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Mr. Hoon: Let me say how much I regret that the hon. Gentleman has chosen to raise this issue in that way. Welsh questions took place yesterday. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was present on that occasion. The hon. Gentleman could easily have raised the issue yesterday in the presence of my right hon. Friend. It is regrettable that he has chosen to raise it today when my right hon. Friend is not in the Chamber and able to answer. There has been some correspondence on this issue, which I have seen. My right hon. Friend has made it plain in that correspondence that he does not—absolutely, categorically does not—accept this allegation. He is not
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responsible. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw the allegation, because it is totally and utterly unfair for him to raise it in this way.

Mr. Speaker: Order. I would say to the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) that I would have hoped that today he would have notified the Secretary of State, or any other hon. Member against whom he was going to make an accusation, to give that person an opportunity to be in the Chamber. Did he do so?

Mr. Llwyd: At 5 minutes to 11, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker: Perhaps in future more warning should be given. I would expect that. Hon. Members are entitled to at least have the opportunity to rebut any case that is put against them, and due notice should be given.

Gordon Banks (Ochil and South Perthshire) (Lab): My right hon. Friend may not be aware of a situation in my constituency, where in Crieff, in south Perthshire, as many as 40 residents are facing eviction from a caravan park because of a legal argument between the council and the developer regarding the wording of the licence and planning approval. While I understand the role of the Scottish Parliament and Executive in this matter, will my right hon. Friend find time to have a debate on this subject so that we can try to determine the depth of the problem in the UK as a whole? Does he agree that the innocent victims, namely the residents, should not be the people who are victimised in such situations?

Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend is right in saying that I was not aware of that particular situation, but I anticipate that he has achieved his purpose by raising it. He is right to do so. Such questions of planning, housing and, indeed, caravan parks, cause difficulty across the country.

Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell) (Con): As the Leader of the House has just announced that the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill will come back to the House the week after next, would he care to comment on the Government amendments that have been tabled today, which have completely emasculated that very bad Bill? Will he, as Leader of the House, who is responsible for looking after Back-Bench interests, ensure that in future that such a Bill, which harms parliamentary democracy and does not give us a chance properly to debate and vote on issues, never sees the light of day again?

Mr. Hoon: I have set out two days for the House further to debate that Bill. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman has chosen to put his criticism in that way. I should have thought that this indicates the way in which the Government respond to criticisms and table appropriate amendments. I am sure that I could discuss the matter at great length today. It is a fascinating Bill, and one that I am sure that all hon. Members will enjoy reading again in its amended form, but I will postpone that treat for a week or so.

Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North) (Lab): May I, too, call for a debate on pensions, especially occupational
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pensions? Now that the Government have rejected the recommendations of the ombudsman, my constituents who worked for Allied Steel and Wire and lost their pensions are pinning all their hopes on a hearing in the European Court on 1 June. Of the 2,000 affected in Cardiff, only 17 have been able to gain any assistance from the financial assistance scheme. Can we have a debate on that subject so that we can bring home to the Government the limitations of that scheme?

Mr. Hoon: I indicated earlier the importance of a debate on pensions, and I will certainly find out whether one can be arranged in an early manner. I am sure that my hon. Friend will have the opportunity to raise the position of her constituents at that time. I hope that she would give the Government credit for having, for the first time, introduced the financial assistance scheme. We recognise the vital importance that individuals place on their pension provision. When they are, through no fault of their own, deprived of that pension, the Government have taken action to provide some degree of security. That clearly needs to be discussed in the context of the wider issues about pensions, and the Government are keen to take forward that debate.

Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire) (Con): While the House welcomes the regular statements from the Home Secretary about the well publicised failings in his Department, is not there a strong case for a calm, full-day debate in Government time on how the systemic failings in the Home Office arose and on the steps being taken to put them right and, it is to be hoped, to prevent any recurrence? Will the Leader of the House find time for such a debate?

Mr. Hoon: I welcome the suggestion that Conservative Front Benchers, in particular, would benefit from a degree of calmness as they approach this issue. They should debate the subject rather than the prospects for the continued employment of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. Calmness is important, as this is a serious, sensitive issue. I recognise the importance to the country of ensuring the safety and security of our citizens. The Home Secretary has lately demonstrated his determination to come before Parliament regularly to explain the steps that are being taken to sort out the situation, and I anticipate that he will continue to do so.

David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): A day or two ago, our Government entered their 10th year in government. The transformation of resources available to the public sector and the quality of services delivered has been very considerable. However, one area where we have, sadly, maintained the record of the previous Government is in the acquisition, design, build, implementation and running of major computer systems such as connecting for health, which had an original cost estimate of £2.3 billion. However, different estimates that have recently been made in The Sunday Times and elsewhere—twenty-three academics wrote to the Select Committee on Health—suggest a cost of £15 billion or more. As that overshoot of £12.5 billion would fund the deficits in NHS trusts for the next two decades, is it not about time that we had a debate on better ways of acquiring major new computer systems, in the way that is suggested by early-day motion 2056, of which I am a co-sponsor?
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[That this House notes with concern the contents of a letter to the Commons Health Select Committee signed by 23 senior academics in computer-related science which criticises the NHS Connecting for Health computer system, and reports in The Sunday Times of 16th April that the system, which was projected to cost £2.3 billion, could cost between £15 billion and £30 billion; further notes that NHS trusts are facing an estimated deficit of £600 million to £1 billion; and calls upon the Secretary of State to set up an independent review of the project and to ensure that any savings identified are directed to cash-strapped NHS trusts.]

Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend raises a serious and proper concern about large-scale computer systems. I assure him that lessons have been learned. Too often in the past, single systems were introduced on a large scale and did not produce the anticipated results. There have been several initiatives to try to introduce systems on a smaller scale to allow them to develop incrementally and deal with the problems over time. That means that we do not always experience immediate improvements and it is clear that the sort of changes that people face in society require computer systems that are sensitive and can be adjusted to deal with them. That is a continuing challenge for the Government.

Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): The Leader of the House knows that hon. Members from all parties would like the House to take more control over how it spends its time. Will he therefore allow a debate on setting up a business committee in the House? Such a committee operates in the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly, the Northern Ireland Assembly, when it is operating, and in many legislatures throughout the world. Will he seriously consider that so that the way in which the House operates is more transparent and more sympathetic to its Members?

Mr. Hoon: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for repeating the speech that he gives regularly before the Modernisation Committee. I am growing to appreciate, love and even understand that speech. He is voluble member of that Committee—

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