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Bristol Royal Infirmary Inquiry

13. Valerie Davey (Bristol, West): When the report of the Bristol Royal Infirmary inquiry into the management and care of children receiving complex heart surgery will be published. [494]

The Secretary of State for Health (Mr. Alan Milburn): Professor Ian Kennedy, the chairman of the Bristol inquiry, has not yet submitted the report to me. When he does, I shall seek an early opportunity to present the inquiry's findings to the House and to publish the report.

Valerie Davey: The parents and friends of those who were directly affected by the events in Bristol have been waiting a long time for the report and will be disappointed to hear that reply. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that the inquiry's findings are reported at the earliest possible moment and that that happens in Bristol, not London?

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Mr. Milburn: The finalisation of the inquiry's report, is rightly and properly a matter for the independent inquiry, which we established to examine the serious issues raised by parents, families, doctors and other staff members. I look forward to receiving the report and, when I do, I assure my hon. Friend and her constituents that I shall try to address the House as quickly as possible and to ensure that it is published in full.

General Practitioners

14. Mr. David Rendel (Newbury): What plans he has to increase the number of practising general practitioners. [R] [495]

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. John Hutton): We are committed to increasing the number of general practitioners by at least 2,000 and GP registrars by 550 by 2004. We will also invest in 1,000 more medical school places on top of the 1,100 already announced. In March, we also announced a further investment of £135 million over the next three years to improve the recruitment and retention of GPs and nurses.

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Mr. Rendel: I should make it clear that I have an interest in that my wife is a GP.

Does the Minister accept that many GPs have now reduced their consultation times to as little as five minutes because of the pressure on them? Does he further accept that that is far too short a time for them to give a proper first-class service to their patients? Given the mediocre means that he has just announced for increasing the number of GPs, does he accept that it will be many years before GPs can give a longer average consultation time to their patients?

Mr. Hutton: No, I do not accept much of what the hon. Gentleman says. We are all aware that GPs are expressing concerns, and I shall shortly be meeting the chairman of the general practitioners committee to discuss those concerns and other issues that he wants to raise. There is a serious way to deal with the issues, and then there is the Liberal Democrat way. The hon. Gentleman has just pooh-poohed £135 million worth of extra resource. I see his hon. Friends making hand gestures and behaving generally in a rather stupid fashion. The important thing is that we have set out the resources that we intend to provide. The hon. Gentleman's party failed to do that. We are working with GPs in a seriously constructive way to resolve the concerns that they and others are expressing.

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Export Control

Ms Secretary Hewitt, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr. Secretary Prescott, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Secretary Straw, Secretary Clare Short, Mr. Secretary Hoon, Secretary Tessa Jowell and Mr. Nigel Griffiths presented a Bill to make provision enabling controls to be imposed on the exportation of goods, the transfer of technology, the provision of technical assistance overseas and activities connected with trade in controlled goods; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed. Explanatory notes to be printed [Bill 5].

Point of Order

3.31 pm

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will you be kind enough to clarify one particular point for the newly elected Members of the House? Is it correct that a newly elected Member should not table a question until he or she has made a maiden speech, but may ask a supplementary?

Mr. Speaker: It is the practice of the House, but it is not an absolute rule. I hope that that helps the hon. Gentleman and new Members.

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Orders of the Day

Debate on the Address

[Fifth Day]

Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [20 June],

Question again proposed.

Rural Communities and Transport

Mr. Speaker: I have accepted the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition.

3.32 pm

Mr. Tim Yeo (South Suffolk): I beg to move, as an amendment to the Address, at the end of the Question to add:

I again congratulate the Secretary of State on her new appointment and I express my sympathy to her for the loss of her voice, with which I heard her struggling on the radio this morning. She is the first head of a new Department with wide responsibilities and she carries a formidable burden in that capacity. On behalf of the Opposition, I genuinely wish her well in the task that lies ahead. I welcome the creation of the new Department. In establishing it, the Prime Minister seems to have heeded advice that I first offered in an article in Country Life in 1994, although I would have defined its role slightly differently.

Before dealing with the crisis in rural communities, the plight of farmers and other matters referred to in our amendment, I want to mention the wider environmental agenda on which the future of agriculture and the countryside, not just in Britain but elsewhere, ultimately depends.

This is, as others have mentioned, the first British Government to be elected in the 21st century. I hope that, in future, environmental criteria will be one of the main benchmarks against which they will judge all their decisions, and by which they will measure the success of all their policies, not just those for which the Department has direct responsibility.

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Sustainability is the great challenge for the new century. The world's population is growing, and all around the globe people naturally aspire to better living standards. As a result, unprecedented demands are being placed on our planet's natural resources. Meeting those demands in a sustainable way must now be the top priority for Governments everywhere. We are all stewards of our inheritance. It is our duty to leave behind a world better than the one we inherited--a world that is not consuming natural resources at an irreplaceable rate. That is a duty for which the Prime Minister has shown scant regard in the past four years.

Geraint Davies (Croydon, Central): How does the hon. Gentleman reconcile sustainability with his manifesto commitment to reduce the price of petrol?

Mr. Yeo: May I give the hon. Gentleman a little bit of advice? From where he stands, the result of the general election was extremely bad news because it means that the Government Benches continue to be thickly populated by people who rise to ask planted questions.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): It did not get him a job in the last Parliament.

Mr. Yeo: My hon. Friend anticipates my point: the problem as far as the hon. Member for Croydon, Central (Geraint Davies) is concerned is that only a very small number of those lackeys will be rewarded with ministerial posts. If I may offer him another piece of advice, I believe that the hon. Gentleman will command the respect of the House and of his constituents, and he might even gain the attention of his Front Benchers, if he speaks on the merits of the issue and offers constructive advice to the Government, instead of trying to make cheap debating points about what may or may not have been the record of previous Conservative Governments.

Few promises have been more spectacularly broken than Labour's pledge to be the greenest Government ever. However, in welcoming the Secretary of State, I recognise that she comes to the Department fresh, so we shall live in hope that the Government will repent of their errors.

On specific aspects of policy, I shall first explore another area on which Labour's record thus far has been truly dismal: agriculture. In the past four years, agriculture has been brought to the verge of extinction. Farm incomes have collapsed by two thirds, and 20,000 jobs a year have been destroyed in each of the past two years--even before foot and mouth disease hit Britain in February. I do not believe that a Labour Government would have allowed any other industry to suffer in that way without implementing a package of emergency measures, making regular statements to the House and establishing working parties and special Cabinet Committees to achieve the industry's survival. In 18 years of representing a rural constituency, I have never seen the farming community so demoralised or so despairing of its future.

The Secretary of State heads a new Department whose title does not even mention agriculture. She heads a team of Ministers in the Commons, not one of whom has agriculture as part of his main responsibilities. Those

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omissions confirm the worst fears of many people in the countryside that Labour simply does not care whether farming survives as an important British industry.

It is not merely the title of the Department that conveys that chilling warning; it is the actions of the Labour Government over the past four years. In a period of steadily worsening crisis in farming, Labour has refused to block substandard food imports from entering Britain, even when they threaten human or animal health. Labour has refused to introduce honesty in food labelling, even though consumers are misled every day about the origins of the food they buy. Until foot and mouth disease struck, Labour refused to claim much of the available agrimonetary compensation, even though part of the cost of that cash help for British farmers is met by the European Union. Labour has refused to protect the best and most versatile agricultural land from the threat of development, even though that risks irreversible loss of Britain's finest farmland. Labour has refused to stop gold-plating Brussels regulations putting ever greater burdens on farmers, slaughterhouses, food processors and thousands of other businesses. Labour has refused to protect conventional and organic farmers from the threat posed by genetically modified crop trials that are neither properly controlled nor effectively monitored. I urge the Secretary of State to reverse every one of those mistaken policies.

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