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Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham): Following on from what the Leader of the House said about next Tuesday's debate, will she find time to have an early debate on parliamentary scrutiny of the Executive? Many unpleasant comments are being made about the Leader of the Opposition, but, as someone who suffered from acute sinusitis as a boy, I wish him well--it is one of the most painful conditions that anyone can have. The lack of an effective Opposition gives rise to a fundamental problem, but is it not related to the fact that no fewer than 19 of the appointments that the right hon. Gentleman has made to the shadow Front-Bench team have lucrative outside interests? The most recent announcement is that the shadow President of the Board of Trade is taking money from Murray Financial, a financial firm dedicated to destroying building societies and mutual assurance companies. Is not the real problem that, until we have an effective Opposition, the Executive will not receive the scrutiny that it needs?

Mrs. Taylor: I said earlier that I was not responsible for whipping; thankfully, I am not responsible for the Opposition either.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan): Is the Leader of the House aware that another important upcoming

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anniversary is the 10th anniversary of the Piper Alpha disaster? Some of us have spent the afternoon in the precincts of the House watching a film by one of the survivors, Ed Punchard, which will be broadcast next week.

May I make a request, which I know will be supported by the hon. Members who represent Aberdeen, the hon. Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (Dr. Godman) and many others, for a debate on the full ramifications of the disaster, to examine whether we got to the bottom of the causes of the incident and how the Cullen changes have been working over the past 10 years?

In particular, we could discuss how the Government's proposals on corporate criminality are progressing--I believe that there is widespread support for such legislative change. As the Leader of the House will understand, many of us were extremely concerned when, in a civil action earlier this year, responsibility and blame were placed on two dead people who had no chance of representing themselves. The issue of corporate liability has never been fully explored.

Will the Leader of the House take my comments on board? Does she accept that only if we have such a debate will we discharge our responsibility not just to those who died on Piper Alpha, but to the many thousands who still work in the North sea?

Mrs. Taylor: I well understand the hon. Gentleman's concern, which is echoed by my hon. Friends. I did not know about the film that is to be shown next week, but of course I remember the incident, as many others will.

I will take on board the hon. Gentleman's comments. I cannot guarantee him the debate that he wants in the next few weeks, but I assure him that I will draw what he has said to the attention of all Ministers who are concerned with the matter.

Mr. John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington): My right hon. Friend may have read reports over the past two weeks of the near-gridlock of air traffic over Heathrow airport as a result of chronic weaknesses in the air traffic control system. Heathrow is in my constituency, and I am extremely anxious for the safety of my constituents. The Government have acted promptly in launching an investigation. Will my right hon. Friend liaise with her colleagues in the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, so that when the report of the investigation is completed, it is brought to the House promptly and an important issue of public safety can be debated?

Mrs. Taylor: I will certainly discuss the matter with my right hon. and hon. Friends.

Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde): The Leader of the House did not announce time for a debate in the next two weeks on the fight against bovine tuberculosis. As she will know, an important report--the Krebbs report--is being considered by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. May I ask her, in all seriousness, to talk to the Minister of State about the possibility of finding time for a debate on the report and on bovine tuberculosis? Many farms in the south-west are disrupted by the disease,

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and many people in the west midlands and Cheshire are fearful of its spread. It is important that the House should have a chance to debate the implementation of the Krebbs report before the die is finally cast.

Mrs. Taylor: My hon. Friend the Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is present, and has heard the right hon. Gentleman's comments. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, we are considering how best to implement the recommendations made by Professor Krebbs last December. A good deal of work is going into the issue, and my hon. Friend the Minister of State has received many representations from Members whose constituents are extremely worried about the problem.

We are not in a position to make an announcement yet, but all contributions received during the consultation period have been considered carefully. Announcements will be made, but all the views of hon. Members will be taken into account first.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): Does my right hon. Friend recollect that, before we were committed to going into Bosnia, there was a general indication that it would be for a limited time? In answer to the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson), my right hon. Friend said that a debate on the strategic defence review would take place later in the Session; presumably, she has November in mind. May we have some reflection on giving an undertaking to the House--I do not ask my right hon. Friend to give it now--that, should there be military commitment in Kosovo or in the Gulf, the House of Commons will be recalled, whatever stage the recess has reached, before any decisions are put into cement?

Mrs. Taylor: I believe that I made the position clear last week, although it may have been two weeks ago. I said that I could not give an absolute undertaking that statements would be made in the House before any decision to deploy troops. However, I also said--and I can confirm--that, operational circumstances permitting, we would seek to keep the House of Commons informed first.

Jackie Ballard (Taunton): The Leader of the House will be aware that the Equal Opportunities Commission presented its annual report to the Secretary of State for Education and Employment on 15 June. One of its key proposals is to replace the Equal Pay (Amendment) Regulations 1983 and the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, which set up the commission, with an all-encompassing sex equality law. The report is called "Making Equality Work--the challenge for government". Will there be time in the coming weeks to debate the report and for the Government to say how they intend to respond to the challenge that it presents?

Mrs. Taylor: Important though that report is, I cannot find time for such a debate in the next few weeks. It is an interesting suggestion, and one which members of the Modernisation Committee might bear in mind as typical of the requests that we get for debates that would be non-partisan and useful to the House. The Committee is considering how we could find more time for such debates.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Inverclyde): I fully support the request made by the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond).

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The hon. Member for South Staffordshire(Sir P. Cormack) referred to the second special report of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. My right hon. Friend can see at a glance that there were sharp divisions on it, as there were on the first report. I fully expect the Foreign Secretary to make an early statement following the publication of the Legg report, and I would also demand that he initiate a debate on Legg.

The Foreign Secretary should bear in mind the advice given in the ministerial code. Paragraph 28.j on page 12 states:


That is what the other outfit used to do. I do not want the Government to follow that Conservative tradition. I fully expect the Foreign Secretary to come before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, of which I am a member, to answer questions on the Legg findings. It is better for a Select Committee to cross-examine Ministers and officials than for us to attempt to do so in a debate.

Mrs. Taylor: On my hon. Friend's first point, I think that the whole House agrees with the concern that was expressed about Piper Alpha.

My hon. Friend is right to say that the Select Committee was sharply split on both reports. Other such matters may emerge in the debate on Tuesday, although we have not yet seen the motion. My hon. Friend asked for an early statement and a debate on Legg. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary may well want to make a statement once the report is published. The inquiry is independent, and it is within the power of Sir Thomas Legg himself to determine the time scale, but I know that he understands the urgency of the matter, and I hope that we will not have to wait too long.

My hon. Friend will know that the most recent letter from my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to the Chairman of the Select Committee made an offer to appear before it; he is still awaiting a reply.


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