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Second World War

30. Mr. John Grogan (Selby): What steps are being taken to recognise the contribution made by women to the British war effort in the second world war. [52034]

The Minister for Women (Ms Patricia Hewitt): The Government recognise and value the enormous contribution made by the women of this country during the second world war. I understand that the noble Baroness Boothroyd is patron of a committee that is looking to erect a memorial to the women of world war two. I wish the committee every success with this excellent proposal.

Mr. Grogan: Does my right hon. Friend agree that, in golden jubilee year, it would be particularly appropriate to bring the campaign for a memorial to the women of world war two—another of whose patrons, incidentally, is the Princess Royal—to a successful conclusion? Will she agree to keep a close watching brief on the efforts of the trustees to secure a central site in the heart of our capital for this memorial? The latest possible site is the Victoria embankment, close to the Ministry of Defence.

Ms Hewitt: I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. I have already wished that committee and its patrons every success, and I shall continue to take a close personal interest in it. It occurs to me that, coming so soon after the death of the Queen Mother—who first found her place in the affections of our country during the second world war, particularly in the east end—it would be highly appropriate to commemorate her, along with other women who made such a heroic contribution to the war effort in the first and second world wars, in a single statue. It also occurs to me that an appropriate and central place for that would be the vacant plinth in Trafalgar square.

Sue Doughty (Guildford): I, too, would like to add my support for a memorial to the effort made by women during the second world war in all sorts of fields. In particular, I hope that we will recognise the contribution made by young women who stayed at home to care for families when everybody else went away, and who may have lost the chance of marriage and bringing up their own family when people came home with injuries, which meant that they slipped from being a teenager to a carer, perhaps for many years. They lost the opportunity to marry and to earn, and they are sometimes now among the poorest old people. We should remember the service provided by that group of women.

Ms Hewitt: The hon. Lady makes a very important point, and I entirely agree with her about the importance

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of recognising and valuing the contribution that was made by those forgotten women of the war as well as that of the women who served in the Land Army, in the services and in many other ways, including in the workplace as well as in the home.

Female Entrepreneurs

31. Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk): When she next expects to meet representatives of small firms organisations to discuss female entrepreneurs. [52035]

The Minister for Women (Ms Patricia Hewitt): My hon Friend the Minister with responsibility for small business meets regularly the small business representative organisations to discuss how we can improve the environment for UK small business, including women entrepreneurs. Indeed, he most recently raised this issue at the end of last month at a meeting of entrepreneurs in Stoke-on-Trent and, just last week, I helped to launch the new north-west women's business network, which is doing excellent work to support women already in business or wanting to set up their own business in that region.

Mr. Bellingham: Female entrepreneurs in my constituency will be very pleased to hear that, but is the

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Minister aware that what they do not want is patronising advice from the Government? They want determined effort to lift burdens on business and to improve the business climate. What plans does she have to do that? Does she agree with the British Chambers of Commerce, which said in a recent report that this Government had imposed more burdens on business than any other Government in history?

Ms Hewitt: If the hon. Gentleman looks at the record and the comparison with other countries, he will find that, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, we have a much lower level of product market regulation than most other advanced countries. We have much more favourable employment regulations than most of the rest of the European Union and, according to all benchmarks, we are one of the best places in which to start and to grow a small business. We are determined to keep it that way, which is why we are making such an effort to improve and further simplify regulations.

However, we also know that women constitute about one in three of the owner-managers of small businesses and that the proportion is much higher in the United States. There is a great deal more that we shall do to support women to start their own businesses, because there is untapped potential that can contribute to the growth of the economy in the hon. Gentleman's constituency and right across the country.

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Business of the House

12.31 pm

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): Will the Leader of the House give the business for next week?

The President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Robin Cook): The business of the House for next week is as follows:

Monday 6 May The House will not be sitting on the bank holiday. [Interruption.] Another step forward for modernisation

Tuesday 7 May—Second Reading of the Police Reform Bill [Lords].

Wednesday 8 May—Progress on consideration in Committee of the Finance Bill.

Thursday 9 May—Conclusion of consideration in Committee of the Finance Bill.

Friday 10 May—Private Members Bills.

The provisional business for the week after will be:

Monday 13 May—Second Reading of the National Insurance Contributions Bill.

Tuesday 14 May—Motion to approve the First Report from the Modernisation of the House of Commons Committee on Select Committees.

Motions relating to the Ninth Report from the Standards and Privileges Committee on a new code of conduct and guide to the rules.

Wednesday 15 May—Opposition Day [13th Allotted Day]. There will be a debate on a motion in the name of the Liberal Democrats. Subject to be announced.

Thursday 16 May—Progress on a Bill. Details to be confirmed next week.

Friday 17 May—The House will not be sitting.

The House will wish to know that on Wednesday 15 May 2002, there will be a debate relating to packaging and packaging waste in European Standing Committee C.

Details of the relevant documents will be given in the Official Report.

[Wednesday 15 May 2002:

European Standing Committee A—Relevant European Union documents: 15194/01; Packaging and packaging waste. Relevant European Scrutiny Committee Report: HC 152-xiv, (2001–02).]

Mr. Forth: I thank the Leader of the House for that statement.

I wish to ask, in particular, about the business for 14 May, when the House will consider the Modernisation Committee's report. Can the right hon. Gentleman give any indication of when he expects to table the many amendments to Standing Orders that will no doubt be required to give effect to the Committee's recommendations? Is he having any regrets about what he is proposing to do on Select Committees?

For example, the suggestion of an increase in the size of Select Committees is agitating many Members. I understand that the Leader of the House might want to give a sense of purpose to the lost souls on his Back Benches who have nothing else to do and that he might therefore want to find them a place on a Select

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Committee. However, given that just the other day four Labour Back Benchers bunked off from a Select Committee, does he not find it difficult to justify increasing representation on such Committees when their existing members cannot even be bothered to attend?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the remarks made by one of those Committee members, the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Dr. Palmer)? He said:

here, Mr. Speaker, is the key phrase—

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that that is a remarkable insight into the attitude of Labour Members to Select Committees? Indeed, it is a shocking revelation of their role on Select Committees, which are supposed to be impartial and to operate on a non-political basis.

Is the Leader of the House also aware of early-day motion 1214, signed, I think, by virtually all Select Committee Chairmen, who are members of the august Liaison Committee?

[That this House endorses the Liaison Committee's welcome for the Modernisation Committee's belief in the central role of select committees in parliamentary scrutiny; also endorses the Liaison Committee's support for most of the proposals in the Modernisation Committee's report on Select Committees; regrets, however, that the Liaison Committee's strong concerns that the standard size of departmental select committees should remain as 11 have been overlooked; notes that the collective objections of chairmen are related to their experience in maintaining the cohesion of committees in carrying out the crucial task of scrutiny; points out that an increase of over one-third in the size of most committees would substantially alter their effectiveness and method of working; and urges the Leader of the House to reconsider this important issue.]

The early-day motion challenges the proposal to increase the size of Select Committees, and I suspect I know why. If the membership of Select Committees is increased and if, as I would hope, their budget for travel is not increased correspondingly, those signatories have rumbled the fact that more Committee members would go on fewer trips. That is probably the killer fact in the consideration of that ill-fated suggestion. I hope that the Leader of the House will reconsider what he is proposing, even at this late stage.

I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman about his understanding of the guidelines issued by the Prime Minister on pre-election Government publicity. I have no doubt that he is intimately aware of those, but perhaps it will help right hon. and hon. Members if I give a few choice quotations. The guidelines are headed, "Elections to local councils: guidance for civil servants on conduct". Has the right hon. Gentleman discussed those with the Cabinet Secretary? If not, can we have brief debate on them in the near future?

The guidelines state:

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They go on to say:

The guidelines go on to give the further helpful advice that

Some Departments have taken that suggestion to heart. The Daily Telegraph told us on 30 April that

So that Department was trying to stick to the rules. Then, The Guardian told us on 1 May:

So the House can congratulate the Secretary of State and the Ministers at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on trying hard to stick to the rules.

That is the good news. Unfortunately, not all Departments took that admirable attitude. Is the Leader of the House intending to have discussions with the Cabinet Secretary, and perhaps even with the Prime Minister, about other colleagues who were more cavalier with the rules? I do not want to pick out anyone in particular—[Hon. Members: "Oh!"] Well, as my colleagues urge me, what about the Home Secretary? He has been parading up and down, talking about more of this and more of that, and of better this and better that, in flagrant violation of the very rules that have just been issued.

Can we have a debate on that matter and, before we do, can the Leader of the House tell us what on earth is going on? Does anyone in the Government take any rules seriously any more? Is the Prime Minister going to do anything about that? Is the Cabinet Secretary a complete busted flush, or are we going to get some action on this rather than just pieces of paper that are completely ignored by almost every Department except the good old Department for Culture, Media and Sport?

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