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Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle) (Lab): What does my Friend think of early-day motion 985?

[That this House believes that no person should be elevated to the peerage who has donated more than £5,000 to a political party in any five-year period.]

Is it not a disgrace that we are elevating to the peerage people who have given hundreds of thousands of pounds to political parties? May we have a debate on the role of the House of Lords Appointments Commission, which has the job of vetting those appointments and ensuring propriety?
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Mr. Hoon: I have noticed over the years—I think that my hon. Friend and I were elected to the House at about the same time—that he tends to have a conspiratorial view of politics and the Government. I am confident that the decisions about elevation to the peerage are taken on perfectly proper grounds in relation to the distinguished contribution to public life that each of those individuals has made.

Mr. Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight) (Con): Now that the Terrorism Bill has almost reached a conclusion in the House, may we have a debate on what the Government are doing, which does not require legislative change, to protect in particular the users of the tube and buses in London?

Mr. Hoon: The hon. Gentleman makes a perfectly good point, but I am sure as well that he will reflect on the fact that there are limits to the amount of information that the Government can make available about precisely the kind of measures to which he refers. As soon as that information is made available, it is obviously a gift to potential terrorists, who would then seek to disrupt those arrangements. There is a balance to be struck. It is obviously important to demonstrate to the public that it is safe to use public transport and to go about their lives in the way in which we want them to continue to do, but we must be concerned about the serious and continuing threat that exists. We must explain that in a way that does not unnecessarily arouse fears. However, the hon. Gentleman is right to suggest that this is an important issue that the Government need to continue to set out clearly to both the House and the wider public.

Kerry McCarthy (Bristol, East) (Lab): To return to the subject of the House of Commons cleaners, which was mentioned earlier, my understanding is that the 15 per cent. offer that is on the table is not an overall increase in the amount of money available; it is dependent on about 30 jobs being cut and a reduction in hours. We have some cleaners who are working up to 75 hours a week to try to make ends meet, so I am not sure what will happen. May I urge my right hon. Friend to meet the union representatives, as he has offered to do, and then make a statement to the House on how those discussions have gone?

Mr. Hoon: I have already met union officials from the Transport and General Workers Union. I will meet them again. A letter has gone out indicating that I would be willing to have those conversations. However, I hope that my hon. Friend will reflect on the fact that it is also important that Members and members of the Government do not get involved in detailed, day-to-day negotiations about the terms and conditions. Two specific issues were raised with me on a previous occasion and I had those issues investigated. I believe that they have been resolved satisfactorily and that a 15 per cent. increase in the rate available to individual cleaners is a very good offer, particularly in the present economic situation.

Mr. Shailesh Vara (North-West Cambridgeshire) (Con): May I return to a question that has been asked already by right hon. and hon. Friends about the
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relationship between the police and Ministers? I regret that the matter has to be repeated for the benefit of the Leader of the House, but the problem is that he is not answering the question that has been put to him. It is all very well him saying that it is proper for the police to have conversations with Members, but that is not the issue. The issue is whether it is right for Home Office Ministers, their employees and other staff there to encourage police officers to contact Members of Parliament about how they should vote. With that in mind, may I please ask again whether the Leader of the House will consider asking the Home Secretary to come to the House to make an appropriate statement?

Mr. Hoon: I anticipate that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will be in the House later today. I am sure that the opportunity will be available to raise the issue with him if the hon. Gentleman wishes to do so. Again, the implication of his question is that I am somehow slow in understanding these matters—if I am, I apologise to the House, but I do not think that I am. What he is saying is that, somehow or other, it appears to be inappropriate for police officers to set out their views to Members of Parliament—[Interruption.] I have not quite finished. If he can give an illustration of where a police officer has indicated to a Member of Parliament that he should vote in a specific way, that is a matter that perhaps we should consider, but I understand that police officers have been indicating to Members of Parliament, as they have done certainly all the time that I have been a Member, their views on the appropriate level of protection that the House should consider making available to the public. I repeat that it is a matter of considerable regret that the modern Conservative party does not appear to take that information as seriously as its predecessors once did.

Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab): May I take the Leader of the House back to the reply that he gave me last week? When I asked for a free vote on a total smoking ban, he impertinently suggested that I was not supporting the manifesto on which he and I were elected. That is a dangerous argument for him to advance. Does he really want me to produce an audit of those things that we have implemented that were not in our manifesto and those things that were in our manifesto that we have not yet implemented? The manifesto did not say, "Thus far and no further"—it said that there would be a smoking ban, which is a commitment that he and I will support on the Second Reading of the Health Bill. What hon. Members want is the opportunity to make the ban effective and comprehensive; if it is understood with clarity and precision, it will work. Will he give us that free vote—or at least think about it?

Mr. Hoon: I am sorry if my hon. Friend felt that I was treating him with any less respect than I always treat his questions, but it is important for the House and, indeed, for those who have elected all hon. Members that people have the confidence that Members of Parliament seek to implement the manifestos that they set out to the public. The Labour manifesto on which he and I were elected was very specific about the compromise that is necessary to protect people's health from secondary smoking. It is not as though the manifesto was in any way in doubt on that issue. I respect my hon. Friend's efforts to move the
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debate along beyond the terms of the manifesto, but he must give me a pretty strong argument for why he and I should depart from the very specific compromise set out in the manifesto; until he does, I will give him the same answer.

Mr. Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire) (LD): As the Leader of the House pointed out earlier, we are in a period of consultation about the future structure of police authorities throughout the country, yet a member of the Cabinet has already made it very clear that his preferred option in Wales is a single police force. If one member of the Cabinet has made clear his point of view, is that the view of the whole Cabinet? If so, why do we need the consultation period? Will the Leader of the House provide some time so that we can debate on the Floor of the House the future of the police authorities in England and Wales because that is of such importance?

Mr. Hoon: First, there is a consultation. There is a wide range of views on the appropriate structure of police forces. Most Members of Parliament to whom I have spoken about the issue—indeed, most police officers and even police authorities that I have contacted—recognise that the existing structure of 43 authorities is not necessarily how anyone would have devised the structure if they were starting from scratch, so it is right that we should have a consultation. I am hugely delighted to see my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in his place, ready to participate, given the considerable number of requests that have been made for his attendance. Hon. Members can see that the Government deliver.

Martin Salter (Reading, West) (Lab): As a member of the Modernisation Committee that proposed the September recalls, I fully accept that they have proved neither popular nor successful with many hon. Members, as I am sure that a vote on the Floor of the House would demonstrate. However, does the Leader of the House accept that three months is far too long for any Government to escape parliamentary scrutiny? Will he consider allowing hon. Members to table written questions during part of what will be an extended summer recess?

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