Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire): Last year on 19 July, an hour and a half debate was held in Westminster Hall following the report of the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions' working party on park homes. Should we not now have a full debate on the issue in the House, as it is becoming an increasingly serious matter? More and more people who are not interested in the sites are becoming site owners; they merely rip off the residents. The report of the park homes working party was an attempt to flag up future legislation to introduce controls over these sites. It is important that we make effective progress on the matter.

Mrs. Beckett: I understand my hon. Friend's concern. I am aware of a number of examples of people expressing

1 Mar 2001 : Column 1045

anxiety about the running of such sites. I fear that I cannot find time for a special debate on the matter on the Floor of the House in the near future, but I undertake to draw his remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions.

Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden): Mr. Speaker, you will have noticed that, at Treasury questions, Labour Members appeared to be under orders not to ask supplementaries about the euro and the exchange rate that relates to it. Labour Whips may wish to give up discussion of the subject for Lent. However, will the Leader of the House arrange a debate so that we can discuss the truncated questions that were asked at Treasury questions today and consider the condition in the treaty that there should be a period of stability for at least two years before we would be allowed to enter the euro? We could also consider whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer, were he still to be in post after an election, proposes to have a referendum before that condition is met or intends to wait two years before he holds any referendum.

Mrs. Beckett: There is no ordinance--self-denying or otherwise--on the questions that Labour Members ask. I imagine that they wish to raise other matters and, unlike Conservative Members, do not want to keep going obsessively over the same ground. My hon. Friends have heard the answers and know that they have not changed. Consequently, I can only guess that they feel disinclined to dwell on an issue that has already been resolved. I simply say to the right hon. Gentleman that it is rather sad that Conservative Members are so obsessed with this issue. They insist on asking the same questions over and over again, even though they keep getting the same answers.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North): My right hon. Friend will be aware that, yesterday, the Home Office published a draft statutory instrument on the prevention and suppression of terrorism, listing 21 organisations that it sought to have banned in this country. When is that measure likely to be debated in the House? My right hon. Friend will be aware also that many people have misgivings about the inclusion of certain organisations on the list, which might restrict peace negotiations. Under the current procedure, the measure can be debated for one and a half hours on an unamendable motion. Does my right hon. Friend accept that this is an extremely serious issue, that we should have longer than one and a half hours to debate it and that right hon. and hon. Members should be able to table amendments so that we can discuss the individual organisations that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is proposing to ban? Many of us believe that there are implications not only for civil liberties, but for the peace process in a number of places, including Sri Lanka.

Mrs. Beckett: I can understand my hon. Friend's concern. As he rightly says, these are serious issues and he knows that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary takes them extremely seriously. I am afraid that I cannot undertake to provide for a procedure that would allow amendments to be tabled to a statutory instrument. There is a precedent; such proposals have often been considered

1 Mar 2001 : Column 1046

in the House, but have been rejected by every Government. While I understand my hon. Friend's wish to have a lengthy debate on the matter, he will understand that I have to balance that wish against a number of other pressures on time. However, he will know that Home Office questions will take place on Monday 12 March, when an opportunity may arise to consider some of these issues. I undertake to draw his remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend who, as always, will do everything that he can to meet the concerns of hon. Members.

Mr. Paul Keetch (Hereford): May I return to the foot and mouth outbreak? It is not acceptable that we should have to wait another week until Agriculture questions next Thursday to raise the matter, as it is a fast-moving disease. This morning, I was contacted by Mr. Kevin Feakins of Garron Livestock Ltd. in my constituency. The company was closed down two days ago due to foot and mouth disease. He is very concerned about some 3,400 sheep that he exported to France which are currently being slaughtered by the French authorities. The French authorities are telling the British Embassy in Paris that Mr. Feakins will receive only FF300 per sheep, which is approximately one third of their value. Whatever we may think about live exports, they are still legal. Given that Mr. Feakins will receive the full market value in compensation for sheep that are slaughtered in the United Kingdom, but not for those exported to France, will the Leader of the House make sure that when the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food returns to the House, he will have details about those sheep, as well as those being slaughtered in the United Kingdom?

Mrs. Beckett: I did not say that we would have to wait a week to discuss the matter. I said that Agriculture questions would take place next Thursday, providing a natural opportunity for right hon. and hon. Members to raise the issue. I also said that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will try to keep hon. Members informed by whatever means he can. The hon. Gentleman may have overlooked the fact that I told the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning) that my right hon. Friend is even now working on arrangements whereby hon. Members can be kept informed and speedily updated on any developments. I know that he will seek to do that. With regard to the specific issue that the hon. Gentleman raised, I understand his concern. I cannot undertake that my right hon. Friend will make a statement specifically about that matter, but I shall certainly draw it to his attention. I am confident that he will be in contact with the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock): I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to future business on the Order Paper. The Home Secretary has tabled the draft European Parliamentary Elections (Franchise of Relevant Citizens of the Union) Regulations 2001. Before those regulations are brought to the House, will they be reviewed, as they are flawed? They omit to fulfil the Government's commitment to enfranchise the people of Gibraltar in the next European elections, which they are obliged to do following a court action that they could have avoided had they taken the advice of myself and others. I hope that the measure will be looked at again before it comes to the House because some of us will not acquiesce in this grave omission by our silence.

1 Mar 2001 : Column 1047

If my right hon. Friend thinks it somewhat irksome that I keep raising these issues as a matter of attrition with the Home Secretary, let me say that I take heart because the Home Secretary is a listening Minister. Two or three years ago, I asked him to introduce a measure to allow Church of England and Catholic priests to stand for election in the House of Commons; he refused. It pays dividends to keep working at it because, this afternoon, I hope that we will give a Third Reading to the very important measure for which I campaigned.

Mrs. Beckett: I would never dream of regarding my hon. Friend as irksome. He is a conscientious and hard-working Member who has had a good deal of success in raising issues in the House, as he points out. I shall draw the matter to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, but I cannot undertake to find time for a separate special debate. The order will have to go through a scrutiny process in the House and outside, and I shall ensure that his concerns are aired.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire): Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate next week on departmental replies to the correspondence of Members of Parliament? If she cannot do that, will she use her influence with other Departments to ensure that we receive speedier responses? I wrote to the Department of Health on 29 September 2000 and received an answer on 12 February which said:

That was an interesting answer, but I do not think that I should have waited five months for it.

Mrs. Beckett: I share the hon. Gentleman's view, as will my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health, to whose attention I shall draw that example.

Mr. Keith Darvill (Upminster): Now that my right hon. Friend has had an opportunity to read the Procedure Committee's report on the election of the Speaker, what progress has she made in finding time to debate its recommendations at an early date?

Next Section

IndexHome Page