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Mr. Cook: I agree with the hon. Gentleman that when dealing with the question of our citizens' income over a prolonged periodthat might be two or three decades in retirementit is important that we provide them with the stability and confidence of a cross-party approach, which is why many of us on the Labour Benches regretted that one of the Conservative Government's first acts after
Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle): I failed narrowly to get in my question to Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Ministers, so may I ask my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to urge his colleagues in that Department to make a statement in the House on organophosphates? He will know that organophosphate sheep dips were withdrawn from the market a few years, but reintroduced in October 2000. However, this month, a significant research report has been published in The Lancet by Professor Nicola Cherry, who tells us that the results of her research
Mr. Cook: I can only express my deep regret that my hon. Friend did not have a chance to put that question to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs rather than to me, but I shall make a point of writing to my right hon. Friend this afternoon so that honour is served.
Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire): May I press the Leader of the House on the issue of Lords reform? Has he had time to read a perceptive piece by Hugo Youngno relationin The Guardian today? He says of the Government's proposals:
As the House knows, we are currently considering the responses to our consultation exercise. We received about 1,000 responses, many of a thoughtful and serious character. We shall at some stage publish an analysis of the responses, and respond to the PAC within two months. Obviously, the matter will have to return to the House at some stage, but I think it appropriate that we take time to get it right before it does so.
David Hamilton (Midlothian): In December last year, the Minister for Industry and Energy made a welcome statement that, after 17 years, he was to right a wrong done to sacked miners throughout the country, several hundred of whom were sacked during the miners' strike. To date, nothing further has been said. Will my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House ensure that a statement is made in the near future?
Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South): The Leader of the House may have picked up vibrations in the press about the Government's undoubted generosity in granting accommodation to Members who are absent from the House and their staff when sitting Members who attend regularly still do not have adequate accommodation. Is he in a position to offer guidance on the steps that would be taken to discipline a party that is not yet prepared to support the Police Service of Northern Ireland, and whose defeated candidate in the Belfast, South constituency at the last electiona Member of the Northern Ireland Assemblyjoined others to intimidate people by putting up posters urging them not to join the police service, while at the same time encouraging their own form of restorative justice, a do-it-yourself kangaroo court?
Mr. Cook: I am sure that the whole House joins the hon. Gentleman in deprecating such activity, but the House has no mechanism to discipline its Members for activities undertaken outside the Chamber or the Housenor should it. Many hon. Members motivated by perfectly bona fide commitments and beliefs of their own carry out activities that the House would neither endorse nor be drawn to condemn.
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that when we debated the matter before Christmas considerable concern was expressed that Members are required to register only on taking the Oath, rather than on being elected. I am pleased that the Select Committee on Standards and Privileges has made a recommendation to the effect that registration should be required of all Members on the point of election or within three months of election. I hope to introduce a motion giving effect to that recommendation before Easter.
Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North): Is my right hon. Friend aware that the all-party group on children in Wales agreed last week to support in principle the aims of 'Sdim Curo Plant!the Welsh campaign to ban the physical punishment of children and to give children the same protection as adults under the law of assault? I am sure that he is aware that the Scottish Executive propose to ban the physical punishment of all children under three. Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on this important subject so that we can consider how it affects children in England and Wales and raise the important issues associated with it?
Mr. Cook: My hon. Friend raises a subject of considerable debate. She is aware that strong and different views are held on both sides of the fence, which is why the Government have sought to make sure that they find the right balance between the protection of the child and the rights and responsibilities of the parent. As a Scottish MP, I fully support and welcome what is being done in the Scottish Parliament, but the principle of devolution is the right of each side to take whatever action it regards as appropriate for its side of the border.
Mr. Cook: I can assure the hon. Gentleman that every PPP is subject to tests of value for money, which require an analysis of what the future costs will be and how that compares with public sector traditional funding. No PPP will proceed unless it passes that value for money test. As I told the House, more than 40 such schemes have passed that test since it became clear that Railtrack could no longer continue. What would the hon. Gentleman and all his hon. Friends who raise the issue have done in the circumstances in which my right hon. Friend found himself last autumn? Are they saying that they would have volunteered £5 billion, the sum that would have been required to keep Railtrack afloat, in the full knowledge that the company had given hundreds of millions to its shareholders while skimping on investment for the travelling public?
Helen Jones (Warrington, North): Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on the closure of Smurfit Corrugated in my constituency, with the loss of 94 jobs? Does he agree that a company which fails properly to consult its workers, which fails to give adequate reasons for choosing the Warrington plant for closure and which, it is suspected, will take the savings from that closure to invest abroad, should be held to account on the Floor of the House? Should we not have the opportunity to debate not just that closure, but the chances of providing better protection for British workers caught up in such situations?