|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham): After the premature leak to the media yesterday of the results of the Heathrow terminal 5 inquiry, will the Deputy Prime Minister make a statement on the report, which is of enormous interest to London and south-east Members. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give us a courteous and proper presentation of the report's conclusions. When he does so, will he tell us what action he is taking to trace the leaker of highly market-sensitive information?
Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch): Will the Leader of the House make a statement next week on the delay in Departments responding to written parliamentary questions? One of my written questions was answered yesterday and appears today in Hansard at column 649W. I tabled the question to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport four weeks ago. It was a simple question. I asked when the Hinduja foundation paid the sponsorship money for the dome--hardly the most exacting question. I now have the answer, which is that a 10 per cent. deposit was paid in February 1999, just before the passport was issued, and that the rest was paid afterwards. I am still waiting for answers to questions that were tabled at the same time about the involvement of Lord Levy in the episode. I cannot understand why I am not getting more timely responses.
Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold): May I take the Leader back to the foot and mouth crisis? Farmers in my constituency are subject to movement restriction orders because of outbreaks just across two county boundaries. They are desperately worried about the situation. Will the right hon. Lady make earnest representations to her right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to make a statement to the House early next week on the fast-moving situation? Farmers are urging me to make representations about the welfare implications of their not being able to move animals to slaughter, and the compensation arrangements.
If the Leader of the House is unable to do that, may I make a practical suggestion to her, which I ask her urgently to consider? My suggestion is that after the Minister takes Agriculture questions next Thursday, he should answer a separate question on foot and mouth, so that we will have time to question him specifically on the issue. Thursday is a light day of business in the House. It is one of four days' debate on the Budget, and there is no reason why a little time should not be found for such a serious situation.
Mrs. Beckett: I will convey to my right hon. Friend the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the general wish that has been expressed today for the House to be kept informed. The hon. Gentleman knows that my right hon. Friend is extremely conscientious about doing that. I know that my right hon. Friend hopes that the arrangements that he intends to put in place for information will mean that hon. Members do not need to question him at the Dispatch Box about developments, and that he will keep them informed by other means, but obviously that remains to be seen. The hon. Gentleman makes a very interesting suggestion about how to handle the issue at Agriculture questions, which no doubt
Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West): May I draw the right hon. Lady's attention to this week's edition of Computer Weekly, which is published today? It alleges that two leaked internal Ministry of Defence documents indicate that critical changes were made to the Chinook mark 2's FADEC software. As a consequence of that, I was given a misleading answer to a question that I tabled in the summer of 1999. The Leader of the House will be aware that the matter is of interest to hon. Members in all parts of the House, and that the Prime Minister has answered a number of questions on it. The other place is due to debate the issue next Monday. Given the allegations made in Computer Weekly, does the right hon. Lady agree that the House deserves a statement or, at the very least, a fulsome written answer?
Mrs. Beckett: I fear that Computer Weekly, no doubt incorrectly, is not my daily reading, or even weekly reading. Consequently, I am not aware of the issue to which the hon. Gentleman refers. I undertake to draw it to the attention of the relevant Ministers, who are no doubt already being briefed on the matter. I fear that I cannot undertake to find time for a special debate on it, but if there is concern that the wrong information has been given, that will doubtless be addressed in some way.
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): May we have a statement, please, from the Prime Minister explaining the contradiction between what he told our most important ally, President Bush, about the so-called European Union rapid reaction force being "firmly embedded" in NATO, and the provisions of the annexes to the treaty of Nice, which make it abundantly clear that the command and control of any such force will be entirely independent of NATO or any other organisation, other than the EU?
Mrs. Beckett: The issue has been aired repeatedly in the House. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is certainly aware of the concern that has been expressed. I understand that the discussions that took place in the United States were full and constructive, and that there is complete agreement between our Government and the Government of the US that there will be real value in the different role that the European rapid reaction force will play, and about the huge importance of NATO.
Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West): May I endorse the calls for a debate on education policy that were made by the hon. Members for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick), for Warrington, North (Helen Jones) and for Bury, North (Mr. Chaytor)? Clearly, they want to sort out the confusion among Labour Members, who now know that they are part of a Government in which the Secretary of State for Education and Employment finds it difficult to make tough decisions and the Prime Minister cannot see things through. Of course, the Government are also prepared simultaneously to attack comprehensive and grammar schools. They are terminally confused and they do not know whether they are in favour of selection or against it, so it is time that we had a statement or debate to clear the matter up.
Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire): Is the right hon. Lady aware of the huge threat that is posed to rural magistrates courts by the requirements of the Human Rights Act 1998? To conform with the Act, courts must be reorganised so as to ensure that the public do not see prisoners in handcuffs, as such restraints infringe their dignity. The courts of Market Drayton, Whitchurch and Oswestry face significant costs. For example, Oswestry magistrates court requires £197,450 for compliance. May we have an urgent statement from the Lord Chancellor's Department, explaining its policy? The requirements are imposed by central Government, but in theory the local expenditure is decided by magistrates.
Mrs. Beckett: I cannot undertake to find time for a special debate on the matter, although I understand the hon. Gentleman's concern. I know that issues regarding the handling of rural magistrates courts and their problems are frequently raised with the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Jane Kennedy). Indeed, I believe that Question Time for that Department will be held next week, so he may find an opportunity to raise the issue then.
Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York): Does the right hon. Lady agree that the timing of the foot and mouth outbreak is especially unfortunate for hard-pressed farmers, as at least 50 per cent. of last year's lamb exports were destined for France and other European Union markets, which also form 90 per cent. of the culled sow markets? I understand that those two categories would not qualify for the funds that the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food explained yesterday. Will she therefore invite the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make a statement next week to announce the application of contingency funds to those categories?
Mrs. Beckett: I am aware of the particular misfortune in respect of the timing of what is in any case a very worrying outbreak, and of the great anxiety that is felt in the farming community. I cannot undertake to invite my right hon. Friend the Chancellor to make a special contribution on that issue next week, not least because he will be making his Budget statement. What that will contain is another matter, about which I know no more than she does.