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Mr. Hain: I have ensured that everybody in government is aware of the need to answer Members' questions as appropriately and as quickly as possible. Every effort is being made to do that. In some circumstances, the basis for the answers takes time to collect. Obviously, our intention is to meet the House's requests and to meet our obligations, and we continue to strive towards that.
Llew Smith (Blaenau Gwent) (Lab): The Leader of the House will be aware that last week I requested that time be found to debate the futureor lack of itof further education in Wales, and particularly in Gwent. As he will be aware, in some of the poorest communities in Wales, such as mine, colleges are facing redundancies, closure of departments and transfer of departments to other parts of the county, which are almost impossible to get to. He will also be aware of the importance of maintaining those departments in an area of high deprivation, with some of the highest levels of unemployment.
Can we have a debate on the discussions that the Leader of the House has had in the past with Coleg Gwentperhaps he can share with the House his experience of dealing with its managementand with Education and Learning Wales and the Welsh Assembly? Would he be willing, with the First Minister of the Welsh Assembly, to conduct an investigation into the management of that institution, because we are now faced with a new principal, who will be in post within the next few weeks but who, we are told, still supports the plans to carry out those redundancies and department closures?
I share my hon. Friend's concern about what has happened, as I have said publicly previously, and as I repeat now. I still find it baffling that, given all the huge resources that have gone into education funding right across Walesincluding further education funding, which is getting more resources under our Labour Government than ever beforethis situation should have arisen. That is why I have raised it with the First Minister. As my hon. Friend will know, the Education Minister made a statement in the
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National Assembly this week saying that she wanted to get to the bottom of the affair, so his representations are being closely listened to and followed.
Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood) (Con): May I, too, warmly welcome the debate on the civil aviation White Paper, which is to take place on 8 June, especially as it is on the Adjournment and not on a substantive motion? Will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that soon after that debate the Secretary of State for Transport will come to the House and give his conclusions on the precise policy that Her Majesty's Government are to follow, since air transport operators, airport operators and communities around airports need to have blight lifted and to have some certainty about the future?
Mr. Hain: I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's welcome of the debate. He is one of the Members who has in recent weeks been pressing on me the need for such a debate. I am well aware of the situation that he is properly looking after at Northolt and of course at Heathrow, near to his constituency. I will certainly bear in mind what he has said.
Mr. Michael Clapham (Barnsley, West and Penistone) (Lab): Is my right hon. Friend aware that deaths from exposure to asbestos have now reached epidemic proportions? For example, last year, there were 2,000 deaths from mesothelioma cancer alone, and it is forecast that by 2015 those deaths will be beyond 6,000 per year, and that over the next 40 years, there will be 185,000 such deaths. Will he therefore consider a debate in Government time to discuss how we might develop a strategya health, prevention, benefit and care strategyfor sufferers of exposure to asbestos?
Mr. Hain: I congratulate my hon. Friend on his tireless, lifelong work, especially in the House, to expose this problem and to work to solve it. I know that the Secretary of State for Health is aware of that, and is conscious of the representations that he is making. My right hon. Friend will certainly be aware now of my hon. Friend's passionate feelings about the need to tackle the matter.
Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): Shortly after the invasion of Afghanistan, we were having a sensible debate on post-conflict reconstruction, nation building, and international donor conferences. Notwithstanding the fairly sizeable chunk of the Department for International Development's budget that is now going to Iraq, we simply have not had that sort of debate in relation to Iraq. Today, the Financial Times reports a poll finding that, even in northern Iraq, nine out of 10 Iraqis now see the coalition as occupiers rather than liberators. The House must work out how we are going to win the peace and the humanitarian campaign. Please can we start to debate those issues on the Floor of the House?
I very much take the hon. Gentleman's point on conflict resolution and conflict prevention, particularly given his position on the Select Committee
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on International Development. It is essential to maintain the focus that the Government have had on these matters through the Department for International Developmentworking with the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defenceand the special conflict prevention fund, which was established through pooling those Departments' resources, which I am sure the hon. Gentleman will welcome.
I note the hon. Gentleman's point about the opinion reported in the Financial Times, but the other reports that we are getting are that people in Iraqwhile being very worried about the situation and having many criticisms of one kind or another about the security situation and even the performance of the coalitiondo not want us just to walk out on them. It is important that he acknowledges that, given the Leader of the Opposition's statement overnight that he also acknowledges it.
Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that time should be allowed for a debate on those people who loyally give up valuable time by volunteering to become magistrates? There is a great danger in Lancashire and in the Chorley constituency, where there are no magistrates under the age of 40 and the age profile is much older, that they will all retire together. What will the future hold for magistrates courts if we do not get young people involved and volunteering?
Mr. Hain: I could not agree more with my hon. Friend. It is not simply a question of filling vacant seats on the bench but of getting and maintaining a bench that is representative of the community, as I am sure that he agrees. I am sure that his points will have been carefully noted.
Mr. Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight) (Con): May I gently counsel the Leader of the House against using the term "old-fashioned" as an all-purpose term of deprecation, as in "old-fashioned security measures"? The way in which we refer to each other here is old-fashioned, but it makes for a good and effective form of debate. The security staff, the policeman, the Badge Messengers, the men in tails and the men in tights respond to us with great but old-fashioned courtesy, which is very effective in the context of the security measures that they implement on our behalf.
I join the hon. Gentleman in paying tribute to all staff of the House for the support that they give us, in terms of security and in other ways, which enables us to do our jobs as Members of Parliament. We are all very grateful for that. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree, however, that an old-fashioned security approach was dealing with an old-fashioned security situation 20, 30 and 40 years ago, when we did not face the risk of suicide terrorist attack and did not experience the breaches of security that we have seen in the last few monthsprotesters climbing up the Big Ben tower, or what happened yesterday. In 2004in the age of the suicide terrorist, which is an entirely new developmentwe need a House of Commons that is
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properly protected. Surely the hon. Gentleman agrees that that is a modern, not an old-fashioned approach to security.
Mr. Stephen McCabe (Birmingham, Hall Green) (Lab): May we have an early debate on the uses of neighbourhood renewal funding? I was shocked to learn that £40,000 of money earmarked for my constituents had been spent by local Tory councillors on consultancies for a project that probably would not go ahead, and is not even in my constituency. At a time when my constituents' priorities are better street lighting and action to deal with graffiti, litter and antisocial behaviour, is it not outrageous that these people can short-change them in such a fashion?
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