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Monday 8 JulyConsideration of Lords amendments to the Employment Bill. Followed by Opposition Day [17th Allotted day, 1st part]. There will be a debate on an Opposition motion. Subject to be announced.
European Standing Committee BRelevant European Union documents: 7727/2/02: World summit on sustainable development; 6863/02: Aid for "poverty diseases". Relevant European Scrutiny Committee Reports: HC 152-xxix and HC 152-xxxi (200102).
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us more about the comprehensive spending review? Rumours are circulating that it will be announced on 9 July, but it would be helpful to all concerned, given the importance both of the review and of people being prepared for it, if he were to give us some indication of the date, even if only to say that the rumours are not true. It would be helpful if we could have a more precise date.
The right hon. Gentleman will recall that on Monday evening the House passed, with a large Government majoritysadly, that is not unusuala motion on the authorisation of human and veterinary medicines. I wonder how many Government Back Benchers were aware of what they were supporting on that occasion. Perhaps the House will want to return to this fairly soon, because I wonder how many of them realise that they were supporting the Government's position of broad agreement to the proposed amendments to the directive and the overall aims of the review. Let us remember that the measure affects medicines, herbs and other things about which I am sure Government Back Benchers have received a large number of letters. They then went on to support the draft directive on medicinal products for human use.
The point that I am making, and why I think the House may want to return to the issue, is that I wonder what the Leader of the House will tell his Back Benchers when they rumble the fact that they were dragooned through the Lobbies on Monday night to support those measures. What on earth will they tell their constituents, who are quite rightly writing to them, as they are to me and my right hon. and hon. Friends, to object to the intrusiveness of those measures and the effects that they will have on people's long-standing habits and use of legitimate herbs? So I hope that the Leader of the House can give his own Back Benchers some reassurance on that matter and perhaps give the House an opportunity to return to the issue, as I suspect some of them are already regretting the decision.
The other thing that we have got to return to is this: following the European Union summit, just about a week ago, the Minister for Europe was widely quoted as having said that the Government had got "exactly what it wanted" from that EU Council meeting, but the Prime Minister said:
It always fills me with great cheer when the Government have a large majority, such as on Monday. I would reject the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion that there are any grounds for sadness in the Government's ever having a large majority in any vote in the House. My hon. Friends are well aware that they will be perfectly well briefed by the Department of Health to ensure that they rebut any allegations on what they have done.
Mr. Cook: No, that is not spin; it is a matter of substance. The substance is that we must ensure that we have rigorous and agreed methods in place to ensure that those who take medicinesherbal or otherwiseare fully protected and that we ensure that they are rigorously assessed; and the Department of Health will be very happy to assist Opposition Members, as well as those on the Government Benches, in ensuring that they can respond to their constituents.
On the European summit, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is, of course, absolutely clear in what he said in the statement on Monday, and I refer the right hon. Gentleman to that. Of course it is always the case that those who go to a summit seek to ensure that they get the best possible deal for their country, and we secured the best possible deal. The best possible deal is not necessarily the deal that we would have written had we been in a room by ourselves without people from 14 other nations. It is in the nature of the European Union that we have to reach agreement with what the other 14 nations will sign up to as well. I am bound to say that our process of engagement, providing leadership and setting the EU agenda, has given Britain a much better deal than it ever got in the days when Britain sat at the bottom of the table, heckling everyone else and never getting stuck in to reach agreement.
Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall): Can the Leader of the House find an early opportunity for a further debate on parliamentary privilege, so that we can revisit the recommendations on that subject of the Joint Select Committee, on which I was privileged to serve? I salute and very much welcome his statement about the RMT union in his own personal respect, but I also welcome the statement that the Deputy Prime Minister released overnight on resigning from the RMT, in which he said:
On a separate matter, may I draw to the attention of the Leader of the House the fact that, in a debate in Westminster Hall on Tuesday this week, my hon. Friend the Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb) found to his dismay that in answer to his concerns about the Tanzanian air traffic control system, the Minister replying, as he was the Minister for Employment Relations, Industry and the Regions, had no knowledge whatever of the issue. The Minister responsible for export control was apparently visiting a factory somewhere elsehe was in the House before and afterwards, but did not attend that debate. Can the Leader of the House at least make sure that Ministers who answer debates in Westminster Hall know what they are talking about?