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Kate Hoey (Vauxhall): The Leader of the House will be aware that tomorrow is the last day for consultation on the revised proposals on congestion charging in London. Will he find time in the next couple of weeks for a debate on congestion charging in London? Is he aware that the charging zone goes right through Kennington in the heart of my constituency, and there has been no environmental audit of the proposals whatever? People are up in armsfortunately not literallyand I urge my right hon. Friend to find time for a debate so that the Secretary of State can consider carefully whether now is the time to call in the Mayor's plans. In my view they will do nothing to ease the flow of traffic or to help pedestrians or indeed anyone who wants to get around London more easily.
Mr. Cook: I am glad that my hon. Friend has had the opportunity to ventilate an issue that is of concern to her constituents and to many other people in central London. Anybody who has taken a taxi lately must be well aware of the strength of feeling among taxi drivers on this question. It is, of course, primarily a matter for the Mayor of London and the Greater London Assembly, and I would be loth to enter into a situation in which we sought to override what is, in the first instance, their decision. However, I hope that in taking that decision they will bear
Mr. Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon): One month ago I wrote to the Leader of the House concerning one of my constituents who happens to be the Opposition Deputy Leader in the other place. Unfortunately, he was taken ill in the other place and was left waiting two hours for an ambulance to arrive. In my letter I suggested that the Leader of the House give careful consideration to providing the Palace with proper medical facilities, with a doctor present at all times, and its own ambulance. Has he considered my letter, and does he think the subject worthy of a debate?
Mr. Cook: The hon. Gentleman raises an interesting point, which I am sure is of close personal interest to all Members. I assure him that I will consider carefully the points that he has made and reply to him.
Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley): My right hon. Friend will recall that after the publication of the reports into the disturbances in Burnley, Bradford and Oldham last November, it was indicated that the Government were considering holding a debate on the important issues involved, which, with the proposals resulting from the reports, have implications that go far wider than the three places concerned. I recognise the difficulties experienced by my right hon. Friend in finding time for debates, but is he aware of any progress on that matter?
Mr. Cook: I fully understand the importance of that issue to my hon. Friend's constituency and the House, given the wider questions raised in the report. We shall certainly consider at what point in the Session it would be appropriate to find time for that important issue.
[That this House notes that access to the facilities of the House has been granted to four Members who refuse to take the Oath or Affirmation of Allegiance; believes that the individuals concerned should be required to place an entry in the Register of Members' Interests and be subject to the Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament; and calls on Her Majesty's Government to lay a Resolution before the House to rectify matters immediately.]
As you will be aware, Mr. Speaker, a decision has already been taken to permit elected representatives of Sinn-Fein IRA to have access to the House, and nothing in the early-day motion seeks to deny that. However, many right hon. and hon. Members believe that all MPs who have access to the facilities of the House should be required to make an entry in the Register of Members' Interests; elected Sinn Fein-IRA representatives in the Northern Ireland Assembly already do so. Early-day motion 678 has the support of Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Scottish National party, Plaid Cymru and Unionist Members of Parliament. A letter has already been sent to the Chairman of the Standards and Privileges Committee which also has cross-party support. I appeal
Mr. Cook: This was a matter that came up in our debate in the week before the House rose for the recess. A number of Members expressed strongly the sentiment that appears in the early-day motion to which the hon. Gentleman referred. As I said at the time, the present position is that the authorities of the House are committed to the resolution of the House which specifies that Members should make an entry in the Register within three months of taking their seat. It is open for debate whether that should be amended to be within three months of being elected to the House. I personally very much welcome any view that the Standards and Privileges Committee may wish to express to guide us on that point.
Joyce Quin (Gateshead, East and Washington, West): Will my right hon. Friend give consideration to a debate on regional devolution in England, given that at some point we are to have a White Paper on the subject. Does he agree that the issue should be aired as widely as possible to facilitate the Government's aim of consulting widely throughout the regions on what will be an important issue in future?
Mr. Cook: The Government are strongly committed to decentralisation to the regions, as well as encouraging regional identity and, wherever possible, regional decision making, which is why early this year we shall produce a regional White Paper. I am sure that when it is produced, it will attract much interest in the House and it may be appropriate at that point to make sure that it is adequately debated and aired in the House.
Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham): Can we have an early debate on the composition of Cabinet committees that shape Government policy? Is it not profoundly unsatisfactory that the Government's policy to deny the electorate the opportunity to choose substantial numbers of Members of the second Chamber should be shaped by two unelected Ministers, the Lord Chancellor and the Leader of the House of Lords, neither of whom has condescended to stand for election to public office and both of whom may be reasonably supposed to have a prejudice, not to say an interest, in denying the electorate a say in such important matters?
Mr. Cook: We had a full debate on that on Thursday, when a number of vigorous views were expressed. I said at the time that the Government will need and wish to reflect on the views expressed in the debates last week and in the response to the consultation White Paper. I am sure that the House will have opportunities in future to return to that matter. While it is important that the Lord Chancellor and my colleague the Leader of the House of Lords should necessarily play a full part in shaping the proposals, those proposals will be widely debated and shared in government and, I suspect, outside government.
Mr. Clive Betts (Sheffield, Attercliffe): I am sure that my right hon. Friend is aware that just before Christmas, the Minister for Housing and Planning produced a Green Paper that proposes several significant and wide-ranging changes to the planning system, which could in due course
Mr. Cook: My hon. Friend raises a matter which, as he is probably aware, has been raised on a number of occasions. It was raised several times last Thursday. I shall certainly undertake to draw to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions the expression of views and interest within the House. At some point it will be appropriate for these matters to come before the House. Apart from any other consideration, as I said last week, they cannot be taken forward without primary legislation. Whether we have yet reached the point at which it would be appropriate for a statement and an expression of policy in the light of consultation is not a matter that I can judge, but I am sure that at the appropriate time the House will have plenty of time to debate the matter.
Mr. Andrew MacKay (Bracknell): Is the Leader of the House comfortable with the grossly escalating costs of the Saville inquiry? Is it not time that we had a proper debate? One must consider the costs of the Ministry of Defence, as those come out of taxpayers' money, and the figures are getting very large indeed. The right hon. Gentleman has presumably noted that the charge has been led, characteristically, by that great Government supporter Mr. Michael Mansfield and his fee charges.