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May we therefore have a statement from the Education Secretary before the recess, clarifying the Government’s policy on SEN?

Yesterday, another British soldier was killed in Afghanistan. I am sure that hon. Members from all parties will join me in sending condolences and sympathy to his family. May we have a statement before 24 July—from the Defence Secretary, and not a junior Minister—on any planned increase in the deployment of troops and/or equipment in Afghanistan?

Yesterday, the Secretary of State for Health announced funding for community hospitals. She somehow omitted to mention the 81 community hospitals that have closed, or which are threatened by closure or the loss of services. Examples are St. Marks in Maidenhead, which may lose services, and Townlands in Henley, which is under threat of closure. Both those hospitals serve my constituents. She said at Hansard, column 817, that primary care trusts might want to extend their local investment finance trust schemes, known as LIFT schemes. Did she not know that the Public Accounts Committee said that LIFT projects cost eight times more per patient than the accommodation they replace, and that the higher cost could squeeze out other spending on primary care? May we have a debate on community hospitals?

By the way, do not the Government realise that it is all very well giving money to build new premises, but the problem for the health service today is finding the money to staff them and to treat patients? The Government get more like a “Yes, Minister” sketch every day. Talking of which, up to now, Ministers have told us that we should not talk about job cuts in the NHS, yet today the Health Minister, Lord Warner, has written to Members and his opening sentence is:

Perhaps all Ministers could use the same language in future.

May we have a debate on control of policing? The Government are apparently to set up a national policing board chaired by the Home Secretary. Exactly how do they think policing will be improved by putting it under the control of the Home Office—the very Department that the Home Secretary has said is dysfunctional and not fit for purpose?

Finally, last week in business questions, the Leader of the House said that we had

Since the new Leader of the House took office, we have had Opposition day debates on the BBC, housing and planning policy, tax credits, volunteers and carers and the NHS. Which of those subjects does the right hon. Gentleman consider eccentric? Or is it just that on the health service, the work of carers or problems with tax credits the Government simply do not want to know?

Nigel Griffiths: I thank the right hon. Member for being as predictable as ever.

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The whole House will want to express its condolences to the family of the brave soldier who was tragically killed yesterday in Afghanistan. As the Prime Minister made clear to the House yesterday, commanders on the ground are the judges of their resources. Anything they need and ask for to protect our troops will be given to them.

The large number of clauses for the Companies Bill results from the fact that it is a consolidating measure, and I thank the Opposition for their general support in respect of that. I am sure that there will be adequate time on Report to cover any outstanding issues. The Bill is important and its time is ripe.

We are determined to get the Road Safety Bill right. I hope that we can count on the support of all Members of the House for some of the key measures that have been taken, such as speed cameras and speed humps, where appropriate, and other devices, which in my constituency in Edinburgh and the borders have resulted in no child deaths for the past three years. For the first time since records began in 1927, no children have been killed. I shall look with confidence to support from all the Opposition parties for appropriate road safety measures.

I commend the work of the Select Committee on Education and Skills, which reported today on special educational needs. It is important to reflect that, in recent years, spending on such children has risen by 50 per cent., from just under £3 billion to £4.5 billion. I hope that the right hon. Member and the House will forgive me for saying that it may take a little longer than the two weeks or so available to us for the Government to formulate a considered response to the report, but we shall make an appropriate response and I am sure that there will be ample opportunity for the House to discuss it.

As the right hon. Member knows, a major review of policing is being undertaken. It is right that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is considering the best way of making police forces more effective and making the input and experience of the police more effective in formulating Government policy. It is also right that we ensure that the best practice of the best police authorities is extended to others.

The right hon. Member mentioned community hospitals, but she neglected to say that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health yesterday announced £750 million as an investment for those community hospitals. The right hon. Member also voiced her concerns about falling hospital numbers, but my right hon. Friend would want me to remind the right hon. Member that, in her strategic health authority, there has been a 22 per cent. increase in the number of nurses—up by more than 2,700—and there are 1,418 more doctors, a 40 per cent. increase. I am sorry that she is not absorbing those facts.

As for the Opposition days that the right hon. Member wanted to defend, hon. Members believed that there were more serious issues than back gardens and one or two of the other things that have been chosen for Opposition days. Indeed, I await with interest the many suggestions that will come in the next few minutes from hon. Members for important debates that should be held, and I hope that I will be able to suggest an adequate slot for them.

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Mr. Bill Olner (Nuneaton) (Lab): Is my hon. Friend aware of the serious concerns in my constituency about the fate of the George Eliot hospital? [Hon. Members: “Ah.”] No, it is not the Government; they have poured a great deal of money into the health service in my area and we are grateful to them for that. However, the acute services review is suggesting that things should happen at that hospital that will be bad not only for my community, but the communities around us. All the people who have made those suggestions are unelected quango people. May we have a debate to talk about not only how the acute services review affects Nuneaton and other areas, but how those non-elected people can bear down on our constituents?

Nigel Griffiths: I share the concerns expressed by my hon. Friend and, as he rightly said, it is for the primary care trust to take account of local views and strategic needs locally and to take appropriate actions. I hope that the PCT listens to the sort of concerns that he and others are enumerating and that it takes whatever action is appropriate to ensure that the 3,000 more front-line staff available to the strategic health authority are best deployed to ensure that waiting lists are cut further and that the most appropriate treatment is given in the most efficient manner to his constituents.

Mr. Paul Burstow (Sutton and Cheam) (LD): Many of my constituents will be surprised by the hon. Gentleman’s disparaging remarks about back garden land, not least because many of them find it hard to understand how the Government have designated back gardens as brownfield sites, thus making them ripe for development.

The statement contained no reference to the Welfare Reform Bill. Is it still the Government’s intention it should have a Second Reading before the summer recess? Given that the Government intend to leave most of its detail to regulations, will the hon. Gentleman ask the Leader of the House to use his good offices to ensure that, if it receives a Second Reading, the regulations are published in draft form before the Bill is debated in Committee?

May I draw the attention of the Deputy Leader of the House to early-day motion 393, entitled “Protecting Runaway Children”, which has been signed by 394 hon. Members on both sides of the House?

[That this House warmly welcomes the Children’s Society’s Safe and Sound campaign to make England safe for the 100,000 children who run away from home or care each year; is alarmed at the Society’s findings that almost half of all children who have run away for over a week are physically or sexually hurt; calls on all local authorities to put into place the safeguards recommended by the Department of Health to protect young runaways; and further calls on the Government to undertake an early evaluation of the six pilot schemes for flexible community-based accommodation for young runaways across England which have now completed their first year, in order that the lessons can be incorporated in the swift establishment of a national network of safe places for children and young people.]

May we have some time to debate the issues that that early-day motion covers, to explore what more needs to be done to safeguard the welfare of the 100,000 children who run away each year—in particular, by securing for them long-term funding for a national network of safe shelters for children and young people?

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Given the concern about the lack of give and take in our extradition arrangements with the United States, can time be made for a debate on Second Reading of the Extradition (United States) Bill, which receives its First Reading today and is promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Clegg), so that extradition proceedings require the presentation of prima facie evidence to a judge before a person can be extradited to the US?

Finally, given the overwhelming decision of the House yesterday to agree to the dates of our summer recess, can the Deputy Leader of the House confirm what arrangements are in place to ensure a rapid recall of the House if events require that to happen?

Nigel Griffiths: The Welfare Reform Bill will be adequately debated and considered. I appreciate the concerns and the expertise that the hon. Member brings to the issue. There are hon. Members on both sides of the House who take a particular interest in welfare reform. It is important that we get the measures right and that we give opportunities to people who feel that they are not only jobless, but excluded from the job market, to enter that market in an appropriate way.

Protecting runaway children is vital. I am sorry that I cannot promise a debate on that matter here before the recess, but there may be other avenues for it to be debated and for Ministers to respond.

On extradition, the Prime Minister has made it clear that, as he said yesterday, he wants his officials to investigate the support that is available to the people in the specific case that has been mentioned. However, there are no plans at present to amend our extradition laws and I do not see such changes planned in the foreseeable future.

The hon. Member also raised the important issue of the recall of Parliament. There are precedents for recalling Parliament, as he will know. Parliament has been recalled several times. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will, of course, liaise with his opposite numbers and Mr. Speaker should such a demand or eventuality occur, and Parliament would be recalled in the normal way.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) (Lab): As we recall again this week the 52 people who were murdered and the many who were seriously injured on 7 July, will my hon. Friend carefully consider a statement to explain why there is so much delay in compensation being given—the final sums—to those who were most seriously injured? I am talking about those who lost both legs, or arms, or, in the case of one person, both legs and an eye. Is it not totally unacceptable that there should be so much delay, bearing in mind the anguish of the people involved? The last thing that they should be concerned about is having to fill in endless forms to get the compensation that is their right. That has nothing to do with the compensation measure that is to be debated the week after next. I seriously urge Ministers to give this matter top priority.

Nigel Griffiths: I know that everyone will be grateful to my hon. Friend and other hon. Members for highlighting this case. I know that the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Sutcliffe) responded,
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I hope sympathetically, to my hon. Friend when he raised the matter in an Adjournment debate on 3 July. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary also undertook to write to him setting out how the compensation payments could be made more speedily and reminded the House that, at that stage, 370 awards, totalling £2.3 million had been made, and in 217 cases a final award had been accepted. I appreciate the anguish that is caused by people having to wait for a final settlement, and so does my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, who is addressing the issue seriously.

Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire) (Con): The Leader of the House has been charged by the Prime Minister with two sensitive and important tasks: dealing with the roadblocks to House of Lords reform and with party funding. Safe in the knowledge that his boss is not here, will the Deputy Leader of the House give me an assurance that, before the House rises, the Leader of the House will make a statement on the progress that he has made with both tasks?

Nigel Griffiths: I can tell the right hon. Member that my right hon. Friend will be here next week to answer that. There are no plans at present to give such a statement, because talks with the Opposition and other parties have not reached any conclusion and it might be premature to make a statement on party funding at this stage. There will, of course, be ample time to debate and deliberate on this issue when the report from Sir Hayden Phillips is published.

On the House of Lords, I am pleased to inform the House that my right hon. Friend is making progress in the range of options that are available to the House and hopes at some stage in the not-too-distant future to be able to put proposals before the House. I hope that, unlike the last time such proposals went before the House, we come to a majority view on the future composition of that institution.

Ann Coffey (Stockport) (Lab): Will my hon. Friend join me in welcoming the statement by the Secretary of State for Transport today giving an extra £244 million to the Greater Manchester passenger transport executive to enable it to start the construction of the extensions of the Metrolink within the next two years? Will he make time for a debate on other transport issues in Greater Manchester?

Nigel Griffiths: I do welcome that and I know that it will be widely welcomed in Manchester. Although I cannot give an undertaking for a debate, I know that my hon. Friend will want to take the opportunity at Transport questions next Tuesday to thank my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in person and to press him on the timetable and other issues that concern her.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): May we have a statement from the Prime Minister to explain his interview in The Times today calling for the formation of a Great Britain football team? Is it the Prime Minister’s wish to have such a team just for the Olympics or does he wish, like previous Labour Ministers, to abolish the Scottish football team altogether? With so much to do
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and so little time in which to do it, why is the Prime Minister attempting to bully the Scottish Football Association and the Welsh authorities into doing something that they believe would jeopardise their position in international football?

Nigel Griffiths: The hon. Member leads me into the Scottish minefield. He will forgive me if I tread delicately through it—suffice to say that I did enjoy going, at my own expense, to see Scotland play Italy earlier this year, when they acquitted themselves very well. I have no hesitation in saying that I deeply regret England’s loss in the World cup. As for whether there should be a United Kingdom football team, or, I suppose, a British Lions team—a British Lions team does not in any way threaten the individual states having teams playing rugby—that is a matter for FIFA and for the Scottish federations, too.

Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): May we have an emergency debate on the political crisis that is gripping Leicester city council following the decision of the leader of the Conservative group to regard himself as a Liberal Democrat? He told the Leicester Mercury last night:

for the purposes of voting. He is also considering himself to be a member of the Conservative group for the purposes of leading that group. At the same time, several Liberal Democrats have now been expelled from the Liberal Democrat group and have formed their own “Focus” group. May we please have an urgent debate on this important matter so that those issues can be cleared up once and for all?

Nigel Griffiths: I would like to have an urgent debate, but, more importantly, I would like to have an urgent vote. I understand that the electors will be able to vote next year. Doubtless they will look at the chaos in the Liberal Democrat and Conservative groups on that council and choose to vote Labour.

Mr. Christopher Fraser (South-West Norfolk) (Con): Despite the answer given to my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May), it is essential that we have a debate on the future of community hospitals. I have two in my constituency, in Swaffham and Thetford, and I am extremely concerned about their ability to cope with local needs as the acute hospitals in King’s Lynn, Norwich and the eastern region face cutbacks. The Secretary of State for Health has promised that community hospitals will be safeguarded, but there is little evidence that that promise will be fulfilled.

Nigel Griffiths: I regret that I do not believe that there will be Government time for a debate, but I urge the hon. Member to make representations to Opposition Front-Bench Members to see whether one of the subjects that they have chosen for debate—perhaps home information packs—might be delayed in order to debate what he rightly considers an important issue.

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