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Mr. Hoon: I regularly visit Staffordshire, although I hope that I will not require the services of Staffordshire ambulance service. I have considered the proposals for more efficient arrangements for the ambulance service, however, and perhaps the hon. Gentleman overlooks the fact that ambulances will still be located in the same places—they are not all moving to Birmingham or the west midlands. They will still be in Staffordshire and will still have the opportunity of making the same response in the same time. I commend the excellence of Staffordshire ambulance service, and I see nothing at all in the proposals to change that.

Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham) (LD): Could a Minister make a statement to the House on the Government's management of IT projects? The key background documents, the gateway review, are barred to us under commercial secrecy provisions, and some of us have been informed by constituents that major systems, particularly the Inland Revenue's PAYE system, are in a state of complete collapse.

Mr. Hoon: That is not my understanding, but there are significant opportunities for Parliament and, indeed, for the Public Accounts Committee to scrutinise, as it does carefully, major Government IT projects. The hon. Gentleman will know from his background and experience that such major projects—public or private sector—take time to come to fruition because of their complexity. I am confident, however, that the Government's record is no worse or better than that of anyone else who embarks on such big IT projects.

John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): Given that the Foreign Secretary has stated that the world has a collective responsibility to protect all citizens from genocide, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, is it not now right that the House should have the opportunity in Government time to debate how that important doctrine should be applied to stop the serial slaughter in Darfur?

Mr. Hoon: The hon. Gentleman has rightly raised that and related issues on a number of occasions. This is something that the Government take extremely seriously. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is at the forefront of world leaders in emphasising the importance of our international obligations and commitments as well as translating them on the ground in places such as Darfur. The Government have consistently raised those issues and will continue to do so.
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Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk) (Con): May we have a debate on Zimbabwe, where the situation goes from very bad to disastrous? Hunger and disease are now rampant. Day after day, opposition supporters are imprisoned without trial and face brutality, yet only the other day President Mugabe defied an EU travel ban to go to Rome. Why are the Government not taking Zimbabwe seriously? Why is the travel ban not being enforced?

Mr. Hoon: The Government do take Zimbabwe extremely seriously. Right hon. and hon. Members have had opportunities in the recent past to debate the appalling situation in Zimbabwe. The Government were at the forefront of the countries that ensured that the travel ban was implemented, but the hon. Gentleman will be aware that every country has international obligations to the United Nations that override the travel ban. That is not in the United Kingdom Government's hands or, indeed, those of the EU Council; it is a pre-existing treaty obligation.

Mr. Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth, East) (Con): Following a question put to the Prime Minister by the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick), who is no longer in his place, the Prime Minister suggested that there might be a possibility of extending compensation to victims of terrorism wherever such attacks happen. May we have a debate or, even better, a statement on the Government's true intentions? Only three days ago, on 17 October, I received a letter from the Prime Minister saying:

We live in dangerous times and terrorism recognises no borders. I believe that protection for British citizens should not face any border either. A double standard exists on the Government's support for British citizens, depending on where such attacks take place—

Mr. Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman is a new Member. Questions should be brief—I know that more senior Members do not set a good example—but I think that that is enough to go on with.

Mr. Hoon: I think that I got the general sense of the hon. Gentleman's concern. He is right to raise what I described earlier as a sensitive and sometimes very difficult issue, and it is obviously important that the Government get it right. We want to provide appropriate compensation to the victims of those appalling incidents. However, I suggest to him, in the light of Mr. Speaker's helpful intervention, that next Wednesday there will be a debate on the Terrorism Bill, the scope of which will, I am sure, allow him to make those points and Home Office Ministers to address them.

Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West) (Con): The Leader of the House will be aware that any question of restoring allowances at Westminster is a matter for the House. Equally, however, the restoration of allowances in Northern Ireland is a matter of ministerial judgment, and it is perfectly appropriate that we should probe
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that ministerial judgment in a debate, especially as no Assembly is sitting in Northern Ireland. May we have that debate?

Mr. Hoon: I am confident that the arrangements available for Ministers to be accountable to the House, not least a regular Question Time at which Members can raise a wide range of issues concerned with Ministers' responsibilities, will afford the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members ample opportunity to pursue that matter.

David T.C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con): Will the Leader of the House request an urgent statement from the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs to explain why her Department gave accreditation to DNA Bioscience for court admissible paternity tests, despite the fact that it has no laboratory in the United Kingdom and other firms have been told that a UK laboratory is essential? The press speculate that that apparent inconsistency could be due to the fact that, for a brief period, one of the firm's directors was the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. Surely there is no truth in that suggestion whatsoever. May we have an immediate statement to clarify matters?

Mr. Hoon: I certainly agree with the hon. Gentleman's last observation—there cannot possibly be any truth in that suggestion—but as for the other matters, again, there is regular opportunity for hon. Members to raise such issues with the relevant Ministers. To the best of my recollection, there was a Question Time this week for Ministers from the Department for Constitutional Affairs, and I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman did not raise that issue with them then.

Mr. Mark Harper (Forest of Dean) (Con): Will the Leader of the House arrange for an urgent statement from his colleague, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs? A constituent raised a matter with me this morning during questions, which is why I was unable to raise it then, about the impact that avian flu is having on the UK chicken market and the fact that products are flooding in from Italy, among other countries. I understand that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is already concerned about that fact, but if action is not taken in the very near future there will be some very serious welfare issues in the UK poultry industry, about which the Secretary of State could perhaps update the House.

Mr. Hoon: I apologise to the hon. Gentleman; I was not present during DEFRA questions. I was attending a Cabinet meeting, where both my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Health and for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs raised that important and serious issue. The Government are ensuring that our preparations are among the best in the world, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health made clear earlier this week. I know how seriously my right hon. Friend who has responsibility for agriculture takes the impact of the threat on the agriculture market and the people who work in it in the United Kingdom, so it is certainly a matter that we have in hand.
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Mr. Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con): As a member of Amicus and a former director of an employment agency, I was concerned that the unions mounted an anti-employment agency day on Friday. Will the Leader of the House assure me that the Government are committed to maintaining a vibrant and strong temporary employment industry that lubricates this country's competitiveness? May we have an urgent debate on the agency workers directive, so that we can be reassured that the Government will protect our economy from the directive's worst predations?

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