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Ms Harman: Yes, I think that people should be encouraged to give information if they think that illegal activity is going on. I ask the hon. Gentleman to write to the relevant Minister. I will draw his comments to the attention of the Minister so that we can ensure that they
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are looked into. If he will provide the information, it is not too late for the matter to be taken up. Nobody wants information that is given by people in good faith not to be acted on.

Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab): Hypocrisy-the "do as I say, not as I do" approach-annoys the electorate. Covered bicycle racks in the courtyard outside the Members' Cloakroom have been removed and replaced with parking for Ministers' cars. All winter, Ministers' lovely hybrid cars have frequently been parked in the courtyard outside your house, Mr. Speaker, with their petrol engines running, presumably to keep the chauffeurs warm. May I make my annual plea to the Leader of the House for the provision of a warm room in which chauffeurs can wait, to avoid these unnecessary CO2 emissions?

Ms Harman: Probably the best people for my hon. Friend to raise that with are the Transport Ministers, who will be answering questions from this Dispatch Box next Monday.

Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): Does the Leader of the House accept that it makes complete nonsense of the role and responsibilities of this House for large tranches of important public Bills to go through to the other House without being adequately debated in this House? Does she further accept that one way to stop this stupid practice is to change Standing Orders to prevent guillotines-programme motions-on the remaining stages of legislation in this House?

Ms Harman: The hon. Gentleman is very concerned about this, but his concerns have been addressed. He has been part of the argument that there should be a House business committee that can deal with some of these issues. In the next Parliament, which he will not be in, these matters will be done differently, and I hope that the situation will be improved.

Derek Twigg (Halton) (Lab): May we have an early debate on the issue of hospital waiting lists, so that we can examine why waiting times have been reduced from more than 18 months in 1997 to less than 18 weeks today? It is particularly important to examine what we could do to bring waiting lists down further.

Ms Harman: My hon. Friend looks back at the situation that there used to be in relation to hospital waiting lists. We should always remember that setting a target for bringing down hospital waiting lists has really made a difference. The Opposition decried targets; they may well have felt that if their constituents needed to get an operation, they should simply pay to go private. I can remember my constituents literally weeping in my advice surgeries when they had been told that they would have to wait two years for a hip replacement. This Labour Government's targets mean that people do not have to borrow money from relatives who cannot afford it in order to go private or else have to wait in pain for months and years. My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the fact that massive progress has made. We are going to bring in further guarantees so that, for example, people will have to wait only a week before they get referred to a cancer specialist. These issues, too, can be debated in the Budget debates, because they include questions of resourcing.

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Mr. Elfyn Llwyd (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy) (PC): May I refer the Leader of the House to motion 61 on today's Order Paper and take her back to the Wright Committee debates that we had a few days ago? During those exchanges, she agreed with me that there was a need for the Back-Bench business committee to protect the interests of minority parties as well. May I respectfully ask her to ensure that the Standing Orders that are produced will reflect the need to protect minority party interests, as well as those of everybody else?

Ms Harman: I will ensure that I send the hon. Gentleman a draft of the Standing Orders before they are tabled in front of the House. We obviously want to ensure that the main parties in the House have their say, but it is very important not to overlook the smaller parties and the independents.

Mrs. Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): Keeping children safe in an increasingly complex digital world is an issue that should be high on our agenda in this House. I recently held a meeting with Microsoft and CEOP-Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre-ambassadors from South Wales police for parents from across my constituency. Should not this House be debating how we can ensure that Facebook uses the CEOP alert so that children who are afraid or fear that they are being targeted can highlight their concerns directly to CEOP? They are currently unable to do so, and are therefore placed at risk.

Ms Harman: I strongly agree with my hon. Friend. I think that this is the view of Ministers as well, not least the Home Secretary, and action is being taken in this respect. The technology is changing all the time. Compared with just a few years ago, communication among young people has been transformed. We cannot have public policy, or the policy of those in the industry, lagging behind if that means that in the meantime children are at risk. We need swift action on this, and we need to keep it closely under review all the time so that as the technology and methods of communication change, we ensure that protection keeps up to date.

Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire) (LD): For the past seven years, I have been trying to establish how Cheryl James, the daughter of Des and Doreen James, died at Deepcut Army barracks in 1995. So far, my efforts have basically failed. I failed to get disclosure of key facts and reports, and there has been a persistent culture of secrecy and obfuscation. I believe that that is because those facts show that she was murdered. May we have a debate before this Parliament ends to disclose those facts and establish whether I am right or wrong?

Ms Harman: I suggest that the hon. Gentleman seeks to intervene in the defence debate on that point. In advance of that debate, perhaps he could tell the Minister responsible which issues he would like addressed, so that the Minister has been put on notice and knows that he needs to respond to the hon. Gentleman's points.

Mr. Ian Davidson (Glasgow, South-West) (Lab/Co-op): Will the Leader of the House arrange for us to have a debate in the near future on the latest political utterances from Lord Guthrie, particularly the ones in which he
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has called for the scrapping of the aircraft carrier contracts-views that I understand are shared by the Opposition?

Ms Harman: Those are among the many issues that will be debated in Monday's defence debate, and we recognise that the question of procurement is very important for our industry. We are very proud of the skills base that has been able to be part of that procurement programme.

Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): According to the Campaign to Protect Rural England, 48 per cent. of people admit to dropping litter, one third of drivers admit to throwing litter while they are driving along the road and littering has increased by five times across the country in the past 50 years. May we have a debate in Government time about littering and its antisocial effects?

Ms Harman: Perhaps that is something that other hon. Members would also like to debate, so perhaps the hon. Gentleman could seek an opportunity to debate it in Westminster Hall or on the Adjournment.

Dr. Stephen Ladyman (South Thanet) (Lab): May we have a debate about the bidding war that is currently going on between the Government and the Conservative Front Benchers over who can set the highest standards for secondary school results and tackle the issue of secondary attainment? It would give me an opportunity to point out that in my constituency, I have seen secondary standards transformed in recent years. For the first time on the poorest estates in my constituency, I am meeting kids who talk about becoming doctors, scientists or even, heaven help them, lawyers. The problem that their schools face is that they have to climb a mountain caused by Kent's selective system of education. If we are going to set thresholds for schools, that problem has to be tackled, and so far neither side is doing so.

Ms Harman: There is not a bidding war in relation to educational standards, because we won that war long ago through, as my hon. Friend says, the massive improvement shown not only in secondary school results but in the massive increase in the number of young people going into further and higher education. In my constituency, the number of such young people, most of them from families in which they are the first generation to go into further or higher education, has more than doubled. We will continue our commitment to education both at school level and in HE.

Dr. Evan Harris (Oxford, West and Abingdon) (LD): As a member of the Wright Committee, I welcome what the Leader of the House has said about circulating a draft of the appropriate Standing Order and her declared intention to bring it forward. However, given that the historic votes last Thursday were overwhelming on everything that the Wright Committee proposed, and even on some proposals that went further than what the Committee proposed-in the case of the Back-Bench business committee, it went against her advice and that of the shadow Leader of the House-does she agree that she would be well advised to accept the recommendation on a Back-Bench business committee in motion 61, which was agreed nem com in the Committee,
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unless there are simply drafting problems with it? Does she also recognise that there may still be opposition, and that she therefore cannot rely on remaining orders approval to get the matter through?

Ms Harman: People were sceptical about our trying to proceed on the basis of remaining orders on that first Monday, but out of 16 motions in the remaining orders of the day, 11 went through, so that has been tried and tested. The question is not what I supported, what the shadow Leader of the House supported or what we both supported; what matters is what the House decided. The Standing Orders that I will bring forward in draft and consult the hon. Gentleman about will be to bring into effect the will of the House, not to create fresh policy that is either ahead of what the House decided or behind it. They will put into effect what the House has decided, so remaining orders of the day are exactly the way to deal with them.

Mr. David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op): My right hon. and learned Friend has said on a number of occasions that there will be a debate on Afghanistan with a substantive vote. When is that likely to take place?

Ms Harman: I do not think I put it in those terms. I think I said that Ministers, from the Prime Minister to the Defence Secretary, the International Development Secretary and the Foreign Secretary, were concerned to ensure that the House is kept fully up to date with Government action and is able to hold the Government to account, and that we have regular debates so that Members can air their views. Indeed, there will be a further opportunity to raise these issues on Monday in the defence debate.

Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): May we have a debate on today's report published by the chief inspector of constabulary, Denis O'Connor, which highlights the fact that very low-level crime has an impact on people's attitudes to their local police force? My experience is that our safer neighbourhood teams want to tackle that sort of crime, but quite often response teams are not aware of the history and do not prioritise such crime. Sometimes they do not even turn up. That debate would also offer us the opportunity to highlight the fact that our safer neighbourhood teams in London face being cut by the Mayor.

Ms Harman: The safer neighbourhood teams in London are massively valued by my hon. Friend's constituents and those of all London Members. We are strongly committed to them and are very concerned indeed that the Mayor does not understand how important they are to local communities.

Rob Marris: The Conservative Mayor.

Ms Harman: The Conservative Mayor, as my hon. Friend rightly points out.

On antisocial behaviour, it was this Government who identified that it was something that should concern the police and local councils, working together with local communities. We have taken forward the whole antisocial behaviour order regime and we need to improve it so that it really responds to people's concerns, most recently about dogs. I look forward to the fact that the ASBO can be joined by the DOGBO.

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Mr. Andy Slaughter (Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush) (Lab): I returned with a delegation from Gaza earlier this week. If you will allow me, Mr. Speaker, I should like to inform the House that while waiting to be called, I have learned that the British journalist Paul Martin, who has been held in custody for several weeks, has today been released following a meeting with the Justice Minister by the delegation last Sunday. I think we would all welcome that move.

In Gaza, I observed the effect of four years of the blockade by the Israeli occupation forces. It is clear that the occupiers' tactic is working, in that isolating the Palestinian population is hiding their collective punishment from the outside world. May I echo what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews) said and welcome the Leader of the House's saying that there would be a debate on the situation in Gaza before Dissolution?

Ms Harman: I congratulate my hon. Friend and his colleagues on their efforts in respect of the journalist who was being held. Perhaps he will find an opportunity to debate these issues in the Budget debate.

Mr. Speaker: Order. I am grateful for the co-operation of colleagues, which has enabled me to accommodate everyone who wished to take part.

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High Speed Rail

12.17 pm

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Mr. Sadiq Khan): With permission, Mr. Speaker, I shall repeat a statement that my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Transport made a few minutes ago about high speed rail between London and the major cities of the midlands, the north and Scotland.

Travel and trade between Britain's major population and economic centres are the lifeblood of our economy and society. They require transport networks that are high-capacity, efficient and sustainable. As we grow wealthier as a nation, so we travel more and move more freight. Nineteenth-century Britain led the world in the development of railways. Serious planning for a national motorway network was begun by the War Cabinet in 1943, and the major motorways were all opened over a 32-year period between 1959 and the completion of the M40 in 1991.

Since the 1990s, increases in demand have been accommodated largely by improving existing roads and rail networks, including through motorway widening and the £9 billion upgrade of the west coast main line. The £6 billion roads programme includes investment for the five years to 2014 in widening a large part of the M25 and the extension of hard-shoulder running across the most heavily used stretches of motorway. We are also progressing with plans to electrify the Great Western main line from London to Bristol and south Wales, and with a £250 million investment in the strategic freight network.

Our preliminary assessment, published last January, was that substantial additional transport capacity would be needed from the 2020s between our major cities, starting with London to the west midlands, Britain's two largest conurbations. By then, the west coast main line will be full. By 2033, the average long-distance west coast main line train is projected to be 80 per cent. full, with routine very severe overcrowding for much of the time; and there will also be a significant increase in traffic and congestion on the motorways between and around London, Birmingham and Manchester.

The Government's view is that high speed rail could be the most efficient and sustainable way to provide more capacity between those conurbations, so last January we set up a company, High Speed Two Ltd, to analyse the business case for a high speed rail line, initially between London and the west midlands; to make detailed route proposals for that first stretch of line should the Government decide to proceed; and to outline options for extensions to cities further north and to Scotland.

HS2 Ltd reported to me in December, and I am grateful for the immense amount of expert work done by its staff. HS2 Ltd has shared much of its work and analysis with the local authorities that could be affected, Transport for London, the Scottish Executive and statutory environmental bodies. I am grateful to them all for their constructive engagement.

I am today publishing HS2 Ltd's report together with the Government's proposed high speed rail strategy, which is based on HS2 Ltd's analysis. In summary, the strategy is for the development of an initial core high speed network that would link London to Birmingham, Manchester, the east midlands, Sheffield and Leeds,
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with high speed trains running from the outset through to Liverpool, Newcastle, Glasgow and Edinburgh. That Y-shaped network of about 335 miles in total, with branches north of Birmingham running either side of the Pennines, would be capable of carrying trains at up to 250 mph and could be extended to other cities and to Scotland.

There are six principal reasons why the Government are proposing this strategy, the first of which is transport capacity. The extra capacity provided by a high speed line would more than treble existing rail capacity on the west coast main line corridor. That is not only because of the new track, but because of the far greater length of train that high speed lines and stations make possible, and the segregation of high speed trains from other passenger and freight services.

By contrast, the most ambitious conceivable upgrade of existing rail lines to Birmingham would yield less than half that extra capacity, at greater cost-in terms of both money and disruption-than a high speed line, and without most of the journey-time savings. That analysis is critical to the argument on whether investment in high speed rail unjustifiably diverts investment from the existing railway. The most likely alternative over time is to spend more achieving less. That accords with the experience of the recent £9 billion upgrade of the west coast main line, the benefits of which, although considerable, were essentially incremental and came after years of chronic disruption to passengers and businesses.

Furthermore, by transferring long-distance services to the high speed line, large amounts of capacity would also be released on the existing west coast main line for commuter and freight services, including services to key areas of housing growth around Milton Keynes and Northampton.

Secondly, the journey-time savings from such a line would be significant. The journey time from London to the west midlands would be reduced to between 30 and 50 minutes, depending on the stations used, with Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield all brought to within 75 minutes of London, down from almost 2 hours 10 minutes now. Through services from Glasgow and Edinburgh to London would be down to just three and a half hours.

However, thirdly, the connectivity gains of high speed rail come not only from the faster trains, but from the new route alignments that comprise the proposed Y-shaped network of lines from London to Birmingham, and then north to Manchester, and north-east to the east midlands, Sheffield and Leeds. That new network would provide a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to overcome the acute connectivity limitations of the Victorian rail network, with its three separate and poorly interconnected main lines from London to the north, each with its own separate London terminus.

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