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Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington): Does my right hon. Friend believe that the Serbian military must, at some stage, recognise that, if Milosevic keeps up his nationalist stance, he himself will destroy the whole ofthe Yugoslavian military infrastructure? It is his responsibility. Is there any evidence that the military are getting that message? On a related matter, may I express the hope that we will not support any solution that leads to the partition of Kosovo?

The Prime Minister: On that latter point, no is the answer to that. On the former point, my hon. Friend is right. The responsibility rests entirely with Milosevic. This is a message that we will bring home to him and to the people in his military infrastructure.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray): Will the Prime Minister comment on recent news reports that countries adjacent to Kosovo may be closing their borders to refugees? Is there in place a genuine strategy to ensure that the European Union as a whole and our NATO allies share the problem of dealing with this sad situation?

The Prime Minister: On the humanitarian situation, we have announced the measures that we wish to take,

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and that will obviously be done in co-ordination with other countries and with the UN's refugee programme. I hope very much that we can count on the support of the hon. Lady's party, and, indeed, all parties, in the action that we are taking.

Mr. Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie): There has been a tremendous welcome in Scotland for the deal that the Prime Minister has negotiated for the highlands and islands. Is it not a fact that it could never have been negotiated by the discredited previous Government or by the separatists, who would throw away the strength of the United Kingdom?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend must be correct because the isolationism of the previous Government would never have retained the rebate, let alone secured a deal on structural funds and the objective 1 and objective 2 safety net. As for the Scottish National party, nobody at the summit was in any doubt that we could never have secured this deal if Britain and Scotland had not stood together and negotiated as one.

Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch): Is the Prime Minister being frank with the House about the rebate? He said that there has been no reduction in the rebate, yet the Library--which has examined the detailed figures--calculates that, by 2006, the annual loss on the rebate to this country will be no less than 220 million euros.

The Prime Minister: The 220 million figure is the windfall gain that we would have made if issues that are presently unabated were subject to abatement. In reaching agreement, we did precisely what was acceded to in 1988 and 1992. However, the difference with this Government is that we have not only kept the rebate intact so that there will be no reduction but managed to agree that there should be no increase in the own resources ceiling.That was something that the previous Conservative Government signally failed to do.

Several hon. Members rose--

Madam Speaker: Order. We shall now move on.

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New Writ (Newark)

4.31 pm

Mr. James Arbuthnot (North-East Hampshire): I beg to move,

I shall be brief because an important debate on the Lawrence report is to follow. However, brevity should not disguise the importance of this issue: Newark needs and deserves to be represented in Parliament. The convention is that the party that formerly held the seat moves the writ. However, Madam Speaker, last week you announced that a by-election will take place because an election court had found that the seat of Newark was won by Labour in circumstances involving electoral fraud. Therefore, we believe that the convention does not apply.

Nevertheless, out of respect to the Labour party, I spoke last week to the Government Chief Whip and told her that if she did not move the writ, I would.

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

Mr. Arbuthnot: I shall give way in a moment.

I wanted to give the Government Chief Whip the chance to move the writ herself so that the people of Newark could be represented in this place. However, she did not do so. On the contrary, she wrote me a letter saying that she would oppose the issuing of a writ in order to give Fiona Jones the right to stand in the by-election if she was successful in her appeal. That is a pretty odd doctrine. After all, The Guardian told us on 20 March that Labour had refused to fund or to back Fiona Jones's appeal. Is that true? How long is this situation to continue? Are the people of Newark to be deprived of representation in Parliament while Fiona Jones appeals to the House of Lords and to the European Court of Human Rights?

Mr. Campbell-Savours: The right hon. Gentleman has been a Member of the House of Commons for a long time and he will recall many by-elections conducted over many years. He will also know that many of his colleagues won seats in general elections. Can he place his hand on his heart and say at the Dispatch Box that he knows of no case where a Conservative Member of Parliament elected to the House of Commons was in breach of the limits on expenditure under election law?

Mr. Arbuthnot: I know of no such case. In any event, in 140 years no Member of Parliament until Fiona Jones has been disqualified from Parliament for electoral fraud. Even if her appeal were successful, there is no chance that the Labour party would select her to stand again. On 20 March, The Mirror stated:

I quote that not because it is true--although it is--but because that is what the Labour party believes. In opposing the writ, the Labour Government are not acting in the interests of Fiona Jones. That is an absurd suggestion. They no longer care about her; they are acting in the interests of the Labour party.

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The Labour party has even suspended the entire Newark constituency party--presumably so that it can once again impose a candidate from the centre. Mr. Phil Dilks, Labour's regional spokesman, told the Newark Advertiser that

However, that is exactly what they do intend. By opposing this writ, the Government are refusing the people of Newark the right even to be represented in Parliament. The interests of the people of Newark are being completely disregarded by the Labour party.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover): Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that such was the delay in calling the 1989 Richmond by-election--a matter that was in the hands of the then Tory Government--that I was prompted to move the writ? I was told by the Tories that if I would only hang on they could get their candidate ready. They got their candidate ready and he is now the Leader of the Opposition. Tory Members have been applauding me ever since--or have they?

Mr. Arbuthnot: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that indication of support in the Lobby, although I hope that it will not be necessary because I hope that the Government will not force this matter to a vote.

Some might say that Newark has been deprived of a Member of Parliament not merely for the past few days, but since the general election. Fiona Jones, elected in May 1997, failed even to open her mouth to speak in this House until 1998. In her brief career here, she spoke four times. Many right hon. and hon. Members will have been completely unaware of what she looked like until she gained notoriety as the first Member of Parliament for 140 years to be disqualified for electoral fraud. The people of Newark deserve better. The Labour Government have the power to delay the by-election, but if they exercise that power the people of Newark will remember.

The President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mrs. Margaret Beckett): I beg to move, To leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:

Despite the fact--[Interruption.] We do have an important and sensitive debate after this--not that one would be aware of that from the attitude of Conservative Members. I want to explain with more brevity, I hope, than the right hon. Member for North-East Hampshire (Mr. Arbuthnot) achieved in his insulting remarks, why I am moving this amendment.

First, if we vote down the amendment, the by-election may not be able to be moved during this Session; that does not seem to me to be in the interests of the people of Newark. Indeed, that point was made in this House by the former Leader of the House, Lord Biffen on a previous occasion when an attempt was made to move a writ in such a way.

The right hon. Member for North-East Hampshire said that Madam Speaker had declared a by-election. She did not; she reported the decision of the courts and the fact of that decision.

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The right hon. Gentleman also said that my right hon. Friend the Chief Whip had written to him to say that the Labour party did not want to hold the by-election now, in order to allow Fiona Jones to be a candidate. That is not remotely what my right hon. Friend wrote. I have a copy of her letter before me and I propose to share its contents with the House. She wrote:

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