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Mr. Lang: The hon. Gentleman's question is distorted and the premise is unsound. His question has no validity whatever.

Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk): Further to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle (Mr. Leigh), is my right hon. Friend aware that the vast majority of questions from the Opposition, including the previous one, have been about the role of the present Chief Secretary to the Treasury? I looked at the report and in addition to the section quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and Horncastle, I saw paragraph 4.12.Sir Richard Scott says that he accepts that the present Chief Secretary had no duplicitous intention. At paragraph D4.6, Sir Richard says:

Surely we can conclude from this that theChief Secretary's name is now completely cleared bySir Richard Scott.

Mr. Lang: I entirely agree with my hon. Friend.

Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South): Will the President of the Board of Trade look for a moment at page 495, paragraph D4.42, and perhaps add in the words that were left out by the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) when he quoted from that section:

Is not the truth of the matter that the guidelines were changed and matters were hidden because the Government were frightened that if the truth came out, some people in this country--not just Opposition Members--might simply say, "Stop selling to Iraq", because that is what the Government were doing? The Government were permitting lathes, which manufactured weapons of war, to be sold to re-arm Iraq. The Government did not want the truth to be known because, if it had been known, people would have discovered what was going on and the trade would have been stopped.

Mr. Lang: Sir Richard Scott recognised that British trading interests are a legitimate component of policy and can properly be taken into account. However, he also quite conclusively reached the view that no lethal weapons were sold to Iraq and that none was found at the end of the Iraq-Kuwait war.

Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford): Will my right hon. Friend turn to paragraph G18.106 and agree that it exonerates Ministers in relation to their signing of the

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PII certificates--clearly on the basis that the judge would have been able to look at them? Can my right hon. Friend also clear up the charge, which has been made during the past three years, that the case collapsed once thePII certificates--as gagging certificates--were released by the judge? In fact, the case continued for another four weeks. It was once Alan Clark changed his statement in the witness box--[Interruption.] He may well have done. The reality is that, as my right hon. Friend would agree, once Alan Clark changed his previous statements under oath, the prosecutor asked the presiding judge to withdraw the case.

Mr. Lang: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The role of PII certificates in that case has been entirely distorted by Opposition Members. The PII certificate is not a gagging order: it is something that Ministers have a duty to sign so that the public interest can be brought before the judge and weighed against the interests of justice. That is what properly happened in that case.

Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr): That being so, will the President of the Board of Trade comment on this? Sir Richard Scott, after three years of examining the issues, stated in his report that he found a Minister to be "personally at fault". What right have the Government to say that they reject that? I am quoting paragraph G13.125 in respect of the Attorney-General. That is the considered view. One cannot pray in aid Sir Richard Scott's report when it exonerates the policy but dismiss it when it states quite specifically that a Minister was personally at fault.

Will the President of the Board of Trade answer a question on a matter of finance? He did not refer even once in his statement to the financing of the arms trade. Will he tell us--I have had no time to read the report, so I do not know--whether at any time the Royal Bank of Scotland, which is the holder of the Conservative party's overdraft, ever received any taxpayers' money through the Export Credits Guarantee Department as a result of financing arms exports to Iran and Iraq?

Mr. Lang: On the latter point, if the hon. Gentleman cannot find the answer in the report, and if he will table a question, I will make sure that it is answered. As to the views of the Attorney-General, I readily accept thatSir Richard Scott takes a different view on some of these matters from that of my right hon. and learned Friend. My right hon. and learned Friend took great care to get detailed and specific advice from eminent counsel, and he has the support of a number of distinguished senior judges.

Several hon. Members rose--

Madam Speaker: We are now going to move on. Thank you very much.

Several hon. Members: On a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker: Order. Points of order come after the business statement.

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Business of the House

5.14 pm

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Tony Newton): With permission, I shall make a statement on forthcoming business.

Monday 19 February--Remaining stages of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Bill.

Motion on the Appropriation (Northern Ireland) Order.

Tuesday 20 February--Motions on the Child Support (Maintenance Assessments and Special Cases) and Social Security (Claims and Payments) Amendment Regulations, the Guaranteed Minimum Pensions Increase Order, the Social Security Benefits Up-rating Order, the Social Security (Contributions) Amendment Regulations, the Social Security (Contributions) (Re-rating and National Insurance Fund Payments) Order and the Social Security (Incapacity for Work) (General) Amendment Regulations.

Wednesday 21 February--Until 2 pm, there will be debates on the motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Progress on remaining stages of the Asylum and Immigration Bill.

Thursday 22 February--Until about 7 o'clock, conclusion of remaining stages of the Asylum and Immigration Bill.

Friday 23 February--The House will not be sitting.

Monday 26 February--Debate on the Scott report, on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

I am not yet in a position to be specific about the subsequent three days, other than to say that I expect to take Government business, and hope also to provide some Opposition time. On Friday 1 March, the business will be private Members' Bills.

Mrs. Ann Taylor (Dewsbury): I thank the Leader of the House for that information, and for taking on board our representations that the Asylum and Immigration Bill should have an extra half day for its remaining stages.

I turn first to the Scott report, because we have just heard a very important statement--everyone must agree with that. Will any of the Ministers who have been criticised in the report be making a personal statement next week, and are the Government prepared to reconsider their decision that the debate on the 26th should be on a motion for the Adjournment? Why are the Government not prepared to table a substantive motion that could be amendable, so that the House could have the opportunity to have a clear vote on many of the issues contained in the report? Will the Leader of the House tell us, today, who will be speaking in that debate, and which Ministers will be facing the House to answer further questions?

May I also repeat my regular question about the timing of the White Paper on the intergovernmental conference? In recent weeks, hon. Members have pressed the Lord President about that matter many times, and he has said that he will answer at some future stage. We have still not had an answer, and I think that that information would be of interest to hon. Members.

When do the Government intend to move the writ for the by-election in South-East Staffordshire? The Leader of the House will be aware that efforts are usually made to fill vacancies within three months. He will also be

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aware that all the main political parties have their candidates in place, that the register is available, and that it has been published. To keep within the three-month agreement, I think that the writ will have to be moved next week. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether it will be, or are the Government afraid of that by-election?

Mr. Newton: I express my gratitude once again for the hon. Lady's reference to the modification of the business that has been made in response to the entirely reasonable representations that have been made through the usual channels.

I am not aware of plans for any Minister to make a personal statement on the Scott report next week. I think that a debate on the Adjournment is much the most appropriate way to debate such a wide-ranging report. The Ministers who will take part in the debate, I expect, will be the President of the Board of Trade and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

In relation to the IGC White Paper, the hon. Lady is wrong to suggest that I said that I would shortly be giving the House a date. I think that I said that the White Paper will be published in good time before the IGC, but I shall of course let the hon. Lady know as soon as I am in a position to give a date.

As for the writ for South-East Staffordshire by-election, the hon. Lady will know that that is not a matter for me. I shall, however, bring her comments to the attention of those concerned.

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