe were to lose the election in four weeks' time? Last Wednesday, my hon. Friend the Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Moore) and I met senior officials of the Movement for Democratic Change in Johannesburg. What was striking was that, despite all the obstacles that have been placed in their way, they still believe that they can win the election. However, they stressed that there was a vital need for assistance in the reconstruction of the country, which has been ruined by corrupt rule over many years. Can the Leader of the House find time for a debate on Britain's role in the reconstruction of Zimbabwe and on what we can do to assist, bearing in mind the urgent need for that to happen as soon as possible were Robert Mugabe to lose the election?
Mr. Cook: Although it would be premature to debate what we would do in the event of President Mugabe's defeat, the hon. Gentleman raises an important point on which my colleagues will be reflecting even now. It gave us no pleasure to withdraw economic development aid from Zimbabwe and we took that step only because it was impossible to work with President Mugabe's Administration. Nothing that we could achieve through aid would undo the damage that he is inflicting on Zimbabwe's economy. If we can find partners in Zimbabwe to work on the country's reconstruction on behalf of its people, they will find Britain a willing partner.
Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk): Further to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins), does the Leader of the House recall from his time as Foreign Secretary any example of an ambassador losing his diaries? Does he believe that Ambassador Ralph, our man in Bucharest, lost his diaries, or were they buried by the Labour spin machine? Can we have a statement from the Prime Minister on this sorry event?
Mr. Cook: I must confess that I am not up to speed on the allegation of Mr. Ralph having lost his diary, but I know the gentleman in question. In fact, I think that I appointed him to the post. He is an excellent diplomat. I believe that it is absolutely right for Britain, as a champion of EU enlargement, to send a strong message of welcome for Prime Minister Nastase's bold decision to break up Romania's monopoly state-owned steel industry, which is a sign of the important preparations he is making for EU membership.
Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold): The Leader of the House will recall that, before the 1997 election, the Prime Minister said that there were 24 hours to save the national health service. Since then, the NHS has developed severe problems, crime in our inner cities has soared and, in some instances, public transport is close
Mr. Cook: The House has just been treated to the hon. Gentleman's next constituency report. May I put his remarks in context? Since this Government came to office, we have 20,000 more nurses and thousands more doctors in the NHS. For the first time in 30 years, we have more general and acute beds in the NHS. If the Conservative Government had paid the same attention to it, we would be in a better state. We are making as much progress as we can possibly hope to achieve from the low base that the Conservatives left us.
Richard Younger-Ross (Teignbridge): Does the Leader of the House recall that the Minister responding to the recent social care debate said that she would investigate the allegation by the 15 social services departments in the south-west that the funding crisis is so severe that they have to divert money from care of the elderly to prop up child care and child protection? When the investigation is complete, will the Secretary of State for Health make a statement to the House?
Mr. Cook: I cannot promise the hon. Gentleman a statement, but I shall draw his remarks to the attention of the Secretary of State for Health and invite him to ensure that he communicates with the hon. Gentleman when the study is complete.
Mr. John Baron (Billericay): To provide clarification for all small and medium-sized businesses based in this country, will the Leader of the House say whether the Prime Minister is prepared to write a letter on behalf of companies employing 100 or more people that are trying to win contracts overseas?
Mr. Cook: The Government have given full support to companies of whatever size that try to win contracts overseas. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that he will get the same service the next time any British business acquires a steel mill in central or eastern Europe.
Mr. Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I would be grateful for your assistance. I have used, as far as I can, my ingenuity to try to obtain an answer from the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to letters sent by HF Holidays, proprietors of the Freshwater Bay hotel in my constituency, on 20 June and 27 July last year, to my letter of 15 August and to my questions of 6 and 23 November, one of which was replied to incorrectly on 17 December. I tabled a further question on 5 February, to which I received a holding answer. I have still received no substantive answer, so will you please advise me on what further ingenuity I might exercise in this matter?
Mr. Speaker: I always found, in the Tea Room in the old days, that more senior Members of the House usually gave advice and assistance in such matters. If the hon. Gentleman feels stuck, I suggest that he consult some senior Members. I hope that that is helpful.
[Relevant documents: Defence Policy 2001; MOD Policy PapersPaper No. 1Defence Diplomacy; MOD Policy PapersPaper No. 2Multinational Defence Co-operation; MOD Policy PapersPaper No. 3European Defence; The Future Strategic Context for Defence; The Strategic Defence Review: A New ChapterPublic Discussion Paper.]