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Mrs. Taylor: My hon. Friend knows that his views on our problems in respect of Saddam Hussein do not coincide with those of the Government. Although he has drawn my attention to early-day motion 666, I must tell him that I do not accept his analysis. As for his question about a statement being made to the House before the deployment of troops, I can confirm that, operational circumstances permitting, we would made a statement to the House before committing any troops.
Miss McIntosh: Would the Minister for Women care to comment to the House on the Government's views on this week's Equal Opportunities Commission document on proposed changes to the Equal Pay Act 1970 and the Sex Discrimination Act 1975?
Mrs. Taylor: I said that my hon. Friend the Minister had asked for a debate on these issues, although it has not been possible to find time for such a debate yet. The hon. Lady can raise those issues with my hon. Friend, either at Question Time or in a written question.
Ms Beverley Hughes (Stretford and Urmston): Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in Committee earlier this week, the shadow Secretary of State for Education and Employment turned on its head Conservative party policy on class sizes when he recognised the link between educational attainment and smaller class sizes for young children--and, furthermore, said that he recognised that class sizes were relevant to them? Will my right hon. Friend arrange an early debate, so that we can welcome this blinding conversion of a party which for so long denied any link between class sizes and educational attainment?
Mrs. Taylor: My hon. Friend makes a fair point. Over the years, I have heard the arguments advanced both by the present shadow Leader of the House, the right hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mrs. Shephard), and by her right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), who may still hold the old rather than the new Conservative view. Nevertheless, I welcome the transformation. I hope that every hon. Member will read the Committee Hansard, and see how clear it is that the Opposition have been converted to the view that class sizes make a difference. I also hope that the Opposition will help us to implement one of the key pledges in our election manifesto.
Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood): In view of the salutary passage of an amendment in the other place requiring publication by the Government of a Bill on proposals for a Greater London authority before the people of London are called upon to vote on that subject in a referendum, will the Leader of the House clearly explain the Government's exact proposals for that legislation? Are the people of London now to have the opportunity of judging clear, definitive legislative proposals before they are called on to vote; or are they still to be asked, on 7 May, to take a great leap in the dark, on the basis of a White Paper published only a few weeks before the referendum which could, of course, subsequently be changed?
Ms Ruth Kelly (Bolton, West): May I welcome the Government's welfare-to-work programme, which will give new hope and opportunity to the unemployed, who were neglected for so long under the Tories? As one in five households has no one in work, the measure is essential to tackle the human waste and poverty that result from unemployment. Will my right hon. Friend agree to arrange a debate on such an important issue?
Mrs. Taylor: My hon. Friend is correct to say that welfare to work--which the Conservative party has opposed on every occasion--is a very important issue. The Government are committed to providing new opportunities for the unemployed and to helping people back into work. The matter has been debated on some occasions, and, important as it is, I do not think that we will be able to find time in the very near future for another debate on it.
Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): May I press the right hon. Lady to have a debate urgently on the matter of ministerial accommodation--so that we may know who is living where and at what expense, and how much taxpayers' money has been spent on the refurbishment of those premises, if only so that people being denied benefit might know where their money is going? While we are at it, will she help her fellow Ministers by clarifying the position on the code of ministerial conduct; on whether spouses remain spouses, or partners become spouses, or spouses become partners; on who is travelling with whom, and on what basis; and on when all that started, anyway?
Dr. Stephen Ladyman (South Thanet): Further to my right hon. Friend's answer to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) on the situation in Iraq, I believe--and I believe that the Government may agree--that Saddam Hussein is a monster by any civilised measure, that he possesses a stockpile of nerve gas, that he probably can construct an atomic weapon, that the inspection process that the United Nations is trying to impose is already proving to be effective, and that we have stepped down a road that leads inexorably to war. While there are still some options for diplomacy, will she please give further thought to how the House may debate that important issue, before it is too late?
Mrs. Taylor: There are still important options for diplomacy, and it will always be the Government's priority to follow that course. My hon. Friend is quite right in his analysis of the difficulties that Saddam Hussein has created. The United Nations Special Commission has reported that Iraq could be producing enough anthrax each week to fill two warheads. The situation and dangers are therefore evident. I have said that if there is a question of British troops being used,
Mrs. Taylor: I can confirm that we share many of the concerns about the problems that the hon. Gentleman mentioned. However, it is not my practice to say in advance what the Government's attitude will be to any private Member's Bill.
Charlotte Atkins (Staffordshire, Moorlands): In recognition of the vital role of local magistrates courts, can the Leader of the House find time for a debate on their future? I am especially concerned about that issue, because my constituency faces the closure of its last magistrates court in Leek, and local people will therefore be deprived of local justice administered by local people.