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David Mundell (Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale) (Con): Is the Leader of the House familiar with the concept of the Sewel motionthe mechanism by which the Scottish Parliament remits its legislative competence on devolved issues to the House? Is he aware that the Parliament recently produced a report on that mechanism? Has he read it, and will he give us a statement as to why, in this area, he is happy to rely on an unwritten constitution on a very important issue, whereas in so many other matters, he wants to regulate?
I am familiar with Sewel motions. I hope in due course to visit the Scottish Parliament to discuss how these arrangements work and, in particular, whether they need improving. I accept that that is an unwritten development of our constitutional settlement, but as I am sure the hon. Gentleman is aware, such arrangements have existed since time immemorial in the United Kingdom and are part of the way our
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constitution continues to develop and evolve. Unless there is a necessity for revising or reviewing the way it operates, I am perfectly content with the way it works at present.
[That this House notes the memorandum of understanding drawn up between the Mayor of London and the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport in 2003 setting a clear maximum contribution by Londoners to the cost of hosting the 2012 London Olympics; notes with concern that, since the Games were awarded to London in July 2005, neither the Secretary of State nor the Mayor have been willing to confirm a cap on what London council tax payers will be expected to contribute; and calls on the Mayor of London and the Secretary of State to give Londoners a categorical assurance that no band D London council tax payer will be asked for any more than £20 a year for 12 years as their contribution to the Games.]
Back in 2003, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the Mayor of London and the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport setting the maximum contribution that Londoners would make through council tax to the Olympics at £625 million. However, since the Olympics were successfully won for Britain and for London, the Secretary of State has been unwilling to confirm that that maximum contribution is still £625 million and that there will be a cap. May we have an early statement from the Secretary of State so that London MPs and others can secure, on behalf of council tax payers in London, that guarantee of a cap on the amount that Londoners will have to pay?
Mr. Hoon: Looking ahead at the parliamentary schedule, I notice that oral questions to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on Monday. I am sure she will be delighted to answer the hon. Gentleman's question then.
Grant Shapps (Welwyn Hatfield) (Con): Will the Leader of the House consider a debate about TV licensing? A 54-year-old constituent of mine, Philomena Moran, was taken to court for not having a colour television licence, even though TV Licensing knew that she had only a black and white television. It transpires that the fact that she had an NTL signal coming into her property was deemed to mean that she was receiving a colour signal without a colour television. How is that possible?
Mr. Hoon: At least we seem to be discussing a different kind of licensing from that which we have been discussing in recent weeks. I will ensure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, who is responsible for these matters, writes to the hon. Gentleman in due course.
Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con):
The Leader of the House has clearly had a difficult time this morning, so may I thank him in anticipation for finding time for a debate on the defence sector in Shropshire? He and his right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Ministry of
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Defence, who is on the Front Bench, will know that many job cuts have been announced over recent months in my constituencyabout 1,200 in the defence sector, which is critical to the life and well-being of Shropshire. Will he find time for a debate?
Mr. Hoon: My right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Ministry of Defence made a statement earlier on these matters and is in the House today to make a further statement about the importance that we attach to ensuring that defence expenditure is properly targeted on the front line and used most efficiently and effectively to support our armed forces. That means that, from time to time, there is a rationalisationa changein the distribution of our support activities across the country, but that is always done with a view to ensuring the maximum support that we can give to our armed forces. I am sure that, in due course, my right hon. Friend will deal with those issues when he addresses the House.
Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): Last week at business questions, the sad case of Mrs. Anderson was raised. She gave birth at 4.30 am after a long labour, but was thrown out of the hospital at 9 am, less than five hours after the birth. I requested a statement from the Secretary of State for Health on the matter. The Leader of the House declined that request, but kindly said that a Health Minister would contact me. During the past week I have received no telephone calls, no e-mails, no letters nor any contact from a Health Minister at all. Will the right hon. Gentleman comment on that?
Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): Given that of Britain's 78,000 convicted prisoners in jail 10,000 are overseas nationals, will the Leader of the House arrange for the Home Secretary to make a statement to the House about how he intends to address the £300 million annual cost of the exercise and whether he will present proposals to return to secured detention in their countries of origin the staggering number of convicted overseas criminals in our country?
Mr. Hoon: It is important that those who can be returned safely and securely to their countries of origin should be returned. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is assiduous in making sure that, where we can do so, the British taxpayer does not bear the burden of overseas nationals in our prison facilities. However, it is equally important that we give effect to the decisions of the courts. I am sure the hon. Gentleman would otherwise have been congratulating the Government on ensuring that we take firm action in relation to those who break our laws.
Mike Penning (Hemel Hempstead) (Con):
On Saturday morning, there will be several thousand of my constituents in the high street of Hemel Hempstead celebratingor commemorating, perhaps30 years of trying to save the Hemel Hempstead hospital. I am sad to say that the hospital is facing the biggest crisis ever. It is about to have its intensive care unit, its cardiac unit and a brand-new stroke unit closed, and the accident
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and emergency acute services will close as well. May we have a debate in the House about where the money is going, because it is not arriving on the front line in Hemel Hempstead?
Mr. Hoon: I can give the hon. Gentleman a very clear answer. In the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire strategic health authority, of which his constituency is part, there are 2,975 more nurses, 659 more doctors and 168 more national health service consultants. That is where the extra resources are going. They are going to the front line, and they are providing and paying for better national health services in his constituency than ever was the case under Conservative Governments.
Dr. William McCrea (South Antrim) (DUP): The farming industry is still a major industry in Northern Ireland and many are the challenges facing it, including the burdens of legislation and regulation emanating from Europe and unfair competition from foreign produce, so will the Leader of the House find time for a major debate on that very important industry?
Mr. Hoon: There is no doubt that the farming industry in Northern Ireland and other parts of the United Kingdom makes a vital contribution, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman agrees that it is one of the most protected, supported and assisted industries in not only the UK, but Europe, not least as a result of the European Union common agricultural policy. I pay tribute to farmers and their contribution, but he must recognise that we cannot allow farming in the European Union to stand still, because it requires significant change and reform.
Stephen Hammond (Wimbledon) (Con): Earlier, the Leader of the House chided my hon. Friend the shadow Leader of the House for his comments about barmy Britain and trawling tabloids. If he read Rabbi Julia Neuberger's book, "The Moral State We're In", he would find a thoughtful exposition of how several of those absurd regulations affect the voluntary sector. On Sunday mornings, for example, I help to coach at Wimbledon hockey club. I understand the need for Criminal Records Bureau checks, but why must I reapply triennially, which is absurd? The Leader of the House has agreed to hold a debate on how regulation is affecting industry. Will he also agree to a debate on how absurd, barmy British regulations are affecting the voluntary sector?
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