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Mark Tami (Alyn and Deeside): Will my right hon. Friend allocate time for an early debate on the actions of e-SURE, the internet insurer, which has announced that it will be considering withdrawing the option of cover for up to 10 per cent. of its customers because of where they live? Does he agree that that breaks the moratorium that has been agreed with the rest of the industry? Will he consider how the industry designates a flood area? Sealand in my constituency has not flooded to any serious extent for more than 200 years, yet it is considered at high risk.

Mr. Cook: I am not an expert on the areas to which my hon. Friend refers, but 200 years seems to be a fairly solid basis on which to make an insurance judgment for the future.

The matter came up yesterday during Prime Minister's questions, and I remind the House that the Government are investing several hundred million pounds in trying to ensure that we improve flood defences in order that no substantive population should have to experience the difficulty to which my hon. Friend refers.

As we work hard to try to ensure that we secure the future of properties and communities, and that no household is disadvantaged by its location and the flooding that we have come to expect over recent years, I hope that the private sector will consider how it can assist, and that the insurance industry in particular will reflect on whether it is wise to act at the very time that we are trying to ensure less flooding rather than more.

Mr. Mark Simmonds (Boston and Skegness): Will the Leader of the House please find time for a full and urgent debate on the crisis in national health service dentistry? In my constituency, particularly in Boston, 2,000 people have recently been deregistered from an NHS dental practice, others are having to wait more than three years to be allocated an NHS dentist, and both adults and

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children are not able to access dental care—either routine or urgent. In a low-wage area such as my constituency, the crisis is causing great hurt to those who are hardest hit.

Mr. Cook: We are seeking to put more money into NHS dentistry, as we are into all parts of the NHS, and we are trying to ensure that members of the public have access to NHS services. The hon. Gentleman is sadly mistaken if he imagines that the problem has arisen only recently. I do not know what he was saying to his own Government when they were in power for 18 years, but during that period, particularly latterly, they dramatically increased charges for NHS dentistry. It was perfectly clear to those of us in opposition at the time that there was a clear strategy to make NHS dentistry so expensive that more and more dentists and patients would be driven into the private sector. We saw the problem coming for the public; it is a pity that the hon. Gentleman did not acknowledge it until it was happening.

Mrs. Ann Cryer (Keighley): Could time be found for a debate on the appalling behaviour of some loan sharks—in fact, all loan sharks? I refer to that because one has had a particularly terrible impact on one of my constituents, Doris Armstrong, who has successfully seen him off through the courts. He was an appalling example of the sleazy end of the financial services industry. If it were not for the courage of Doris in taking him through the courts, she would now be homeless due to a loan for £2,000 that she took out 10 years ago and has repaid—I think—three times over.

Mr. Cook: I congratulate my hon. Friend's constituent on her courage and determination and her success in the courts. At the bottom end of the financial services market, unscrupulous people are charging wholly intolerable interest rates that would never be contemplated by those who had sufficient income to pick and choose from whom they were taking money and the borrowing undertaken. It is right that those unscrupulous people should be exposed, and I congratulate my hon. Friend on having raised a very important issue in the Chamber.

We have just reorganised financial services regulation and I hope that will result in proper and proportionate attention being paid to those at the bottom of the market who exploit the poverty of the most desperate.

Mr. Peter Viggers (Gosport): Will the Leader the House find time soon for a discussion on the availability of advanced drugs in the national health service? To give two examples, visudyne can prevent blindness in cases of macular degeneration and glivec halts the progress of myeloid leukaemia in seven out of 10 cases. Both drugs are readily available in most European countries but are not readily available in the United Kingdom. That must be wrong. As one consultant has said:

Could be therefore have a debate on the terms of reference of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence?

Mr. Cook: It was a decision of the Government that we should make sure that decisions as to whether drugs can be prescribed on the NHS should be taken not by politicians, but by medical and scientific experts. That is why we set up NICE. Not all NICE's recommendations

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have met with universal political and public approval and some have resulted in controversy. However, I still believe that the principle is sound and right. As a member of the Cabinet, I have not the least scientific qualification by which I can judge a prescription or a drug. It is right that we should have an independent body to advise us, and we should be very careful before we depart from the advice that it offers us after careful consideration.

Alan Simpson (Nottingham, South): May I repeat the request of my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) for a debate on the implications for the United Kingdom of today's American withdrawal from the anti-ballistic missile treaty? My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House legitimately says that we have currently received no requests from the American Administration for the use of Menwith Hill or Fylingdales for their national missile defence programme. However, when asked the same question, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence points out that, although there are existing budget lines in the American budget for upgrading work at both establishments for the new star wars programme, the Ministry of Defence says that it is a matter for the United States Administration and not for the United Kingdom. Surely, it is important that the House debates the wisdom or folly of any UK involvement in the nuclearisation of space and the consequences—catastrophic as they may be—for our involvement in that process.

Mr. Cook: I do not deny the importance of us having a debate on an important issue for our country that has wider repercussions for the state of arms control on the globe. However, when we have that debate, it must be founded not on something that may be proposed by the United States in its budget but on a request that it makes to the Government. When we receive a request, I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence will respond and I am sure that any response will be a matter for debate and exchanges in the House.

Dr. Evan Harris (Oxford, West and Abingdon): I should like to ask the Leader of the House a question about the use of the Parliament Act, a tool that is used to ensure that the will of the elected House is not in the end blocked by the House of Lords. Is it his and the Government's view that the procedure should be used to ensure that votes on large majorities in this House can find their way into legislation even when they are delivered in a free vote? Or is the tool to be used only to defend Government-backed policy and Government Bills? In other words, can the Government be trusted to use the Parliament Act to defend the will of the House as expressed in a free vote or is it used to defend just Government Bills and Government policy?

Mr. Cook: I will need to do some research in my weekend reading. However, as I recall it, the Parliament Act does not make any distinction between a vote in the House on a party basis and a free vote. It would therefore apply equally to both.

The hon. Gentleman's question is slightly elliptic, but the Government are seeking a consensus on a way forward on—if I can use a word he avoided—hunting.

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Whether we shall be able to secure that consensus remains to be seen, but we have promised a free vote in the House. Thereafter, the legislation will take its course.

Dr. Brian Iddon (Bolton, South-East): May I also welcome the Prime Minister's speech to the Royal Society on 23 May in support of science and the remarks by the Chancellor echoing that speech at the Amicus conference in Blackpool? However, not everything is rosy in the arena of science. The Roberts report brought some of the problems to the notice of the House. There are also problems with science teaching in schools, and science departments in universities continue to close. Salford university had the largest chemistry department, in which I used to work, in Britain in the 1970s. Last week, it announced its closure with a terrible loss of resources, including staff and library facilities. May I underline the request made by my hon. Friend the Member for South Thanet (Dr. Ladyman) that we have a debate on science? I hope that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will allow that to happen as soon as possible in the autumn.

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