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Mr. Cook: I remind the hon. Gentleman and the House that the provision was introduced so that we can succeed in seizing terrorist funds and preventing them from being used for the commission of terrorist acts. Like many hon. Members, I was appalled to discover that it was possible for terrorists to use our banking and financial system to move their money around. My right hon. Friend should be praised, not criticised, for taking vigorous action to stop that.
Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate): I understand from the BBC that the Government intend to make an announcement on Monday by means of a written answer that they are converting another male prison into a female prison; that is in the face of a four-year sustained rise in the female prison population. So far, such decisions have been taken with about a week's notice for the prison to begin the changes. Could we have a statement rather than a written answer so that those of us who represent not only prisoners whose rehabilitation programmes have been disrupted but staff who are being asked to move around the country at a week's notice can make direct representations to the Minister concerned?
Mr. Cook: I cannot say that I am familiar with the pending question to which the hon. Gentleman referred,
Mr. John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings): The House will be aware that the Government have suddenly decided to end education action zones. They were a flagship initiative, as the Leader of the House will know, but the House will have learned of their scrapping not through a proper debate in the House but through press reports. Should not the House have an opportunity to debate the matter, which comes on top of scrapping individual learning accounts? If the Government are going to get rid of some of their important flagship initiatives, the repercussions for people employed in EAZs and the affected children should be fully debated in the Chamber.
Mr. Cook: As I understand it, education action zones were time-limited from the start. Therefore, the time at which they come to an end, far from being a sudden surprise, has been known ever since the date on which they commenced. As to communication with the House, I am advised that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Skills has written to every hon. Member who has an education action zone in his or her constituency.
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): Did the Leader of the House see today's report in The Times which read:
Mr. Cook: I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his preparation. He has elevated the question to an art form and deserves congratulations from both sides of the House on entertaining us. Whether, as well as entertaining us, he illuminates politics in our time, I am more doubtful. I have heard "cool Britannia" buried three times over the past three years, and I am not surprised to hear it all over again. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman will find that the phrase has been used by any Minister for a very long time.
Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Can you clarify the confusion that has arisen in the past hour, during business questions? I have the honour and privilege to sit on the Transport Sub-Committee of the Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions, and I do not recall any Treasury Minister appearing in this parliamentary Session. Will you use your good offices to request the Leader of the House to explain when any Treasury Minister last addressed the Transport Sub-Committee?
Mr. Speaker: There is always next week. The hon. Lady can put her question to the Leader of the House then.
The President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Robin Cook): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. We have this weeklet us use this week. I referred to the Transport Committee in the last Parliament. However, the Government were the same, and we do not resile from that. The dates, if the hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh) wishes to look them up, are March 1999, when the Economic Secretary appeared, and April 1999, when the Financial Secretary appeared.
Mr. Speaker: The hon. Lady does not need to catch my eye next week, then.
Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The surrender of the Taliban troops in Kunduz seems to be under way this morning. It is less clear what will happen to the many foreign troops who are fighting with the Taliban. Clearly, any bloodbath in that area, ahead of the conference in Bonn on Monday, would be catastrophic for the future of the peace process in Afghanistan. It has been unclear over the past few days who is responsible for what. We get the impression that the United States is washing its hands of the whole episode and walking away from events that are unfolding inside the country. That would be extremely regrettable. We have a responsibility. It is important that a United Nations security force be brought into the area immediately to monitor the withdrawal and what is happening in the country. Also, the humanitarian aid is not getting into the country. We should have daily statements from the Government about what moves are to be made next.
Mr. Speaker: That is a matter for the Ministers concerned. I am sure that they will note what the hon. Lady said.
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Accepting that it is a matter for the Ministers concerned, I asked during business questions whether there would be a statement on Monday from the Foreign Secretary on his return from Iran and Pakistan. Through your good offices, perhaps he could be asked to address the issue raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd), which is so urgent, concerning the possible bloodbath in Kunduz.
Mr. Speaker: That is not a matter for me.
Secretary Estelle Morris, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr. Secretary Murphy, Mr. Andrew Smith, Mr. Stephen Timms and Mr. Ivan Lewis, presented a Bill to make provision about education, training and childcare: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed. Explanatory notes to be printed. [Bill 55].
Mr. Frank Field presented a Bill to permit a local planning authority to decline to determine an application for the development of telecommunications transmission to antennae in certain circumstances: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 18 January, and to be printed [Bill 56].
Order for Second Reading read.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The Bill seeks to fulfil a commitment to grant British citizenship, and with it the right of abode in the United Kingdom, to British dependent territories citizens in qualifying overseas territories. Many hon. Members will be familiar with its content and many have urged the Government to speed its passage on behalf of the people of the overseas territories. It was introduced in another place by my noble Friend and colleague Baroness Amos, Minister for the overseas territories, and has come to this House without amendment. I hope that it will secure the approval of this House too.
Britain has 14 overseas territories. For the benefit of hon. Members who are not familiar with all of them, I shall list them: Anguilla, Bermuda, the British Antarctic territory, the British Indian Ocean territory, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Montserrat, the Pitcairn Islands, St. Helena and the dependencies, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, the sovereign base areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia on Cyprus and the Turks and Caicos Islands. With the exception of Gibraltar, all those territories are islands or form part of them. Their populations vary from some 60,000 in Bermuda to only 50 in Pitcairn, which owes its population and its place in history to the mutiny on the Bounty.