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Mr. Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock): May we have a statement from the Home Secretary next week about files kept by the security services? Many hon. Members will have been concerned--although perhaps not surprised--to learn that the United States Environmental Protection Agency has a file on a Minister of the Crown. Bearing in mind that United States legislation does at least allow people to know that a file is held on them, we might, in addition to discussing that matter, consider our own proposed United Kingdom legislation, which, as I understand it, would not allow hon. Members or other people to know whether or not British security services held a file on them. It is time that the Home Secretary assured us that the British security services do not hold files on hon. Members.

Mrs. Beckett: I am afraid that I cannot promise a statement from the Home Secretary next week. I was not aware of the matter until my hon. Friend raised it, because I have not seen the reports that a file is held on one of our colleagues--I suspect that, although surprised, he is also deeply flattered. I shall certainly draw my

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hon. Friend's serious point to the attention of our right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, in case there is anything that he can usefully add.

Mr. Andrew Stunell (Hazel Grove): May I press the Leader of the House on the fourth report of the Procedure Committee, which is the subject of active political debate? A report before the House contains practical suggestions on a way forward, and I should have thought that an early debate and an early decision by the House would be greatly in the interests of this House, the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly.

May I also raise an issue that I believe my hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) has already raised with you, Madam Speaker? It relates to the announcement today by the three relevant Secretaries of State of the new objective 1 status and single regeneration budget decisions. That important set of announcements affects almost all hon. Members, with some receiving good news and others bad news. Although the decisions are of great interest and importance, they have been announced not in a parliamentary answer or a statement, but at a press conference held this morning. Will there be an opportunity, before the summer recess, for hon. Members to question Ministers about the decisions and the implications of those decisions?

Mrs. Beckett: First, as I hope I have demonstrated, I understand the importance of the Procedure Committee's report, and the wish of the House to come a view on it. I am sorry that it has not been possible to accommodate such a debate before the House rises for the summer recess, but an early debate in the overspill period will be not merely satisfactory but perhaps even better than having a debate now, when the Scottish Parliament, for example, has yet to embark on its new Session.

The hon. Gentleman also referred to assisted areas. He helpfully flagged up what is always the dilemma for the House and the Government, in that the responsibility for such matters crosses a number of departmental boundaries. Who, then, would make the statement? Hon. Members might want to question Ministers from different Departments on different aspects of the statement. In addition, we were aware that, sadly, it would be necessary for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to make a statement today. There is always a business statement on a Thursday, too, and it would be difficult for the House if we had three statements on one day.

As the hon. Gentleman knows--if he does not, he will find out when he leaves the Chamber and gets his post--my right hon. Friends have written to every hon. Member giving the full details. Although hon. Members will seek other opportunities to raise points publicly, all the information that they would want is available to them, probably in a fuller form than would have been possible if a statement had simply been made to the House. The Government have tried to overcome the difficulties that the hon. Gentleman rightly identified.

Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West): Is there not now an urgent need for a debate on the future of the constitution, particularly regarding devolution in England, becauseof the extraordinary and irresponsible speeches of

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Conservative Members? They claim that the House should act as an English Parliament on certain occasions, which would mean that Welsh, Irish and Scottish MPs would have to neglect their duties and responsibilities as elected United Kingdom Members. Is it not right that we should proceed with devolution in an orderly way with the consent of the British people?

The suggestion that we should somehow turn ourselves into an English Parliament would inevitably mean that the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly would demand more powers, which would lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom. Should we not proceed by debate, decision and referendum, rather than by the Leader of the Opposition making opportunistic speeches purely for his own political gratification?

Mrs. Beckett: My hon. Friend, as I recall, raised the general issue of the role and responsibility of UK MPs on Monday, when you, Madam Speaker, made it plain that we were all elected as Westminster MPs to serve in the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and that we all enjoy the full panoply of rights and responsibilities here.

I entirely share my hon. Friend's view that the Leader of the Opposition, not for the first time--indeed, it is becoming an unfortunate characteristic of his leadership--has rushed into something that he presumably hopes will give him short-term political advantage, without thinking through the long-term consequences. Although he claims to support the Union of the United Kingdom, he is in danger of fomenting exactly the kind of debate and discussion that would lead to the UK breaking up into its several countries.

Moreover, the right hon. Gentleman has made those remarks at a time when we are debating a devolved Administration in Northern Ireland, and he has said not only to Welsh and Scots MPs, but presumably, although he was not so tactless as to include them in his remarks, to Northern Ireland MPs, that they should not have a voice in affairs that impinge on England. To make those remarks at this time is foolish and very dangerous.

Angela Smith (Basildon): Can we have, as a matter of urgency, a debate on rural bus services, with particular reference to their privatisation? It is disgraceful that when the Government came to office, 75 per cent. of rural parishes had no daily bus service. Although I welcome the Government's commitment to provide funds for rural bus services, and my constituency has benefited from being given £38,000 for services to Horndon and Bulphan, it is of great concern that privatised bus services have cherry-picked profitable routes, while cutting back on essential local rural services. An early debate on that issue would give us the opportunity to contrast the Conservative party's phoney concern for rural areas with the genuine action by the Government.

Mrs. Beckett: My hon. Friend is right about the improvements that have been made in rural areas, with some 1,500 new and enhanced bus services. That is only part of the picture. There are 1,000 more train services a day, new freight terminals and 16 new stations. Bus investment is 80 per cent. higher than it was five years ago. My hon. Friend is right, though, to identify the fact that it will take time to remedy the damage done by the Conservative party. As for the Conservatives' recent transport document, apart from the fact that it seems

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designed to be a boy racer's charter, it flies in the face of the record of the previous Government, who cut spending on buses, on the tube and on road maintenance, and left things in a pretty parlous state, from which the present Government are seeking gradually to rescue them.

Mr. Robert Syms (Poole): May we have a statement, or perhaps a debate, on the position of junior hospital doctors? At their recent conference they voted unanimously to hold a ballot on industrial action because of the shabby treatment that they have received from the Government, not only in their exclusion from the working time directive but in the very poor compensation that they receive for the long hours that they have to work. If the Government propose that they should work excessive hours for the next 13 years, should they not be properly compensated? If the situation is not resolved, it will have an impact on patient care for all our constituents.

Mrs. Beckett: Junior hospital doctors' hours of work have fallen under the present Government, and we have every intention of ensuring that they continue to fall. There is no suggestion that hours will be increased. I am aware that there is concern among that group, and we are all well aware of the extent to which their dissatisfaction and concern swelled under the previous Government. However, I remind the hon. Gentleman, and the doctors, that their pay is set by an independent pay review body with the backing of the British Medical Association, and that the present Government--unlike the previous Government--have implemented the pay review body's recommendations in full. We accept that things are not improving as fast as junior hospital doctors would like them to, and as we would like them to, but under this Government--unlike the previous Government--things are at least going in the right direction.

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