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Dr. Ashok Kumar (Middlesbrough, South and Cleveland, East): Will the Leader of the House make available some time before Budget day for a debate on the climate change levy? The levy has been in place for nearly a year, and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will make his own statement about it on Budget day. However, it is a very important issue, affecting the steel and chemical industries in the north-east and Teesside, and the people who work in them. Before my right hon. Friend the Chancellor makes his decision, we should have a debate on the Floor of the House.
Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk): Will the Leader of the House say whether it will be possible for the Deputy Prime Minister to come to the House for a debate in the near future? He has become almost invisible recently. I have not seen him in the House or on television, and as far as I am aware he has not punched a member of the public recently. Is the right hon. Gentleman still a Minister? If so, will the Government try to make better use of him?
Mr. Cook: I would urge the hon. Gentleman to attend Prime Minister's Questions. Had he done so yesterday, he would have seen my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister in his place. I can tell the House that I saw my right hon. Friend only an hour ago, and he was taking part vigorously in our debates on public policy.
Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire): Is my right hon. Friend aware of yesterday's excellent debate in Westminster Hall on the coal industry? It lasted an hour and a half and the Members present were all of the opinion that we need a full debate in Government time on the Floor of the House because of the many problems surrounding the coal industry. The debate dealt essentially with the future of the coal industry, but there are other matters to do with the impact of the industry on areas where pits have been closed.
I have raised matters in previous weeks that require a debate on the Floor of the House. To that list of items I have added vibration white finger, for which the Benefits Agency has a very peculiar test. People who get compensation for vibration white finger under the compensation scheme miss out on benefit provision. Along with the list of items that I have been pressing in recent weeks and those dealt with in Westminster Hall, that calls for a full debate on the Floor of the House.
Mr. Cook: I congratulate my hon. Friend, who is one of our most regular attendees at business questions. No one raises constituency issues more assiduously than he does. He frequently reminds us of the many problems facing those who formerly worked in the coal industry and the communities that sustained it.
I will reflect on what my hon. Friend says. He argues his case with his customary logic and a well-researched brief. I have said to the House before that it may be appropriate at the right moment to have a debate on the present energy review. Perhaps my hon. Friend could raise some of these questions then.
Dr. Evan Harris (Oxford, West and Abingdon): The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Government's generally admirable Adoption and Children Bill will shortly come back to the House for its Report stage.
Mr. Cook: First, I should like to pocket the hon. Gentleman's praise for the admirable Bill. I am glad that it has his support. On the amendment that he proposes to make to the Bill, that is a matter to be argued on Report. I will make sure that the Report stage is held in good time for the hon. Gentleman and others to debate these matters.
The law on this was first changed in 1976, when some moves were made to allow greater liberality. Whether there is a case for a further move is for the hon. Gentleman to argue. However, the Government's positionand, to be fair, that of the previous Governmentis that the interests and welfare of the child must always come first.
John Cryer (Hornchurch): My right hon. Friend will be aware of the appalling proposal to privatise the RAF's fire and rescue services. It is causing a great deal of concern inside the RAF and outside, particularly among trade unions such as the Transport and General Workers Union and the Fire Brigades Union. I have had representations from constituents, as my constituency has a long-standing relationship with the RAF. RAF Hornchurch was part of the ring of steel in 1940 in the fight against fascism. Could we at least have a statement or a debate on this?
Mr. Cook: My hon. Friend is correct, in that there is a project in the Ministry of Defence to assess the most viable and cost-effective solution for the provision of airfield support within the Ministry. If any proposal is made to meet those needs with a privatised service, it will be tested against a public sector comparator to make sure that it represents value for money. It must also be tested against other policy requirements, including, of course, the security of the armed forces and Ministry of Defence airfields. Should a decision be reached, I am sure that it will be announced to the House and that my hon. Friend will have an opportunity to offer his views both in advance and afterwards.
Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West): Will the Leader of the House make time available for an urgent statement on the policing of Greater Manchester, particularly in the light of the Commonwealth games to be held this summer? Greater Manchester police are facing a shortfall of £22 million in their budget, exacerbated by the fact that the Government have not yet agreed to fund the £7.5 million cost of policing the games. The chief constable of Greater Manchester police has said:
Mr. Cook: I remind the hon. Gentleman that Manchester sought to hold the Commonwealth games and, indeed, fought hard for that. I congratulate it on its success. Naturally, there are consequences of Manchester's success in securing the Commonwealth games. I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman gives a full, rounded picture of the position on Manchester police funding. Recently they received a special grant which has made theirs the first police force in the country to have digital radio for their services.
Kevin Brennan (Cardiff, West): Will my right hon. Friend make time to introduce legislation on the continuing scandal of short measures of pints of beer in our pubs? Is he aware of the recent research conducted by the Campaign for Real Ale which shows that nine out of 10 pints being served in England and Wales are short measures, and that things are getting worse? Over the past three years the number of short measures being served has increased by 10 per cent. [Interruption.] I am glad to hear the inheritors of the men who watered down the workers' beer supporting this. I invite my right hon. Friend when he visits Cardiff for Labour's spring conference to partake of a pint of Brain's, the finest beer in Britain. If he finds time to introduce legislation, he will be the toast of Cardiff and, indeed, of Britainbecause everyone who pays for a full pint, should get one.
Mr. Cook: My hon. Friend raises a matter of great concern to the public and to many Members of this House. Any short measure is a clear public scandal and I assure my hon. Friend that we will seek to bear down as hard as we can. I would be in trouble with many hon. Members if I tried to express a preference for one particular regional beer over another.