|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Cook: I am happy to examine the point that the hon. Gentleman has raised. If there is a problem, I am sure that, with good will, we can find a way forward. In general, the process of operating by Sewel motion has worked well on both sides and there has been good co-operation from both sides. Only last week we had a joint ministerial council with representatives of the devolved bodies to discuss an approach on European policy, on which there was strong co-operation. I welcome the fact that all parties are working together to find an outcome that everyone can respect in all parts of the United Kingdom.
[That this House welcomes the progress made in paying out compensation to miners and their widows in Wales which has now topped £100 million; notes that £1 million a week is being paid out in Wales; acknowledges that initially the rate of payment has not been as rapid as all would desire; recognises the important contribution of the Welsh Monitoring Sub Group set up by the Secretary of State for Wales; notes that the group by bringing together all the stakeholders has succeeded in pushing forward the prioritising of testing for older miners; looks forward to seeing an increase in more full and final offers being made; and congratulates all those who have campaigned for justice for miners and their widows.]
Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating the Government on the progress that has been made on miners' compensation in Wales? Will he also urge the Government to make greater progress in making full and final offers?
Mr. Cook: The Government have sought to resolve the issue as best they can. It is a complex issue which, as my hon. Friend knows, affects large numbers of people, including, no doubt, some of his constituents. We hope to complete the work as quickly as we reasonably can, and every possible effort is being made to secure that objective.
Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire): I invite the Leader of the House to reflect on the uncharacteristically intemperate reply that he gave my right hon. Friend the Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack), who asked very courteously to have a debate on the economy in Government time. Has it not been the practice of the House to debate the economy in Government time in the autumn ever since the right hon. Gentleman and I came here? Is he seriously suggesting that we should spend the first six months of this Parliament with no debate in Government time on the economy?
Mr. Cook: I have no doubt that we will debate the economy at some point in the future. On 27 November, there will be a very full and lengthy exchange on economic matters when we debate the pre-Budget report.
As Leader of the House, I have to balance the wish of my Treasury colleagues for a debate and their keenness to put before the House what we are achieving in the economy with all the other competing requirements many more of which have arisen during this discussion.
Mr. David Chaytor (Bury, North): May I tell my right hon. Friend about an unusual case in my constituency in which a head teacher was suspended from his duties following allegations of interference with the conduct of examinations? He was then subjected to an inquiry by the local authority which was presented to the governing body. That body reinstated the head teacher without making public the results of the inquiry. Does he agree that it casts an interesting light on the new burdens on school governors, particularly in respect of their employment responsibilities? Can he find time in the near future for a debate on the role and responsibilities of school governors?
Mr. Cook: I hear what my hon. Friend says, and I am sure that his constituents have also heard him raise the issue. Given the other pressures on business, I cannot promise a debate on the matter, but I am sure that he will wish to pursue it with the relevant Ministers.
Mr. Charles Hendry (Wealden): Will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement on yesterday's decision to appoint 100 Labour Back Benchers as so-called ministerial sponsors, a role that has been so effectively carried out in the past by just two peoplethe hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Woodward) and his butler? The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that, to
Mr. Cook: It may be helpful if I assure the House that such appointments will have no involvement in the payroll vote one way or the other. I regard newspaper reports of that as mischievous and untrue, and I am happy to ensure that the press keeps up its high standards of truth and accuracy, which it did not on this occasion. As to my hon. Friends promoting the Government's successes, I am pleased to tell the hon. Gentleman that there was such enthusiasm for the idea that it was passed unanimously by the parliamentary Labour party.
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): Highly desirable though it is that Afghan women should be able to throw off their burkas, was it for this that we went to war, or was it to apprehend al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden? Are we not in danger of swapping one set of warlords for another, who may or may not help us to apprehend al-Qaeda? Ought we not have a serious debate about that, given that we still have great problems in Pakistan, with its nuclear weapons and the pleadings of the Pakistanis not to continue bombing during Ramadan?
Mr. Cook: My hon. Friend will be pleased to hear that the volume of the bombing has diminished markedly as a result of events on the ground and is much more concentrated on one particular part of Afghanistan. He is absolutely rightnobody at the Dispatch Box has suggested otherwisethat the primary aim is to bring to justice those who perpetrated the appalling mass murders of 11 September and to break up the al-Qaeda network. We are now much closer to being in a position to achieve that than we were a week ago.
I fully share my hon. Friend's concern that no terrorist group should ever get hold of a nuclear weapon. I only say to him that if we had followed his counsel and not taken any action in Afghanistan, that would have been much more likely to happen than it is now.
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): Does not the question from the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), the Father of the House, illustrate the point that during the crisis, the Conservative Opposition have given the Government far more solid support for the necessary military action than they have been able to rely on from their own Back Benchers? Does not that mean that when my right hon. and hon. Friends raise questions about whether a vote will take place at the end of a debate or, inappropriately, in a deferred Division, it is not right for the Leader of the House to presume that we, rather than his own rebels, will divide the House, so our point stands?
May I remind the Leader of the House that in answer to the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) about the combat effectiveness gender study, the right hon. Gentleman said that as the policy was not going to change, there would
Mr. Cook: That is not what I said to the House. I said that the policy on the ground would not change unless a policy was announced, and that that would require an announcement to Parliament. I fully recognise that, and I did not suggest otherwise.
On the other matter that the hon. Gentleman raises, we fully appreciate that the policy has been bipartisan. We welcome the fact that it has had support in all quarters of the House, and not just on the two Front Benches. It has also had the full support of my hon. Friends on the Benches behind me. When we had a Division on the subject, more than 300 Labour Members voted with the Government, and only eight voted against. That is not a basis on which one can erect a major case for a split among Labour Members. There has been overwhelming support for the Government's position from my hon. Friends, as well as from Opposition Members.
Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome): We had a welcome statement from the Prime Minister yesterday on the rapidly changing position in Afghanistan. Does the Leader of the House agree that a primary concern for many hon. Members and, indeed, our constituents, is the fate of the 7.5 million Afghan people who face not only a difficult winter but a desperate situation? They will want to know that effective corridors have now been established from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to northern Afghanistan. They will want to be assured that money will be promised to the Governments of Iran and Pakistan for the succour of those in the refugee camps, and they will want to know that the money promised by the international community is getting through to Afghanistan. Is there is any possibility within the next week of a debate on this subject or a statement by the Secretary of State for International Development, whom I see in the Chamber?