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This is a difficult issue. No one is pretending that these issues cannot be resolved sensibly. The issue is one of balancing the freedom of individuals not to suffer unwarranted exposure to cigarette smoke against the interests of not turning those people who want to smoke into pariahs in our society. That was put extremely well by the shadow Leader of the House when
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he made that observation, and it indicates that all political parties have their debates on this question. I should have thought that the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young) would welcome the fact that there was such public discussion of these issues.
I regularly receive complaints that, in fact, such issues are decided behind locked doors and that there is no possibility of having that kind of public discussion. Indeed, I congratulate the Conservative party on the various approaches it takes to the issue. In Wales, the Conservative health spokesman supported the ban on smoking in public places; in Scotland, the Conservative health spokesman opposed the ban. However, those positions are models of clarity compared with that of the shadow Health Secretary, who said in a speech last month that the Conservatives would replace the Government's plans
Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend recall the feeling in the House on 7 July, when the mass murders took place? May we have a statement on whether the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority will increase the compensation? I hope that the compensation will increase, but it is possible that any such increase will not apply retrospectively to the victims of the mass murderers of 7 July. Does my right hon. Friend recognise the point, which some hon. Members have repeatedly raised in the House, that it is only right that those who have suffered the most terrible injuriesthe loss of one or both legs, arms and so onshould be properly compensated? They should be able to live the rest of their lives with every form of medical and financial support so that they can have a life after what occurred. I hope that such a statement will be made in the very near future. There is great concern on this issue.
Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend has been assiduous in raising this issue and I congratulate him on continuing to do so. He raised it with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who made clear our determination to ensure that early payments are made and to look again at the whole question of criminal compensation cases. My hon. Friend is absolutely right: it is important not only that we provide proper, speedy and effective compensation, particularly to the victims of terrorism such as that which took place on 7 July this year, but to recognise that there are many victims of crime who deserve fair compensation as a result of their injuries.
Mr. David Jones (Clwyd, West) (Con):
The Leader of the House may be aware of the crisis in NHS dentistry in north Wales. This month, a surgery in Colwyn Bay closed its doors to NHS patients, leaving 7,000 of my constituents without access to an NHS dentist. In the whole county of Conway, there are now no NHS dental surgeries that accept new adult patients. Given that the collapse of the dental service amounts to a serious breach of the Welsh Assembly Government's statutory obligations on health care, will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for the Attorney-General to make a
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statement to the House on whether proceedings should be instituted against the Assembly, pursuant to schedule 8 of the Government of Wales Act 1998?
Mr. Hoon: Hon. Members raised the issue of dentistry on a number of occasions during business questions in recent weeks, so I conducted some research. The hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I state the obvious: the training of dentists takes a number of years. There appears to have been a significant cut in the training of dentists under the last Conservative Government, who significantly reduced the number of places available, and it has inevitably taken some time to improve the number of dentists, simply because of the length of the training that is required. About 1,000 new, trained dentists are now available across the country. Obviously, we will continue to expand the number of places to ensure that that provision is available generally in the whole of the United Kingdom.
Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham) (Lab): May we have an early debate about setting up a joint committee of the House and the US Congress to investigate very serious allegations against an hon. Member, to whom, of course, I have sent a note informing him that I would raise this matter today? Of course I cannot comment on those allegations. The hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Galloway) employs very expensive libel lawyers to stop any press investigation into his role as Lord Haw-Haw for one of the worst tyrants in world history who is responsible for killing more Muslims than anyone else in the history of that great religion. Surely, we need a joint Congress and Commons committee of inquiry to settle the truth once and for all, because if any of the allegations of financial receiptsthe financial trade is vitalin this report are true, not just the hon. Member's reputation but that of the House is at stake if it does not deal with it. I ask my right hon. Friend to contact his opposite number in the US Congress, set up that committee and clear up this matter once and for all.
Mr. Speaker: Order. Remarks like that are not helpful. The right hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane) asked a question that was within order, but the hon. Gentleman is out of order by shouting, "Where is Galloway?" That is totally out of order.
Mr. Hoon: My right hon. Friend has more than made his point given the content of his question. Obviously, the House should take the matter seriously, but I remind him that we had a brief discussion at the start of business questions about the sub judice rule, and as I understand that the matter is being referred to the appropriate legal authorities in the United States for their consideration I had best leave his words to speak for themselves.
Mr. Philip Dunne (Ludlow) (Con):
The Chancellor likes to lecture Opposition Members about the economy's productivity and efficiency under his stewardship. Will the
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Leader of the House please take a lesson from the Chancellor in organising his Department so that he can inform the House of what hours we are likely to sit and over what period two or three months hence?
Mr. Hoon: The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the sitting hours of the House has been a vexed question for a number years and that we are currently operating a compromise arrangement for hours of work. I hope that he would agree that, whatever our personal views of the present arrangements, we ought to allow that compromise to continue for some time. If he was referring to the wider question of the calendar and sitting dates for Parliament, I assure him that I will put him out of his misery quite soon.
Mr. Pat McFadden (Wolverhampton, South-East) (Lab): Will the Leader of the House consider making time available for a debate on the contribution of senior citizens to our national life? In particular, will he consider the idea of marking a specific date in the calendar as senior citizens awareness day? A very strong campaign for that is based in Bilston in my constituency, led by the redoubtable campaigner, Tom Larkin. I am sure that that idea would receive wide support from all parties in the House, and I ask him to give serious consideration to it.
Mr. Hoon: I certainly congratulate my hon. Friend's constituent. I have had the privilege of visiting Bilston from time to time and I know just how strong and effective that community is. I also understand from him how effective that community is in supporting its senior citizens. I am sure that the idea can be given serious consideration.
Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): Last week, there was a call to hold a debate on trade justice to coincidence with the mass lobby of Parliament on Wednesday next week. Predictably, looking at today's business statement, there is no such space for any such debate. Does the Leader of the House agree that the House should be responsive to our constituents' concerns, especially when they are prepared to come to the House in such vast numbers? Will he do all that he can to persuade the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to come to the House at least to make a statement on the Government's intentions in that respect?
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