|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Hain: Indeed, he cannot answer back so I shall attempt to do it for him. My hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) made an interesting point. He is a doughty defender of parliamentary rights and I shall look into the matter.
Mr. Roy Beggs (East Antrim) (UUP):
The Welsh Grand Committee and the Scottish Grand Committee have met outside the House. Does the Leader of the House agree that there should be no reason why the Northern Ireland Grand Committee, which will probably hold its last meeting of the Session next Thursday, cannot meet in Northern Ireland? It has
1 Jul 2004 : Column 445
never met there but there should be no impediment to that happening. Is it necessary for me, as a Whip of my party, to table a motion to get a democratic decision that will make it possible to meet in Northern Ireland? Or will one party, which seldom participates in the Grand Committee, be permitted for ever to prevent that from happening?
Mr. Hain: The hon. Gentleman knows that, in the case of the Welsh Grand Committee, which met outside the Houseand, indeed, in Walesseveral times, an Order was required to effect that. If he wants to pursue the matter, he would have to persuade the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the usual channels that meeting in Northern Ireland would be a sensible thing for the Northern Ireland Grand Committee to do. I suggest that he raise the matter with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
Shona McIsaac (Cleethorpes) (Lab): People seem to be putting in bids for debates before the recess, so I shall make mine for the reintroduction of a Bill to ban hunting with dogs. We are getting perilously close to the recess and we have other important matters to discuss. I therefore suggest reintroducing the Bill shortly and considering all stages in one day. When does my right hon. Friend expect to make such an announcement?
Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con): May I suggest to the Leader of the House that we have an early debate on the timetabling of business and, in particular, of Bills? He has been in the House a long time, as have I, and he will know that this Session has been pretty light. We have sometimes had early nights, and the debates have often been on subjects that were not particularly pressing, yet it remains a fact that many clauses of many important Bills went wholly undiscussed because of the timetable. That is quite wrong, and the House needs to look at the matter again. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree?
Mr. Hain: Given the right hon. and learned Gentleman's long experience in the House, I think that he will agreeas will others with longer experience than methat, in the past, not every clause was always discussed, even before programming came in. On the contrary, I remember some Standing Committees in which, owing to all sorts of Opposition manoeuvressome by our party, some by othersor to agreements with the usual channels, we would spend a ridiculous amount of time on one clause or another, then race past others. This has always been the case; it is not particularly down to the programming system or the timetabling consequences of it.
On the right hon. and learned Gentleman's wider point, one of the reasons this happens is that the House of Lords is a law unto itself. It has no proper procedures, and is in many respects anarchic in the way in which it conducts its business. It is very difficult for business managers to plan for the return of Bills from the Lords
1 Jul 2004 : Column 446
for further consideration. That is why I have just announced a whole series of days for further consideration of Lords amendments.
David Winnick (Walsall, North) (Lab): Bearing in mind what the Solicitor-General said, which my right hon. Friend was listening to, would it be possible for the Foreign Secretary to make a statement next week on the UK citizens in Guantanamo? So far, I have not heard a single Member of Parliament on either side of the House approve of what the United States is doing at the moment. Is it not necessary for the voice of Parliament to be heard very strongly? Whatever criticism there may be about those being detained without charge in Britain on suspicion of involvement in terrorism, they are certainly not being treated in the same way as those in Guantanamo. I saw for myself, with one or two colleagues, that whatever the situation at Belmarsh may be and however concerned those people are that they should not remain in prison, their conditions are very different indeed.
Mr. Hain: I have to agree with my hon. Friend. We are continuing to work to resolve the situation of the four British detainees at Guantanamo Bay, and discussions with the United States Government continue.
Mr. Nick Gibb (Bognor Regis and Littlehampton) (Con): The Leader of the House will be aware of concerns in my constituency and throughout the country about the health implications of Tetra masts. Can we have a full debate in Government time to consider in detail all the research and evidence, and to address the issue of imposing a moratorium on new Tetra masts being put up until the research into their health implications has been fully carried out and reported?
Mr. Hain: Obviously, the health implications of these masts are very important and they are continuously borne in mind by the Government. We are monitoring the situation, and we draw on such fresh research as is available, but I shall certainly draw the hon. Gentleman's point to the attention of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.
Mr. Patrick Hall (Bedford) (Lab): My right hon. Friend may have seen the report in The Times today that the Department of Health is planning to abolish the Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health. Even if that report is not accurate, clarification is now needed. Given the difficult but ultimately positive work that was put into creating the replacement system for community health councils over many years, will my right hon. Friend secure a debate on this matter so that Government policy can be clarified, and so that we may discuss how the interests of patients and the public in the national health service may be best served, and how patients forums may continue to be supported?
I can assure my hon. Friend that those reports are purely speculative. The Department's review of its arm's-length bodies is due to report later this month, and no decisions have yet been taken on this matter. The Government remain committed to giving
1 Jul 2004 : Column 447
patients a strong voice, and to giving the public a stronger voice in the patient-centred national health service which is being driven forward day by day.
Dr. Andrew Murrison (Westbury) (Con): On 18 June, the Environment Agency's consultation exercise on its proposals to amend the substitute fuels protocol closed. Many right hon. and hon. Members with constituency interests in the matter were not consulted, however. Will the Leader of the House approach his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs so that an investigation can be carried out into that consultation exercise? Will he also encourage his right hon. Friend to arrange for a debate in the House so that this important issue can be properly aired? Will he also note the increasing calls for a full public inquiry into the burning of recycled liquid fuel in cement and lime kilns?
Mr. Hain: The Secretary of State will have noted the hon. Gentleman's points with some concern and interest. Obviously, I do not know the details, but on the account that he has given me, I would say that it is important that MPs are consulted on all these mattersor given the opportunity to be consulted, at any rate.
Mr. Tony McWalter (Hemel Hempstead) (Lab/Co-op): My right hon. Friend will be aware that there are 28 strategic health authorities in England, each of which has a different way of demarcating the gap between personal care and nursing care. Does he agree that it is desirable for the House to debate this issue, with a view to influencing the Department of Health so that the system can be clarified, and so that those of our citizens, both young and old, in the most tragic of circumstances, will not have to go to law to get the support that they need for their condition?
Mr. Hain: I agree with my hon. Friend that this is a sensitive area, and it has been a difficult one to manage for a very long time. The Secretary of State for Health is very exercised about it and is working continuously with other Government colleagues, local authorities and the health service generally to improve the situation. I know that he will take careful note of my hon. Friend's point.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|