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Margaret Beckett: I accept that it is not easy for hon. Members to follow the precise nuances of announcements. As I said, however, the money is indeed for Cumbria and for other areas; the hon. Gentleman is right about that. Nevertheless, I anticipate that the lion's share of the money will go to Cumbria, for all the reasons that hon. Members understand and have identified. I also accept that there will be continuing concerns in other areas, and that the Government will come under continuing pressure to see whether it is possible, in our difficult circumstances, to do more.

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Business of the House

12.50 pm

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): May we please have the business for next week?

The President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Robin Cook): The business for next week will be as follows:

Monday 22 October—Remaining stages of the Homelessness Bill.

Tuesday 23 October—Opposition Day [2nd Allotted Day]. Until about 10 o'clock there will be a debate entitled "Conduct of Ministers in the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions" on an Opposition motion.

Wednesday 24 October—Second Reading of the Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Bill.

Thursday 25 October—Opposition Day [3rd Allotted Day 1st part]. There will be a debate on a motion. Subject to be announced. Motion on the Social Security (Jobcentre plus Interviews) Regulations 2001.

Motion to take note of European Document No. 14174/00 relating to the European Food Authority.

Friday 26 October—Private Members' Bills. The provisional business for the following week will be as follows:

Monday 29 October—Second Reading of the Adoption Bill.

Tuesday 29 October—Second Reading of the Proceeds of Crime Bill.

Wednesday 31 October—Opposition Day [4th Allotted Day]. There will be a debate on an Opposition motion. Subject to be announced.

Thursday 1 November—I intend to keep that date free at this stage; it may be appropriate for a further debate on international terrorism.

Friday 2 November—Private Members' Bills.

I know that Members will welcome early notice of recess dates. It may therefore be for the convenience of the House to know that, subject to the progress of business, it will be proposed that the House rise for the Christmas recess at the end of business on Wednesday 19 December, or Thursday 20 December, until Tuesday 8 January.

Mr. Forth: I thank the Leader of the House for giving us the business for the next two weeks—and not only that; knowing how keen his colleagues always are to get away from this place as much as possible, I suspect that they, in particular, will be grateful for the announcement of the Christmas recess.

I also thank the right hon. Gentleman for his announcement that he wants to make provision on Thursday 1 November for a possible further debate on terrorism. On Monday 15 October, he said:

I am sure that everyone in the House will welcome that. I welcome the fact that the Government have already given proper time for the subject to be debated, and I hope that

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the Leader of the House will find it possible to give us as much reasonable notice as possible that it is the Government's firm intention to have that debate on 1 November. We want to avoid any last-minute decisions or scrambles for debates, especially on such an important issue. I am sure that Members on both sides of the House will want the maximum possible notice of such a debate.

With regard to next Tuesday's debate, I hope that the Leader of the House will be gratified that we took his advice. In the same column of Hansard it is recorded that he said that if I wished to return to the issue of Ministers, the civil service and special advisers, the Government would be delighted to debate it robustly with us. I followed his advice. Effectively, he asked us for a debate, and we have decided to give it to him. I hope that he will enjoy it—and I hope that his colleague the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions will enjoy it equally; that remains to be seen.

Finally, may I press the right hon. Gentleman on a point raised by his hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, South-East (Dr. Iddon), who on Monday asked what had happened to the debate on drugs. That has disappeared, and this Friday we now have a debate on cleaner fuels. The right hon. Gentleman gave a lot of explanations about how busy the Home Office was and how difficult it would be for Home Office Ministers to find time, and so on. He then said:

I will not say that that was waffle; that would be unfair, but I hope that the Leader of House can give a more positive indication on whether we can return to the important subject of drugs, which I dare say some in the House, even some of his hon. Friends, think is marginally more important than cleaner fuel.

Mr. Cook: I welcome the clear indication from the right hon. Gentleman and Conservative Back Benchers that they will be happy to be here at Christmas. The recess that I announced is clearly subject to the progress of business, but I take note of the fact that Conservative Members are willing to be here at Christmas should that be required.

I welcome the right hon. Gentleman's welcome for the day that we have set aside for a debate on terrorism. I will, of course, confirm that date at next Thursday's business questions. That will give us seven days' warning, and I am sure that that will be satisfactory for the House. Should we change our plans, I am sure that he will be the first to know.

I think that I speak for all Labour Members when I say that I am grateful for the fact that the party that thought up the privatisation of the railways and devised the structure of Railtrack now proposes to have a full-day's debate about the disastrous consequences for Railtrack and the travelling public. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions was faced with a choice: to pour more taxpayers' money down the black hole of an insolvent company, or to create a not-for-profit company in which money would go first to the travelling public rather than to shareholders. We chose to put passengers first. The Conservative party would obviously choose to put shareholders first, but I have not the slightest doubt what the travelling public would vote for.

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I explained to the House on Monday that the sole reason for deferring the debate on drugs was that the Home Office is, at present, introducing three new Bills in response to the events of 11 September. The first will be an emergency anti-terrorism Bill, and I hope that all Members of reason would agree that the Home Office should be able to give priority to that issue at this time. However, I fully accept the case for a debate on drugs; that is why we found time for it in the first place. We shall return to it whenever we can.

On Monday, I congratulated the right hon. Gentleman on his appointment. I now congratulate the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Knight), who is sitting in a suitably modest position, on joining the team of the shadow Leader of the House. I hope that, for his own sake, the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire will find the experience more congenial than his predecessor did, who quit after only 30 days in the post.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover): Will the Leader of the House confirm that the Minister for Industry and Energy will make a statement about his predecessor's decision on an equal pay claim for all the canteen workers in the coalfields? Is my right hon. Friend aware that about 2,500 of those workers have not qualified for the money? Will he draw that fact to the attention of the Chancellor of Exchequer and explain to him that we need extra money for all the canteen workers who were left out of the agreement and who must be paid? In my area, those who belonged to the Union of Democratic Mineworkers were paid, while those at Bolsover colliery who stayed loyal to the National Union of Mineworkers during the pit strike were left off the list. That state of affairs has been repeated across all the coalfields and in many constituencies represented by Labour Members. We want a statement or, better still, payment pretty sharp.

Mr. Cook: My hon. Friend states his case with his characteristic robustness. I will certainly draw his remarks to the attention of the appropriate Ministers. It is long overdue that the events of that period were put behind us. Everyone should be treated on an equal and fair basis.

Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall): May I reinforce the plea that my colleagues have just made for a debate on the rural crisis? Many Members on both sides of the House think that such a debate is long overdue.

Will the Leader of the House examine the allocation of time for questions to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs? In the Question Time that we have just completed, it took us more than half an hour to reach a question on farming and agriculture and, indeed, no fishing questions were reached at all. [Hon. Members: "One was."] I apologise to the House; one fishing question was reached at the very end.

Previously there was an arrangement by which a large Department—the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions—allocated some time to environmental questions and some time to transport questions. May we put that procedure in place again? Will the Leader of the House and the House authorities consider that possibility so that agriculture and rural affairs are not kicked into touch, as they were today?

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The Leader of the House will recall—indeed, he may still have the bruises—his experience when the House decided that appointments to Select Committees should be more transparent, should be seen to be more transparent and should be more open to influence by Members rather than the so-called usual channels. Does he expect to be able to make an announcement on that, as a result of recommendations from the Modernisation Committee, within the two-week period that he announced today or very shortly? He will be aware that there are vacancies on Select Committees and, he may wish to make a statement about how he wishes to approach the task of filling them.

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