Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:37 am on 15th March 2007.

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Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Chair, Modernisation of the House of Commons Committee, Leader of the House of Commons and Lord Privy Seal 11:37 am, 15th March 2007

On the issue of Health questions, I need notice of the questions and sight of the answers. However, Ministers are making every effort to ensure that accurate answers are given within the due notice time. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that there has been a huge increase in the volume of questions—they have increased by 40,000 in two or three years—which places an unacceptable burden on everyone involved. It is bound to have an overall effect on the quality of answers, which is something that the Procedure Committee is trying to resolve.

On the medical training application service, the hon. Gentleman will know that it is under review, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health announced about a week ago. We are well aware of the problems that have arisen, and she has said that she will seek to tackle them. On the pension judgment, I can confirm that the Government are appealing that judgment, as we are entitled to do. The issue is not whether we were right or wrong to make the original decision, and of course, we understand the concern of pensioners who have lost part or all of their pension; we all have constituents in that position. However, if we are to try to recompense them fully—we have already achieved partial recompense—that entails a very substantial cost to the public purse, so the issue of fairness arises.

The hon. Gentleman asked about what the OECD said yesterday. He should be very clear that it has not reached any conclusion that the decision was incompatible with the OECD convention, and no other state has come out and said that they thought the decision was incompatible with it or that they would have reached a different decision. I have to say that I thoroughly object to the way in which the Liberal Democrat party seeks to damage the country's reputation for probity and integrity across the world.