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The Prime Minister: We should stand by it entirely, unless there is evidence to suggest that it should be reconsidered. It would be contrary to the spirit of what the hon. Gentleman has said if, having evaluated that evidence, weighed it, looked at it and decided that it merited a reconsideration of the events of that day and of the original tribunal of inquiry, I refused to allow that.

As for the suggestion that people may want a type of verdict that convicts the "British army of occupation" and all the rest of it, and they are not going to get it, and that will be a problem for them, I am not setting up the inquiry for those people. I am setting up the inquiry because the relatives of those who died that day have the right to expect us, their Government--the British Government--to try to establish the truth of

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the events of that day. I am interested in their interests, their concerns and their sense of grievance, not in the sense of grievance of people who have engaged in terrorist acts.

Mr. Tim Collins (Westmorland and Lonsdale): May I ask the Prime Minister whether he can assure the House that, before his decision, he neither sought nor received any expression of opinion on the matter from any member of the Clinton Administration?

The Prime Minister: I have not personally, no, although I think that their views on it are pretty well known--as are the views of the Irish Government. They are perfectly entitled to their views. I took the decision based on the evidence.

Madam Speaker: I think that that is it. Thank you very much, Prime Minister.

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Business of the House

4.29 pm

The President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mrs. Ann Taylor): Madam Speaker, I should like to make a statement about the business for next week.

Monday 2 February--Consideration in Committee of the Government of Wales Bill (Fourth Day).

Tuesday 3 February--Consideration in Committee of the Government of Wales Bill (Fifth Day).

Wednesday 4 February--Until 2 pm, there will be debates on the motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Motion on the Police Grant Report (England and Wales).

Remaining stages of the Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Bill [Lords].

Thursday 5 February--Motion on the English revenue support grant report.

Friday 6 February--Private Members' Bills.

The provisional business for the following week will be as follows.

Monday 9 February--Opposition Day [7th allotted day].

Until about 7 pm, there will be a debate on the Child Support Agency on a motion in the name of the Liberal Democrats. The subject for the second half of the day to be announced.

Tuesday 10 February--Consideration in Committee of the Scotland Bill (Third Day).

Motion relating to the beef bones regulations.

Wednesday 11 February--Until 2 pm, there will be debates on the motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Until 7 pm, motions on the Welsh revenue support grant reports.

Consideration of any Lords Amendments which may be received to the Greater London Authority (Referendum) Bill.

Thursday 12 February--Consideration in Committee of the Scotland Bill (Fourth Day).

Friday 13 February--Private Members' Bills.

Last week, I said that my hon. Friend the Minister for Women had asked for a debate, but that no date had yet been fixed. Her request was echoed by Conservative Members. I am pleased to be able to give early notice to the House that there will be a debate on women, on Friday 27 February.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard (South-West Norfolk): I thank the right hon. Lady for her statement. I say again to her--I say it each week, but it is appreciated--that it is useful for the House to have notice of two weeks' business. I thank her for her response to our request for a debate on women. I also appreciate the fact that a thorough airing of devolution issues relating to Wales and Scotland is possible because of the amount of time allocated to the Bills' Committee stages on the Floor of the House.

I listened very carefully to what the right hon. Lady said, but heard no mention of a debate on the national health service, which I asked about last week. As I said then--I think that she did just acknowledge it--there have

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been a number of statements and policy developments in the national health service. We have not had a debate on it since July, and the Opposition called that debate. We now await announcements on the future of London hospitals and on a public health Green Paper. I therefore hope that we can have a debate on the national health service quite soon.

I believe that the right hon. Lady's instinct is for openness in the House. Indeed, that attitude illuminates a great deal of the work that is being done by the Select Committee on the Modernisation of the House of Commons. Last week, she assured the House that there have been no changes to the ministerial code of conduct in respect of overseas trips for Ministers. Yesterday, the Prime Minister said the same--although he said it so irritably that the roof of the Chamber fell in overnight.

Given that the code uses the word "spouse" throughout; that, before 1 May, it was spouses who accompanied Ministers; and that Government sources have been quoted widely in the press as saying that Ministers are now free to decide whether their partners count as spouses, it was a bit disingenuous of the right hon. Lady, and perhaps against her instincts, to say last week that the code had not been changed. Would it not have been more open to admit that, while the wording of the code may not have been changed, Government practice has, without the House having been informed? Will she therefore make a statement on the new and changed practice in relation to the code, if only for the benefit of taxpayers, who, after all, are footing the bill? Will she also arrange for the House to be told whether that changed practice is to be extended, for example, to Her Majesty's forces' entitlement to travel, or whether, in their case, travel at public expense is limited--rightly, in my view--to serving personnel, their husbands, wives and children?

Will the right hon. Lady arrange for a debate on the public sector pay awards, which are being announced this afternoon? If, as has been widely trailed in the press, the pay awards are to be staged--they may not be, of course--will she arrange for the Chief Secretary to the Treasury to explain to the House how it was last year that the then shadow Chief Secretary described such staging as a "deception" and an "admission of failure" and to tell us how he proposes to describe the Government's staging of the award this year?

On the subject of public sector pay, will the right hon. Lady arrange for a statement on the cost to the taxpayer of the early dismissal of Anne Bullen before her contract had expired, in the continuing saga of the Foreign Secretary's diary arrangements?

Finally, will the right hon. Lady arrange for the Minister of Transport to explain to the House why he is introducing a tax on new cars with effect from 1 April? That tax was not included in the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Budget last July and, inevitably, its details have been announced by press release and not to the House. Although that demonstrates the Government's customary attitude towards the democratic process, it is nevertheless an abuse of the House.

Mrs. Taylor: The right hon. Lady's first point was about the debate on women. I am pleased that we have been able to arrange that. As I said last week, the Minister for Women has requested such a debate and has suggested a date that we have now agreed. It is good that both sides of the House want such a debate.

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I am glad that the right hon. Lady welcomes the progress that has been made on both devolution Bills and the airing that they are getting on the Floor of the House. We should also place on record our gratitude to those serving on the Business Committee, who make sure that the Bills are handled in the appropriate way.

The right hon. Lady asked for another debate on the national health service. As I explained last week, we have a packed parliamentary programme--however, we have much to say about the national health service. She mentioned the Green Paper and the fact that there may soon be an announcement on London hospitals. I shall consider the possibility of statements being made to the House on one or both of those issues.

The right hon. Lady then referred back to the point that she made last week and which the Leader of the Opposition--very unwisely, I think--made yesterday at Prime Minister's Question Time, in respect of the code of conduct. The issue is not worthy of the right hon. Lady, and I do not feel that anything needs to be said in addition to what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said yesterday. As for the roof of this building, my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) is claiming credit for that. However, you, Madam Speaker, have assured us that everything is safe.

In respect of the public sector pay awards, the right hon. Lady is correct that the announcement is being made, as is usual practice, by way of a parliamentary answer this afternoon. There has been no reversal of previous policy. Last year, we opposed local bargaining, which was bureaucratic and administratively extremely difficult, and caused much resentment in the national health service.

In respect of the dismissal of the diary secretary of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, there is a debate on that next week, but of course the lady concerned was on a fixed contract, having been appointed from outside the civil service by a previous occupant of that office.

I can add nothing about tax changes. The right hon. Lady and her colleagues will have to wait for the Budget.

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