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Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): The Leader of the House will be aware that Sunday is St. George's day. Will there be an opportunity next week to have a debate on English pride and to take on the English prejudices that sometimes arise? Will there also be an opportunity for the Arts Council of England to explain its cultural cleansing of English folk dance and song, which has happened at the same time as it has found £5.5 million to invest in a gallery to promote contemporary Latin American art?
Mr. Hoon: I just about saw the connection between the hon. Gentleman's premise and his conclusion. He is absolutely right that those of us who are proud to be Englishas well as being proud to be British and, indeed, Europeanshould celebrate our national day: St. George's day. I am less confident about my knowledge of English folk music and folk dance, but I am sure that he is right in what he says.
Mrs. Nadine Dorries (Mid-Bedfordshire) (Con): I am not sure whether you are aware of this, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but today the Government have announced that they are to introduce dignity nurses in hospitals. Apparently, that is to prevent nurses from shouting at patients, failing to ensure that they are properly fed or clothed and allowing them to soil themselves. Are the Government making a statement on the standard of nursing in hospitals today by calling for that, and can we have a long-awaited debate on the NHS to decide whether that scheme is appropriate?
Mr. Hoon: I was not sure from the hon. Lady's remarks whether she was criticising the initiative. I hope that she was not because it seems right and proper that, in each hospital, an individual should be responsible for ensuring that proper standards are maintained. I am sure that, in most hospitals, in any event, the highest standards are maintained in relation to the treatment of the elderly, but I cannot see how there can be any possible objection to making sure that someone has responsibility in each hospital for ensuring the dignity of those who are being treated. I hope that she will join me in recognising that this cannot be, in any way, an initiative that should be criticised.
Ian Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend consider an urgent debate on broadcasters' access to digital television channels? There is increasing concern that more and more digital television channels are being used for gambling. There have been press reports concerning the onset of ITV Play. It is very important that digital television is used for community benefit and that there is local digital television. Will the Government please consider that very closely?
The digital television revolution certainly provides a tremendous opportunity for a range of servicesnational, international and, certainly, localto be made available. We are witnessing a revolution in the way in which people will consume television services. I agree with my hon. Friend entirely that it is important
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that those services should be rich and diverse and should not narrowly concentrate on one particular aspect of activity. In case he is not aware of this, I should tell him that there are questions on Monday to the Secretary of State responsible for this issue and I am sure that he can raise the matter with her then.
Mr. William Cash (Stone) (Con): I ask the Leader of the House to recall that it is now four months since the end of the United Kingdom presidency of the European Union. Did he note that, a couple of days ago, the European Budget Commissioner stated that the figures that were given by the Prime Minister with regard to the budget deal were not accurate? The final spending for 2007 to 2013 will exceed £600 billion, which is £24 billion above the budget that the Prime Minister announced. That means that the taxpayers of this country will have to find an extra £2 billion. When will a Bill be brought in to implement the changes under the European finance arrangements, which have been so misleadingly presented to the House?
Mr. Hoon: I simply do not recognise the figures on which the hon. Gentleman is relying. By coincidence, earlier this week I attended a meeting that was organised under the auspices of the Austrian EU presidency. The Austrian Chancellor was at pains to congratulate the British Government on their stewardship of the EU during that period and, in particular, to emphasise the excellence of the budget deal for all countries. He wanted to impress on me how pleased he was at the way in which the British had conducted themselves during that time.
Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab): I wonder whether my right hon. Friend will provide time for a debate on the proposed closure of respite care centres in Lancashire. That is of critical importance not just to parents, but to all members of the families, because things will fall back on the families if the care centres close. It would be absurd if the closures were to go ahead. May we have that debate?
Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend is right to raise an important issue for those who are responsible for caring. Respite care centres provide a valuable service to the community and individuals. They allow relatives, in particular, to have a break from the onerous responsibilities of caring. He has raised the issue and I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will respond appropriately in due course.
Mr. John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings) (Con):
I wonder whether the Leader of the House will give the House the opportunity to consider the way in which the Government have broken their word on education. The whole House will remember that, in 1997, the Prime Minister made great play of saying that he was going to cut primary class sizes. Then and since, he has promised to tackle school truancy. I have received parliamentary answers recently showing that, in the past three years, the number of children in classes of over 30 in primary schools has doubled and school
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truancy has risen by 200,000. Have the Government changed their mind about those priorities or have they simply broken their promises?
Mr. Hoon: I know that the hon. Gentleman may not have read the Labour party's manifesto in 1997 with quite as much care as he should have done, but if he checks that manifesto, he will see that the commitment was not in relation to primary education generally; it was in relation to early years, and that promise was categorically carried out. In case he failed to notice this, I should just mention that the electorate voted for the Labour Government again in 2001 and in 2005. Rather than suggesting that somehow promises from 1997 were broken, the electorate have made a judgment about the record of success in education. Labour Members will take no lessons at all from Conservatives in relation to health or education. This country has seen a revolution in the provision of health and education since 1997a revolution that is benefiting the great majority of our children and young people in education, and will go on doing so.
Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): May I strongly support the call made earlier by the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) for a debate on the liquidation of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International? The Leader of the House will know that that liquidation has gone on for the past 15 years and millions of pounds of creditors' money has been spent on accountants and lawyers. He will have noted the judgment of Mr. Justice Tomlinson. The state of affairs is thoroughly unsatisfactory and the Insolvency Service has done absolutely nothing to bring that liquidation to a conclusion. Please may we have an urgent debate on that very important issue?
Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend has consistently pursued the matter over a long period of time. I am not going to trade details with him because I anticipate that he has probably forgotten more about the case than I will ever learn. He is right to raise this important matter. I am sure that the House can discuss and debate it, and if he applies for an Adjournment debate on it, I am absolutely confident that it will be seriously considered.
Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk) (Con): Does the Leader of the House recall an exchange that we had on 8 December? I asked him about the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act 1925, and he basically told me not to be a silly boy and not to waste his time. He went on to say that he did not know whether the Act was still in force, but assured me that all
I recall the exchange that we had on 8 December, but certainly do not recall using the expression that the hon. Gentleman described, even if it was appropriate. I repeat the position: the Government are at all times bound by relevant legislation, as, similarly, are Government officials. I am not going to
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comment on the specific case, but the hon. Gentleman stretches the definition of Government official a little far by including in it the particular person in the case.
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