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Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York): I am delighted that the Minister is here to make his announcement to the House, and I add my congratulations. I am pleased that, for an hour and a half on the flight back from Brussels yesterday, I resisted the urge to discuss the matter with him. I know that he is interested in the Vale of York, because he met one of my constituents, the president of the National Farmers Union, there recently.

What can the Minister do to satisfy producers and consumers of beef in this country that the high standards set in the European Union for beef production in this country are matched by foreign exporters? What can he do to put their minds at rest as to whether foreign exporters are meeting the same high standards that exporters in this country enjoy?

Mr. Brown: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her remarks--and, indeed, for her company on the flights

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back from Brussels; we have twice been on the same flight. She asks whether other countries are maintaining the same high standards as we do, but I am afraid that, in the rest of Europe, that point is often put to me the other way around--it is our standards and our products that are questioned. What we should do--all of us; it is not a party political point--is set out to explain what our country has done and at what cost, and explain why we are now able to offer the greatest consumer safeguards anywhere in the world. British beef is among the safest in the world. That is a simple message, but we all need to get it over.

Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire): It would be churlish not to congratulate the Minister on his success so far, and I congratulate him on that partial success. However, this morning, I had a discussion with a major meat export business, and was told that, before the ban, it exported seven to eight truckloads of dressed meat to quality distributors and restaurants in Europe. It was made clear to me that 50 per cent. of that beef was on the bone, for high-quality roasts sold to the best restaurants. It is of absolutely paramount importance that the Minister lifts the beef on the bone ban in this country, and gets the export of beef on the bone allowed to the whole of Europe. Can he give us a clearer idea of a timetable on that?

Mr. Brown: The hon. Gentleman raises two separate propositions. On the second, the right thing to do is to get the date-based export scheme--which, as the hon. Gentleman rightly says, is for deboned beef--up and running and gaining market share, because, as we gain market share, we also restore consumer confidence. On the question of the domestic beef on the bone ban, as soon as SEAC reports to me setting out the parameters, I shall consider what it says; if the scientific evidence means that I can come to the House and lift the ban, I shall do so.

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Point of Order

3.33 pm

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Following your previous ruling, may I ask what is the latest position in respect of Pinochet? As you probably know, the Lords have decided that Pinochet is not immune from justice, but can be extradited. That is a wonderful decision, about which Labour Members are delighted. Shall we have the opportunity to discuss the subject in the near future? As far as international law is concerned, it is good indeed that a notorious mass murderer and torturer can be brought to justice.

Sir Norman Fowler (Sutton Coldfield): Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. Following this afternoon's judgment in the House of Lords on the case of General Pinochet, I have pointed out before that this House is obviously in some difficulty on the issue. So far, there have been no Government statements whatsoever on the issue, in spite of the fact that outside the House it is a matter of open debate. There have now been two judgments, in the divisional court and the House of Lords. Surely it is now time that we had a statement from the Home Secretary. People in this country are greatly concerned about the issue, and about our relations with the democratically elected Government of Chile.

I realise that you, Madam Speaker, will not remotely have had time to consider the judgment of the House of Lords, but may I put one point to you? At the end of his judgment, Lord Nicholls said:

That seems to be the point, and in view of that judgment, would it not be right for us to be able to question the Home Secretary on the use of what everyone agrees is very wide discretion? Many people here and in Chile feel that the affair has continued for long enough, and that the way forward is for the Home Secretary to use his discretion and bring the proceedings to an end.

Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington) rose--

Madam Speaker: Order. I thank the hon. Gentleman, and I know that he wants to be helpful, but I am quite capable of giving a ruling. I have heard points of order from both sides, and I am well able to cope with them. As the House of Lords has decided that Senator Pinochet does not have immunity from prosecution, extradition proceedings against the senator are still pending.

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I remind the House that our sub judice resolutions--to which I drew the House's attention previously and which can be found in the Standing Orders--require that there should be no comment on matters awaiting jurisdiction in the courts. The courts may have to decide whether the evidence against the senator is sufficient to warrant his trial in Spain. The matter of the charges against him therefore remains sub judice.

Again, I reassure the House that, as soon as the issue ceases to be sub judice, I know that the Home Secretary will take the first opportunity to make a statement to the House, and it will be open to all hon. Members to question him and debate the issue. Until then, the sub judice rule remains.

Mr. David Willetts (Havant): On a separate point of order, Madam Speaker. May I have your guidance on ministerial attendance at the debate on the Address? Is it not customary for Cabinet Ministers to reply to the debate? The Secretary of State for Education and Employment faxed me a letter this morning explaining that he would not be speaking in this evening's debate, despite the fact that it is on industry, education and employment, because he has to speak tomorrow at the annual conference of the Association of Colleges in Harrogate. The programme shows that he is speaking there at 12 noon, but I am speaking at 10.10 am and the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) is speaking at 9.50 am. If we can still debate here tonight, why cannot the Secretary of State?

Madam Speaker: As the hon. Gentleman is aware, I have no authority in determining which Ministers handle debates in the House, but I have the feeling of the House and will address the point in general. The House wishes a Secretary of State to be on the Front Bench during a major debate appertaining to the departmental portfolio. As for my personal feelings on the matter, I understand that Secretaries of State have urgent business elsewhere, but unless there is a matter of utmost urgency elsewhere, I believe that the House always takes priority.


Water Industry

Mr. Secretary Prescott, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Secretary Dewar, Mr. Secretary Dobson, Mr. Secretary Darling, Mr. Secretary Michael, Mr. Michael Meacher and Mr. Alan Meale, presented a Bill to make further provision in relation to England and Wales as to charges in respect of the supply of water and the provision of sewerage services and to make provision in relation to Scotland for the establishment and functions of a Water Industry Commissioner for Scotland; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed [Bill 1].

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Orders of the Day

Debate on the Address

[Second Day]

Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [24 November],

Question again proposed.

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Trade, Industry, Education and Employment

3.39 pm

The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Peter Mandelson): This Queen's Speech has one overriding theme--modernisation. We are modernising the country, its system of government, its public sector and the economy. We are modernising education, the health service, the welfare system, the relationship between Government and business, and the fight against crime. That is precisely the programme for which the British people voted. The change that they wanted is the change that they are getting from a changed Labour party.

Any attempt seriously to challenge or pick apart what the Government are doing was conspicuous by its absence from the Leader of the Opposition's speech yesterday, which, by the way, I thought was better than a sixth-form debating society speech--it was more an after-dinner speech.

I am sure that the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood), the shadow Trade and Industry Secretary, would agree with me about that. He fancies himself as the more substantial, cerebral, worldly and charismatic leader--the Newt Gingrich of the Conservative party. I can hear him up at the Dispatch Box--the Press Gallery full, the fanatical cry of the true believers behind him--as he tears into the Government's intellectual inconsistencies and ideological inexactitudes.

Alas, it was not to be. The man who made it to the Dispatch Box was not the pretender but the leader himself, of whom the right hon. Gentleman once said:

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