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Mr. Hain: I can understand why it would be fair to the hon. Gentleman, because he wants Scotland to break away from the United Kingdom. He wants this to be an English-only Parliament, but that is not the view of Parliament or of the Government. As long as the Labour party remains in power, this Parliament will continue to operate with every Member, whatever part of the United Kingdom they represent, being equal. That is the basis on which we are elected and sent here. Perhaps some of the Conservative Members who approved of his question think that, for example, members of the Ulster Unionist party should not be able to vote on legislation that would not directly affect them.
Ms Karen Buck (Regent's Park and Kensington, North) (Lab): My right hon. Friend will be aware that, in the context of the discussion of the modernisation of the House, we have recently had a heated debate about the impact on catering services. I understand that catering income has increased, not decreased, since the new hours were introduced, so will he ensure that we have an opportunity to discuss that point and set the record straight?
Mr. Hain: I am happy to set the record straight for my hon. Friend. Although business in various sectors of the catering provision has fallen in the evenings, demand is up overall, showing that more and more use is being made of the excellent catering facilities that are provided for Members and staff. The issue of our hours is entirely separate, and I know that she is concerned to maintain the existing position, although others wish to change it. Either way, it has nothing to do with catering.
Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): Will the Leader of the House give us an opportunity to debate delegated legislation and, in particular, the complete debacle of the Horse Passports (England) Regulations 2003 this morning? Is he aware that we could create thousands of potential criminals among the horse-owning fraternitythe crime being punishable by up to two years imprisonmentwithout those regulations ever having been discussed on the Floor of the House? When we discuss the West Lothian question, perhaps we could also discuss why six Welsh Members were responsible for voting down our prayer against that statutory instrument, thus imposing the regulations on English horse and pony owners.
Mr. Hain: I understand that we have already produced draft replacement regulations. The hon. Lady's general point is the same as that made by the hon. Member for North Tayside (Pete Wishart), but we are all equal in this House and we should remain so. I acknowledge that she is highly respected in the House, but she should think through the implications of what she says. Should Welsh Members vote only on certain items of legislation, and Ulster Unionists and Members representing other parties in Northern Ireland vote only on others? That is a very slippery slope which, if followed, would break up this Parliament and deny the fact that we are all sovereign Members who represent our constituencies on an equal basis.
Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle) (Lab): My local authority in Pendle is unhappy about the revenue support grant settlement, which will bear down adversely on the council. Yesterday, the Chancellor of the Exchequer generously told us that an additional £340 million would be allocated to councils in England. When will we be given details of how that money is to be distributed, so that we can find out whether Pendle council will benefit, as I hope it will?
Mr. Hain: The Deputy Prime Minister has that matter closely in mind. I am glad that my hon. Friend welcomes the extra £340 million for English local authoritiesthe total for local authorities across Britain is £400 millionwhich will bring in extra resources to ensure that the level of council tax rises is limited and is brought down to a reasonable figure, rather than what it has been in some cases.
In previous business questions, we have heard right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House complaining about the council tax situation. The Chancellor has acted, the Government are acting and I should have thought that everybody would welcome that.
Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): I support the call made by my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald) that Health Ministers should clarify whether they have new policies to cope with the scourge of superbugs in our hospitals, which kill between 5,000 and 20,000 people a year. On Tuesday, when, with your support, Mr. Speaker, I asked for a statement about the policy proposals that had been announced on Friday, the Minister of State, Department of Health, the hon. Member for Doncaster, Central (Ms Winterton), replied that
Normally when Ministers say outside the House the exact opposite of what they say inside the House to avoid being held accountable to the House, it is a serious matter and raises fears that they may be deceiving the House. However, my fear is that they are telling the House the truth and that in fact they have no plans to tackle that growing scourge. The UK's record is worse than that of any other country in Europe, and is getting worse faster than anywhere else in Europe.
Mr. Hain: I understand the points that the right hon. Gentleman is making and I am sure that the Secretary of State for Health will listen closely to them. However, the right hon. Gentleman will acknowledge that, as I think my hon. Friend the Minister for Health said the other day, the problem arises from the bodged way in which the Conservative Government introduced compulsory competitive tendering. That is where the problem comes from. However, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the issue of superbugs, hospital infections and inadequate cleaning in hospitals has to be addressed. We intend to address it and the Secretary of State for Health will take forward certain measures. He will obviously be accountable to the House for what he is doing and how the matter is developing.
Jim Sheridan (West Renfrewshire) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend use his good offices to reinforce the genuine concerns of British workersI stress the word "British"such as former employees of Hewlett-Packard in my constituency, who were presented with a fait accompli when their jobs were transferred to an agency with no effective or proper consultation? Is that the way things should be in a modern, progressive Britain? Should modern, progressive British workers be treated in such a way?
Mr. Hain: I very much agree with my hon. Friend's statements about the Hewlett-Packard workers in his constituency and others who may be similarly affected. He knows that we are introducing employment legislation to widen the provision of information and consultation for all employees in such a predicament, but the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry will certainly want to monitor the situation closely and reflect closely on the points that my hon. Friend made about his constituency.
Richard Younger-Ross (Teignbridge) (LD): Can the Leader of the House get the Home Secretary to make a statement about presumption of death certificates? The son of Nev Pope, my constituent, disappeared in Angola in 1999 but, under Angolan law, no death certificate will be issued for 10 years. We wrote to the Home Office on 28 October to ask whether British laws on presumption of death certificates could be changed. The reply was that the matter had nothing to do with the Home Office and that the letter had been forwarded to the Foreign Office. The Foreign Office replied that it had nothing to do with the Foreign Office and that we needed to go back to the Home Office; so will the Leader of the House ensure either that the Home Secretary makes a statement about the matter or that I receive a reply to my letter?
Mr. Hain: The hon. Gentleman is entitled to a full reply to his letter and I will ensure that he receives one. I remember that case from when I was in the Foreign Office. It is an appalling case and the family have been left in limbo and in anguish about what happened to their son. I know that both the Foreign Secretary and the Home Secretary will want to give the family every assistance in order to find out what happened as soon as it is possible to do so. The hon. Gentleman will also appreciate that it occurred in the middle of a civil war raging in Angola, which now mercifully is ended, and that it was very difficult to determine the true situation and what Neville Pope's predicament was. I am sorry about that, but the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that the circumstances were incredibly difficult.