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I am afraid that I cannot give the hon. Gentleman the clarification he wants simply because I do not know and there is no point in pretending that I do. I recognise the circumstances of Hillsborough-the tragedy that it was-and the continuing effect that it must have on a large part of the population, not least his constituents. It is extremely important that we provide
as much succour and comfort as possible to those people. I will certainly take the matter he raises back to the responsible Ministers and note the force with which he makes his case.
Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): May we have a debate on the Government's new sentencing policy so that we can point out to the Secretary of State for Justice that the apparent premise that people who commit minor offences are frogmarched to a court and sent immediately to prison is a false one? What happens in the real world is that the police tear their hair out over arresting the same people time after time only to find that the magistrates courts do nothing but give them a slap on the wrist. The people who eventually end up in prison do so only after all the community service and drug treatment orders have been tried and tried again but have failed.
Mr Heath: First, I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his election to the Backbench Business Committee, on which he will have some responsibility for ensuring that these very important matters are debated in full. What I heard the Secretary of State for Justice say was that he wanted a justice system that worked, and that disposals for people who are convicted ought to be the most effective disposals that will reduce the likelihood of their offending again. He said that many of the recurrent offenders whom the hon. Gentleman mentions-those whom the police pick up time and again-serve short sentences in prison and then go on to reoffend. Surely it cannot be right to continue with policies that fail.
Mr Wayne David (Caerphilly) (Lab): The Deputy Leader of the House will know that yesterday afternoon the Government suffered an embarrassing defeat by 21 votes to seven on the Welsh Grand Committee, which rejected the proposition on the Budget and the legislative programme as they apply to Wales. May we have another meeting of the Welsh Grand Committee to consider these issues?
Mr Heath: The hon. Gentleman is making an awful meal of the fact that he engineered a win of a vote in a Committee with 26 Labour members, three Plaid Cymru members, eight Conservatives and three Liberal Democrats. Not even the most incompetent Opposition could lose a vote on a Committee with those numbers.
Andrew Griffiths (Burton) (Con): Despite Tony Blair's promise that they would result in a café culture, the late-licensing laws are having a visible impact in towns and cities across the country. In my constituency, in recent weeks, we have had a fatal stabbing of a young man and two brutal beatings, all of which involved late-night drinking establishments and late-night drinking. May we have an urgent debate on the failed late-licensing policy?
I certainly agree that the change of licensing policy that the last Government introduced has not produced the results that they claimed it would, whereby we would all sit sipping our chianti in perfect peace and serenity in our town centres until late in the evening. That does not seem to accord with the experience of most people in most parts of the country. It might therefore be opportune for the matter to be debated
again. I cannot promise the hon. Gentleman a debate in the next couple of weeks, but he could make an application to the Backbench Business Committee for a debate on licensing laws, or he could seek a Westminster Hall or an Adjournment debate on the matter.
Grahame M. Morris (Easington) (Lab): May I draw the Deputy Leader of the House's attention to the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Clive Efford) in Hansard on Stockholm syndrome? Can we have a debate on Stockholm syndrome given that it may affect the judgment of leading Liberal Democrat members of the condemned coalition? The evidence base includes their support for regressive VAT increases, thereby displaying irrational emotional feelings and loss of concentration. Those symptoms are associated with this condition, and I think it would be useful and instructive if we could have a debate.
Mr Heath: I was rather hoping that there would be a punch line. There might be a case for a debate on Stockholm syndrome as it applied to those poor benighted souls who supported the Labour Government through 13 years of mismanagement, particularly the candidates for the leadership of the Labour party, who appear not to have agreed with anything they did while in government.
Mr David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): May we have a debate on the annual report of the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse, which was presented to the House on Tuesday? The report describes the position of treatment as "encouraging", which is in stark contrast with the 30th report of the Public Accounts Committee in March, which concluded that £1.2 billion is spent on tackling drug misuse without the Government knowing the overall effect of that approach. Such a debate could focus on the fact that only 4% of addicts become drug-free and on the urgent need for reform of the drug treatment system.
Mr Heath: We have known for a long time that the problems with substance, drug and alcohol abuse have not been sufficiently addressed in Government policy. It now needs to be addressed, and it is explicit within coalition Government plans that that will be the case. I cannot promise the hon. Gentleman a debate or a statement on this subject, but he might want to raise it by other means.
Maria Eagle (Garston and Halewood) (Lab): May I ask the Deputy Leader of the House for an early statement on potential venues for the next £100,000 Cabinet away day? The Cabinet could try Liverpool, which would have the beneficial side effect of enabling the Culture Secretary to explain in person to the people of Liverpool why, 21 years after Liverpool fans were exonerated from causing the Hillsborough stadium disaster, he suggested on live television that it was caused by hooliganism.
And he then apologised very clearly, which is an important point to note. It really is extraordinary for Labour Members now to complain about regional Cabinet meetings, having introduced them. [ Interruption. ] The hon. Lady was complaining about the cost of a regional Cabinet meeting, but it was much cheaper under the coalition Government than under the previous
Government. She has put in a bid for the next such meeting to be in Liverpool, and I shall pass that on to the Cabinet Office. I have no idea where it intends to hold the next one, but Liverpool is always a splendid place to hold anything.
Duncan Hames (Chippenham) (LD): May we have a debate on the role of the Environment Agency's policies on hydropower generation on our rivers? Two Secretaries of State have declined, on the Floor of the House, to comment on this matter, and I think that a debate would be fruitful in securing the resolve of Ministers to address it.
Mr Heath: I have a great deal of sympathy with my hon. Friend, because I used to raise this matter very regularly. I have a whole series of micro-hydrogeneration plants on the Rivers Frome and Brue, so I know perfectly well the difficulties that those people have with the EA's regulations on water abstraction. Of course, the bizarre thing is that no water is abstracted by hydro-turbines, as it is returned to the watercourse. I hope that he secures either a Westminster Hall or an Adjournment debate on this issue, because it would be well worth explaining the difficulties that many people who want to be engaged in micro-hydropower experience on the ground.
John Woodcock (Barrow and Furness) (Lab/Co-op): The Deputy Leader of the House will be aware that we are in the middle of Co-operatives fortnight, celebrating the value of community ownership across society. The Baywind project in my constituency has blazed a trail for green energy, being locally owned and providing electricity to local homes. Will the hon. Gentleman agree to a debate on the barriers that such schemes still face when trying to get off the ground, even though communities want them?
Mr Heath: It would be very useful to have a debate on that subject. There is a huge amount to be said for co-operative and mutual organisations. That sort of corporate structure has been in abeyance in recent years, and it is time that it made a reappearance. If the hon. Gentleman applies for a debate, I hope that he is successful in securing one at some stage. I have to point out that the case of Royal Mail offers the prospect of an enormous mutualisation and expansion in the co-operative sector, and I hope that Opposition Members will support that.
Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): During the last Parliament, I was regularly concerned about the blood pressure of the previous Speaker, as he had to tick Ministers off regularly for leaking information to the press before they were brought to the House to make a statement. I am very concerned that your blood pressure is not affected, Mr Speaker, so will the Deputy Leader of the House ask for a statement from the Leader of the House next week setting out the punishment that can be meted out to Ministers who leak to the press before addressing this House?
Mr Heath: First, may I also congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his election to the Backbench Business Committee? I am not sure that the Leader of the House has any sanctions that he can apply, other than exhortation, but the Prime Minister does. Perhaps this is something that we need to draw to his attention.
Barry Gardiner (Brent North) (Lab): May we have an urgent debate about the timing of reports from the Office for Budget Responsibility? If the OBR is to be regarded as genuinely independent of the coalition collaborators, then not only the content but the timing of reports must be absolutely free from interference.
Kris Hopkins (Keighley) (Con): May we have a debate on the use of postal votes in our electoral system? It has been proved to be open to corrupt practices, and it is compromising our democratic process.
Mr Heath: Concerns about the integrity of the postal vote process have been expressed for a long time. Postal votes form a useful part of our electoral arrangements, but nevertheless we must make sure that our electoral system has the highest possible integrity. The Government are committed to introducing the individual registration of voters, and that will go a long way towards dealing with some of the potential abuses of the current system. I hope that legislation will be introduced in due course that will enable the hon. Gentleman to make his points very forcefully.
Alison Seabeck (Plymouth, Moor View) (Lab): The deadline for the payment to pleural plaques victims of compensation worth £5,000 has come and gone. On at least two occasions in this House, Ministers have said that the payment would be made by the end of June. Will the Deputy Leader of the House please ensure that the appropriate Minister makes a statement to the House to explain to victims of this dreadful disease in my constituency exactly why they are still having to wait for the much promised and expected £5,000 payment?
Mr Heath: I am grateful to the hon. Lady, and also congratulate her on her election to the Backbench Business Committee. She raises an issue that I know is very important to a large number of Members and constituents. I will pass her comments on to the relevant Ministers. Hopefully, there will be statement in the near future, but I cannot promise it.
Mr Desmond Swayne (New Forest West) (Con): May I urge the Deputy Leader of the House to award the hon. Member for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle) the debate that she sought? We would be able to examine in detail how the cost of the most recent Cabinet meeting in Bradford was one tenth of what was spent by the previous Labour Government on their away days.
"I am not going to hide hard choices from the British people or bury them in the small print of the Budget documents."-[ Official Report, 22 June 2010; Vol. 512, c. 167.]
The Deputy Leader of the House has already brushed aside concerns raised by the shadow Leader of the House about the memo that discloses Treasury predictions of 1.3 million unemployed. The Leader of the Opposition has already raised the matter with the Prime Minister, only to be ignored. Why can we not have full disclosure of this document, and a proper debate in this House? The Deputy Leader of the House is supposed to be a champion of Parliament, and there are clearly differences of view as to the content of the document. Why can we not have a debate on it?
Mr Heath: I thought that I had made it plain that we are having four debates in the next two weeks on that subject. I would have thought that that would be sufficient to satisfy the hon. Gentleman. Perhaps we ought to debate the pre-Budget forecast based on the policies of the March Budget-a Labour Budget-which showed a reduction of around 500,000 public sector jobs by 2014-15. I think that that would be a very worthwhile debate.
Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con): The Deputy Leader of the House may have heard or read reports of an incident on Tuesday at the Lindsey oil refinery in my constituency. Sadly, there was a fatality and a number of injuries, and I am sure that the whole House would want to send our condolences in respect of the 24-year-old contractor who lost his life. In the immediate aftermath of the incident there are heightened concerns among the local community. Will the Deputy Leader of the House ensure that a statement can be made to the House in the next week or two? The police and the Health and Safety Executive are conducting an inquiry. If it makes recommendations that relate to the Lindsey oil refinery and other refineries, will he arrange for a debate to be held?
Mr Heath: I very much appreciate the hon. Gentleman raising this point on behalf of his constituents, and I am sure that the whole House would want to express our condolences to the family and friends of Robert Greenacre, who sadly lost his life in the incident.
As the hon. Gentleman said, the HSE and the Environment Agency have launched an investigation, in conjunction with the police. I think that it would probably be unwise for us to debate the issue in the House until it has been properly investigated but, if there are then lessons that need to be learned that have a more general applicability, I hope that we will either have a statement or that the hon. Gentleman will secure a debate on the Adjournment or in Westminster Hall. That will enable Ministers to consider the questions more widely.
Mr Dave Watts (St Helens North) (Lab): May we have a debate on the Government's fairness agenda? Recent announcements on tax increases, benefit cuts, education spending, pensions, capital funding schemes and police funding all seem to be at odds with the fairness agenda. Such a debate would enable the Government to explain why their policies do not have any element of fairness in them.
I can tell the hon. Gentleman what is fair. He mentioned pensioners, and it is fair finally to give them the triple-lock guarantee that their pensions will go up. That compares with the ridiculous 75p that we remember from the previous Government. Perhaps,
therefore, we should have a debate on fairness, and on the inability of the Labour Government to introduce any element of fairness into their fiscal policies.
Stephen Mosley (City of Chester) (Con): May we have a debate on the future of the UK's financial services industry? That would allow me to highlight the plight of the 535 Chester-based employees of Lloyds Banking Group, who heard yesterday that they had lost their jobs, with the closure of the Premier House call centre in my constituency.
Mr Heath: Obviously, it is a serious matter whenever we hear about job losses of this kind, and the hon. Gentleman is right to raise it in the Chamber. I am not sure that I can find an opportunity for a debate on the subject in the next two weeks, but he makes a very good point about the future of regulation in financial services. That is, of course, under active consideration in the relevant Departments.
Ian Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab): May we have an urgent debate on sentencing policy and the construction of new prisons? There is real confusion in north Wales about whether a new prison is to be built. The Secretary of State for Wales says that she wants one, but the Secretary of State for Justice is not telling. I am still waiting for a meeting to ask a straight question. Is not it about time that this House was shown the respect of being given a statement on sentencing policy, as the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) requested?
Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West) (LD): The children's heart unit at Leeds general infirmary is one of the oldest in the country-it has performed life-saving operations for more than 40 years. May we have an urgent debate on the review of the 11 children's heart units around the country to ensure that people do not have to travel miles for life-saving heart surgery?
Mr Heath: Paediatric cardiac services are of considerable importance. Health Ministers are reviewing the situation at the moment- [ Interruption. ] The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr Skinner) is complaining that the Government are holding reviews. He was around in 1997, but let me remind him that the Labour Government announced 38 reviews between 1 May and 27 June 1997. One former Cabinet Minister said at the time:
"We have hit the ground reviewing."
Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): I am keen to help the Government to cut waste and extravagance. In that context, does the Deputy Leader of the House have an estimate of the cost to my constituents of the Government's direction that Birmingham council must now publish all spending details online? Indeed, in these cash-strapped times, should we not have a debate on the cost to local authorities of that new Government imposition?
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