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Wednesday 19 July—Opposition half-day [unallotted day]. There will be a debate on home information packs on an Opposition motion, followed
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by remaining stages of the Commissioner for Older People (Wales) Bill [Lords].

Thursday 20 July—A motion to approve the Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2006, followed by a debate on international development on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Friday 21 July—The House will not be sitting.

The provisional business for the following week will be:

Monday 24 July—Second Reading of the Welfare Reform Bill.

Tuesday 25 July—Motion on the retirement of the Clerk of the House, followed by consideration of Lords amendments to the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, followed by a motion on the summer recess Adjournment.

The information regarding business on Tuesday 18 July is as follows:—

The following reports fall within the scope of the motion:


Fourth Report

Fraud and error in benefit expenditure

HC 411 (Cm 6728)

Seventh Report

The use of operating theatres in the Northern Ireland Health and Personal Social Services

HC 414 (Cm 6699)

Eighth Report

Navan Centre

HC 415 (Cm 6699)

Ninth Report

Foot and Mouth Disease: applying the lessons

HC 563 (Cm 6728)

Twelfth Report

Helping those in financial hardship: the running of the Social Fund

HC 601 (Cm 6728)

Thirteenth Report

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Tackling homelessness

HC 653 (Cm 6743)

Fourteenth Report

Energywatch and Postwatch

HC 654 (Cm 6743)

Fifteenth Report

HM Customs and Excise Standard Report 2003—04

HC 695 (Cm 6743)

Sixteenth Report

Home Office: Reducing vehicle crime

HC 696 (Cm 6743)

Seventeenth Report

Achieving value for money in the delivery of public services

HC 742 (Cm 6743)

Eighteenth Report

Department for Education and Skills: Improving school attendance in England

HC 789 (Cm 6766)

Nineteenth Report

Department of Health: Tackling cancer: improving the patient journey

HC 790 (Cm 6766)

Twentieth Report

The NHS Cancer Plan: a progress report

HC 791 (Cm 6766)

Twenty-first Report

Skills for Life: Improving adult literacy and numeracy

HC 792 (Cm 6766)

Twenty-second Report

Maintaining and improving Britain’s railway stations

HC 535 (Cm 6775)

Twenty-third Report

Filing of income tax self assessment returns

HC 681 (Cm 6775)

Twenty-fourth Report

The BBC’s White City 2 development

HC 652 (Second Special Report, HC 1139, 2005-06)

Twenty-fifth Report

Securing strategic leadership in the learning and skills sector

HC 602 (Cm 6775)

Twenty-sixth Report

Assessing and reporting military readiness

HC 667 (Cm 6775)

Twenty-seventh Report

Lost in translation? Responding to the challenges of European law

HC 590 (Cm 6775)

Twenty-eighth Report

Extending access to learning through technology: Ufi and the learndirect service

HC 706 (Cm 6775)

Twenty-ninth Report

Excess Votes 2004—05

HC 916 (N/A)

Thirtieth Report

Excess Votes (Northern Ireland) 2004—05

HC 917 (N/A)

Thirty-first Report

Northern Ireland’s Waste Management Strategy

HC 741 (Cm 6843)

Thirty-second Report

Working with the voluntary sector

HC 717 (Cm 6789)

Thirty-third Report

The Royal Parks and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain

HC 644 (Cm 6789)

Thirty-fourth Report

Returning failed asylum applicants

HC 620 (Cm 6863)

Thirty-fifth Report

The refinancing of the Norfolk and Norwich PFI Hospital

HC 694 (Cm ????)

Thirty-sixth Report

Tackling the complexity of the benefits system

HC 765 (Cm 6863)

Thirty-seventh Report

Inland Revenue Standard Report: New Tax Credits

HC 782 (Cm 6863)

Thirty-eighth Report

Channel Tunnel Rail Link

HC 727 (Cm 6863)

Thirty-ninth Report

Consular services to British nationals

HC 813 (Cm 6863)

Fortieth Report

Environment Agency: Efficiency in water resource management

HC 749

Forty-first Report

The South Eastern Passenger Rail Franchise

HC 770

Forty-second Report

Enforcing competition in markets

HC 841

13 July 2006 : Column 1479

The reference number of the Treasury minute to each report is printed in brackets after the HC printing number

Mrs. May: I thank the Leader of the House for giving us the business up till the recess.

There have been a number of oral statements in recent days, but, sadly, that has not included the Chancellor’s announcement about the fundamental savings review, and it was only because of your willingness, Mr. Speaker, to extend the time for Treasury questions that Members could question the Chancellor on that review. If the Chancellor has a statement to make, he should come to the House and make a proper oral statement, which would give a proper opportunity for all Members to question him on it. Perhaps his unwillingness to do so has more to do with the fact that the fundamental savings review was an idea announced by the Prime Minister at the Labour party conference, not by the Chancellor. Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Chancellor to come back to the House to make a proper oral statement on that review to allow more than just 20 minutes of questions from Members to the Chancellor?

Oral statements enable Members to put questions direct to Ministers, whereas written statements do not give that opportunity to raise matters in the House, particularly if they are published on the day the House goes into recess. On the day the House went into recess at Easter, there were 39 written ministerial statements. Last year, on the day the House went into summer recess, there were 63 written ministerial statements. What steps is the right hon. Gentleman taking to ensure that we do not have a repeat performance, with a large number of written statements coming out too late for Members to question Ministers?

It has been shown that there has been a hidden waiting list in the NHS for diagnostic tests, with patients waiting up to an average of 17 weeks for some tests. Some patients have to wait up to two years, but we do not know what the maximum wait is. Will the Leader of the House ensure that the Secretary of State for Health places full figures in the Library so that Members can see the true state of waiting lists, rather than the partial figures that the Government quote? Before the right hon. Gentleman prepares his standard response to me, which is about how many more nurses there are in my area, perhaps he will let me know instead why respite care at St. Mark’s hospital, Maidenhead is under threat, Townlands hospital is under threat of closure and maternity services have been cut at Wycombe hospital—all affecting my constituents.

It was shocking to read this week that the Department of Health has been sitting on a report on patient safety in mental health services that refers to a number of rape cases. May we have a debate on mental health services when we return in the autumn, and will the Leader of the House ensure that the Secretary of State for Health publishes that report well before the debate?

Yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition challenged the Prime Minister on reports that the ID card scheme had been delayed. The Prime Minister’s response was:

13 July 2006 : Column 1480

So when will the Home Secretary come to the House to make a statement about those changes?

The Home Secretary announced on 21 June that there were plans for a major shake-up of the Home Office and that his task force would produce firm proposals by July. Will the Leader of the House arrange also for the Home Secretary to come to the House before the recess to make a statement on the changes proposed for the Home Office, so that we can know what on earth is going on there? The Home Secretary gave himself 100 days to sort out the Home Office. He is more than two thirds of the way through, and with the visa scam at foreign language schools, failure to deport foreign criminals, the ID card project being delayed and confusion over police mergers, he is not doing very well.

This summer the Office for National Statistics will bring in changes to place all private finance initiative deals on the Government’s balance sheet. That is bad news for the Chancellor, as it could blow a hole through his sustainable investment rule. May we have a debate on the production and use of Government statistics? Does the Leader of the House stand by his comments made in a speech to the Royal Statistical Society in 1995 that there should be a national statistical service that should be

and that the new arrangements

Whatever happened to the governance of Britain Act?

Finally, yesterday, when asked who would be in charge of the country in the Prime Minister’s absence, the Prime Minister said that

Either that means that the Deputy Prime Minister will be in charge or it means that, unbeknown to him, he has never actually been in charge in the past. It was reported at one stage that the Leader of the House was being put on stand-by to take over in the Prime Minister’s absence. May I tell him that the country would breathe a collective sigh of relief if that happened? After all, he has a job, he owns his houses and he has never been seen wearing a Stetson. What are his holiday plans?

Mr. Straw: It’s the way she says it, Mr. Speaker. The right hon. Lady asks for a statement on the spending review. It is standard procedure provided for in “Erskine May” for Secretaries of State answering questions that may generate much more interest than would be taken account of by the normal time allowance for questions to delay them till the end of the Question Time. That, in my experience, has generally been to the approbation of the House, so I am surprised that the right hon. Lady and other Opposition Members are being so churlish about it. Questions 4 and 14 were drawn down by my right hon.
13 July 2006 : Column 1481
Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer precisely because he recognised the interest in the matter, and there were then well over 20 minutes to discuss it.

The right hon. Lady spoke about oral statements. I entirely accept that, wherever possible, it is better for oral statements rather than written statements to be made to the House, and we will not keep her unsatisfied in that respect this week, next week or the week after. However, many statements have to be made by way of written ministerial statements. It is a characteristic of all Governments at all times that many announcements tend to be delayed until the last minute before recesses. Written ministerial statements were an innovation that we introduced because they are better than planted parliamentary questions, but I am encouraging my colleagues to ensure that, whenever possible, written ministerial statements are published before the last day. We are all aware of the issue, but with the best will in the world, there will be some on the last day.

The right hon. Lady asked about hidden waiting lists and the true state of those lists. I am only too happy to tell her about the true state of the waiting lists. I will not mention the increase of 85,000 in the number of nurses since 1997, nor the increase of many thousands in the number of doctors. Nor will I mention the fact that between 1997 and 2005 the number of doctors in the health area that covers the right hon. Lady’s constituency increased by 1,400. I will mention, however, that overall waiting lists have fallen by 370,000 over the past nine years. The average wait for in-patient treatment is now 7.7 weeks, and waits of more than nine months are down by more than 118,000 since 1997. I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for asking that question.

I understand the point that the right hon. Lady makes about mental health services. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health is ready to publish the National Patient Safety Agency’s report, which is being finalised, as soon as it is complete. I cannot promise that there will be a debate on mental health services in the spillover session, but I can promise that there should be such a debate in the autumn.

The right hon. Lady asked about statements by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. There will indeed be statements if he has to make any significant changes before the recess.

The right hon. Lady referred to a fine speech that I made in 1995 about reorganisation of the Office for National Statistics. I am flattered that she has such a stock of my speeches. That led to a manifesto commitment in 1997, which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has taken forward. Progressively, we have strengthened the independence of the ONS—I am glad to see agreement from Conservative Members on this—and we will continue to do so. That is in sharp contrast to the scandal under the Conservatives, who undermined the integrity of national statistics by manipulating them.

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