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Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell) (Con): During the Home Secretary's all-too-brief statement yesterday, he promised to keep the House informed, by the end of this week, about developments on where those foreign murderers, rapists and paedophiles have gone. Since then, it has come to light that there are far more foreign prisoners in our jails than was previously realised. Will the Leader of the House guarantee that the Home Secretary, or probably his successor, will come to the Dispatch Box on Tuesday, when the House returns, and make a further statement?
Mr. Hoon: That is what my right hon. Friend said, and it is important that he should see it through. I am sure that Opposition Members who have a genuine interest in the facts of the case recognise that it is important that a Minister who comes to the Dispatch Box should have all the facts in order to inform the House. That is my right hon. Friend's position, which is right and which he has made clear to this House.
Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab):
As the Leader of the House will know, the Home Secretary has announced that there will be a cap on compensation for miscarriages of justice. He will also know that I have
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introduced a Bill to amend section 133(4) of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 to give persons who have suffered a miscarriage of justice the opportunity to appeal against the decision of the assessor. Does he agree that as we are to have a cap, it is important that there should be that right of appeal once an assessment is made? May we have a debate on that important matter?
Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend raises an important issue. Let me emphasise that a process of judicial review is already available to those who are dissatisfied with the level of compensation. I anticipate that that is an appropriate way of dealing with any challenge to the level of compensation, and I would urge him to consider it as an appropriate way forward.
Martin Salter (Reading, West) (Lab): Will the Leader of the House find time to debate attempts by Liberal Democrat councillors in Wokingham to exclude children from Reading from schools in their district, despite the fact that Bulmershe, Maiden Erlegh and Ryeish Green schools have catchment areas that are well across the borough boundaries? Does he agree that Lib Dem councillors who are saying, "Wokingham schools for Wokingham children", are in clear breach of the Greenwich judgment, which has served us well for many years?
Mr. Hoon: I am certainly familiar with the Greenwich judgment, and it is important that it is followed by councillors all over the country. I cannot guarantee my hon. Friend a debate sooner than a week today, which I anticipate was in his mind. Nevertheless, it is important that all councils should respect the important decisions of the law in this regard.
John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): May we please have a debate on the Floor of the House, in Government time, on the egregious abuse of human rights in Burma? In a week when Charm Tong, a courageous 24-year-old who is the founder of the Shan women's action network, is in the United Kingdom to highlight the use of rape as a weapon of war in her country, is it not time that we had the first ever statement or debate on the Floor of the House about the action that the Government will take in international forums to force the Government of Burma to stop killing, maiming and torturing its citizens and to start respecting and honouring them?
Mr. Hoon: We had Foreign Office questions only this week, and I am sure that had the hon. Gentleman been able to raise that issue he would have done so with equal clarity. I cannot promise him an early debate, but I can say that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary keeps the very disturbing situation in Burma under constant review. It is an important subject for the Foreign Office, and the British Government use their influence to try to improve what is, as I say, a very disturbing situation.
Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con):
May I put it to the Leader of the House that we really should have a debate on ministerial responsibility? He will know that in the past six weeks there have been dramatic examples of culpable
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ministerial negligence. There is the failure of the Rural Payments Agency, for which Lord Bach and the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs are personally responsible; and then there are the mistakes and errors of the Home Secretary. All three say that they take responsibility, but there is no accountability unless there is resignation. This House demands the resignation of those three Ministers.
Mr. Hoon: I am puzzled by the right hon. and learned Gentleman's view of proper process. He appears to assume that Ministers are guilty before charge, never mind after charge having followed a process. In the light of his comments, I cannot quite see the purpose of a debate.
Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): Will the Leader of the House arrange for an urgent debate on the Floor of the House on the future of the Post Office card? He will be aware of early-day motion 1531, which has 314 signatures from Members across Parliament.
[That this House is gravely concerned by the Department of Work and Pensions' (DWP) decision to withdraw support for the Post Office Card Account when the existing contract expires in 2010 and in particular by the Department's attempt to kill off the Account in advance of 2010, through pilot schemes being introduced immediately when it will deny to new benefit claimants the option of opening a Post Office Card Account, inform 35,000 existing customers that they will have to use a bank or building society instead of the Post Office Card Account and require them to provide their account details, and pay benefits of 2,500 existing customers into a bank account rather than the Post Office Card Account, ignoring the preferences they made when their benefit books were stopped; condemns the fact in that, breach of all plans, these pilot schemes are being introduced without consultation; and calls on the Government to halt these pilot schemes immediately and to institute an immediate review of the DWP's proposal to abolish the Post Office Card Account by 2010.]
This is an important issue at the grass roots of this country, and people are very concerned. Will he speak to the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department for Work and Pensions, which are dealing with it? There is no joined-up thinking, and it is important that we should have a debate here as soon as possible.
My hon. Friend is not the first Member to raise that issue at business questions. Let me repeat what I have said beforeit has always been the Government's ambition to ensure that the Post Office card continues for as long as necessary to allow those who use it, and do so successfully, to be able to transfer from that scheme to an arrangement whereby they can continue to receive benefits through the Post Office service. That means that the post office network is in no way threatened by the change, but ensures that people get a better standard of service, as well as returns on their savings such as interest that can be paid through other accounts. The Government entirely share my hon. Friend's concern about the future of the post office network, which is important to us and to its many users
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around the country. However, I urge her to look carefully at the way in which we propose to deal with the card and the alternatives available for people thereafter.
David Howarth (Cambridge) (LD): Perhaps I should first put on the record that I never lectured in constitutional law, but I did lecture in employment law, which might be more relevant to the fate of the Ministers concerned. [Laughter.]
May we have a debate on nuclear waste? The Committee on Radioactive Waste Management is reporting today, but its remit covered only waste from existing nuclear power stations, not waste from future-build nuclear power stations, which according to the Environmental Audit Committee will produce 400 per cent. more high-level waste than previous nuclear power stations. The Committee is anxious that its report is not misrepresented as solving the nuclear waste problem for the future. I am sure that a debate would help to clarify that.
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