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Dan Norris (Wansdyke) (Lab): Will the Leader of the House arrange for an early statement or debate on the
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miners compensation scheme? In my constituency, Wansdyke, the last pit closed more than a quarter of a century ago, which means that the average age of claimants is that much higher than in the country as a whole, and many of them are dying before receiving the compensation from which they should be entitled to benefit. Will my right hon. Friend draw the attention of the Department of Trade and Industry to that, so that the claims of older miners can be prioritised over other claimants, even though that is a difficult challenge?

Mr. Hoon: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that important issue—important not least to me as the Member of Parliament for a former mining area. I am familiar with the individual difficulties of large numbers of my constituents and the constituents of other right hon. and hon. Members. This is the largest compensation scheme attempted by any Government anywhere in western Europe and there have been around 400,000 payments already. The practical difficulty is that each case has to be assessed on its own merits. That is part of the reason why the cases have taken more time than we would have liked. I can assure my hon. Friend, however, that great urgency is attached, particularly to the claims of older members of our communities. It is important that we get payments to them as quickly as possible.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con): In an answer a few moments ago, the Leader of the House referred to the Government's financial assistance schemes for people who have lost a large part of their pensions. From successive business questions he will be familiar with the case of APW Electronics in Eastleigh, which is one of a very small number of firms—half a dozen, or fewer—that fall outside the scheme. Will he please arrange for a statement from the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, who I am pleased to see has just taken his place on the Front Bench? We feel that the Secretary of State will have more sympathy with those pensioners who have lost three quarters of their pension, given that he is in the fortunate position of having had an £18,000 pay-off when he resigned as Home Secretary only five months before rejoining the Cabinet.

Mr. Hoon: I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman feels it necessary to make such a cheap political point in the context of a serious and important issue in relation to his own constituents. If I may say so, he undermines his argument by coupling it with such an observation. I have dealt with the case on previous occasions. It is important that people should receive proper compensation. The Government scheme exists, but this particular case involves a company that apparently has the funding available to provide proper compensation. That is one of the basic qualifications. No one in the House would want to see taxpayers' money being distributed to pension schemes that were in other respects viable. I am sure all hon. Members would stand by that.

Mrs. Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op): Will the Leader of the House consider asking the Foreign Secretary to make a statement on the situation of my constituent, 18-year-old Michael Shields, who is
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in prison in Bulgaria on a charge of attempted murder, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years? Will he ask the Foreign Secretary to consider particularly whether the court proceedings in Bulgaria are compatible with Bulgaria's membership of the European Union?

Mr. Hoon: I will ensure that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary responds in detail to my hon. Friend, perhaps not in the form of a statement, but in the form of a letter.

Adam Price (Carmarthen, East and Dinefwr) (PC): If we cannot have a debate in Government time on party funding, could we have a debate on Government-sponsored tax avoidance by prominent Labour party donors? Can it be morally acceptable that the richest man in Britain, and the third richest man in the world, pays no tax whatsoever in the UK, or is that £2 million money well spent?

Mr. Hoon: I can assure the hon. Gentleman that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has been vigorous in pursuing those who avoid and evade their taxes. Whenever he does that, we receive loud complaints from Opposition Members about the way in which we seek to ensure that our tax system is vigorous and effective.

Martin Salter (Reading, West) (Lab): I thank the Leader of the House for finding time for the Second Reading of the Crossrail Bill. Is he aware that residents and businesses in the Reading area will be looking for amendments to the Crossrail scheme to ensure that the continued service of the excellent high speed trains into Paddington is not impeded?

Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend will have every opportunity to make observations on behalf of his constituents on Second Reading of the Bill on Monday. We all look forward to reading his speech.

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold) (Con): There seems to be a problem in the right hon. Gentleman's knowledge of what is happening in the NHS. He complacently says there is more money going into the NHS. However, in the Cotswolds the deficits of the primary care trusts are getting bigger and bigger every month, we are making doctors and nurses redundant, and we are closing wards. I had one constituent whose death was certainly accelerated by the changes. Will the Leader of the House pay a visit to the Cotswolds during the long recess? He can have an enjoyable holiday and I will arrange a meeting for him with the heads of all the PCTs in Gloucestershire so that he is aware of what is happening on the ground, so that in the autumn we can have an informed debate with Ministers.

Mr. Hoon: I am not in any way complacent about the magnificent extra funding that the Government have made available to the national health service—I am extraordinarily proud of it. As I said to the hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) who raised the same question earlier, that extra funding has to be properly managed and properly spent. It has to be used correctly by trusts to improve medical care. I am a regular visitor to the hospital in my constituency, where
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I can see for myself the excellent progress that has been made in providing treatment and facilities for my constituents and those of many of my neighbours.

Hugh Bayley (City of York) (Lab): The hot weather, unseasonable flash flooding in north Yorkshire and the increased severity of winter flooding all show that climate change is a real problem, and I congratulate the Government on making it one of their G8 priorities. Will the Leader of the House find Government time to debate the achievements at the G8 and what still needs to be done to combat climate change?

12 noon

The House observed a two-minute silence.

Mr. Hoon: I emphasise my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's point in his statement about the G8's achievements that we have made real progress on climate change, and it is important that it continues. As my hon. Friend the Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley) has said, the House must continue to discuss and debate those matters, and I am sure that appropriate opportunities to do so will arise in due course.

Mrs. Iris Robinson (Strangford) (DUP): Will the Leader of the House make Government time available to debate the rising number of suicides throughout the United Kingdom and, in particular, in Northern Ireland, where the increase is especially serious, so that we can discuss ways to provide help through the various agencies?

Mr. Hoon: I was not aware of those statistics, but if that is the case, it is an extremely disturbing development. I assure the hon. Lady that the Government will provide her with a thorough response in due course.

Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge) (Lab): Has the Leader of the House seen early-day motion 571 on House of Lords reform, which has been tabled by some eminent right hon. and hon. Members?

[That this House welcomes the Government's commitment to a free vote on the composition of Parliament's revising chamber; believes that the House of Lords should be replaced by a chamber which is predominately elected; and believes that the Second Chamber of Parliament Bill, presented in February by the then honourable Member for North Cornwall, endorsed by the Right honourable Member for Livingston, the Right honourable Member for North West Hampshire, the Right honourable Member for Rushcliffe and the honourable Member for Cannock Chase, and supported by other leading Members of both Houses, provides a valuable basis for further discussion and decision.]

When can we expect a debate on House of Lords reform? Does he agree that despite the right hon. and hon. Members of great intellect who have sat in this place over the years, there are many examples of their getting things completely wrong?
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