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Hilary Benn: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his kind words. The answer is that it depends on how quickly we can get on with the vaccination programme. That is why the vaccine becoming available earlier than expected has been so widely welcomed. The degree of uptake within the farming industry is a factor. It came to us and said, “We’d like a voluntary programme, but we will give it our utmost support.” The Joint Action against Bluetongue—JAB—campaign is the result of that, and we are backing it to the fullest extent possible.
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The message is simple: if people wish to protect their animals and the sector, they should vaccinate their animals. The vaccine supplies are now arriving, and that news has been welcomed by many people.

Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh, North and Leith) (Lab/Co-op): On fuel poverty, the Government have been able to persuade energy suppliers to pay an extra £175 million to tackle that issue, but would not it be a good idea to ask energy producers, whose vast profits I mentioned earlier, to contribute to Government programmes to tackle fuel poverty?

Mr. Woolas: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has campaigned for many years on the issue, for that suggestion. We believe that we have the right package in place through our energy efficiency measures, which contribute to reducing fuel bills, and direct programmes to address fuel poverty head-on. However, I will reconsider the issue in the light of his point.

Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): May I say to whichever Minister is going to reply that in the county of Cheshire, which I am pleased to say has an abundance of great crested newts, the county council, as the education authority, has had to spend £60,000, at a time of grave financial difficulty, to move just four great crested newts? Is that a sensible way to spend taxpayers’ money? Will the Minister ensure that the EU habitats directive, under which the council is obliged to act in that way, is urgently reviewed?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Joan Ruddock): May I express sympathy with the hon. Gentleman regarding the plight that he considers to have befallen his area? I have to tell him, however, that the habitat regulations make it an offence to capture, injure or kill great crested newts. It is vital that when we consider the preservation of species—

Ann Winterton (Congleton) (Con): There are thousands of them.

Joan Ruddock: Hold on a moment. Tremendous species loss is occurring globally, and there has been great loss of great crested newts in this country. It is important that we all obey the law.

The habitats directive will not be reviewed in that context, but what has been reviewed—very importantly—is the proportionate approach taken by Natural England. DEFRA and Natural England have reviewed the matter and issued new guidance, which I will share with the hon. Gentleman. However, when he says that a particular sum of money equates to a certain number of great crested newts—it is just four—the truth is that although only those four will have been captured and moved, the moving and preservation of habitats and the way that such action is undertaken will benefit many more of the species than the particular four in question. It is not possible to equate the overall sum of money that is relevant and necessary to the number of newts that are actually moved.

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Business of the House

11.35 am

Mrs. Theresa May (Maidenhead) (Con): May I ask the Leader of the House to give us the forthcoming business?

The Leader of the House of Commons (Ms Harriet Harman): The business for the week commencing 5 May will be:

Monday 5 May—The House will not be sitting.

Tuesday 6 May—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill followed by motion to approve a money resolution on the Temporary and Agency Workers (Equal Treatment) Bill.

Wednesday 7 May—Opposition Day [11th Allotted Day][First part]. There will be a debate entitled “Safeguarding the Impartiality of the Civil Service” followed by the Chairman of Ways and Means has named opposed private business for consideration, followed by, if necessary, consideration of Lords amendments.

Thursday 8 May—A general debate on defence in the world. The House will not adjourn until the Speaker has signified Royal Assent.

Friday 9 May—Private Members’ Bills.

The provisional business for the week commencing 12 May will include:

Monday 12 May—Second Reading of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill [ Lords].

Tuesday 13 May—Remaining stages of the Education and Skills Bill followed by motion to consider the Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules Order 2008 (HC 321).

Wednesday 14 May—Opposition day [12th Allotted Day] there will be a debate on an Opposition motion.

Thursday 15 May—Topical debate: Subject to be announced followed by, if necessary, consideration of Lords amendments followed by motion to take note of the outstanding reports of the Public Accounts Committee to which the Government has replied. Details will be given in the Official Report.

Friday 16 May—Private Members’ Bills.

I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for 15 May and 22 May will be:

Thursday 15 May—A debate on the report from the Science and Technology Committee on the funding of science and discovery centres.

Thursday 22 May—A debate on “The Road Ahead”: the final report of the independent task group on site provision and enforcement for Gypsies and Travellers.

In respect of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, which has its Second Reading on Monday 12 May, it is our intention that the Committee stage for provisions relating to saviour siblings, mixed embryos and the need for supportive parenting will be dealt with on the Floor of the House.

Following is the information: The 41st and the 42nd, and the 46th to the 65th, reports of the Committee of Public Accounts of Session 2006-07, and the Treasury Minutes on these reports (Cm 7275, 7276 and 7322); and the 1st to the 4th, the 6th , and the 9th to the 13th
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reports of the Committee of Public Accounts of Session 2007-08, and the Treasury Minutes on these reports (Cm 7323 and 7364).

Mrs. May: I thank the Leader of the House for giving us the forthcoming business, particularly for her statement on how the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill will be handled. Many Members will welcome being able to debate those particular issues on the Floor of the House.

Reports of the presidential election in Zimbabwe suggest that Robert Mugabe has lost. Members in all parts of the House continue to be concerned by the situation in Zimbabwe and its future, so when can we have the promised debate on Zimbabwe?

On Monday, during Defence questions, the Defence Secretary was asked if he would deploy extra troops to Kosovo. No clear answer was given. The very next day, in a written statement, he announced the deployment of extra troops to Kosovo. It is inconceivable that Ministers did not know that on Monday, and it is a disgrace that they were not frank with this House, our armed forces or their families.

On a recent visit to Catterick garrison, I met forces families who are very worried about the overstretch facing our armed forces. Will the Leader of the House guarantee that in future, when our brave servicemen and women are deployed abroad, the Defence Secretary will have the courage to come and face Members of this House?

This week, when challenged about how the Government have let people on low incomes down, the Justice Secretary said:

Does that not show how out of touch this Government are? I have received an e-mail from a constituent who earns £550 a month working for the NHS, and her annual tax bill will increase by £197, putting her under enormous financial strain. I want to be able to write to my constituent and tell her that she will be compensated, but the Government’s position is unclear. Before the Finance Bill returns to the Floor of the House, will the Leader of the House ensure that the Chancellor publishes a clear statement, and sends a copy to all MPs, on who will be compensated, by how much and when?

This week, thousands of car owners have learnt that a Government stealth tax will land them with drastically higher road tax bills and cars that are virtually unsaleable. We are talking not about brand-new 4x4s, but family-sized cars used by hard-working parents. When everyone is worried about soaring prices, is it not typical of this out-of-touch Government to add another stealth tax to the huge financial strain on families? Can we have a debate on the impact of the Government’s actions on hard-working families?

Criminal justice watchdogs claim that our justice system’s nonchalant approach contributed to circumstances in which Richard Whelan, an innocent man, was stabbed to death on a London bus. His murderer, Anthony Joseph, was released on bail only hours before killing him, even though a warrant was out for his arrest. He should never have been released. The prison where he was did not have access to the police national computer,
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so staff could not check if he was wanted elsewhere. More than two thirds of our prisons do not have access to this national computer, so is it any wonder that the watchdogs have branded the criminal justice system “sloppy”. Can we have a statement from the Justice Secretary on what he will do about that?

We learn today that 150 homes in residential areas will be used to house prisoners on early release. For much of the time, they will not be supervised, yet there has been no consultation with local residents. Therefore, can we also have a statement from the Justice Secretary on why the public are being faced with that unnecessary risk?

The right hon. Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Clarke) has described the Prime Minister as

Some Labour MPs are reported as saying that the Prime Minister is an

On Sky TV last weekend, the Leader of the House said that Labour had been blessed to have two world-class leaders in a generation. One was Tony Blair, but who was the other one?

Ms Harman: The right hon. Lady raised the question of Zimbabwe. As she will know, the Prime Minister raised the issue of Mugabe respecting the will of his people, and did so at the United Nations. As she may know, Lord Malloch-Brown, a Foreign Office Minister, will give evidence next week to the Foreign Affairs Committee, and no doubt questions about Zimbabwe will be asked on that occasion. There was also a debate on Zimbabwe in Westminster Hall last Tuesday. The Government are keeping up the pressure on Zimbabwe, and on the other African nations which are so important to the future of Zimbabwe, with regard to respect for that election result. I will consider the right hon. Lady’s request as a proposal for a topical debate.

On the question of the Kosovo deployment, I think that it is fair enough for Secretaries of State to make written ministerial statements or oral statements when they are in a position to do so. The fact that a Secretary of State answered oral questions the day before he or she delivered an oral or written ministerial statement does not necessarily mean anything other than that it was not possible for the statement to be made beforehand.

The right hon. Lady will know that the UK received a request from NATO to deploy a battalion to Kosovo by the end of May, as part of our existing commitment to the NATO-EU pan-Balkans operational reserve force. The UK meets that longstanding commitment in rotation with Italy and Germany, so we are well prepared to meet NATO’s request. However, there will be a defence debate next week, and the House will have an opportunity to raise such matters then.

The shadow Leader of the House will know that in this week’s discussions on the Finance Bill, there was much debate on the Floor of the House about the compensation arrangements for those affected by the abolition of the 10p rate. She will also know that there will be an inquiry into those matters by the Treasury Committee.

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The right hon. Lady asked about car owners, but she will know that the cost of motoring has fallen by 13 per cent. across the board over the past 10 years. She will also know that this Government have built new roads, and roads are now safer. We have sought to address motorists’ concerns, but we also have to take care of the environment.

The right hon. Lady mentioned bail hostels and the early release of prisoners. There is an obligation in the contract that Clearsprings has with the Home Office that the company should consult local police and probation services, and the local authority, but I understand that this is not a question of change of use. The situation is similar to what happens when a person is granted bail by a magistrates court or a Crown court and then returns to live with his or her family. We are not talking about big bail hostels to which suspects awaiting trial are committed under certain bail conditions: instead, because the issue is one of housing, the planning consultation—which would normally involve putting up notices and the consultation of neighbours—is not required. Obviously, however, there will be an investigation if the contractual obligation to consult local police and probation services and the local authority is not met.

The Secretary of State for Justice is planning to issue a consultation paper on bail and how it operates. That will be followed by a consultation period, and a report will be brought to the House.

Ann McKechin (Glasgow, North) (Lab): My right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House will know that many hon. Members have taken part in visits to Auschwitz arranged for schools in their localities by the Holocaust Educational Trust. Last year, there were two very successful visits by Scottish schools and pupils, and for the first time they went directly from Scotland. However, I regret to say that the Scottish National party Administration in Holyrood has decided not to spend the £150,000 of Barnett consequential money that they received as part of this Government’s funding programme. Will my right hon. and learned Friend ensure that the Secretary of State for Scotland makes a statement to the House about the discussions that he proposes to have with the First Minister to reverse that negative and regressive move, which was also supported by the Tory group in Holyrood?

Ms Harman: I thank my hon. Friend for that question. There was a debate in the House recently for Holocaust memorial day, when hon. Members of all parties talked about the importance of the work done by the Holocaust Educational Trust, so it is very disappointing to hear that young school students in Scotland are to be denied the opportunity to learn and understand about the holocaust that the visits provide.

It seems inexplicable that such a decision was made for the sake of £150,000. Perhaps we can understand it only by recognising that it was made by a political party that is inward-looking, narrow and nationalistic, and does not appreciate that we ought to comprehend what is going on in the world and learn lessons from it.

Simon Hughes (North Southwark and Bermondsey) (LD): Let me begin on a consensual note by thanking the Leader of the House for her announcement that the
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most controversial issues in the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill will be dealt with by a Committee of the whole House. I also thank her for rearranging the debate in which the House will decide whether to approve the immigration rules, and for her willingness to think again about the increasingly urgent need for a debate in the Chamber on Zimbabwe.

It looks as though, after four and a half weeks, we may at last learn the Zimbabwe election results from the electoral commission. Once they are public, there can be no reason for us not to debate the implications before anything else happens. The natural caution shown by the Government was understandable, but there is no reason for holding back once the results are announced and we can judge them.

During one of the debates on the Finance Bill on the Floor of the House, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury said she accepted the fact that only a quarter of those on low incomes receive working tax credit. That is an agreed figure, so although the Select Committee on the Treasury is going to do some work on it, may we have a debate in the Chamber on this subject? There is plenty of evidence across constituencies of the feelings of people who are not receiving the money that they, more than anyone else in work, need. That is something that we could usefully do. If it helps the Government out of a hole, so be it, but it is more important for us to help the families who are in a financial hole.

It is 11 years today since the Labour Government were first elected. That implies that we ought do as the Leader of the House has suggested and hold annual debates on how each Department is doing in terms of being open and transparent, answering questions promptly and fully, and complying with Mr. Speaker’s ruling that announcements should be made here and not outside. Will the right hon. and learned Lady give serious consideration to that? Some of us feel strongly that the phrase used 11 years ago applies now: “Things can only get better”.

We have heard from the general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing that, according to his profession’s estimate, nurses spend a million hours a week on paperwork. Given that the police and teachers make the same complaint, may we have a debate about how we can remove the bureaucracy from our front-line professionals using support staff and modern technology, and release the people whom we pay to do the key jobs in this country to do the jobs that they are paid to do?

Ms Harman: I fully accept the hon. Gentleman’s points about Zimbabwe, and I think the House will want an early opportunity to return to the issue.

The working tax credit was discussed during debate on the Finance Bill earlier this week. It was also raised in this week’s Treasury questions, and, as the hon. Gentleman said, the Select Committee is conducting an inquiry.

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