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I am grateful for the opportunity that the hon. Gentleman has given me to put on record the House's gratitude to Mark Peters. He was a young father with two young children, and his wife Bernadette has been plunged into this dreadful tragedy. In common with other security officers, he was employed at the vehicle search point at Black Rod's Garden Entrance. He did a valuable job for us, and I am sure that the whole House will wish to express our sympathy and condolences to the family on the tragedy that has befallen them.
On the Constitutional Reform Bill, the truth is that we remain committed to the reform and modernisation of the constitution of the United Kingdom. The Bill has not yet been considered in the Commons; of course, such a major constitutional measure will need to be debated on the Floor of this House. Despite all the comings and goings in the House of Lords, this is not about the title of the post. It is about separating the judiciary from the Cabinet, ensuring that there is an independent judiciary, and ensuring that the Secretary of State concerned, who is ultimately responsible for the delivery of the justice systemfor example, under the current Secretary of State there has been a dramatic increase in the recovery of finesis not required to spend a lot of time on the Woolsack rather than on ensuring that the criminal justice system works efficiently. That is what the changes are designed to deliver, and they will do so.
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I am still considering the hon. Gentleman's request for a debate on Africa and the middle east. We are in a very congested part of the timetable at the moment, with Second Readings coming through and so on. The middle east and Africa are vital issues, and the Foreign Secretary will continue to report to the House, as he always does extremely diligently.
On dentistry, we inherited an absolute shambles from the Conservatives. They closed training places for dentists and cut the provision of NHS dentists. We have been recruiting more dentists and have opened 47 NHS dental access centres in areas where they are needed most; they now treat more than 300,000 patients a year. I am sorry, but I am not going to take any lessons from Conservatives on dentistry. There is a problem, but we are tackling it and we will solve it.
On MRSA, I am well aware of the problem, and my constituent has indeed raised the issue with me. However, the truth is that it has been made more easy to identify and more transparent as a result of the recording procedures that we have put in place, which did not exist under the previous Government. We are driving forward a programme to deal with that.
All these issues, whether it is the provision of dentistry or the cleaning up of our hospitals, would be put at risk by the shameful robbery from the NHS by the Conservatives of up to £1 billion to pay for their patient's passport, to allow those who can afford to pay in part for their operations to take money out of the health service and go down the road to a private hospital. That is the truth that they will not face.
Mr. Ian Cawsey (Brigg and Goole) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend find time for an urgent debate on the planning processes for wind farms throughout the country? In and around the north Lincolnshire area there are plans for 176 turbines, some in farms that are large enough for the Department to approve and others in smaller farms that will be dealt with by local authorities, of which there are several. That leads to a situation in which no one is considering the cumulative effects of all the applications. During Department of Trade and Industry questions there was a helpful reply from a Minister who said that he hoped that something could be done about that. However, there is no time scale and the applications are being considered now. When can the House debate this issue so that hon. Members and the local planning authorities know what will happen?
Mr. Hain: Clearly, a balance has to be struck between ensuring that wind farms are not literally in people's back yards and ensuring that wind has a major contribution to play in meeting future energy needs, and renewable energy in particular. We must resist a nimby attitude. If we are to provide for an alternative that does not involve a wholesale increase in nuclear power, we must go down the renewable road. That is not only wind, but wave and tidal power, fuel cells, PV solar and solar.
How soon will we have a statement on corruption in the sales of arms? He will be aware, I hope, of the extensive and important report in today's edition of The Guardian, which indicates that the sale of arms to Indonesia was the subject of a major corruption episode. We are only now learning exactly what happened. It has been alleged that Alvis paid £16.5 million in bribes to President Suharto's eldest daughter to secure a £160 million sale of Scorpion tanks, which were used for internal oppression.
The significance for the Government's policy is that the sales were backed by the British Government's Export Credits Guarantee Department, which was left to pick up a £93 million bill when Indonesia ran into financial crisis. I hope that the Leader of the House will agree that there are important implications for the Government's arms sales policy, about which the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry gave a mealy-mouthed reply a few minutes ago, indicating that the company had succeeded in watering down the Government's constraints. There are also important implications in terms of freedom of information legislation, which comes fully into force at the turn of the year. Will the Leader of the House give us an undertaking that there will be a statement on all those matters?
The Leader of the House is widely reported in the media this morning as commenting on the deaths at the Deepcut Army barracks, saying that there were too many to be a coincidence. Will the right hon. Gentleman give the House an opportunity to express a view on the suitability of the limited review that is now taking place, given that his comments would suggest that the Ministry of Defence is inadequate to do the job? Otherwise, why is he making these comments now, after all these years during which these things have been going on? He says, rightly, in the comments made in the newspapers this morning that he finds the situation very disturbing. I hope that he will agree that we need a much more substantial debate in the House, on a substantive motion, so that we can express a view about the adequacy of the investigations that are now taking place.
Mr. Hain: The article in The Guardian on the sale of arms was obviously serious and disturbing. The matter is being investigated by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will want to take this opportunity to applaud the fact that it was this Government who brought in a new code, and got the European Union to adopt a similar one, which prevents the export of arms for internal oppression or external aggression. Any arms exports have to be judged against those important criteria. We have led the world in the matter. The Foreign Secretary, the Defence Secretary and the Prime Minister are trying to enlarge the code beyond the European Union to make it global.
The hon. Gentleman asked why I was commenting on Deepcut now. The answer is that, on Tuesday, when I met regional political editors, I was asked a question about it. I have said nothing that differs from the comments made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of
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State for Defence at the Dispatch Box only a week ago or from anything that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence has said. I support their programme of investigationthat is the best way to sort the matter out. The hon. Gentleman suggests that there is difference of opinion between the Ministry of Defence and me; there is not.
Sir Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend ensure that, on Tuesday, Labour Members have a free vote on amendments to the Mental Capacity Bill that relate to euthanasia? I remind him that it is long-standing practice in the parliamentary Labour party that Labour Members have a free vote on matters of conscience. If euthanasia is not a matter of conscience, what on earth is?
Mr. Hain: I understand my right hon. Friend's point. Of course, we continually review the circumstances in which there might be free votes. If the Bill opened the issue of euthanasia, there would unquestionably be a free vote, but we are not changing the current law. Any final arbitration on such matters under the Bill, as under current law, would be for the courts to determine on a case-by-case basis. That is the sensible way to proceed. I remind my right hon. Friend that the Bill had its Second Reading on Monday 11 October and was carried by 326 votes to 62. There were no votes in Committee and the measure was subject to pre-legislative scrutiny. We have tried to get the Bill right and bring the law into a modern framework but we are explicitly not reopening the question of euthanasia.
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