Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): In November, I secured an Adjournment debate on the crazy decision by the Liberal Democrat-controlled Stockport council to develop a new primary school on a former landfill site without first having conducted a full environmental impact study. Since then, the leader of Stockport council has assured local residents in Reddish that the Greater Manchester geological unit would conduct such a survey. This week, however, I received a letter from the GMGU stating that its investigations did not constitute a full environmental impact study. Will the Leader of the House make time for a debate on planning regulations relating to the development of former landfill sites?
Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend has made his case extremely effectively. I know from my own constituency the sensitivity that surrounds planning applications for landfill sites. Such applications understandably arouse a great deal of concern and sometimes controversy. My hon. Friend has made his point, and I am sure that an opportunity will arise in due course for those issues to be debated on the Floor of the House.
Mr. Christopher Fraser (South-West Norfolk) (Con): Will the Leader of the House make time for a debate on the plight of sugar beet farmers in constituencies such as mine? Those farmers have two significant concerns about the reform of the EU sugar regime. The first involves the method of allocating compensation payments; the second relates to how the reforms are to be implemented and who will be consulted. The growers are worried that decisions are being made without consulting the people who will be directly affectedthe farmers themselves.
Mr. Hoon: It is important that the implementation of this decision should be fair and effective, and that it should give all those concerned an opportunity to make the appropriate adjustments to their livelihoods. However, I might have been more persuaded by the hon. Gentleman's observations if he had told me whether he supported the policy in principle.
Mrs. Siân C. James (Swansea, East) (Lab):
Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on the increased
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use of coin-operated, unstaffed tanning salons, which are appearing up and down the country? This development was highlighted in an article in The Guardian last week. The advice is that under-16s should not have access to such facilities, yet they are clearly using them in my constituency and in many others. Will my right hon. Friend allow time for a debate on this matter, so that we can discuss ways of protecting children from the threat to their health posed by sunbed abuse?
Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend raises an important issueone with which, I confess, I have not had to deal before. However, given the nature of my responsibilities, I get to discuss a range of difficult issues, and I will certainly ensure that whichever Minister is responsible for these matters replies to her.
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con): When the Leader of the House concedes a debate on the threat to thousands of post officesas I am sure that he will, given the non-partisan way in which he exercises his officewill he frame its terms broadly enough to include a discussion of the closure of thousands of bank branches? That will enable us to raise the concern of our constituents that 20 per cent. of all bank branches have closed in the past 10 years, and that the promise not to close the last branch in town is being systematically undermined by the stretching of that commitment if, for example, there is a branch in another village four miles away.
Mr. Hoon: It has always been a delight to debate these issues with the hon. Gentleman, because he is what I would call a proper Conservative. He believes in conserving things even in the face of obvious market forces. While the Government have direct responsibility for post office services, that is not so in relation to highly competitive international operations such as our modern clearing banks. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman could tell the House how the Conservative party would ensure that rural bank branches remain open. Is he suggesting a subsidy, or some way in which the Government might interfere in the market to provide such facilities? I look forward to hearing his suggestions. In the light of what he has to say, I might be minded to grant a debate on the subject.
Mr. Jim McGovern (Dundee, West) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend bring the armed forces Minister to the House to explain why the stipulation that the tartan for the new Royal Regiment of Scotland should be produced using traditional high-quality methods has been dropped? That means not only that the standard of the finished article will be compromised but that there is every chance that it will be produced in Poland or Czechoslovakia.
The one thing that I certainly learned from my previous responsibilities was that I should not get involved in matters as sensitive as the question of tartan. I know how important it is, and I recognise its importance to my hon. Friend and to many others from his part of the world. I will ensure that the Minister, who takes an interest in these matters, contacts him accordingly.
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Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): Last autumn, I wrote to the Secretary of State for Health about the crisis in the NHS in my constituency, and asked for a meeting. I was granted a meeting on 1 December, but, just before that day, the meeting was cancelled. It was rearranged for yesterday, but that meeting was subsequently cancelled and another arranged for mid-April. Could we have a debate on the relationship between Ministers and Back Benchers?
Mr. Hoon: I apologise on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. I am sure that meetings with Members of Parliament are cancelled only in extreme circumstances. I imagine that the extreme circumstances yesterday involved the fact that the Opposition had tabled two motions for debate on aspects of health care. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not have been happy if my right hon. Friend had chosen to maintain her appointment with him, rather than appearing before the House to take part in the debate. Nevertheless, I am sure that she will rearrange her appointment with the hon. Gentleman. All my ministerial colleagues attach great importance to ensuring that their contacts and relations with Members of the House are of the highest quality, as I know my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State understands.
Sir Peter Soulsby (Leicester, South) (Lab): I welcome the news that the Road Safety Bill is to be given its Second Reading on Wednesday. The Leader of the House may know of the tragic case of 12-year-old Callum Deacon, who was killed in my constituency last June by a driver who, although he had admitted careless driving, received the derisory penalty of a £2,000 fine and a few points on his licence. Will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that a speedy Commons timetable is intended for the Bill, so that in future drivers guilty of causing death by careless driving face tough and appropriate punishment from the courts?
Mr. Hoon: I am aware of that tragic case. My hon. Friend is right to raise it. The Road Safety Bill will enable Members to debate all the issues relating to road safety, which causes great anxiety to our constituents. I am sure that the specific matter raised by my hon. Friend will be discussed in due course.
Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): May we have a debate on Ministers' total lack of grip on their private offices? Bashkin Bushaki, who is in Bullingdon prison, was eligible for deportation on 12 December, and the immigration and nationality directorate confirms that the deportation order was sent to the Minister of State's private office early in January. However, the deportation has still not happened, and keeping Bashkin Bushaki here is costing the taxpayer money. If we cannot deport people in prison who want to be deported and are eligible for deportation, what hope is there of deporting anyone in this country who deserves to be deported?
It is obviously important for deportation arrangements to proceed according to law and according to the rules that apply. I am not entirely sure how those in my private office will react to my agreeing with the hon. Gentleman about the need to get a grip on
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them, but, as a former Minister, the hon. Gentleman will be well aware of the importance of maintaining good relations with one's private office.
Mike Penning (Hemel Hempstead) (Con): On 11 December last year, the largest explosion and fire that Europe has seen since the second world war erupted at the Buncefield oil depot in my constituency. The firemen did a fantastic job, and the Deputy Prime Minister did a fantastic job in co-ordinating measures while the fire was burning. Once it had gone out, however, a plethora of Departments were put in charge of different aspects of the disaster. May we have a debate on how national disasters are dealt withwhether they are natural disasters or industrial disasters like the one at Buncefieldso that we can establish exactly who should be in charge?