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Mr. Hoon: I rather suspect that the great majority of our colleagues have already set off to serve their constituents without necessarily waiting for tolling of the final Division bell. My hon. Friend raises an important issue. I know that the authorities of the House are continuing to improve the computer provision available to hon. Members. If he has a particular concern and there is a particular issue, I am sure that I can take it up for him.
Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde) (Con): From across the world, with remarkable clarity, the Prime Minister has re-emphasised the importance he attaches to climate change and especially to beginning work on efforts Kyoto post-2012. However, such was the importance that he attached to that that the Government's report on climate change came out under the cover of a written parliamentary answer.
Will the Leader of the House consider having a debate in Government time so that the House may express its own views on this important issue and have an opportunity to comment on the Government's review of climate change and to help inform the work of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, which is holding an inquiry into climate change after 2012?
Mr. Hoon: My right hon. Friend's comments demonstrate the fact that this Government and this country have one of the best records in tackling greenhouse gas emissions. The new climate change programme built on the United Kingdom's position as one of the world's leaders in promoting global action on climate change. That is precisely what my right hon. Friend has done. I suspect that the right hon. Gentleman's observations would be better received on the Labour Benches if he gave credit to the significant leadership that my right hon. Friend has shown in the world. I realise that the Conservative party is beginning the long journey towards taking those issues seriously, although the Conservatives' approach to the climate change levy means that there is still some doubt about their consistency.
"Cameron would not have got involved in the environment agenda if there was not a demand for it. I am taking advantage of a political party in disarray, desperately trying to find a new identity and my goal is to help that identity form around some of the ideas that are essential to The Ecologist."
Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab):
May we have an early debate on a shocking report published yesterday in Leicester, which shows that inactivity among children could result in type 2 diabetes in later life? The survey, based on a review of five schools in my constituency, shows that two thirds of children do not walk to school
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and half of them spend at least four hours a day watching television or playing computer games. As my right hon. Friend is committed to fitness and activity, despite being a supporter of Derby County, could he arrange for an early debate? Those findings have serious implications for our children in future years.
Mr. Hoon: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising such an important issue for society. I recognise that it is vitally important that young people and schoolchildren should exercise and participate in school and other sport, and should take full advantage of the opportunities that the Government make available to them. There are a number of projects and programmes in Leicester to encourage healthy eating and exercise, although I am not sure whether they are in my hon. Friend's constituency, and I am sure that they will be taken upperhaps following the example of the team that he supports, which I wish some success next season, but not as much as Derby County.
Dr. John Pugh (Southport) (LD): Given that the new dental contract kicks in on 1 April and that there is massive anxiety about it in every constituency, would not it be appropriate to have a statement or a debate about it soon after the Easter recess?
Mr. Hoon: The new dental contract, which is available to all dentists, is a good one; it is fair and offers NHS dentists average remuneration of about £80,000, after their expenses have been taken into account. That income is guaranteed for about three years. There are more NHS dentists than ever, so it is right that dentists accept the contract and the indications are that they will do so. I realise that there is continuing debate about the need to go on improving the quality and range of NHS dentistry, to which the Government are committed.
Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): In my constituency, dentistry has been privatised by the Government, yet on Tuesday I received a phone call from Dr. Edmund Chan, a senior dentist in Rushden in my constituency, who had found a fully qualified Polish dentist who wanted to work in his practice under the NHS, but the local PCT will not fund it. May we have an urgent debate on the health service?
Mr. Hoon: We have had a number of debates recently on health service matters. On the hon. Gentleman's point about privatisation, most NHS dentists are actually private businesses, working under a contract with the NHS. They have been offered a contract that is generous and fair and will give them significant opportunities not only to practise their profession but also to make a decent living from dentistry. Of course, if dentists choose not to take up that offerin our society, they are free to choose not to do sothe local NHS can use that funding to buy in other dental services. That is how our system works and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would agree that it should be so.
Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con):
May we have a debate in Government time about patients whose operations are cancelled by the NHS? I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to the case of Mr. Geoffrey Wright, who lives in Rothwell in my
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constituency and, at 72 years of age, has just had his heart bypass operation cancelled for the fifth time. He is extremely unhappy about the situation.
Mr. Hoon: I perfectly understand why the hon. Gentleman raises a particular case and I shall ensure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health responds to him about it in detail. However, I am sure that he understands that operations are cancelled for a variety of reasons and that he is in no way suggesting that that case is typical of the national health service as a whole.
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con): Does the Leader of the House agree that one group who will not be enjoying Easter are the families of people murdered by criminals released after serving only half their sentence under the Government's early release scheme? Is he aware of the reports last weekend that people sentenced to life imprisonment are in fact being released after serving only a fraction of their sentence, and will he review his policy of brushing aside repeated requests for a debate on honesty in sentencing, which should not be left to half-hour Adjournment debates such as that secured yesterday by my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (David T.C. Davies)?
Mr. Hoon: This is not the first time that the hon. Gentleman has raised the question of early release; in the past, he has also complained about probation arrangements. The issue is straightforward. Everyone sympathises with anyone who has been the victim of a serious crime, such as he describes, because a criminal was released early, but those measures have been in place for a long time and, as he is aware, they are a necessary part of managing our prison population. They were examined under the last Government, so when the hon. Gentleman refers to this Government's early release scheme he knows full well that it was also his Government's early release scheme. Such arrangements have been a constant feature of penal policy for a long time, and having looked at them the last Conservative Government came to the conclusion that any change along the lines advocated by the hon. Gentleman would be damaging to the maintenance of good order in our prisons.
Mrs. Nadine Dorries (Mid-Bedfordshire) (Con): Will the Leader of the House consider allocating part of the debate on the NHS to the role of nurses in the NHS? I am sure that he is aware that this week nurses were awarded a 2.5 per cent. pay rise, yet according to the Royal College of Nursing, taking inflation into account that is a pay cuta view that I support. Nurses are being asked to take on greater responsibility, served with redundancy notices and given a pay cut, so does not that professional body of hard-working people deserve to have their voice heard in this place?
I could have agreed with almost everything that the hon. Lady said, apart from the slightly strange suggestion that there is a pay cut. Not only are nurses being awardedrightly, for their service to the NHSan above-inflation pay increase, they also benefit from a range of incremental improvements in their pay every year. The real-terms increase for nurses will be quite a bit above the headline pay increase to which she refers. So the first point is that there will not be a cut.
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The second point is that the Government value enormously the work of nurses. That is why we have employed more than 78,000, in addition to those who were in employment, serving the health service, in 1997. Perhaps next time the hon. Lady will look at the figures a little more fairly, but I hope that she will accept that we enormously value the work of nurses and will continue to do so.
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