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I am surprised that the right hon. Lady did not give me the usual list of demands for additional debates. I assume that she did not do so because of the most extraordinary own goal that she and Opposition Front
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Benchers committed yesterday. I have been in this House for 27 years, and I cannot think of a single occasion when the Opposition have gone into the Lobby five minutes before an Opposition day debate to vote to silence the House on that day. However, if they want to carry on in that way, that is absolutely fine.

Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): Has my right hon. Friend seen early-day motion 2483 on the death of Zahid Mubarek?

[That this House welcomes the report of Mr. Justice Keith into the death of Zahid Mubarek at Feltham Young Offenders' Institution; condemns without exception the litany of systemic and individual failures that led to the death of this young man; calls on authorities to consider what action they are able to take against those individuals specified by Mr. Justice Keith as having direct responsibility in some way for the death of Zahid Mubarek; and hopes that in light of this tragedy action is taken to improve the conditions in which young offenders are detained and to safeguard young offenders in detention.]

I am sure that my right hon. Friend will have seen the report by Mr. Justice Keith, which sets out a systematic set of failures by the Prison Service, particularly at Feltham young offenders institution, where this young man died on the day before he was due to be released. As yet, no one has been held responsible. May we please have a debate on this important issue to ensure that the circumstances surrounding Zahid’s death are not repeated?

Mr. Straw: I fully understand the deep concern of my right hon. Friend, the family of Zahid Mubarek, and many others. I was Home Secretary at the time of this terrible murder, and I take my share of the responsibility for the Prison Service’s failure at that time. Many positive changes have been introduced in the Prison Service since 2000, not least following the important judicial inquiry that was conducted. I believe that the Prison Service is now absolutely seized of the need to ensure that something like that never happens again.

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): We shall try very hard not to interfere with the Conservative Opposition day next week.

The Leader of the House suggested that what we just witnessed from the Chancellor of the Exchequer was normal procedure. It is not. I defy him to find in “Erskine May” any example of a 66-page document—a White Paper with enormous ramifications for public spending—being released under such circumstances and without the opportunity for proper debate. I ask him seriously to consider whether it should have been a matter for a proper statement to the House, as I believe that it still should be next week.

I hear what the Leader of the House says about trying to avoid last-minute written ministerial statements. I hope that he achieves that. Perhaps he should tell Departments that the House goes into recess next Thursday—then we will have all the written statements on Thursday and at least two days to consider what they say before the event.

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We should have a debate or a statement on the health service. I was struck, as was the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May), by the delays in diagnostic testing. It is not good enough that people have to wait for six months after seeing their GP for an essential diagnostic test. Irrespective of the investment that is going into the health service, that is a critical period for patients. This needs to be addressed, as it is an area where the Government are failing.

When we are debating the health service, perhaps we could consider the position of foundation hospitals and the fact that the heads of the companies that lend more than £500 million a year to the NHS are worried that they are going bankrupt. Are not the Government worried that foundation hospitals, which are now the flagship of the NHS, are going bankrupt?

I hope that I am not breaching any sub judice rules following recent events, but when we come back we need to have a serious and sober debate on party funding to enable us to exchange views, because all parties need to have a clear view of what will happen in future.

Before the recess, may we have a statement from the Leader of the House on the pressing matter of whether the Scrutiny Committee will have oversight of the Prime Minister’s resignation honours?

Mr. Straw: Let me deal first with the hon. Gentleman’s point about the drawing down of Questions 4 and 14 by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. There is nothing unusual about this procedure. [ Interruption.] There is not—it is set out on page 399 of “Erskine May”, and it is usually for the convenience of the House. I used the procedure as Foreign Secretary in respect of an issue that was of profound importance to Members of this House, as well as internationally, and excited just as much interest—the necessary withdrawal of our monitors from the jail in Jericho that then led to the arrest of the prisoners. For the life of me, I cannot see why Opposition Members are complaining about this, because it was to the benefit of the House, not its disadvantage.

I cannot guarantee that there will be no written ministerial statements on the Tuesday that we get up, but I hope that there will be fewer. As we all know, when written ministerial statements are put down on the Tuesday rather than the Monday there is, among other things, a cry that we are trying to avoid scrutiny. Generally speaking, we are not—it is merely that there has been a great logjam in getting them agreed.

There will be a debate on aspects of the health service when the Compensation Bill is before the House on Monday. There are plenty of opportunities to debate health services, and we are always delighted to do so, because despite the difficulties that will arise at any time, there is not a single constituency in which health care and spending has not improved, and the satisfaction of our constituents has not gone up, in the past nine years. Yes, it is the duty of Oppositions to criticise the Government, but in doing so they should not continually imply criticism of the additional thousands of doctors, nurses and other health care workers who are delivering that additional health care.

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The hon. Gentleman will be aware that Sir Hayden Phillips is conducting an inquiry into party funding to which all parties are giving evidence. Sir Hayden has said that he intends to report by the end of the year, and he may give some interim indications in the middle of the autumn. It would be premature to have a debate until we have at least an interim report from him.

On the Scrutiny Committee, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will allow me to write to him.

Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): May I remind my right hon. Friend that today—13 July—is the birth date of John Clare, one of our greatest English poets? Many regard Clare as one of the greatest English poets of the countryside and the environment. Would not it be appropriate to hold an early debate after the recess about the Education and Skills Committee report on the value of out-of-school education? We expect an imminent response from the Government on a manifesto for education outside the classroom. Is not it time that we ensured that all children in this country, wherever they live, have the opportunity to visit, enjoy and fall in love with the English countryside?

Mr. Straw: I agree with my hon. Friend’s sentiments and I commend his work on commemorating John Clare, including setting up a trust, about which I recently read an interesting interview with him in a magazine.

Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East) (DUP): On the back of the most peaceful July parade for many years, will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate so that we can examine areas where there were glitches, consider changes that can be made to the procedures and structures surrounding parades and perhaps discuss the Northern Ireland Office’s initiative to fund the Orange Institution to broaden the event’s appeal and make it more of a tourist attraction?

Mr. Straw: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland reported to Cabinet this morning that yesterday was the first occasion since 1970 when the Army did not need to take part in policing the parades—an extraordinary achievement by all the communities in Northern Ireland and the security forces. I offer our congratulations.

I cannot promise an immediate debate, but I take note of the comments of the hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Robinson) and I am sure that discussions will take place between him and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Mr. Don Touhig (Islwyn) (Lab/Co-op): Will my right hon. Friend agree to an annual debate on the Welsh block—the billions of pounds that the House provides for public services in Wales? Secondary school heads in my constituency tell me that there is a growing disparity between what they receive and what schools in others parts of the United Kingdom receive. Given that the Assembly Minister for Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills refused to meet them, refuses to meet me and even refuses to meet the Assembly Member for Islwyn, Irene James, an annual debate will
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mean that those of us in the United Kingdom Parliament can scrutinise what is being done with the generous settlement that we provide.

Mr. Straw: Such a debate would be a good idea. My hon. Friend emphasises that the House controls the amount of money available to the devolved Welsh Assembly and the devolved Scottish Parliament. We did not make a one-off decision to devolve power to the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament. Although we devolved power to them, we continue to exercise a great deal of control over what they can do through the block grant. For that and many other reasons, any suggestion that there should be two tiers of Members of Parliament in the House, with Scottish and Welsh Members denied an opportunity to vote on issues that directly or indirectly affect their constituents, is an outrage and would undermine the Union of the United Kingdom.

Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): I fully support the request of my right hon. Friend the shadow Leader of the House for a debate on mental health services and facilities, not least because I have received information that Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Trust is trying to remove all in-patient mental health facilities from Macclesfield district general hospital.

Will the Leader of the House give an assurance that the Greater Manchester PCTs forum will not make decisions about in-patient paediatric, maternity and obstetric services that affect my district general hospital and the people of west Derbyshire and north-west Staffordshire as well as east Cheshire before the House comes back? It would be wrong for Members of Parliament not to have an opportunity to raise those matters on the Floor of the House. We are considering essential NHS services.

Mr. Straw: I shall pass on the hon. Gentleman’s comments to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and ask her to respond to his obviously genuine concerns. He is an experienced advocate for his constituents and I know that he will be skilled in making his points to the PCTs forum and the PCTs in his area as well as the mental health trust. There is no way in which the health service in England can be run through the Secretary of State and the Department of Health making every decision. Local trusts or bodies will always make decisions locally, and that is appropriate. They are given the responsibility and have to make the decisions.

Sir Peter Soulsby (Leicester, South) (Lab): In response to questions from me at a sitting of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee yesterday, the Secretary of State was unable to reassure the Committee that, as a result of failures in the Rural Payments Agency, the Department is not contemplating severe cuts in current and future budgets of the agencies and organisations that it funds. Will the Leader of the House give an assurance that if DEFRA is contemplating cuts to bodies such as the Environment Agency and British Waterways, he will
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ask the Secretary of State to come to the House to make a statement before the recess so that hon. Members have the opportunity to question him about why those bodies, their customers and those who rely on their services should suffer cuts because of unconnected failures in the Rural Payments Agency?

Mr. Straw: All Departments have to live within their budgets—that is life. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has been assiduous in coming to the House to make statements. I am sure that he will do so again if it is judged appropriate.

Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell) (Con): The Leader of the House appeared to fail to understand the strength of feeling on the Opposition Benches about extradition arrangements with the United States and the lack of reciprocity. He failed to understand that we felt so strongly yesterday that we were prepared to delay our debate on home information packs until next week by voting with the Liberal Democrats to draw attention to the fact that something disgraceful is happening. He could put the matter right. The Police and Justice Bill will return from the Lords soon. The Government suffered a major defeat when their lordships rightly decided that there should be reciprocity. May we have ample time to debate the relevant amendment and a free vote, so that Labour Members who share our concerns are allowed to do that without the interference of the Whips?

Mr. Straw: I can take such criticism from the Liberal Democrats, who have consistently expressed their concerns about the Extradition Act 2003. It was known from the start that there would not be complete symmetry. We debated the matter at great length, not only yesterday but during the passage of the 2003 Act and when the matter was debated Upstairs under affirmative resolution procedure, which designated the United States as a part 2 country, notwithstanding the fact that it had not ratified the treaty. The Liberal Democrats voted against the order when it was presented on the Floor of the House on 15 December 2003. We voted in favour of it. The right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. Mackay) and all his hon. Friends abstained. They had no view about it then. That shows how little concerned they were about the matter at that stage. I am sorry but it is not a matter for Johnny-come-latelys.

Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab): Given the rapidly deteriorating situation in the middle east, will the Leader of the House assure us that the Foreign Secretary will discuss the matter with colleagues at the G8 over the weekend? As well as the report back from that meeting, will my right hon. Friend please reconsider whether there is time for a full debate?

Mr. Straw: I understand the desire for a full debate, and so does my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will go to St. Petersburg for the G8. As he told the Cabinet today, it is clear that the deteriorating situation, which now affects the whole of the middle east, will be at the top of the agenda for all G8 countries. In Cabinet, my right
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hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister expressed profound concern, and the Foreign Secretary reminded Cabinet of her condemnation of what is regarded as a disproportionate response by Israel as well as deep concern about the activities of Hamas and Hezbollah.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will make a statement about that on Tuesday, following his return from the G8. The statement will be about the whole issue of the G8, but this matter can be covered by him in that statement, and it will be. There are also Foreign and Commonwealth Office questions in the following week, and meanwhile my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will be at the General Affairs and External Relations Council of the European Union on Monday, where this matter will be top of the agenda—and, if possible, she or one of her Foreign Office Ministers will make a statement later in the week, if necessary.

Mr. Angus MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP): I am a bit perplexed by references already made this morning to public funding, but in the light of increasing public concern, and given the conclusions in the recommendation of the Public Administration Committee, which was published this morning, can Government time be found to debate the issues addressed in my Honours (Prevention of Corruption) Bill, and will the Prime Minister make a statement?

Mr. Straw: The progress of Bills in this House is a well-known procedure and the Government will, of course, respond to the Public Administration Committee in due course.

Mr. Tom Harris (Glasgow, South) (Lab): I draw my right hon. Friend’s attention to early-day motion 2519:

[That this House believes plans by the right hon. Member for Witney to ban hon. Members representing constituencies in Scotland from voting on matters relating exclusively to England would precipitate a constitutional crisis which would threaten the future of the United Kingdom; and further believes that everyone elected to this House should have the same rights of participation, irrespective of which part of the United Kingdom they represent.]

I tabled it in anticipation of the expected Opposition day debate by the Conservative party on the West Lothian question that was due to take place yesterday, but which did not do so, presumably because wiser counsel from the right hon. and learned Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Sir Malcolm Rifkind), the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) and—God help us—the Daily Mail prevailed. Therefore, may we have a debate in Government time on the West Lothian question, so that the Conservative party’s incredibly cynical position on that issue can be properly exposed?

Mr. Straw: I cannot promise that, but I will do my best. My hon. Friend raises an important issue. It is extraordinary that the shadow Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, the hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald), told us through the organ of The Observer that he was hoping to use an Opposition day debate before the House broke for the summer to highlight the “English votes” Bill. Somehow
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or other, the Conservatives had a touch of nerves; the fact that they have been so worried and concerned to avoid this issue being discussed is another reason they voted down their own half-day yesterday. I would be delighted for this matter to be discussed. Meanwhile, I should like to draw to the attention of a wider audience a speech that I made on Tuesday to the Hansard Society on precisely this issue.

Mrs. Nadine Dorries (Mid-Bedfordshire) (Con): I asked the following question of the previous incumbent of the right hon. Gentleman’s post, and I make no apologies for asking it again. I spent last Friday on the wards at Bedford hospital, where I witnessed nurse managers, nursing sisters and departmental managers leaving meetings in tears because they are going to lose their jobs. Nurses are the drivers of, and the most important people in, the NHS. They deserve to have a day and a debate of their own in this place, when we can discuss the future role of nursing in the UK, the fact that so many of them have lost their jobs, and where exactly nursing is going. I hope that the Leader of the House will make time for such a debate. Will he do so?

Mr. Straw: I understand the concern of the hon. Lady’s constituents, and of nurses in her area, about what are temporary difficulties in health services in some parts of the country. Of course I commend such nurses’ work, but I hope that the hon. Lady will take account of the fact that, between 1997 and 2005, there was an increase of 2,500 in the number of nurses in the area that covers her constituency.

Mrs. Dorries: They have lost their jobs.

Mr. Straw: No, 2,500 nurses have not lost their jobs in that area. There has been some reduction in the number of nurses, but that has been from a much higher level than ever was achieved under the Conservatives.

Mr. Paul Truswell (Pudsey) (Lab): My right hon. Friend will be aware that, last week, Kate Barker published her interim report on the impact of the planning process on business. Does my right hon. Friend agree that community involvement in the planning process is a vital part of our local democracy, and that it would be appropriate for us to have a debate in this House to ensure that that aspect of the planning system receives equal treatment, so that not only the interests of one sector of the community are addressed?

Mr. Straw: I certainly agree with what my hon. Friend says about the importance of involving communities. Like him, I receive many complaints about, and representations on, planning issues; they come from both sides—they are both in favour of development and against. I will ensure that my hon. Friend’s concerns are drawn to the attention of our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

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