Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells) (Con): The Leader of the House will know that the press and the public are excluded from the weekly meetings of the European Scrutiny Committee. The Committee asked to meet in public during the past Parliament, but the then Leader of the House did nothing to change Standing Orders to allow that. What is the right hon. Gentleman's attitude towards openness and transparency, or is this another issue on which the Government lecture everybody elsein this case about the need for public accessand then do nothing to alter our parliamentary procedures to permit it?
Mr. Hoon: I have not received any specific request from those involved in European scrutiny during this Parliament, but it is something that I will look at carefully. As the right hon. Gentleman will be aware, there are proposals from the Modernisation Committee to look at the way we scrutinise European legislation. Those proposals are under consideration, so perhaps we can have a fuller discussion once they have been published.
Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab):
May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to early-day motion 1654, which deals with the siting of three mobile phone masts outside St. Joseph's Catholic church in Evington?
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[That this House notes with concern the construction of three telecommunication masts outside St. Joseph's Church, Leicester; calls on the companies building telecommunication masts to work together to reduce the number requiring construction; acknowledges that since the Stewart Report, published over five years ago, there have been significant advances and changes to mobile telecommunications technology; urges the Government to commission further research into the effects on health of telecommunications masts; and calls on the Government to carry out further consultations.]
As a result of that decision, the church is to lose the possibility of having a children's nursery because parents are very concerned about the effects on their children's health of having those masts so close to the church and its hall. Can we have a debate on the Stewart report and consider introducing guidelines so that mobile phone operators are able to share one site and mast, rather than creating three?
Mr. Hoon: I have now had the opportunity of reading early-day motion 1654. My hon. Friend has set out, with his usual commendable clarity, the concerns of the people in his constituency who are affected. I think that he probably made his point in the course of his question.
Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): The Leader of the House will be aware that there is huge opposition in England and Wales to the restructuring of police forces. The so-called consultation, which has been an utter fraud and charade, ends in a few days. When that period ends, will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate on the subject in the House? Is he aware that Bernard Hogan-Howe, the chief constable of Merseyside, with which Cheshire is to be merged, has stated that if the merger goes ahead the people of Cheshire will have huge resources transferred to Merseyside, and Cheshire's council tax will increase dramatically? Is that not reason enough for a debate in this House?
Mr. Hoon: The hon. Gentleman talks about huge opposition. I am certainly aware that there is some opposition. There is always opposition to this kind of change, which necessarily affects, in some cases, traditional boundaries and, in others, boundaries established for a number of years. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would recognise that we cannot simply say that there will never be any change in the organisation of our police forces. Indeed, the organisation of those forces throughout the country has been in a steady process of evolution over many years.
A proper subject for debate is the recommendation by very senior police officersafter all, the proposals come from a committee of the Association of Chief Police Officersthat there should be a reorganisation to ensure that police forces throughout the country are equipped to deal with the challenges that they face in the 21st century. I would be much more interested to hear from the hon. Gentleman and other Members who raise this issue why the Government should reject the advice from senior police officers that they need a reorganisation, rather than them simply making an argument based on traditional boundaries and a traditional way of doing things.
Dr. Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) (Lab):
Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on the co-
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ordination of the contents of Government reviews? I am sure that he will be aware, for example, of the publication two days ago of the waste review, which proposes a threefold increase in energy from waste between now and 2020a fact that appears to be wholly absent from the considerations of the energy review, which is, at precisely the same time, considering energy supply up to 2020.
Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend raises an important issue. A constant challenge for Governments organised on a departmental basis, and indeed any organisation that operates in that way, is to ensure that decisions taken in one part of the organisation are consistent with decisions taken elsewhere. This Government have spent a great deal of time and effort ensuring that there is co-ordination across government, improving cross-cutting efforts by different Departments. I recognise that there is still more work that we can do in that respect to achieve the ambition that my hon. Friend rightly sets out.
Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East) (DUP): Will the Leader of the House arrange for time for discussion in this place of the facilities for Members, in particular the roll-out of IT equipment? I understand that after the allocation of equipment to new Members, existing Members are having it distributed in alphabetical order, and we are only at "C" at present, with some Members whose surname begins with "C" still not having had their equipment delivered to them. Those of us at the tail end of the alphabet will be more interested in pension arrangements than IT equipment by the time it is our turn.
Mr. Hoon: The hon. Gentleman makes his point with characteristic style. I was not aware that the process was going so slowly, but I shall certainly investigate and write to him once I have found the answer.
Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab): I know that the Leader of the House is committed to having more women Members of Parliament, but may I suggest one practical step that he might take to make Parliament more family-friendly? I read in the newspaper that he is considering shortening the summer recess. Before he does that, will he ensure that it still fully covers the school holidays? There is a problem with the next recess as I find that at Easter my children's school holiday overlaps with the recess by only a week. That may not be a significant problem for him, but for my nine-year-old daughter it is.
I assure my hon. Friend that it is also a significant factor in the Hoon household, so I take her point very seriously. I have to say, however, that most of the criticism directed at the House is not that we are shortening the summer recess, but that we have far too long a summer recess. I recognise that that has provided significant opportunities for right hon. and hon. Members not only to spend more time with their families, but, crucially, to spend more time in their constituencies. That is something that we need to bear in mind. I assure my hon. Friend that the question of
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summer vacations is taken into account as we look at the dates for parliamentary sittings, but I also draw to her attention the consistent complaints from our Scottish colleagues that the summer recess very rarely takes account of Scottish summer holidays, so it cannot be an exact process that will satisfy everyone.
Andrew Rosindell (Romford) (Con): I hope that the Leader of the House has had time to read early-day motion 1637, which I tabled, regarding the Falkland Islands, following the hostile remarks of the President of Venezuela only a week ago.
[That this House completely rejects the suggestion that the UK should hand over the Falkland Islands to Argentina made by Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, on 9th February; believes that all matters relating to the Falkland Islands, especially sovereignty, are issues concerning the Falkland Islanders and the British Government alone; notes the illegitimacy of the Argentine claim on the islands; and urges the Government to rally round these loyal subjects of the Crown whenever their sovereignty is questioned and to declare that the Union Jack will permanently fly above Port Stanley.]
Mr. Hoon: As someone who has had the privilege of visiting the Falkland Islands on a number of occasions, I recognise the hon. Gentleman's point. I hope that he will forgive me, but I have not read the early-day motion that he mentions. However, I can hazard a guess as to what it contains, and obviously I strongly support the continuation of the Falkland Islands as part of this country's heritage. It is something that we maintained absolutely as a priority in government, and we will continue to do so.