|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
There is no mention of a Bill and no time scale. May I make a suggestion that will save us all a lot of time and trouble? At the end of the previous Parliament, a draft Bill was introduced with the support of members of all three parties. Why does not the Leader of the House just introduce that and get on with it?
Mr. Hoon: Because, as the right hon. Gentleman will be well aware, it is necessary for us to consider carefully the important issues. On other occasions, right hon. and hon. Members on the Opposition Benches have urged the Government to take their time and to consider carefully the implications of important constitutional measures, and that is what we will do.
Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough) (Con): In presenting the Government's programme for the next 18 months, will the Leader of the House ensure that we have enough time to debate the 45 Bills that he and his colleagues wish to see on the statute book? In the previous Parliament, the Government's programme became farcical as they guillotined and prevented debate on a range of highly important public policy issues. He can make a new start and, with renewed self-confidence following his party's election to a third term in government, allow the House of Commons to do what it is supposed to do, which is to scrutinise legislation.
I do not disagree with the hon. and learned Gentleman: it is important that Bills are scrutinised
19 May 2005 : Column 276
thoroughly. But may I gently remind him that it is the practice occasionally of Opposition Members in dealing with Bills to spend an inordinate amount of time on the first two clauses and not to devote any time to the remaining parts of the Bill? I have been on many Bills where the Opposition have done that. Indeed, in opposition, I did it. That is why it is necessary properly to consider the way in which these Bills will be considered by the House. I am confident that through the usual channels that will be the case.
Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): Did the Leader of the House notice that, yesterday, in an excellent maiden speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Monmouth (David T.C. Davies) drew the House's attention to the fact that the recent rebanding exercise for council tax in Wales has meant that some 40 per cent. of properties in his constituency have gone up by one band and many have gone up by two or even three? Can the Leader of the House ensure that before the summer Adjournment we have the opportunity to debate council tax revaluation, or at least rebanding, with the appropriate Minister coming to the House to explain how that will happen? In constituencies such as mine, we are fearful that that exercise will mean large numbers of our constituents will pay substantially more council tax.
Mr. Hoon: I join the hon. Gentleman in congratulating not only the hon. Member for Monmouth (David T.C. Davies) on his excellent maiden speech but all new Membersthose who have already made their maiden speeches and those who are about to. It is important, once elected to the House, to serve the House in the way that those who have been re-elected have always done.
I did not recognise on my last trip to Banbury that the constituency extended to Wales. I am delighted to hear of the hon. Gentleman's concern about the situation there. As I said earlier, there is a review of the implications of council tax, including revaluation. Obviously it is important that we allow that review to be concluded before the Government take a position on any recommendations.
Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire) (Con): Towards the end of the last Parliament, the Government accepted in the Modernisation Committee that we should be able to table written questions during the summer recess. As the Leader of the House has today announced that the summer recess will be longer than was originally planned, will he ensure that there is an opportunity for the relevant motion to be laid so that those of us who wish to hold the Government to account, even during the summer recess, have that opportunity?
Mr. Hoon: The arrangements for September this year are exceptional as a result of necessary work to the Chamber. I do not intend, therefore, to make that provision on this occasion. The matter can be looked at when and if the Modernisation Committee is re-established.
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con):
May we have a statement from the Leader's successor as Defence Secretary on whether a decision has been taken in
19 May 2005 : Column 277
principle to build a new generation of Britain's strategic nuclear deterrent? That would greatly reassure the two thirds of British people who in poll after poll, year after year, and decade after decade have felt that Britain should continue to possess nuclear weapons so long as other countries have themalthough it might not reassure a number of people on Labour's Front and Back Benches.
Mr. Hoon: When the hon. Gentleman referred to the Leader's successor I was for a moment a little troubled. I assure him that the matter will rightly preoccupy the House in the months and years to come. It was the subject of a great deal of debate yesterday in the Queen's Speech debate devoted to international affairs and defence. I am confident that right hon. and hon. Members will return to the subject regularly during this Parliament.
Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con): Next month will mark three years since the Government produced the draft mental health Bill, which they described as a priority. Since then it has been roundly condemned by thousands of professionals, voluntary bodies, users and, indeed, my party. The pre-legislative Scrutiny Committee produced its report in March in singularly condemning terms. Can the Leader of the House give us some indication of when the Minister will respond to that report, and tell us when we might see the final mental health Bill and whether it will take account of the enormous amount of criticism that has resulted? Given that we have not had a single debate on mental health issues in all that time, will he now provide time in this House for us to discuss this important subject?
Mr. Hoon: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising this vital subject. Many right hon. and hon. Members take these questions seriously. The issues are hugely difficult for the country and it is right that the Secretary of State for Health should consider carefully the recommendations of the report. I will ensure that the hon. Gentleman's words are brought to the attention of the Secretary of State for Health, and I hope that we can make progress.
Alistair Burt (North-East Bedfordshire) (Con): Will the Leader of the House arrange for an early debate on the Government's failure to take key strategic decisions, in particular on the full fitting-out of the St. Pancras international rail station to allow proper access to other rail and underground services? The delay is not only threatening severe inconvenience and disruption, but also suggests a lack of commitment to infrastructure in an increasingly overcrowdedat Government instigationsouth-east of England. Would a debate on these failures to take key decisions set our minds at rest?
As a regular user of St. Pancras station, I can say that there has been a remarkable transformation. As a great admirer of the architecture, I am delighted that the Government have been willing to see the restoration of that fine building and of the hotelrestored, I hope, to some of its former glory. I will certainly ensure that the Secretary of State for Transport is made aware of the hon. Gentleman's comments and I hope that he will write to the hon. Gentleman accordingly.
19 May 2005 : Column 278
Mr. Paul Goodman (Wycombe) (Con): May we have a debate soon on England and the West Lothian question, in the light of the fact that in the election in England the Labour party received 8,045,806 votes and the Conservative party received 8,102,663 votes?
Mr. Hoon: The Conservative party used to be the Conservative and Unionist party, and I assumed that it had a commitment to the constitution of the United Kingdom, which clearly allows everyone in the United Kingdom the opportunity of voting for Members of this House, and long may that continue.
Bill Wiggin (Leominster) (Con): Does the Leader of the House know whether the Welsh and Scottish Grand Committees will consider the Queen's Speech? If they do, at least we may get some participation from members of his own party.
Mr. Hoon: If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I am still struggling to come to terms with being Leader of this House, and I am not yet ready to answer questions on behalf of other democratically elected institutions.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|