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The House will also wish to know that on Wednesday 1 November there will be a debate on European Document No:9964/00: Social Policy Agenda, in European Standing Committee C. Details of the relevant documents will be given in the Official Report.
Mrs. Angela Browning (Tiverton and Honiton): I thank the Leader of the House for giving us the business for next week. Before asking for details, I pay tribute to my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young), who discharged his duties as shadow Leader of the House with grace and charm. He had a constructive working relationship with the Government, which helped to enhance the way in which the House is run.
The right hon. Lady kindly gave us a date for the Queen's Speech, but will she tell us when it was last held in December? She will be aware that its lateness is a reflection of the backlog from this Session. Many of us are concerned about the way in which the House's business is being discharged during the final weeks of this Session.
In next week's business, the Leader of the House announced a two-day debate on defence. Will she confirm that that still leaves one further Adjournment debate on defence for this Session? She will know that it is customary to have three defence debates on motions for the Adjournment of the House.
Will the Leader of the House advise us whether there will be statements in the near future on the situation of Israel and Palestine, particularly as it arose during the recess and we have not yet heard from the Foreign Secretary? Will she also tell us whether a statement on the EU summit in Biarritz is anticipated? She will be aware that the previous three informal summits were the subject of statements in the House and were acclaimed as great victories by the Government. We hope that they will shortly have something positive to report on the Biarritz summit.
Finally, the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz), yesterday told the "Today" programme, in a debate with Trevor Kavanagh of The Sun, that the Prime Minister wanted to have a debate on the euro. Yesterday the Prime Minister put great emphasis on the Government's five economic tests, but we know from evidence given by Treasury Ministers to the Select Committee on the Treasury before the summer recess that the Government are not measuring progress on those five tests, and do not intend to produce any written evidence about how close we are to, or how far we are from, meeting those tests. In a spirit of co-operation, I urge the right hon. Lady to allow a debate on the Floor of the House about the single currency. We all want to join the Prime Minister in a debate on the euro.
Mrs. Beckett: I welcome the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning) to her new responsibilities and join her in paying tribute to her predecessor, who was indeed an excellent shadow Leader of the House and discharged his duties with elegance and wit.
The hon. Lady asked when the Queen's Speech was last held in December. From memory I am not sure, but it has not happened for many years, probably not since the second world war. [Laughter.] Hon. Members have been attending these sessions for a long time, and I advise them not to laugh too soon. The hon. Lady asked whether the lateness was a reflection of the backlog. It certainly reflects the remarks of Lord Strathclyde, the leader of the Tory party in the other place, who recently said that the Lords would wish to take a full amount of time--all the time they wanted--to debate Bills, and added:
As for the time being taken, the hon. Lady will recall that we have made two late additions to the Government's programme. One is the Football (Disorder) Bill, on which the Tory party called for legislation--and offered
The hon. Lady asked for a debate on the economy. Obviously, we will consider that through the usual channels after the pre-Budget statement. I think that the Lady is mistaken in thinking that there is a defence day outstanding, but I will check that. She also asked about the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Bill, which has indeed been substantially redrafted. That, as she will know, followed representations from many who studied the Bill, not least Tory Members.
I will draw the hon. Lady's remarks about a statement on the middle east to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. She will know that oral questions to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will be taken on 7 November, and I expect that there will be a statement following the Biarritz summit. As for a debate on the euro and the five tests, it has occurred to me once or twice lately that if there is one absolutely outstanding reason for Britain to join the euro, it is so that we can get away from this perpetual nit-picking about whether what some Minister has said is different from what was said a week before.
Mr. Robert Sheldon (Ashton-under-Lyne): When will there be a debate on the Liaison Committee's report, on which it is said there will be a free vote? Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the debate will take place on a substantive motion?
Mrs. Beckett: I cannot tell my right hon. Friend now when there will be a debate on the Liaison Committee report. To quote a previous leader of our party, "not next week". There will be a debate, and as my right hon. Friend knows, whenever there is a vote on such matters, it is a free vote--at least on this side. It is possible that Tory Members have been committed by their leader as to how they will vote.
Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall): I endorse what has been said about the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young). We will miss him, not least his constructive attitude in the Select Committee on the Modernisation of the House of Commons.
Will the Leader of the House consider now some issues that cannot wait for the Government to investigate fully in all Departments all the implications of an extremely comprehensive report? I am particularly concerned about matters relating to secrecy, accountability and trust. The right hon. Lady will have noted the comment of Lord Phillips and his team that Ministers sought to sedate the public. Even the summary of the report stated that