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[That this House congratulates Tenbury English Mistletoe Enterprise on the foundation of a national mistletoe day on 1st December each year; and wishes the enterprise well in continuing their integral role in maintaining the position of the area as the centre of the mistletoe trade.]
We are not allowed to debate the security measures of the House, so will the Leader of the House use his good offices to investigate the width of the road outside the Palace, particularly for motorcyclists, as I have nearly
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been done for on three occasions? I hope that the security measures that have caused the road to be so narrow are meant to save us rather than finish us off.
Mr. Hoon: I am not going to go into detail about the precise security measures, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that such changes are made, above all else, in the interests of the security of Members, people who use the Palace of Westminster and individuals who work here. They are made only after considerable thought, but I will look at any practical problems that he raises with me.
Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con): At 6.6 am, BBC Online reported that the Minister of State, Ministry of Defence would come to the House this afternoon and report that the new joint combat aircraft would be kept at RAF Lossiemouth, that the Nimrods would stay at Kinloss and that the new Typhoon would go to Leuchars. Presumably that is an accurate report, so will the Leader of the House pressure his Cabinet colleagues to ensure that such disgraceful leaks to the media do not occur before a statement? [Interruption.] If it is not a leak, as the Minister of State, Ministry of Defence says from a sedentary position, what is the point of our sitting here to listen to his statement when we can read about it on BBC Online at 6.6 am?
Mr. Hoon: I have no idea how BBC Online came by that information. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Ministry of Defence is in the Chamber. As soon as I have an opportunity to relinquish my place to him, the hon. Gentleman can ask him all the questions that he likes.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence must not make sedentary interventions. In a moment, he will have the opportunity to explain things to the House, so he must bide his time.
Mr. Swayne: The Leader of the House congratulated my hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) on his trawl. I assure him that no such trawl is necessary. He need only look at the Equality Bill that he announced for debate on Monday, because part 2 deals with religion and provides a field day for every mischief maker and pettifogging politically correct individual to interfere in what should be the most private and intimate aspects of our lives. I hope that he will join us for the debate on Monday.
Mr. Hoon: I will be able to resist that temptation, but I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman looks so critically at matters that are rightly private and should be respected as such. That is precisely why the Equality Bill has been introduced. It will ensure that people's views and religious affiliations are protected, which is something that he should applaud, not criticise.
Mr. Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con):
May we have an urgent debate on accident and emergency provision in south-east Hertfordshire, where we face the
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serious prospect of accident and emergency services at both Queen Elizabeth II hospital and Chase Farm hospital closing, leaving swathes of my constituency without A and E and acute service coverage? That is causing serious concern, and it could cost lives.
Mr. Hoon: We have had a discussion in recent weeks about the importance of robust cost control and effective financial management in the national health service. I have looked at the figures for NHS deficits in recent years and, last year, there was surplus spending over and above the amount that was allocated. In those circumstances, I urge the hon. Gentleman not to be so alarmist about projections for the future. He should ensure that we debate these issues calmly and sensibly rather than trying to disturb his constituents about prospects that frankly will not occur.
Michael Gove (Surrey Heath) (Con): Will the Leader of the House kindly make time for a debate on the Floor of the House on the grotesque mismanagement of the European Union budget? He will be aware that, for the 11th year running, the auditors have failed to pass the EU budget. Whenever the opportunity arises to debate the matter, the powers that be have tended to throw it into the long grassspecifically, the peaceful pastures of European Standing Committee B. May we have a proper debate in the Chamber with a Treasury Minister and a Foreign Office Minister to ask why 113 recommendations from the European Parliament and the 139 recommendations from the European Court of Auditors have not been implemented by the European Commission? Notwithstanding all the efforts of the former commissioner, Neil Kinnock, whose time at the Commission culminated in the sacking of Marta Andreasen for whistleblowing, why under our EU presidency have we still not managed to ensure that the European Commission can spend British taxpayers' money honestly, fairly and competently?
Mr. Hoon: The House has regular debates on all aspects of European issues and I anticipate that, before the European summit, as is traditional in the House, there will be an opportunity for Members to debate all the issues that the hon. Gentleman raised. I understand that he is a strong supporter of the hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron), who is doubtless thinking how he might modernise his Government'shis potential Government'spolicy on European matters. It was interesting to listen to such a rant of anti-European invective, as it suggests that the hon. Member for Witney still has a good deal of ground to make up, not least because the Conservative group in the European Parliament has left its natural allies in the Christian Democratic group. I therefore suspect that, under him, the Conservative party would be utterly isolated on those matters.
Mr. Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness) (Con):
The Leader of the House graciously suggested that he would look into the impact of regulations on this country, and I wonder whether I can nudge him into agreeing to a debate. The World Economic Forum suggests that in a comparison of the impact of Government regulations, we have gone from 13th to 51st; in competitiveness, from 4th to 13th; and in
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bureaucracy, from 11th to 20th. That has a major economic impact across the country, but I would like such a debate to emphasise the impact on quality of life. In Beverley, the festival of Christmas committee has nearly given up because of the burden of regulation. It was even suggested that portable hand-washing facilities should follow the reindeer in case any child should touch one.
Mr. Hoon: I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's efforts to entertain us in a not-yet seasonal way, but he raised an important issue that the Government are committed to dealing with. It is a priority for us to find ways of reducing the regulatory burden on business. Before he pokes gentle fun or otherwise at particular regulations, he should make it clear to the House which regulations he believes are unnecessary. Whenever we have this debate in the House, Opposition Members are good at saying how awful the regulatory burden is but poorer at saying which burdens should be lifted.
Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East) (DUP): Does the Leader of the House not feel even a tad embarrassed at having to announce today the Second Reading of the terrorist amnesty Bill for next Wednesday? As that is not something the Government feel is right, but which they are doing because it is part of a grungy agreement that they have with the Provisional IRA, will he tell the House the extent to which Ministers will be able to allow any amendments to be made to the Bill without going back to the army council of the IRA?
Mr. Hoon: The hon. Gentleman raised this precise matter in precisely the same way this time last week. I will not give him precisely the same answer. I simply impress upon him the opportunity that he will have on Second Reading next week to raise those various issues. Given his knowledge and long experience of Northern Ireland, on which I will not challenge him, I hope that he will recognise that the Government are acting for the best possible motivesto continue the peace process and to ensure that there can be a permanent cessation of violence in Northern Ireland. That surely is an ambition that we can all support.
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