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I shall follow up the right hon. Ladys request that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health make a statement on advice to PCTs about Herceptin.[ Official Report, 11 May 2006; Vol. 446, c. 508.]
No such statement has been made. Given that many womens lives depend on it, will the Leader of the House confirm that the Health Secretary will make an urgent statement to the House after recess on the use of Herceptin?
You told us ... Id like to see extended opening hours at GP surgeries, including weekends ... Heres what were doing ... In future, many GP surgeries will stay open longer and open on Saturdays.
I have news for the Government. GP surgeries used to open on Saturdays, until the Governments changes to the GP contract led to their being closed. All the Government are doing is desperately trying to get back to the service that people had before this Government interfered.
You told us ... Id like to see hospitals back in the community, run for the community ... Heres what were doing ... By bringing health into the local community and linking it more closely with social care, we will make it easier for people to get the help they need.
However, how are the Government going to do that when about 80 community hospitals, such as Townlands in Henley and the elderly mental illness unit at St. Marks in my constituency, are still threatened with closure? How will health be brought back into the local community if there are fewer community nurses? Is this not another example of a Government in paralysis? May we thus have a debate in Government time on the White Paper on community health services?
peripheral minor issue not worthy of serious consideration.
Many people have been shocked by news of the sale of a signed copy of the Hutton report to raise money for the Labour party, and more shocked that one of the MPs who organised the event was a Government Minister: the Minister for Pensions Reform. May we have a debate, led by the Prime Minister, on standards in public life, in which he can say whether or not he condones the sale of copies of the Hutton report for party profit?
On Tuesday, it was revealed that one criminal has escaped from Leyhill open prison every single week for the past three years. Yesterday, the Home Secretary admitted that figures on foreign prisoners that he had given to the Home Affairs Committee the previous day were wrong. Today, we learn that a suspended chief immigration officer facing investigation into claims that he offered a visa for sex was himself an illegal immigrant.
IT, leadership, management systems and processes.
But, of course, we have heard that before. Whenthe right hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside(Mr. Blunkett) took over as Home Secretary, he told us that his predecessor, who is now the Leader of the House, had left the Home Office in a mess. He said:
Nothing had prepared us for it. It was worse that any of us had imagined possible. God alone knows what Jack did for four years.
The right hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside also said that he respected my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard)
for what he did in the Home Office, and on Tuesday the current Home Secretary also spoke in respectful terms of my right hon. and learned Friend. With the Government in paralysis, it is good to see that the only thing on which Ministers can agree is that the only good Home Secretary is a Conservative Home Secretary.
Mr. Straw: The right hon. Lady asks for a debate on the definition of brownfield sites. We are responding to the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark) on that subject. If her party is committing itself to not building on any spare land in peoples back gardens, she had better say so. The pressure for housing, particularly in many areas represented by Conservative MPs, means that such land, as well as other brownfield land, will have to be used; otherwise, she and her colleagues will face far worse social problems from a shortage of housing than exist at the moment.
I note what the right hon. Lady says on Herceptin. Since I made that statement, I think she will accept that things have moved on in a better way. She will be aware that Roche announced yesterday that the drug has been granted a licence for use in early breast cancer. As a result, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has been asked to carry out a fast-track appraisal of Herceptin for early breast cancer. It expects to publish guidance to the NHS in early July.
On GP surgeries and community nurses, I am delighted to debate our record on the health service compared with the right hon. Ladys Governments record on it. Since we came to office, one of the many records of which I am proud is the increase of 33,000 in the number of doctors, including general practitioners, the increase of 85,000 in the number of nurses, and the 132 new hospitals that have been opened. As a result of what she describes as interference, which I would describe as activity, compared with the inactivity over years and years of a Conservative Government, health care for every client and patient group has improved over the past nine years.
In respect of standards in public life and the signing of the Hutton report, my hon. Friends have apologisedthat is in the newspapers todayfor something that was obviously inappropriate. I hope that the right hon. Lady will let the matter lie there. I would be delighted to debate standards in public life, because the Conservatives did nothing in their 18 years in government to implement any changes in the regulations relating to standards of conduct in public life. It fell to us. Indeed, much of the responsibility fell to me, as Home Secretary between 1997 and 2001, to implement those changes, and I am very glad that we did.
As for the wider issues, we have had nine years of a very fine record on crime, law and order, and asylum and immigration. We have alwaysI include myself in thisbeen generous to a fault about the former Conservative Home Secretary, the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard). I always felt it important to have him right in front of the cameras, because the more publicity he received, the more support we received for our proposals in 1997 on law and order, which we put before the public. We proposed to cut crime, in place of
the rising crime over the previous 18 years, to cut the time it took to process asylum seekers, given that that had risen to 22 months, and to turn around the cut in police numbers, which had dropped under the right hon. and learned Gentleman. That is what we did. Since 1997, there has been a 35 per cent. drop in crime, and the time that it takes to process asylum applications has dropped from 22 months to two months. The number of removals has doubled. In place of the cut of 1,200 planned by the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe in asylum and immigration staff, their numbers have increased by 5,000, and there are 14,000 extra police officers on the streeta record of which to be proud.
Mr. Jim Devine (Livingston) (Lab): May we have a debate on football in the run-up to the World cup, particularly on the need to strengthen the role of fans? Like many football fans, I am appalled that players earn in a week what a nurse would earn on average in five years. In some clubs, season ticket prices have gone up by 47 per cent., which is quite unacceptable. Is it not time to introduce a fans charter and legislation to establish a supporters trust and a fan on every board in Britain?
Mr. Straw: As an ardent football fan and season ticket holder, I accept my hon. Friends concerns about the high rewards for football players and the pressure that some clubs at the top of the leagues have put on the finances of a wide range of clubs. The issue is being examined by a European committee on which my right hon. Friend the Minister for Sport serves, and I hope that its proposals will be taken seriously. Issues such as a cap on salaries are difficult, but they are not necessarily impossible. We ought to be concerned about the health of the game overall as well as the financial health of one or two clubs.
Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): Home Office statistics are rather like Hollywood marriagesthey are best timed for the early morning so that when they go wrong it does not ruin the entire day. However, may I ask the Leader of the House about the Home Offices other inadequacies? Yesterday, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell) asked why a key recommendation of the Cullen inquiry after the Dunblane shootings 10 years ago has still not been implemented. Can we have a debate on the fact that the key recommendations of the Bichard inquiry after the Soham murders in 2002 have not yet been implemented? Is not the Home Office failing in its key responsibility to protect the public, and would it not be better if, instead of reorganising the police, it reorganised itself?
Can we have a debate soon on the collateral damage caused by the NHS funding crisis? Many of us are worried that there will be a knock-on effect on drugs rehabilitation funding, which plays a key role not only in helping vulnerable people but in protecting the public?
I support the view that the hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark) has introduced an important private Members Bill. I do not kid myself that his Bill, which is 12th in the list for Second
Reading on 14 July, will make a great deal of progress, but many of us are concerned that gardens are considered brownfield sites for planning purposes, thus distorting development in many towns, villages and cities. That ought to be dealt with as a matter of urgency.
Finally, we learn that the tax credit overpayment figures aresurprise, surpriseto be issued in the recess. I cannot imagine why that should be the case, but will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement to be made on the first day after the recess so that hon. Members have the opportunity to ask questions?
Mr. Straw: The recommendation of a national firearms register was one of the Cullen inquirys recommendations. However, the hon. Gentleman may have forgotten that the principal recommendation was far more effective control of firearms overall. I implemented that recommendation as Home Secretary in the first months after we came to office in 1997, and it was one of the few anti-crime measures ever supported by the Liberal Democrats. I shall write to him about the Bichard report.
The hon. Gentleman talked about an NHS funding crisis. Some trusts face financial pressures, but they do so from a very high base indeed. Spending has doubled in real terms; there has been an increase of 85,000 in the number of nurses, and of 33,000 in the number of doctors; and there are 132 new hospitals across the country. The issue for the hon. Gentleman is whether any Liberal Democrat economic and social policy could possibly have achieved that improvement and turnaround in the economy and in health care.
In respect of tax credits, I will take account of what the hon. Gentleman says, look at the statements that are likely to be made, and see whether it is possible for Ministers to be questioned on the matter when we get back.
Emily Thornberry (Islington, South and Finsbury) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on the arrest this morning by the Israelis of Kate Maynard, a solicitor at the firm of Hickman and Rose, which is based in my constituency? She was due to speak at a conference organised by Avocats sans Frontières and do other legal work, and she has been questioned about her work with Palestinians and about her work obtaining an arrest warrant for the alleged criminal General Doron Almog, which I know my right hon. Friend knows a little about. Can we have a debate on this very important subject, as the arrest would seem on the face of it to be a vindictive act?
Mr. David Jones (Clwyd, West) (Con): Will the Leader of the House make time available shortly after the recess for an urgent debate on a matter of concern not only to my constituents, but to the entire UK road transport industrythat is, the imminent and
indefinite closure of the main London to Holyhead A5 trunk road between Ty-nant and Dinmael in my constituency? It was announced on Friday last week by the Welsh Assembly that because of a dangerous rock face, the road would have to be closed. No indication was given as to how long the closure will last. It may last for well over a year, and although the Assembly has been aware of the problem for a considerable time, it has put no measures in place for an alternative route. The closure will cripple my constituency, cause massive damage to the tourist and farming industry, and cause huge damage to the UK road transport industry, for which that is the principal inland route between London and the ferry port of Holyhead.
Mr. Straw: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising the matter, of which I was not aware. By the sound of it, it is principally a matter for which the Welsh Executive is responsible, not my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport. I will raise it with my right hon. Friend, as well as ensuring that the hon. Gentlemans feelings about the matter, which I well understand, are communicated to the First Minister of the Welsh Executive.
Martin Linton (Battersea) (Lab): When the House returns, may we have a debate on the problems of industrial firms in London? The largest industrial concern in my constituency is Youngs Brewery, which told its employees this week that, having failed to find an alternative site in Wandsworth, it is moving to Bedford. Many of us feel that the departure of the Ram brewery, which has been there for 425 years, will rip the heart out of Wandsworth. Should we not debate how we can keep firms like Youngs in the communities that they serve, before the developers turn us all into identical and soulless suburbs?
Mr. Straw: I understand my hon. Friends concern, having faced problems of the closure of one regional brewery in my constituency, and having ensured the maintenance of another. Those of us who enjoy Youngs products also like the association with London, so I understand his concerns. Let me also say, however, that overall manufacturing investment is very strong and everybody accepts that there must be some changes in the location of employment.
Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): Waiting lists for in-patient NHS operations longer than six months were in December 959, in January 957, in February 904 and in March 915, according to a parliamentary answer that I received from the Secretary of State for Health. The Prime Minister and other Ministers have continually claimed from the Dispatch Box that the number was zero. What measures can the Leader of the House take to ensure that statements by Ministers from the Dispatch Box are accurate?
Mr. Straw: I do not dismiss the figure that the hon. Gentleman gives, which is just under 1,000, but it is one or two per constituency, compared with the thousands per constituency that existed in 1997. On accuracy, as he knows, we are assiduous, as previous Ministers have
been, in ensuring that if figures are given that are not accurate, they are corrected very quickly.
[That this House recognises the concerns expressed by many hon. Members and others about the high cost of incoming calls to hospital bedside telephones provided by Patient-line, Premier and Hospital Telephone Services; warmly welcomes the Fairtalk survey carried out by Patient and Public Involvement forums across England which covered 40 per cent, of all hospitals using these services and questioned 1,255 patients and members of the public, a much larger sample than previously surveyed; notes that in 88 per cent, of cases people surveyed rated the cost of inbound calls as expensive or very expensive and in some cases as causing real hardship, and that 80 per cent, were not aware of any areas within hospitals where they could use a mobile phone; and calls on the Government to ensure these findings are taken into full account during the current review of the use of mobile phones in hospitals and when awarding or reviewing the contracts to the providers of bedside telephone systems.]
The survey carried out by patient and public involvement forums across the country found that 88 per cent. of people considered hospital bedside telephone systems to be too expensive. May we therefore have a debate on whether to allow the use of mobile phones in controlled and safe areas in hospitals to end peoples dependence on those overpriced services?
Mr. Straw: I will raise the matter with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health. I understand my hon. Friends concerns. It can only be a matter of time before the problems of mobile telephones interfering with medical equipment, which is the reason why their use is controlled, are overcome.
Mr. Nigel Dodds (Belfast, North) (DUP): May we have a debate soon in Government time on the growing knife culture in society? The Leader of the House may be aware that yesterday a three-month knife amnesty got under way in Northern Ireland. It has been widely welcomed, not least by the parents of Thomas Devlin, a young teenager in my constituency, who was knifed to death last August. I pay tribute to the campaign that his parents have waged for the amnesty and for tougher measures against those who carry and use knives to commit crime. A debate would allow us to discuss these issues and see what more can be done to eradicate this growing problem.
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