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Pace of Change Policy

10. Dr. Brian Iddon (Bolton, South-East): If he will make a statement on the pace of change policy. [151958]

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. John Denham): Each year, the Government decide how extra resources should be deployed between across- the-board increases to maintain continuity and stability in the service and to make progress nationally in priority areas, and differential distribution to bring under-target health authorities nearer to equity.

Dr. Iddon: Whichever indicators are used, they show that people in my constituency are desperately in need of extra resources to improve their health. Figures in my possession show not only that in the financial year 1993-94, the Bolton part of Wigan and Bolton health authority was 6 per cent. off its target, but that the situation has not improved in the current year, and we are still 6.5 per cent.--£13 million--under target.

I congratulate the Government on allocating, this year and next year, the most extra resources to the health authority that it has had since the NHS was created--but will my right hon. Friend ensure that the money is targeted at people such as my constituents, who are in the greatest need?

Mr. Denham: Four years ago, Wigan and Bolton health authority was almost 5 per cent. below target; now it is less than 3 per cent. below target. The important point is that it has received a cash increase of 9.1 per cent. for next year. My hon. Friend will know that the health authority's ability to address poverty and inequality is far greater with such an increase in resources than it would be if the Conservative party was in power, implementing its pledge to cut £16 billion from public spending--which would of course include cuts in health service spending.

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Points of Order

3.31 pm

Mr. Francis Maude (Horsham): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The ministerial code of conduct published by the Prime Minister states:

In recent days, an account has been published of events surrounding the publication of the Foreign Affairs Committee report on Sierra Leone and, in particular, reporting certain actions of the Foreign Secretary and his press secretary, Mr. John Williams.

It has been alleged that those actions, whose factual accuracy has not, I understand, been challenged, are simply inconsistent with the account given to the House and its Committees on no fewer than three separate occasions. In particular, the apparent telephoning of a reporter by Mr. Williams at 6.45 am on the day of publication seems inconsistent with the Foreign Secretary's assertion:

Also inconsistent is the allegation that the Foreign Secretary himself also phoned the same reporter some hours before publication.

Next week, the Foreign Secretary has to represent Britain at the Stockholm summit. His ability to do so has been seriously affected by the cloud now hanging over him. It is urgently necessary in the national interest that the matter be resolved at the earliest possible opportunity. Has the Foreign Secretary asked to make a statement to the House which would clear up this disturbing matter for good?

Mr. Speaker: I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that the Foreign Secretary has not asked me whether he can make a statement.

Helen Jones (Warrington, North): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek your guidance on a matter raised in paragraph 50 of the fourth report of the Public Administration Committee, which states that

It states also that the Opposition afterwards approached the Fees Office to arrive at a new description of parliamentary business, without consideration by the House. Is it in order for any party to act in that way, without recourse to the House? Will you investigate the matter and ensure that any rule changes are introduced by the House and no one else?

Mr. Speaker: I feel that it would have been helpful if I had received notice of that point of order. I will look into the matter and get back to the hon. Lady.

Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I want to raise a matter relating to motion 13 on the Order Paper. On 7 March, European

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Standing Committee C spent some two hours debating issues of interest to millions of people about the pricing and servicing of new cars in the context of the European Commission review of the exemption enjoyed by motor vehicle manufacturers from the general ban on anti-competitive agreements. I moved an amendment tabled by the Chairman of the Trade and Industry Committee, the hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. O'Brien) and others of that Committee's members. At column 26 of Hansard, the Minister for Competition and Consumer Affairs said:

He also said:

The amendment was agreed, and the amended motion was carried unanimously and reported to the House by the Chairman of the Standing Committee. Today, without warning, the Government have tabled motion 13, which is the unamended version. What is the purpose of a Standing Committee if amendments that are agreed with Government support are, a few days later, deemed not to have been accepted? Will you, Mr. Speaker, accept a manuscript amendment phrased in the same terms as the amendment that was accepted in Committee so that the motion can be amended if the Government press it?

I remind the House and you, Mr. Speaker, that in 1991, the Procedure Committee said that tabling a motion which did not reflect the Standing Committee's decision made a mockery of the scrutiny process. In 1997 it further said that the outcome of Committee proceedings should not be swept under the carpet if the system is to retain credibility. The Government are riding roughshod over the procedures of the House and the scrutiny process.

Mr. Speaker: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice of his point of order. If he tables such an amendment, I shall give it careful consideration. In addition, I am sure that Ministers heard what he said.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. My concern is straightforward. You will be aware that we were due to finish the Criminal Justice and Police Bill in Committee last Thursday. You will also know that we debated the Government motion on that until the early hours of this morning and that, at about 2 am, we agreed to go ahead without finishing the Committee stage. The Bill is due back on the Floor of the House tomorrow. In the light of the fact that some hon. Members do not have the normal opportunity for tabling new clauses or amendments, would you be willing to select such proposals for debate if they were tabled today for consideration tomorrow? In such circumstances there is usually at least an intervening weekend, giving hon. Members five days' notice, but last night's unprecedented decision means that notice has been shortened to less than a day and a half.

Mr. Speaker: The hon. Gentleman asks whether I would select new clauses and amendments for debate.

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I can only do that when I see what is on the amendment paper. When I see what is tabled, I shall give the matter due consideration.

Mr. Patrick Nicholls (Teignbridge): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will be aware of the devastation that is being caused in the west country by the foot and mouth crisis. It is affecting not only agriculture but other industries, especially tourism, which is suffering from massive cancellations of places and hotels. With that in mind, have you received a request from the Prime Minister or the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions to make a statement to the House on today's announcement by the Prime Minister that a taskforce will be set up under the chairmanship of the Minister for the Environment, to consider--as we understand it from press reports--compensation arrangements that flow from the foot and mouth crisis? I should like to think that you have received such a request, which you would, no doubt, treat favourably. Once again, an interesting press statement has been released, but its terms of reference need to be examined in the House. That issue is of vital concern to anyone who comes from an area where foot and mouth is rampant.

Mr. Speaker: I hear what the hon. Gentleman says. I have not received such a request, but I am sure that Ministers will take on board his deep concerns.

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