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Mr. Cook: First, on the question that the hon. Gentleman raises about the Joint Committee on Parliamentary Privilege, I am always happy to revisit areas of privilege, because it is of great importance to the House.
On the issue of the RMT, I am happy to repeat what I said to the House yesterday. I have a long and valued relationship with the RMT, which has been useful to both of us over many years, as a source of dialogue and information
Mr. Cook: I can certainly say to the right hon. Gentleman that elections have to be fought in my constituency, as, I suspect, they do in his constituency, too. Everything that I have received has been openly declared and registered, as the House is well aware. Although I will welcome support in fighting those elections from anybody who broadly supports Labour's values and wishes to work for a Labour victory, I am not to be bought for any particular agenda. On that basis, I decline to sign up to an oath of loyalty. I know that every other RMT MP in the House has also similarly declined.
It is not for me to pronounce on any issue of contempt; the House has well established and well worn channels in which it can establish whether contempt has occurred. First, there must be an offence. No offence has occurred in this case, as all those involved have made it clear that we are not going to sign up to an oath of loyalty to anybody outside the House. It must be a cardinal principle of membership of the House that we come here as free representatives of our constituents with, of course, a political mandate as a party. We are here to exercise our best judgment on behalf of our constituents in line with the mandate that we receive. We are not here to act on behalf of any other specific vested interest or agency.
[That this House notes that there is currently no provision for Early Day Motions with a high number of signatories to be debated; further notes that provision for Early Day Motions with the support of more than half the House to be debated automatically would make Early Day Motions a more effective mechanism for ensuring the concerns of the House are addressed; and calls on the Government to consider introducing such a provision.]
The early-day motion calls for a change of rules in the House whereby, if an early-day motion received the support of more than half the Members of the House, a debate would automatically follow. That would be a useful change, as issues arise frequently on which one can only secure an Adjournment debate, if one is lucky, in Westminster Hall or in the Chamber in the evening. An early-day motion on issues such as Post Office job losses would probably attract the support of at least half the Members of the House, and the suggested mechanism would thereby secure a debate on the Floor of Houseand, of course, there could be a vote on the Adjournment.
Mr. Cook: I of course follow the early-day motion pages with close care and always find them rewarding. I was particularly struck by the early-day motion last week congratulating the No. 10 football team on having thrashed the Parliamentary Press Gallery football team 5:2. I am very grateful to the early-day motion pages for drawing my attention to that, since I have found difficulty in locating a description of this resounding victory for No. 10 over the Press Gallery in any of the press that I read.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (John Cryer) makes a broad point, of which I am well aware, that there is a feeling that there should be more opportunities for private Members to nominate the issues for debate in the House. The Modernisation Committee is considering that challenge, although I would not want to suggest that we will necessarily go down the route to which he points.
Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East): As the Chancellor of the Exchequer has just made what is generally regarded as a very significant speech on the euro, do the Government not consider it appropriate to have an early debate on their policy on the euro and on the proposed timetable?
Mr. Cook: No, the Government's position has not changed. Our position is that, if the five economic tests are met, we will put to the British people a recommendation that Britain should join the euro. Any timetable entirely depends on when we are satisfied that those five tests are met.
Mrs. Anne Campbell (Cambridge): May I bring to my right hon. Friend's attention the case of Christopher Walker, a British citizen who is the brother of Anna Walker, a resident of Cambridge and one of my constituents? Christopher disappeared from his home in Stockholm almost three months ago, and nothing has been heard of him since. The family are naturally very keen to get as much publicity for the case as possible, in case anyone has seen Christopher. I would be grateful if my right hon. Friend could give me advice about the best way of publicising this matter in the House.
Mr. Cook: My hon. Friend has taken an opportunity to raise the case in the House. I hope to raise the matter and give it a higher profile in the media so that anyone who may be aware of the whereabouts of Christopher Walker can contact the authorities or his family. The whole House will fully sympathise with the suffering and the pain that must be experienced by any family whose relative has disappeared without trace or without contact. I hope that this case will find a satisfactory solution.
I also suggest to my hon. Friend that, if she has not already done so, she might wish to discuss the case with the Foreign Office. I am sure that it will be happy to help in Sweden, where we have an excellent ambassador who was one of my former private secretaries.
Mr. Andrew MacKay (Bracknell): Is the Leader of the House aware that his many admirers on both sides of the House felt for him a little yesterday at Prime Minister's Question Time, because he was not able to answer as straightforwardly and honestly as he always does from the Dispatch Box during business questions? Will he find time next week to put that right by suggesting to the Prime Minister that, when the Prime Minister comes to the Dispatch Box next Wednesday at Question Time, he apologise for misleading the House by saying that share prices were higher in 1997 than they were on the day the Prime Minister responded to a question about them? That was factually incorrect. It would help occasionally for the Prime Minister to say sorry. He would gain more respect by doing so.
I have to say to the right hon. Gentleman that I have checked the facts about the movements in the stock market. What my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said to the House last Wednesday was factually absolutely
Mark Tami (Alyn and Deeside): Is my right hon. Friend the Leader of House aware that, every week, four to eight apparently fit and healthy young people die of undiagnosed heart problems in the United Kingdom? The charity CRYCardiac Risk in the Youngis a self-supporting group that campaigns to increase awareness of this important issue. Will he allow for an early debate on the subject, and will he support the efforts of Doreen Harley of Connah's Quay, who lost her daughter Lisa to sudden death syndrome, and those of the Chronicle newspaper to raise funds to provide screening for hundreds of young people in north Wales?