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Mr. Jon Owen Jones (Cardiff, Central) (Lab): All the early victims of vCJD shared a particular genetic piece of information for the manufacture of certain proteins. Is it still the case that all the victims are in this genetic subgroup? Is that so for this new case? If it is, have we

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looked at the 15 possible recipients of blood to ascertain whether they are in the same vulnerable group, or whether some of them are?

Dr. Reid: The simple answer is that I do not know. By this afternoon, I will have asked those questions.

Paddy Tipping (Sherwood) (Lab): In his detailed and thoughtful statement, my right hon. Friend rightly laid out the tragic consequences not only for the sufferer but for his or her wider family. Against that background, is he in a position to tell the House a little more about the compensation scheme for hepatitis C patients, which was agreed in principle in the summer? When will he be able to make an announcement about the way forward?

Dr. Reid: The answer is shortly. The Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Miss Johnson), has been working hard on this, and it should not be too long before we can make a public announcement.

Mr. Tom Harris (Glasgow, Cathcart) (Lab): At this time of year, the National Blood Service encourages donors to make time in our busy schedules to ensure that we give blood. The timing of the announcement is probably unhelpful, because a number of people will understandably be reluctant to give blood, as happened following incidents in the 1980s and 1990s. What reassurance can my right hon. Friend offer blood donors to encourage them to continue giving blood and reassure them that that is a valuable thing to do?

Furthermore, can my right hon. Friend advise—

Mr. Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman has only one question.

Dr. Reid: At this late stage in the questions, I thank my hon. Friend for giving me the opportunity to make the position clear. People who give blood in this country perform a great and valuable service. I thank them for everything that they have done in the past, and we shall continue to seek their support in the future. Nothing that we have said today should in any way diminish the fact that over the years the lives of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands or even millions, of people have been improved, protected and saved by the public service performed by blood donors. As we approach Christmas and the new year and all the difficulties of the season, I hope that everyone remembers that, and will continue to give blood as a service to their fellow citizens.

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Point of Order

1.31 pm

Richard Younger-Ross: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. On Monday afternoon, I contacted your office at 12.35 to inquire whether there would be a statement on Iraq. Your office advised me that there would be no statement on Iraq, but told me that there would be one on the European Council and that there would be no urgent questions. On the basis of that information, I went about other parliamentary business instead of coming to the Chamber. When I looked at Hansard, it was clear that the Prime Minister did make a statement on Iraq.

May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether your office was advised that the Prime Minister was going to broaden the scope of his statement? If so, was there any way in which you could have let ordinary Back Benchers know that there would effectively be a statement on Iraq? If you were not so advised, Mr. Speaker, was the Prime Minister in order when he broadened his statement?

Mr. Speaker: The Prime Minister was in order. Had he been out of order, I would have let him know. As the hon. Gentleman said, he was not in the Chamber. We are all on a learning curve in the House of Commons, so perhaps the trick is that when the monitor shows that the Prime Minister is going to make a statement, the hon. Gentleman should come to the Chamber. There may be something of interest to him, and he may try to catch my eye.

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Orders of the Day

Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Bill

[Relevant document: The First Report from the Home Affairs Committee, Session 2003–04, on the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Bill, HC 109.]

Order for Second Reading read.

Mr. Speaker: I inform the House that I have selected the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Lancaster and Wyre (Mr. Dawson).

1.33 pm

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Blunkett) : Before I move Second Reading, Mr. Speaker, I should be grateful if you forgave me because, in the light of the court judgment that Ian Huntley is guilty of the murder of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, I felt that the House would want to send the families our love and concern. Our hearts go out to them this afternoon. I shall lay a statement before the House and, in conjunction with the Opposition spokesmen, take steps to initiate an investigation into some of the events that took place from 1995 onwards.

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

I understand that the shadow Home Secretary is ill, and send him our best wishes for Christmas. [Interruption.] There seems to be some demurral among Liberal Democrat Members, but I send good wishes on their behalf—let us be joyous for Christmas. The Bill is part of a jigsaw that includes not only the legislation already on the statute book but the administrative measures that we have been using to improve the operation of our border controls and immigration system. As the House knows, there have been substantial improvements in recent years, but we all accept that many changes are still required, both in legislation and to improve administration. To repeat what I have said when we have debated these issues over the past two and a half years, Ministers are painfully aware of the difficulties of achieving substantial improvement, given the significant rise in the number of people applying for asylum, while at the same time modernising and improving the rest of the immigration and nationality directorate. We often forget that asylum is only a small part of broader immigration and nationality responsibilities. There have been considerable improvements in the non-asylum elements of the service, but there is still a great deal to be done.

Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): Is my right hon. Friend not concerned that, notwithstanding the fact that the consultation period on the Bill did not comply with Cabinet Office guidelines, it has not been possible, even today, to get hold of a summary of the report on the responses to that consultation? That report is specified as a relevant document, but I could

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not get hold of it until 12 o'clock. Does that not cause him concern, as we are considering legislation without all the relevant information to hand?

Mr. Blunkett: As my hon. Friend acknowledged, we laid the response to the consultation before Parliament today.

Lynne Jones: It is not in the Library.

Mr. Blunkett: I authorised it to be placed in the Library this morning, so I apologise to the House if that has not been done—[Interruption.] I understand, however, that some Members have been able to obtain it from the Library.

In our debate on the Queen's Speech, I spelt out the key elements in the Bill that would enhance and support the work that has already taken place. There must be a determination of honesty in relation to individuals and those advising them before the authorisation of the initial decision and the subsequent adjudication. We should consider the blocking of people who arrive at our airports, throw away documents or refuse to co-operate either with the process of determining their country of origin and their passage into the country or with redocumentation for return purposes—I shall come back to that.

We must deal with the question of organised criminality—the way in which people, with the connivance of facilitators and organised traffickers, become involved in international trafficking and criminality. We need to extend the measures that we have already put in place on sexual exploitation, in both the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 and the sex offenders legislation.

Paul Flynn (Newport, West) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that not all the public feelings of antagonism towards our present system are the result of media hyperbole or invention? There has been a large increase in the criminal elements who are getting involved in the asylum process to the detriment of the public acceptability of our asylum policy—and, indeed, the acceptability of all our policies.

Mr. Blunkett: I agree entirely. Asylum has been regarded as an opportunity by international gangs of organised criminals to make a great deal of money. Very often, they have made money out of the exploitation and degradation of people with whom they have been dealing. They take large sums of money, sometimes for children whom they have trafficked across the world and literally dumped on our soil, unfortunately in large numbers.

Of course, those gangs have often done that alongside multiple criminal trafficking activities and the smuggling of drugs and guns. They switch between the different opportunities that they see to make money. They have obviously been doing so in the wake of worldwide people movements—the enormous movement of people across boundaries, which we have discussed in the House before—on a scale unprecedented in our history. Whereas 20 years ago, very small movements initiated by major catastrophes were the order of the day, now, partly because of

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communication, partly because of the English language and partly because of the economic changes in the world, people are desperate to seek a better life, as well as to seek refuge from terror, and opportunists have taken advantage of that.

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