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John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): Given the growing scandal of unsafe removals of failed asylum seekers to Zimbabwe, Somalia and Sudanto name but three countries in which returnees are at risk of imprisonment, torture, death or a grisly combination of all threewill the right hon. Gentleman provide for an early debate on that issue on the Floor of the House in Government time, so that those who wish to do so can argue that the Government ought to put in place more effective systems and to make more painstaking efforts to ensure that individuals are not returned to countries whose Governments cannot or will not guarantee their safety?
Mr. Hoon: The hon. Gentleman has been assiduous in raising these issues and I congratulate him on that. However, I differ with him to a certain extent. He is right to say that it is vital that, in each individual case, proper consideration is given to the consequences for that individual of being returned to any country. The risk attached to the hon. Gentleman's approach is clear, however. Generalising about the situation in any particular country could prevent that individual assessment from being made.
When difficult cases are considered, it is important that we do not simply say that there will be no further deportations to places such as Zimbabwe, for example, because it might well be perfectly safe and proper for that particular individual to be returned there. I accept that we need to look at these examples very carefully, given the risks to the individuals involved, but if we start saying that there are countries to which we can never deport people, that will be a clear encouragement for people to come here from those countries to seek asylum. That is the balance that we have to strike, and we have to get it right.
Mr. Paul Truswell (Pudsey) (Lab): Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Secretary of State for Transport has said today that he will not support the Leeds supertram bid, but that he would support well-argued proposals for bus schemes? Given the Government's renewed enthusiasm for buses, will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate in the House on the ways in which we can improve bus services across the country, including through the extension of the quality bus contracts that have worked so well in London, but are effectively denied to the rest of the country?
I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has looked at a number of these cases very carefully. I acknowledge that that will not be a great consolation to the people of Leeds, but it is important that we continue to look at the most effective, and cost-effective, ways of delivering better public
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transport. My hon. Friend is right to emphasise the important contribution that buses can and do make to that.
Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire) (Con): What has happened to the Government's Bill on smoking, which was published last month, but which, to judge by the business statement, is not going to be seen in a public place for some time? Would it not assist the passage of that important measure if the Government were to allow a free vote on the various options supported by the right hon. Gentleman's Cabinet colleagues?
Mr. Hoon: I assure the right hon. Gentleman that there is no comprehensive ban on the discussion of that Bill. There will be every opportunity for the House to consider the careful compromise that the Government have put before the country.
Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Hall Green) (Lab): May we have an early debate on the responsibilities that local authorities should observe when drawing up a contaminated land register? This is affecting several hundred of my constituents in the Bach Mill Drive area of Billesley. Birmingham city council identified the land there as contaminated, then sold it to property developers to build houses on. My constituents now face years of litigation, at taxpayers' expense, while the value of their property goes through the floor. Surely it cannot be right that the city council can identify land that it owns as contaminated, then sit as judge and jury on the outcome. Surely that is unjust.
Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend has made his point, but I would not wish to be drawn into what appears to be a potential legal case that has clearly aroused very strong feelings. I shall simply express my concern on behalf of those home owners because, for most people, their home is the single most important purchase that they make and they want to be confident that their land is not contaminated. I am sure that my hon. Friend has done the people whom he represents a valuable service by raising this issue.
Mr. Michael Moore (Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk) (LD): The Leader of the House will be aware of the continuing anger from all sides about the Office of Fair Trading's report on the supermarket code of practice, which, unbelievably, suggested that there was nothing wrong in the relationship between farm businesses and the large supermarkets. Given the importance of this issue, will the right hon. Gentleman find Government time to debate it, so that we can expose the report for the whitewash that it was?
It is important that we consider the importance of agriculture and the provision of food in our supermarkets. However, one of the issues that inevitably arises in relation to large supermarkets is the determination of most careful consumers in the United Kingdom to pay as little as they can for their food. That undoubtedly drives the practices of the supermarkets, which, from time to time, not only irritate farmers but produce considerable anger. However, changes are taking place in that market. Consumers are
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undoubtedly becoming more discerning. For example, they are taking into account the distance that food is transported before it arrives on their plate. The fact that such considerations are being taken to heart by consumers is changing the relationship that the hon. Gentleman has described.
Siobhain McDonagh (Mitcham and Morden) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend allow a debate on the front-page story of today's Wimbledon Post on mis-spending by unelected bureaucrats in the NHS? My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health has been called in to decide on the site of a new general hospital in my area. Sutton's MPs and I want it to stay at my existing local hospital, St. Helier. However, the officials are determined to move it to a wealthy suburb, where it would be inaccessible to my constituents. Even though no decision has yet been made, they are spending huge amounts of taxpayers' money on the siteincluding £60,000 that they have paid, to help them to promote the site, to an organisation run by someone who, for constitutional reasons, should not be involved in political decisions such as these: the Prince of Wales. The House needs to debate whether the Prince should be backing health cuts for my poorest constituents
Mr. Hoon: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I was about to say to my hon. Friend that, having had to prepare for Cabinet, attend the meeting, and prepare for business questions, I had not had time to read this morning's copy of the Wimbledon Post. However, I suspect that I no longer need to do so. I am grateful to her for raising this issue and I am sure that she will be guaranteed good coverage in tomorrow's edition of that august publication. I am not sure that I need add anything to what she said.
Mr. David Gauke (South-West Hertfordshire) (Con): Given the rapid move towards the amalgamation of police forces as a consequence of the O'Connor report produced by Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary, will the Leader of the House consider giving Government time to a debate on that report and its significant consequences for policing in this country?
Mr. Hoon: The hon. Gentleman is right to raise the issue of that important report on the future structure of our police authorities. I do not think that anyone doubts that if we were devising a way of organising our police forces now, we would not start with 43 of them, distributed in their current rather random way. It is therefore right that we should consider this important question, particularly on the basis of direct advice from those who know these matters best, namely, the police. I am sure that, in due course, there will be an opportunity to debate these issues.
John Robertson (Glasgow, North-West) (Lab):
My right hon. Friend will be aware that earlier today, during Trade and Industry questions, there were a great many questions on energy, particularly nuclear energy. Is it
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not time to start a debate on that issue and to put Members' questions into a debate so that we can get proper answers from the relevant Minister?
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