Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend raises an important issue. There is little doubt that that debate has been started. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made it clear at the Labour party conference that it was an issue that we in the Government and the people of this country must address, in order to provide us with adequate energy supplies long into the future. I know that the issue was also raised at Question Time today, and that   it is one to which right hon. and hon. Members will   continue to return.

Alistair Burt (North-East Bedfordshire) (Con): Some farmers in my constituency, despite 23 months of struggle and being placed on a priority priority list, have still not received accurate maps of their farm from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, thus further delaying the ill-fated single farm payment scheme. Does the Leader of the House accept that one of the hallmarks of his Government is now the lack of belief among the public that they can deliver any major reform, from single farm payments to working tax credits? Will he institute an inquiry among his Cabinet colleagues into how many major projects are overrun, over-budget, subject to an ombudsman's inquiry, or necessitating the   employment of expensive consultants, and place the results in the Library?

Mr. Hoon: I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman went from a perfectly sensible question about a practical problem affecting his constituents to a ramble about the rest of the Government's delivery programme. The truth is that since 1997 the Government have delivered on health, education and employment—[Interruption.] Conservative Members are making noises. The hon. Gentleman raised a perfectly proper issue and I was about to give him a helpful and constructive answer, but he turned it into a series of generalisations about the Government's programme elsewhere. I will ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to write to him on the matter.

Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab): May I take the Leader of the House back to his reply a few moments ago to the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young) in relation to the Health Bill, when he said that the House would have adequate time to discuss the carefully considered proposition of the Cabinet. I think that I summarise him correctly. Will he therefore consider having the key clauses of the Bill   dealt with on the Floor of the House, as has happened with some other controversial legislation involving conscience, and will he bear in mind, and discuss with his right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Chief Whip, the need for an unwhipped vote on these issues? The question of people who work in private clubs and children who go to private clubs needs to be addressed. Does he have an open mind?

Mr. Hoon: The Leader of the House always has an   open mind. I could not make the same point to the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir   George Young) because he was not elected on a manifesto that committed both my hon. Friend and me
3 Nov 2005 : Column 981
to the careful compromise set out by the Government, but I anticipate that my right hon. Friend the Chief Whip will have a view on why Members elected on that manifesto are not keen to support it.

Mr. Dan Rogerson (North Cornwall) (LD): May we have a debate on the subject of self-regulating professions? Several of my constituents have contacted me on issues relating to professions about which they feel that they have no right of appeal. I have taken advice on whether I can secure an Adjournment debate on the issue, in this place or in Westminster Hall, but have been told that as it cuts across many Departments I am unable to do so. Is the Leader of the House able to offer a debate on the issue of self-regulating professions?

Mr. Hoon: I would regard an Adjournment debate in Westminster Hall as an excellent vehicle. One of the characteristics of Westminster Hall has been that it has dealt with issues that cut across several Departments. I   encourage the hon. Gentleman to pursue that avenue, and if he has any difficulties I would be willing to examine them.

Mr. Anthony Wright (Great Yarmouth) (Lab): On Saturday, we will remember that it is the 400th anniversary of the gunpowder plot. Many of my constituents will also remember that within the past 12 months we introduced legislation to curb the misuse of fireworks. My postbag is already building up in relation to the abuse of fireworks, so the legislation is   clearly not having an effect. Will the Leader of the   House give a commitment that he will bring the legislation back to the Floor of the House after 5 November for consideration of what we can do to make sure that we do not suffer the same problems next 5 November?

Andrew Mackinlay: Same punishment as Guy Fawkes. No more Mr. Nice Guy.

Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) is supposed to be on my side.

On the important issue of fireworks, which I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Great Yarmouth (Mr. Wright) for raising, the Government have taken action. Three new penalty notices and three new offences have been created to deal with the abuse of selling fireworks outside the normal and reasonable period for celebrating what will this year be the 400th anniversary of an important event in the nation's life. We do not want to prevent those celebrations in any way. On the other hand, it is important that they are   confined closely to the period around 5 November. I have not received the same number of complaints on the matter this year as in recent years, which, I believe, is because the legislation is having an impact. It is important, as he says, that we continue to publicise that legislation, to make sure that it continues to have the impact required.

Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con): I have raised with the Leader of the House on several occasions the subject of the elusive draft Mental Health Bill. It remains as elusive as ever, yet last week The   Guardian produced a leaked report of the findings
3 Nov 2005 : Column 982
of the Government's code of practice working party, which completely dished large parts of that Bill. Will he confirm whether the rumours that the whole Bill might have been ditched are true, and that the Government have realised that they do not want to open up another front in the onslaught on civil liberties that the Bill represented? If not, will we see the Bill this side of Christmas? In any case, will he at last give the House an opportunity to debate the subject of mental health, which has not once been debated in Government time since 1997?

Mr. Hoon: As I have said to the hon. Gentleman previously, mental health is an important issue. I accept that the terrible consequences of such problems, for many more people than perhaps is understood, are not   always recognised. The Mental Health Bill is in the Government's legislative programme and will be brought forward, but as with all parts of that programme, the appropriate timing is a matter for the business managers.

Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham) (Lab): May I ask the Leader of the House for a debate on housing in south Yorkshire, in the light of a written reply from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister to me this week showing that over the past five years, for the giant conurbations of Rotherham, Sheffield, Barnsley and Doncaster, on average just 3,189 new dwellings have been built a year for the 1.5 million people who live there? That is the lowest rate of house build in south Yorkshire since the   stone age. We have the land and the building firms, so can we have a debate to consider how planning committees can move forward and land use rules be changed? While the concrete mixers are ready for the south of England, we would like to see in the north of England a much more supply-side orientated policy from the Government to encourage new homes and new houses.

Mr. Hoon: My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise that issue. My constituency is not that far away from the area that he describes and there has been a great deal of new building there, which has improved the housing stock. It is not only a question of new houses for currently homeless people; what most people want is to   be able to move out of some of the older properties into new and better quality houses. I therefore support his call to improve planning processes to allow that to happen.

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): When we have the debate on returning asylum seekers, may we have a good and proper look at the use of dawn raids by the immigration service? There is almost universal revulsion and embarrassment in Scotland about the use of that practice, especially with our backdrop of a falling population. Does the Leader of the House agree that because of our different immigration requirements, and because of our clearly different political values on the matter, it is time to devolve immigration to the Scottish Parliament?

Next Section IndexHome Page