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[That this House shares the growing international concern that the use of depleted uranium munitions causes cancers and other serious and long-term injuries to health; welcomes the decision by Her Majesty's Government to screen British troops for depleted uranium poisoning; believes that alternative munitions should be employed in future; calls for Her Majesty's Government to impose a moratorium on the use of depleted uranium munitions by British forces and declare a commitment to cleaning up the environmental contamination caused by their use in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and sites in Britain where testing and manufacture of depleted uranium weapons take place; and notes that the US Navy is banning the use of depleted uranium ammunition.]
It is in my name and calls for a moratorium on the use of depleted uranium weapons. My right hon. Friend will know that there is growing international concern that the use of such weapons can cause cancers and other serious long-term damage to the health of troops. Troops are being screened, but civilian populations possibly at risk are not. Given that the US navy is banning the use of those weapons, should not we debate the legitimacy of their use? Will she find time for an urgent debate on the matter?
Mrs. Beckett: I have seen my hon. Friend's early-day motion, and I think that I recently heard her raise elsewhere her concerns about the use of such materials in the context of civilian as well as military personnel. I seem to recall having seen reference to some studies that have been carried out, which suggested that the scientific examination of the matter does not indicate that the concern expressed by my hon. Friend is altogether necessary.
However, I draw to the attention of my hon. Friend and of the House the fact that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, or one of his ministerial colleagues, has today answered a question announcing that all the background papers on the issue of depleted uranium had been placed in the Library. That shows that the Ministry of Defence is pursuing the policy of openness, and it will give hon. Members a chance to look at some of the background material, which may be helpful and illuminating.
Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire): I am sure that the whole House will welcome the right hon. Lady's announcement of a timely debate in a fortnight's time on standards and privileges. However, further to the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing, West (Mr. Bottomley), does she recognise that there is a relationship between standards and privileges as they affect hon. Members, and the ministerial code as it impacts on Ministers? Can she confirm that it would be appropriate to refer in that debate to the sixth report from the Committee on Standards in Public Life, and to press the Government for the reasons they rejected the recommendation that the ministerial code should be altered to clarify the role of the Prime Minister?
Mrs. Beckett: What is in order in that debate is a matter for Mr. Speaker, not for me. He may judge that references to the sixth report will be in order. I simply repeat to the right hon. Gentleman what I said to the hon. Member for Worthing, West (Mr. Bottomley): I hope that the House will pursue the issues contained in the report before us, as not to do so would be a wasted opportunity.
Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on the UK's business relationship with Gibraltar? I raise the matter as I am very worried about the sharp practices that go on there. Recently, Carlisle United, my local football club, was bought by a Gibraltar-based company called Mamcarr. The problem is that we do not know who the directors of that company are. Gibraltarian law says that they do not have to be identified and it is possible that they have been disqualified from being directors in the UK. My local club is therefore owned by anonymous people. They could be legitimate business men or criminals.
Many of my constituents believe that the club's real owner is still Michael Knighton, the disgraced former director and disqualified director of the club. I do not know whether that is true, but the murky operations of the business in Gibraltar are creating great concern in my constituency and in the football league. If my right hon. Friend cannot find time for a debate, will she pass my remarks on to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, so that he can take the matter up with the Government of Gibraltar?
Mrs. Beckett: I fully understand my hon. Friend's concern, and am aware that in many parts of the country, not least his, there is always great feeling for the local football team, which is a matter of great importance for many constituents.
I fear that my hon. Friend is right in suspecting that I cannot undertake to find time for such a debate in the near future, although he, like others, might like to think about Westminster Hall. I certainly undertake to draw his concerns to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. In raising a matter that touches on football, my hon. Friend is talking of something that is near to many people's hearts, but there will be other occasions on which issues of this kind may arise, and I will make that point to my right hon. Friend.
Mr. Paul Keetch (Hereford): Can the Leader of the House say when there might be time for a debate on food labelling? Is she aware that a company in France is manufacturing corned beef, described as "Hereford" corned beef? Not only that, but the can carries a photograph of a white-faced Hereford bull. Close inspection of the can reveals that the meat is, in fact, processed and packed in France, and is simply described as "Hereford brand meat", whatever that might be. Given that the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is a well-known supporter of Hereford beef, when will we have a debate on this and discuss why the French can stop us producing champagne but we apparently cannot stop them producing Hereford corned beef?
Mrs. Beckett: The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point. I understand his concern, although I suppose that it could been regarded as a back-handed compliment. I fear that I cannot find time for a special debate, but he will know that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has heard his concerns. The hon. Gentleman will also know that it is Agriculture questions next week, and he might try and find a way to ask his question then.
Ms Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North): Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on employment protection for British Merchant Navy officers who have offshore contracts? I refer in particular to those officers serving on the associated bulk carriers fleet which is being sold on by the P & O group. Their contracts are being suddenly terminated, they are being asked to leave their ship at the next port and they have no recourse to employment law. These officers include my constituent, Captain Christopher Davies, from Heath, Cardiff.
Mrs. Beckett: I can well understand my hon. Friend's concern on behalf of her constituent and others who are likely to be similarly affected. It is always a matter of anxiety to the House when people are disadvantaged without recourse to any of the remedies that the House normally provides. I fear that I cannot undertake to find time for a debate on the Floor of the House, but my hon. Friend will know how many more opportunities there are now to raise such issues in Westminster Hall, and she might try there.
Mr. Patrick Nicholls (Teignbridge): The right hon. Lady will know that the two forced resignations of the right hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson) will have netted him £48,443 in ministerial resettlement grants. Does she believe that he deserves it? If not, will she urge him not to take it? [Interruption.] Yes, the figures are correct. Can we have a debate next week on the operation of the Ministerial and Other Salaries Order 1999 so that we can explore the issues at greater length?