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Mr. Cook: I cannot promise a debate, but some of those issues will be reflected in the forthcoming emergency legislation, which is likely to provide increased scope for the actions by Atomic Energy Authority police. I am sure that some of the issues that my hon. Friend raised could be ventilated in the course of debate.
Mr. Cook: Of course that statement will be made to the House. Indeed, I said precisely that to the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth). The hon. Gentleman seems to suggest that the decision and the announcement should be delayed until a time that he regards as appropriate. The longer that it is delayed, the more probable it is that any decision will be leaked by one means or anothernot necessarily by ministerial action, as it is not only Ministers who will be privy to such a decision. Frankly, it is in the interests of the House that that statement comes as soon as possible after the decision is taken. We have to recognise that we cannot put on hold all the important decisions that need to be taken for the running of Britain because we are engaged in a very important struggle against international terrorism.
Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford): Further to my right hon. Friend's response to my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, North (Joan Ryan) on the reorganisation of Department of Trade and Industry questions, will he look at the official record for the Session 1997-98? He will find that the then Secretary of State for Social Security, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman), and I regularly answered questions about women during Social Security questions. We had the time, but it was not for the convenience of the House and it interrupted the good flow of questions and debate. I strongly recommend that my right hon. Friend considers allocating a separate 10-minute slot. Perhaps he could tell us when he might report on that matter.
Mr. John Burnett (Torridge and West Devon): I appreciate that not every hon. Member considers Solicitor-General's questions the most riveting event that takes place. Nevertheless, with 10 minutes we get through only two or three questions. Will the Leader of the House restore Solicitor-General's questions to its former glory of a quarter of an hour?
I also wish to endorse the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath). We not only have outrageous delays from DEFRA on parliamentary answers; there are also delays with correspondence from Ministers to Members. It is just not good enough and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will make the appropriate point to the Minister concerned. We must have swifter replies to Members' questions from DEFRA.
I commend the hon. Gentleman for his enthusiasm and interest in Solicitor-General's questions. He makes a modest bid for five minutes more. It sounds modest when it is an add-on to those questions, but I am not sure that it will necessarily appear quite so modest when it is taken out of someone else's time.
Dr. Stephen Ladyman (South Thanet): My right hon. Friend will be aware that the Government are consulting on the Budd report on gambling. It could have a far-reaching impact on many constituencies, and on mine in particular because several hundred people are employed making penny fall machines, of which he may be aware from his visits to the seaside. Some of the recommendations threaten the sale of those machines.
I have been trying to secure an Adjournment debate on the subjectso far without success, but I will continue. Will my right hon. Friend consider the possibility of a debate on the report in Government time, possibly in Westminster Hall one afternoon?
Mr. Cook: One of the regrets of no longer visiting the Winter Gardens is missing out on the opportunity to play the penny fall machines. The allocation of Adjournment debates goes beyond my remit, but I am sure that my hon. Friend's observations will have been heard by those who have control over them.
Tony Baldry (Banbury): May we have a debate on the ploy whereby Cabinet Ministers who do not want to answer oral questions simply shuffle them off to be written answers given by colleagues? The Cabinet Office guide to ministerial responsibilities clearly states that the Deputy Prime Minister has responsibility on behalf of the Prime Minister for negotiations on climate change. Indeed, as recently as 24 September the Deputy Prime Minister opened the international panel on climate change conference here in Londonyet when I successfully tabled an oral question on the subject to him, he simply shuffled it off to be answered as a written question by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Does the Deputy Prime Minister have responsibility for climate change negotiations? If he does, should he not be accountable to the House for those responsibilities?
Mr. Cook: The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has responsibility for our contribution towards meeting our targets on climate change. The Minister for the Environment is fully engaged in that process and is perfectly competent to answer questions. I know from the work that I used to do at the Foreign Office of the excellent work done by the Deputy Prime Minister and the high respect in which he is held throughout the world for it. He should be held in the same high respect in the country on whose behalf he speaks.
Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North): Can my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on the services provided by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service? As I understand it, the director of operations left two months after the new service was set up earlier this year and the chief executive is away sick. A judicial review recently ruled that CAFCASS acted unlawfully in the way it gave contracts to the children's guardians. I also understand that a large number of managers have left throughout the country.
As someone who managed a guardian ad litem team, I am aware of the very important work that children's guardians do in helping to advise courts about the future of vulnerable children. I would be grateful if he could find time for that important issue to be discussed.
Mr. Cook: I cannot promise a debate, but I read with interest the early-day motion on the subject, which expresses views similar to those of my hon. Friend. I will be happy to draw it to the attention of the Lord Chancellor's Department in the hope that it will alert it to the widespread and understandable concern among hon. Members about the impact of the service in their constituencies.
Mr. Mark Prisk (Hertford and Stortford): Flooding is of particular pertinence in my constituency and those of other hon. Members. In Bishop's Stortford and the surrounding villages there has been a severe crisis this week. My worry and that of other hon. Members is that we hear comments by Ministers on the issue and occasionally, if we are lucky, get letters from them, but we do not have statements in the House. It is important, particularly at this point in the autumn, to know exactly where the Government stand. Will the Leader of the House ensure that we have an early statement on the issue?
Mr. Cook: The hon. Gentleman cannot complain that sufficient attempts have not been made to show where the Government stand. We have increased investment in flood defences and greatly increased the number of residential properties covered by flood warnings. We will continue to give that matter priority. The Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley), is active on that matter today.
I think that I have received seven demands for statementspossibly more, but certainly not lessand unless the Chamber is to become a place for the receipt of statements it will be impossible to meet all those requirements. The House must recognise that it is important that strategic and major policy announcements are made on the Floor of the Chamber, but if everything is announced here, we will do nothing else.
Paul Flynn (Newport, West): Has not manufacturing industry been traditionally denied its fair share of attention by the House, in spite of the fact that it still contributes 20 per cent. to the English economy and 27 per cent. to the Welsh economy? The events of 11 September have resulted in a serious crisis in the steel and aluminium industries, which is likely to have grave repercussions in my constituency. May we have a debate on manufacturing industry?