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Mr. Hoon: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that important issue, which affects many people throughout the country and about which many people feel stronglyrightly and understandably. The Government have made it clear that they intend to introduce a Bill in this Session. Obviously, the details of that Bill are a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health. Over the summer, there was extensive consultation and a large number of people responded, as did a considerable number of organisations. At present, Health Ministers are considering the results of that consultation, and I assure my hon. Friend, as I assure the House, that at the first opportunity my right hon. Friend will bring the results to the Floor of the House and will set out the Government's position.
David Mundell (Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale) (Con): Is the Leader of the House aware that the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution found that relationships between the House and the Scottish Parliament and, indeed, between the United Kingdom Government and the Scottish Executivewere based purely on good will rather than on any proper and identified procedures? Will he make a statement about that, setting out how the Government intend to deal with the matter?
Mr. Hoon: As someone who once struggled, perhaps unsuccessfully, to teach constitutional law in a British university, I recognise that a great deal of our constitution is based on good will and is not codified. We do not have a written constitution. The hon. Gentleman is right to highlight the very good relationship between the Scottish Parliament and this Parliament. I am regularly involved in discussing arrangements between the two Parliaments; they seem to work extremely well and I am sure that that was the effect that he intended to convey in terms of his question, but certainly if particular and practical problems arise I shall be pleased to look into them.
Mr. Clive Betts (Sheffield, Attercliffe) (Lab): May I join the shadow Leader of the House in calling for a debate on the success of the British economy? At least I think that that was what he was asking for. In that debate, I would be able to point out that 20 years ago in my constituency we had one factory closure after another, one redundancy after another, that there were acres of dereliction and rubble nominally zoned for employment, and that in contrast since 1997 we have seen thousands of jobs created and major regeneration of derelict areas, to the point that last year unemployment in my constituency fell below the national average
I am sure that the House is grateful for your intervention, Mr. Speaker, although I was rather enjoying the excellent account set out by my hon.
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Friend. Clearly, Conservative Members have very short memories. They have conveniently erased from their minds the record of the last Conservative Government: inflation peaking at more than 10 per cent.; interest rates at 15 per cent. for a whole year and over 10 per cent. for three years; social security spending doubling; and unemployment doublingtwice hitting 3 million. I could go on and on, Mr. Speaker, but I do not want to test your patience.
Hywel Williams (Caernarfon) (PC): May we have a debate on investment in residential property through self-invested personal pension schemesSIPPS? The Government intend to change the rules from April and that has given rise to fears of an unsustainable bubble in house prices, particularly in rural areas and in holiday areas such as mine. In addition, because the selling of SIPPS will be unregulated there are fears of mis-selling, as voiced by Mr. Iain Oliver of the Norwich Union. Might we have a debate on that?
Mr. Hoon: I have seen newspaper articles expressing similar concerns to those properly raised by the hon. Gentleman, but I emphasise that what is important to the Government and, I hope, to all Members, is that we encourage people to take greater responsibility for their pension arrangements. Any incentives to make better provision for pensions must be welcomed. I certainly take account of his concerns.
Mr. David Chaytor (Bury, North) (Lab): This afternoon we have set aside about five and a half hours for a debate on the Thames Gateway. I do not deny that that is an important issue, but I question whether it sets a precedent for debates on other parts of the country. The M66 corridor, for example, which goes through my constituency, the M65 corridor and the M60 corridor are all very important to people in the north-west. I question whether debates on essentially sub-regional issues are the best use of the time of a national Parliament.
Would it not have been better, for example, to have had a debate on an issue about which there is huge interestthe future of Britain's weapons of mass destruction? Now that the Prime Minister has opened up the debate on Trident, is it not essential that we do not allow Conservative interpretations of what constitutes national security or commercial confidentiality to limit the spirit of freedom of information about Trident in which the debate must take place? Is it not important
As each week goes by, my admiration grows for my hon. Friend's ability to ask ever more ingenious questions. I try carefully to note the issues in order to answer. The first half of my answer was going to be about the importance of debating other parts of the country. I recognise that the Thames Gateway is a highly important wealth-creating area of the United
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Kingdom and it is right that we should have this afternoon's debate, but I share my hon. Friend's view that other parts of the country are importantI look at my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), who, I am sure, would agree on the importance of having a debate on the M1 corridor and other parts of the country.
However, as it turned out, that was not the purpose of the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury, North (Mr. Chaytor). My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made it quite clear that there will be an opportunity to debate the replacement of Britain's independent nuclear deterrent. That is of vital concern to Members and in the course of this Parliament it will be arranged.
Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): Our prisons are dangerously overcrowded, reoffending rates are at record levels and our probation service is overstretched, yet for two years the Government have been handling a botched reorganisation of the prison and probation services without giving this House the opportunity to scrutinise their proposals. We learn today in a written statement that the legislation will be delayed yet again and that there is to be yet another consultation on abolishing probation boards. I would like to know from the right hon. Gentleman when this House will have an opportunity to scrutinise the complete incompetence of the Home Office in handling changes in the prison and probation services.
Mr. Hoon: As I am responsible for the Government's legislative programme, which seems to be packed with Home Office Bills that allow an opportunity to debate such issues very regularly, I am slightly surprised at the hon. Lady's observations. Perhaps she was confining her remarks more precisely to the effect of sentencing and the consequences for prisons and the legal system. We certainly take very seriously the importance of providing appropriate arrangements for both prisons and probation. That is one of the reasons why we have been looking carefully at future reforms of the system. I make it absolutely clear to the hon. Lady that we take the issue extremely seriously.
Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) (Lab): On the anti-terrorism Bill, which is to be debated next week, I want to ask my right hon. Friend a question that I more or less put to the Prime Minister yesterday. Would it be possible to hurry up compensation to the seriously injured victims of 7 July? Perhaps there will be an opportunity on Second Reading for that to be included in the measure. There is great anxiety, as I am sure my right hon. Friend knows, about continuing delays and final paymentsI mentioned this yesterday and I am sorry for repeating myselfthat are simply inadequate. I think, for example, of those who have lost both their legs or one of their legs and have their whole adult life in front of them.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that issue once again. It is an important, sensitive issue that we must get right. I do not want to add to what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said yesterday, as he set out the Government's vision very clearly. I emphasise to my hon. Friend that the purpose of the
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interim payments is obviously to provide short-term compensation for victims to allow them to adjust to the terrible injuries, from which I know many have suffered. Sometimes, however, it is necessary to take a little longer to determine longer-term questions of compensation simply to clarify the longer-term effects of such terrible injuries. I appreciate the fact that that is not always a sufficient answer for the victims or their families, but it is important that we get the figures and sums right.
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