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Several hon. Members rose--

Madam Speaker: There are at least two hon. Members who came into the Chamber at the end of the Leader of the House's statement. They will not be called to put questions because they did not hear the entire business statement.

Mr. Derek Foster (Bishop Auckland): My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is rightly seeking to modernise the welfare state, to deal with the dependency culture and to encourage citizens to be more self-reliant. Could we have a statement next week on the issues arising from the case of my constituent who was self-reliant, took out an insurance policy and then found that the income that he derived from it was deducted from his jobseeker's allowance? He is left with only £3 a week to live on. There are 7 million people with similar insurance. Some £1.2 billion of insurance income is involved. Local authorities might have to reclaim more than £1 billion from claimants of housing benefit because of the new situation.

Mrs. Taylor: I recall that case from a few weeks ago. As I remember, there had not been a change in the rules.

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The interaction of all those matters can be taken into account in the welfare reform debate. There will be a Green Paper setting out the principles underlying the direction of welfare reform. My right hon. Friend and others will have an opportunity to contribute their ideas then.

Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall): I welcome the Liberal Democrat Supply day, for which we are grateful, and the opportunity to debate our motion on the beef on the bone ban--an opportunity that is warmly welcomed by hon. Members on both sides of the House. I hope that the motion will receive all-party support.

As the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Foster) has just said, there is widespread concern about the operation of the jobseeker's allowance. There is a specific problem coming down the track. Early-day motion 689 has all-party support.

[That an Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Jobseeker's Allowance (Amendment) Regulations 1998, (S.I., 1998, No. 71), dated 15th January 1998, a copy of which was laid before this House on 23rd January, be annulled.]

I notice that the leader of the Conservative party and members of other parties have added their names to the motion. I hope that we shall have an early opportunity to debate that important issue.

The Leader of the House was in her place last night to hear the statement on the channel tunnel rail link and the points that were made after it. I am sure that she will acknowledge the importance of the issue. The Deputy Prime Minister said several times that he had come early to the House--we all welcomed that--with only a bald interim statement. Several hon. Members on both sides raised some very important issues, but we did not have the benefit of a detailed assessment of the situation.

Will the Leader of the House assure us that, during the 30-day consultation period with London and Continental Railways, we shall have an opportunity to understand the issues and the criteria that the Deputy Prime Minister will use to assess the options? The matter has great implications for other private and public institutions. We do not want a witch hunt back to 1990, to see what Lord Parkinson did or did not do, but it is important, given the huge sums involved, that the House should have an opportunity to understand the options for progress.

Mrs. Taylor: I am glad that we were able to provide the Opposition day that the Liberal Democrats wanted. I look forward to hearing the second topic for debate, which I shall announce next week.

The beef on the bone regulations are up for discussion. I know about the rivalry to get a name on such a prayer.

The hon. Gentleman asked me to find time for a debate on the statutory instrument on the jobseeker's allowance. As he knows, any such requests are discussed through the usual channels in the normal way.

The House appreciated my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister coming here as soon as possible after the news about the channel tunnel rail link was confirmed at 8 pm last night. Hon. Members on both sides were pleased that the fullest information available was given directly to

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the House. My right hon. Friend said that he would try to keep the House informed as much as possible, although there could be delicate and difficult negotiations in the next 30 days. It may not always be appropriate for all the information to be in the public domain. Given my right hon. Friend's start in informing the House last night, we can be confident about his intentions to keep the House informed.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): Having sat through every Welsh and Scottish devolution debate, may I be forgiven for asking my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House a question of which I gave her office notice? Could not three hours be found for a debate that goes further than a private notice question--I thank Madam Speaker for Monday's question--on the desperate situation that might result in this country going to war in the Gulf? Could certain issues be made clear arising from Madeleine Albright's visit? In particular, what are the precise objectives of bombing biochemical and biological installations--assuming that they exist--in the light of my question, to which my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence promised to reply shortly, on the specific issue of bombs landing on anthrax or botulinus installations? What would be the effects of released spores? Those problems ought to be discussed before we get into a mire that could cause endless difficulty in the middle east, where we seem to have no Arab support.

Mrs. Taylor: When my hon. Friend raised the issue last week, I said that we would keep the House informed whenever possible of any developments. We hope that diplomatic efforts will succeed. The Ministry of Defence has carried out theoretical modelling based on the worst case scenario of bombing installations containing anthrax, assessing the risk to military operations that might result from the destruction of enemy biological production and storage facilities. I repeat that we desperately hope for diplomatic progress. I know that my hon. Friend has different views on the importance of the issue, but I hope that he accepts that the Government will try to keep the House informed on that difficult subject.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): Could we have a debate on the Government's commitment to the principles of the social chapter? Could it be focused on their long-standing wish to protect people with short-term contracts, particularly women? Will the Leader of the House promise that the debate will be replied to by the Foreign Secretary?

Mrs. Taylor: I see no need for such a debate.

Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill): I welcome the plan for a debate on women. Perhaps it will concentrate on the real needs of women, not on cheap jibes about a tiny number of women who have been in the papers lately. I have a serious point. I am disappointed that the debate is to take place on a Friday. That does not seem to be a good choice. Is there a good reason why the right hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mrs. Shephard) chose a Friday and why the Government agreed? A normal business day would have been better for a discussion on the wide range of issues affecting women in Britain.

Mrs. Taylor: I am glad that my hon. Friend welcomes the debate in principle. I am not surprised, given the

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interest that she has shown in women's issues for many years. I am sure that she will talk about the real needs of women if she is able to catch your eye in that debate, Madam Speaker. I am sure that, like me, she looks forward to the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) being in his seat and perhaps participating.

The Friday in question is designated for Government business. As a Scottish Member, my hon. Friend will understand that there are constraints on time because of the need to debate the Scotland Bill.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath): Particularly in the light of the Prime Minister's sanctimonious words in answers to questions yesterday and on other occasions about the importance of issues relating to women in the workplace, will the Leader of the House consider not only a debate to address the specific issue mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), but a statement from herself or one of her right hon. Friends, releasing Anne Bullen from the ban on her speaking, so that she is able to respond to the campaign of vilification that is being waged against her by the Foreign Secretary, his henchmen and Labour spin doctors?

Mrs. Taylor: I do not think that that comment is even worthy of an answer. The hon. Gentleman will be aware of next week's Adjournment debate.

Dr. Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak): May I also ask my right hon. Friend for a debate on the Jobseeker's Allowance (Amendment) Regulations? In doing so, I draw her attention to early-day motion 709.

[That this House notes that the Jobseeker's Allowance (Amendment) Regulations, which increase waiting days from three to seven, was proposed and announced by the previous Tory Government in November 1996; observes that the Social Security Advisory Committee has said the proposal 'would add unacceptably to the hardship experienced by unemployed people and their families' and that 'people will be less likely to take the risk of starting casual work or work of short duration' and has advised the Government not to proceed with it; regrets that the Labour Government is nevertheless proceeding with these Tory regulations in order to save £65 million but also notes that the Tory front bench has changed its position and is now opposing its own proposal; and therefore calls on the Government to withdraw these Tory regulations which even the Tories have now deserted.]

Many Labour Members are perplexed by why the Government are introducing the measure, which the Social Security Advisory Committee recommended against and which seems to be in direct conflict with the initiatives that the Government are rightly taking to encourage unemployed people to find work.

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