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Mr. Peter Kilfoyle (Liverpool, Walton): Given the current salience of terrorism in the public mind, will my right hon. Friend consider scheduling a debate on the chemical warfare that is being wagedin part, allegedly, using British-produced chemicalsin the southern provinces of Colombia and the adjacent provinces of Ecuador under the auspices of Plan Colombia?
Mr. Cook: I cannot say that I am aware of the matter about which my hon. Friend complains. Plainly, I will consider it and, if appropriate, draw it to the attention of the relevant Secretary of State. My hon. Friend will forgive me if I want to establish the facts before I comment.
Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde): In giving the business for the week after next the Leader of the House did not mention the Chancellor's commitment to publish his pre-Budget report on 27 November. Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that it is still the case that the Chancellor intends to make that statement? If he does, will he assure me that thereafter, in the light of the recession in manufacturing industry, the rise in unemployment, questions of affordability about future Government expenditure and falling tax revenues, there will be a debate in Government time about the state of the British economy?
Mr. Cook: I am happy to confirm that it is expected that the Chancellor will give his pre-Budget report on 27 November. It is not normally announced as part of the forthcoming business. The fact that it was not announced should not indicate any change in that plan. I find it breathtaking that any Conservative Member should refer to unemployment, which is as low now as it has been for
Mrs. Ann Cryer (Keighley): May we have a debate on the work of the Environment Agency to improve flood defences in various parts of the country? In my constituency at Stockbridge the work to defend land near that part of the River Aire and further north will not commence until next summer, which means that many of my constituents are extremely anxious every time we have heavy rain. They are terrified that there will again be flooding only 12 months after it occurred before. That anxiety is not helped by the fact that some insurance companies have been less than helpful. Their sluggish response has meant that some of my constituents have still not moved back into their homes and one constituent has been told that there will be a £10,000 excess when she renews her insurance policy.
Mr. Cook: I fully understand the importance of that matter to my hon. Friend's constituents, and I am glad that she has had this opportunity to raise it, which will be noted by my colleagues in the relevant Department. We have invested a very large sum of additional funds in providing flood defences, and many of those projects have proceeded, but it does, of course, take time to put in place what is often complex and significant engineering work. I very much hope that the project to which she refers will go ahead as soon as possible. In the meantime, I draw the attention of the House to the fact that a debate on flood defences will take place in Westminster Hall next week, in which my hon. Friend and others can raise those matters.
Mr. Andrew MacKay (Bracknell): Cannot the Leader of the House understand that hon. Members on both sides of the House believe that the motion to derogate part of the Human Rights Act 1998 is a very important matter, which should preferably be considered in prime time and certainly with a Division straight after the debate? It is his duty, surely, to ensure that that happens. Most reasonable people think that a Division should take place immediately after a serious debate, not on the following Wednesday for the convenience of the Prime Minister's voting record.
Mr. Cook: It is, of course, an important debate, and it seems that I am now hearing the answer to my earlier question: the Conservative party intends that those who are terrorists but who are not being deported
Mr. Cook: Well, that would certainly appear to be the implication of the enthusiasm for voting there and then. It is an important issue, so we should enable as many Members as possible to take part, which is why I robustly think it right to defer the Division.
Mr. John Smith (Vale of Glamorgan): Further to the Prime Minister's answer to the question that I asked last week, can we expect the Secretary of State for Health or the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, or both, to make a statement to the House on
Mr. John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings): You will remember, Mr. Speaker, that yesterday at Prime Minister's Question Time, the hon. Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire (Mrs. Lawrence) referred to the campaign that the Haemophilia Society is running in relation to the estimated 5,000 haemophiliacs who were infected with HIV or hepatitis as result of faulty blood transfusions. The Prime Minister gave a woolly reply; he said that he would consider those matters and he promised to review them. We know what the Prime Minister's reviews often turn into. Will the Leader of the House therefore arrange an urgent statement, so that those matters can be addressed on behalf of those very vulnerable people?
Mr. Cook: I recall my right hon. Friend's response, and it was one of great sympathy and understanding of the problems of those who have been infected in that way. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the issue relates to cases that date from the 1980s, when we were not in office, but the conduct of the then Government was entirely correct. They introduced the proper means of treating the products that were being used as soon as it was technically available, and they cannot be held responsible for failing to introduce it earlier than that. It is for that reason that the Department of Health resists a claim for compensation, for which there is plainly no legal liability, but it is, of course, willing to explore other ways in which it can help and in which it can ensure that there is no repetition of what happened in the 1980s.
Mr. Stephen McCabe (Birmingham, Hall Green): Does my right hon. Friend join me in celebrating the news that a further 73 police recruits commenced training in the west midlands last week, taking the figure to well over 400 new recruits in the past 10 months? However, does he recognise that there is growing concern about the problems of retention in the west midlands and the transfer of officers to other forces? Can we have an early debate on the problems of retention in police authorities such as that in the west midlands? Can we specifically consider the impact of the regional allowance paid to the Met and home counties forces? Can we consider the cost of training police officers in the west midlands who then work in other police authorities?
Mr. Cook: I certainly congratulate my hon. Friend's local police force on the increase that he outlined, which reflects the fact that we now have a record number of police under training to join the force. I cannot promise to hold a debate on the matter, but I draw his attention to the fact that the Home Secretary will answer questions on Monday, when he may wish to raise the issue.
Mr. Cook: I cannot announce such a date to the House, as that is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who is heavily engaged in ensuring that we fulfil our commitments at the present time. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that a number of reviews are under way, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend has that matter under consideration as well.
Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North): During last week's business questions, I raised with the Leader of the House the issue of the Children's Society withdrawing from all its work in Wales. Since then, I have learned that that decision was made with virtually no consultation with all the other agencies involved in the work. May I appeal again to the Leader of the House to use all his influence with his colleagues to try to get the Children's Society to reverse its decision? The Children's Society has 13 projects in Wales, working on advocacy with the most vulnerable children in care, as a result of the Waterhouse report. Will he convey to those involved the damage that that decision has done to the voluntary sectornot only in Wales, but throughout the United Kingdomespecially given the large amounts of public funding in those projects in partnership with the voluntary sector?