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Mr. Heald: First, Mr. Speaker, you will recall ruling earlier this week that there should have been a statement on the Government's policy on hospital-acquired infection. Is there to be such a statement? Secondly, can the Leader of the House tell us any more about arrangements for publication of the Hutton inquiry report, following my questions to him last week? Thirdly, on the subject of two-day debates, may we please have two: one on the defence White Paper, and another on Second Reading of the higher education funding Bill?
Finally, does the Leader of the House share the widespread concern about cases such as that of Mrs. Cannings, who was released by the Court of Appeal yesterday? It is tragic that she and her family have had this dreadful ordeal, in addition to the loss of two babies. I understand that the Attorney-General has ordered a review of 50 murder or manslaughter convictions involving evidence from particular expert witnesses. Is that correct? If so, may we have statements to the House from the Solicitor-General about the review, and about the prosecution procedures that will
Mr. Hain: I shall draw the issue of a statement on infections in hospitals to the attention of the Secretary of State for Health. On the Hutton inquiry, perhaps I might repeat for the hon. Gentleman's benefit what I told the House on 16 October. He was not a Front Bencher then, so he may not be aware of my comments. I said:
On the defence White Paper, the Defence Secretary will make a statement on defence immediately after business questions. The higher education Bill will be dealt with in the normal way, which is by having a Second Reading debate on a single day.
I share the concern expressed by the hon. Gentleman about the appalling case involving Angela Cannings, and I am sure that the whole House is concerned about it. The Attorney-General has established a group to consider whether any cases in which the doctor involved gave evidence require a more in-depth review. Obviously, we want to make sure that justice is done, and done properly. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will accept that concern about the case is widespread across the House. We must ensure that there are no other cases like it and that there is none in future.
Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall) (LD): Will the Leader of the House say when he proposes to convene the all-party round table discussion of options for the legislative timetable for this Session? He will recall that the recommendation in the Modernisation Committee's second report of 19992000 was put to the House, and accepted. It was then implemented last year, most successfully, by his predecessor, the right hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook). The Leader of the House will acknowledge that such discussions are very useful in establishing a degree of consensus as to which legislative proposals are candidates for pre-legislative scrutiny, which should go to Joint Committees, and which might be candidates for carry-over. The discussions also help to determine the sequence of consideration of legislation.
The need for that degree of consensus is illustrated by the inadequacy of the present take-it-or-leave-it attitude to those matters in the Government Whips Office. For example, the Second Reading of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants Etc) Bill is due to be held next Wednesday. There is a special meeting of the Select Committee on Selection that evening, at which the membership of the Standing Committee considering the Bill will be appointed. The result will be that that Committee will meet for the first time on the second day after our return in January. That leaves very
Mr. Hain: We are adopting absolutely normal procedure in respect of that Bill, as I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will accept. As for the all-party discussions, I shall look at his proposal and see what needs to be done. However, in respect of consultation across the House, I remind him that I wrote only recently to the Chairman of the Liaison Committee, detailing all the draft Bills that will be involved in pre-legislative scrutiny, and the likely timetables. Twelve or more draft Bills will be published in the coming legislative Session. I know that the hon. Gentleman welcomes that, as does the whole House. The degree of open consultation and transparency shown by the Government is unprecedented. We should build on that, and not go down the route that the hon. Gentleman is inviting us to go down.
Mr. Paul Truswell (Pudsey) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend accept that there is escalating concern in this House and elsewhere about cold calling by criminals and high-pressure salesmen? I refer him to early-day motion 219.
[That this House is appalled by crimes committed particularly against older people by doorstep callers offering property maintenance and improvement services; condemns high pressure sales tactics employed by some doorstep callers, resulting in vulnerable people parting with extortionate sums of money for unnecessary, shoddy or grossly overpriced work; and calls for legislation to prohibit unsolicited doorstep calls for the purpose of offering property maintenance and improvement and for a national campaign to raise awareness of the dangers.]
The Office of Fair Trading is due to report at any time on the matter of cold calling. Will my right hon. Friend therefore arrange for an early statement to the House, so that we can debate the measures needed to tackle that increasingly nefarious activity?
Mr. Hain: I understand and sympathise with the point raised by my hon. Friend. Indeed, there is an Adjournment debate today on cold calling and, if he catches the Deputy Speaker's eye, he will have an opportunity to make his points even more eloquently. However, I am with him in spirit when it comes to trying to clamp down on that problem.
Mr. Robert Key (Salisbury) (Con): The Second Reading of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants Etc) Bill is scheduled for next Wednesday. The explanatory notes state that the regulatory impact assessments have been completed for many of the issues covered by the Bill, and that they will be published. However, they have not been published. That is a crucial matter, and I urge the Leader of the House to use his best endeavours to get the assessments published before Second Reading, as the fees levied under clause 20 could be excessive. The Bill provides that they could exceed the amount incurred in administrative costs when an
Mr. Hain: I understand the point that the hon. Gentleman makes, and that language schools are very important in his constituency. I know that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will take a close interest in the point that he has raised. Certainly, it is our intention to make regulatory impact assessments available as early as possible, and we will seek to do what the hon. Gentleman asks.
Mr. Andrew Love (Edmonton) (Lab): My right hon. Friend will be aware of the publication yesterday of the interim report of the Barker review on the supply of housing. That important report addresses the combination of planning constraints on house building and accusations of market manipulation by house builders. Those are critical issues for all those who wish to enter the owner-occupied sector, or indeed to find any sort of housing, and for the future growth and stability of the economy. Will he make time available in the new year for a full and adequate debate on those important issues?
Mr. Hain: I agree with my hon. Friend that Kate Barker's report raises important issues of concern to him and his constituents, as well as to most hon. Members. It is for that reason that the Government initiated and published the report, and we will obviously wish to address the issues that it raises. My hon. Friend has the opportunity to apply for a debate in the normal way, but we will give serious consideration to his point.
Pete Wishart (North Tayside) (SNP): As the Leader of the House will be aware, the West Lothian question is the one question that will not go away, and it now deserves to be addressed and answered. Will he find Commons time to debate our sensible suggestion that you, Mr. Speaker, should use your good offices to assess legislation that is put before the House? If it is assessed as affecting England only, with no consequences for Scotland, it should be referred to the English Grand Committee. That would be fair to Scotland and to England.