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Mr. Peter Brooke (Cities of London and Westminster): Given the Leader of the House's confidence in the enthusiasm of the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to make a statement on his response to the Davies report, can the right hon. Lady remind the House of when her right hon. Friend received the report?

Mrs. Beckett: I cannot recall--there are so many such reports--but I believe that it was in the summer. I am aware that the report made some interesting and, in some ways, controversial suggestions. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would want my right hon. Friend to give it proper consideration and to come to the House when he has firm decisions to announce.

Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington): Can we have a debate on the need to review the arrangements for the chairmanship of debates in Westminster Hall, especially in the light of what happened in the Chamber last night, when two Deputy Speakers came into conflict and, in my view, undermined internationally the credibility of the United Kingdom's arrangements?

Mrs. Beckett: My hon. Friend raised that matter last night. I accept that unfortunately it sometimes happens in the House relatively late in the day--especially when that day has extended over two chronological days--that hon. Members do or say things which, with the benefit of more mature thought, they would not have done or said. I accept my hon. Friend's point that the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) has certain responsibilities, but I know that the hon. Gentleman is always very conscious of those responsibilities. As I said, these things happen from time to time; I hope that we can all move on.

Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West): I am sure that the Leader of the House is familiar with recommendations 19 and 20 of the sixth report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, especially with the strong recommendation, No. 20, which states:

I do not think that the right hon. Lady said that such a debate would be held in the next fortnight. Does she have plans to hold such a debate in the next fortnight? If not, when will it be held?

Mrs. Beckett: I certainly have no plans for such a debate in the next fortnight. I am aware of the recommendation and I am also aware--contrary to what Conservative Members seek to imply--that nothing was said to suggest that there is anything wrong with the number of special advisers that the Government have at present. As I have reminded the hon. Gentleman before, the amount of money received by the Conservative party has been trebled, so it is now able to employ more advisers.

I cannot tell the hon. Gentleman when a debate will be held. When I am ready to tell him, I shall do so from the Dispatch Box.

Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon): Today is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau by

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allied forces in 1945. Yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced that from next year this date will be commemorated as national holocaust memorial day. Can my right hon. Friend find time for a debate so that we can discuss the objectives of the day, which are to commemorate all the victims of the holocaust, to educate today's generations on the lessons of that defining moment in world history and the relevance of it to today's world, and to reaffirm our national commitment to confront racism, anti-semitism and genocide whenever and wherever those issues raise their ugly heads?

Mrs. Beckett: I am aware of the Government's proposal for a holocaust memorial day. I am aware also of how much work my hon. Friend has done in this regard and of his strong support and advocacy for such a commemoration. I share his view, as do the Government, that it is important that we learn lessons from some of the most dreadful events that have happened in human history, so that we may do our utmost to strive to avoid any circumstances in which they are repeated. I cannot undertake now to find time for a debate, but I share his view that this is an important issue.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): Given the importance of decommissioning in the Opposition's support for the Good Friday agreement, may I add my support for the requests for a statement on the de Chastelain report? In asking the Secretary of State for such a statement, will the right hon. Lady convey to him the concerns of those of us who are worried that if all arms are supposed to be decommissioned by the end of May, there seems to be no progress in decommissioning any of them by the end of January?

Mrs. Beckett: As the hon. Gentleman rightly identified, that is a matter for the decommissioning commission and for General de Chastelain. We are awaiting his report. We have precisely charged him with the responsibility of assessing the circumstances that he finds and reporting on them to the Government. I know that the hon. Gentleman will have taken on board the fact that I am not in any sense resisting the notion of a statement on this matter. I am simply seeking to reserve some freedom of manoeuvre for my right hon. Friend to do what he believes is in the interests of the peace process, which is supported on both sides of the House.

Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle): On Monday, we debated at some length a private Bill, the City of London (Ward Elections) Bill, which gives votes to owners of property--more buildings, more votes. I discovered during the debate that private legislation does not need to be certified as being in accordance with the Human Rights Act 1998, unlike public legislation. The Bill, to which many of my right hon. and hon. Friends deeply object, will return to the House at some stage. Is my right hon. Friend able to reassure me that there is a possibility of a one-line Bill coming before the House that will put private legislation on the same footing as public legislation?

Mrs. Beckett: Of course I take my hon. Friend's point. However, the fact that a Bill is a one-line Bill is no guarantee of anything. I will share with my hon. Friend and the House the information that, having read Madam Speaker's selection of amendments, which were debated

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over the previous two days, and seeing that there was a reference to clause 4, I hunted for the clause for some considerable time before I could find it. It is one short and unimportant line in the Bill, which nevertheless was debated for some hours by Opposition Members yesterday.

I return to my hon. Friend's point of substance. I am aware that there are those who oppose the City of London (Ward Elections) Bill. It is for right hon. and hon. Members to express their points of view. However, my hon. Friend will know that agreement has been reached among--I think I am correct in saying--Labour local authorities in that part of London that the balance of arrangements in the Bill is something that they would support.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South): I understand the right hon. Lady's position on giving the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland freedom of movement, but perhaps she does not realise that speculation is rife in the media in Northern Ireland. Will there be an early statement in the House so that we can understand what will happen after General de Chastelain makes his report? I hope that we shall not have to wait as long as we have awaited a statement on Indonesia, where people continue to perish and where trade routes in the area could be put in jeopardy.

Mrs. Beckett: The hon. Gentleman is correct to say that he has been pressing for a statement on Indonesia. I am sorry that it has not been possible to find time for it.

For good or ill, there will always be speculation in the media. I take the hon. Gentleman's point that it lends weight to his request for a statement on decommissioning.

Helen Jones (Warrington, North): Can my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on the role and powers of the Charity Commission? My request arises from a problem with a charity called Integrate Services in my constituency. The Charity Commission has been slow to investigate the problem, or, has lacked the necessary powers or has been reluctant to use existing powers. The only people who have suffered are those with learning difficulties, for whom the charity cares, and the whistleblowers who made allegations about the running of the charity.

Other hon. Members have experienced similar problems. On some occasions, the Charity Commission has been as much use as a chocolate fireguard, as we say in my neck of the woods. Is it not time we reviewed charity law so that vulnerable people can be properly protected?

Mrs. Beckett: I am aware of the anxiety that my hon. Friend expresses and the concern that she shows for vulnerable people. I understand her anxiety about the difficulties that she outlined. However, I fear that I cannot undertake to find time for an early debate. I suspect that Governments of all political shades have contemplated a fresh look at charities law, winced and turned away for the time being because of its enormous complexity. I suggest that my hon. Friend seeks other opportunities

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for a debate. The Charity Commission is based in Liverpool. My hon. Friend may find that a visit and a discussion helps.

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