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Mr. Robertson: The members of the armed forces whom I have met are a lot more optimistic and determined than the hon. Gentleman. As I have travelled around the country and visited the theatre of operations, those personnel have delivered one message about the Conservative Member of Parliament who had the effrontery--the effrontery to them--to call, in the middle of a conflict, for the resignation of the Chief of the Defence Staff. They find that extraordinary and offensive. I hope that the hon. Gentleman feels properly shamed about even making that suggestion about such a distinguished soldier.

A number of the troops who were in Macedonia have returned, so that roulement is already taking place because we believe that it is right and proper. Those who will augment the troops in due course will have the same commitment and dedication to the cause.

There are on-going problems of retention in the armed forces--after all, we inherited serious problems from the previous Government--but recruitment to the armed forces has substantially increased. My hon. Friend the Minister for the Armed Forces must take credit for much of that. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the British

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Army,of which he was once a member, believes that it can sustain the operations that it is undertaking despite the strain, because it knows that what it is doing is right.

Mr. William Ross (East Londonderry): Does the Minister understand the concern that some of us feel whenever he tells us that the number of British troops deployed will depend mainly on the forces made available by our allies? Is not the situation far too open-ended for this country to enter into, given the number of troops that we have available? We have a number of reinforcement troops for service in Northern Ireland and we have commitments in the Falklands and in the middle east--any one of those places could blow up at any time. Will the Minister keep that firmly in mind when he considers the commitments that the nation is making to the Balkans?

Will the Minister explain exactly what is the difference between a peace implementation force and an invasion force, because fighting is almost certain to begin as soon as those men cross the frontier?

Mr. Robertson: No, it is not, and a peace implementation force is exactly what it says it is: it is configured, and its numbers are designed, with that purpose in mind. The hon. Gentleman comes from Northern Ireland and knows how much the Province depends on the British Army's presence. That is a commitment that it has fulfilled well over the years, and it is an undiminished commitment that will not in any way be affected by what we have to do in the Balkans. Of course, as the Defence Secretary, I have to weigh up all the commitments that this country has and all the pressures on our armed forces before I make decisions about the deployment of our troops. That is why, when we make these announcements, we do so after very careful consideration.

Several hon. Members rose--

Madam Speaker: Order. We now come to the business statement.

Sir Peter Emery (East Devon): On a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker: Points of order come after statements. I call the Leader of the House to make the business statement.

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Business of the House

4.38 pm

The President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mrs. Margaret Beckett): With permission, Madam Speaker, I should like to make a short business statement. The main business for Wednesday 9 June will now be as follows: a debate on the White Paper on reforming the House of Lords on a motion for the Adjournment of the House. The remaining stages of the Health Bill will now be taken on Monday 14 June, and business for Tuesday 8, Thursday 10 and Friday 11 June will be as previously announced.

Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire): The Opposition have no difficulty with the change of business. Indeed, we welcome the debate on the House of Lords, for which we have been calling for some time. When the right hon. Lady announced provisionally that we would consider the Health Bill on the first Wednesday after the recess, I asked if we could have an assurance that the Government amendments would be tabled today, in time for that. Does the change of business mean that we can anticipate a large number of Government amendments to the Bill?

Mrs. Beckett: No. The right hon. Gentleman has perhaps forgotten that although he has been asking for a debate on the White Paper on Lords reform, that had to be moved as a result of the Opposition's handling of the Welfare Reform and Pensions Bill. He may have forgotten also that, as reported in column 1213 of Hansard on 20 May, he asked me for adequate time for the Government and the Opposition to table amendments to the Health Bill. It is in recognition of the fact that all amendments would have had to be tabled before the recess--by today--if they were to be taken on 9 June that the Government have moved the consideration of the Health Bill. As it transpires, consideration in Committee was due to end only yesterday. The Bill is not likely to be reprinted until today. So, the Government took the view that the arrangement would be unsatisfactory. It is a question not of the number of amendments but of the House having rather more time to consider those that are required.

Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham): My right hon. Friend is well known as a fan of Derby County, whose ground--I think--lies in her constituency. She will know that that team has moved up and down divisions over the years. Will she find time for a debate on the rules governing promotion and demotion in the Rugby Football Union--

Madam Speaker: Order. The statement was very narrow. If the hon. Gentleman had listened carefully he would have realised that it has changed the business for only one day. On such a narrow statement, his question must be very specific.

Mr. MacShane: My right hon. Friend's statement did cover the business for the following week, Madam Speaker. May I ask for a frisson, a fraction, a soupcon of time to consider the problem of rugby union clubs moving between divisions, since many of us feel that there is a closed shop of clubs in the north of England which is

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determined to allow no team, particularly Rotherham, to move into the first division? Rotherham has climbed through seven divisions in 15 years, yet it has been blocked for the third time--

Madam Speaker: Order. The hon. Member might apply to me for an Adjournment debate.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield): Because a day's business was changed recently, for reasons that are well known to the House, the Government have rightly provided time for a debate on the White Paper on reform of the House of Lords, which I welcome. Does the Leader of the House accept that the report published on Monday by the Procedure Committee, which I chair, on the procedural consequences of devolution is also very important, and that time should also be found for a very early debate on it?

Mrs. Beckett: I am always conscious of the importance of reports of the Procedure Committee, but I fear that I cannot undertake to find time for the debate that the hon. Gentleman requested.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): My question will appeal to you, Madam Speaker, because it is so specific. On 21 January 1991, the House debated a substantive motion on war in relation to Iraq. The Leader of the House has repeatedly said--doubtless in good faith--that such a debate in a war situation is without precedent. In the light of that precedent, particularly given the Defence Secretary's announcement and, indeed, the Indian view on the situation in Yugoslavia which I had the opportunity to outline this morning, which is rather different from the received wisdom, will she reflect on whether there should be a debate on a substantive motion on the war situation in Yugoslavia?

Mrs. Beckett: With respect to my hon. Friend, I think that he has overlooked the very careful wording that I have always sought to use. He has pressed for--quite legitimately, although as he will be aware, I have not been prepared to vary the precedent--a sort of prior authorisation for the use of armed forces. I am aware of the Iraq precedent; in fact, I have mentioned it on at least one of the many occasions on which this point has, in a variety of ways, been raised, and pointed out the special circumstances of it. It was tabled by the then Government, at the request of the then Opposition, because of much press comment that sought to imply that the Opposition were opposed to action in the Gulf. The Opposition wished to demonstrate their support for our armed forces.

Mr. John Townend (East Yorkshire): Now that the right hon. Lady has changed the business, will she please Ruth Pickles, one of my constituents from Upper Cranswick, by providing time for a debate on the strategic exports White Paper?

Mrs. Beckett: I am certainly very mindful of interest in the strategic exports White Paper. However I fear that I cannot undertake to find time for a debate on it in the very near future.

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