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Mr. Hoon: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his observations. As I said earlier, we now have the benefit of five different systems operating in the United Kingdom. The purpose of the review by officials in the Department for Constitutional Affairs is to examine those systems in practice, to see what effect they have. It is important that the House give those officials that opportunity. Obviously, hon. Members will want to discuss their findings in greater detail once the review is completed.
Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): After the Chancellor of the Exchequer inadvertently misquoted my election address, for which he apologisedat least, I think he apologised from behind the Chair; I was not too sure what he was sayingcan we have an urgent debate of at least seven hours to discuss the unfairness of funding for schools in Staffordshire? Is the Leader of the House aware that, in Slough, there is an allocation of £3,736 per pupil, and in Tower Hamlets, the figure is £5,051? However, the figure in Staffordshire is £3,021 per pupil. It is not that we want more overall funding; we want fair funding.
Mr. Hoon: I am well aware of the debate that the hon. Gentleman mentions. I receive similar representations from county councillors in Nottinghamshire, so I am aware of the concern about differential funding across the United Kingdom. The Secretary of State for Education and Skills is also considering the matter, which is obviously something that we must get right in the future.
Helen Southworth (Warrington, South) (Lab):
Is my right hon. Friend aware of the excellent work carried out by the Talk, Don't Walk project in Warrington,
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which helps vulnerable young people to find a better alternative to solving their problems than running away from home? He would be very welcome to come and see it for himself, but I particularly hope that he will institute a debate on support and protection for young runaways.
Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend has raised an important subject, and I know that it is one in which she has taken a considerable interest on behalf of her constituents. I commend the project and I commend her efforts.
Richard Younger-Ross (Teignbridge) (LD): Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate to put right a great injustice brought about by the previous Conservative Government when they privatised water? That privatisation has led in the south-west to 3 per cent. of the population paying for cleaning up 30 per cent. of the country's beaches. The population in the south-west are still paying the highest water charges in the country and facing further charges far in excess of the rate of inflation. Can we have a debate on this, so that this injustice can be put right?
Mr. Hoon: One of the reasons for the tremendous costs since 1997 is the appalling legacy of the lack of investment that we inherited at that time. There is no reason why the hon. Gentleman should not secure one of the many opportunities for debate that the House affords. If he is advocating a wholesale change of ownership, no doubt we will be filled in when the Liberal Democrats introduce plans to spend still further huge amounts of taxpayers' money.
Meg Hillier (Hackney, South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op): I am sure that my right hon. Friend will join me in welcoming the massive investment, particularly through the London schools challenge, in education in Hackney, South and Shoreditch. I particularly support the 14 to 19 agenda, but I would be grateful if he could schedule time for a debate on adult education. Hackney has many hard-working families with adults who access skills training to boost their family's economy and the wider economy, yet the funding mechanism, particularly in east London, does not favour that. I would be glad of the chance to debate the issue.
Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend has made an excellent point about a very important subject. I know that the Department for Education and Skills gives it priority, and I am sure that she will find an opportunity to raise that vital question in one of the many Adjournment debates available to Members of the House.
Mr. Simon Burns (West Chelmsford) (Con):
As the Prime Minister has rather refreshingly and surprisingly said that one lesson he has learned in recent weeks is that he should listen more, would the Leader of the House like to assist him by providing a debate in this Chamber about house building in the south-east and in areas such as my own of Chelmsford? The Prime Minister can then hear the anger of my constituents, of my right hon. and hon. Friends, and of his own hon. Friends, about the levels of house building imposed by diktat on greenfield sites because there are not enough brownfield sites around London and beyond and the infrastructure does not exist
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to sustain communities. The Environmental Audit Committee has strongly criticised the Government for proceeding without paying attention to anyone's views.
Mr. Hoon: The Government have a strong commitment to providing affordable housing for the many people who want to own their own homes. I recognise that there are significant planning issues, and we have made it clear that before engaging in large-scale construction of new housing, it is important that the appropriate infrastructure is in place. That is in stark contrast to the way in which the previous Conservative Government approached those important issues.
Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central) (Lab): The Leader of the House recognised the importance of the game of professional football when he congratulated Liverpool on its win in Istanbul last night. As a Manchester United supporter, I must regretfully join him in those congratulations. There are serious issues about the ownership and control of football, as evidenced by the takeover of Manchester United, in which I have a moderate interest as a very tiny shareholder. Another example is Wrexham, where the club owner took actions that were deemed unacceptable to the community of Wrexham. Those matters are of genuine community interest. Can we have an urgent debate about whether present company law is the relevant structure for ownership of something that brings so much pleasure to millions of people in this country?
Mr. Hoon: I am sure that my hon. Friend recognises that not all football clubs are publicly quoted companies. Some are, but some are not. It is important that their ownership is considered alongside the relevant rules for other companies. At the same time, I recognise the genuine concern in particular communities about the nature of ownership and control. If my hon. Friend would like to raise those matters with me in writing, I shall ensure that they are directed to the appropriate Government Department.
John Barrett (Edinburgh, West) (LD): The Leader of the House will be aware of the good work done by many charities and heritage organisations up and down the country that is being put at risk by the Chancellor's proposals to remove gift aid benefits from day memberships. Will he allow time for a debate in the House to discuss that as a matter of urgency?
Mr. Hoon: The hon. Gentleman will be aware that there is a charities Bill in the Queen's Speech programme. I am sure that he will have the opportunity to make that point and, indeed, to table appropriate amendments to the Bill if necessary.
Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North) (Lab):
May I also raise the issue of smoking in public places? Is my right hon. Friend aware that yesterday there was a cross-party vote in the Welsh Assembly in favour of introducing a ban on smoking in all enclosed workplaces and public places, with a few exceptions such as prisons and nursing homes, following the report of the cross-party working group ably chaired by Val Lloyd, the Assembly Member for Swansea East? I urge my right hon. Friend to introduce a public health Bill in England as soon as
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possible. Can he assure me that such a Bill will provide an opportunity for the Welsh Assembly to carry out the report's recommendations?
Mr. Hoon: I am aware of the vote, and I recognise, as I told the House earlier, that there is great concern among right hon. and hon. Members about the subject. I can, however, give my hon. Friend the assurance that she is seeking and confirm that such a Bill will be introduced as soon as possible.
Given the savage abuse of human rights perpetrated by the ruling military junta in Burma, the continued incarceration of political prisoners and the detention without democratic trial of Aung San Suu Kyi, whose 60th birthday takes place next month, does the Leader of the House agree that it is time that the Government staged the first ever debate on the Floor of the House on the subject of Burma? That would give them the opportunity to show how, through the use of moral pressure on the one hand and action for concerted sanctions on the other, we can hasten the day when the long-suffering people of Burma enjoy the freedom and democracy that we have long enjoyed and which they have too long been denied?
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