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Sir George Young: The House is grateful for next week's business and an indication of the business for the following week. Will the Leader of the House tell us whether on Thursday 25 May she envisages the House sitting at 9.30 am, which was the pattern that was adopted before the Easter recess?
The House has had statements on Sierra Leone, but has not the time come for a full day's debate on the matter, not least because we have not had a foreign affairs debate for some time and because the commitment to Sierra Leone may be more enduring than was at first thought?
In the light of today's report on mobile phones, are Ministers planning to make a statement on this potential health hazard and give the House an opportunity to ask questions about the safety of our younger constituents?
The right hon. Lady will be aware that there is mounting interest in how the House manages itself. Has not the time come for a debate on the Liaison Committee's report and a debate on the Procedure Committee's report on secondary legislation? Is there any sign on the horizon of debates on either the House of Lords or the intergovernmental conference?
Now that we have in place a mayor and assembly for London, is there not a need for a dispute resolution procedure, as we have for Scotland and Wales? Clearly such a procedure will be needed for London. Will the Deputy Prime Minister make a statement to explain how conflicts between the Government and the mayor will be resolved?
Mrs. Beckett: First, the right hon. Gentleman asked me about the pattern for the Thursday sitting on 25 May. At present, it seems likely that it will be an ordinary Thursday sitting. Obviously, that depends to some degree on the scale of the amendments that we expect to receive from another place. I shall return to that subject for the House as soon as I can.
I note the right hon. Gentleman's request for a debate on foreign affairs. If I understood correctly, he asked for a specific debate on Sierra Leone. I am not sure about that, but will draw his concerns to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.
On mobile phones, the Government are responding as speedily as possible to several of the report's recommendations, and we will issue advice on the others in due course. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health may well answer a question about that. I shall certainly draw the right hon. Gentleman's remarks to my right hon. Friend's attention, and I am confident that he will seek to keep the House informed.
I understand the right hon. Gentleman's request for a discussion on the report of the Liaison Committee and on the report on secondary legislation of the Select Committee on Procedure. I share his view that they are important reports on how the House will conduct its future business. In particular, the Liaison Committee's weighty and far-reaching report has substantial implications for all hon. Members. It advances proposals that would create different patterns of work and responsibilities between one group of Members and another. The House as a whole will want to consider those proposals seriously.
With regard to the right hon. Gentleman's final remarks, I believe that the devolution settlement in London is as well known to him as it is to the rest of us. We very much hope that there will be a creative relationship with the new assembly and mayor, and we shall seek to further that.
[That this House notes that international currency speculation currently stands at about $1.5 trillion a day and that the vast majority of this is unrelated to trade in real goods and services; further notes that such enormous speculative flows substantially undermine the powers of national governments and regional blocs; believes that a small levy on such speculation, known as the Tobin Tax after the name of the Nobel Laureate who originated the concept, could both help to dampen down the scale and scope of speculation and raise substantial revenues, raising as much as $250 billion each year for good causes such as development and environmental protection; recognises that such levy would have to be universal or as near to that as possible and contain safeguards to minimise and eliminate tax evasion; notes that the Tobin Tax has the backing of the Canadian Parliament, the Finnish Government and campaign groups such as War on Want; and urges the Government to discuss the concept with its partners in international organisations such as the World Trade Organisation, the IMF, G8 and the European Union with a view to drawing up an internationally co-ordinated and feasible tax regime for currency speculation.]
The motion has been signed by 108 Members from both sides of the House, and calls for an international tax on currency speculation that would raise massive amounts of money to tackle third-world problems. There was an hour-and-a-half debate on the matter in Westminster Hall, when the Government's totally inadequate response and position were given. Would it not help the House to understand the Government's position if we had a full debate on the Floor of the House about this important issue?
Mrs. Beckett: I sympathise with my hon. Friend's concern, knowing that he takes great interest in and favours those proposals. With respect to him, however, although he asked for a debate on the Floor of the House so that the Government's position could be made clear, my understanding both of the Government's position and of my hon. Friend's remarks is that our position is clear, just not what he wishes it to be.
I endorse the view that we cannot go on having endless delays in debating the House of Lords. That debate has been postponed twice, I think. May we please have a date for it? There was a suggestion last week that we might debate the matter before the Whitsun recess, but it seems to have gone beyond that.
Will we have a statement, or a debate, on the Government's change of policy on pensions? In answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Ross, Skye and Inverness, West (Mr. Kennedy) yesterday, the Prime Minister said:
Mrs. Beckett: I accept that it was the request of the Conservative Opposition, not the Liberal Democrat Opposition. Nevertheless, the debate was delayed at the Opposition's request. I am not aware--[Interruption.]--Children, children. I am not aware of any indication that a debate would be held before Whitsun, although, of course, I realise that there is pressure for such a debate--indeed, the Government intend to schedule one.
I heard yesterday's exchanges between my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the leader of the Liberal Democrats, but I am not aware of--nor did my right hon. Friend indicate--any change in policy. Indeed, he made it plain that our manifesto said that we would focus help for pensioners on the poorest first, because the gap between the poorest and the best-off pensioners is so substantial. We would then hope to move on to help those in less great need, and we are now discussing how to do so. Furthermore, it was my impression that my right hon. Friend pointed out that that was exactly what was argued for in the Liberal Democrat manifesto.
Mr. Keith Darvill (Upminster): My right hon. Friend will be aware of the concern and anguish of the many Ford employees in my constituency who work at Dagenham and at the Ford establishments in south and west Essex. Can she find time for an urgent debate on the effects of that decision on the east London and south Essex Thames gateway area, and on any possible measures that the Government propose to mitigate its outcome?