Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire): Will the Leader of the House clarify her answer on stem cell research? The first debate took place on 17 November and the Leader of the House has announced another debate for 15 December. We are asking for a full day's debate in Government time, followed by a vote. Surely it is not too difficult for the Government to give us a commitment here and now that that debate will take place on the Floor and not on a deferred vote.

Mrs. Beckett: No, I cannot add to what I have already said. Of course, I understand that this is an issue of great importance, sensitivity and concern to many hon. Members, but I remind the hon. Gentleman that there will have been 10 hours of debate before the orders reach the Floor of the House. That is not to be sneezed at. Hon. Members of all parties feel strongly and differently about the matter, and it would be unfortunate if anyone tried to create the impression that the Government were trying to curtail debate. We are not.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham): Will the Leader of the House please reorganise the business for next week or the week thereafter, so as to make provision for a referendum Bill? If an agreement is reached at Nice, it will probably involve a surrender of sovereignty. Should not that surrender of sovereignty be subjected to popular consent, as expressed in a referendum?

Mrs. Beckett: Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman recall what happened in 1972, and after Maastricht? I think that the precedents are not in his favour.

7 Dec 2000 : Column 128

Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth): Has the right hon. Lady had a chance to read early-day motion 3, which is in my name? It is signed by 131 hon. Members.

[That this House welcomes the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology's report on complementary and alternative medicine; notes the widespread and increasing use of complementary and alternative medicine in the UK; supports improved regulatory structures and the development of single voluntary regulatory bodies for complementary and alternative medicine professions; encourages conventional healthcare professions to develop clear guidelines on competence and training in complementary and alternative medicine disciplines; welcomes the recommendation that the NHS Research and Development Directorate and the Medical Research Council should allocate research funding to develop centres of excellence for conducting complementary and alternative medicine research; supports the provision of better information for the public on what works and what is safe; and urges complementary and alternative medicine practitioners, GPs and other health care professionals to exchange information and work together to provide an integrated system of healthcare which puts patients' needs first.]

The early-day motion recommends and welcomes the report from the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology on complementary and alternative medicine. The report makes recommendations about improved regulation, better information for the public and centres of excellence. Does not the right hon. Lady think that the time has come for a full debate in Government time on the Floor of the House on complementary and alternative medicine?

Mrs. Beckett: The recommendations of the Select Committee are being considered most carefully, and I understand that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health hopes to respond formally early next year. Of course, I take on board the hon. Gentleman's wish to have a debate. I cannot give him that undertaking at present, but he will have observed that a health debate follows immediately after this statement. He might find an opportunity to raise the matter in that debate.

Mr. Stephen Day (Cheadle): Does the Leader of the House recall that, when the European rapid reaction force was announced to the House, the Prime Minister was incandescent with rage? He accused those who warned of the dangers to NATO and of the threat that the force would pose to our relationship with the United States of all kinds of infamy and distortion. Since that time, our European partners have made it clear that the force is intended to be independent of NATO control. The United States has now made it clear that it believes that the force represents a threat to the NATO alliance. Will the Prime Minister therefore be coming to the House to apologise for his accusations?

Mrs. Beckett: No, my right hon. Friend will not, for the good and simple reason that there is nothing that he need apologise for. I heard a small part of the remarks made by Mr. Secretary Cohen, and it seemed to me that he was repeating precisely what he had said a few days earlier, and indeed what Secretary of State Madeleine Albright wrote in an article that was co-signed by my right hon. Friend the

7 Dec 2000 : Column 129

Foreign Secretary. That is, quite simply, that the United States welcomes the initiative, but that it is anxious that there be no duplication. That is precisely what the Government's view has been from the beginning, and what the Prime Minister told the House. Hon. Members might not have been listening, but that is what he told the House.

Mrs. Ann Winterton (Congleton): May I reinforce the valid points made earlier about the undue haste with which the Government are seeking to introduce regulations on human cloning for research purposes? That approach is not appropriate. The proposed regulations were not debated at all during the passage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990.

The Leader of the House keeps saying that there will be 10 hours of prime-time debate on the matter, but it is not good enough to provide two Friday debates at very short notice. Will she undertake to hold a full day's debate in Government time, with a vote being taken at the end? That would ensure that the ethical and moral issues involved in the regulations were fully understood--by hon. Members, and by the people in the United Kingdom who are extremely worried about them.

Mrs. Beckett: I understand that the House feels strongly about those issues: the hon. Lady does, as do many other hon. Members. Some agree with her, and others do not, and that difference of opinion will be evident in every party. However, I reject utterly her apparent implication that the Government are attempting to curtail debate on these matters in some way. There is no justification for that whatsoever.

Conservative Members spend all their time complaining that it is an important and valid use of the House's time to hold debates on Fridays. That is true also when the Government propose to hold debates on that day.

Mr. John M. Taylor (Solihull): According to yesterday's Votes and Proceedings, a Bill for the more effectual prevention of clandestine outlawries was read the First time and ordered to be read a Second time. May I ask the Leader of the House when that Second Reading will be?

Mrs. Beckett: Not next week.

Mr. Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire): May I press the Leader of the House again on embryology? It must not become a matter of party political divide across the Chamber, but she must understand that in my constituency at least there will be complete incomprehension if the Government regard two short-notice Friday debates, when many hon. Members cannot alter their arrangements to attend, as an adequate substitute for a proper full-day debate on the Floor of the House with a 10 o'clock vote at the end of it. I urge her to recognise that her failure to accept that could turn what should be a non-partisan issue into a partisan one, which would be most regrettable.

Mrs. Beckett: I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman that that would be regrettable. However, it is my feeling that the tone of today's exchanges has represented an attempt by some to turn it into a party political matter. I wholly share his view that that would be entirely wrong because, as he understands perfectly well, there are

7 Dec 2000 : Column 130

different views on the matter. Personally, I have not the faintest idea what the views of the majority of my right hon. and hon. Friends are, and it is not in any way a party issue. However, it would be entirely wrong of the House not to recognise that the Government have done the opposite of bouncing it into a decision on these matters. We found time for a debate without there being any proposals before the House so that the discussion could range freely over all the issues; we then published the regulations in draft and found time for a further opportunity to debate those draft regulations. After that, of course there will be a full and proper debate on the orders themselves and hon. Members will make up their own minds and cast their votes as they choose. It would be entirely wrong for anyone to give the impression that the matter was being handled in any other way than with the fullest possible consultation. It is rare that a Government find as much time as we are finding for issues of this kind.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): Given that the American Defence Secretary actually said that a European Union rapid reaction force could turn NATO into "a relic of history", and given the latest results of the ICM poll this week showing that whereas only 30 per cent. support British participation in such a force a massive 56 per cent. oppose it, is there any prospect of the Foreign Secretary making a statement on this important matter on his return from giving away yet more of our sovereignty in Nice?

Next Section

IndexHome Page