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Mrs. Beckett: We all recognise the importance of my right hon. Friend's proposals. The House will have a proper opportunity to consider them and will wish to look

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carefully at the issues. I cannot undertake to provide time for a special statement when our proposals will be in the public domain.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich): Neither my right hon. Friend nor I are into gesture politics, but the House of Commons has a long and honourable record of seeking to protect the human rights of those who are not British citizens. Before she goes on holiday, will she draw the attention of the Foreign Office, and possibly the Home Secretary, to the case, highlighted on "Newsnight" last night, of a Hungarian detective who, in seeking to investigate frightening scams in Hungary, has been personally attacked and subsequently arrested on a trumped-up charge? If Hungary is to be an applicant to join the European Community, it is time it was reminded that police investigations of specific crimes are fundamental and basic procedures that we expect applicant states to support.

Mrs. Beckett: I respect my hon. Friend's serious approach to politics and I take her point entirely. I was not familiar with the case that she has raised, but I shall ensure that her remarks are drawn to the attention of my right hon. Friends the Home Secretary and the Foreign Secretary, as she requested.

Mr. Peter Atkinson (Hexham): Will the Leader of the House ask the Home Secretary to come to the House and explain why Mr. Alan Donnelly, the Labour Member of the European Parliament for North-East England who has resigned, will be automatically replaced by a Labour candidate who stood, but was not elected, at the European elections? Surely there should be a by-election so that the electorate of the north-east can choose the candidate whom they want to represent them.

Mrs. Beckett: I am not prepared to ask the Home Secretary to come to the House to reaffirm a decision that has already been made by the House.

Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde): Why has there been no mention so far in the Leader of the House's list of forthcoming attractions of a debate on the defence industry and Government policy towards it? Many thousands of my constituents work in the aerospace defence industry. They are very anxious to debate with Ministers the future of projects such as Meteor, the RAF's future heavy airlift capacity and the implications for British defence policy of the formation of BAE Systems. When might such a debate take place?

Mrs. Beckett: I cannot give the right hon. Gentleman the date for such a debate, but the Government are anxious to bring the defence White Paper before the House as soon as we can. We shall want to hear the views of the Select Committee on Defence before we have a debate in the House, but I assure the right hon. Gentleman that we shall have a debate as early as we can.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire): In this year of supposed delivery by the Government, will the Leader of the House arrange a debate on prescriptions given by health authorities? How does she advise me to

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reply to an elderly constituent of mine from Ashbourne whose husband is suffering from Alzheimer's disease? She says:

    "the doctor cannot prescribe the drug Aricept which may help him because the Southern Derbyshire Health Authority will not fund it. I am told that if we were over in border in Nottinghamshire that we would be able to obtain this drug."

When will my constituent be able to get the drug to help her husband to overcome his debilitating disease?

Mrs. Beckett: I have every sympathy for those who care for people suffering from Alzheimer's. It is a terrible disease, and the stress that it places, particularly on the carers and families of sufferers, is extreme. However, the effectiveness of Aricept--as well as its availability--is contested, and it is not necessarily suitable for all cases. [Interruption.] I wish the hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Miss Kirkbride) would not twitter--it is very distracting. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence is studying the matter, and the Government will give its report the most serious attention.

Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet): In wishing the Leader of the House the compliments of the impending season, recognising that she is a fair-minded person and hoping that she is a far-sighted person too, may I ask her to agree that it would be entirely appropriate, at the dawn of a new millennium, if the Government were to provide for a day's debate on the Floor of the House on the problems facing our earth in the immediate future? Given that the population of our world has trebled in the last 70 years, and is expected to increase by a further 4 billion in the next 50 years; given that three quarters of the world's population is on a spectrum varying between under-nourishment and starvation; given that the land on which we can grow food is diminishing, and that our seas are being depleted of fishing stocks, does she agree--

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael J. Martin): Order. We cannot have a debate just now.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): I blame the Government for all those things.

Mrs. Beckett: The right hon. Member for Bromleyand Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) will always blame the Government--including for the increase in population, for which we have some responsibility on a minor scale.

The issues raised by the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir S. Chapman) are serious and fundamental, and they will be aired in a variety of forums in the new term of Parliament which begins after Christmas. I fear that I cannot undertake to find time for an early debate on the matter, but I remind the hon. Gentleman that Environment questions will be held on the second day back.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough): May I, too, wish the Leader of the House a merry Christmas and a happy new millennium? Will she confirm that it is a cardinal principle of any self-respecting Parliament that there should be equal access to the Houses of Parliament for all hon. Members? Can we start the new millennium as we mean to go on? Will she give a commitment that,

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on millennium night, as the minutes tick away to midnight, no member of the Government or any official or officer for whom the right hon. Lady is responsible will be enjoying the facilities of this House while the building is closed to all hon. Members? Does she agree that it is a principle of a good general that he does not reserve perks to himself that are denied to the poor bloody infantry?

Mrs. Beckett: The hon. Gentleman--may I return his good wishes?--will be aware that access to the House is a matter for Madam Speaker, and that she has given her ruling on this matter. I cannot recall whether the hon. Gentleman was referring to the entire course of the evening. There will be a reception at some point for winners of the millennium awards, who are not in any way, shape or form members of the Government. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not be so churlish as to deny them that recognition. I am afraid I am not aware of what other members of the Government are doing for the rest of the evening.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham): Will the Leader of the House arrange for an early debate so that we can discuss how to make more accountable to this House Ministers who are sitting in the other place? The right hon. Lady will know that there are three Ministers in the other place who exercise important responsibilities: the Attorney-General, Lord Williams of Mostyn; Lord Falconer; and the latest Transport Minister, Lord Macdonald. I am not attacking them as individuals--no doubt they are splendid folk. However, these individuals exercise authority of considerable importance which touches on our constituents, and it is profoundly unsatisfactory that they are not accountable to elected Members. Can we have a debate as to how we can improve accountability in a democratic state?

Mr. Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock): Remember Lord Young and Lord Carrington.

Mrs. Beckett: My hon. Friend is entirely right: there is nothing unprecedented about the holders of senior positions being in the House of Lords. He reminds me that a Foreign Secretary in the Thatcher Government sat in the Lords. I rather believe that Lady Chalker may have been Minister for Transport; she was certainly an Overseas Development Minister. There are many precedents.

Mr. Mackinlay: Lord Cockfield.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. It is unnecessary for the hon. Gentleman to interrupt. The Leader of the House is doing well on her own.

Mrs. Beckett: That is very kind of you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, although I must admit that I am grateful to my hon. Friend.

Not for the first time, not only the sense of history but the memory of Conservative Members is rather failing them.

Mr. John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings): I have no wish to be unnecessarily partisan, but necessity in these questions is a matter of fine judgment.

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Will the Leader of the House acknowledge that street crime in London is on the increase, police morale is falling and there is widespread concern about the police strategy? Dr. Marian Fitzgerald's research produced a telling report criticising the strategy in London, for which the Government must ultimately take responsibility. Will the Leader of the House accede to her request for action, which is supported by victims, even by some former criminals and by the wider public? Given that this is literally a matter of life and limb, will she arrange an urgent debate to allow us to ask why, in the Government's supposed year of delivery, all that they are delivering in London is rising crime and falling police morale?

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