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Mr. Hain: My hon. Friend eloquently puts what I think is a position widely shared across the House and across all parties. He will have the opportunity to question my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on this matter very soon after we return. The vision that he has offered is that there must be negotiations for an independent Palestinian state, but one that gives the Israelis the security they need from suicide bombers and
Mrs. Gillian Shephard (South-West Norfolk) (Con): There has already been a reference this morning to the tragic deaths of the Chinese workers in Morecambe bay. Council officials calculate that in the Breckland district council area, part of which I represent, there are some 15,000 foreign workers, some of whom are there legally, some illegally. I have been warning Ministers about the implications of this for at least two and a half years, but my efforts have been greatly hampered by the fact that it seems that no one Department is in the lead and that no one Department wants to know the facts.
There is no excuse now for Ministers not knowing the facts, in the light of the tragedy and also in the light of the report of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee on gangmasters, published last September. Will the Leader of the House arrange for an early debate on the implications of Morecambe bay and the issues raised in the Select Committee report, and allow Members to question the Government on their extremely limp response to the report?
Mr. Hain: I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for raising this point, which affects the coastline near her constituency. Indeed, it affects us all. I do not agree that there has been a limp response. We have been pursuing the gangmasters, and are doing so in the Morecambe bay area. That is the purpose of the investigation. The policethe appropriate security officials, rather than immigration officialscame in and were on the case in order to track down the gangmasters. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will want to consult closely on the matterhis consultations will include the right hon. Lady, if she wishes to make any representationsbecause this is a common problem that we have to solve together.
Mr. Kelvin Hopkins (Luton, North) (Lab): We have seen in recent days Eurotunnel yet again falling into serious financial difficulties. In one way or another it will have to be bailed out by the public purse. Will my right hon. Friend make time for a full debate on rail freight, because only by pushing more freight through the channel tunnel will it eventually become financially viable? The same is true of the channel tunnel rail link. The only way in which it will be fully utilised and really become viable is if more freight is put through the CTR tunnels currently being constructed. Will my right hon. Friend make time for that debate, so that we may also look in particular at the way in which we can get full-scale road haulage trailers on to trains? That is the way forward.
Mr. Hain: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport will study carefully what my hon. Friend said. I agree with everything that he said, as, I am sure, does my right hon. Friend. The objective must be to get more freight on to rail and off the roads, for environmental and congestion reasons, apart from anything else. That is one of the many reasons why
Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Con): Following the NHS ombudsman's ruling against South Cambridgeshire primary care trust that a person with dementia should receive free NHS care at home, may we have a debate to explore the implications for people with all forms of dementia in residential care, whose health care should surely be funded by the NHS? We must now take the opportunity, after the South Cambridgeshire ruling, to end the discrimination against people with dementia.
Mr. Hain: The hon. Gentleman raises a problem that is common to all our constituencies. It is one of the reasons why we are introducing the Mental Incapacity Bill, initially in draft. He will have an opportunity to see whether it meets the concerns that he has identified. It is a serious issue, and I hope that those responsible locally will take note of his comments.
David Winnick (Walsall, North) (Lab): I congratulate the Government on implementing their ten-minute Bill on the 92 remaining hereditary peers. Of the Lords who sit in the upper House simply because their ancestors received titles, many have titles that were given centuries ago. Indeed, the ancestor of one was given the title on 28 June 1283. How can it be possible to defend people sitting in the House of Lords, part of Parliament, simply because their ancestors were given titles centuries and centuries ago? The matter should have been dealt with long ago, and I am pleased that the Government are to take action now.
Mr. Hain: I could not agree more with my hon. Friend. The idea that people sit in judgment on our laws, and vote on them, because a great, great, great, great grandmother was the mistress of Charles II is an astonishing democratic proposition. The Conservatives now support the hereditary peers and the principle of their remaining in the House. That will become a clear dividing line between a Labour Government who seek to modernise our democratic institutions and a Conservative Government who would seek to keep them in mediaeval times and put us in a situation in which our Parliament became a laughing stock internationally.
Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): On that very point, does the Leader of the House seriously think that this blatant cherry-picking and gerrymandering of the House of Lords will get through Parliament without full-scale reform? What the Government are trying to dolet us be quite clear about thisis to fiddle the figures in the House of Lords by removing the hereditaries, without giving us proper reform following that. The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that the official Opposition are pledged to a democratic upper House, which his party apparently now is not, so we will take no lectures from him until we have a debate to flush all of this out. We will defend the hereditaries until we get proper, full reform of the upper House, and we will not accept his crude attempt at gerrymandering.
Mr. Hain: How on earth getting rid of hereditary peers can be called gerrymandering, I have no idea. The present composition of the House of Lords, partly because of hereditary peers, is gerrymandered in favour of the Conservative party. That is the reality. There is a vast majority of Conservative peers, including hereditaries. The Government have fewer peers in the House of Lords than Cross-Benchers, let alone Conservatives. That is a form of gerrymandering against the will of the people, who elected the Government to carry out our manifesto.
The right hon. Gentleman should join us in getting rid of hereditary peers through an independent system of appointment, which is light years away from gerrymandering, taking the power away from the Prime Minister. We will then move on to find a consensus on an elected second Chamber, or at least a second Chamber with a large proportion of elected peers. If the Conservatives will back us in that venture through consultation in the Joint Committee, which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is calling for, we can move forward. I suspect that in the end Conservative Members, like Conservative peers, will vote against modernisation and democratisation, because they are the last vestiges of a commitment to an elitist democracy.
Andy Burnham (Leigh) (Lab): Can I persuade my right hon. Friend of the growing case for a debate in Government time on the future funding of the national health service? I understand that work is underway at Richmond house on primary care trust allocations for the next three years. I know that a number of my hon. Friends whose primary care trusts are still some distance from their target funding would welcome the opportunity to influence the work that is underway at the Department of Health.
Is the case not made more pressing by some of the mixed messages that we have seen this week about lower taxes and higher NHS spending, which can have only a destabilising effect on NHS staff throughout the country?
Mr. Hain: On targets and funding levels in certain areas, my hon. Friend will be aware that waiting lists have been coming down steeply throughout England. That is a sign of the huge investment that the Government are now making. Against that background, I am astonished that the Leader of the Opposition is quoted as saying in a speech this week that the Government have spent a huge amount more on the NHS and that this approach has been tried and has failed. We have recruited thousands of extra nurses, doctors and consultants to make sure that waiting times are driven down to give people relief from pain, and the Leader of the Opposition is saying that we are spending too much money. As for the shadow Chancellor, the editorial of 12 February in The Daily Telegraph says that "The Tories are all over the place on tax and spend." We are seeing opportunism again. The same old extremist policies are coming back.