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Mr. Newton: I have had a quick glance at early-day motion 37. However, I would not want to add to what I said earlier about next week's debate. It seems to me that the first thing to do is to hold that debate.
Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire): When, as we hope, my right hon. Friend gives us the details of recesses on Wednesday next week, will he also try to list the sitting and non-sitting Fridays? Will he also bear it in mind that there is a great deal to be said for the Special Standing Committee procedure; and that all ideas proffered from the Opposition Front Bench are not necessarily bad ones?
Mr. Newton: I shall respond to my hon. Friend in a way that he will find appropriate. Of course I acknowledge his last point. [Interruption.] My confrontational colleague from Essex, the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay), regards that as such an inflammatory comment that he wants me to resign. I have no intention of resigning for being reasonable. The hon. Gentleman has now distracted me so much that I cannot remember what my hon. Friend asked me--
Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South): The Leader of the House will no doubt have noted that, between the prorogation of the last Parliament and the start of this one, the Court of Appeal delivered its judgment in the case of Ordtech, for which an appeal was allowed. In that case it was shown that ministerial certificates denied the defence the documents necessary to conduct the defence, which led to a suspended sentence being imposed on a number of persons. Should we not debate, as a matter of urgency, the fact that ministerial decisions of this kind--whether or not misleading Parliament over Iraqi arms sales--seem to outweigh the interests of justice?
Mr. Newton: In view of the tenor of the hon. Gentleman's remarks, he will not expect me to accept the basis of his question; but with, I hope, my usual reasonableness and courtesy I shall of course reflect on what he has said.
Mr. Newton: My hon. Friend's remarks clearly drew an echo from other parts of the Chamber. That is not of course a matter for me alone: it is for the House authorities in a much wider sense. But I think it will be right to give some consideration to our arrangements in the light of what happened yesterday.
Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South): I agree with the representations from the hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Sir P. Cormack) about using the Special Standing Committee procedure for the asylum Bill. Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that it covers a highly sensitive issue for many people in many parts of the country? Furthermore, as the Prime Minister himself said, this should not be and will not be a party political matter. Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that the Procedure Committee of 1976 to 1978, which introduced Select Committees, commended this very procedure for such a Bill? If it is not adopted, the matter will not be dealt with in the way the country believes it deserves to be.
Mr. Jacques Arnold (Gravesham): Will my right hon. Friend consider holding a debate next week on equal opportunities, in the light of a flagrant example of sex discrimination in my constituency: the national imposition of a women-only shortlist on my constituency Labour party? It will not surprise my right hon. Friend to know that, as a good constituency Member, I raised the matter with the competent authorities. I wrote to the Leader of the Opposition, only to receive a reply from some junior spin doctor who did not answer my constituents' questions and who just swept the matter under the carpet. Why should Labour voters in my constituency be confined to choosing a candidate from a minority of potential candidates?
Mr. Newton: I cannot provide an answer to the last part of my hon. Friend's question. Indeed, I rather doubt whether Labour Front-Bench spokesmen can either--even if they want to. I will only observe that I find that large numbers of women are offended by sex-based shortlists.
Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North): In view of the vote that was taken in the House on 6 November about financial disclosure arising from the Nolan report and the fact that a number of Conservative Members have said that they will not observe the resolution of the House, will there be an early statement about what will occur if hon. Members refuse to obey the instructions of the House? Should we not make it perfectly clear that the resolution that was passed on 6 November must be implemented in full?
Mr. Newton: The answer to the last part of my hon. Friend's question is that clearly we would attract less inward investment--probably a lot less--in those circumstances. I welcome the latest significant investment, the Chunghwa project, which is a big coup for both Scotland and the United Kingdom.
Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South): While welcoming the forthcoming Chemical Weapons Bill, may I ask the Leader of the House to provide some guidance on whether the Government will make an early statement about the misuse and abuse of Internet? It can be used to pass messages in support of terrorism, as was witnessed in the mathematics department of the university of Texas, and the problem has not yet been rectified.
Mr. Newton: I am not aware of any plans for an early statement about the matter, but I shall bring the hon. Gentleman's question to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Heritage Secretary, and my right hon. and learned Friends the Home Secretary and the Northern Ireland Secretary.
Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cirencester and Tewkesbury): Will my right hon. Friend reject the advice, which is coming mainly from the Opposition Benches, that the asylum Bill should be committed to a Special Standing Committee? If we stick to the usual Standing Committee procedure, we will demonstrate that the Opposition are not only soft on crime but soft on the bogus asylum seekers who are coming into this country.
Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover): Why cannot the Leader of the House allow time for another statement about the Nolan committee? Why cannot the committee meet again before the next general election to discuss the funding of political parties? The people want to know before the next general election what the Tory party did with the £440,000 that Asil Nadir gave to it before he jumped bail. How did he get to Cyprus? Did someone help him? What about all the other money from the Greek colonels, the Chinese and the rest of them? Is it not important that, before we have the historic vote in the next general election, the public should know exactly where the money is coming from?
Mr. Michael Fabricant (Mid-Staffordshire): Further to the interesting point raised by the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick), may we have an early debate on the practical workings of Nolan? I notice that today's Order Paper contains an amendment about local authority and trade union rights and global capitalism-- so much for new Labour--that has been tabled by 15 hon. Members, at least nine of whom belong to trade unions such as the National Union of Public Employees, the
Mr. Newton: That is an interesting point and it is the first time that it has been brought to my attention. The newly appointed Commissioner for Parliamentary Standards took up his post yesterday and my hon. Friend may wish to bring the matter to his attention.