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Mr. Roger Gale (North Thanet): In his earlier response to my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), the Leader of the House referred to a meeting held at the Conservative party conference in Harrogate. He referred to it as a private meeting; it was not. Not only was it a public meeting, but a member of the Labour party was there by invitation, as a courtesy. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to discover the nature of the "free at the point of delivery" health service over which his Administration is presiding, perhaps he would like to visit North Thanet to meet some of my constituents who are currently paying for hip, eye, cataract and other operations that they cannot get under this Government.
In February, I asked the Prime Minister whether he would name the companies on whose behalf he had written to other authorities. In a written parliamentary answer, he declined to do so and referred me to another answer, so I wrote to him on the subject and asked him to answer the question that I had actually asked. Yesterday, I received a letter from the Prime Minister saying that he has written to other people on behalf of many companies that he is not prepared to name, pleading exemption 13 of the code of practice on access to Government information.
Mr. Cook: I do think that there is a danger that the hon. Gentleman is getting totally out of touch with reality. Frankly, it is to the Prime Minister's credit that he has written on behalf of many companies in Great Britain to promote their interests, and it has been the practice of Prime Ministers over the years to do so. Indeed, if my right hon. Friend refused to write on behalf of companies to pursue their commercial interests, there would be a wave of criticism from the hon. Gentleman and all his hon. Friends on the Opposition Benches.
On the health service, of course I fully understand, as all Labour Members do, that people have been waiting too long in some cases. That is why we want to reduce the waiting list times, and I am delighted to say that the
We intend to continue that enormous improvement, but it would, of course, be totally thrown away if we ever ended up with the Conservative health spokesman in charge of the health service, given his own view that the NHS cannot work and will not work and his statement at that meetingI gather that the hon. Gentleman is aware of itthat the big growth market in the United Kingdom is in people paying for health care from their own savings. That is the perfect dividing line between usunder the Conservatives, people will pay from their savings; under the Labour Government, we will pay for the NHS from taxation.
Mr. Clive Betts (Sheffield, Attercliffe): I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement that we will have a debate on the quality of life. I hope that there will be an opportunity in that debate to discuss the fact that many people's quality of life is ruined by the antisocial behaviour of a handful of their neighbours. That happened in the Westfield estate in my constituency during the Easter recess. While we were discussing a response to those issues, a great welcome was expressed for the statement, made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, that he intends to give local authorities and other landlords greater powers to evict in those circumstances, as well as the Home Secretary's statement that he will speed up the ways in which antisocial behaviour orders can be obtained. I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will have an opportunity in that debate to express our concerns on those matters and press for the introduction of those reforms as quickly possible.
Mr. Cook: All hon. Members will be aware from their constituency surgeries that the issue that my hon. Friend raises is a pressing one in so many areas, not only rural as well as urban, but suburban as well as in city centres. He obviously has an excellent contribution to make in the forthcoming debate andwith respect to you, Mr. Speakerhe will be guided on what is appropriate. The debate is to take place on a motion for the Adjournment; it can be wide ranging, and we hope that it will provide an opportunity to explore the ways in which we can improve the quality of life in local communities.
Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex): Will the right hon. Gentleman arrange time for the House to debate the suitability, or otherwise, of the well known Australian property developer and pop impresario Lord Levywho masquerades as the Government's envoy to the middle east and who caused the right hon. Gentleman such trouble by meddling in the middle east during the period when he was a distinguished Foreign Secretaryto continue in that role without being in any way accountable to Parliament at one of the most difficult and serious passages of international affairs for many years? Will the right hon. Gentleman see what he can do to bring him before Parliament?
This is a time of grave trouble in the middle eastworse than I have ever known. The hope of a resumption of peace is weaker and more faded than at any time I can recall. It is therefore very important that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Office should use all the resources and assets available to them. Lord Levy has a range of contacts which he is able to use with great skill and diplomatic charm.
Mr. Cook: I have never met an ambassador anywhere in the middle east who in any way has resented what Lord Levy has done. On the contrary, he has opened doors to many of them that would otherwise have been closed.
Vernon Coaker (Gedling): My right hon. Friend will know that I, many of my hon. Friends and Members across the House are concerned about the problem of the participation of young people in the political process and the small numbers who apparently take an interest in the affairs of this House. Will he consider when talking to his hon. Friends and others whether it would be possible in organising the business of the House to provide a slotperhaps 10 minutesto discuss issues relating just to young people, as we have in respect of issues relating to women? Would not that be an incredible symbol to the young people of this country of the importance that we give to matters of concern to them?
Mr. Cook: My hon. Friend has written to me with his proposition and I responded by saying that I fully understand the reason why he suggests that we should have a distinctive and separate slot for questions on youth policy, but since the Home Office is responsible for youth policy, the first call on the matter must remain with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, as it would be out of that Department's Question Time that such a slot would have to be found. The issue would have to be looked at in the round and the consequences weighed, although I fully appreciate the fact that my hon. Friend has raised an interesting point which underlines his interest in youth policy.
Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan): Has the Leader of the House noticed that a number of his right hon. and hon. Friends have taken to addressing him just as "Leader"? Is there any significance that we should attach to that development?
[That this House notes with concern reports of conditions in the Dungavel Detention Centre for asylum seekers, with the lack of privacy and no freedom of movement effectively creating a prison environment for people who are guilty of no offence, including young children; further notes with concern the reported suicide attempt by Nigerian asylum seeker Mr. Dotun Adeosun in Dungavel; and calls on the Home Office to accede to requests by human rights groups, such as the Friends of Refugees in Ayrshire, to have wider access to visit and meet asylum seekers at the Dungavel Centre and provide them with support, and to inspect conditions for detainees.]
Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that there is widespread concern that people who have committed no crime, including children, are effectively being held in prison conditions? Given that we are some distance from the next Home Office questions, will he arrange a statement for next week or at some other suitable moment on whether the conditions in detention centres are appropriate and on the rights of inspection by human rights groups? There is substantial concern that he should be addressing.