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15 Mar 2007 : Column 444

I failed to respond to the question that the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) asked about the Lyons report. There will be plenty of opportunities in the Budget debate, if he is correct about the report, to raise the issue of the financing of local taxation.

Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green) (Con): This morning, I, with many others, attended at short notice the Delegated Legislation Committee debating the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007. Does the Leader of the House not accept that there is something wrong with proceedings if, a week after we discussed in the House the pre-eminence of the Commons in debates, such an important matter was dealt with in a Delegated Legislation Committee, which meant it was not possible for us to debate it extensively and vote on it in the Chamber? He will say that it is a matter for Front-Bench teams but, as the champion of Back-Bench issues in the House, does he not accept that we should have an opportunity to debate those issues properly? It is possible to be in favour of the principle, but worry about its impact, and we still do not have an answer to many issues surrounding adoption and education legislation. Will the Leader of the House champion Back-Bench issues and tell his colleagues that it is time to drag this matter back to the Floor of the House and debate it properly?

Mr. Straw: The right hon. Gentleman was leader of his party for quite a long period. He said that the matter was agreed by the Front-Bench teams, and he will know that it is very difficult to get the quart pot of demand for debates on the Floor of the House into the pint pot of available time. The matter was discussed in Committee with the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Meg Munn). It was a subject of considerable debate, as is demonstrated by the fact that the Conservatives split 3:2 on it. We always do our best to ensure that debates take place in the House, but sometimes that is not possible.

John Austin (Erith and Thamesmead) (Lab): The Leader of the House will know of my enthusiastic support for the introduction of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. I still believe that it is vital to ensuring the availability of effective treatment and value for money in the NHS. Nevertheless, he will be aware of growing disquiet both among Labour Members and throughout the House about delays in the assessment of treatments and about some recent NICE decisions. May I draw his attention to early-day motion 1138?

[That this House notes that the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has issued new draft recommendations for the treatment of osteoporosis; believes that this new draft represents some steps forward but regrets that many women aged under 70 who are at risk of breaking a bone due to osteoporosis still do not qualify for treatment; notes that the development of recommendations by NICE on the use of osteoporosis drugs is now into its fifth year, whereas recommendations for treatments usually take just one to two years; fears that as a consequence of this delay, existing mandatory recommendations are not being
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implemented while doctors wait for them to be reviewed; notes that there are 10.6 million women aged over 50 in the UK and that almost half of these women will break a bone during their lifetime mainly due to osteoporosis and that one in five men will suffer a fracture after the age of 50; believes that treatment at just 27 pence per day is cost-effective in preventing a broken hip which would cost the health service over £12,000 a year as well as resulting in huge personal and social care costs, and calls on NICE urgently to review its decision and allow preventative treatment to all patients at risk of fracture.]

The cost in hospital and social care of osteoporotic fractures is £1.7 billion a year, yet recent NICE guidance denies effective preventive treatment to people under 70. Will the Leader of the House make provision in Government time for a debate on the workings of NICE?

Mr. Straw: I understand my hon. Friend’s concerns, and I shall certainly draw them to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Health Secretary. On the question of a debate, I very much hope that he can raise the matter in Westminster Hall or on the Adjournment. There will be other opportunities, too, including Health questions, to raise it.

Mr. David Curry (Skipton and Ripon) (Con): The reply from the Leader of the House on the Lyons report was perfunctory to the point of being epigrammatic. The rumour is that the report will be published on Wednesday, to be buried in the Budget. It is of great importance to millions of people, but it has been hugely delayed and, it appears, widely leaked. There is no earthly reason why it should not be published on Monday, when we are debating estate agents, or on Tuesday, so that the House has a chance to see its conclusions and, if it is debated in the Budget, to be informed. In any case, there should be a debate before the local elections, so that the parties can set out their stalls for the electorate.

Mr. Straw: I was not being perfunctory, but I was brief, because I had been admonished for being prolix. If the report is published with the Budget—I am not confirming that it will be—it will hardly be buried, as the Budget is the most observed moment in the parliamentary calendar. There will be ample opportunity, including a four-day debate on the Budget, for right hon. and hon. Members to express their concerns about or their support for it.

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): May I ask the Leader of the House to use his imagination to try to find a way of providing an urgent debate on Zimbabwe before the Easter recess and before the Foreign Secretary visits South Africa, as it is important that she give the South African Government a clear statement that the House believes that they are falling down on their responsibilities as the lead power in southern Africa?

Mr. Straw: I understand the frustration of everyone in the House, but my right hon. Friends in the Foreign Office are as frustrated about their diary problems, as they too want to ensure that the matter is debated. I draw my hon. Friend’s attention to the fact that there are Foreign Office questions next Tuesday. May I tell her, as we have known one another for a very long time,
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that it is not lack of imagination that is the problem but the much more prosaic matter of finding a Minister whose diary fits both the requirements of the House and their overseas duties?

Mr. Roger Gale (North Thanet) (Con): May I take the Leader of the House back to his earlier answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith)? This morning, in Committee Room 11, at least 10 Back Benchers were denied the opportunity to speak on the sexual orientation regulations. That highly contentious piece of legislation is wholly unsuited to the form of a statutory instrument. Next week, we will deal with a statutory instrument on casinos, of all things, on the Floor of the House, yet those sexual orientation regulations will be buried. Will the Leader of the House give us a clear undertaking that they will not be put through on a vote late at night, or on a deferred Division until, at the very least, the Easter Adjournment debate, so that the House can debate them on the Adjournment?

Mr. Straw: First, if the measure had been debated on the Floor of the House, it might easily have been the case that 10 hon. Members on either or both sides could not get in to speak, as there is great demand to participate in such debates. Secondly, the case for protection on grounds of sexual orientation was made and extensively debated during the passage of the Equality Act 2006, which is the substantive legislation that gave rise to the consequential statutory— [Interruption.] It is true. The debate today was on subordinate legislation, which is based on primary legislation. On the question how a vote is taken on the Floor of the House, my right hon. Friend the Chief Whip is in her place, and we will take into account representations that are made.

Anne Moffat (East Lothian) (Lab): May we have a debate on the right to wear the Pingat Jasa Malaysia medal? The medal was awarded to all Australian, New Zealand, Fiji and British servicemen, but only the British have been refused permission to wear it. How can I justify that to my constituent Walter Stewart, who is asking for the right to wear the medal?

Mr. Straw: The honest answer is, with great difficulty. Some of us who have had to deal with similar questions have found the rules in relation to the wearing of overseas decorations quite difficult to comprehend. I assure my hon. Friend that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister continues to take a close interest in the matter.

John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): In my constituency is the Coventry road, on which on Saturday and Sunday nights there is racing. It is a road with an ordinary 40 mph limit. May we have a debate on why the Government have laws on antisocial behaviour that are unenforceable?

Mr. Straw: The hon. Gentleman always comes back for more. Two weeks ago he asked for a debate. I said that we could have a debate about the softness of the Liberal Democrats, who say one thing in their constituencies and do another in the House. If the hon.
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Gentleman is concerned about antisocial behaviour, he should start voting for the effective measures that we have taken against it, and he should stop supporting the criminals, rather than the victims.

Mr. David Anderson (Blaydon) (Lab): May we have a debate before the Easter recess on nurses’ pay? In Scotland nurses are being paid 2.5 per cent., according to the pay review. In England they are being paid 1.9 per cent. and being told that they are being paid 2.5 per cent. They are incensed by that. May we have a debate as a matter of urgency?

Mr. Straw: This is a devolved matter for the Scottish Parliament. With devolution, it is inevitable that different Administrations will come to different decisions within a financial envelope provided by the United Kingdom Parliament. I note what my hon. Friend says about the concern of nurses in England, and I will pass on his remarks to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health.

Robert Neill (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): Does the Leader of the House accept that there is increasing concern about the proposal by the Lord Chancellor’s Department to gut the interior of Middlesex guildhall, which is one of the finest examples of Edwardian secular architecture in London, and also an important part of London’s historic heritage as the former home of the Middlesex county council, to make way for the venue for the new Supreme Court? Will he undertake that the Lord Chancellor’s Department will not proceed with plans to rip out the interior within two and a half weeks of the court’s closure on 30 March, and will take no action until the Constitutional Affairs Committee has held its proposed inquiry into the matter or there has been a debate in Government time?

Mr. Straw: The hon. Gentleman is aware that there are very strict rules in respect of listed buildings, for the interior of the buildings as well as the exterior. I am sure the Department for Constitutional Affairs is following those. Having spent many happy hours earning an honest penny or two in Middlesex Sessions across the road when I was a young barrister, I do not quite share the hon. Gentleman’s view about the architectural merit of the building, but that is a matter of choice.

Jim Sheridan (Paisley and Renfrewshire, North) (Lab): May we have a debate on the definition of Britishness? My right hon. Friend may recall that when British Airways sought to get rid of its British identity, the then Prime Minister expressed her robust but effective views. Will he do likewise, in light of the fact that British Airways is attempting to get rid of its identity again, at a cost of hundreds of jobs at airports throughout the UK, and effectively to rebrand itself as London Airways?

Mr. Straw: I understand the concern of my hon. Friend and others, and I recognise the anxiety about job losses or unacceptable transfers. British Airways is of course a commercial organisation, but I will ensure
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that my hon. Friend’s remarks are drawn to the attention of those running the company.

Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP): Over the past three years in Northern Ireland, there has been an increase in health spending of about 15 per cent., yet despite that, only last week in the House an answer was given that waiting lists for hip operations have gone up by 100 per cent. The same is true for eye operations, and in my constituency ambulance services and local hospitals are being closed. Will the right hon. Gentleman arrange a debate in the House so that it can be explained how more money is being spent on the health service, yet service delivery is going down?

Mr. Straw: I do not accept that service delivery overall is going down. I accept that there are some changes year on year, but if the hon. Gentleman goes back to 1997, he will see that there has been a dramatic improvement in health delivery in Northern Ireland, as in other parts of the Union.

Mary Creagh (Wakefield) (Lab): May we have a debate on the draft Climate Change Bill—a radical piece of proposed legislation and the first of its kind in the world? Would it not be interesting to have the debate around the time when the energy and planning White Papers are produced? That is particularly important, given the comments of the shadow Leader of the House about green taxes. They are made up mainly of the fuel duty escalator, so if she is proposing to re-establish that, the public should be told.

Mr. Straw: That is a good idea, which we will bear in mind. We are also ensuring that the draft Climate Change Bill will be examined by an appropriate Committee of the House, with a debate afterwards.

John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): May I reiterate to the Leader of the House the pleas of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith) and my hon. Friend the Member for North Thanet (Mr. Gale)? As one of the Members of the House who has consistently argued that the Government’s sexual orientation regulations will be a liberating force for millions of gay, lesbian and bisexual people in this country, I implore the Leader of the House, even at this late stage, to arrange for a debate on the Floor of the House on the matter next week, both because it is right that alternative points of view should be aired, and because those of us who believe in the regulations know in our heart of hearts that we will be strengthened as a result of hearing and rebutting the arguments against them.

Mr. Straw: I note what the hon. Gentleman says. I cannot add to what I have already said about the matter, except to say that I know there was a vigorous debate upstairs, albeit limited to an hour and a half.

Mr. Tom Watson (West Bromwich, East) (Lab): May we have a debate on the future of football? My right hon. Friend may have read recent newspaper reports claiming that the Football League is considering resolving drawn matches by penalty shoot-outs. Does he think that there are merits in that system and, if so,
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what lessons can he learn for resolving the future composition of the House of Lords?

Mr. Straw: There may be merits, but I am not sure what they are. I would be delighted to have a debate on the future of football, although I happen to think the much more important issue is to make sure that clubs, particularly premier league clubs, do not price themselves out of the market. I am glad that Blackburn Rovers is leading the way in that respect.

John Penrose (Weston-super-Mare) (Con): May I bring the Leader of the House back to the question from my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May) about the successor to Sir Alistair Graham? In his efforts to be brief, he did not answer the question about whether a successor has been chosen and when the announcement will be made.

Mr. Straw: A successor has not yet been chosen. That was one of the complaints of Sir Alistair, but the matter is in hand.

Helen Jones (Warrington, North) (Lab): In view of the negotiations that are taking place in Northern Ireland, will my right hon. Friend arrange for a Northern Ireland Minister to come to the House and give us an update on how those negotiations are proceeding? Would such a Minister be able to confirm that the date of 26 March for setting up a devolved Administration will not be varied in any way by the Government?

Mr. Straw: I can confirm that. Any change to the 26 March date would require emergency legislation, and the Government have made it clear that there is no possibility of further emergency legislation in relation to the restoration of devolution in Northern Ireland to extend the deadline.

Dr. Evan Harris (Oxford, West and Abingdon) (LD): On the sexual orientation regulations, I associate myself with the question asked by the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) and the way in which he asked it. In urging the Leader of the House to think again about a debate on the Floor of the House, I assure him that the detail of the regulations was not debated in the proceedings on the Equality Act, because there was just a regulation-making power. There was no thought about issues such as exemptions for adoption. I urge him to recognise that a debate on the Floor of the House would expose the divisions in some parties in this place and, broadly speaking, the unity among Government Members and Liberal Democrat Members in seeking to have those freedoms for lesbian and gay people.

Mr. Straw: I note the strength of feeling on the issue by people who hold different positions on the merits of the regulations. With respect, I cannot add to what I have already said about the problems of programming business on the Floor of the House given the demands. However, I note what the hon. Gentleman has said.

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2012 Olympics

12.11 pm

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): With permission, Mr. Speaker, it gives me the greatest pleasure to make a statement on progress towards the Olympic games and the Paralympics in 2012.

This will be the world’s greatest sporting event here in our country, but it will also act as a catalyst for the most ambitious regeneration programme in recent memory. That will include the largest new urban park in Europe for more than 150 years. There will be five new permanent sports venues and a number of temporary venues, which will be used around the UK after the games. The 1 million sq ft media centre for the games will provide in legacy a state-of-the-art business space. Four thousand homes will be converted from the village, and a further 5,000 will be provided elsewhere in the redevelopment. And there will be one of the largest shopping centres in Europe, which will involve an estimated £7 billion private sector investment. That money has been invested because we won the Olympic games.

Across the country, the games will inspire a whole generation of young people to play sport, volunteer in their communities and be proud of what their country has achieved. We chose to host the games at a site where the need was greatest and where the benefits would be most keenly felt. We chose east London, because of the challenge to regenerate one of the most deprived areas not only in the UK, but in the whole of Europe. The site of the Olympic park needs remediation before construction work can even begin. That work is well under way. Essential utilities for the area need to be installed. That work is also well under way.

Developing the Olympic village requires the largest number of homes ever to be built in one place, at one time, in this country. The planning for that work is on schedule. As the National Audit Office report in January set out, when we bid for the games, we estimated the cost of the Olympic park, infrastructure and an element for community and elite sport at around £3 billion, plus an additional £1 billion as part of the wider lower Lea valley Olympic regeneration. This made the total cost of preparing for the games and Olympic regeneration just over £4 billion. Those costs were net of tax and of wider security costs.

I made it clear to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee on 15 May 2005, which was before we won, that if we were successful, I would institute a detailed review of costs. That review began in early autumn 2005, after we had won the bid. The budget for every venue, every bridge and every facility on the park has been scrutinised. The Olympic Delivery Authority’s private sector delivery partner, CLM, has unrivalled expertise in advising five Olympic cities on their plans. CLM has made a detailed study of the site and all the attendant risks inherent in a project of this magnitude and tight time scale. The site master plan has been amended to avoid potential costs in the region of £600 million. However, other costs have been judged to have increased, as I set out for the Select Committee in November, resulting in a net increase of £900 million.

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