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Mrs. Taylor: I do not think that it will be possible to provide a debate in Government time in the near future. The relevant Minister was answering questions on such matters in the House earlier this week. Perhaps my hon. Friend will want to apply for an Adjournment debate to pursue that constituency case.

Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham): May I ask the Leader of the House for an urgent debate on issues of national importance--the millennium bug and the year 2000 problem? Is she aware that at an Action 2000 press conference this morning the Prime Minister issued a statement saying that there were 100 working weeks left

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until the millennium, and that that was only just enough time to deal with the problems connected with the year 2000?

I should have thought that a statement on the issue was urgently required in the House, not least because I was refused access to the press conference and received the papers from it three quarters of an hour after members of the press. Does the right hon. Lady not think it disgraceful that, yet again, the media were informed before Members of the House? May we have an urgent debate to sort out the mess that the Government are making of the millennium bug?

Mrs. Taylor: The hon. Lady was a member of a Government who did very little to prepare for the event, which is why my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster made a statement on the matter shortly before Christmas. The Government are aware of the threat and, unlike our predecessors, we are far from complacent.

Every business, every Department and every organisation must take responsibility for tackling its own systems. None the less, the Government are spending more than the previous Government did in preparation for the event, and my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade is chairing a ministerial group to bring together work in the public and the private sector. Unlike the previous Government, we take the problem extremely seriously.

Mr. Paddy Tipping (Sherwood): Given the widespread public support for greater access to open countryside, will the Leader of the House find time for a debate soon, so that the Government can explain what steps they are taking to implement their manifesto commitment in that regard?

Mrs. Taylor: I know that my hon. Friend has taken a keen interest in that issue over many years, and he is right to remind me of the manifesto commitment. The Government are firmly committed to greater freedom to explore open countryside. We intend to issue a consultation paper shortly to outline our proposals for achieving greater access, and I hope that when that is published my hon. Friend will be pleased with the progress that has been made. Whether we can find time for an early debate on the subject is another matter, and I cannot promise him the time that he might want.

Mrs. Jacqui Lait (Beckenham): Would it be helpful to suggest to the Leader of the House that we have a debate on women's issues, so that the Minister for Women can have a rare starring role at the Dispatch Box, close to International Women's Day? We would have the opportunity to find out how many married women Members are looking forward to their husbands taking responsibility for, and signing, their tax forms, and how many male Members are looking forward to taking on that responsibility.

Mrs. Taylor: The hon. Lady asked whether that would be a helpful question, and I have to tell her that it would not. I doubt whether she will think my answer very helpful either. I have already said that my hon. Friend the Minister is looking for a debate on those issues. When we

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were in opposition we often used an Opposition day so that such a debate could take place, and the hon. Lady may wish to explore that possibility with her hon. Friends.

Mr. Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock): May we have an early statement from the Prime Minister or the Foreign Secretary detailing the foreign policy baseline against which the strategic defence review must be judged? My right hon. Friend, I and others were proud to support the manifesto, which promised that new Labour would maintain Britain's capacity for peacekeeping, humanitarian effort and power projection in the world. It is important that we have a clear statement that Labour intends to maintain that capacity in advance of the strategic defence review.

Mrs. Taylor: I do not think that we can have an early debate on those matters. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence has made it clear that the review that has taken place is foreign policy-led and not Treasury-driven. I hope that that will reassure my hon. Friend in the absence of an early debate.

Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire): I welcome the announcement of a day's debate on the revenue support grant, but must inform the Leader of the House that the proposed local government settlement for Shropshire will have catastrophic consequences. There will be not only a 17 per cent. increase in council tax, but £10 million in cuts, 450 teachers may lose their jobs and class sizes may go over 40. I addressed 4,000 people in Shrewsburyon Saturday and the Government's election slogan, "Education, Education, Education" was openly mocked by two highly respected local headmasters. May we please have a further day's debate on the local government settlement?

Mrs. Taylor: I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's analysis of the situation, but he has put in his bid to speak in that debate, if he thinks that it is still necessary for him to do so.

Mr. Martin Salter (Reading, West): Is my right hon. Friend aware of the recent reports that more than half of

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the £1 million of the Chinese heroin dealer's money donated to the Conservative party was spent on a printing press for Conservative central office in Reading? Does she agree that it is high time that the leader of the Conservative party came clean on the sources of party funding? What opportunity does she plan to give Parliament to discuss party funding?

Mrs. Taylor: I was not aware, until it was brought to my attention by my hon. Friend, that that money might have been spent in that way. Many facts about the situation are still extremely unclear. Until we can make further progress to ensure that we have new, appropriate rules for accepting donations, we should have clarification of what has happened in the past. However, that is a matter not for me, but for the Conservative party. If there were a prospect of discovering the facts, I would be tempted to provide time to do so.

Mr. Andrew Stunell (Hazel Grove): Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Home Secretary to explain to the House why 300 police officers have been cut from police forces since 1 May and what he intends to do about it?

Mrs. Taylor: I cannot arrange for a debate on that matter. I have announced a debate on the police grant.

Mr. Adrian Sanders (Torbay): May we have a debate covering the Government's policy towards tourism, particularly in relation to United Kingdom seaside resorts? Three key issues seem to confront that industry. The first is competing with overseas hoteliers, who have a more beneficial value added tax rate on accommodation. Secondly, there is a problem with the six-bed rule, which is not being implemented consistently throughout the country. The third issue is the threat from a non-regionalised national minimum wage.

Mrs. Taylor: I am afraid that there is little prospect of such a debate in the next couple of weeks, unless the hon. Gentleman is successful in a request for an Adjournment debate or something of that sort. Some of those questions were raised with the relevant Ministers at Question Time on Tuesday.

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Orders of the Day

Bank of England Bill

As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.

New clause 1

Role of Treasury Committee in appointments under section 13(2)(c)

'--The Chancellor of the Exchequer shall not make any appointment under section 13(2)(c) until the Treasury Select Committee of the House of Commons has--
(a) been consulted on the establishment of a procedure of open competition in relation to such appointments,
(b) held a confirmatory hearing or hearings on the suitability of any person nominated following the procedure mentioned in sub-paragraph (a), and
(c) reported to the House of Commons its approval of that person's appointment.'.--[Mr. Heathcoat-Amory.]
Brought up, and read the First time.

4.3 pm

Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Madam Speaker: With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following: New clause 3--Confirmation hearings for Bank appointments--

'--(1) The Treasury Committee of the House of Commons may, within thirty calendar days of a nomination being made in relation to an appointment under sections 1(2) or 13 of this Act, make a report to the House of Commons--
(a) stating its conclusion that a nominee for the post of Governor or Deputy Governor meets the criteria of competence and personal independence or that a nominee for membership of the Monetary Policy Committee meets the criteria specified in section 13(4), or
(b) giving its reasons for considering that a nominee for the post of Governor or Deputy Governor does not meet the criteria of competence and personal independence or that a nominee for membership of the Monetary Policy Committee does not meet the criteria specified in section 13(4), and inviting the Chancellor of the Exchequer to reconsider the nomination.
(2) A nomination of which the Committee signifies its approval or on which it decides not to make a report to the House of Commons shall be confirmed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on receipt of the Committee's report or after thirty days, whichever is the sooner.
(3) A nomination which the Committee invites the Chancellor to reconsider shall not be confirmed until seven days after the Chancellor has written to the Treasury Committee giving his reasons for continuing with the nomination.
(4) The provisions of subsections (1) (2) and (3) above shall apply only when the Treasury Committee has been formally constituted.
(5) If at any time after the passing of this Act--
(a) the name of the Treasury Committee is changed; or
(b) the functions discharged by that Committee at the passing of this Act, or functions substantially corresponding thereto, are discharged by a different Committee,
the reference to the Treasury Committee shall be construed as a reference to that Committee by its new name or to the Committee then discharging those functions.
(6) Any question arising under subsections (4) and (5) shall be determined by the Speaker of the House of Commons.'.

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Amendment No. 34, in clause 1, page 1, line 10, at end insert--

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