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Mr. Hoon: I sat through a good part of yesterday's debate on the European issue, and I must say that at least my hon. Friend's approach is consistent: he maintains the same approach on European affairs from one debate to the next. If Opposition Members, particularly Conservative ones, will forgive me for saying so, the wide variety of views expressed from the Conservative Benches yesterday was interestinga variety that seemed to include disavowing their past and the noble Baroness Thatcher's contribution to European debate in the recent past. Perhaps that makes the Conservative party today a revisionist party.
Mr. Paul Burstow (Sutton and Cheam) (LD): Will the Leader of the House indicate when the Government intend to publish their response to the Joint Committee's report on the draft Mental Health Bill, which concluded in the previous Parliament? Will he provide Government time in which we can debate both the Government's response and the report, so that we can begin to allay the concerns of mental health service users, charities and health professionals about the current draft Bill?
Mr. David Chaytor (Bury, North) (Lab):
May I add my voice to those who have called for an early debate on energy policy, but in a slightly different context? My right hon. Friend will know that in addition to early decisions that need to be taken about the unfinished business of the 2003 White Paper on energysuch as the future of renewables and nuclearunder the Energy Act 2004 the Government are required to produce a strategy on microgeneration by the end of this year. Given that that is the least well known and understood aspect of new energy technologies, can we have a debate in the near future specifically on the future of microgeneration?
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Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend will be aware that the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has set out in some detail a five-year programme for energy policy. Although I am not familiar with the aspect of the policy that he raises, I am confident that the Government will make a substantial investment in alternative sources of energy supply and that that will be part of the wider debate on energy that I set out to the House.
Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): Is the Leader of the House aware that there is a desperate shortage of police officers in the Kettering constituency and for the county of Northamptonshire as a whole? Indeed, the chief constable of Northamptonshire has placed on the record that he needs at least 200 more police officers to police the county to the standards required. Will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for the Home Secretary to make an early statement in the House about when the policing needs of the people of the Kettering constituency and the county of Northamptonshire will at last be met?
Mr. Hoon: There are, of course, record numbers of police officers across the country. I do not know the precise figures for Northamptonshire, but I anticipate that, in common with other parts of the east midlands, with which I am more familiar, there will be more police officers in Northamptonshire today than there have ever been, and certainly than before 1997. I know that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary takes these questions extremely seriously. We will be considering ways in which to improve not only the number of police officers, but the way in which they work.
Jonathan Shaw (Chatham and Aylesford) (Lab): Further to what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Martin Linton), my right hon. Friend will know of the Hansard Society report's recommendation that Select Committees should get out and about and take formal evidence around the country. He may also know that the Education and Skills Committee, of which I was a member during the last Parliament, spent a whole week in Birmingham taking formal evidence, spent rather less time taking formal evidence in a prison, and fleetingly took formal evidence in Paris. All those experiences were highly valuable. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that the House authorities promote opportunities for Select Committees to get out of Westminster to take formal evidence? It is a great chance for Westminster to connect with different regions.
Mr. Hoon: As I have said, the Hansard Society report contains a number of interesting suggestions for the better running of Parliament. I assure my hon. Friend that we will consider them very carefully. I recognise the importance of Select Committees getting away from Westminster, although I suspect that the idea will be for them to visit wonderful places like Ashfield rather than, say, Australia.
Mike Penning (Hemel Hempstead) (Con):
Will the Leader of the House bring the Deputy Prime Minister here to confirm what he told the House yesterday about fire control centres being moved to regions rather than
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remaining at county level? As a former fireman and a member of the Fire Brigades Union, I am desperately concerned for my constituents' safety, as well as the safety of constituents elsewhere in the country. The fact that local fire control centres know the topography and understand the ground keeps our country safe. Moving the centres to regions will put lives at risk.
Mr. Hoon: I am familiar with the current debate about fire control centres. A similar debate is going on in my own county. It is important for the organisation of control centres to take full advantage of the latest technology and the best way of delivering service effectively, but I accept that that should be done without compromising the safety of the public in any way.
Mr. Clive Betts (Sheffield, Attercliffe) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend arrange a debate on the Employment Tribunals Service and the problems of enforcing its decisions? That would enable me to raise the case of my constituent Thomas Wilson, who was owed £1,500 when he ended his employment with Nigel Thompson. That is an awful lot for a young worker. He went to a tribunal in April 2003 and won his case, but did not receive the money. As there is no enforcement procedure involving the ETS, he went to the county court in October 2003 and won his case. He returned to the county court in May 2004 and obtained an enforcement order for the employer to come to the court. Because the case is now a matter for civil procedure and the county court bailiffs can only enforce the order personally, and because the employer will not open the electronic gates in front of his house to allow the order to be served, this young man is still owed £1,500 three years after leaving his employment and two years after the tribunal found in his favour. Is it not about time that we changed the procedures to stop such exploitation?
Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend may not need a debate, having set out his case so clearly. Nevertheless, I will saywithout commenting on a particular casethat if there are structural difficulties in the way in which the Employment Tribunals Service operates, they must be addressed. I accept that if parties to proceedings are not willing to accept the results, that is a structural problem that needs to be examined.
John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): May we please have a statement, or a debate in Government time, on the incidence of childhood cancers? Given that no fewer than 350 children a year are diagnosed with brain tumours, that only 20 per cent. of those children survive for five years after the diagnosis and that brain tumours have now overtaken leukaemia as the biggest single killer of children under 15, does the Leader of the House understand the concern among the families of many of the victims of those brain tumours that cancer services for children have been relegated to the status of Cinderella, and are not being put centre stage in the provision of cancer services as they deserve to be? We need a debate, we need it soon, and we need an outcome.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising an important issue. I am well aware that it is often felt that cancer is not recognised as an illness that
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threatens the lives of all of us, whatever our age. It is too frequently seen as a problem only for adults, but when a child suffers this appalling illness it is a terrible issue for parents, family and friends. It needs to be addressed properly, and I will ensure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health responds to the hon. Gentleman in an appropriate way.
Mr. Paul Goodman (Wycombe) (Con): I want to raise again the outbreak of the superbug clostridium difficile at Stoke Mandeville hospital, which is used by many of my constituents. Twelve patients have died and 300 have been infected. It is a very serious matter and my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley), the shadow Secretary of State for Health, has called for an inquiry. The Leader of the House has said that the Secretary of State for Health is examining the matter. Will he please tell us when a Health Minister will come to the Dispatch Box and make a statement?
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