Previous SectionIndexHome Page

John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): And valuable.

Mr. Hoon: Thank you. The hon. Gentleman is, indeed, voluble and valuable. I believe that we shall continue debating the matter in the proper way through the Modernisation Committee.

Mr. Jim McGovern (Dundee, West) (Lab): I am sure that the Leader of the House appreciates and recognises the value of the service that local radio stations throughout the United Kingdom provide. The recent BBC White Paper has been met with some anxiety by many of those radio stations and I know that hon. Members would like to raise those concerns in a wider debate. Are there any plans for a debate on the BBC White Paper? If so, when?

Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend is right to praise the work of local radio stations. I am an assiduous listener to Radio Derby on the Saturday afternoons when Derby County play away from home. It is interesting to note
 
4 May 2006 : Column 1112
 
that the peak listening time for all local radio stations is when the local football team is away. However, they are a valuable source of information throughout the day and week. They are popular, especially with the elderly, and it is important that their continued success is recognised when we debate and discuss the BBC's work, as I am sure we shall do in the context of the White Paper.

Mr. John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings) (Con): Farmers in my constituency face disaster. Those who are tenants cannot pay their rent, many have crippling debts and others cannot pay their suppliers. That is all due to the Government's delay in making the single farm payments. Will the Leader of the House arrange an urgent statement so that Ministers can refute recent reports from Brussels that they are attempting to get permission to delay the payment still further?

Farmers deserve fairness. The House deserves answers. Britain deserves better than Labour.

Mr. Hoon: I recognise the concern that the hon. Gentleman has properly raised about single farm payments. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is tackling the issue urgently. I recently spoke to some farmers and I understand the anger and concern that is being caused. All I can do is assure the hon. Gentleman that determined efforts are being made to ensure that the payments are made in whole or in part by June. We need to continue to work through the system. The hon. Gentleman is right to raise the matter, and the Government are responding as quickly as they can.

John Robertson (Glasgow, North-West) (Lab): My right hon. Friend will know that the five major banks in this country have reported more than £32 billion of profits in recent weeks, yet the complaints against them about overcharging and placing ATMs in areas where there are people on benefit and the elderly and in rural areas are increasing. Will he find time for a debate on whether we should introduce a regulator who can keep those banks in check and ensure that the people who can least afford it are not charged unduly?

Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend is right to raise ATMs, especially in rural areas. It is a problem in several small villages in my constituency and I recognise that people are worried about the costs that they face, especially for accessing their own money. The Government continue to raise the matter with the clearing banks—it is something that we need to get right.

Mr. Bernard Jenkin (North Essex) (Con): At column 961 of Hansard yesterday, the Prime Minister made the astonishing claim about foreign prisoner releases that he is

I am sure that I do not need to point out to the Leader of the House that the Human Rights Act 1998 bears on that. Given that the Home Secretary's assurances about that measure during the passage of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 have not been effected and the PTA is being challenged in the courts under the Human
 
4 May 2006 : Column 1113
 
Rights Act, may we have a debate on the latter's operation? All hon. Members believe in human rights but many of us also believe that the House should determine those rights in relation to the national interest and not have them decided by an external jurisdiction that may not have the national interest at heart.

Hon. Members: Hear, hear.

Mr. Hoon: I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman puts the case in that way and even sorrier that he appears to get so much support from Conservative Members. He should know—I am sure that he does—that this country has been bound by the European convention on human rights since the early 1950s.

Mr. Jenkin: Rubbish.

Mr. Hoon: I am afraid it is true. A Conservative Government, led by one of the greatest Englishmen who ever lived—Sir Winston Churchill—signed up to the European convention because, at the end of the second world war, the need to safeguard human rights and liberties was recognised absolutely. This country led the way—we drafted large parts of the European convention. To blame matters, for party political reasons—the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, but that is the case—on the Human Rights Act, which simply incorporates our existing international obligations into domestic law, is misleading. It is party political point scoring, which is wrong and unfair.

The hon. Gentleman needs to recognise—doubtless he will have some spare time over the weekend—that the key case was decided in 1996 by the European Court of Human Rights. A Conservative Government were in power at that time. The Government have joined in the challenge to that decision because we believe that the judgment should be changed. However, to suggest that the problem began with passing the Human Rights Act is plain wrong—and he knows it.

Mr. Andrew Tyrie (Chichester) (Con): The Leader of the House may not know that a hospital in my constituency has announced 200 job losses. He almost certainly does not know that it was identified only last year as one of the three best hospitals in the country, with efficient care at below average cost and high output measures, yet, far from being asked to expand, as it should, it is being asked to shrink. Will the right hon. Gentleman arrange an early debate in Government time about how that absurdity could arise and the key elements of Government policy that led to it, especially the capitation formula, which is dragging huge amounts of money to parts of the north of the country, where almost all strategic health authorities are in surplus, to the cost of strategic health authorities in the south of England, almost all of which are in deficit?

Mr. Hoon rose—

Mr. Speaker: Order. I want to take every hon. Member who is seeking to ask a question, but I can do so only if they are brief: so far they have not been brief.

Mr. Hoon: I am sure that it is right to take everyone who wants to ask a question and I shall do my best to answer their questions as briefly and succinctly as possible.
 
4 May 2006 : Column 1114
 

I am sure that, should the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Tyrie) catch your eye in the relevant debate next week, Mr. Speaker, he will have an opportunity of asking all those questions. However, he needs to face up to the fact that the Government have introduced a fair formula for capitation. We have changed a previous arrangement whereby disproportionate amounts of money were devoted to specific parts of the country. As someone who represents a constituency in the midlands—plenty of Members who are present represent the midlands and the north of England—I know that those areas were historically not properly and fairly funded in the way in which we are now trying to achieve. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity of debating the matter with Labour Members next week, but fairness is an important part of the way in which we fund the health service.

Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire) (Con): Last week, in a record 27 days, the European Medicines Agency committee recommended the use of Herceptin for early-stage breast cancer. That confirms the practical recommendations of oncologists, who will immediately administer the drug to patients with addresses in Cheshire, Staffordshire or Wales, when their primary care trusts will fund it. However, patients with a Shropshire address have to raise £47,000 or, in a bizarre new development, consider moving to Wales to get the drug.

Thanks to the promptings of the Leader of the House, the Minister of State has now replied to my three unanswered letters to the Secretary of State for Health on this issue, and confirmed that PCTs should not refuse to fund Herceptin solely on the ground of its cost. When will the Secretary of State come to the House to explain why her writ does not run in Shropshire?


Next Section IndexHome Page