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Mr. Hoon: May I first take the opportunity to congratulate all those who are volunteers? Many aspects of our society simply could not function but for the time, effort and, often, financial sacrifice made by those people. I also pay tribute to the volunteers in the hon. Gentleman's constituency. I am sure that the work they do allows many people to benefit in ways that would not otherwise be possible. However, he will understand, as a former Minister, the balance that has to be struck between necessary regulationI emphasise the word "necessary"and all aspects of our society. This is an area in which it is necessary for there to be inspection, and I trust that that inspection is carried out effectively, but also in as light a way as is consistent with the important work that is being done.
Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): May we have an early debate on the state of our public health laws? We have a small but significant case in Leicester of tuberculosis, which has been caused by a convicted criminal who refuses to take the necessary medication to cure him of the infection. So far, 12 people have been infected by him. The health authority in Leicestershire has said that it cannot do anything because it cannot compel an individual to take medication. Can we have an early debate on this important issue?
Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend raises an extremely important and difficult question, not least given the emergence of diseases that had, for many people, thankfully been eradicated. If my hon. Friend would like to make any suggestions as to how the law might need to be amended, I look forward to hearing them and I can assure him that the Government would take them extremely seriously.
Mr. David Jones (Clwyd, West) (Con):
The Leader of the House might be aware of the proposals by npower renewables to construct one of the world's largest wind
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farms off the coast of Clwyd, West, and of the further proposals for the construction of a wind farm on the Rhyl flats. Both those proposals are meeting with considerable local objection. Unfortunately, however, the planning and licensing regime in this country is such that the objections of individuals are virtually irrelevant to the application process. Given that there are likely to be many more such applications, will the Leader of the House make time available for an urgent debate on this important issue?
Mr. Hoon: The House has already had, and will continue to have, debates on the importance of alternative energy supplies. I recognise the huge controversy that is generated in relation to wind farms. We are all familiar with such circumstancespeople are in favour in principle of alternative energy and other aspects of improving the environment, until they appear close to their own back door. These are issues that should properly be addressed through the planning procedures, but I am concerned to learn that individual representations are not being taken seriously. They form an important part of our planning process and should be properly regarded.
Mr. Mark Hendrick (Preston) (Lab/Co-op): Will my right hon. Friend consider holding a debate on the future of motor racing, especially in relation to the issue of extra-territoriality, which could affect the future of the industry, given the provisions of the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act 2002?
Mr. Hoon: I am well aware of the importance of motor racing to the economy of the United Kingdom, of how many jobs are created here, and of the great success of the industry around the world. I can assure my hon. Friend that any legislation that has been passed was not intended to have extra-territorial implications, and was not intended to go beyond the terms of, in this case, a directive. That directive needs to be interpreted consistently with its terms; it should not be gold-plated or interpreted in any more extravagant a way.
Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell) (Con): May I put it gently to the Leader of the House that his responses have not done justice to the situation in Zimbabwe, and that the disgraceful scenes witnessed in Harare require action from this Government? Merely condemning them from the Dispatch Box and suggesting that Members might be lucky in the ballot for Foreign Office questions is not enough. We need the Foreign Secretary to come to the House and make a statement, and we need an urgent debate, if not just on Zimbabwe then, as other Members have requested, on the whole of Africa.
The right hon. Gentleman has been assiduous in rightly raising this issue over many years, on which he is to be congratulated. He knows full well, however, that the Government have taken a series of strong measures against the leadership of Zimbabwe and have persuaded other European Union members to impose some of the toughest sanctions anywhere in the world on the leadership of that country. How those sanctions can be made most effective is always an issue,
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but they are targeted rightly at those who lead Zimbabwe and do not, therefore, further damage the position of the people of that country.
Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove) (Con): A debate on MG Rover will be held in Westminster Hall next week in Back-Bench time, and I hope to get the opportunity to speak in it. However, may I press the Leader of the House on the need for a debate in Government time on what has happened at MG Rover? Yesterday, the chairman of the taskforce came to brief MPs about the fact that only 500 out of the 6,000 people who have been made redundant have been employed, despite all the efforts and money put in by the Government. Other issues such as pensions, which I have raised previously, and the activities of directors still leave cause for serious concern. Can the right hon. Gentleman therefore assure us that there will be a debate in Government time at some future stage so that we can learn more of the lessons of the MG Rover debacle?
Mr. Hoon: As I am sure the hon. Lady is aware, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry announced on 31 May that a full investigation and inquiry into MG Rover would take place. I am sure that she agrees with me on the need to ensure that that inquiry is thorough and rigorous and that we do not pre-empt its outcome before having a necessary debate in the House about that matter.
Ian Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on the important subject of energy policy? There is intense speculation about the future of nuclear energy, and continuing concern about the future of the photovoltaics demonstration programme. Businesses need to know in advance what the framework will be for the years ahead, and the House needs an opportunity to discuss those matters.
Mr. Hoon: If any other Member raises the question of an energy debate during business questions, I will be tempted to say that we are having one. Nevertheless, I regard these questions as being of fundamental importance, as do the Government. We have already had discussions, in the short time since Parliament reassembled, about the effect of climate change, and I am sure that those issues will recur throughout the Parliament and be part of the important debate that G8 countries have at their summit.
Patrick Mercer (Newark) (Con): I am sure that the Leader of the House is aware that more than half our servicemen killed in Iraq have yet to have coroners' inquiries completed over the circumstances of their deaths. He and I can only imagine how that adds to the already considerable burden of grief among their families. May we have an early debate to find out why those circumstances have occurred and to ensure that such very sad events do not occur again?
I am particularly grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising this very difficult issue. I have met many of those family members and know how important it is to them that these questions are resolved, and resolved in a way that gives them satisfaction. I will certainly ensure that the Secretary of State for
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Constitutional Affairs is made aware of the question and that appropriate action is taken. As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, however, such issues are part of judicial independence, and sensitive legal matters must be resolved.
Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): Next Wednesday, we will have yet another debate on European affairsthe traditional full-day debate immediately prior to a summit or Council meeting. Will my right hon. Friend consider whether we have too manyand too lengthydebates on European affairs, not least because Members might be repeating speeches that they have made in several debates, and therefore feel that it is unnecessary to repeat them all over again next week? On a serious point, will he consider changing the tradition for the future, as we now have many more summits and Council meetings than in the past. Would it make more sense to have a statement, or half-day debate, prior to a Council or summit meeting rather than a full-day debate, so that we can allow time for some of the other debates that Members have requested today?
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