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That this House believes that the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme should be amended to reflect the true cost to the lives of those injured in terrorist attacks in mainland Britain; notes that some victims of the 7th July 2005 bombings in London have yet to receive full compensation or have received minimal offers of
compensation by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority; and calls on the Government to respond to the Green Paper Rebuilding Lives' and uprate the limit of £500,000 and tariffs set in 1996.
The problem is that under the current scheme those who suffer as a result of terrorist outrages such as bombings cannot obtain enough money to take them through the rest of their lives in any way that is tolerable. The tariffs were set back in 1996, and do not cover the terrible injuries that people suffer. I am about to meet the family of one of those victims, and I should very much like the Secretary of State for Justice to update the House on his thinking.
Ms Harman: I am sure the whole House agrees with what the hon. Gentleman has said about the importance of ensuring that those who suffer the devastating effects of injury caused by crime are properly compensated and properly treated by the system. I will draw his points to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Justice, whom he will of course have an opportunity to question next week.
Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North) (Lab): I am sure that my right hon. Friend will want to congratulate His Holiness the Dalai Lama on receiving the congressional gold medal from President Bush in Washington last night. I had the privilege of meeting the Dalai Lama earlier this month when I went to northern India with the all-party Tibet group. Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate in which we can highlight the peaceful struggle of the Tibetan people for autonomy?
Ms Harman: I pay tribute to the work of my hon. Friend and her colleagues in the all-party group on Tibet. She will know that we consistently urge China to engage in serious negotiations with the Dalai Lamas representatives in order to build a peaceful, sustainable and legitimate solution for Tibet. Embassy officials visit Tibet regularly, and work closely with the relevant non-governmental organisations. We also regularly raise the need to respect the Tibetan culture and language as well as ensuring economic advance there. I will bring my hon. Friends comments to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.
Mr. Alan Reid (Argyll and Bute) (LD): May we have a statement on when the Government intend to implement their manifesto commitment to review the Postal Services Act 2000? Later this month Sunday collections will be withdrawn, and mail deliveries are occurring later and later in the day. We need to strengthen the universal service obligation in order to stop our postal services from simply getting worse and worse. When will the promised review take place?
Ms Harman: I will find out about that. As I cannot give the hon. Gentleman the information that he needs, I will ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform to write to him, and to place a copy of the letter in the Library. We all hope that the Royal Mail dispute will be settled soon.
Dr. Nick Palmer (Broxtowe) (Lab): Mark Glover, the distinguished animal welfare campaigner who is chair of the organisation Respect for Animals, goes on trial today in Canada for the dreadful crime of filming a seal hunt. Given the widespread aversion to seal clubbing among hon. Members of all parties, will the Leader of the House agree to an early debate on a ban on seal product imports into Britain?
Ms Harman: I will bring my hon. Friends comments to the attention of the relevant Minister. Although Canadas criminal law is a matter for that country, the Government are strong supporters of animal welfare.
Mr. Richard Bacon (South Norfolk) (Con): Does the Leader of the House agree that there are far too many fat Members of Parliament? Speaking as one of themI feel that I should declare my interestI welcome the recent report in the Financial Times about proposals to refurbish the House, which include replacing the shooting range with a swimming pool. Will she consider the matter soon, and make a statement?
Mr. Bacon: I am suggesting that too many MPs are fat, including me. We could replace the shooting range with a swimming pool, a proposal that has been commented on in the newspapers, and I wanted to know what the Leader of the House thought about it.
Ms Harman: All hon. Members will have an opportunity to comment on the proposal, as there will be a debate in Westminster Hall later this afternoon on issues that come within the purview of the House of Commons Commission. We want to make sure that all workplaces and neighbourhoods have good exercise and healthy eating facilities. We in the Palace of Westminster are really rather ahead of the game in that respect.
Colin Burgon (Elmet) (Lab): May I raise another weighty matter? May we have a debate on how the Conservatives and Liberals on Leeds city council are attempting to undermine democracy in their latest review of polling stations in the city? The plan to close 16 polling stations in my constituency alone will make voting harder for more than 10,000 people. That flies in the face of electoral guidelines, and smells of gerrymandering. At the very least, will the Leader of the House have a meeting with me so that I can express my concerns?
My hon. Friend raises a very important question. As well as taking it up with Ministers in the Ministry of Justice, he should seek a meeting with the chairman of the Electoral Commission. We must make sure that people have access to polling stations, as that is especially important for elderly people who may not want to vote by post and who prefer to put their ballot papers in the ballot box. I am concerned about the proposal to close 16 polling stations in my hon. Friends constituency, as we want to encourage people to vote, and not deter them from doing so. I look
forward to hearing from my hon. Friend about whether he has been able to stop the proposal.
Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire) (Con): Does the Leader of the House accept that not all Members of Parliament are fat? In his first statement to the House of Commons, the Prime Minister launched the document The Governance of Britain. In paragraph 104, it states that the House of Commons scrutinises the Treasurys plans and objectives in its pre-Budget report debate. What has happened to that debate? Why are we debating the House of Commons Members fund next Tuesday, instead of the comprehensive spending review and the PBR?
Ms Harman: The debate on the reports from the Modernisation Committee will give us an opportunity to discuss how we allocate the days set aside for debating defence, for example, or the Queens Speech, or the Budget. We need to step back and take an overview of the year so that as many matters as possible can be debated. The PBR has not always been followed by days of debate, but the right hon. Gentleman has raised this matter with me before and we can discuss it further on Thursday.
Sarah McCarthy-Fry (Portsmouth, North) (Lab/Co-op): Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on domestic violence and intimate-partner murder? I recently visited the family justice centre in Croydon, at the request of a victim of stalking who believes that the centre saved her life. The only one of its kind in the country, the centre is breaking new ground and achieving magnificent resultsas is shown by the fact that there were zero murders in Croydon in the past year. I should really like to see how such provision can be extended across the country.
Ms Harman: I strongly agree with my hon. Friends comments about Croydons family justice centre, which is doing very good work. Domestic violence should have no place in the 21st century. No matter what is going on in a relationship, there is no justification for resorting to violence. Domestic violence can be prevented if police, prosecutors, local authorities and local voluntary organisations work closely together, and it is a scandal that it still accounts for a quarter of all reported violent crime, with two homicides every year. Certain reviews are under way in the Ministry of Justice with a view to toughening the law so that perpetrators of domestic homicide can no longer give the excuse, Its not my fault I killed her, its her fault for provoking me.
That this House is concerned at the changes to the guidance on business rates for public houses; notes that changes to the Non-Domestic Rating Reference Manual will mean the levy will be raised for pubs with quizzes, televisions, pool tables, dart boards or a football team; believes this could result in an increase of £440 a year in their business rates which for some remote pubs paying £1,000 a year in rates could see their tax bill increase by almost half under new rules; further believes that this would have a devastating impact for some pubs with the
Campaign for Real Ale already estimating that 56 pubs are already closing permanently each month; and calls on the Government to amend the guidance for inspectors so that business rates do not rise further for pubs in 2010 but instead they are allowed to remain thriving at the heart of many communities.
Even by the standards of this Governments stealth taxes, hammering pubs that organise quizzes or have a football team with extra business rates seems pretty crazy. Many villages have lost their shops or are threatened with losing their post offices. For them, the village pub is very often the most important community facility left, so hammering the ones that are successful and doing community work with higher business rates is crazy.
David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): The settled communities of Snibston, Sinope, Coalville, Castle Donington, Ibstock and Battram in North-West Leicestershire are being driven to distraction by the amount of unauthorised camping by the Travelling community, and by the associated social and environmental problems. Will the Leader of the House arrange a debate in the near future about the workings of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 and the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 to see how they can be altered to improve the co-operation and speed of action of the relevant authorities as they tackle those very serious problems, and especially the provision of transit sites in the county of Leicestershire?
Ms Harman: I will do as my hon. Friend suggests. Another question that no doubt will be raised has to do with whether the current legislation is being enforced effectively and in the way that local communities want. That is a matter for police, prosecutors and local authorities, and might be an appropriate subject for discussion by the local criminal justice board.
Mr. Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth, East) (Con): May we have an urgent debate in Government time on British tourism? It is Britains fifth largest industry, and it has been heavily affected by regulation. VisitBritains budget has remained at the same level for 12 years, and in todays newspapers the organisation warns that the UK tourism industry could lose about £2 billion if the Government do not do more to invest. More people are choosing to holiday abroad, and we are missing out on overseas visitors coming to the UK. That does not bode well in the lead-up to the Olympics, when we should be harnessing our tourist potential.
No doubt the hon. Gentleman could raise that point during next weeks Culture, Media and Sport questions. He is suggesting that there should be more investment. The Government have invested a great deal to support businesses involved in tourism, especially, but not only, in our seaside towns. If he believes that there should be extra public investment, he should back the revenue-raising measures that the Government have put in place. We seem to be hearing alternate points: one Conservative Member says that tax should be cut,
but immediately after, another Conservative Member asks for extra spending. Perhaps Conservative Members could get their act together and work out which it is.
Mr. Michael Clapham (Barnsley, West and Penistone) (Lab): I listened with interest to the Leader of the Houses reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Hepburn). I know that she has not had time to study the judgment, but, having looked at it, I can tell her that it recognises that pleural plaques cause a physiological change, but cruelly decides that the people affected should not be compensated. Will she therefore ask the Secretary of State for Justice to consider bringing forth legislation quickly to overturn the Lords decision because it is quite clear that this group of workers will not get justice in the courts?
Ms Harman: My hon. Friend makes an important point. We need to ensure that if justice is not done in a way that accords with our public policy commitment, we consider what action to take, and take it swiftly, so that people do not lose out. The problem with such matters is that peoples lives are the issue. This is not just a technical matter that can be discussed in the fullness of time. People want this considered promptly, and I know that his all-party group will give the matter full consideration and offer the Government its views, which I am sure will be welcomed.
Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell) (Con): Is there not an overwhelming case this year for the Prime Minister to fulfil his promise to hold a debate on the pre-Budget report when we see that the CBI, the Institute of Directors, the Federation of Small Businesses, the chambers of commerce and the TUC all oppose the new capital gains tax proposals? The right hon. and learned Ladys colleague, the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Kidney), says that there has been insufficient time for consultation. May we have a debate as soon as possible, preferably straight after the Queens Speech?
Ms Harman: I recognise hon. Members concern about the lack of opportunity to debate the pre-Budget report in Government time. I will give the matter serious consideration. As far as capital gains tax is concerned, all I can say is that the Chancellor has to take a view across the piece. The range of rates from 10 per cent. to 40 per cent. was certainly good for the profits of the accountants and lawyers who had to help businesses to work out their liability. We have a beneficial regime for business across the tax system as a whole. Of course, the tax threshold is such that no tax is imposed at all unless the gain is above £9,000.
Dr. Stephen Ladyman (South Thanet) (Lab): Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that too many autistic children in Kentand probably elsewhere, tooare not getting either the education or educational support that their parents think they need and deserve? I am absolutely delighted that the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) will be carrying out a review of educational support for children with communications difficulties. However, in the meantime, may we have a debate in the House so that we can contribute our personal experiences of this serious problem to inform that review?
Ms Harman: I know that that is a matter of real concern throughout the country and on both sides of the House. Perhaps we will give consideration to whether we can have such a debate in Government time, although whether we await the report on which the hon. Member for Buckingham is leading will be a question of timing. I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend and undertake to ensure that we have a debate as soon as possible on autism and the response that all services need to give to support families dealing with autistic children.
Justine Greening (Putney) (Con): May we have a debate in the House about the targeting of the deprived area fund? Roehampton wardthis concerns my constituents living on the Alton and Lennox estates especiallydoes not receive any support from the fund, even though Putney jobcentre was closed earlier this year. Part of the problem in London is that because we have the most affluent parts of society living next to the most deprived, the assessment at a ward level often creates an average picture that means that the neediest communities do not receive the support from the fund that was intended. May we have a debate in Government time so that we can resolve these problems?
Ms Harman: Overall, I think that the hon. Lady would recognise that we have massively increased investment in deprived areas in a range of ways, including through Sure Start and the new deal for communities. Such public investment has been very important, so I take it that she supports our revenue proposals to ensure that we can put investment in all deprived areas, including that in her constituency.
Mr. David Kidney (Stafford) (Lab): Does the Leader of the House accept that the top concern for many people is health-care-acquired infection? Businesses in Staffordand, no doubt, throughout the countryare offering the NHS solutions on how to make hospitals and other places of treatment cleaner. May we have a debate in which the Department of Health can be urged to give more urgency to the evaluation of those offers?
Ms Harman: My hon. Friend raises a really important point about the science of tackling infection control and improving the processes of screening, isolation, hand cleaning and deep cleaning. We all recognise that this is something that needs to be improved. I will bring the matter to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health, who has already responded to an urgent question this week.
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con): Having managed to lose well over a stone since 1 August without so much as dipping a big toe into a swimming pool, may I express some frustration that the highly successful House of Commons shooting team is continually picked on by politically correct people on both sides of the House whenever they want an easy target, especially as we beat the House of Lords every year?
On a more serious note, may I ask the Leader of the House whether she heard on the news yesterday about the couple who tortured their child to death by holding the toddlers limbs over a red-hot cooking plate again
and again? They have been sentenced respectively to 12 and six years in prison. Does she agree that if the court sees fit to put monsters like that away for 12 and six years, it is quite wrong that they should be released, as they will be under existing Government policy, after only six and three years? May we have a debate on early release schemes?
Ms Harman: The House has discussed on numerous occasions the law and practice surrounding the release of prisoners. Of course, sentencing in an individual case is a matter for a judge. If there is a view that a sentence is unduly lenient, the Law Officers can refer the case to the Court of Appeal. The House sets the legislative framework and we debate that at the time at which we pass the relevant laws.
Jim Sheridan (Paisley and Renfrewshire, North) (Lab): May we have a debate on the long-term future of manufacturing industry in this country, especially regarding the impact of existing employment legislation on this countrys workers? The Leader of the House might be aware that there was a breath of fresh air in this place yesterday when hundreds of manufacturing workers came to make representations to their MPs. While I recognise the significant amount that the Government have put into upskilling such workers, those people are genuinely worried that their jobs could be easily disposed of under existing employment legislation. Will she remind her Cabinet colleagues that manufacturing industry is an important factor in this country?
Ms Harman: We are all very well aware of the importance of manufacturing. I recognisemy hon. Friend has brought this to the attention of the House on several occasionsthat with all the talk about services and financial services, those working in the important manufacturing sector sometimes feel that they are invisible. The lobby made important points. The Government are determined to do whatever is necessary to help and support this countrys manufacturing industry, including, especially, improving skills and the opportunity for exports.
John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): I hugely welcome what has been said about the needs of autistic children, and the forthcoming debate on Burma, which I have sought strenuously for the past two and a half years. May we please have a debate, in Government time and on the Floor of the House, on housing development in the south-east? The Government have hitherto always accepted that the extra 1,000 houses a year that are to be built in Aylesbury vale in each of the next 20 years would have to be accompanied by adequate infrastructure, but the Governments panel of inspectors has now publicly stated that it does not think that the development need be contingent on necessary infrastructure. Do we not need a debate to resolve the confusion, and to determine how we can go ahead with development in my area in a way that leads to an improvement, not a deterioration, in my constituents quality of life?
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