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Mr. Hoon: I assure the hon. Gentleman that I was not in any way descending into what he described as party political propaganda. I was simply stating the facts. If Opposition Members do not like those facts, I can only apologise. Having chaired several meetings of the Modernisation Committee, I find the idea that I control it slightly astonishing, not least because the hon.
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Gentleman's regular contributions make it absolutely clear that I simply do not. Sometimes I cannot stop him talking. I find far-fetched the idea that I can guarantee the result. I would welcome advice from anyone as to how I would control him; unfortunately, I see that the Opposition Chief Whip has left the Chamber—[Interruption.] I see that there is a higher power present—and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's wife, the hon. Member for Congleton (Ann Winterton), will give me some good advice on that subject in the future.

As for the idea of a business Committee, it has always been the tradition of the House that such matters are resolved through the usual channels. I see no reason to depart from that in principle at this stage.

Ann Coffey (Stockport) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend make time for a debate on the interpretation by chief officers and councils of the code of practice for the conduct of local elections? I am very concerned about the possibility that guidelines issued by the chief executive of Stockport council, Mr. John Schultz, will prevent me, and other hon. Members, from fulfilling our responsibilities as Members of Parliament on behalf of our constituents during the pre-election period.

My right hon. Friend may have read in the Stockport Express, and indeed in The Daily Telegraph, that that same council is planning to turn off the lights in the town, and about my utter condemnation of that policy. My hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne) has also had cause to criticise his Liberal Democrat council. I hope that my right hon. Friend shares my view that Members of Parliament have the protection of the House in carrying out their duties here and in their constituencies, and will agree to allow time for a debate so that the message can be conveyed loud and clear to those unelected local government officers who seek—without the authority of the House—to stop us.

Mr. Hoon: I note that you are paying careful attention, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as you always do when this matter is raised. It is obviously of great importance to Members in all parts of the House that they should be free to carry out their duties as Members of Parliament. That is a fundamental principle of this House and of this Parliament. If there are varying interpretations of the code of practice, that is not acceptable to Members.

I had the privilege of visiting my hon. Friend's constituency in a ministerial capacity, and I know what an assiduous and hard-working Member of Parliament she is. It is important for her and other right hon. and hon. Members to be able to carry out their duties in the House free of the constraints about which she has rightly complained.

Ann Winterton (Congleton) (Con) rose—

Hon. Members: How do you do it?

Ann Winterton: I do it easily.

May I support the request from my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May) for a full day's debate on the national health service, in Government time, for additional reasons? Three consultations are taking place concurrently, which is extremely confusing
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for our constituents. The first is on the reconfiguration of primary care trusts, the second is on "Making it Better, Making it Real"—which threatens vital and popular services at Macclesfield district general hospital—and the third is on the future health care project. Those are important matters of which the public should be aware, and one of the consultations—on "Making it Better, Making it Real"—has been deeply flawed.

Mr. Hoon: As I have made clear to the House on a number of occasions, the Government welcome any opportunity to set out our excellent record on the national health service. I am sure that if the hon. Lady is concerned about the consultations, she can make appropriate representations to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health. If she is concerned about the funding of the health service, she will have an opportunity to raise it during the debate on the Budget, as I made clear earlier.

Dr. Roberta Blackman-Woods (City of Durham) (Lab): Can my right hon. Friend arrange a debate on the impact of European Union directive 2002/95, which concerns hazardous substances, on the organ pipe-building industry? It is certainly the view of the industry, including the famous organ builders Harrison and Harrison in my constituency, that the directive will prevent them from manufacturing organ pipes, and will lead to job losses. The House will have heard the response from my right hon. Friend the Minister for Industry and the Regions to the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Peter Luff) during Trade and Industry questions. If it is indeed the case that the factory can apply for an exemption so that it can continue its traditional craft, could that please be clarified in the debate that is so urgently needed?

Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend has made an important point on behalf of her constituency, and on behalf of those who work in the industry. I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry takes the matter very seriously. The Government will pursue it, and I am sure that as it has been raised today, my right hon. Friend will write to my hon. Friend directly.

Mr. Bernard Jenkin (North Essex) (Con): May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to a letter sent from a GP's surgery in my constituency by Dr. Philip Woodcock to the Secretary of State for Health? Dr. Woodcock complained that the local primary care trust was forbidding local practices to carry out certain procedures as part of an exercise in money saving and cuts that was taking place in the Colchester PCT area. Does that not underline the fact that the refusal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to raise the issue of the health service in the Budget is one of the most inept political ploys that he has ever attempted?

Mr. Hoon: I have made it clear that we shall have three days of debate, following the debate that we had for most of yesterday, when Members can raise any issues they like. If the hon. Gentleman catches
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Mr. Deputy Speaker's eye, he will be able to raise his point about the letter. As he does so, however, he really must explain whether he is actually saying that health service organisations should not have regard to ensuring that the money that the taxpayer provides for health—in record amounts nowadays—should not be managed properly and used efficiently. That is the issue. Are the Opposition really saying, when they are admitting that they would cut the money going into public services—and therefore cut the money going into the health service—that we should not use that money effectively on behalf of the people whom the health service treats?

Mr. Tom Harris (Glasgow, South) (Lab): There are suspicions—possibly justified, possibly not—that the reason why some political parties do not want to identify individuals who have given them loans is that some of those individuals may be foreign. Is it not appropriate now for us to have a full debate on the Floor of the House so that we can discuss the future of party political funding, and so that the shadow Attorney-General can come to the House and expand on his comment earlier in the week that the Conservative party should stop hiding the names of individual benefactors?

Mr. Hoon: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising an issue that was raised earlier by the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May). Obviously the Government have recognised the need for transparency. We have changed the rules relating to political donations, and we have acknowledged that a further change is necessary. But if we are to have a proper debate in the country on this question, clearly all parties must come clean about the sources of their finance. Unless and until the Conservative party is prepared to do that, we shall not be able to have a proper and thorough debate.

Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell) (Con): May I remind the Leader of the House that his primary responsibility is to protect the reputation of the House? As there is genuine public disquiet about the funding of the national health service, how can he justify the fact that the Secretary of State for Health will not take part in the Budget debate, and the fact that the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not mention the NHS once yesterday, for the first time in any of his 10 Budget statements?

Mr. Hoon: I repeat that there will be every opportunity for right hon. and hon. Members to discuss the funding of the health service during the debates that have been made available, and I am sure that they will do so. As for the specific question raised by the right hon. Gentleman, the Government have dealt with it by allocating so much time to discussion of these important subjects.

As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has made clear, an astonishing amount of money is going into the national health service. That money must be managed, and it must be managed effectively. A very small number of health service organisations are responsible for deficits. I am surprised at the implication of what is being said by the Conservative party, which is that the Government should not have regard to ensuring that
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that money—taxpayers' money—is spent properly, efficiently and effectively on behalf of the people of this country.

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