|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab): I welcome the review of road traffic offences published by the Home Office. It is an excellent document and will be welcomed by Members on both sides of the House who wish to deal with the tragedy of death on our roads. Can my right hon. Friend give us an assurance that primary legislation will be introduced after the consultation? More particularly, bearing in mind the fact that the consultation ends on Friday 6 May, if there is a general election in the meantime, can we be sure that enough work will have been done to introduce primary legislation at an early stage in the new Parliament?
Mr. Hain: The House is grateful for the consistent attention that my hon. Friend has paid to these matters. He welcomed the Government's introduction of the Road Safety Bill, and he will be aware of the written ministerial statement by the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint) today. The consultation paper sets out tough new proposals to reform the framework of offences dealing with bad driving, and seeks to address public concern, which he has ventilated, about the courts' ability to deliver justice, particularly when a death is caused by careless driving, death occurs involving a driver who should not have been on the road in the first placesuch drivers may be disqualified or may not even have a licenceor when serious but non-fatal injuries are sustained by victims. We are addressing all those issues, and we will continue to do so, I hope, with my hon. Friend's input in the debate.
Sir Patrick Cormack: Will the Leader of the House alter slightly the business for the week of 21 February, and table a motion so that the House can debate removing the privileges that Sinn Fein's so-called Members of Parliament currently enjoy? Surely he agrees that they are no longer entitled to them.
That is similar to a point made by the shadow Leader of the House. As the hon. Gentleman knows, it is part of the context in which we are seeking to get the peace process back on the rails and secure a permanent democratic settlement to the difficulties in
3 Feb 2005 : Column 1013
Northern Ireland. I do not think that it would be right for us to address this matter prematurely, although I understand the point that he is making.
Jim Sheridan (West Renfrewshire) (Lab): My right hon. Friend will be well aware of the statement made yesterday by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on encouraging people off incapacity benefit and back into workespecially those who have the important skills that our country needs. As there is a perception that the policy is Treasury-driven and an attack on vulnerable people, will my right hon. Friend, in a spirit of fairness and equality, ensure that the Chancellor comes to the House to assure us that the same focus, resource and importance will be given to those who avoid paying tax in this country and whose tax burden falls on honest taxpayers?
Mr. Hain: Obviously, the Chancellor, laser-like, constantly seeks to get rid of tax avoidance or tax fraud and has devoted considerable attention to that. However, as my hon. Friend rightly says, the proposals on incapacity benefit are meant not to be punitive but to provide people who have been on incapacity benefitsome for a long timewith the opportunity to work, which everybody wants, and to fulfil their duty to society in some cases. In the south Wales valleys, I have seen for myself examples of exciting pilot programmes. In many cases, hundreds of people have come off incapacity benefit and gone into jobs, which they never imagined having the opportunity to do. With that individual support, which is costly, and with the incentives to come off IB and go into work, everybody is better off: society, because the benefit bill is lower; those individuals, because they gain the dignity and opportunity of work; and businesses with vacancies, which have those vacancies filled. That is win-win for everybody concerned, which is why we are so determined to take this forward.
Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire) (Con): I read in the papers that the Leader of the House has just come from a political session of the Cabinet at which no doubt an imminent general election was discussed. May I ask a business question in relation to that and hope for a less dismissive reply than I received last time? The Electoral Commission has proposed new and higher limits for expenditure by constituency candidates, to reflect the extra costs that now have to be reported. Those limits can come into being only when a statutory instrument is laid by the Government. When will they lay that statutory instrument?
Some Conservative Back Benchers invite a dismissive response, although it is always done in a gentle and smiley frame of mind, especially to the hon. Gentleman who is a great participant in the theatresorry, serious businessof business questions.
3 Feb 2005 : Column 1014
Ms Julia Drown (South Swindon) (Lab): Despite all the ceasefire agreements, violence in Sudan continues, with the African Union reporting that the Sudanese air force bombed a village a few days ago killing 100 villagers. Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on Darfur and the violence in Sudan so that we can call for more action, to ensure that those people receive not only the humanitarian aid but the protection that they need.
Mr. Hain: I am grateful that my hon. Friend has raised this matter. She is right to keep bringing it before the House. It will of course be discussed in the Security Council shortly. We are providing active support to the African Union monitoring mission to ensure the safety of civilians in Darfurvehicles, money and plenty of planning support. We have also encouraged the monitoring mission to deploy fully as soon as possible. So far about 1,500 personnel, from a total force of 3,000, have been deployed, and we expect a further 500 to be deployed soon, but that is not really enough, and it is imperative that the Government of Sudan fulfil their responsibilities in compliance with United Nations requirements and end the attacks on innocent civilians in that devastated area.
Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet) (Con): Will the Leader of the House find time before Easter to hold a debate on the collecting and collating of Government statistics, especially those on the measurement of economic growth and productivity? Is he aware that some people in the Office for National Statistics are expressing concern about the issue? There is suspicion that political pressure is being applied to come up with convenient numbers. As I know that the Governmentand not least the right hon. Gentleman himselfwant to be transparent, will he find time for this important issue to be raised on the Floor of the House?
Mr. Hain: It is indeed important, and I understand the point that the hon. Gentleman raises. I state most emphatically that there is no attempt to rig or in any sense manipulate the statistics provided by the ONS. Indeed, because of some anomalies that have crept inI shall refer to them in a moment to explain where I think we arethe decision was taken to launch the independent Atkinson review. That decision was taken by the national statistician, not the Government: he himself said that he needed some independent advice. For example, under current measures of productivity, if we decrease class sizes, increase the quality of teaching and improve exam results, the statistics show a fall in productivity. If someone dies, that shows an increase in health productivity. Furthermore, 40,000 fewer people dying early from cancer and heart disease do not show up in the statistics at all. We have to try to make those assessments impartially, and the ONS, especially under its current leadership, is renowned for that robust independence. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman, like me, would want to maintain that.
Mr. Liam Byrne (Birmingham, Hodge Hill) (Lab):
In the state of New York, the Batson inquiry into fraud at
3 Feb 2005 : Column 1015
Enron has heard evidence that both the Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays worked with Enron executives in a way that allowed the company to hide the true state of its debts and contributed to its later bankruptcy, throwing thousands of employees out of work. Now that the evidence is on the record, when will we find time for a debate about the steps that the Serious Fraud Office is taking to ensure that our banks are clean and do nothing to encourage company directors to breach their fiduciary duties or their duties to their employees?
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|