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Mrs. Beckett: I am mindful of the Committee's report and its excellent work. We have not been able to find time to hold that debate in the next couple of weeks, but I am aware that there is pressure on both sides of the House for the matter to be discussed.
Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South): On foot and mouth, can the Leader of the House guarantee that a Minister will give guidance on how animals that were sold for slaughter in Carlisle ended up on an open-range farm in south Armagh? Something has to be done to tighten procedures, especially when that practice could have a devastating impact on the hard-hit industry in Northern Ireland and could spread the disease to the Republic, which would be even worse hit.
Mrs. Beckett: I know from experience and from comments that people have made to me how much many single parents welcome the beneficial changes that the Government have introduced, especially because they are directed at children, which is a prime concern for single parents in particular. What my hon. Friend says is true: most single parents are involuntarily in that role and are doing their best to raise their families without them being harmed further by the circumstances that they face. I fear, however, that I cannot find time to hold a special debate on the matter on the Floor of the House in the near future, but she might want to pursue the issue in Westminster Hall.
The Leader of the House will be aware that, although the Opposition Whips Office is extremely effective, it cannot possibly be so effective as to have planted two or three moles on the Labour Benches this afternoon to demand that the Secretary of State for Education and Employment come to the House to explain why a former head of the schools inspectorate launched such a devastating attack on the failure of the Government's education policies. I hope that she will feel able to listen to the demands of her Back Benchers. If she agrees to them, I assure her that the Opposition will be extremely pleased.
[That this House, bearing in mind the calls in the NHS plan, echoed by the British Medical Association, for more medical professionals, welcomes the joint bid by the universities of York and Hull to establish a medical school; notes the support from NHS trusts in York, Hull, North Yorkshire, the East Riding and South Humber; further notes that this is the largest population centre in England without a medical school; and expresses hope that, if successful, this bid will improve healthcare provision and training in a region with significant areas of deprivation and help alleviate the significant problems the region has in recruiting and retaining clinical staff.]
Mrs. Beckett: I share my hon. Friend's view on the importance of providing more doctors. He will know that the Government have already expanded the number of training places and that we are keen to ensure that the work force is expanded in that way. I am aware of the application to which he refers; it will be given sympathetic consideration, as are all such applications.
Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): Can the Leader of the House provide for an urgent debate, immediately after the Budget statement, on the disproportionate state benefits and expenditure in Scotland compared with those in England? Does she not agree that it is important that the electorate are informed, through a lengthy and detailed debate in the House, as to why Scotland is such a privileged and cosseted part of the United Kingdom? She will know that the Scots sometimes receive as much as 25 per cent. more expenditure per head than the English on education, health and other matters. The taxpayers of England will want to know why that is so and where the Government stand on that issue well ahead of a general election.
Mrs. Beckett: The Government stand where previous Governments have always stood on implementing the agreement on and breakdown of the provision of public moneys. As I recall, that was not changed by the Conservatives when they had a 20-year opportunity to do so. In that context, I cannot undertake to provide an urgent debate on a matter that is not an emergency and has no urgency about it.
Mr. Christopher Leslie (Shipley): Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on local transport investment? This week, the final report of the Aire Valley public transport commission in my constituency will be launched. It will help us to take advantage of new investment in the Bingley relief road and improvements to Leeds city station, as well as bringing together for the first time all the bus and train companies and transport user groups.
Mrs. Beckett: I understand my hon. Friend's strong interest in the issue, on which he has long campaigned--in fact, I think that he chaired the Aire Valley public transport commission, which provides a good example of a range of local interests coming together to address and satisfy local need. I also understand my hon. Friend's desire for the matter to be aired. Perhaps he will find an opportunity to do that in Westminster Hall; I fear that I cannot find time for it on the Floor of the House.
Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): Will the Leader of the House reconsider her uncharacteristic truculence of 8 February and agree now to a debate on the Government's plan to scrap the pound after a rigged referendum? Given that millions of Labour voters want to keep the pound and that the right hon. Lady herself has a distinguished track record of euroscepticism, why does she not now do the noble thing and resign from the Cabinet to speak up for those people, thereby ensuring
First, it is pushing the boat out a bit to talk about a rigged referendum for which no preparations have yet even been made or announced. The hon. Gentleman is convinced already that it will be rigged.
Secondly, I fear that I must disappoint the hon. Gentleman. Although he is entirely right that I campaigned in 1975 and for some years thereafter on the issue of membership of the European Union--I not infrequently remind those who did not share that point of view at the time that I did so--I have long since come to the conclusion that the United Kingdom has been involved in the EU for so long, and our legal and financial structures are so enmeshed, that it is now essential that we make the best of our membership. If that means that at some point we must consider entry into economic and monetary union, the House and the country will have to consider it.
Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley): Will the Leader arrange for a Minister at the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions to make a statement, following much concern about the erection of telecommunication masts and related environmental and health problems? In my constituency, there are three applications involving Ribchester, Clayton le Dale and an area just outside Longridge. It is a rural constituency and we do not want to turn the Ribble valley, or the countryside of the rest of England and Wales, into a giant Meccano set. Is it possible for a Minister to advise us of the changes that may be made to ensure that more power is given to local authorities to determine where masts are erected?
Mrs. Beckett: I know that the issue arouses concern on both sides of the House. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Stourbridge (Ms Shipley) introduced a ten-minute Bill on the subject yesterday. Incidentally, it was opposed by the hon. Member for Lichfield (Mr. Fabricant), which shows that there are different views on both sides of the House.
The issue is frequently aired, and I shall draw the remarks of the hon. Member for Ribble Valley (Mr. Evans) to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. In the circumstances, I cannot find time for a special debate on the matter on the Floor of the House. There are many opportunities to raise the issue, and it is raised and aired continually. I shall ensure that the hon. Gentleman's concerns are passed on.