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Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood): Will the Leader of the House bear in mind the clear commitment of the Government, notwithstanding the passage of the Greater London Authority Act 1999, to continue to have debates on London affairs on the Floor of the House? Following his statements today, it seems unlikely that the Government will find time for such a debate before Christmas. Is that because they are concerned that the Prime Minister's statement on the modernisation of the tube through a public-private partnership as the best way forward would be unsustainable in a debate, or is there some other reason that they are unwilling to reveal?

Mr. Cook: I am happy to reveal that the reason why we are unlikely to have such a debate before Christmas is that there are two and a half weeks before the Christmas recess, and in the course of these proceedings I have heard enough bids for debates to fill up all that time. I assure the hon. Gentleman, however, that nobody in the Government imagines that this matter will not have further ventilation

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in the House and in public. We would expect there to be further discussions, and I have no doubt that hon. Members will wish to express their views in the course of them.

Mr. Martin Salter (Reading, West): Would my right hon. Friend care to take this opportunity to debunk some of the more fanciful reports in the weekend papers that the Modernisation Committee is about to recommend new working hours for the House? Will he confirm that the Modernisation Committee has not yet had the opportunity to discuss working hours or the parliamentary calendar, and that, when it does, there is not the remotest possibility of proposals to impose a nine-to-five culture on this place ever seeing the light of day?

Mr. Cook: I hope that this does not disappoint any hon. Member, but my hon. Friend is correct. Claims that the House could ever meet from 10 am to 5pm are unsourced and unchecked with my Department. They are also total garbage. I am sorry that what was once a serious newspaper should have found it in itself to run that story without bothering to discover whether it has any credibility.

Bob Spink (Castle Point): Will the Leader of the House find time before Christmas for a debate to explore the energy options in the light of the performance and innovation unit energy review, which is due soon? That would enable us to ensure that we replace nuclear with nuclear to achieve a safe, secure, environmentally friendly and affordable energy supply for the medium and long-term future of this country.

Mr. Cook: As the hon. Gentleman knows, energy policy is being reviewed and the nuclear component is part of that review. At an appropriate time, the House and its Committees will express a view on the issue.

Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West): And finally, Mr. Speaker, is not the right hon. Gentleman's confidence in the Government meeting their health spending target based on the trick of including UK health spending in the European average? Any fool knows that UK health spending brings the European average down. If it is excluded, there is not a cat in hell's chance of the Government reaching the European average. Does not the very nature of this morning's exchanges confirm that we need at least a statement on the issue, if not a full debate?

Mr. Cook: There is only one way in which to resolve the matter to the satisfaction of the House: my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Skills must arrange a seminar in the Grand Committee Room on how to calculate percentages. In the meantime, I say to the hon. Gentleman, as I said to the right hon. Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack), we have closed the gap over the past four years; we shall continue to close it over the next five. We await with great interest the opinion of Conservative Members on how much wider that gap would be if they ever got into office.

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Points of Order

1.27 pm

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. At Question Time today, you again had the opportunity to slap down a Minister who started to speak about what he thought Opposition policy might be, this time by attempting to quote a manifesto. As that happens time and again, might it be advisable for you to issue either a further statement or free copies of "Erskine May" to all officials in all Departments, so that they do not prepare briefs that lead Ministers out of order?

Mr. Speaker: If it happens again, not only with Ministers, but with Back Benchers, I shall take the appropriate action.

Mr. John Baron (Billericay): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Following your helpful statement yesterday relating to the Government's poor record in answering written questions, may I briefly highlight a particularly serious case involving the possibility of toxic ash being dumped in my constituency? I seek your advice.

I wrote to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on 6 July, asking certain questions, and followed up with numerous phone calls. I wrote again in October, asking for a substantive answer. I received a holding reply. I tabled a written question at the beginning of November to which, two days later, I again received a holding reply. How can I put further pressure on the Secretary of State to answer, bearing it in mind that my constituents take the issue seriously?

Mr. Speaker: The hon. Gentleman should read my statement carefully, because I gave advice to the House as to how hon. Members should pursue those matters.

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Human Reproductive Cloning Bill [Lords] (Allocation of Time)

1.29 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Ms Hazel Blears): I beg to move,

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There are issues of such importance that we need to find time, perhaps at short notice, to ensure that UK law does what we in Parliament and the public whom we represent expect it to do. Human reproductive cloning is one such important issue. It is an issue on which we need to take action, and to do so now.

I intend to set out the background to the legislation on these matters and to the judicial review that concluded that human embryos created by cell nuclear replacement—so-called cloned embryos—were not governed by the overarching legislation, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990.

This is a matter of great importance, and it is not just theoretical. We are already aware of reports of an Italian who wanted to come to the United Kingdom to exploit what he considered to be a loophole in our law. Others may be tempted to do the same if the situation remains unchanged.

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