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David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): Four people were killed and 102 were injured in the Hatfield rail disaster. Subsequently, Railtrack was fined the derisory sum of £3.5 million and Balfour Beatty the token amount of £10 million. Is the Deputy Leader of the House as shocked and astonished as I am that the Appeal Court yesterday reduced Balfour Beattys fine by 25 per cent. on the basis that it pleaded guilty at the court hearing? Does that not show that a privatised rail system elevates profit above the safety of passengers and staff? Will he arrange a debate on the whole debacle, which might also allow us to consider the possibilities of returning the rail system to public ownership and introducing a law whereby company directors could be jailed for encouraging their more junior managers to abandon safety in the pursuit of profit?
Nigel Griffiths: Without commenting on the individual case, may I say that there is concern that there are not appropriate sanctions against the tiny minority of directors who are highly irresponsible? The Government have been considering appropriate legislation, or the appropriate strengthening of existing legislation, to take account of the concerns that my hon. Friend voices.
Mr. John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings) (Con): This morning, I have been struck once again, as no doubt you have, Mr. Speaker, by Members eloquence. However, communicating is not so straightforward for many people with disabilities such as cerebral palsy. Those afflicted thought that they were finally getting the help that they needed when the Department for Education and Skills launched the communications aid project in 2002 to provide technology and support to more than 4,000 children. However, only this year, the scheme was suddenly dropped, cruelly leaving 500 children on the waiting list. The House deserves a statement that makes clear what steps the Government plan to take to ensure that local health and social care agencies are meeting vulnerable childrens communication needs. We must listen and speak for those who cannot.
Nigel Griffiths: I take the hon. Members comments very seriously. Although I cannot promise a statement, I will make sure that the Secretary of State for Health responds directly to him on that issue. I will ask her to place a copy of the correspondence in the Library.
Mr. Jim Devine (Livingston) (Lab): Will my hon. Friend set time aside to discuss the situation in North Korea, because the incidents that have occurred this week have caused hon. Members on both sides of the House great concern?
Nigel Griffiths: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that point. I am sure that his concerns are widespread throughout the House. The United Nations Security Council met yesterday. The UK supports urgent action and the adoption of a tough resolution that urges the Government of North Korea to refrain from further launches and return to the six-party talks immediately. I hope that the North Korean Government will respond to the UN Security Council and the unanimous condemnation of the actions that they have taken.
Mark Hunter (Cheadle) (LD): Now that London has a dedicated policing team of six front-line officers for each local authority ward, will the Deputy Leader of the House find time for a debate on rolling out that excellent scheme to the rest of the country so that residents in Cheadle and elsewhere can enjoy genuine community policing, more bobbies on the beat and the high-visibility policing for which areas such as mine are crying out?
Nigel Griffiths: Obviously, that was a manifesto commitment by the Labour Government, so I am glad that it is being carried out. Additional policing has been provided in some areas without the support of Liberal Democrats, I am sorry to say. I can give the hon. Member chapter and verse on that. It is certainly true that Liberal Democrats in Edinburgh voted against funding 32 extra police officers. Setting aside the party political points, I know that people want to ensure that the 14,000 extra police who have been funded since 1997 are visible in the community and are carrying out work. I will ensure that the Home Secretary is made aware of the hon. Members comments and question.
Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North) (Lab): When may we have a debate on the future use of reservoirs that are allegedly no longer needed for their water supply? In Cardiff, North, Western Power Distribution is planning to concrete over part of the Llanishen reservoir, despite huge public opposition and the fact that a site of special scientific interest has been identified. There is also a successful yachting club on the reservoir. The area has been a beauty spot for many years, but that is being replaced by spiked metal poles and barking Alsatians. When may we have a debate about such changes?
Nigel Griffiths: Obviously, the appropriate body with which to raise that is the Welsh Assembly GovernmentI am sure that my hon. Friend has done that, too. It is important that the amenity of local areas is taken properly and fully into account when reaching such decisions. I will ensure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is made aware of general concerns about the possible loss of the use of reservoirs, which sounds somewhat paradoxical at a time of water shortages.
Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): Although the Deputy Leader of the House appears to believe that debating house building is frivolous, may we have a debate on the implications for the house-building targets that are being imposed on our local authorities of the level of net immigration into this country? Ministers have made 17 statements to the House about house building over the years, but they have not discussed or quantified the implications of net immigration for those house-building targets in any of them. In the light of the remarks of the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) that we neglect these issues at our peril, should there not be an opportunity for those of us who believe that immigrants are decent, hard-working and loyal members of the community none the less to consider rationally and calmly whether the implications of the current level of immigration for house building in the most densely populated major country in Europe are acceptable?
Nigel Griffiths: I believe that the right hon. Member is wrong. There has been ample opportunity to discuss the subject in previous debates, although the issue was perhaps not such a hot topic then because it was not being linked to immigration. I do not believe that immigration is a major driver behind the need for more housing. The break-up of marriage, the smaller family unit, the fact that people are delaying getting married or forming relationships until their 30s and 40s and the fact that a vast number of people now choose to live singly because they like that lifestyle make a far bigger contribution to demand on housing and the shortage of housing than immigration. I would welcome a debate on the subject.
[That this House applauds the recent Labour Friends of Iraq (LFIQ) delegation to Erbil and Sulamaniyah to meet unions, parties, and ministers from Iraqi Kurdistan as well as 22 union leaders from Baghdad, Basra and Babel; is concerned that Iraqi Ministers, through Decree 8750 of August 2005, have frozen the monies of unions including those affiliated to the Iraqi Workers' Federation, leaving organisations which represent up to a million Iraqis and which are the bedrock of a non-sectarian civil society unable to organise and play a positive role in both the workplace and in wider society; fears that some may create sectarian client unions; urges the British Government to make representations to the Iraqi government to lift Decree 8750 and the continuing ban, first introduced in 1987 by Saddam Hussein, on public sector trade union organisation; is concerned that this ban is the basis of hostile actions against the Port Workers' Union in Khour Al-Zubeir; further notes that the LFIQ delegation was told repeatedly by union leaders and others of the potential of private foreign investment in Iraqi Kurdistan, whose Parliament is keen to encourage investment, not least in tourism and mineral extraction; and believes that those concerned for Iraqi democracy should heed the call of the Iraqi unions for urgent assistance to retrieve their independence and to increase their power as a social partner in reconstructing Iraq, which has long been isolated from modern thinking and must contend with the enormous physical and psychological legacy of dictatorship, sanctions and war.]
May we have a debate about the ongoing injustice in Iraq of the so-called democratic Government continuing to deny rights to trade unions and to hold all trade union assets, in direct contravention of International Labour Organisation conventions?
Nigel Griffiths: The Government have made direct representations on the position of Iraqi trade unions and voiced similar concerns to those expressed by my hon. Friend. I know that he visited Iraq as part of a delegation and met Iraqi trade union leaders. I understand that that has been reciprocated and that they are here todayI hope to meet them later on with him. I hope to be able to assure them that we will continue to make representations on this issue. We firmly believe in the value of trade unions.
Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP):
Last week, an education order that will have a far greater impact on education in Northern Ireland than the Education and
Inspections Bill will have on education in England went through in a Committee Room upstairs after a paltry two-and-a-half hour debate. That caused immense anger in Northern Ireland. The order is opposed by the vast majority of people, and it might not be reversed, even if devolution were returned. Will the hon. Gentleman ensure that there will be an opportunity to debate the order properly in the House? Will he outline what plans he has to ensure that all Northern Ireland legislation is treated in the same way as the rest of UK legislation, rather than being fast-tracked through Orders in Council?
Nigel Griffiths: As the hon. Member knows, we have made detailed plans, and we hope that by 24 November the anger he mentions will be channelled to ensure that the Assembly reconvenes and undertakes that practical work. He objects to that work being undertaken by the Housewith some justification, I am sureso I look forward to his working with us to ensure that that reconvening comes about, and I urge all parties in the process to join us. I am sorry that he thinks that the debate was not adequate, but I shall certainly look at the issue and get back to him.
Mr. Jim McGovern (Dundee, West) (Lab): The Deputy Leader of the House will doubtless be aware that I have raised the issue of Remploy on a number of occasions, as it is very important to many of my constituents who are employed by the Remploy factory in Dundee, and it is emblematic of the general debates about the way in which we should help people with disabilities back into work. Bearing that in mind, will my hon. Friend use his good offices to ensure that when PricewaterhouseCoopers review of Remploy is published it will be accompanied by an oral ministerial statement so that right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House have the chance to question the relevant Minister?
Nigel Griffiths: Whether or not it is accompanied by an oral statement, I am sure that there will be a chance to question the Minister. Obviously, there are regular questions on work and pensions. The next such question time is on Monday, but I do not think that PWC will have reported by then. Once the report is available, I am sure that my hon. Friend will find a way to ask questions. If the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions makes an oral statement, my hon. Friend will have an opportunity to do so, but there will be other opportunities, too.
Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell) (Con): I am sure that the Deputy Leader of the House is aware that my hon. Friend the Member for East Devon (Mr. Swire), the shadow Culture, Media and Sport spokesman, has written to the Deputy Prime Minister to ask for the names of three civil servants who recently accompanied him to the ranch in Colorado. In his reply, however, the Deputy Prime Minister omitted the names. I hope that the Deputy Leader of the House believes that that information should be in the public domain, so what will he do next week to ensure that it is placed in the public domain?
Jim Sheridan (Paisley and Renfrewshire, North) (Lab): May we have a debate on irresponsible and dangerous journalism? My hon. Friend will be aware that the BBC was rightly criticised this week for attempting to entrap young Scots, but may I point out, too, that The Sun recently described Scots as Tartan Tosspots and said that the answer to the West Lothian question was to build Hadrians wall higher. Even more worryingly, however, it celebrated the fact that Scots died younger than their English counterparts. If such comments were made about any other race or religion there would rightly be a public outcry. When the Prime Minister next meets Rupert Murdoch will he ask him whether that is The Suns official view?
Nigel Griffiths: I will not comment on any one paper, but I deplore any such statements, just as I deplore the anti-English tone set in recent weeks by much of the Scottish media. My hon. Friend makes an important pointnewspaper editors pick on any one group at their peril. He mentioned a newspaper whose circulation, I am sure, has not recovered in Liverpool after its comments about Liverpudlians. I urge newspaper editors and hon. Members to be cautious in their use of language about any group, whether it be a minority group such as the Scots or a majority group such as the English.
John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): The Deputy Leader of the House will be aware that one thing the Government are good at is exporting manufacturing jobs. Birmingham faces the loss of HP Sauce, and this week hundreds of job losses were announced in Cornwall, mainly as a result of energy prices. Trade unions and business are concerned about the energy penalty in the UK, so a debate is urgently needed. If we held such a debate after the recess, it would be too late to have an impact on the situation, so may we have an early debate on manufacturing, particularly in the light of the energy crisis?
Nigel Griffiths: The hon. Member may not have attended Trade and Industry questions, in which hon. Members asked about energy. My colleagues share those concerns, and they are working with energy producers on supply and pricing, which are important matters. In the past, British companies, in contrast to their foreign competitors, have benefited from low-cost contracts, but there is no doubt that recently they have been feeling the pressure. Of course, climate change prompts the question of the charges that we will impose on fuel and what impact that will have on business, but that is a subject for another debate.
Mr. James Clappison (Hertsmere) (Con): As a native of east Yorkshire, may I welcome the Governments efforts to commemorate the life and work of William Wilberforce, both in this country and in north America? Can we find parliamentary time to commemorate himhe was, after all, Member of Parliament for Hulland would not such an occasion bring a smile to the face of one of the present Members of Parliament for Hull?
Nigel Griffiths: I wholly endorse what the hon. Member said about William Wilberforce. The issue has been raised by other hon. Members who share the hon. Gentlemans views, and we are looking at an appropriate way to recognise a terrific champion of the oppressed and one of historys great figures.
John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): May I please reiterate the request by my right hon. Friend the shadow Leader of the House for a debate in Government time on the Floor of the House on special educational needs, in which I declare an interest as the father of a two-and-a-half-year-old boy who will almost certainly have such needs? Given the publication today of a report by the Select Committee on Education and Skills and, importantly, the widespread concern about the virtual omnipotence of local education authorities, which assess, decide, pay for and, more often than not, provide for those needs, is it not vital that we have an opportunity to air the issue in the Chamber and to decide a credible and attractive policy for some of the most vulnerable children in our community?
Nigel Griffiths: The programme before the summer recess is under considerable pressure, but we will do our best. I will consult my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, and tell him the views of the hon. Member and other hon. Members about the importance of the issue. May I say, too, that I am heartened that so many Members show such concern about this important issue?
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con): May we have a debate on sentencing policy for very serious crimes? Such a debate would enable hon. Members on both sides of the House warmly to endorse the 28-year minimum sentence to be served by the vicious killers of Jody Dobrowski, who was murdered for no reason other than that he was a homosexual. That 28-year sentence will undoubtedly act as a deterrent. A debate would also give us an opportunity both to ask why murderers who kill people in exactly the same way as Mr. Dobrowskis murderers do not have to serve anything like the same sentence and why that deterrent is not deemed necessary in such cases.
Nigel Griffiths: This is a serious issue. As I have said, I do not think that the pressures on the parliamentary programme will allow a debate before the recess, but I am sure that there will be an opportunity in the spillover or the new Session for a debate on this important issue, in which all hon. Members will want to take part.
Greg Clark (Tunbridge Wells) (Con):
It is helpful that the Deputy Leader of the House has put on the record the fact that the Government have been so long in office that they can dismiss peoples concerns about the loss of green space in our towns and cities as trivial or irrelevant. Our constituents, and some of his hon. Friends constituents, will be interested to discover that that is the case. However, can he say whether the Government Whips will object to my private Members Bill when it is debated next week, as they did last time?
Nigel Griffiths: No, I am not aware of the arrangements for that debate. I am sure that if the hon. Member has adequate support for his private Members Bill he will secure a closure, just as other hon. Members do. A measure of his support will be whether 100 Members are in the Chamber to secure that closure and the Bills progress.
[That this House disagrees with the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellences recent technology appraisal document which proposes the restriction of access to inhaled insulin products on the NHS to patients with a proven injection phobia diagnosed by a psychiatrist or psychologist; is concerned that diabetes sufferers often delay treatment for as long as four years due to a fear of injections, risking the complications of heart disease, blindness and kidney failure, a situation that will only be compounded by attaching the unfortunate stigma of mental illness to those with a phobia of needles; expresses concern at the additional workload that will be placed on already overstretched NHS psychiatric services; and believes that the judgement of expert clinicians should be trusted in managing each individual patients condition.]
As the hon. Gentleman knows, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence says that before people may have access to such products, there must be a letter from a psychiatrist or a psychologist stating that they have a phobia about needles. Some diabetics inject four or five times a day. This is surely a quality of life issue, not just a phobia about needles. May we have a statement from a Minister in the Department of Health to say that inhaled insulin products will be made widely available to any diabetic who wants access to them?
Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): May we have an urgent debate on unemployment in Shropshire? Is the Deputy Leader of the House aware that today the Office for National Statistics confirmed to my office that between May 2005 and May 2006 unemployment in Shropshire rose by a whopping 30 per cent. and in The Wrekin parliamentary constituency by 32 per cent.? Does not that underline the importance of the Ministry of Defence giving the defence training review to RAF Cosford, thereby safeguarding 2,220 jobs and expanding jobs throughout Shropshire and the west midlands?
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