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Mr. Llew Smith (Blaenau Gwent): I should like to declare a non-financial interest in the question that I am

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about to ask. As the House will be aware, I have raised, in questions and in an Adjournment debate, the matter of the drama strategy of the Arts Council of Wales. Gwent theatre in education, probably the finest example of its type in the United Kingdom, has been denied the opportunity to continue the work that it has done over the past 20 years.

I have been concerned to find out how communities and drama companies can appeal against such decisions. An appeals procedure used to be available, but within the past 48 hours Joanna Weston, chief executive of the Arts Council of Wales, has informed the Gwent company that even those who win such an appeal will still lose their franchises, as they will have been passed on to other companies. That is an insult to the company and, more importantly, to the local communities who have benefited from the theatre in education scheme.

Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on the process in the Arts Council of Wales for making decisions and setting priorities?

Mrs. Beckett: I know of the my hon. Friend's interest in this matter, and I understand the concern that he has expressed for the interests of his local community in that connection. I fear that I cannot undertake to find time for a debate on the matter in the near future. However, in view of what my hon. Friend said about the implications for an appeals process of the remarks that he quoted, I shall draw the matter to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

Mr. John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings): Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on the fiasco surrounding the millennium dome? I refer not simply to the incompetent management that caused queues and disappointment on millennium eve, but to the growing evidence of incompetence at every stage of the dome's design and construction.

That incompetence was highlighted today by the dome's former design chief, Stephen Bayley. He laid the blame at the door of the right hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson), who is now Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Mr. Bayley described the right hon. Gentleman as "interfering, crass, incompetent" and a "paradigm of bad management". Conservative Members may have thought that all along, but it is important that we have a debate to establish why the greatest opportunity of our age has been so sadly wasted.

Mrs. Beckett: Despite the best efforts of the Opposition and of the newspapers that consistently try to advance their cause, the dome has been a success. Of course, some people will have been disappointed, but the vast majority of visitors to the exhibition have enjoyed themselves very much. Indeed, many families have said that they want to return.

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The hon. Gentleman drew attention to some remarks made by Stephen Bayley. I am not acquainted with Mr. Bayley, but I am aware that he and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland failed to see eye to eye. Mr. Bayley has made such remarks ever since, and no doubt will continue to do so.

Mr. John Cryer (Hornchurch): Can my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on the rights of the child? She may have seen early-day motion 176 in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster and Wyre (Mr. Dawson).

[That this House supports the establishment of a children's rights commissioner for England with linked officers in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland; and recognises that the duties and powers of such an officer would be to promote children's rights and interests and ensure that they are taken into account by ministers, local authorities, private and voluntary bodies, to promote compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and to ensure that children have effective ways of raising concerns and are able to participate in decision-making that affects their lives.]

The early-day motion makes a specific plea for the creation of a commissioner for the rights of the child. That matter would be an important debate, and would receive a lot of attention outside the House as it is becoming increasingly urgent.

Secondly, if my right hon. Friend felt tempted at any time to have a debate on the Pinochet story as it proceeds, she should give in to that temptation. When people outside this place hear the craven and repellent apologies on behalf of butchery and murder that will undoubtedly come from the Conservative party, the Conservatives' popularity in the country will slump even lower.

Mrs. Beckett: I am, indeed, aware of the early-day motion on the creation of a children's rights commissioner. We have set up a task force on safeguards for children, and intend to establish a children's rights director as a senior post within the National Care Standards Commission. The specific issue of a children's rights commissioner continues to be raised and will no doubt continue to be discussed. These are important steps, which I know my hon. Friend will welcome.

With regard to my hon. Friend's remarks about the opportunities presented by a debate on the handling of the issue of Senator Pinochet, I share his view that, if the public were made more aware of the degree and kind of interest that has been expressed by some on the Conservative Benches, it would do nothing to enhance the Opposition's standing. However, I fear that time in this House is under considerable pressure and I must reluctantly decline to do anything further to diminish the popularity of the Opposition. They probably need no help from me to do that, anyway.

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Orders of the Day

Representation of the People Bill

3rd Allotted Day

Considered in Committee [Progress, 12 January].

[Mr. Michael J. Martin in the Chair]

Clause 9

Restriction on supply of information contained in register

1.17 pm

Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire): I beg to move amendment No. 37, in page 10, leave out lines 22 to 35.

The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Michael J. Martin): With this, it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 21, in page 10, line 32, after "which", insert

"both the full register and".

No. 38, in page 10, line 36, leave out "full".

No. 39, in page 10, line 41, leave out "full".

No. 91, in page 10, line 42, at end insert--

"(ab) to supply to any persons registered under the 1998 Data Protection Act copies of the full register and other documents, or prescribed parts of them, on payment of a prescribed fee and for exempt purposes only".

No. 40, in page 10, leave out lines 43 and 44.

No. 41, in page 11, line 7, leave out "full".

No. 42, in page 11, line 10, leave out "full".

No. 77, in page 11, line 14, after "any", insert "personal".

No. 78, in page 11, line 15, leave out "information" and insert "names and addresses".

No. 79, in page 11, line 17, at end insert--

"(1A) Such provisions made whether in accordance with regulations made in pursuance of paragraph 10B above or in accordance with any other provision made by or under an Act shall only be made after the Secretary of State has declared that they are in the public interest and after an affirmative resolution of each House of Parliament.".

No. 43, in page 11, line 18, leave out "full".

No. 23, in page 11, line 25, at end add--

"(10C).--(1) In making provisions under paragraph 10B, the Secretary of State shall have regard to the effect of those provisions on electors, and in particular to whether the interests of electors who request that their names and addresses are excluded from the edited register, and of other electors, would be prejudiced in any way, in particular by any provisions not enabling the supply of copies of the full register to any person, or to any class of person, to whom copies of the full register were previously supplied.
(2) In making provisions under paragraph 10B which do not enable the supply of copies of the full register to any person, or to any class of person, to whom such copies were previously supplied, the Secretary of State shall have regard to the effect of those provisions on such persons or classes of persons, and in particular to whether the interests of those persons or classes of persons would be prejudiced in any way.

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(3) The Secretary of State shall consult with such persons as he thinks fit on the effect of any provisions which he proposes to make under paragraph 10B and shall have regard to any representations which may be made to him by such persons or any other interested parties.
(4) No provisions shall be made under paragraph 10B which adversely affect the interests of electors.
(5) In this paragraph "interest"' shall include, but not exclusively--
(a) in respect of electors, access to financial services, and in particular to loans, credit accounts and bank accounts, and the amount of direct mail that is likely to be received by electors;
(b) in respect of persons or classes of persons to whom copies of the full register were previously supplied, the employment of workers by such persons, the costs incurred by such persons, and the level of competition between such persons.".

New clause 5--Supply of information: report to Parliament--

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