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David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op):
The Government have achieved a great deal in the past eight years in their attack on social exclusion, and they have taken tentative steps to tackle financial exclusion. There is evidence in constituencies such as
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mine, however, of the return in greater numbers of loan sharks and doorstep credit sellers. Is there not more that we can do? It would be very helpful indeed to have a debate on the matter, as we could look at the role of credit unions, whose membership has tripled in a decade to 500,000, including the Prime Minister and myself. Credit union membership is relatively low in the United Kingdomit is 45 per cent. of the population in Ireland, 30 per cent. in the USA, 20 per cent. in Australia, but just 1 per cent. in this country. Could we discuss by means of a debate how we can tackle some of the despicable piranhas of poverty who prey on poorer communities?
Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend makes an important point and one that the Government are keen to address, which we will do through the Consumer Credit Bill currently passing through Parliament. He has made his point effectively, and I am sure it will be acknowledged in the legislation.
[That this House regrets the ongoing confusion and inequity that surrounds NHS continuing care; notes with concern that the retrospective review of eligibility for continuing care has often been accessible to only the most articulate leaving many vulnerable people unfairly paying for their continuing health care; regrets the missed opportunity by the Department of Health to clarify the situation by drawing up national eligibility criteria after the publication of the Ombudsman's report in February 2003; calls on the Department of Health to use the forthcoming National Standards Framework to introduce national eligibility criteria that make it clear that those with primary health needs must be entitled to NHS continuing care, give equal weight to mental and physical needs, and clearly distinguish between patients eligible for NHS continuing care and those eligible for high band registered nursing care contribution; notes the widespread support for these measures from such groups as Age Concern, Alzheimer's Society, Citizens Advice, the Health Service Ombudsman and in the conclusions of the recent report of the Health Select Committee, NHS Continuing Care.]
Early-day motion 310 deals with the continuing confusion and chaos in the system for determining entitlement to NHS-funded continuing care for older people, in the community and in care homes. The issue has been running in the House for more than 10 years and remains a problem, with the ombudsman making a condemnatory report of the Government's handling of it. May we have a debate on the Health Committee's report? If we did so, we could explore the seriousness with which Government are tackling the issue with a view to removing the confusion and ending the postcode lottery of access to free health care for older people so that they no longer have to sell their homes to pay for what they thought they would get free.
I have not read in detail the alleged charges set out in early-day motion 310, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the Government take this matter extremely seriously and will respond in detail to the Select Committee report.
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Mr. William Cash (Stone) (Con): Does the Leader of the House know that I wrote to the Prime Minister yesterday regarding the European Scrutiny Committee? The problem is that it has not been set up, so there are scrutiny reserves which are not being carried out as the House has resolved. This is a serious matter, particularly in view of recent events in France and the Netherlands and the collapse of the constitution. Can the right hon. Gentleman give us an assurance that the European Scrutiny Committee will be set up at once?
Mr. Hoon: I acknowledge the hon. Gentleman's concern about the European Scrutiny Committee and other Committees that need to be established quickly in order to allow their work to continue. I assure him that the matter is receiving rapid and urgent attention.
Mr. Nigel Dodds (Belfast, North) (DUP): Following the vicious attack on a lawful and peaceful parade in my constituency last Friday night resulting in severe injuries to many innocent people, there is real anger and concern in Northern Ireland, particularly in Belfast, as we approach this weekend that the violence aimed at the lawful parade has been rewarded through the bizarre and provocative decision of the Parades Commission in respect of another parade, the Whiterock parade, this Saturday. May we have an early debate in Government time on the role of the Parades Commissionan unelected unaccountable quango that is making decisions that cause great instability and rising tension in Northern Ireland? The issue needs to be addressed. May I respectfully urge the Leader of the House to tell his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland that no longer can the Government hide behind that quango and leave everybody else to clear up the mess?
Mr. Hoon: The hon. Gentleman knows better than I the sensitivities of these issues. I am sorry that he is so critical of the work of the Parades Commission, which after all has to balance a number of factors in the difficult judgments that it has to reach. I assure him that I will draw his remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.
Mr. Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con): I hope the Leader of the House is able to combine a visit to Trafalgar 200 with attendance at the House for the Second Reading debate, thanks to the services of his hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the House, who he knows to be a distinguished helicopter pilot and who will no doubt be ferrying him backwards and forwards. Is it not the case that the Leader of the House has staged the Second Reading debate of one of the most controversial Bills of this Parliament on a day of national celebration of the bicentenary of the battle of Trafalgar in the hope that publicity surrounding the row about ID cards will eclipse Trafalgar 200, thereby sparing him the embarrassment of exposing the shameful way in which he ran down the Royal Navy during his stewardship? Is this not his parting two-finger gesture to the First Sea Lord, who consistently attacked the Secretary of State, as the right hon. Gentleman then was, for his run-down of the Navy?
The hon. Gentleman exceeds his normal standards of conspiracy theorising in relation to the
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timing of the debate on Tuesday. The 10 o'clock finish will give me and other right hon. and hon. Members the opportunity of returning, not necessarily in the tried and trusted hands of my hon. Friend, but by more conventional forms of transport. I am sure that all Members who want to will be able to return in time. As regards the reorganisation of the Royal Navy, I assure the hon. Gentleman that that is necessary to ensure that the Royal Navy continues to be equipped for the future and does not depend on providing ships that are of historical interest but no more than that.
Dr. William McCrea (South Antrim) (DUP): Can the Leader of the House find time for a debate on major environmental issues affecting Northern Ireland, and my constituency in particularissues such as the approved asbestos sites at Crumlin and Antrim and the major waste dump at Cottonmount, which are totally rejected by the community and strike fear into it?
Mr. Hoon: By raising the issue today, the hon. Gentleman has no doubt made his point effectively. However, it is important that we continue to debate environmental issues, not only in Northern Ireland but in all parts of the United Kingdom. I will ensure that his observations are passed to the appropriate Ministers.
Mr. Paul Goodman (Wycombe) (Con): Can the Leader of the House assure us that the Secretary of State for Defence will not have to cut short his attendance at the Trafalgar day celebrations in order to return to the House to vote at 10 pm to try to save the Government's repulsive Identity Cards Bill? Is that not just another illustration of the folly that the Government have wrought by timetabling the two events on the same day?
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con): Is not the Leader of the House showing just a touch of disingenuousness in focusing on the question whether or not people can get back for the vote? Surely the point about his ingenuity in keeping the spirit of Jo Moore alive by seeking to bury bad newsat sea, on this occasionis the way in which these events will be reported. The debate on identity cards is not good news for the Government and it will be overshadowed by the report of the first royal fleet review since 1977. So may I congratulate the Leader of the House on his ingenuity in seeking to cheat the media in this way?
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