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Mr. Cook: I did read yesterday's Hansard with great interest and I notice that you, Mr. Speaker, have undertaken to reflect on the points made. I stand ready to communicate to my colleagues any views that you may express.
Mr. Keith Vaz (Leicester, East): Can we have a debate or a statement next week on the length of time that patients have to wait on trolleys before being admitted to hospital wards in Leicester? I appreciate that the Government have made a huge commitment to spend billions of pounds on our health service and that many dedicated staff work in it, but the news this morning that a 53-year-old Leicester woman died after being on a trolley for eight hours before receiving treatment has caused enormous concern. Can we have a debate on that important subject?
Mr. Cook: I understand the deep concern in my hon. Friend's constituency about the case to which he referred. He will be aware that the trust has expressed its regret to the family of the woman concerned. Waiting for a long time in accident and emergency is unacceptable, and that is why we have applied targets in the national health service plan to ensure that people are admitted to hospital within four hours of being assessed in accident and emergency as requiring such admission. I am pleased to say that the longest periods of waiting on trolleys are being reduced, but as long as anybody has to go through the experience described by my hon. Friend, we plainly cannot be complacent and have not achieved a satisfactory outcome. We must keep trying.
Dr. Evan Harris (Oxford, West and Abingdon): The Leader of the House will be aware that the Human Reproductive Cloning Bill is effectively unamendable, in that the main clause is the same as the long title. He claimed in his reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Hazel Grove (Mr. Stunell) that the Bill seeks to restore the situation that existed before the judgment. If the right
Mr. Cook: By definition, no Bill is unamendable. It is beyond the wit and knowledge of even the parliamentary draftsmen to produce a Bill that it is not competent to amend. The hon. Gentleman is right to point out that the Bill is tightly drawn. That is because its focus is to restore the position that we understood to be the state of the law before Friday, apart from those matters that are still subject to appeal.
The Bill is indeed being brought before the House next Thursday under an emergency procedure, for the simple reason that it is surely not in the country's interest that we should end up with no legal controlscontrols that we thought did existto prevent people from coming here to take advantage of that legal ruling. I would hope that all Members recognise the importance of closing that legal loophole before it is abused.
Mrs. Claire Curtis-Thomas (Crosby): Several weeks ago I was fortunate enough to lead a debate on manufacturing in Westminster Hall. Many Members from both sides of the House attended and many important issues were raised. However, the time allocated to the debate was far too short to flush out the Government's response to the issues that are affecting British manufacturing. Can my right hon. Friend allocate a whole day to a debate on that subject and the impact that it is having on our economy?
Mr. Cook: I congratulate my hon. Friend on having secured that debate in Westminster Hall, demonstrating once more the value of that Chamber in ventilating some of the issues that we cannot accommodate in the House. I will happily add my hon. Friend's bid for a day's debate to the three other such bids that I have had in the last half hour. Perhaps I could point out that the Department of Trade and Industry will answer questions next week, and I am sure that that will provide an opportunity for an exchange on manufacturing.
Mr. John Randall (Uxbridge): The Leader of the House will no doubt be aware of the plight of the 12 British tourists still being held in custody in Greece without having been charged. They include my constituent, Mr. Peter Norris. Will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for a Foreign Office Minister to come and make a statement on that situation?
Mr. Cook: I am pleased to tell the hon. Gentleman that the Foreign Office, through its consular department, is maintaining contact with the British citizens who have been arrested. We understand that they have been given access to legal representation and that they have had opportunities to contact their relatives by phone. We will continue to give the closest consular attention to their case.
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): Assuming that there will be a statement on Monday from the Foreign Secretary on his very important visit to Iran and Pakistan, could he include some comment on policy on the dropping of
Mr. Cook: There are indeed many land mines throughout Afghanistan which are the detritus of a decade of civil war. Tackling that will be an important priority in the reconstruction of the country, and it must include tackling any unexploded ordnance from the bombing. I am not aware of the statistics that may have been presented to my hon. Friend and his colleagues, but in present circumstances I would be a little sceptical about whether we could be precise about the amount that has not exploded.
Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield): In his statement, the Leader of the House announced the Second Reading of the Employment Bill. I genuinely seek information because I, like the right hon. Gentleman and others, fervently support pre-legislative scrutiny. Bearing in mind the impact that the Bill may well have on manufacturing industrya subject that has already been mentionedwill he say whether it has been the subject of pre-legislative scrutiny, and if not, why not?
Mr. Cook: The answer to the hon. Gentleman's first question is that the Bill has not been through the process of pre-legislative scrutiny[Hon. Members: "Oh!"] I do not see why that comes as a surprise, given that the Bill was first published only the other week. As the hon. Gentleman knows, I would like pre-legislative scrutiny to become the norm, not the exception, but several other changes to our proceedings would be required to make that feasible. One of those is to deal with the sessional cut-off and decide whether to adopt the interesting proposal in theConservativereport by Lord Norton that there should be a fixed period of 12 or 14 months within which a Bill can run, which would provide adequate time for exactly the sort of pre-legislative scrutiny that the hon. Gentleman wants.
The motion has also been signed by Members from other parties, including the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke). When will we have a debate on reform of the House of Lords, and will that debate take place before Christmas?
Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York): The Leader of the House is aware of my constituents' great interest in the east coast main line route, so he will share their disappointment about the refusal of Treasury Ministers to take questions from the Transport-Sub Committee. I echo my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) in requesting a debate at the earliest possible opportunity on the powers of the Select Committees. I remind the Leader of the House that the Treasury team was invited to field Ministers for an inquiry into rail passenger franchising and the future of rail infrastructure. He will be aware that the Strategic Rail Authority requested a 20-year extension for Great North Eastern Railway on the east coast main line route and that the Secretary of State refused that request.