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Mr. Newton: I simply do not agree with anything that the hon. Gentleman said.

Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockton, South): Have not all the Select Committees been working extremely hard to get their reports out in time for the Prorogation of Parliament? Many Select Committees that have not published their reports will publish them tomorrow. Since everybody has been aware for some time of the need to complete those reports so that they can be published before Parliament dissolves, why has not the Select Committee on Standards and Privileges done its work on time like every other?

Mr. Newton: Again, my hon. Friend seeks to draw me into matters beyond that which I should properly discuss

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on the Floor of the House. It is, however, absolutely clear that the Committee's work depends on receipt of a report from the Commissioner, who has been examining literally thousands of documents and much other material. When that report is received, as my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Dame J. Knight) said, the Committee will have to consider it, and provide any hon. Members who are criticised with an opportunity to make representations and for them to be considered.

Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East): May I express my regret that the right hon. Gentleman did not manage to muster the same encomium for my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) as he did for my distinguished colleague here, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore)? I hope that he will not repeat the same error when I have finished. Am I not correct--as I usually am in the House--in presuming that changing the date of Prorogation would in no way affect the functioning of this House or the other place, or the general election timetable?

Mr. Newton: I am happy to rectify what the hon. Gentleman saw as an omission in respect of the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing), for whom I have formed a high regard during his years in the House, and I am happy to say so. I say the same of the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds), although his many qualities are not entirely the same as those of his right hon. and hon. Friends alongside him.

As for the rest of the question, it has always been the practice, as far as I am aware, to bring proceedings in the House to an end at the earliest practicable time, once an election has been declared. The reasons for that are obvious.

Mr. David Shaw (Dover): Why cannot my right hon. Friend find time tomorrow for a debate on the £2 million of blind funds that are financing the Leader of the Opposition and Labour Front Benchers? There have been allegations in The Sunday Times that money laundering went on through an Oxford university account, and that possibly a foreign donor--it has been suggested that George Soros may be that foreign donor--has donated funds through a laundered bank account. One business man, Mr. Robinson--

Madam Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman is asking the Leader of the House to find time tomorrow for a particular debate. Will the Leader of the House respond as to whether there is time or not?

Mr. Newton: That interrelates with the point that I have now made several times, that it is not appropriate for me to discuss matters before the Select Committee on Standards and Privileges as I have been invited to do.

Mr. Bruce Grocott (The Wrekin): Will the Leader of the House take the opportunity of saying farewell to his hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Shaw), who will not be with us much longer?

May I ask the Leader of the House a simple question that goes to the heart of the problem that he has faced this week, which has resulted in a succession of chaotic business statements? As this has been the longest

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peacetime Parliament this century, there can be no conceivable reason why the Government should be in a chaotic state in managing business at the end of the Session. They have known for a long time when the date would come. The sole reason why they have made a succession of business statements this week and why Select Committees cannot complete their work is that the Government have decided to prorogue Parliament on Friday. Can the right hon. Gentleman please give the House and the country a simple explanation of why it was imperative that the House should be prorogued on Friday, and not next Thursday?

Mr. Newton: There are two points there. I have already touched on the first: it has always been the practice to bring proceedings in the House to an end at the earliest practicable moment, once an election has been declared. I would add, as part of the hon. Gentleman's question echoed that of the hon. Member for Newham, South, that the process of negotiation that always occurs at the end of a Parliament and which, on this occasion, has been rather complicated by those on the Liberal Democrat Benches, particularly in another place, will always lead to a great deal of uncertainty at the time when the business before the House is being cleared up for the end of the Parliament.

Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South): Does the Leader of the House agree that, bearing in mind the fact that we have time until about 8 April for the House to sit if need be, some consideration should be given to the comment made by the Prime Minister on "The Frost Programme", that the whole mess should be cleared up before the general election? Can the right hon. Gentleman now arrange Government business in such a way that at least the Prime Minister's expectation in that regard can be met?

Mr. Newton: My right hon. Friend, if I recall rightly, made it clear that it was his wish and hope that these matters should be resolved before the end of the Parliament. It is absolutely clear that those matters are, in the first instance, for the Commissioner to produce the report, then for the Committee to consider that report. It has not been possible for the Commissioner to complete the report.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North): I entirely accept my right hon. Friend's point that, now that it has been decided to go for an election, it is necessary to have an early Prorogation of the House, but, for academic purposes, would he consider the possibilities if Prorogation were delayed by a week? If that happened, how, in terms of natural justice, would it be possible for the Committee to complete all the reviews, take all the evidence, summon before it those who are implicated in the report and get that out of the way? How do we know that that could be done within a week? What we do know is that as soon as the report came before the Committee, some hon. Member from the Labour party would leak it to the press.

Mr. Newton: Once again, I am invited to make comments that it would not be proper for me as Chairman of the Committee to make. I have said on two or three occasions that it would be necessary for the Committee to

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consider the report, although I cannot be sure at this moment exactly what that would entail. It might well entail quite an extensive process.

Ms Angela Eagle (Wallasey): Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that, if no changes are made to the business statement that he has made today, the report will be locked in a cupboard during the general election? That would not be satisfactory for the hon. Members who have been implicated, as they would have no chance to clear their name before they faced the electorate. The prospect of the report remaining in a cabinet until the new Parliament assembles and a new Committee is appointed--at the beginning of this Parliament, that took six months--is intolerable, when the reputation of Parliament is at stake in such a serious and important matter.

Mr. Newton: I am not in a position to add to what I said earlier or to what you, Madam Speaker, said in your statement this afternoon. As I have said several times, members of the Committee are present and will have noted what the hon. Lady said.

Mr. John Gunnell (Morley and Leeds, South): Will the Leader of the House, recognising his own difficulty in dealing with the situation, recognise also that on "The Frost Programme" the Prime Minister said that he did not want the report "kicked into the long grass"? Surely what has happened will make people feel that the report has been or is being kicked into the long grass, because of many pieces of legislation that the Government have striven to get through. Will the right hon. Gentleman take any responsibility for the arrangement of business, or will he say that the Prime Minister said one thing, but acted in such a way as to suggest that he wanted something quite different to happen?

Mr. Newton: I am certain that that is not the case, if, as I understand it, the hon. Gentleman is making an allegation against my right hon. Friend. If the hon. Gentleman is seeking to feed that allegation, that is a matter for him. I cannot add to what I said. I do not regard what has occurred in a long, complex and difficult inquiry as constituting kicking this "into the long grass", as the hon. Gentleman suggested.

Mr. Peter Luff (Worcester): Does my right hon. Friend share my surprise at the chorus of calls from hon. Members on the Opposition Benches for an extension of the life of this Parliament, when for months the Leader of the Opposition has been calling for an early Dissolution of Parliament? Does he agree that that is a desperate attempt to conceal the good news about the British economy from the British people by a process of smear and innuendo, which the House should hold in total contempt?

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