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Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore) (Lab): Yesterday, Baroness Scotland visited my constituency to speak about antisocial behaviour, and two people were at the back of the hall: one was the new community beat officer and the other was the new community support officer in Pencoed. If the Opposition are not minded to do so, will my right hon. Friend arrange a debate on the £18 billion of cuts and on how many police and community support officers would go and how many police stations would close as a result in my constituency?
Mr. Hain: I am very tempted indeed to discuss with the Chancellor the opportunity to do that, because my hon. Friend is absolutely right to suggest that his constituentsindeed, the whole Housewould wish at an appropriate time to discuss the consequences of the £18 billion-worth of cuts over two years, following the next general election. As he rightly suggests, that figure includes a cut in policing budgets of up to £1 billion. Those cuts would have a catastrophic effect on the recruitment of new police officers and the provision of extra resources to tackle crime that has been taking place under this Government. In contrast, under the previous Government, the number of police officers was reduced and crime went upa dangerous situation for everyone concerned.
Mr. Roger Gale (North Thanet) (Con): Some time ago, I sent three letters to the Prime Minister asking him to correct the erroneous impression that the Wild Mammals (Hunting with Dogs) Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Hastings and Rye (Mr. Foster) was killed off by the Lords, when it never reached the upper House. I finally managed to wring an answer out of the Prime Minister on the Floor of the House, because the letters were not answered.
The Prime Minister seems to be having problems with his correspondence again. I recently wrote to him asking him to place in the Library a copy of the threatening letter that he sent the director-general of the BBC in 2003 and to list the threatening phone calls made by
Mr. Alan Meale (Mansfield) (Lab): The Leader of the House may not be aware of the fact that decades ago MPs on both sides of the House representing the east midlands campaigned to establish an independent news and current affairs centre for the east midlands based in Nottingham. Like Members from the east midlands and me, he will be alarmed to learn that this morning ITV announced the proposed closure of that centre, which is to be moved to the west midlands, with the loss of 200 jobs. Will he do everything in his power to ensure that we have an urgent debate on the issue?
Mr. Hain: My hon. Friend will have the opportunity to put that to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport at Culture, Media and Sport questions on Monday 8 March. However, I well understand his anxiety about job losses and the concerns of people in the east midlands that there should be proper independent television coverage and programmes that reflect local and regional interests. I am sure that the television chiefs and the Secretary of State will want to bear in mind what he said.
Pete Wishart (North Tayside) (SNP): Has the Leader of the House had an opportunity to look at early-day motion 657, which stands in my name and asks the Chancellor of the Exchequer to get his teeth into the sticky problem of discarded chewing gum?
[That this House despairs at the disgusting problem of discarded chewing gum which blights the streets of every city and town the length and breadth of the country; notes the efforts of local authorities in trying to address this problem, but acknowledges that despite these efforts discarded chewing gum continues to present an intractable problem; calls on the Chancellor to introduce a chewing gum levy on the chewing gum manufacturers, so that for every packet of chewing gum bought a couple of pence is taken in the form of a levy to be then given to local authorities to address this problem; and calls on the chewing gum manufacturers to do more to make sure their product is fully bio-degradable and non-adhesive.]
I am sure that the House is aware of the appalling mess that blights every town and city the length and breadth of the country. Will the Leader of the House chew over my request for a debate, and consider my modest proposal for a 2p levy on chewing gum manufacturers so that that horrible mess can be addressed?
[That this House believes that, under the present sitting hours, Private Members' bills should be taken on Tuesday evenings after 7:00pm, which would make all Fridays non-sitting days for honourable Members; further believes that this would allow honourable Members to be able to use Fridays for working in their constituencies, thereby enabling them to foster closer relationships with businesses, schools and organisations which function from Mondays to Fridays; and further believes that it would enable more honourable Members to be present in the House and take part in the debates and votes on private Members' bills.]
The motion was tabled three days ago, and has already attracted 58 signatures. It proposes that private Members' Bills, instead of being heard on a Friday, should be debated on Tuesday evenings after 7 pm. What progress has my right hon. Friend made with the Modernisation Committee on the issue?
Mr. Hain: We have not had an opportunity to consider any detailed propositions such as the one suggested by my hon. Friend. I have noted the early-day motion, and am struck by the fact that it has cross-party support. It needs to be taken seriously, and I urge her and her colleagues, including Members who signed the early-day motion, to have discussions with other colleagues who have taken a different view of the original decision to change the hours to see whether a consensus can be built around the issue or a variation of it. If I can find an early consensus on the sitting hours of the House I am willing to table a motion, but I am not willing to table an early motion on a proper review in the absence of any such consensus.
Mr. Peter Atkinson (Hexham) (Con): Will the Leader of the House allow us to have a debate on agriculture, as there are many issues that we need to discuss, not least the new subsidy arrangements announced by the Government two weeks ago and which, either by accident or design, will have a serious impact on the income of upland livestock farmers in England, including those in my constituency in Northumberland? Those farmers look after some of the most loved landscapes in England, including the Lake District, the Pennines, Dartmoor and Exmoor. We need a debate to find out how we can rescue them from impending financial disaster.
Mr. Hain: I recognise the hon. Gentleman's concerns. As he knows, the Secretary of State has made a statement on the likely outcome of European future financing and her plans in respect of England. However, when he talks about financial problems, he should recognise that his party now advocates a cut in agricultural and rural support programmes. The problems in his constituency will not be solved by Conservative party policy, and I suggest that he change his stance.
Mr. David Chaytor (Bury, North) (Lab): My right hon. Friend will know that the decision to allocate secondary school places to children in London under the new unified pan-London admission system is imminent, and that that is a very important matter for thousands of parents and children in London and in other parts of the country where similar allocations are in the course of being made. In view
Mr. Hain: I recognise my hon. Friend's continuing expertise on, interest in and advocacy of comprehensive schools through the campaign for comprehensive education, and I know of his concerns about such matters. My hon. Friend is of course free to apply for a debate, but I am sure that the Secretary of State for Education and Skills will want to pay close attention to his comments.
Mr. Adrian Flook (Taunton) (Con): As we just heard, two weeks ago the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs came to this House to make a statement about common agricultural policy reform. In that statement, she said that people on Exmoor will benefit from those reforms, but I am afraid that that is manifestly not the case. Will the right hon. Gentleman ask her to come to the House to correct those comments; and in his reply to me, will he refrain from giving us a party political tirade, because this is about European money, not domestic taxpayers' money?