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Mr. Newton: My hon. Friend will understand that all I can say is that I shall ensure that the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment is drawn to what he said.

Ms Janet Anderson (Rossendale and Darwen): Is the Leader of the House aware that this Saturday, 8 March, is International Women's Day? May I remind him that it has become customary to have a debate in the House at this time of the year about matters of concern to women, and that last year that debate was held in Government time? Can the Leader of the House explain why the Government have not been willing to allocate time this year, and will he reconsider, in view of the insulting remarks of the hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Evans) about women?

Mr. Newton: The hon. Lady has added to the rather long list given to me earlier by the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), of subjects that we seek to debate at more or less annual intervals. I shall bear in mind the subject that the hon. Lady wants us to debate in the near future, but she will understand that there are a number of other uncertainties.

Mr. Graham Riddick (Colne Valley): May I back up the calls of my hon. Friends the Members for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) and for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) for a debate on race relations in Britain, so that I can point out that the firm control of immigration over the past 18 years has contributed significantly to the vast improvement in race relations? For example, an Asian constituent of mine said to me only last week that his community has not had to put up with

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the violence and intimidation from skinheads over the past 18 years that was so prevalent in the 1970s, particularly when the previous Labour Government were in office.

Mr. Newton: I shall take note of my hon. Friend's suggestion, along with the similar suggestions made earlier by my two other hon. Friends.

Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West): As today is the 10th anniversary of the entirely predictable and avoidable deaths of 194 people on the Herald of Free Enterprise, how can the Leader of the House be happy that pretty basic new safety regulations will come into force in a month, 10 years and one month after that disaster?

Is it not horrific that the ferry industry is already trying to circumvent those regulations? Four ferries should have been subject to the new safety regulations this year, but two are to be sent down to the Mediterranean, where they will not be subject to the regulations, and the regulations will not apply to the other two ferries. Is it not a disgrace that the new safety regulations are being avoided? Sixty ferries--which is 60 per cent. of the ferries using British ports--will not have new safety features installed in them for five years, until October 2002. We urgently need a debate on those matters, as ferry transport is the only form of passenger transport in which, when a disaster occurs, the systems are not changed to failsafe, but are allowed to fail in the future as they have in the past, dangerously and lethally.

Mr. Newton: Although I cannot promise a debate, I can point to the fact that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport is due to answer questions on Monday. The hon. Gentleman should, perhaps, have acknowledged that a wide range of measures has been introduced over the past 10 years to contribute to the improved safety of ferries. In his question he provided part of the answer: clearly, this is a matter in which, if possible, it is best to proceed internationally, which takes a good deal of time. The UK has been at the forefront of negotiations for improved standards. The Stockholm agreement on ferry safety is a major achievement, whose requirements go significantly beyond those applicable in the rest of the world.

Mr. Hartley Booth (Finchley): Having heard the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Sir R. Sims), and that of the hon. Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Ms Anderson) concerning a possible debate on women, will my right hon. Friend consider, as an alternative, a debate on children? Children are of enormous importance to everyone and the responsibility of virtually every Department. We frequently receive in our postbags complaints about the Government arising from lack of co-ordination in other areas, but the Government have a fine record on their policy on children. As an alternative to last year's debate on women, would it not be appropriate to have a full-scale Government debate on children?

Mr. Newton: I acknowledge, not least as a former Minister in that area, the importance of the subject that my hon. Friend has raised, but I am bound to say that with the list of requests for debate that I have received in

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the past 20 minutes, it is not just the Standards and Privileges Committee that would be sitting during any recess.

Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire): On Wednesday, we are to debate regulations on the representation of the people. Would not that be a good opportunity to discuss the state of the electoral register in the run-up to the general election, and to see whether it is in as bad a state as it was last year and whether there are millions missing from the register? In preparation for the debate, will the Government publish the number of people who are on the electoral register?

Answers are being given in connection with Northern Ireland. In reply to a question on Scotland, I was given the wrong figures--last year's. I cannot get the figures for England and Wales until the end of March. I understand that there are five returning officers who have not yet submitted their figures. May we have provisional lists, and could those areas be contacted to find out the details?

Mr. Newton: I cannot add to what I told the hon. Gentleman last week, to which he referred. I am sure that his remarks about the five returning officers will be examined by those responsible for producing the figures as soon as possible.

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cirencester and Tewkesbury): May I ask my right hon. Friend for a debate on the training of our national firefighters, so that I could draw the attention of the House to early-day motion 608, tabled by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile)?

[That this House notes the internal publication of a report on Health and Safety at the Fire Service College, Moreton in Marsh, Gloucestershire; further notes that the report was in response to recent accidents at the college; is concerned that the report made observations concerning risk to those at the college; agrees with the report that 'burning people, exhausting them or otherwise putting them at risk is not high on the objectives of the training programme' at the college; is surprised that in his Answer of 20th January to the honourable Member for Montgomery, Official Report, column 430, concerning health and safety at the college, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Home Office, the honourable Member for Bolton West, made no reference to the report or the problems the report identifies and expressed himself satisfied with the health and safety situation at the college; and calls on the Government immediately to assess the needs of the Fire Service College so that full health and safety measures are implemented.]

The hon. and learned Gentleman scurrilously put on the record and quoted from an internal report that was produced for the Fire Service College in my constituency, without giving any warning to the college or to me as the constituency Member. Does my right hon. Friend agree that such a debate would allow me to bring to the attention of the House the outstanding qualities of the Fire Service College, which were recognised in an answer given to me today by the Home Secretary? The finances of the college have been radically overhauled, so it now faces a certain

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future and can go out into the national and international market and sell itself on the excellence of the training that it provides.

Mr. Newton: My hon. Friend's question gives him an opportunity to make those points about the college. I share his surprise--I think that that is the appropriate word--that the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) should have tabled such a motion without consulting the constituency Member or checking the facts with my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary or the college.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West): May we have a debate on the export of live animals for slaughter? In that respect, I draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to early-day motion 615.

[That this House calls attention to the transportation of sheep from Dover on the MV 'Caroline' on, or about, Friday 7th March; notes that the vessel is chartered by Live Sheep Traders of Dublin and operated by Mr. Roger Mills of Framlingham, Suffolk, who himself has a conviction for keeping animals in an unfit condition; further notes that the old cull ewes will be making a sea crossing of between 9 and 12 hours, subsequently to be moved via Holland or Belgium to the killing fields of Paris where they will be ritually slaughtered for the festival of Eid; believes the journey times, conditions of transportation and method of killing to be unacceptable to public opinion and contrary to EU law; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to take immediate steps to prevent this barbarous trade from taking place.]

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that old cull ewes will be crammed on to MV Caroline and exported from Dover to France, where they will be taken to fields outside Paris and ritually slaughtered? Would he be interested in seeing the photographic evidence that I have of ewes giving birth while their throats are cut and they are bled over ditches? Is not that an obscene and disgusting trade? If we cannot debate the issue, will the right hon. Gentleman draw it to the attention of Ministers, to ensure that the trade does not continue?

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