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Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): I know that the Leader of the House is concerned about truth and accuracy, so I am surprised at his earlier comments about my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition, who was the only Home Secretary under whom overall crime actually reduced.
My question follows that of the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Lawrie Quinn), who referred to fishing. Why will the debate on fishing be on the Adjournment and not a general motion on which the House could vote? Fishing is a controversial issue and there are major differences between the parties over the future of UK fishing rights and UK fishing waters.
Mr. Hain: As the hon. Gentleman knows, it is a convention that the debate to which he refers is on a motion for the Adjournment. He may try to persuade the House that it should not be so but, under successive Governments, that has been the case.
On crime, the fact is that it is down by a third under Labour but doubled under the Conservatives, especially at the time when the Leader of the Opposition was a Minister in the last Conservative Government. The chance of being a victim of crime is at its lowest for 20 years. Since 1997, burglary is down by 42 per cent., vehicle theft by 40 per cent. and violent crime by 26 per cent., and £1 million of the profits from organised crime are being seized every week. The Conservatives ought to be supporting Labour policies to make Britain even safer and more secure, and it is a measure of the extreme position that they have got themselves into that they are attacking Government policies to tackle terrorism, organised and serious crime, antisocial behaviour, drugs trafficking and illegal migration. They should be backing Labour's excellent policies to build a safer and more secure Britain.
Mr. David Watts (St. Helens, North) (Lab):
My right hon. Friend will be aware that public expenditure in Northern Ireland, Scotland, London and Wales is much higher than it is in regions such as the north-west. Will
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he arrange for a debate in the House to allow us to discuss how we can have more equal funding of public services?
Mr. Hain: As my hon. Friend knows, the local government settlement will enable that debate to take place, and local authorities will see the resources they are getting. But I assume that my hon. Friend is talking about the Barnett formula and the way that it distributes resources. If I may talk about Wales, wearing my other Cabinet hat, although spending per head is higher in Wales than the average in England, rates of disability, industrial illness and ill-health are higher in Wales as well, and poverty has in the past decades been greater. The Barnett formula is designed to address that issue. In the end, Wales gets the same proportion of increases in spending as England; it is done on a per capita basis. That is the basis of the formula.
Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire) (Con): During the year, more than 20 million visitors visit the Peak district, which is maintained and looked after by our farmers, who look after and maintain our countryside. When can we have debate on agriculture in the House? The dairy industry is in severe crisis.
Mr. Hain: I think that I am right in saying that the Peak district national park was created by a Labour Government, which I am sure the hon. Gentleman would welcome. I will obviously bear in mind his request for a debate on the dairy industry and agriculture, but we have a busy legislative Session coming up.
Mr. Tony McWalter (Hemel Hempstead) (Lab): As yet another strategically important science department is faced with closurethis time chemistry at Exeterwill my right hon. Friend review the arrangements by which we discuss science matters in the House? This matter arose because of an absurd ratio in terms of funding for science courses organised by the Higher Education Funding Council, which lowered the amount of funding available to science departments. That is just the sort of issue that should be tackled on the Floor of the House. Yet the Minister for Science and Innovation is in the other place, has the most junior Ministry of all and is unpaid, while the Minister with responsibility for culture is a Cabinet Minister. Is not this appalling, and should we not be doing something about it?
Mr. Hain: Obviously I do not want to see a chemistry course cut anywhere in Britain. We had the same problem at Swansea university, near my constituency, recently, which is why the Government are investing record amounts in science. We have trebled the science budget; an extra £1 billion is now coming in. Obviously, Exeter university is an independent, autonomous body and these decisions are being considered. The Department of Trade and Industry and the Secretary of State for Education and Skills are aware of this matter and I am sure will now be even more aware as a result of my hon. Friend's question.
Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP):
The worrying situation in Ukraine is fast-moving and there are grave warnings about civil order. When will the Foreign Secretary make an urgent statement to the House, so
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that we can be fully apprised of developments and the Government's position, which will have to respond to events on the ground?
Mr. Hain: I understand the hon. Gentleman's concerns. I agreed with the Conservative spokesperson on the worrying situation, and I agree with him also. The Foreign Secretary is in the middle east, seeking actively to promote the peace settlement that we all want to see between the Israelis and the Palestinians. My right hon. Friend is also involved in the issue of Iran and other sensitive issues, so I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will not want to be critical of him. But I am sure the Foreign Secretary will bear in mind the point that the hon. Gentleman has raised.
Dr. Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree with me that safety and security is not just about terrorism and major crime, important though they are, but about the safety, security, liveability and cleanliness that people observe in their immediate neighbourhood; the well-being of their daily lives? In that context, will he ensure that the Bill on clean neighbourhoods and environment that was announced in the Queen's Speech gets the earliest possible debate before the House?
Mr. Hain: My hon. Friend raises an important issue, and I will indeed seek to ensure that that occurs. The Bill will build on the antisocial behaviour legislation that this Government have also introduced, which was opposed by the Liberal Democrats. First, they said that the legislation was draconian. Then, they claimed that it did not work. Now, they say that they support it. Next, they will be saying that it was their idea all along.
The truth is that many in our local neighbourhoods, as we know as Members of Parliament, are very concerned about yobbery, fly-posting, fly-tipping, graffiti, noise pollution, abandoned vehicles and different ailments. I should have thought that the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives ought to back the Government in trying to create safer, more secure local communities. That is precisely the point that I have been making the past few daysI am pleased to have done soand I will continue making that argument, despite these phoney attacks from the Opposition.
Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne) (Con): Because of the Government's refusal to fund health care properly in Surrey, the Ashford and St. Peter's hospitals trust is facing financial meltdown. If it were a business in the private sector, it would now be facing bankruptcy, and its long-suffering and hard-working board is meeting today to try to sort out the mess that the Government have created in my constituency. Might we have a debate so that we can get to the bottom of the crisis, which is almost certain to lead to service cuts for my constituents and longer waiting lists for those who need treatment?
Obviously I am not aware of the details of the hon. Gentleman's local hospital. He quite properly raises the matter, but I would take issue with him about the Government's failure to fund health services properly. That is an incredible statement from a Conservative Member, when we had cut after cut in
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health care under the Tories. We have brought in 77,500 more nurses, 19,000 more doctors, 24 major new hospitals, 16,000 more general and acute beds in the past three years and 450,000 more operations a year. Waiting lists coming right down, compared with the situation under the Conservatives when waiting lists were sky high, hospitals were closing, nurses were losing their jobs and doctors could not be recruited; the dreadful legacy that we inherited.
Mr. Brian Jenkins (Tamworth) (Lab): The official Opposition spokesman, who did a very good job today, suggested that every family in the country pays an extra £5,000 a year in tax, but that would miss many families in my constituency; that is almost half of their annual income. The hon. Gentleman cited value for money, so will my right hon. Friend arrange a debate in Government time on the use of Short money? Are we getting value for money when figures like that are being chucked about?
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