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Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:37 am on 8th February 2007.

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Shadow Leader of the House of Commons 11:37 am, 8th February 2007

Given the interchange that we just heard in questions to the Solicitor-General, may I help the Leader of the House by suggesting that he arrange a debate on collective responsibility, in which Ministers could learn to understand what being part of the same team is supposed to mean?

I note that the Leader of the House has not given us a full two weeks' business. He will have noticed that there is considerable interest in the debate on the unprecedented preferential voting system that he is introducing on House of Lords reform. The press report that the debate might be held on 27 February. Will the Leader of the House confirm the date of that debate?

Before Christmas, the Leader of the House recognised the strength of feeling in the calls for a debate on Iraq. There is similar feeling for a debate on Afghanistan, particularly given the issues of troop deployment and resources and the Taliban threats reported today. May we therefore have a debate in Government time on Afghanistan?

Following the announcement by Colin Challen that he would not contest the next general election, despite earlier assurances to the contrary, we learned this week from the Chancellor's climate change adviser, Sir Nicholas Stern, that the Chancellor had appointed the hon. Gentleman to work with Sir Nicholas. Will the Leader of the House clarify the terms on which the hon. Gentleman was appointed by the Chancellor and what he will do in his new role and assure us that no other promise has been made of which the House, or perhaps another place, should be aware?

The Select Committee on the Treasury recommended that the date of the Budget be given two months in advance. We are now less than two months from the Easter recess: why the delay, and when will we be given the date?

My right hon. and learned Friend Mr. Hogg has previously raised the question of the new arrangements for passports, under which people renewing their passports will have to be interviewed—up to 6 million interviews a year managed by the Home Office. We now know that the new e-passports might have to be reissued every two years, which would lead to a massive increase in the number of interviews required. May we have a statement from the Home Secretary on how the Home Office, which is not fit for purpose, will cope?

Finally, may we have a statement from the Secretary of State for Health? The Government have dropped a pledge to build or refurbish 50 community hospitals. The Department of Health has given the go-ahead for the refurbishment of only one community hospital and three health centres, while five community hospitals have been closed in the past year. At the same time, maternity units are closing, with even the Under-Secretary of State for Health, Mr. Lewis campaigning against closure of the maternity unit in his constituency.

The Secretary of State for Health seems to live in a parallel world. She has denied the impact of cuts and deficits and on health care. Last year, she even said that it was the best year ever for the NHS. Today, she has told the Daily Mirror that

"Closing NHS beds is a sign of success".

There have been 9,000 bed closures in the past 21 months —some success rate. That paper is not known for its opposition to Labour, but it asks:

"Is this the most extraordinary statement ever made by a Labour Health Secretary?"

We need a statement from the Health Secretary, so that she can explain why she measures success in bed closures, so that she can apologise to the patients who are suffering as a result of her policies and so that Members on both sides of the House can tell her exactly what they and the public think of the Government's cuts in the NHS.