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Greg Clark (Tunbridge Wells) (Con): Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on the Department of Health's private finance initiative programme? Constituents in west Kent have been waiting for eight years for a hospital to replace one that relies on wooden huts and another that was built before the war. The decision rests with the Secretary of State for Health and she needs to make it without delay. We could use a debate to urge her to get on with it.

Mr. Hoon: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for drawing attention to the Government's extensive hospital building programme, which has not been matched by any other Government in the entire history of the national health service. Obviously, we want to implement such proposals in each and every area of the country as soon as we can, but I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be the first to recognise that it is important that they are soundly financially based and deliver improvements for his, my and other Members' constituents. We need to look carefully at each proposal to ensure that it can proceed, but I can assure him that the building programme for the NHS continues, and we can all be proud of it.

Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle) (Lab): We heard this week that the Joint Committee on House of Lords Reform will be set up as soon as possible. How are Members going to be selected to participate in it? Will the same people who served on the previous Committee serve on it, and will there be room for people like me?

Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend is well aware, given his considerable previous experience of how Committees are selected in this place, that they are selected through the usual channels by agreement. Those who show expertise and promise in these matters are often preferred. I make no comment on his qualifications.

Mr. Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight) (Con): May I echo the request for a debate on the health service? In particular, who is responsible for it? This year, 200 staff in the Isle of Wight health service have lost their jobs, and it has been announced today that no further cuts are possible without damaging the quality of health care available to my constituents. The Secretary of State has said that such matters are for local managers, even though she appoints the people who appoint those managers. Who is actually responsible?

Mr. Hoon: I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not mean that question in the serious way that he seems to suggest. Clearly, the management of the NHS is ultimately the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. However, if she were seeking to manage each and every detail in every part of the country, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would—rightly—be the first to complain. There has to be a system of decentralised control and, as I know from my own constituency, it is important to have local
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managers. They know the local situation and understand the concerns of all our constituents. Decisions should be taken at the lowest level possible. I am sure that, if he thinks about it, the hon. Gentleman will agree with me.

Andrew Mackinlay : May we have a statement about senior civil servants getting honours? I should like to know why Sir Nigel Crisp was given a peerage. My working-class constituents get the sack if they screw up and, if they think that that is wrong, have to muster the courage to go to an industrial tribunal to argue for unfair dismissal. Why is it so different for senior people? Is there not a culture in our society that means that the ones who make the biggest cock-ups get the highest rewards?

Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend is being uncharacteristically unfair about a very distinguished civil servant who has made a very significant contribution to the NHS. Sir Nigel set out very clearly why he felt that it was appropriate to move on. I, for one, am delighted that he has moved on to the other place.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con): May we have an early debate on how to carry forward the reform of the House of Lords? Of course, I welcome the Prime Minister's conversion to the cause of having an elected second Chamber, although I doubt his motives in making that announcement. However, it is highly undesirable that that discussion should be confined to parliamentary opinion, and even less desirable that it should be confined to the opinion of Front-Bench Members, who have a vested interest. Surely the debate should involve the whole nation, by means of a royal commission or of a Speaker's conference: will the right hon. Gentleman consider either of those alternatives?

Mr. Hoon: As the Government set out in the manifesto on which we fought the last election, certain fundamentals of the nature of reform must be put in place, and the relationship between the two Houses is not the least of them. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is probably one of the few hon. Members eligible to stand for election in the other place. I am not encouraging him to do so, but I recognise that there is an important debate to be had. We made it clear in the manifesto that we wanted the Joint Committee to sort out the relationship between the two Houses and determine the power of the second Chamber, and then bring forward options about that Chamber's composition for this House to debate. I am sure that there will be a vigorous national debate when that happens.

Mr. David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op): Before I wish my right hon. Friend a happy Easter, may I ask whether he was able, at his recent lunch, to discuss with his friends in the media the possible reform of the Lobby? Some of us believe that, given that everything in this wonderful institution is being reformed, it is about time for the Lobby to be reformed too. The matter is worthy of discussion. I advanced my interest in politics by
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reading about what happened in this place, which used to be well reported in the serious press. That is no longer the case, and many hon. Members would prefer briefings to be attributable, rather than unattributable. Is not that something that he, as Leader of the House, should take up?

Mr. Hoon: I got myself in trouble just lately with the media, so I understand and sympathise with my hon. Friend's concern. I made the same point yesterday, in a way that was perhaps more dramatic than his carefully observed criticisms. I think that Lobby reform is a matter that the House should consider although, ultimately, it is a question for the Lobby itself. How members of the Lobby report our proceedings is a matter for them, and for their editors, but there is a debate to be had about the relationship between Parliament and the media. It is a debate that I am happy to continue.

John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): May we have an urgent debate in Government time on the detention of children by the Home Office? More than 2,000 children a year are held in immigration detention centres behind locked doors, high fences and barbed wire, with their privacy invaded, their family life compromised and their mental health threatened. Would not that debate be an ideal opportunity to look in some detail at the humane and successful alternative approach practised in Sweden?

Mr. Hoon: I will not accept any suggestion that the Government do not behave humanely in relation to children, whether or not their parents are legally entitled to be here. Obviously, a balance has to be struck between the country's interests in ensuring that we have a proper and effective asylum and immigration system and a requirement that that system covers the children of people who come here without an entitlement to remain. I am confident that we get the balance right, although I recognise that there is always room for improvement.

Jim Sheridan (Paisley and Renfrewshire, North) (Lab): My right hon. Friend will be aware that the illegal gangmaster responsible for the deaths of 21 cockle pickers was sentenced to 14 years in prison just this week. I hope that sends the clear message to all illegal gangmasters that we are after them. Unfortunately, the people who benefited and profited from the product—the cockles—escaped prosecution. Will he use his good offices to highlight the plight of the families of the people who died, and make representations to the Chinese Government to protect them? Even today, those people are being harassed and intimidated by illegal gangmasters still chasing them for money.

Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend raises an important aspect of that terrible and appalling case. Those responsible have been brought before the court and given quite a severe punishment, and he is right to stress the international dimension. Organised criminal gangs stretching around the world are able to move people from one part of the globe to another, rather like commodities. That is why the Government are determined to use existing powers and take extra steps
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to deal with the consequences of that appalling business, and to do so at source. I am grateful for my hon. Friend's support.

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