I have solved the problem. At least on my laptop in the last week.
As far as I can tell for that particular model of HP laptop has no way for the user to be able to control the fan.
When I tried to be able to control the fan under windows Vista I downloaded the speedfan utility and it couldn't detect any drivers to control the fan either but did provide a quick way see graphs of the various temperature sensors in the laptop. After that I downloaded a cpu burn test utility for windows and when run it started to heat up the laptop suddenly the fan started up.
Booting back to debian I installed a CPU burn test utility from the repositories. I can't remember the name, I don't have the laptop with me at the moment. When I ran that tool twice in parallel (one for each core) the fan also spontaneously started running.
Now the fan runs fine. It generally runs all the time at a low speed with Debian starts up. I haven't done anything excessive to push it faster since running the burn tests.
The theory I have come to about what is happening is that the fan can not be user controlled and runs automatically. I think maybe it was stuck with dirt and wouldn't run at low speeds. When stressed with the burn test utilities the fan, given more power started up and cleared out any dirt.
Not exactly a scientific theory but the best I can come up that explains the behaviour.
If you happen to run the same tests let me know if you have the same results.
This weekend I will post a note with my theory and probably another post to debian-users to see if anyone can confirm that it is viable idea.