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Mr. Cook: I would suggest that, in the light of the events of 11 September, we should try to make every possible progress on European security to make sure, for example, that we can guarantee stability in our own continent, especially in south-east Europe and the Balkans, so that we never again see in Europe the emergence of the kind of pressures that gave rise to the attack on the World Trade Centre. Of course, it is important that European security and defence policy is democratically accountable, but I strongly suggestthe Government have maintained this position since the start of the processthat democratic accountability should be to the national Parliaments, including this one.
Mr. Neil Gerrard (Walthamstow): Does the Leader of the House recall that the Government published their consultation paper on a national strategy for sexual health, including HIV, in July? Having waited two years for that paper, it was disappointing that it was published in the recess, which meant that there was no possibility of a statement or debate. A lot of people are interested in the issues raised by the paper. Will he see if time can be found for a debate, if not immediately, then before the consultation period ends?
Mr. Cook: I am grateful for my hon. Friend's question and know of his own interest through the all-party parliamentary group on AIDS. I am aware of the concern about the time taken to produce the report; indeed, it was raised with me in business questions before the recess. I therefore hope that my hon. Friend is indulgent of the fact that the report was published, albeit in the recess. It is important that we do not propose that all Government work be suspended during the recess, and it is vital that the Government are held to account for any major statement. I shall bear in mind his request for a debate; I cannot give any promises, but I shall certainly take it on board, along with the many other requests that I receive.
Mr. Cook: There is absolutely nothing new left to say about the case of Jo Moore and the right hon. Gentleman has not found anything. The issue is not whether or not Jo Moore made a mistake; she herself said that she made a terrible error of judgment. The issue is whether someone's career and livelihood should be ended because of a single mistake. That may be how Conservative Members treat their staff, but it is certainly not how they behaved when they were Ministers. Had they resigned after making one mistake, they would not have lasted 18 days, never mind 18 years.
Mrs. Ann Cryer (Keighley): Does my right hon. Friend agree that, 12 months on from the devastating floods of last autumn, it is appropriate to have a debate to examine their impact and consider where we are now as a result and what we have been able to achieve? For instance, 300 homes in my constituency were devastated at Stockbridge. If we had a debate, one of the many things that I would like to raise is the fact that the Environment Agency will not start work to improve flood defences on the River Aire at Stockbridge until next summer. Meanwhile, many of my constituents are extremely worried every time that there is heavy rain. In addition, as a result of the laggardly behaviour of one or two insurance firms, several of my constituents have still not been able to move back into their homes 12 months on.
Mr. Cook: I am fully aware of the seriousness of the issue, particularly in my hon. Friend's constituency, and know that my colleagues in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs are following the matter closely. As for a debate, I have now accumulated requests for a full week of debates, and I must warn the House that I cannot please everybody.
Mr. Paul Goodman (Wycombe): Could the Leader of the House provide the House with an opportunity to debate the Government's proposals to legislate against religious hatred so that Opposition Members and, perhaps, Government Members can inquire how they are going to do so without a definition of religion in the Bill?
The Bill will be published, we hope, in the middle of November, when the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Goodman) will be able to see its full terms. However, an awful meal is being made of issues of definition. Personally, I see no problem whatever with understanding the difference between a joke about a religion and inciting religious hatred and violence. Indeed,
John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington): My right hon. Friend will be aware that on Monday the Home Secretary announced that he would bring forward measures to increase security at airports, and yet, since then, there has been an exposé in the media showing that companies such as Securicor have been allowing staff with no security clearance to work in high-risk areas. Will my right hon. Friend make representations to the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions to bring those powers forward urgently to ensure that companies that exploit loopholes in the existing regulations should be prevented from doing so immediately, or, failing that, should not be allowed to operate at the airport itself?
Mr. Cook: I saw the reports and made inquiries. There is a genuine dilemma here. The events of 11 September have required heightened security, not just at airports but at many other sites in the UK. It is impossible to provide that additional security without an increase in staff, and it is not possible necessarily to complete the screening of all members of staff before they commence work. The present arrangements make that permissible, provided that the screening proceeds as quickly as possible. The choice facing some of the installations is whether to have any security at all or security with those who may not have been fully screened. Nevertheless, I agree with my hon. Friend: we must make all haste and that is why we seek to introduce an emergency Bill with, we hope, expedited procedures.
Pete Wishart (North Tayside): Would the Leader of the House be agreeable to a full debate on the international humanitarian aid effort in Afghanistan, and, if so, could that debate be preceded by a statement from the Secretary of State for International Development so that she can inform the House of her recent visits?
Mr. Cook: As the House is aware, my right hon. Friend is currently in Pakistan pursuing that very issue. The Prime Minister and all members of the Cabinet have repeatedly stressed that the humanitarian effort is receiving the same priority and the same resources necessary for the job as the military effort. We will have an opportunity to debate the matter in a fortnight's time and we shall consider nearer the time who is most appropriate to speak for the Government.
Mr. Bill O'Brien (Normanton): It is an extremely long time since we debated the work of the Child Support Agency, changes to which will be made next year. The CSA is powerful: it overrides medical evidence and will not allow appeals against its decisions. We should once again be considering the work of the CSA, which impacts on many people's lives. Will my right hon. Friend agree to an early debate on the CSA?
Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde): Reports in The Times today say that the so-called secret plans to split Railtrack plc into financial and operating arms have been described as unworkable by potential investors. In view of that and the fact that many thousands of ordinary people who are shareholders in the company are still totally in the dark about their position, will the Leader of the House reconsider his earlier view about the use of the Opposition day next Tuesday? That might properly be occupied by a consideration of ministerial conduct and the role of special advisers and not give a sharp focus on Railtrack. If the right hon. Gentleman's statement about commitment to the railways is to become reality, we need to probe the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions thoroughly and carefully in the light of those reports. Can we have a special debate on the subject?