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Mr. Hain: On the Railways Bill and the Road Safety Bill, there was a difficult business management issue, as the hon. Gentleman knows. As he fairly acknowledges, he and I were anxious to hold the sitting hours debate on a day when the maximum number of Members would be presentwhichever way they votedso it was desirable to hold it in the middle of the week, and that is what we did by putting it on Wednesday 26 January. I am sure that we can get round those related transport matters in Committee and on the Floor of the House in a practical fashion.
I continue to note the hon. Gentleman's very fair request for debates on Africa and the middle east, and the Foreign Secretary is aware of it. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we are at a stage in the business cycle where we are getting through many Second Readings and making progressmore rapid progress than some of our critics might have imagined. The legislative programme is in very good shape indeed. There has not yet been an opportunity to hold those debates, but I continue to keep the matter under review.
The hon. Gentleman is aware that the Constitutional Reform Bill is currently being discussed by the usual channels. The Government will of course ensure that any programme motion provides for the matters in the Billwhich, yes, I described on 9 December as "a major constitutional measure"to be debated on the Floor of the House. That has always been our intention. However, it is not the intention to deal with every aspect of the Bill on the Floor of the House, and adequate time for scrutiny in Standing Committee will be allocated. There are precedents for that, and the hon. Gentleman cited some: the Greater London Authority Bill was one and the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Bill was another. The Constitutional Reform Bill has 111 clauses, and the major constitutional measures will, properly, be taken on the Floor of the House, but for some of the other measures in a Bill over which there has been exhaustive consultation, and which has been exhaustively debated in the House of Lords, I am sure
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that the House will see it as reasonable that the Government should adopt the approach that we have adoptedeven if the hon. Gentleman does not.
On the question about the trade deficit, I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman has not pointed to the fact that we now have the strongest economy in living memory, with unemployment at its lowest for 30 years, the lowest mortgage and inflation rates for 40 years and the longest and most sustained period of economic growth for 200 years, compared with Conservative policies, in government, of high interest rates, high inflation, two recessions and 3 million unemployed. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would want to keep quiet about the economy, as the Leader of the Opposition consistently does in his questions to the Prime Minister. The country knows that electing a Tory Government would place at risk the whole future of the economy, with rapidly increasing mortgages, cuts in public spending, rises in unemployment and rises in prices.
On binge drinking, the hon. Gentleman knows that, in the end, it is for local authorities to determine what the licensing hours should be for individual premises or what the policy should be in a particular locality, and we have provided for that. The problem is that we have binge drinking now, so clearly the existing system is not working. We are trying to ensure that people do not have to pour out of licensed premises at exactly the same time, tanked up because they are desperate to get extra alcohol into themselves; unfortunately, too many of them do and they then create law and order problems for the police.
Mr. Hain: The police have varied views on the schemenot all of them oppose it, and many recognise that this is a sensible way to proceed. Why should the rights of the law-abiding majority to drink sensibly be transgressed? Surely their rights and liberties should be protected, which happens elsewhere in the European Union. Why should the rights of people who come out of the theatre and want the chance to enjoy a pint or a glass of wine be infringed and limited by an arbitrary cut-off that is imposed because of an abuse that is practised by a minority, bearing in mind the fact that, in any case, local authorities will have the right to control the matter locally?
The hon. Gentleman asks about burglaries and reasonable force. As the Home Secretary said yesterday in a written ministerial statementit has been repeated todayafter an exhaustive review, the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Crown Prosecution Service, the two key bodies involved, agreed that the existing law allows plenty of scope for reasonable force to be exercised. Indeed, I am advised of cases in which householders have killed intruders, but have not been prosecuted because the existing law provides plenty of scope. Our message to householders is that they have the right to defend their homes and to use reasonable force, and that they are entitled to use reasonable force if they suffer a burglary of an aggressive character. We are putting that message forward and the existing legislation provides for that, as ACPO and the CPS have confirmed. There is thus no need to amend the legislation.
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John Cryer (Hornchurch) (Lab): The Leader of the House will be aware of the Unison campaign to take hospital cleaning contracts back into the public sector, which has started partly, at least, because in the 20 years since the privatisation of cleaning, the number of hospital cleaners has halved. If it was up to me, I would renationalise the lot and take back everything that the Tories privatised, starting with the railways. However, this situation is crucialit could be a matter of life and death. The introduction of the profit motive into hospital cleaning has been a complete failure, as it has in most areas. May we have an urgent debate on the matter?
Mr. Hain: The Secretary of State for Health has made it clear that cleaning is a serious problem in too many hospitals, and he is tackling the matter. The situation is a legacy of the Tories' disastrous privatisation of cleaning, when they failed to ensure adequate standards, which are now being pushed through by the Government's policies. My hon. Friend will understand that MRSA is a separate, though related, issue because that is to do with the mutation of disease, which is difficult to deal with. The Secretary of State is well aware that clean hospitals are a vital prerequisite for effective treatment.
Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall) (LD): Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Prime Minister to come to the House early next week to make a statement on the hunt for weapons of mass destruction? He will have noted that overnight the President's spokesperson at the White House said that the Iraq survey group will now officially stand down. The exercise has ended, which clearly demonstrates that the House was given a completely flawed prospectus for going to war in Iraq. We now know that WMD stands for either weapons of mass distraction, or weapons of mass deception. We clearly need a statement from the Prime Minister as early as possible.
I think that the Leader of the House was in the Chamber a few minutes ago when hon. Members on both sides of the House were asking the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs important questions about the Kyoto protocol and climate change. Will he arrange for an early debate on the subject? We know from the Secretary of State's replies a few minutes ago, and from the Minister for the Environment and Agri-environment's answers to my question about the severe weather conditions and climate change yesterday, that the Government are undertaking several initiatives in the near futurein February and, I think, in Marchpartly as a result of our current role as the lead country in the G8. Should not the House hear precisely what the Government have in mind to ensure that G8 countries live up to their expectations? Is the Leader of the House aware that there has been an important Lords report on this issue, to which I understand the Government have not yet responded, and a report from a Commons Select Committee on climate change and flooding, which asks for a White Paper? The Government apparently responded that there was no need for such a White Paper.
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Does the Leader of the House recognise that this is an extremely important issue for hon. Members throughout the House? If we do not take the opportunity of the G8 leadership to do something serious about itnotably to persuade the President of United States to take the matter seriouslythe whole of the world will suffer.
Mr. Hain: I very much agree with the hon. Gentleman about climate change. The way in which our weather has been behaving recently gives the lie to claims that global warming does not produce climate change and that emissions are not at the root of that problem. We have made climate change a key priority for the G8 presidency and I am grateful that the hon. Gentleman supports the Government on that. It means that we are in the same position on this matter. I will bear in mind the need to debate the issue in the House. I am sure that there will be plenty of opportunities to do so as the G8 presidency progresses.
The hon. Gentleman will know that the information that has just come to light from the Iraq survey group about its changed role is nothing new. He will also recall that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made a statement to the House on 12 October; I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was present for it. My right hon. Friend went into these issues in some detail. Both he and, before him, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made it clear that we accept the conclusions of the Iraq survey group about its failure to find any evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq at the present time.
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