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Dan Norris (Wansdyke) (Lab):
May we have a debate on child protection? The Labour Government should be given credit for some wonderful achievements over the past 10 years, and there have also been some encouraging statements over the last two weeks about child protection and joined-up thinking between Government Departments.
There will, however, be challenges in the future and we need to debate them soon if we are to improve the lot of children and their safety.
Ms Harman: I thank my hon. Friend for bringing this matter to my attention. The subject of the family justice system has already been raised. I will draw the matter to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Justice. It is important that we do not allow the family justice system to be the poor relation of the criminal justice system. The work it does in ensuring that children can be taken into care can save childrens lives, but if it gets things wrong, that can ruin the lives of both parents and children. I take on board his suggestion that we in this House should give greater consideration to that important work.
Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): The Leader of the House has made an announcement about motions relating to Select Committees, including the Modernisation Committee, which will be debated next Wednesday. In respect of the regional Select Committees, can she advise the House of who will be appointed to those Committeesthere are a lot of themwho will staff them, whether the Chairmen of the new Committees will be on the Liaison Committee, and whether they will be paid? A substantial announcement has been made without thought being given to those important questions.
Ms Harman: As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, the intention is to increase accountability and scrutiny of work done by public authorities in the regions. Further thinking is under way and motions will be tabled on Monday to be debated on Wednesday.
Ms Sally Keeble (Northampton, North) (Lab): Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that yesterday the judge who presided over the inquest on the death of Gareth Myatt wrote to the Government with 34 recommendations for action? Will she therefore ensure that we have a debate on early-day motion 1714, which prays for the annulment of statutory instrument No. 1709, which would make it even easier to restrain young people in secure training centres?
[That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Secure Training Centre (Amendment) Rules 2007 (S.I., 2007, No. 1709), dated 13th June 2007, a copy of which was laid before this House on 13th June, be annulled.]
Ms Harman: The question of restraint of young people in young offenders institutions, which is a very difficult issue, is under discussion in the Ministry of Justice. If there are any further points to be made, they will be brought to the House. I wish to express my condolences to the family of the young man who died, and the important lessons that arise from the coroners inquest in that case must be learned.
Chris Huhne (Eastleigh) (LD): Does the Leader of the House agree that there is increasing parliamentary and public interest in the policy areas covered by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and will she therefore assure the House that the cut in its time for questions will be restored?
Ms Harman: I remind the hon. Gentleman of what I said to another hon. Member, which was that we will take the opportunity of the recess to review the arrangements for questions. He is right that DEFRA is an important Department and we will ensure that proper time is available to ensure its accountability to this House.
Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North) (Lab): The Prime Minister has launched a national debate on the future of our democracy, which will involve people and institutions throughout the land. As usual, one institution is a little off the pace and oblivious to those opportunities. Will the Leader of the House please ensure that proper pre-legislative scrutiny of the Green Paper The Governance of Britain takes place across the relevant Committees of this House before the summer, so that the public can start to get involved in the process of remaking our democracy?
Ms Harman: My hon. Friend makes an important point. We have issued the draft legislative programme for consultation. We want to have more Bills notified in advance and more of their provisions published in draft form, and we need to have more discussion before we debate them in this House. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, that is just the start of the process of ensuring more accountability of the Government to the House, and greater topicality for the debates in the House, so that the public can see that we are debating topical issues. We will be able to make progress in many other areas, and I know that my hon. Friend, who has a longstanding interest in such matters, will play an important part in that debate.
Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): Will the Government now withdraw their objection to my Bill on the reclassification of cannabis, which could then reach the statute book quickly? Can the Leader of the House update us on the position of home information packs, following the humiliation of the Government in the House of Lords yesterday?
Ms Harman: The home information packs for larger properties will go ahead as previously announced to the House. As for the hon. Gentlemans Bill, the Government have announced a review. We will consult and consider the evidence, and if any changes to legislation are proposed they will be brought to the House as Government business.
Mr. Ian Cawsey (Brigg and Goole) (Lab): Can my right hon. and learned Friend find time for a debate on the actions of some insurance companies following the recent flooding? A few days ago I met a family from my constituency who were flooded. They do not live on a flood plain, but the combination of the extreme weather and a burst water main near their property led to a one-off flood. The response of their insurance company has been to say that their premium may be hiked and their excesscurrently £50raised to £7,500. Surely that is a disproportionate response to a one-off event caused by freakish weather and a coincidental burst water main? Can we find time to debate such outrages?
It is important that the insurance industry operates fairly towards those people who have bought insurance policies. I will bring my hon. Friends comments
to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, and I suggest that he write to her with the details of that bad sounding case.
Mr. Rob Wilson (Reading, East) (Con): The crime figures out today show a sharp rise in violence against the person in the Thames valley and a 110 per cent. rise in common assault in the Reading area. Can the Leader of the House arrange for a debate on crime and the fear of crime, because many of my constituents are increasingly concerned by violent crime?
Ms Harman: There will be a statement in about an hours time, and the hon. Gentleman will also have an opportunity to raise issues of concern to his constituents on the Adjournment next week. I take this opportunity to remind him that the increase in reported crime is to be welcomed in some aspects. For example, we know that rape has traditionally been under-reported, so that when we see an increase in the reports of rape it might mean not an increase in the incidence of rape, but womens greater confidence in the criminal justice system. We know that we see only the tip of the iceberg in the reporting of domestic violence, so that when those figures increase it is to be welcomed. We need to have a sophisticated and in-depth understanding of the figures and recognise that overall the likelihood of being a victim of crime has fallen under this Government.
Martin Salter (Reading, West) (Lab): Will the Leader of the House make time for hon. Members on both sides of the House to debate the utter failure of some police forces and local authorities to use the powers that we in Parliament have given them to remove unauthorised Traveller encampments, such as the one in Theale in my constituency? Local people have seen their recreation ground invaded, squatted on and used as a public toilet and rubbish tip, while the police fail to use the section 61 public order powers that we made available to them.
Ms Harman: I will draw the issue to the attention of colleagues. It is important that the police and local authorities use the powers that they have to stop unauthorised Travellers sites, which can make peoples lives such a misery.
Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): May we have an early debate on the future of general hospitals, especially given Lord Darzis comments last week that the days of district general hospitals providing services to a high level are over? Such comments cause great concern to those who are campaigning to maintain the integrity of general hospitals, such as the Horton hospital in my constituency. Does the Leader of the House agree with Nye Bevan, who said that the NHS will last only while there are still enough folk willing to fight for it?
The NHS will last while we have a Labour Government determined to increase investment in it. I was not aware that the hon. Gentlemans constituency was in London, because Lord Darzis quotes relate to the review in London. As a London Member of Parliament, I know that my constituents want the very best specialist services, as well as good local services as near as possible
to where they live. As change in medical practice proceeds, we have to ensure that the way in which services are delivered also changes.
Mr. Speaker: Order. There are 12 hon. Members left who wish to contribute. Many of them are the usual onesI shall not say that they are the usual suspects. I can seek to take them all, but they must ask only one brief supplementary question.
Anne Moffat (East Lothian) (Lab): Will my right hon. and learned Friend find time for a debate on corporate responsibility? Last Monday, The Guardian carried a very damning report exposing well known companies and retailers in this country and accusing them of driving down costs at the expense of working conditions, for profit. Is it not time to regulate or legislate to ensure that UK-based companies are held to account?
Ms Harman: That is exactly how the Companies Act 2006 should work. We need to hold companies to account for their corporate social responsibility in this country, and we also need to monitor how British companies act overseas. I will bring the matter to the attention of my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and for International Development.
Mr. Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire) (LD): The response of the Leader of the House to concerns about the reduction in time for DEFRA questions seemed to improve as she considered the matter. Will she therefore consider extending the time available for those questions, given the interest in climate change, single farm payments, flooding and other issues?
Mrs. Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): Britains birth rate is falling, but our divorce rate is rising. May we have a debate on whether the way forward is to offer parents struggling with their work-life balance a card like a loyalty bonus card, worth £20 a week, so that they remain in their marriages?
Ms Harman: My hon. Friend is right that our birth rate is falling and that many families find it difficult to combine bringing up children and holding down jobs. We had a statement last week that included families. The Government know that families come in all shapes and sizes and need practical support, whereas the Tories simply sit in moral judgment on them. That is nothing more than back to basics, but with an open-necked shirt.
Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell) (Con): Unfortunately, but inevitably, the British people have lost trust in the state broadcaster, so does the Leader of the House accept that next Mondays Question Time is quite inadequate for the new Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to deal with the matter? We have had two statements a day for the past week, most of them pretty irrelevant, so may we have one next week on a matter that directly concerns the British public?
Ms Harman: The BBC Trust has moved quickly to address matters that are of significant public concern. We set it up to represent the interests of licence-fee payers and to ensure that the BBC provides high-quality output. It is a longstanding principle that the Government do not interfere in editorial decisions. We know that the BBC is taking action on the matter, and we support that. We will be looking to see what action is taken, but meanwhile we strongly support the BBC.
David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): May we have a debate on the gadarene flight to large-scale outsourcing of Government Departments executive agencies? The most recent example involves the Department for Transports Vehicle and Operator Service Agency, and the result will be that private profit and road safety are mixed in the most unsatisfactory way, as has happened in mainland Europe and Ireland. What is the rationale for the move, as there is precious little evidence base for improved value for money or for better delivery of Government objectives?
Ms Harman: I will bring the matter to the attention of my ministerial colleagues, and I take this opportunity to congratulate my hon. Friend on winning the Hansard Society award for Back Bencher of the year.
Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): May we have an urgent debate on the ruling that the House of Lords cannot insist on amendments to any Bill that has spending implications? As that would mean that the Lords could not intervene effectively on any Bill, would not it be more honest to abolish it?
Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): Under Prime Minister Blair, people could sleep safely at night because they knew that the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) would automatically become acting Prime Minister if he were incapacitated. Under the new Prime Minister, it is not clear who would take over. Will the Leader of the House say who would become acting Prime Minister if the new Prime Minister were incapacitated?
John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con):
May we have a full days debate on the proposed appointment of Parliamentary Private Secretaries to Select Committees? In all sincerity, I advise the right hon. and learned Lady that it is a bit much for a Government who have spent so much time criticising their predecessor to claim now that they are imitating them and that, in any case, two wrongs do not make a right. We must separate the Executive from the legislature, and it would be outrageous
to deprive genuine Labour Back Benchers of the chance to sit on Select Committees and use their time and talents to scrutinise the Governments work.
Ms Harman: I did no more than point out that the outrage expressed by the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May) was feigned, given that the practice was outlawed by the previous Government. I assured the House that this Government would ensure that Parliamentary Private Secretaries would not sit on Committees covering the Departments to which they are responsible. However, I remind the hon. Gentleman that they are not members of the Government.
Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): Given the serious allegations of fraud and deception in some parts of the BBC that were described earlier by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (Mr. Mackay) and others, does the Leader of the House agree that it is right that the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport should make a statement to the House? It is not good enough for her to say that the BBC Trust will look into the matter. The British public expect better: they pay for the organisation, and they need answers quickly.
Mr. Bernard Jenkin (North Essex) (Con):
May I point out that there is little parliamentary time between
now and the intergovernmental conference in October that will agree the text of the new EU reform treaty? So far, the Government have been singularly unable to explain what is substantially different between the new treaty and the old constitution, for which they granted a referendum. Will she therefore guarantee that there will be a full days debate on the subject before Ministers depart for the conference?
Ms Harman: There usually is a statement around the time of intergovernmental conferences. However, I reassure the hon. Gentleman that the treaty makes it clear that the constitutional concept has been abandoned.
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con): Following on from that excellent question from my hon. Friend the Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin), may we have an urgent statement on the adequacy of the French and German translation service supplied to No. 10 Downing street? Giscard dEstaing has said that the changes to the amending treaty are more cosmetic than real and that the treaty remains largely unaltered, while Chancellor Merkel has said that the
substance of the constitution is preserved.
Clearly, the Prime Minister cannot have been furnished with those transcripts, as it would be inconceivable that he would go back on his promise to hold a referendum on changing the constitution of Europe.
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