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He also felt that it would be welcomed by Members of the House. With just two weeks left before the House rises, will the Leader of the House tell us what progress has been made on the publication of the report and a subsequent debate on it?

Ms Harman: I thank the hon. Gentleman for bringing this matter to my attention. I am not able to give him an answer, but I undertake to look into it. I would say to him and other hon. Members that, if they need an answer on an important issue that relates to undertakings that Ministers have given the House, it is a good idea to let me know in advance. I can then investigate the situation with my ministerial colleagues and report substantively to the House. Twenty-four hours’ notice would be good.

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Mrs. Sharon Hodgson (Gateshead, East and Washington, West) (Lab): Following the sub-national review and the appointment of regional Ministers, which I welcome—especially the appointment of the Minister for the North East, my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East and Wallsend (Mr. Brown) to my very own region—may I ask the Leader of the House for more details of how Parliament will have democratic oversight of regional issues? Does she agree that new structures should include social partners, such as Northern TUC and the trade unions, to ensure that we get the best possible public policy delivery for all our regions?

Ms Harman: I thank my hon. Friend for raising that point. She is a champion for her region, both in the House and back in her home town. I join her in congratulating my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East and Wallsend, who will be the Minister accountable for the north-east. Accountability for work in the regions will be established not only through the regional Ministers at the Dispatch Box but through the Department for Communities and Local Government, the Department of Health and all other Departments with an important regional impact.

Mr. Mark Harper (Forest of Dean) (Con): I should like to join my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May) in pressing for an urgent statement from the Secretary of State for Justice. I listened carefully to what the Leader of the House said in her reply to my right hon. Friend. I understand from reports that Wiltshire’s coroner, county council and chief constable have all requested a meeting with the Justice Secretary or representatives of his Department to discuss more funds for inquests. They have been told that they will have to make their case in the autumn. The backlog of inquests into the deaths of our service personnel has been increasing rather than declining, and our brave men and women are, unfortunately, being killed in theatre faster than we can carry out the inquests. It is unacceptable for their families that the backlog is increasing, and I ask the Leader of the House to urge her colleague to meet the Wiltshire coroner as soon as possible to ensure that the backlog increases no further during the summer.

Ms Harman: The hon. Gentleman raises an important issue. I have spoken to my right hon. Friend the Justice Secretary this morning. He is going to have a meeting with the Wiltshire coroner, and it will not be in the autumn—it will be much sooner than that. On 17 June, when I was Justice Minister, I wrote to the Wiltshire coroner to invite him to meet officials in the Justice Department in order to ensure that delays did not build up. We had very bad delays building up in Oxfordshire, and when I was Justice Minister I took action with the Oxfordshire coroner to sort out that very bad problem. I said at the time that I was not prepared to see a similar problem arise in Wiltshire, and that remains the Government position. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Justice will not allow delays to arise.

Hon. and right hon. Members are right to raise this issue, but I want to reassure the House that we will not let a backlog build up. So far as a statement is
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concerned, when I first raised this issue, I offered statements on a regular updating basis so that people could see all the inquests that were waiting to be heard. I updated that information at the end of last month. The situation has not changed materially since then, so I will not suggest to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that he issue another written statement. He will, however, meet the coroner in Wiltshire to assure himself that no more delays will build up.

Barry Gardiner (Brent, North) (Lab): In warmly welcoming my right hon. and learned Friend to all her new posts, may I venture to suggest that she might not—at least, not yet—have had time to read the proceedings of the third international congress of the Asia Pacific Society of Infection Control in Kuala Lumpur this week? If she had read it, her eye might have been caught by the paper entitled “Ultraviolet sterilised bedroom air protects patients from MRSA”. Will she take the opportunity to congratulate Dr. Peder Nielsen, the consultant microbiologist who is the director of infection prevention and control at Northwick Park hospital, where a significant trial on MRSA control has just taken place with great success? Might the Leader of the House enable a debate—

Mr. Speaker: Order. I am trying to do my best to get every hon. Member in at the tail end of business questions. That is not easy when hon. Members seek to congratulate constituents. There are other ways of handling these matters.

Ms Harman: I join my hon. Friend in his congratulations to Peder Nielsen. Infection control at Northwick Park hospital, and in hospitals throughout the country and world wide, is a big challenge that we want to take forward. The matter will no doubt be raised in Health questions.

Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): May we have an early debate on the Government’s proposals to change the national curriculum? It is disappointing that an announcement was made, yet again, to the BBC before being made to the House. There has been no oral or written statement on the matter today. I see the Minister for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education, the hon. Member for Harlow (Bill Rammell), in his place, and it would have been nice to hear the announcement in the House first. When we have that debate, may we discuss the need for any global theories on climate change to be taught in a balanced way, looking not just at man-made issues but at atmospheric factors, so that climate and global changes are not presented as a quasi-religion or as pantheism?

Ms Harman: This matter has been under consideration by the Select Committees, and it has also been discussed on the Floor of the House. The Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Ed Balls), has already made an oral statement on it. In addition, he will answer oral questions on Thursday week. No doubt, these questions will be put to him then.

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Jim Sheridan (Paisley and Renfrewshire, North) (Lab): Will my right hon. and learned Friend arrange for a statement on what progress has been made on reviewing the security at UK airports? She may be aware of the public statement by Conservative Members that people standing in queues at airports could be targets for terrorists. I am sure that she will agree that it does not fall within the remit of hon. Members to advise terrorists. Travelling through airports is frustrating, but the security measures that are in place are there to safeguard all of us.

Ms Harman: I know that my hon. Friend is working with all who work at Glasgow airport, which serves his constituency. That is important work, and I support the points that he has raised.

Dr. Evan Harris (Oxford, West and Abingdon) (LD): Following the changes to the machinery of government, there will no doubt be an oral or written statement on the changes to the Select Committees. Does the Leader of the House accept that the Government have a good reputation in the science community, and that the science community at large, as well as Members on both sides of the House, wish to see the continuation of the Science and Technology Committee, which is able to scrutinise science across government, leaving the scrutiny of individual Departments to the appropriate departmental Select Committees? Will she pass that message on to the usual channels or to those who decide these matters?

Ms Harman: There is discussion on the future of the Science and Technology Select Committee in the light of the changes to the machinery of government affecting schools, children and universities. Those discussions are ongoing and, should there be any change, an announcement would no doubt have to be made to the House and voted on, if necessary.

David T.C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con): Council tax in the constituency of Monmouthshire have risen by 184 per cent. over the past 10 years. Will the Leader of the House ask a Minister to make an urgent statement to the pensioners of Monmouthshire to explain how they can possibly deal with these exorbitant rises while keeping a roof over their heads?

Ms Harman: This question relates to a devolved matter, but I will draw the hon. Gentleman’s points to the attention of my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Wales and for Communities and Local Government.

Mike Penning (Hemel Hempstead) (Con): May we have an urgent debate on the Floor of the House in Government time on the accountability of the Health and Safety Executive? On 11 December 2005, my constituency was rocked by the Buncefield explosion. Safety at that depot was the responsibility of the Health and Safety Executive, but we have now been informed that Crown immunity will be claimed, should—I stress should—any action, civil or criminal, be brought against the HSE. In the 21st century, how can it be right for Government agencies to have Crown immunity, rendering my constituents unable to receive any due compensation?

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Ms Harman: I cannot give the hon. Gentleman an immediate answer on accountability, but I will raise the matter with the relevant Secretary of State, as health and safety is a very important issue.

Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire) (LD): May I draw the House’s attention to early-day motion 813, which stands in my name and is supported by 53 hon. Members, about the nomination of the Antonine wall for world heritage site status?

[That this House welcomes the nomination of the Antonine Wall for UNESCO World Heritage Site status; notes the historical significance of the Wall as denoting the true north-western frontier of the Roman Empire; further notes that the Wall's distance slabs form one of the most important groups of preserved Roman military sculptures; further notes the importance both of preserving the Wall and educating the public about its historical significance; and supports the ongoing work in other countries to denote more extensively the borders of the Roman Empire as World Heritage sites.]

This summer, UNESCO inspectors will visit my constituency in Dunbartonshire and several others through which the wall runs in order to evaluate the bid. Can we have a debate on the Antonine wall and the contribution that the UK’s world heritage sites make to our local communities, economies and cultural life?

Ms Harman: Bearing in mind the fact that one of the Bills included in the draft Queen’s Speech is a heritage Bill, there might be an opportunity for the hon. Lady to raise the issue there.

Mr. Mark Lancaster (North-East Milton Keynes) (Con): Can we have a debate on early-day motion 1761, on the future of the Territorial Army?

[That this House is concerned at the impact of the 5 million saving required to be made by the Territorial Army (TA) over the next two financial years; acknowledges that the proposed implementation plan put forward by Commander Regional Forces will stop all recruiting in TA units that are not making a significant contribution to current operations, delay the establishment of six squadron size units until April 2009, cancel Cambrian Patrol, cancel all TA involvement in the Nijmegen marches, cancel divisional skill at arms meetings and freeze the recruitment of 244 non-regular permanent staff; and, given the disproportionate impact this will have on the morale and effectiveness of the Territorial Army, urges the Government to reconsider the requirement to implement these savings.]

Only yesterday, the Prime Minister said that he had “nothing but praise” for those in the Territorial Army and continued by saying that he believed that the whole House would want to say that we owe them “a debt of gratitude”. What he did not say was that the Government are cutting the TA budget by £5 million. Given the likely effect, is it right for Ministers to praise the Territorial Army from the Dispatch Box only to cut its budgets?

Ms Harman: We would all agree with what the Prime Minister said about the important work of the Territorial Army. I draw the hon. Gentleman’s attention to Defence questions next Monday, when he
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will have an opportunity to raise the matter with the Secretary of State for Defence.

Justine Greening (Putney) (Con): Will the Leader of the House join me in pressing the Department for Transport to make publicly available the environmental modelling results currently being passed to BAE in relation to Heathrow expansion, but not to me as an MP? I have tabled a parliamentary question about this and made a freedom of information request, but so far these results have not been made available to me. It is a matter of great concern to my constituents. Will the Leader of the House find out from the Department for Transport when it plans to make these results publicly available?

Ms Harman: I will draw the hon. Lady’s points to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. There are some exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act and the hon. Lady’s question may fall under the commercial confidentiality exclusion. I am not aware of the detail on that, but I will find out and ask my right hon. Friend to respond directly to the hon. Lady.

Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): Last week, I drew the House’s attention to Mrs. Ruby Waterer, who was going blind, but was denied treatment on the NHS and would have had to go privately. Immediately after the Leader of the House’s reply, she was granted treatment on the NHS, so I would like to thank the right hon. and learned Lady for her involvement.
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Unfortunately, four more people in my local area contacted me yesterday, as they had been told that they would have to go blind because the NHS would not treat them. Their only option is to go privately and pay up to £8,000. Would it not be appropriate for the Secretary of State for Health to make a statement on what is clearly a very important issue?

Ms Harman: I will bring, again, the hon. Gentleman’s points to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health. The case raised at business questions last week was a heart-rending but quite complex one, involving questions of referral and the appropriateness of diagnosis. It raises important concerns. If the hon. Gentleman would like to give the details of the four other cases to the Secretary of State, I am sure they will be looked into.

Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): The future of sub-post offices in the Kettering constituency, across Northamptonshire and, indeed, across the whole country hangs in the balance, awaiting the Government’s announcement of its detailed closure programme. Will the Leader of the House confirm when the details of which post offices are to be closed will be announced, and when they are, will the Minister responsible for the Post Office make an oral statement to the House and respond to hon. Members’ questions?

Ms Harman: Consultation and discussion are under way, led by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. All hon. Members recognise the important role for sub-post offices. We want to ensure that we have the right level of public subsidy and the right services provided to local people.

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Orders of the Day

Further Education and Training Bill [Lords]

As amended in the Public Bill Committee, considered.

New Clause 5

Functions of Learning and Skills Council for England in relation to education and training for persons aged 16 to 19

‘(1) LSA 2000 is amended as follows.

(2) Omit section 2 (education and training for persons aged 16 to 19).

(3) In section 3D(1) for “sections 2 and 3” substitute “section 3”.

(4) In section 13(1) omit “2,”.’.— [Sarah Teather.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

12.35 pm

Sarah Teather (Brent, East) (LD): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 26, in clause 6, page 6, line 31, leave out subsection (1).

No. 27, page 6, line 37, leave out ‘that Act’ and insert ‘LSA 2000’.

No. 28, schedule 2, page 28, line 2, column 2 , at beginning insert ‘Section 2.’.

Sarah Teather: New clause 5 and consequential amendments Nos. 26 to 28 are essential probing amendments designed to tease out the Government’s intentions with regard to 16-to-19 funding, following the announcement of a new departmental structure. The effect of those amending provisions, taken together, is to remove the statutory duty on the Learning and Skills Council to provide education, training and leisure activities to 16 to 19-year-olds.

The Minister for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education may recall our previous debates on the subject. For example, he said:

He also said:

That is interesting, as just two weeks ago the Prime Minister announced that that money would be transferred to local authorities.

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