|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. McLoughlin: The Leader of the House has announced business to be dealt with until almost the end of April, which will be three months after the beginning of the outbreak. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman does not understand that.
As the right hon. Lady will know, the Peak district attracts at least 20 million visitors a year, and as she will also know, the consequences of the outbreak are devastating for many businesses in the area. So far, we have heard just one statement in the House about that. Many people whom I meet--including members of the Hartington and Newhaven development association whom I met on Saturday morning--feel that the measures that the Government have announced so far are wholly inadequate. The Minister of Agriculture says that he will make more announcements, but my constituents, and those businesses, desperately need to know when the Government will come up with concrete measures.
Mrs. Beckett: I rather deplore the Conservative party's desperate attempts to create the impression that the Government are at fault, and that we are not doing all we can to tackle the many ramifications of the issues being raised.
I take the point that the debates that have taken place hitherto have been in Opposition time, but we have had those debates, and we have had repeated statements. The Government have fallen over backwards to keep the House informed, not least--as the hon. Gentleman will know--through exceptional measures such as the MPs' hotline and regular updates in the Library.
Let me say, with respect to the hon. Gentleman and his constituents, that the best way of bringing about a resurgence in the tourism industry and other aspects of the local economy is to continue to keep the issue under control, while also encouraging people not to stay away from the countryside but to go sensibly into it. That would be far more helpful than any loan scheme, or any of the other ideas that people are proposing to help industries. A revival of custom is what those industries need, and, with respect to the hon. Gentleman, a debate in the House may not always be the best way of achieving that.
Mr. Ian Davidson (Glasgow, Pollok): Is my right hon. Friend aware that Carlisle is at the very centre of the Cumbria and Dumfries and Galloway foot and mouth cluster? If anywhere in the country is suffering from the impacts of the disease, it is that area and Carlisle in particular. Is she therefore not a little surprised to discover that the Conservatives have called a local council by-election not for 3 May, but for 19 April? Is not she further surprised that the seat is not Conservative, but Liberal? The Conservatives are so keen to hold a
Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West): Does the right hon. Lady recall the vehemence with which the Prime Minister, during the Ayr by-election for the Scottish Parliament, denounced the practice of homosexual role play in school sex education classes? Hon. Members will be receiving reports from the Christian Institute giving documentary evidence as to how widespread that practice now is. May we have a debate so that the Prime Minister can tell us precisely what he plans to do to deliver his pledge and stamp out that practice, particularly as press reports today suggest that he is making a pitch for the religious vote?
Mrs. Beckett: I am afraid that I do not recall the precise exchange to which the hon. Gentleman refers. He knows, however, that how such education is conducted is a matter for school governors. I presume that they will take on board the remarks that are being made.
Mr. Brian White (Milton Keynes, North-East): My right hon. Friend will be aware of the figures released last week showing the largest increase in police numbers for a decade, and my area commander has already described how the north Bucks villages in my constituency will get extra resources. She will also be aware of a problem in the south-east with recruiting key public sector workers. May we have time for a debate on that and on police numbers and recruitment in the south-east?
Mrs. Beckett: My hon. Friend is entirely right, and I understand that it is the first time in a decade that police numbers have risen in the Milton Keynes area. That must be a great source of gratification to both my hon. Friends who represent that locality. I understand, of course, both the pressure that he and other colleagues have applied to try to obtain that increase and his concern to have those other issues aired. I fear, however, that I cannot undertake to find time in the near future for such a debate, but perhaps I may draw my hon. Friend's attention to the fact that I believe it may be Home Office questions on 9 April. He might find an opportunity to raise those matters then.
Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby): It appears likely that a general election is imminent and every Member of the House standing for re-election may be prepared for it, but can the Leader of the House find time for a debate before any election is announced to discuss why a general election might be called? This Parliament has at least a year to run and my constituents in rural areas are stuck in their farms, in real crisis, and businesses are going bust or are under real threat. My constituents ask me, "Why on earth should we have an election now?" What possible reason is there for holding one, except some perceived advantage to the Government?
Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley): Will the Leader of the House look at the business for next week and tell us whether we can have an urgent debate on foot and mouth in Government time, perhaps with the Minister of Agriculture and the rural taskforce Minister--the Minister for the Environment? I spoke to a farmer in my constituency yesterday who has not received any money for five weeks. Had it not been for an agricultural charity giving her some money, she and her family would have had no income whatsoever. Many farmers owe money to small businesses that have also been affected by the rural crisis. If money can be got through to the farmers, they can start to pay bills, which will start to get the rural economy going.
Will the right hon. Lady consider next week's business, because that debate is urgently needed? Those families have no money coming in now. Unless they can get some urgent action from the Government, they will not be able to continue in business.
Mrs. Beckett: I of course understand the point that the hon. Gentleman makes. It is a very serious point, and I understand the concerns of his constituents. I shall certainly give consideration to the point, but I cannot undertake necessarily to change the business for next week. However, I can--and will--undertake to draw his remarks urgently to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment.
Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West): Can we have an urgent statement or a debate in Government time on the Government's decision to reduce the number of transplant centres in the country? Those proposals will mean the closure of two of the three centres in Sheffield, Manchester and Birmingham. I was fortunate to secure a short debate in Westminster Hall on Tuesday this week, during which the Minister for Public Health gave out the dreadful news that the decision would be delayed, possibly for several months. That is causing real anxiety in the South Manchester University Hospitals NHS trust and in the other centres. It is essential that we have an answer quickly and the Government must explain when they are going to make a decision, to set minds at rest in all three of those places.
Mrs. Beckett: I fear that I cannot undertake to find time for a special debate on that issue, especially as the hon. Gentleman has so recently had a debate on it. However, I can certainly undertake to draw his concerns to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health.
Can we please have an urgent debate on fawning sycophancy, shameful grovelling, unctuous toadying, ritual subservience and the Liberal Democrats? Does the right hon. Lady agree that, in the light of the proportional representation pact and of the overall record of that party, such a debate would allow many right hon. and hon. Members to explain that, in large parts of the country, the Liberal Democrats are a left-wing party scavenging for right-wing votes? Does she also agree that people who want to get rid of this ghastly, sickening, depressing, miserable, pitiful failure of a Labour Government should not vote for that bunch of opportunist misfits, but should instead, throughout the country, vote Conservative, Conservative, Conservative?