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I have not read the specific terms of early-day motion 994, but I assure the House that I will. Presumably there are 993 early-day motions before it and I have not read each and every one of them. I urge the right hon. Gentleman to think about what he has just said to the House. No one is suggesting that police officers should be politicised or that they should interfere in political debate, but this House is not only entitled but requires to know what the police view is of the powers that they need to deal with the threat to our security caused by terrorism. It would be absurdI am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman has suggested this
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if somehow the House took decisions in isolation of the police view, and I regret yesterday's decision because that was the basis on which the matter was put to the House. Obviously the House is entitled to take a different view, but it is vital that we do not ignore that police view of the powers they require to tackle international terrorism.
David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): As the chairman of the all-party group on smoking and health I am getting a great deal of contact from organisations expressing concern that the date for the Second Reading of the Health Bill, including controls over tobacco smoking in workplaces, has yet to be announced. Can the Leader of the House tell us whether it will take place before Christmas? Will we publish the regulations that will describe the exemptions that the Secretary of State for Health announced in such a controversial fashion? Why is there a need for a second consultation when the first consultation over the summer produced 60,000 responses, 90 per cent. of which said that there was a need for a comprehensive ban?
Mr. Hoon: The Second Reading is on track. The Government have a considerable amount of legislation to bring before the House and that must be done sensibly. I can assure my hon. Friend that he will be able to debate the Second Reading of the Health Bill soon.
David T.C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con): Further to the comments made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (Mr. Mackay), can the Leader of the House ask the Home Secretary to come to the House and make a statement about the growing politicisation of the police force and explain why the Association of Chief Police Officers is behaving like an affiliated branch of the Labour party?
Mr. Hoon: I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary believes with some justification that he has been to the House quite a lot lately and I anticipate that that will continue today, so the hon. Gentleman's observation is not fair, nor borne out by the facts. I might say the same about his views on ACPO. When I was in opposition I do not recall Conservative Ministers ever being reluctant to tell us of the views of senior police officers. Usually they were warning us that somehow or other we were failing to accept that opinion. It is a demonstration of how times have changed that now it is this Governmentthis political partywho are concerned about the views of the police and protecting the security of the British people while the Conservative party has disappeared off somewhere on the libertarian right.
Mr. David Chaytor (Bury, North) (Lab):
Following yesterday's events, would my right hon. Friend find time for a debate entitled, "How the House deals with controversial issues"? Regardless of one's viewyesterday I was happy to vote for the 90-day maximum periodit would have been better if the matter could have been handled differently. Given the amount of legislation in the pipeline, which may be equally
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controversial, would it not be useful to air these issues for a longer lead-in period to build consensus both within and between the political parties?
Mr. Hoon: I recognise that always when sharp differences of opinion arise it would be helpful, if the timetable allowed, to have more time for debate and discussion. However, when we face the kind of terrorist threat that the country faces, the amount of time available for debate necessarily must be limited. On my hon. Friend's wider point, inevitably the House must find ways of resolving difficult and divisive questions. If all issues were straightforward, we certainly would not need lawyersmy previous professionMembers of Parliament or Ministers. The truth is we need people to exercise their judgment and it is important that this House is the place where differences are resolved and decided on.
Mrs. Iris Robinson (Strangford) (DUP): Could the Leader of the House arrange for a debate on the viability of public-private partnerships or private finance initiatives, particularly within the education sector, as they are causing delays in providing a new purpose-built school which was earmarked for children with profound special needs at Tor Bank school in my constituency? At present they have to negotiate between out-of-date portakabins situated on a steep hill. I am sure that the House will agree that that is wholly unacceptable.
Mr. Hoon: I am aware of the considerable extra spending that has been made available in Northern Ireland to deal with a backlog of repairs and rebuilding in the education sector as well as in the health sector. It is important that we continue to use private sector funding through PPPs as a means of adding to the amount of capital spending that can be achieved. That has been successful, certainly in other parts of the country, and I am sure that it will be successful in Northern Ireland. Obviously there needs to be proper checks and safeguards to ensure that that money is properly spent and is part of the overall Government spending alongside the private sector. From time to time that takes more time than would be the case if simple capital provision were made available, but the benefit to the whole country of that extra finance is that we can do more. We can rebuild and repair more schools, more hospitals and more public institutions.
Mr. David Anderson (Blaydon) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend share the sense of shame that Members across the House feel about the way in which we treat the cleaners in this building? Again yesterday they felt it necessary to go on strike to make us aware of what is happening. There is also a sense of frustration when we try to find a way forward, but are told that it has nothing to do with us. Can the Leader of the House please organise a debate or statement so that we can discuss how we treat the people who look after us?
This issue has been raised with me on a number of previous occasions. In the past the two specific points raised were, first, the provision of accommodation for cleaners and, secondly, the level of remuneration. I have looked at both matters. As I understand it, accommodation has now been provided
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for cleaning staff and I hope that my hon. Friend accepts that that is a significant improvement. An offer of 15 per cent. extra remuneration has been made to cleaning staff. I understand that that offer has not yet been accepted by their trade union. I have made it clear to the Transport and General Workers Union that I would be willing to meet its representatives to discuss the problem, but a significant offer of 15 per cent. has been made.
Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk) (Con): The Secretary of State is a former experienced Defence Secretary, so he will consider sympathetically my request for a debate on defence procurement, and especially the need for the Minister responsible for defence procurement to retain the confidence of industries and businesses in the defence sector. Before the noble Lord Drayson was appointed to the post of Minister with responsibility for defence procurement, did the Government carry out due diligence into his former company, PowderJect? In particular, did they look closely into PowderJect's relationship with the relevant regulator?
Mr. Hoon: As I announced to the House at the start of business questions, there will be a debate on Thursday 17 November on defence in the United Kingdom. Those themed debates allow for hon. Members to raise any issue they choose, and it will be a long debate on defence in the UK. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will have the opportunity to raise that point during that debate.
Anne Moffat (East Lothian) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend find time for the introduction of primary legislation to control ship-to-ship oil transfers? Under one proposal, there could be ship-to-ship oil transfers in the Firth of Forth in my constituency, the consequences of which could be devastating for my community.
Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend is right to raise her constituents' concerns. I hope that she will forgive me, as this is not a subject with which I am wholly familiar, but I will ensure that the Minister who is responsible for this matter responds directly to her.
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con): When the Northern Ireland (Offences) Bill is debated next week, may we have coupled with it a statement from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland confirming that there can be no question of service personnel who undertook authorised operations during the troubles finding themselves in court on charges involving those operations? Does he agree that otherwise it would be difficult for us to look the veterans of that long conflict in the eye on Remembrance Sunday or at any other time?
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