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The Prime Minister:
First of all, I am sorry that my right hon. Friend had such a distressing experience, but he is absolutely right in what he says. The overwhelming majority of young people are decent and law abiding, and are often the victims of antisocial behaviour and crime, but it is true that a small minority of young people make life hell for people in their local communities, terrorising people and committing acts of
thuggery such as my right hon. Friend describes. We need the tough powers in the antisocial behaviour legislation to deal with them. Of course we have to deal with the underlying causes of crime, and that is why we are doubling the amount of money going into drug treatmenta policy that is also opposed by the Opposition. However, hon. Members on this side of the House will always stand up for the law-abiding citizen against such people.
Q2.  Mr. Nick Hurd (Ruislip-Northwood) (Con): The Prime Minister will know Harefield hospitals reputation as a world leader for complex heart surgery. Will he join me in congratulating the staff for what they achieve, despite inadequate facilities? Following the slow death of the Paddington health campus, will he join the call for the hospitals future to be resolved quickly, so that the trust can move on and build an even better service for patients?
The Prime Minister: I certainly hope that the hospitals future can be resolved quickly, but I hope too that the hon. Gentleman will accept that there have been enormous strides forward in cardiac care in this country over the past few years. When we came to office, people were often waiting 18 months or two years for heart operations, and they often died while they were on the waiting list. The wait is now down to about three months, although the average is lower, and an immense amount of investment is going into things like statins. Of course I hope that the future of Harefield hospital is settled shortly, but it is not right for any hon. Member to think that cardiac care in this country has not improved significantly over the past few years as a result of the investment and change that this Government have put in place.
Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central) (Lab): Is my right hon. Friend aware that Mancunians have welcomed very strongly the announcementwhich has been awaited for too longthat the citys metrolink is to be rolled out? People see that as further evidence of the partnership between central Government and the city of Manchester, which is regarded as the social, economic and entertainment capital of the whole region[Hon. Members: And the world!] And, indeed, the world. Would he organise a competition to try to explain what the something dreadful was that happened to the Leader of the Oppositions Parliamentary Private Secretary when he was in Manchester recently?
The Prime Minister: It would be nice to know that, but I suspect that we never will. However, my hon. Friend is right in what he says. The important thing is that Manchester makes use of the more than £500 million available to expand the metrolink. That is a fantastic project for the whole city, and it shows again the benefit of investing in inner-city regenerationespecially in fantastic cultural capitals such as Manchester.
The Prime Minister: We made it clear in our 2005 manifesto that we are committed to retaining the independent nuclear deterrent, and that means for the life of the current system. As I have said previously, decisions on the period beyond that will be taken later this year.
Dr. Lewis: The whole House will note that the Prime Minister was a lot less definite than the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who talked about retaining the nuclear deterrent not just for this Parliament but long into the future. If the decision is taken to replace the Trident submarine fleet, will any successor fleet be funded from the current defence budget, or will extra funds be allocated from outside that budget?
The Prime Minister: Any decision on funding has to await later negotiation. Most people understand that a decision on the independent nuclear deterrent is very much sui generis. The reasons why we want to retain the deterrent are set out in our manifesto, and I entirely agree with what the Chancellor said.
Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) (Lab): Will the Prime Minister assure the House that the Government are committed to the terms of the 1970 non-proliferation treaty, which requires the five declared nuclear weapons states to engage in a process of long-term disarmament? Does he accept that rearmament by any of the five reduces any moral clout we might have in encouraging other states not to develop their own nuclear weapons, which makes the world a more dangerous place?
The Prime Minister: Actually, we have made considerable reductions both in systems and, I think, in the number of warheads. Of course it is true, if we can negotiate the right terms, that we want progressively over time to see a reduction in nuclear capability worldwide, but that has to be done by negotiation.
Q4. Steve Webb (Northavon) (LD): Very sick babies are being shunted around the country because of a lack of intensive care capacity. Yet when I asked the Department of Health about the issue six weeks ago, it said it did not collect the information centrally. Will the Prime Minister get the Department of Health to take an interest in what is going on in the health service, and will he have this urgent problem sorted out quickly?
The Prime Minister: Of course, the Department is deeply concerned about issues to do with neonatal networks and units right around the country. It is fair to say that, over the past few years alone, there has been an increase in funding in the region of £70 million for such units. It is important to recognise that we are training far more staff, but there is also greater demand. I am pleased to say that the mortality rate has declined substantially, but we are of course looking at what more we can do in relation to staff and resources.
Mr. David Hamilton (Midlothian) (Lab): Yesterday, the Select Committee on Defence took evidence from the Secretary of State for Defence, in which he made it quite clear that the widest possible consultation would take place on the nuclear deterrent. Surely, irrespective of ones point of view, it is right that the power to make the ultimate determination should come back to the House. Surely that is how things should be done, and a vote should be taken here.
The Prime Minister: As I have said before, when we publish the decision taken by the Government, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence will announce the exact form of making sure that we consult the House. I point out that we have given votes on very sensitive issues before, and that is a strong possibility on this issue.
Q5.  Mr. Richard Benyon (Newbury) (Con): May I press the Prime Minister? Why is he so determined to avoid a vote in the House on the renewal of our nuclear deterrent? He may not have the support of the hon. Members for Islington, North (Jeremy Corbyn) or for Pendle (Mr. Prentice), but he will certainly have support on the Opposition side of the House if he puts it to a vote.
The Prime Minister: Thank you very much for that. No doubt it was kindly meant, but I refer to what I said a moment or two ago: on these sensitive issues we have often given votesbefore the Iraq war, we were one of the first Governments to give people a vote before this country took the decision to go to war. We are not at all averse to votes of this House on extremely sensitive issues, and I have no doubt that there will be the fullest debate.
Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): Will the Prime Minister explain why he takes such different positions on education in this part of the United Kingdom and education in Northern Ireland? Why did he support his Back Benchers going through the Lobby to keep selection in England, unless parents decide against, yet force through in two and a half hours a complete change to the system in Northern Ireland? Why does he have such different standards for education in Northern Ireland?
The Prime Minister: There is, of course, I hope, a way that that can be resolved by people in Northern Ireland, which is for the devolved institutions to get back up and running. I hope that they are successful in that.
Q6. Mr. Geoffrey Cox (Torridge and West Devon) (Con): Earlier this year, Appledore shipyard in my constituency won a tender competition for a Scottish fisheries protection vessel. Last month, that tender process was cancelled in highly questionable circumstances. Hundreds of jobs are directly and indirectly at stake. What has the Prime Minister to say to my constituents who ask why their Member of Parliament is unable to hold the decision maker to account in this or any other House? Does he feel that it is more important that Labour Members for Scottish constituencies do not feel like second-class MPs than that 85,000 people in Torridge should feel second-class
The Prime Minister: In relation to the particular decision, of course these are always very difficult decisions. It is true that, in this instance, it was taken by the Scottish Executive. It is also true that people are perfectly free to raise it. The hon. and learned Gentleman will know that we are trying to make the right decisions in relation to procurement within very strict budgetary terms. I am sure that no one wants to make sure that the people in his constituency are out of work, but those decisions have been taken by the appropriate authority.
Q7. Jim Dobbin (Heywood and Middleton) (Lab/Co-op): Speaking as a Scot with a north-west of England constituency, is the Prime Minister aware of early-day motion 2519, which refers to hon. Members voting rights? That early-day motion argues that to ban Members of Parliament from Scotland from voting on English matters could lead to a constitutional crisis or to the break-up of the United Kingdom. It also supports every Member in the House accepting and getting access to the voting systemsthe democratic systemsin the House. Does the Prime Minister agree with that and will he sign the early-day motion?
The Prime Minister: The important thing is to stress that England is of course the majority country within the United Kingdom. We vote through the money here in the House, of course. Under the constitutional settlement, the vast majority of the MPs who do that are English. I think that devolution is a sensible way of keeping the United Kingdom together, but it would be a very, very grave mistake indeed to end up with two classes of MP in the House.
Adam Afriyie (Windsor) (Con): May I compliment you, Mr. Speaker, on your visual acuity in spotting me between the two tallest Members of Parliament? It strikes me that if the head of a school, a charity, a public body or a council were to announce their retirement but refuse to set a date, they would be rightly considered both arrogant and self-centred. Why should we consider the Prime Minister any differently?
Q8.  Mr. Bob Laxton (Derby, North) (Lab): This weekend at the G8 summit in St. Petersburg, discussions will take place on energy, education and infectious diseases. Will the Prime Minister tell the House his objectives for the summit and how he sees those objectives building on the commitments that were given at Gleneagles a year ago?
The Prime Minister:
In particular in relation to the G8, it is important that we recommit to the objectives in helping in Africa. There will be a particular focus on education at the G8. In relation to climate change and energy, although the summit will focus particularly on energy security, none the less, again I think that it is important that we focus on climate change as well. One of the single most important issues that will run throughout the summit, even if not formally, will be the World Trade Organisation talks, which at the moment
are stalled. That is extremely important in my view. This weekend may be one of the last opportunities we have got to restart those talks productively and get the right agreement between Brazil, India and the developing countries on the one hand, and America, Europe and Japan on the other.
In issuing this Code, I should like to reaffirm my strong personal commitment to restoring the bond of trust between the British people and their Government...I will expect all Ministers to work within the letter and spirit of the Code.
If there is reason to believe someone has broken the Code, I will take action.
Well, there is the valuable transport union flat that the Deputy Prime Minister occupied as Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, there is the behaviour with a junior female office subordinate, which would have led to the sacking of a civil servant, and now there is Philip Anschutzs hospitality. When will the Prime Minister live up to his fine words and call in Sir John Bourn to investigate these allegations of breaches of the ministerial code?
The Prime Minister: I have nothing to say to the hon. Gentleman other than the fact that we have got one of the largest regeneration projects that will happen in London, which will bring somewhere in the region of 10,000 affordable homes, 20,000 jobs [ Interruption. ]
The Prime Minister:
I was just pointing out that as a result of the regeneration, there will be somewhere in
the region of 10,000 affordable homes, more than 20,000 jobs and £5 billion of private sector investment. It is entirely right that we support such huge regeneration coming to this country, but I know that none of those issues concerns the hon. Gentleman.
The Prime Minister: I can only say to my hon. Friend that when we actually analyse the policy statements of Conservative Members, especially on something like yesterdays energy review, it is the case, as I said earlier, that whatever points the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) makes, when it comes to long-term decisions that affect the future of this country, it is this Labour side, not the Conservatives, that has the answers.
Q10.  Mark Hunter (Cheadle) (LD): Given all the extra money that the Prime Minister likes to remind us that his Government have put into the national health service, can he explain why my constituents and those of many other hon. Members are having to wait up to two years for an appointment for a hearing aid? Does he agree that such a situation is completely unacceptable? Will he say what action he will be taking to support the campaign of the Royal National Institute for Deaf People to bring that waiting list down?
The Prime Minister: We are working with organisations for the deaf precisely to do that. When the hon. Gentleman refers rightly to the large sums of investment that have gone into the health service, but points out some of the problems that we have still got to overcome, I hope that he accepts how much improvement there has been in the national health service over the past eight or nine years as a result of the investment that has gone in. In his area, for example, there are 11,500 more nurses and 1,000 more consultants, and waiting times have come down dramatically for in-patients and out-patients. That is a result of the investment and reform that this Government have carried out. Yes, we have still got a lot to do, but a lot has been done.
Anne Main (St. Albans) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Last week, I raised a point of order about the lack of answers to my specific questions with regard to establishing the facts about whether or not released foreign nationals who were convicted of serious sexual offences were placed on the sex offenders register. The Leader of the House has said about questions:
the House will know that it is also important that they are answered accurately and comprehensively.[ Official Report, 14 June 2006; Vol. 447, c. 772.]
It is with regret that I have to inform you, Mr. Speaker, that I have waited two months for a detailed specific answer. I was told by the Home Office that I was given only a generic answer to a very specific point and simply directed to read a statement that was sent to the Home Affairs Committee, although that statement made absolutely no reference whatsoever to my specific inquiries.
I cannot accept that there is no answer to the question. Surely the Secretary of State is responsible to the House for ensuring the delivery of information on this very specific question. I thus seek your guidance on the matter, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving me notice of her point of order. I do not comment on the content of ministerial replies, but I can understand the frustration that she feels. The Table Office is well aware of the issue and is ready to assist the hon. Lady with follow-up questions.
Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy) (PC): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will have heard that an important speech was made earlier today by the Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety about the amalgamation of police forces. The matter has concerned many hon. Members for several months. Should not that all-important statementit was a policy U-turnhave been made in this place so that it could be have been examined by all Members of Parliament?
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (John Reid): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. If the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) had been following the debates in the House closely enough, he would have seen that that had been announced in the House, not least on 19 June when I made it absolutely plain that although the mergers and the coming together for protective services of police forces was to be maintained as the destination, I had changed the position on enforced mergers, not force mergers. In other words, I was no longer proceeding with a situation in which we would be laying orders against the wishes of the forces involved. That is what has changed, not our desire to bring together police forces in new configurations.
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