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Gillian Merron (Lincoln): May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the worrying case of Russell Griffiths, the lecturer acquitted of raping an 18-year-old student in Lincoln, but jailed for lying about his criminal past to get a lecturer's job in Lincoln? His convictions relating to ex-girlfriends included threats to kill, criminal damage and sending obscene material. Will my right hon. Friend find parliamentary time to debate measures which would ensure that employers such as universities would have access to criminal records when making appointments to posts such as that of lecturer, which is clearly a position of trust, as there is clearly insufficient legislative provision at present?
Mrs. Beckett: My hon. Friend makes an important point about a serious case which I know has aroused great concern in her constituency. Although it is an important issue which no doubt will merit further serious consideration, I cannot undertake to find time for a special debate on the matter. Although, like others, my hon. Friend may wish to pursue the opportunities of Westminster Hall, it is not impossible that she will find an opportunity to raise the matter under the various pieces of Home Office legislation that are being introduced.
[That this House notes that when introducing the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill at Second Reading, the then Secretary of State for Health, the right honourable Member for Rushcliffe, assured the House that 'all honourable Members would like to prohibit certain activities, which include cloning and other science fiction possibilities. There can be little doubt that infringing such prohibitions should attract severe penalties provided by the Bill' (7th April 1990, Official Report, column 920); notes in that debate the statement by the late Right honourable Sir Bernard Braine, honourable Member for Castle Point that 'apart from cloning, genetic engineering and producing animal hybrids, the scientist will be able to do what he likes under the Bill' (column 934); notes that nowhere throughout the debates was any differentiation made between cloning by cell nuclear transfer and other techniques, or between therapeutic and reproductive cloning; notes nonetheless the claims made by the Under Secretary of State that those matters were fully debated in 1990; invites the Government to cite those sections of the debates on the Bill covering such matters; further calls on the Government to cite that section of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act which makes cloning legal by any technique including cell nuclear transfer and for whatever purpose; and calls for the withdrawal of the draft Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Research Purposes) Regulation 2000, until such evidence has been provided and Right honourable and honourable Members have had adequate opportunity to consider these issues of profound ethical importance.]
Mrs. Beckett: If the legal challenge that the hon. Gentleman envisages is brought forward--and I remind him that next Tuesday we will be having our third debate on the matter, so the House has had ample opportunities
Mr. John Cryer (Hornchurch): I refer my right hon. Friend to Question 1 at today's Treasury questions, which asked about trends in United Kingdom productivity. Could we have a debate on productivity? Many Labour Members would like to draw attention to the fact that, although the mining industry's productivity levels went through the roof in the late 1980s, the reward was closures, job losses and the decimation of the industry. Those problems were caused by Conservative Members, not for economic reasons, but because of narrow, craven, political vindictiveness, led by the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) and a few of the apparatchiks around him. I, for one, would love to have a debate on productivity so that Labour Members can draw attention to that.
Mrs. Beckett: My hon. Friend makes a powerful point about the mining and other industries, where harm and damage sometimes occurs despite productivity improvements. I understand his analysis of why that happened in the mining industry. Productivity is a hugely important economic issue in the UK. We must continue to pursue and address it, even though resentment is caused when people know that they have improved productivity but that problems are still occurring and that jobs are lost, as has recently happened in Luton. Nevertheless, I fear that I cannot find time for the specific debate to which my hon. Friend referred. I am sure, however, that he will find other opportunities to raise these matters in economic and other debates, as well as in Treasury Question Time.
Mr. Bob Russell (Colchester): Will the right hon. Lady consider further the request for an early debate on volunteers? Such a debate could take place on one of the blank Fridays. Early-day motion 101, which was signed by members of all parties, draws attention to the Scottish Parliament's agreement, only two days ago, to fees for the Criminal Records Bureau not being levied on volunteers in the youth movements.
[That this House welcomes the decision of the Scottish Parliament that criminal record checks for volunteers working with children in Scotland will be free; notes with regret that volunteers in England and Wales will still be required to pay £10 for identical checks to be made with the Criminal Records Bureau in the coming year; and urges the Government to emulate the excellent example of the Scottish Parliament.]
Does the right hon. Lady agree that a decision by the Government not to introduce a tax on volunteers would be a wonderful gesture for the international year of the volunteer, which is next year? Can we have an early debate to discuss that matter?
Mr. David Drew (Stroud): I associate myself with the remarks of the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Russell). I am sure that my right hon. Friend is aware that next year marks the 50th anniversary of the Korean war and, in particular, of the battle of Imjin. Much as it is pleasing to see reconciliation after many years between the north and south of the country, is there time for a debate on how to commemorate the Korean war and the role played by the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire regiment, which was known in those days as the Glorious Gloucesters? Its members have been invited to participate in various ceremonies in Korea, but are not currently allowed to take up that opportunity. Will my right hon. Friend speak to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence to see how the matter can be taken forward?