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Mr. James Wray (Glasgow, Baillieston): In view of the Chancellor's actions to eradicate child poverty and the new Child Poverty Action Group report, will the Leader of the House arrange a debate on the subject in the Chamber? Britain has a population of 55 million, but the report states that Glasgow, with a small population of 600,000, has four of the 10 most deprived areas. It has suffered high infant mortality, horrendous housing problems and unemployment. I would like the Government to eradicate the poverty that the previous Government left behind them, especially in Glasgow.

Mr. Cook: We will hold the Budget debate next month. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor will

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refer to child poverty and the action that we are taking to tackle and, over a period of time, to eradicate it. Like my hon. Friend, I heard the Chancellor speak on the matter yesterday, and I was impressed by the progress that we are making. We inherited a legacy of rapidly rising child poverty from the Conservative Government and we are taking action to decrease it rapidly. That is the right priority for the nation and the Government.

Pete Wishart (North Tayside): On Tuesday, we spent three hours debating whether final planning consent for new nuclear power stations lay with the House or the Scottish Parliament. Although we did not get an answer to a clear question, we got the strong impression that final consent lay with the House. Meanwhile, the Minister for Energy and Industry, who should have responded to the debate, made a speech in Scotland that strongly suggested that the decision lay with the Scottish Parliament. What can the Leader of the House do to protect hon. Members from Ministers' contradictory statements? When can we have an early statement to clarify the issue?

Mr. Cook: The hon. Gentleman has just had a three-hour debate on the topic of his choice. He cannot really expect that to be followed by a statement in the House. It is rich for the Scottish National party to complain when Ministers go to Scotland. I should have thought that they would welcome every possible visit to Scotland by the appropriate Ministers. As I said last week, this matter has to be dealt with in partnership, whatever the legal niceties, and that is the way in which we shall proceed with the Administration in Edinburgh. [Interruption.] I should like to know whether the Conservative party—if it ever got into power—could offer the same kind of partnership with the Scottish Executive that we can.

John Cryer (Hornchurch): Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on mobile telecommunications masts, an issue that probably affects every constituency in the country? There has been a recent proposal in my constituency for a mast between, and very close to, two primary schools, which flies in the face of the recommendation in the Stewart report—a Government report—that masts should not be located near such schools. The problem is that although PPG8 has been strengthened—for which I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government—it did not go far enough in incorporating some of the Stewart report's recommendations, particularly the recommendation that such masts should be kept well away from primary schools. May we have a debate, or at least a statement, on that issue?

Mr. Cook: As my hon. Friend will be aware, the conclusion of the Stewart report, based on the available scientific evidence, was that there is no general health risk from mobile telecommunications masts. However, I fully understand why parents are particularly anxious when they see such masts being located near schools—and, sometimes, on schools—having had experience of this in my constituency. I shall certainly convey to the Department my hon. Friend's concern that that recommendation in the Stewart report should be acted on.

Angela Watkinson (Upminster): Bearing in mind the interest of the Leader of the House in strengthening the

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role of Select Committees as part of the modernisation of the House, does he agree that the announcement on the declassification of cannabis by the Home Secretary at a meeting of the Home Affairs Committee just two weeks before the Committee commenced an investigation into drugs policy, and the announcement in the media today by the drugs Minister—the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Ainsworth)—on how to make it easier and safer for people to take dance drugs in night clubs, undermine the role of the Select Committee?

Mr. Cook: I am not sure that I follow the hon. Lady's concern that the Home Secretary's making a statement to the Select Committee somehow undermines it. Personally, I welcome that innovation, and I am sure that many of my right hon. Friends will consider making further such use of Select Committees. If we want Select Committees to carry out their functions properly, and to have a proper status in this place, it is entirely right that they should occasionally receive new announcements from the appropriate Secretary of State.

John Robertson (Glasgow, Anniesland): I know that my right hon. Friend is aware of the good work carried out by my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Tony Worthington) on asbestosis in respect of the Chester Street insurance company. However, is my right hon. Friend aware that the companies that agreed to pay compensation to asbestosis sufferers—and any future sufferers—are now reneging on the deal? They will not pay out any money, even to those who have received letters stating that their compensation has been granted, which means that the compensation has been printed out on paper but is not worth the paper that it is printed on. Will he arrange a debate on this serious issue, so that we can name and shame those companies?

Mr. Cook: I fully share my hon. Friend's deep regret at behaviour that appears to be deplorable. I am sure that many hon. Members will share the sense of outrage that his constituents no doubt feel. On the facts as stated, I would be surprised if there were no legal remedy available to those who are most affected, but I am sure that my hon. Friend will continue to pursue the matter and make full use of the facilities of the House to do so.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood): On the day on which the Office of Public Services Reform at the Cabinet Office is issuing no fewer than 10,000 pamphlets to the public services, and on which Mr. Ian Jones, the head of news at the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, remains suspended without charge, may I ask for a debate in Government time on the operation and management of the civil and public services, the criteria for the maintenance of standards, and the accountability and responsibility of Her Majesty's Ministers?

Mr. Cook: I have no intention of saying anything on the question of the civil servant who has been suspended pending an investigation. It is a matter for the permanent secretary to announce the conclusion of that investigation

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and it would not help either the individual concerned or the permanent secretary for the rest of us to get drawn into a political debate on it in the meantime.

On the publication today of the pamphlet that has been delivered to up to 10,000 senior officials in the public service, it is proper and right that the Government should try to ensure that those who work in the public service understand the extent to which their contribution is valued and the broad strategy to which they are working. It would be the act of a bad employer and an inefficient manager not to ensure that that message is understood throughout the service. I notice that the Conservative party is calling for the decentralisation of the health service, which it highly centralised, so the hon. Gentleman should be pleased to hear that one of the four main themes of the pamphlet is flexibility through the decentralisation of power and resources to those in the front line.

Paul Flynn (Newport, West): Can we destroy at birth the self-serving fantasy promulgated by the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Mitchell) that there has been a political consensus on pension policy in recent years? There was no consensus in 1980 for the cut in the link with earnings, or for the salami cuts over the following 17 years. There was no consensus in 1985 on the partial destruction of the state earnings-related pension scheme, which has done great damage. There was certainly no consensus on the policy in the late 1980s, when many people were tempted by the then Government to leave their good-value occupational schemes and go into atrocious-value personal pensions. We should have a good debate on this issue, but we must ensure that the blame is laid firmly where it belongs, which is not with the Government, because we opposed every one of those dangerous changes that have seriously impoverished today's pensioners and will impoverish tomorrow's pensioners.

Mr. Cook: My hon. Friend and I were members of the same team in opposition on social security and pensions, and he was an excellent shadow spokesman on pensions.

Mr. Forth: Those were the days.

Mr. Cook: I prefer these days, and I suspect that the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) also preferred it when he was on the Government side. My hon. Friend has had slightly longer to work on it, but he has given a much better reply than I did, and I commend him on it.

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