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Nigel Griffiths: Those guidelines constitute arrangements made under criminal justice legislation. Previous offenders were in the community with no oversight at all for a substantial part of their sentence. It is important that a more onerous regime for offenders be introduced, so that if they breach licence conditions, they can go back to jail. The problem that the hon. Member highlights, and which was reported, is that young teenagers on a first offence—I am not sure that mugging was the offence; I think that it was snatching of bags that involves no violence—may not, under magistrates' guidelines, get an automatic custodial sentence. That will be a matter for debate in this House and elsewhere.

Annette Brooke (Mid-Dorset and North Poole) (LD): Last week, a disgraceful incident occurred in which policemen stopped a woman breastfeeding on a bench in a high street. This House will spend a lot of time discussing whether to ban smoking in public places, yet there are already 68 signatures to early-day motion 1046, on breastfeeding in public places.

[That this House recognises the benefits of breastfeeding for babies and welcomes the provisions of the recently introduced Breastfeeding etc. Bill which propose to address some of society's attitudes to breastfeeding; notes that research shows that breast milk is the ideal first food for most babies; regrets that the UK has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in Europe, with just one in five babies receiving breastmilk by the time they are six months old, although the World Health Organisation recommends that babies need nothing other than breastmilk for the first six months of life; is deeply concerned that many mothers report having been harassed for breastfeeding in public while others have stopped breastfeeding early or chosen not to breastfeed as they have anticipated embarrassment or difficulties in feeding their babies whilst in public; supports UNICEF's call for legislation to protect breastfeeding mothers' rights to feed their babies in public areas and the Baby Friendly Initiative; appreciates that social attitudes are slowly changing but that there is a long way to go; and calls for greater understanding and positive attitudes to ensure that breastfeeding is a normal part of everyday life.]

In the light of those points, will the Deputy Leader of the House consider allocating parliamentary time to this really important issue, so that we can permit a perfectly
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natural activity that has so many beneficial outcomes? I should point out, Mr. Speaker, that I am not calling for breastfeeding in this House.

Nigel Griffiths: I share the hon. Member's views on this issue; indeed, I was in Gracemount, in my constituency, last Friday discussing this very subject with a community health group. I was going to say that it is important that we bring our attitudes to this subject into the 21st century, but of course, breastfeeding is a natural function that has stood us in good stead in the past. I will ensure that the hon. Member's views are made available to my colleagues in the Department of Health.

Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): I hope that the Deputy Leader of the House agrees that, when a Minister speaks at the Dispatch Box, his comments should be factually accurate. That is particularly true of the Prime Minister, but yesterday, he said at Prime Minister's questions that from midnight last night, there will be a maximum wait of six months for operations in the NHS. This morning, I checked with my hospital and 437 people are still waiting more than six months for an operation. Can the Deputy Leader of the House help me by explaining how the Prime Minister might go about correcting what I am sure was a slip of the tongue?

Nigel Griffiths: I will certainly ensure that there is an inquiry into why services in the hon. Member's health authority seem to be failing. They are not failing in other health authorities, and there will be a reason for that.

Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East) (DUP): Has the Deputy Leader of the House had the opportunity to look at early-day motion 1120, signed by Members from all parts of the House, which pays tribute to the soccer legend George Best, who died last week?

[That this House mourns the passing of East Belfast and Northern Ireland soccer legend George Best; salutes his unequalled football skills; acknowledges his place at the pinnacle of world class soccer; and tenders to his family its deepest condolences.]

Will the Deputy Leader of the House join me in expressing condolences to the family, and will he urge the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to make a statement to the House on the Government's intentions regarding a national stadium, given that a large body of opinion in Northern Ireland feels that it should be named after the soccer legend?

Nigel Griffiths: I join the hon. Member in praising the memory of George Best; indeed, I used to watch him play for one of the Edinburgh teams in the 1980s, and he set the stadium alight with his dazzling skills. I will ensure that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is aware of the hon. Member's strong feelings on behalf of his constituents and others on the question of a national stadium.

Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire) (Con): The Deputy Leader of the House represents a Scottish constituency,
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which perhaps explains the breathtaking insouciance of, and even the occasional inaccuracies in, his answers concerning a debate on police reform. We are talking about the most important reform of policing in England and Wales in a political generation. No police officer in my area—West Mercia, which covers Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire—supports the Government's proposals. There should have been a debate on the principles underlying the report produced by Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary, which I challenge, before proceeding to detailed proposals for a merger. The Government could save some shred of honour by having such a debate before Christmas; it would be shameful not to do so.

Nigel Griffiths: I have been not just forthright with Members, but accurate in my comments on consideration of that Bill. I note that for all the so-called concern voiced today, not one Opposition day has been devoted to this issue.

David Howarth (Cambridge) (LD): The Deputy Leader of the House is doubtless an avid reader of the Local Government Chronicle. If so, he will see that, in today's edition, the Minister of Communities and Local Government has announced a White Paper on local government, to be published in the middle of next year, that includes proposals for structural reform. I welcome that announcement, but can the Deputy Leader of the House arrange an early debate on the relationship between that White Paper and the Lyons review, in which the Government can explain why it has taken so long to give that review any political direction?

Nigel Griffiths: The White Paper coming before the House next year covers a distinct policy area and, once it is published, I am sure that there will be an opportunity to debate it. Before its publication, there will be an opportunity for the hon. Member and his Liberal Democrat colleagues to provide their input.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con): May I revert to the amalgamation of police forces? The Deputy Leader of the House will know that the proposals are widely resisted in the east midlands, especially in Lincolnshire. He has spoken repeatedly of consultations, but does he not understand that, in a representative democracy, this House, speaking collectively, should be involved in that process? That means that there should be a substantive and votable motion before Christmas.

Nigel Griffiths: No, it does not. It means that there should be a debate, and one has been promised. That debate should take place at the end of the initial consultation period, which I understand is 23 December.
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Points of Order

12.30 pm

Mr. Malcolm Moss (North-East Cambridgeshire) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. At Culture, Media and Sport Question Time on 21 November, I asked whether the Secretary of State thought it proper

The right hon. Lady replied:

However, in a written answer today, the Minister for Sport and Tourism states:

Setting aside the disgraceful fact that the Secretary of State does not know what meetings Ministers in her Department are holding, I seek your advice about how best we can have the record put right.

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