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Mr. Hoon: I have made it clear that I regard this as an important subject, but my hon. Friend has also dealt with the administration of the legal aid system, and will know that although it is important to ensure that it works effectively on behalf of those of our citizens who require legal assistance, we must also ensure that the system works effectively on behalf of taxpayers, who fund it very extensively. It is right to ensure the most effective delivery of legal aid; that is why we set such store by holding a review, and I anticipate that in due course there will be an opportunity for the matter to be discussed and debated on the Floor of the House.
Mr. Mike Weir (Angus) (SNP): The Leader of the House may not yet have had an opportunity to read this morning's edition of The Herald. Had he done so he would have seen, in an article headlined "Ofgem Could Stem Tidal Energy Flow", that a former Minister for Energy has raised concerns about Ofgem's attitude to renewable energy. May we have a debate on Ofgem's role, as many of us are worried that its policies are undermining renewable energy resources?
Mr. Hoon: There is a long list of newspapers that I have not read this morning, and the hon. Gentleman has mentioned one of them. However, I recognise the importance of this issue, and he is right to raise it. I am sure that there will opportunities to discuss it as part of a wider debate on energy policy.
Dan Norris (Wansdyke) (Lab):
May we have an early debate on the impact of the Licensing Act 2003? I for
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one would very much want to be present for it, and would book my seat in advance, as I want to hear the Opposition having to eat their words.
Ann Winterton (Congleton) (Con): I second the request by my right hon. Friend the shadow Leader of the House for a debate on NHS dentistry, which is in crisis and disappearing fast. May we have a specific debate, because a debate on the Adjournment on all NHS matters will mean that dentistry will hardly be raised? I have seen the new contract, which is prescriptive and bureaucratic, and I am not surprised that many dentists will not sign up. Does the Leader of the House recall that previous experiments, in which dentists have been employed directly by the state, with the NHS paying all expenses, have cost the country twice as much as continuing NHS dentists' practices?
Mr. Hoon: I will be here next Thursday and I am sure that the hon. Lady will have the opportunity to be here also. If she catches your eye, Mr. Speaker, she will have the chance to debate dentistry and the other aspects of the NHS that require discussion. However, I suspect that several of my right hon. and hon. Friends would point out the disaster that was dentistry under the last Conservative Government and make it clear that it has been the responsibility of this Government, since 1997, to ensure that the health service can move ahead. The hon. Lady will be able to make her points next Thursday.
Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North) (Lab): I would also welcome a debate on the Carter report. Would it be possible to have a debate about the protection given to people who have bought council flats, exercised their right to buy and have long leases? In Tongwynlais in my constituency, owner-occupier constituents face bills for thousands of pounds because Cardiff council has mended the roofs of the blocks of flats, even though the residents thought that the repairs were not necessary. They have been landed with huge bills. In one case, the person is considering selling his flat to pay for the liability. The landlord and tenant legislation is very convoluted, so may we have a debate on that important issue?
Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend raises a wider question about the nature of shared ownership and the relevant legal provisions. I know from my constituency that that causes problems for those who have purchased former council accommodation. The Government take it seriously and I am grateful to her for raising the issue.
Mr. John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings) (Con):
May we have a debate on Government waste,
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following the publication by the Taxpayers' Alliance of a bookI am sure that it is on your bedside table, Mr. Speakeridentifying what they claim is £82 billion of Government waste, including more than £800,000 on policing the street meeting held by Abu Hamza after his mosque was closed down and £150,000 spent on new art for the Home Office building? Such a debate would give us a chance to find out how much of the £21.5 billion of savings that the Gershon review identified the Government have actually recovered.
Mr. Hoon: The hon. Gentleman usually raises issues of general concern to the population, but before he relies on that report he might like to check on its provenance. The chairman of the organisation is a Tory councillor, one of the authors of the book is a Tory researcher and the other was a Tory candidate at the last election. That so-called objective report has been described by someone who would probably regard himself as a conservative commentator, Mr. Neil Collins of the Evening Standard, as
and as using examples of waste compiled over the last eight years, when it is supposed to be an annual report. Before citing such nonsenseand this report is nonsense almost from start to finishthe hon. Gentleman should have regard to the reality of Government spending. We have produced 32,500 more teachers, 86,000 more teaching assistants, 27,000 more doctors, 78,000 nurses and a record number of police officers. That report appears to suggest that none of that extra spending should have been made. The hon. Gentleman should check the Conservative party's position with the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron), because it is not clear at the moment.
Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab): As a non-practising solicitor, I urge my right hon. Friend to have a debate on the Carter review of legal aid, but I caution him against having too early a debate. Legal aid is one of the pillars of our society. When the iron curtain came down, there were two main calls, one for parliamentary democracy and the other for the rule of law. One cannot have the rule of law without a proper legal aid system and I would not wish any changes to the present legal aid system, which is under some strain, to be rushed. Therefore, I caution my right hon. Friend against an early debate, although we should perhaps have a debate some time just before the summer recess.
Mr. Hoon: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who puts the point in a more measured way than I have been able to do. I should note that this is the first time since I have been in this job that someone has asked for a later debate on a subject.
John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): We need at least two debates on the NHS, to discuss dentists and the purchaser parity adjustment. The phasing out of the purchaser parity adjustment will cost Birmingham £19 million next year, £28 million the year afterwards and £38 in the year after that. It will also affect the constituencies of other hon. Members, so we need an urgent debate on that issue.
That subject also falls within the terms of the debate that I have announced for next week and the
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hon. Gentleman will be able to join in. Perhaps I will check that he is here next week to make his speech on that subject. I look forward to reading it.
Ms Sally Keeble (Northampton, North) (Lab): I have pressed my right hon. Friend previously about a case that has been held to be sub judice because the Crown Prosecution Service has not made a decision and the inquest could not be concluded. The CPS decided before Christmas that no prosecution would be pursued, but no date has been set for the resumed inquest because the file seems to have got stuck in the system. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is outrageous that two years after the death of a young boy it should be impossible to hold the Government to account for what happened because of delays in the administration of justice?
Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend has raised this issue on several previous occasions and I do not wish to test the patience of the House by repeating what I said on those occasions. It is always possible for hon. Members to raise issues in general terms, such as the delay and the time taken by an institution to resolve a problem. We should be careful about commenting on particular cases before they have reached a conclusion. Although my hon. Friend makes a reasonable point about that particular case, there would be difficulties if that approach were adopted generally for most cases. I know that my reply will disappoint my hon. Friend, as it has on previous occasions, but that is an important safeguard on issues that are sub judice. It may not always provide a proper reply as far as she is concerned, but it is right in general terms that we adopt that approach.
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