|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Hain: Those at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will have noted what the hon. Gentleman has said. He is right to draw the matter to our attention. I hope he will take the opportunity to table questions to the Foreign Secretary by next Wednesday, so that it can be addressed.
Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North) (Lab): Is my right hon. Friend aware of the concern felt by my constituents who work for the Inland Revenue in Llanishen, at Companies House and the Department for Work and Pensions in Gabalfa, and in other civil service outlets about the proposals announced by the Chancellor yesterday for civil service job cuts? Will he convey that concern to his colleagues, and press for early clarification of the position? Will he also ask them to bear in mind the losses that will be experienced in Cardiff, and particularly in my constituency, when deciding where to relocate the civil service jobs that are being moved from London?
Mr. Hain: The Ministers responsible will have noted my hon. Friend's points on behalf of her constituents. I can reassure her that the proposed reorganisation of the Inland Revenue, Customs and Excise and the Department for Work and Pensions results from efficiency savings, principally the introduction of new technology. It will now be possible to divert resources from backroom staff who were needed before the
Mr. Hain: As the hon. Gentleman has heckled me on the matter, let us consider the front-line services that would be cut by the shadow Chancellor's Budget. The number of police officers would be cut by at least 3,500. Council tax would go sky-high because of raiding of the local government budget, which would mean cuts of £2.5 billion. Transport budgets would be cut, as would beastonishingly, given that the shadow Chancellor is a Conservativethe defence budget.
Mr. Forth: I am sure we all look forward to being nursed by tax inspectors. It is an intriguing thought. But will the Leader of the House please list the occasions on which he has participated in the big conversation?
Mr. Stephen McCabe (Birmingham, Hall Green) (Lab): May we have an early debate on the modernisation agenda? Will my right hon. Friend look in particular at the issue of parliamentary questions? As well as ministerial Question Times, could we not have an Opposition questions slot? Would that not be good for democracyand would it not allow me to demand legitimately to be told how much money would be siphoned out of the NHS and state schools if the Tory policies for passports ever came to fruition?
Mr. Hain: I must say that I am very tempted by my hon. Friend's proposition. On a series of issues, the Conservative Opposition say one thing and then contradict it with something else. They say, for instance, that they want to cut crime, yet their proposed cuts in the Home Office budget would cause a reduction of up to 3,500 in the number of police officers. They speak of health investment, and then propose policies that would result in fewer nurses. Their education proposals would lead to a reduction in non-school budgets. The House, therefore, might well be enlightened by the holding of an Opposition Question Time.
Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Con): May we have a debate on hospices? Adult hospices are funded poorly, but children's hospices are in a funding crisis. Little Haven hospice in my constituency receives less than 2 per cent. of its funds from the Government. That is why it has recently had to launch a bond. It is an excellent way of raising funds, and I am delighted that so many local people support it, but we really do need to look again at the funding of the hospice movement.
Kevin Brennan (Cardiff, West) (Lab): I understand that in his Budget statement yesterday, the Chancellor encouraged financial institutions to give any orphan funds they might have to charity. Would it not be a good idea for the Government to use any orphan funds they have in the National Savings bank, for example, to compensate Allied Steel and Wire and other workers who have lost their occupational pensions through no fault of their own?
Mr. Hain: It is, in the main, for the Chancellor to respond to that question and establish whether there is scope to explore it further, but I know that my hon. Friend saw the Prime Minister earlier this week to discuss the matter. I also know that every member of the Government, from the Prime Minister down, wants to resolve the situation and is considering all sorts of possible avenues.
The injustice suffered by the ASW workers and others is grievous and terrible: they were robbed of pensions that were deferred wages. The issue has always been how to resolve the situation in a way that allows justice to prevail without a read-across resulting in a potential cost of billions of pounds to the taxpayer from other claims. That is the problem. If a solution can be found, I know that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and the Prime Minister will want to find it.
Mr. Tim Boswell (Daventry) (Con): I know that the Leader of the House is concerned about the fate of three Britons, one of them a constituent of mine, who have been imprisoned in Cairo for two years without a verdict. As their next hearing is fast approaching, will he have a word with those at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and ask them to put all reasonable diplomatic pressure on the Egyptian authorities to ensure that this time the matter can be concluded once and for all with a verdict?
Mr. Wayne David (Caerphilly) (Lab): May we have a debate on the new deal as soon as possible? In my constituency, 3,600 young people and some 2,440 lone parents have benefited from it. People are very worried about what would happen to the programme in the event of a public expenditure cut of £18 billion.
Mr. Hain: There is enormous concern about that in my own constituency and nearby. I have visited the Shaw trust, a marvellous project funded partly by the new deal, which gives partially sighted and blind people the opportunity to work. It is incredibly moving to see that going on. If funds for the new deal were cut, as the Conservatives propose
Dr. Andrew Murrison (Westbury) (Con): Only last week I tabled a number of named-day questions to the Under-Secretary of State for Health, the hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Miss Johnson), for answer on Monday. They concerned multi-drug resistant tuberculosis and the TB action plan that was supposed to be launched at the beginning of last year. I was fobbed off with the response that the hon. Lady would reply to me as soon as possible. Does that not constitute an admission that she simply does not have a clue about a very important matter on which she should have data at her fingertips? Will the Leader of the House do what he can to extract a proper answer from his hon. Friend?
Mr. Hain: I really cannot accept that. The Minister will want to give a serious, proper and full reply to the hon. Gentleman's question, and I think he should have the patience to wait for it rather than asking for a pre-emptive answer when the necessary investigation and assessment have not been carried out. He will want an answer that satisfies him, and that is what the Government will want to provide.