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Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) (Con): May we have a debate in Government time on the national health service and its priorities? Two people came to see me at my surgery recently. One has no feeling in his arm and has been told that there will be a wait of more than two years for a scan. Another gentleman, who has had back pain for more than three years, has been told that he faces a 40-week wait for his scan. They need scans before they can be treated, and in the meantime they are condemned to live on drugs. It is very stressful for them to have to wait so long for their scans. Can we prioritise that problem in a debate in this House?

Mr. Hain: The hon. Gentleman is right to raise any anomalies or difficulties in the system, but he will also understand that waiting lists are plummeting under the Labour Government, as a result of the enormous reform and investment that has gone into the health service. Not everything is perfect, but it will not be until we have reversed the long decades of collapse and decline that took place under the Tories.

Dr. Brian Iddon (Bolton, South-East) (Lab): My right hon. Friend will know that the first major reform of the civil registration service since it was set up in the mid-19th century is now passing through the House, by way of two regulation reform orders, the first of which is before the Committee chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike). When I attended the Committee on Tuesday this week, both the Financial Secretary to the Treasury and the Chairman of the Regulatory Reform Committee felt that there should be a debate on this subject, if only to raise awareness among hon. Members that this reform is taking place. When the Committee publishes its report at the end of this month, will my right hon. Friend consider finding time for a debate in Government time on this subject?
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Mr. Hain: I shall certainly bear that in mind, because that is an important issue. My hon. Friend has been one of the champions of the reform programme, and the whole House is indebted to him for that. I cannot promise a debate in Government time, but he might wish to apply for a debate in his own name. If he is lucky in that regard, I am sure that the House would welcome such a debate.

Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): Following the excellent question from the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey), may I thank the Leader of the House for his full and very sympathetic response? However, the House wants to know whether there will be another debate on the disastrous situation in Zimbabwe, and on the denial of human rights there and the imprisonment of the Member of Parliament, Roy Bennett? The House wants to know what new initiatives the Government are going to take to bring about the end of Mr. Mugabe's tyrannical regime. Can the right hon. Gentleman give us any hope of a further debate and a Government statement on new initiatives?

Mr. Hain: The Foreign Secretary will take questions next week—on Tuesday, I think—and the matter could be raised then. The deterioration in Zimbabwe is very serious, as the hon. Gentleman says. I cannot promise a debate before the end of this Session, for the reasons that I explained a few minutes ago in the business statement, but I shall certainly bear in mind the force of his argument and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall.

Tom Levitt (High Peak) (Lab): Two weeks ago at business questions, I asked my right hon. Friend to comment on the lack of progress in recent times of the draft Disability Discrimination Bill, which has now passed all its scrutiny stages. Members on both sides of the House are waiting to hear how it can rapidly be progressed. The explanation that he gave was that Conservative members of the usual channels had been blocking the timetable for discussions on the Bill. Will he update us and tell us whether this logjam still exists? When can we expect the Disability Discrimination Bill, as it will become, to be introduced? Does he share my concern that we have no way of bringing an Opposition spokesman to the Front Bench to make a statement to the House and to be taxed on why their party is saying one thing and doing another on this Bill?

Mr. Hain: The opportunity to haul Opposition spokesmen before the House to apologise for their actions would be a novel but attractive procedure. As I announced some weeks ago, the Government intended to introduce the Bill in the House of Lords, but that has not been possible for the reasons that my hon. Friend gave. I hope, however, that we can make early progress on this legislation, if not before Prorogation then very soon afterwards.

Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): The Leader of the House will be aware that the Government intend to run down or close a whole series of military facilities as part of their defence cuts, although it is unlikely that the Ministry of Defence will confirm the details of the closures before the next election. May we have a debate
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in Government time on the plans that are being developed to ameliorate the economic and social consequences of base closures and run-downs?

Mr. Hain: First, there are no defence cuts. Defence investment and spending are rising to record levels and have been doing so throughout the entire period of our Government. There has also been the most consistent growth in defence spending. There will be a debate this afternoon in which the hon. Gentleman could raise these matters. As the Secretary of State for Defence and his Ministers have persistently made clear to the House, what is involved is the reorienting of our armed forces to cope with the logistics of modern warfare. That has involved reprioritising expenditure, support and logistics to the front line, and introducing greater efficiency measures across the country. Some tough decisions have had to be taken, but I think that the hon. Gentleman's constituents would want our armed forces to remain the best fighting force in the world and to have the back-up that they need to achieve that, and that they would be prepared to face tough decisions, even in their own localities, to ensure that that happens.

Mr. Wayne David (Caerphilly) (Lab): Yesterday, the Prime Minister informed us that certain Members of the House had developed their views on the Government's plans for antisocial behaviour. Would it be possible to find time for the Liberal Democrats to explain to the House how their policy on antisocial behaviour is evolving?

Mr. Hain: My hon. Friend can apply for a debate on this matter. The change in attitudes in the House towards antisocial behaviour is fascinating, especially on the Liberal Democrat Benches, and I would be fascinated to hear their contribution to such a debate. They have been on a steep learning curve in this regard. As local people have rebelled against their unwillingness to clamp down on antisocial behaviour, they have been driven to accept the good sense and effectiveness of the Government's laws. People across the country have been rebelling in great numbers against their previous dreadful policy.

Sir Michael Spicer (West Worcestershire) (Con): Will the Leader of the House confirm that, after the vote on amendment (g) last night, the issue of MPs paying for their workstations in the Palace of Westminster is now dead? Will he also confirm that, after last night's votes, MPs are now to be paid a salary that is some 15 per cent. behind that of the comparators that the House set for itself?

Mr. Hain: The Senior Salaries Review Body looked into Members' salaries and came up with the recommendation that the House endorsed last night. However, I think that there is merit in what the hon. Gentleman has said.

On the questions of workstations and the SSRB's recommendations concerning the impact on the incidental expenses allowance, those will come before the Members Estimate Committee, as we agreed yesterday. I am well aware—as I know you are, Mr. Speaker—of concern throughout the House about what would have happened if the SSRB's recommendation
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had been delivered unchanged. That would have been seriously disruptive for Members in all parts of the House, based in London and elsewhere. We need to consider the matter carefully, and I can give the hon. Gentleman an absolute assurance that we will.

Mr. Clive Betts (Sheffield, Attercliffe) (Lab): May I urge my right hon. Friend to allow the introduction, at an early date, of a Bill to transfer strategic responsibility for the railways to the Secretary of State for Transport? The situation is in urgent need of a review. While the east and west coast main lines have benefited from major investment, the midland main line is the forgotten line. It has old trains, even older signals and a 19th-century track. None of that provides a service for people and businesses in such cities as Sheffield or meets the requirements of the modern age. May we have a Bill, and also a debate about how we can put more investment into the midland main line? Both are urgently needed.

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