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Jim Sheridan (Paisley and Renfrewshire, North) (Lab): My right hon. Friend will be aware of yesterday's statement by the Secretary of State for Defence about the future of the aircraft carrier orders. I am happy to say that that gives recognition and credit to British shipyard workers, men and women alike. Will my right hon. Friend use his good offices to encourage the successful companies, wherever possible and all things being equal, to sub-contract out work with the interests of British workers at heart by awarding contracts to British companies?

Mr. Hoon: My right hon. Friend the Defence Secretary will make a statement to the House in due course, and I am sure that he will deal with these issues in more detail. As I have had a passing acquaintance with such matters over a number of years, I can assure my hon. Friend that it is important that in the construction of those two very large ships—the largest ships that have been produced in the United Kingdom's history—the work should, wherever possible, be made available in the United Kingdom, subject of course to all the appropriate safeguards that are required. This represents an enormous opportunity for British
 
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shipyards. My right hon. Friend made his statement yesterday, and I am sure that further details will be available later today.

Mr. Greg Knight (East Yorkshire) (Con): Is the Leader of the House aware that, according to experts, up to 500 people are killed needlessly each year as a consequence of our maintaining the ridiculous ritual of putting our clocks back every autumn? Could we have a debate on the benefits of extending summertime throughout the year? If, as I suspect, the only objectors are a handful of Scots, should not they be told, "Look, you've got your own Parliament—if you don't like it, go away and give yourselves your own time zone"?

Mr. Hoon: I know that the Conservative party is finally in a phase of modernisation, but I believe that it was once known as the Conservative and Unionist party. I realise that the right hon. Gentleman's observations may somewhat reflect the rather poor performance that the Conservative party has achieved in Scotland in recent years. I suspect that were he standing here he would not make quite the same observations about the important contribution made to the United Kingdom by those from north of the border—would he, Mr. Speaker? Obviously, the whole question of the changing of clocks and alignment with other European countries is one that the Government take very seriously, as they do Scotland.

Mr. Brian Jenkins (Tamworth) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend find some time in the new year for a debate—possibly led by himself, as the subject covers several Government Departments—on the effects on the social cohesion of our communities of simultaneously reorganising the police service, the fire and rescue service, the ambulance service, primary care trusts, education and local government? Are we adopting the policy that some groups have of continuous revolution and reorganisation, and if so, can we consider its effects?

Mr. Hoon: I recognise that those issues cause concern locally, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising the matter. I am not quite so grateful for his suggestion as to who should lead the debate, but at this time of the year I will take all the presents that I can get. The question of geographical boundaries as regards various public services is important. My hon. Friend is right to mention the various reforms that are taking place. However, the more the boundaries of different public services can be aligned, the more likely it is that we can deliver those services successfully and efficiently. I hope that he recognises that that is an important part of this Government's ambitions.

Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): As the Leader of the House said, this is the season of goodwill. Will he bring a message of goodwill to the work force at BAE Systems in Woodford, part of which lies in my constituency, and arrange for a statement to be made in this House—or in the other House by Lord Drayson, the Minister for Defence Procurement—on the award of the Nimrod MRA4 project? That is long overdue, and the aircraft is much needed by the RAF. Will the Leader of the House please arrange for an early decision? If it could be done before Christmas, I would happy to buy him a drink.
 
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Mr. Hoon: The hon. Gentleman has raised this question with me on several previous occasions, albeit in a different capacity as far as I am concerned. I can certainly arrange for a statement on defence industrial strategy to take place very soon, and I hope that he takes full advantage of that opportunity to raise this important matter.

David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): The parliamentary highlight for me yesterday was not Prime Minister's questions, but—as an accountant and someone with strong Scottish antecedents—the publication of the Government expenditure and revenue in Scotland statistics for 2003–04, albeit 21 months after the event. They reveal that public expenditure per head in Scotland is almost £7,350 a year. I rejoice at the growth in the time of our Government. However, the figures are 20 per cent. higher than the average for the United Kingdom and 25 per cent. higher than the average for England, including the east midlands, which has a similar population and is also socially and economically similar to Scotland. When will the Government announce how they intend to bridge the public expenditure gap and deficit between English regions that are similar to Scotland and Scotland? Do not we deserve a debate on Barnett?

Mr. Hoon: I think I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising the issue. He has demonstrated how accountancy is actually interesting. However, I hope that, when he considers Government distribution of funds, including north of the border, he will take account of the fact that a comparison of population is not the only important factor; geographical considerations must also be taken into account. The Government constantly review the statistics—that is why they are published—to ensure fairness and consistency throughout the country.

Mr. Mike Weir (Angus) (SNP): May we have a debate on the amount of Government money that was wasted on preparing for self-invested personal pension schemes on residential property prior to the Chancellor's welcome U-turn in the Budget?

Mr. Hoon: I am delighted that financial advisers have someone who is prepared to speak on their behalf in the House. Indeed, there now appear to be two people who are willing to do that. I emphasise that decisions about ensuring proper provision for pensions are difficult. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor takes into account the overall financial consequences of the decisions and decides accordingly.

Michael Connarty (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend ask the Department of Trade and Industry to consider closely tips and the minimum wage, as mentioned in early-day motion 1132, which my hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr.   Devine) and I tabled and which gathered 115 signatures from hon. Members of all parties?

[That this House views with concern the ongoing situation whereby tips, service charges, gratuities or cover charges in the hospitality industry count towards the minimum wage if paid through the payroll; recognises that many of the two million people who work in the hospitality industry are denied the benefit of the tips which customers
 
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give under the impression that it will be paid as an additional payment to staff on top of their wages; and calls on the Government to amend Regulation 31 of the National Minimum Wage Regulations 1999 (Statutory Instrument 1999 No 584) to ensure that all tips, service charges, gratuities, or cover charges are paid to staff in addition to their minimum wage regardless of the method of payment used by the place of employment.]

It is clearly an anomaly that we introduced the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 and then allowed regulation 31(1)(e) of the 1999 regulations to provide that tips and gratuities paid through the wage bill be counted towards the minimum wage. It is time that the matter was tackled. I asked the Prime Minister about it yesterday and he said that the Low Pay Commission would consider it. It is a matter of simple legislation to remove the appalling anomaly from people's relationship with the work force and workplace of hospitality workers. If we do that shortly, we will garner the pleasure and commendation of those in the hospitality industry.

Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend raised that matter with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister yesterday. My right hon. Friend undertook—I repeat the undertaking—that the Government would consider the matter carefully. I agree that it appears that there could be an improvement in the arrangements for the minimum wage in the sector that my hon. Friend mentioned. I assure him that we are considering the matter carefully.


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