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Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch): In the light of what the Leader of the House has said, can we have an early debate on the mis-selling of Government policy? She has told us today that the Chancellor's statement yesterday about low-sulphur fuel being available at every garage from the Budget next year is contingent upon the machinations of the Deputy Prime Minister, consultation and so on. Yet yesterday, the Chancellor said:
Mr. Chope: I was going on to say that I am sure that the Chancellor was not misleading the House, which is why I should like the Leader of the House to explain the difference between what the Chancellor said yesterday and what she has told us today.
Mrs. Beckett: I did not say that the measure was contingent on the work of the Deputy Prime Minister. I said that the proposals will be subject to consultation and that the background to them is the express view of the oil companies as to what can be provided. The hon. Gentleman will know that the AA's policy director said yesterday that the key question was whether the oil industry would deliver on the timetable and to the price suggested by the Chancellor.
On whether we should debate the mis-selling of policies, that is always an attractive proposition. Given that the hon. Gentleman has just been reminded of the mis-selling of endowment policies under the previous Government and given the scandal of the mis-selling of personal pensions that hangs round their necks, I am surprised that he even suggested such a thing.
Mrs. Beckett: I am sure that everyone in the House understands and sympathises with my hon. Friend's concern about the case of Caroline Taylor, which he has pursued. I sometimes think that these are the worst cases that come before Members of Parliament, because we all understand the difficulty with regard to the child involved and how vulnerable children are to exploitation in these circumstances. I understand his concern that the Greek courts have taken some decisions on the matter, but that it remains unresolved. He will know that my noble Friend Baroness Scotland raised the subject with the Greek Minister of Justice when she met him over the summer. I know that the child abduction unit has been involved and has done what it can to help. I believe that there is a further hearing in the very near future. I fear that I cannot undertake to find time for a specific debate on the matter, but I am sure that my hon. Friend will continue to look for opportunities to raise it in this House.
Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South): The Leader of the House will recall that I have been pressing on different occasions for a meeting of the Northern Ireland Grand Committee in Northern Ireland, according to the Standing Orders of this House. This has been thwarted time and again by one party, which finds it difficult to attend even when the Committee is held here. Can the commitment that the Grand Committee would be held from time to time in Northern Ireland be now met, because four years have passed without it having been met?
Mrs. Beckett: I entirely understand the seriousness with which the hon. Gentleman raises the matter. I will draw his views to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who I know will give them serious consideration.
Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington): Can we have a debate on rape and the way in which the law is working--particularly in the light of the fact that a number of men have been released from prison because the women they were supposed to have raped have changed their evidence and gone back to the police to tell the truth? Has not a huge injustice been perpetrated against some men, and should not Parliament debate the matter?
Mrs. Beckett: My hon. Friend has, quite correctly, identified a matter of great concern. There is continual debate to and fro about how best to handle those issues. We want to ensure that people are willing to come forward when they have a serious accusation and also that people who have been unjustly accused can be helped. I fear that I cannot undertake to find time for a special debate on the matter in the very near future. However, it is Home Office questions on Monday, and my hon. Friend might have the opportunity to raise the matter then.
Mrs. Beckett: I cannot, I fear, provide a special slot for the Deputy Prime Minister to deal with that specific subject. However, the hon. Gentleman will know that we hope to have the urban and rural White Papers in the not-too-distant future, and he may well find an opportunity to raise the matter then.
Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West): As the Parliament of a country in which a young woman was recently dragged through the courts for using cannabis medicinally, a chief constable has said that he would not arrest a person for using cannabis recreationally and heroin deaths are the highest in Europe, should we not debate urgently the self-admiring report by the drugs tsar, which is filled with vacuous irrationality?
Mrs. Beckett: Policy on this area is raised and discussed continually. Indeed, one reason for providing the opportunity for extra scrutiny in Westminster Hall is to allow some of the issues about the work of individuals and non-departmental public bodies to be scrutinised. All I can do is draw my hon. Friend's attention to that opportunity, which I know he will make use of.
Mr. Roger Gale (North Thanet): At 10.45 this morning, the Vote Office received copies of the National Audit Office report into the operation and financial management of the millennium dome. Now that we have had the opportunity to study the report, it is clear that the information that the Prime Minister gave the House yesterday, suggesting that all decisions had been taken by the previous Administration, is wholly false, and that the key decisions on the content and management of the dome and on transport for the dome were all taken following a review of the dome by the Government in 1997--in May, once they had taken office. It is also abundantly plain from the report that the go-ahead for the dome was given by the Prime Minister himself.
As all that is so, and as, to date, no Minister has offered to come before the House to make a statement on the report, and as no Minister has yet been honourable enough to offer a resignation, could the Leader of the House say when we will be able to debate that report in full, and can it please be before the House is prorogued?
Mrs. Beckett: First, the hon. Gentleman may have had the opportunity to study the report, but I do not suppose that the rest of the House has. Secondly, I am afraid that what he said about the Prime Minister's statements yesterday is entirely wrong. The hon. Gentleman cannot possibly have been listening to what the Prime Minister said--although, to be fair, there was a lot of noise, as there tends to be at Prime Minister's Question Time, so I shall be charitable and assume that he did not actually hear what the Prime Minister said.
The Prime Minister was specific and clear. On more than one occasion he said that he was at no point attempting to suggest that the full responsibility for all the events that led to the building of the dome rested with the Conservative party. He was very clear that he had expressed regret, that he had said on behalf of this Government that we recognise that errors were made and that we are perfectly willing to acknowledge that and say it to the public. However, we are not prepared to take all the blame for a project that began three or four years before the Conservative party left office.
Mr. Roger Casale (Wimbledon): May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the visit to Rome last weekend by many Members from both sides of the House to take part in the worldwide parliamentary assembly to mark the jubilee holy year? More than 1,500 parliamentarians in more than 90 delegations attended, and several important issues were discussed, including international initiatives to cancel the foreign debt of some of the world's poorest countries. It was widely recognised that Britain has played a leading role in those initiatives.
Will my right hon. Friend arrange for the Secretary of State for International Development to come to the House to receive congratulations on the work that has already been done and to report on further initiatives, particularly to bring more international pressure to bear on the International Monetary Fund and the World bank?