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Mrs. Ann Cryer (Keighley): Will my right hon. Friend consider having a debate to consider the hidden costs of road transport, such as the cost of treating children with asthma, the cost of improving flood defences and the cost to local authorities and the Government of helping flood victims, such as my constituents at Stockbridge last week and others throughout the country?
Mrs. Beckett: My hon. Friend makes an important point. She will know that a report was published recently by Transport 2000, I think, or some such body, drawing attention to the full costs of road use and the need to be as environmentally sound as we can. She will also have noted the various measures announced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor yesterday, such as those to encourage the provision of new and more environmentally effective road haulage, which were all designed to lead to the same end. I fear that I cannot undertake to find time for a special debate on these matters in the near future, but I suspect that she may find an opportunity to raise them in the debates that will undoubtedly flow from the proposals advanced by my right hon. Friend yesterday.
Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall): Will the Leader of the House investigate urgently and report back to the House next week on the extent of the pre-briefing by the Chancellor's staff before his pre-Budget statement yesterday? It appears that certain journalists had details of what was to be announced 72 hours ahead of the statement, whereas the Conservative and Liberal Democrat spokesmen saw the details only seven minutes before it was delivered. That is a reflection on the relative importance that the Government attach to the House and to the media.
Will the Leader of the House please listen carefully to the concerns expressed by the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning) on the real confusion about the so-called "green fuels"? This has all the aspect of a
May I suggest a couple of candidates for the two empty spaces in our diary for the week after next, on Tuesday 21 and Wednesday 22 November? I wonder whether the Leader of the House has seen the article in The Times today by the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), headed "How many more jobs must be lost while we stay out of the euro?", in which he says:
Mrs. Beckett: The hon. Gentleman asked me to investigate and report back, but it is not entirely clear to me whether he has seen a specific report suggesting pre-briefing, or whether he is merely drawing on some of the material that appeared in the press. It is certainly within my memory, and I am sure within his, that for many years, under the previous Government, there was a series of what some would call leaks and what we regarded as trailers--balloons sent up to test the reaction and see whether the policies were popular or unpopular. That has been, I fear, a characteristic of these discussions.
The hon. Gentleman will also know that many journalists make all kinds of prognostications and, even when they turn out to be completely wrong, they are never willing to admit that any of it was guesswork. They always assure us that it was based on the soundest information. During my right hon. Friend the Chancellor's statement, I observed, and I saw many of my hon. Friends observing, how much of it was different from, and additional to, what had been pre-reported. That came through very clearly.
On green fuels, I repeat what I said to the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning), that these are proposals for consultation. This is the pre-Budget report, and when we come to the Budget itself, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor will report back to the House the outcome of that consultation. I am sure that all the issues about the use of more environmentally friendly petrol will be explored in the consultation period.
I understand the hon. Gentleman's reference to our lack of detailed announcements for provisional business. He called them empty spaces, but he will know as well as I that, at this stage in the Session, such a description is pretty inaccurate. We confidently expect that any spaces will be filled with material returning from another place.
The Gentleman is right to identify the interest in the remarks by the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), and in the case that he makes. I am not sure whether the article makes clear how little the decision about whether to advocate entry into the euro was
Finally, the hon. Gentleman asked me to comment on the outcome of the American election, whatever it might be. I do not wish to intrude on private grief, but the situation was summed up admirably by the present President, who said that the people had spoken, but that it would take a while to determine what they had said.
Helen Jones (Warrington, North): Could my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on the mis-selling of endowment mortgages by the financial services industry? I declare an interest in that I have one of those mortgages, but Members of Parliament are more fortunate than many of our constituents who cannot afford to increase payments. Those people are the victims of a real rip-off by an industry that was largely unregulated by the previous Government. Should we not have time to debate the matter?
Mrs. Beckett: I, and I am sure many other hon. Members, have a great deal of sympathy with what my hon. Friend says. I can assure her that she is not alone in having taken advice that she now wishes she had not taken.
My hon. Friend the Member for Warrington, North (Helen Jones) is also right to say that Members of Parliament are perhaps placed more fortunately than many other people when it comes to dealing with the consequences of taking such advice. Although time is at such a premium during this part of the year that I fear I cannot undertake to find space for a debate on the matter in the near future, I recommend to my hon. Friend the vastly increased opportunities for such a debate that the Government have provided in Westminster Hall.
Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire): In our debate on 13 July on strengthening Parliament, the Prime Minister promised a free vote on the report from the Select Committee on Liaison entitled "Shifting the Balance". That report is the welcome subject of today's debate on a motion for the Adjournment of the House, but can the right hon. Lady promise that there will be an opportunity to have substantive votes on specific resolutions?
Mrs. Beckett: The right hon. Gentleman will be well aware that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I have always said that any votes on House matters are always free votes. He will also know--because, as shadow Leader of the House, he raised the matter often at business questions--that the motion on which such a
Maria Eagle (Liverpool, Garston): Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate as soon as possible on Mr. Justice Coleman's report published yesterday into the reopened inquiry into the sinking of the MV Derbyshire? The report exonerated those who died from any blame, but it also contained some worrying findings about safety standards at sea. In the 20 years since the Derbyshire went down, bulk carriers of a similar design have continued to sink at regular intervals. I should be grateful if my right hon. Friend could facilitate an urgent debate on how safety standards can be raised and lives saved in the future.
Mrs. Beckett: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising the matter, on which she has long campaigned. All those who have campaigned will feel that the report offers some vindication and justification for their efforts. However, I fear that I cannot undertake to find time for a specific debate on the matter. My hon. Friend may find that opportunities may arise to discuss safety matters in general, although I appreciate that she may consider maritime safety to be a special subject in itself. May I therefore recommend Westminster Hall to her, too?