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Mr. Cook: The hon. Gentleman raises an important issue. Many of us will have seen in our constituencies cases involving medical appeals where we might have come to a different judgment. The hon. Gentleman is well placed to ensure that such matters are processed, and no doubt his Select Committee will examine the matter and follow his lead.
Mr. Tony McWalter (Hemel Hempstead): Will my right hon. Friend reflect on the bizarre fact that after a Budget we have five days of full debate, but after a most welcomebut most complicatedcomprehensive spending review, we have had no time at all for an extended debate? I say that because there were some omissions from the review. I am particularly concerned
Mr. Cook: I would not accept that there is an absence of commitment to universities. Indeed, we are proud of the fact that we now have entry rates that are among the highest of any of the OECD countries, as well as one of the highest rates of completion of higher education, and we want to build on that success.
I remind my hon. Friend that we heard a very full comprehensive spending review statement on Monday. It was well received inside and outside this Chamber and by many of those working in the public services, including in education. Since then, there have been two or three other statements in the House on how the money is to be spent by Departments, and hon. Members will have an opportunity fully to debate the matter next Tuesday. The totality of that record does not suggest that we are either seeking to deny the House the opportunity to explore the issues or saying anything that has not been well received here and elsewhere.
Bob Spink: The right hon. Gentleman showed an uncharacteristic lack of knowledge in answering the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Mr. Trend). He said that the decision taken on the Hashmi case was not a ground-breaking decision, but simply another in a string of decisions. That is not the case. It was a ground-breaking decision, as was acknowledged by the health editor of BBC Online this morning. Is it not time that the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 was brought back before the House to be debated, so that we can make decisions on matters of such fundamental importance as the creation of new human life for a pre-designed purpose?
Mr. Cook: I gently say to the hon. Gentleman that my election by my constituents and my democratic mandate entitle me, just occasionally, to disagree with the BBC, and I may indeed do so again. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] I am grateful for that encouragement. On the BBC this morning, I heard the spokesman for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority herself say that the decision in that case was taken perfectly in line with many previous decisions to ensure that the child was born healthy.
[That this House welcomes the intention of film producer Steven Spielberg to create a television series recreating the life and battles of King Arthur, including British actors in the production; notes the success of the series 'Band of Brothers' filmed in England; recognises the historical and mythological connections of King
That contains the dastardly and preposterous suggestion that the court of King Arthur was located at a site other than Caerleon in the city of Newport. A thousand years ago, the Mabinogion and the writings of Geoffrey of Monmouth identified Caerleon as Camelot. That was confirmed by Tennyson, who wrote his Arthurian poems in Caerleon, and by the Loyal Knights of the Round Table, who funded the excavation of the round table in the village in 1928.
Now that Steven Spielberg is thinking of making a film about Arthur, is it not wrong and opportunist of certain other areas to claim that their towns were the site of Arthur's round table? Can we have a debate on the matter? Not only might the claim threaten an opportunity for further jobs and prosperity in the beautiful town of Newport, but it is a terrible attempt to steal part of Welsh history.
Mr. Cook: Of course, many Scots scholars maintain that Arthur was a prince of Strathclyde, and the legends recount the way in which he defeated the Angles of Northumbria. I therefore conclude that the whole of Britain has a good claim to sharing in Arthur's legend, exploits and success.
Mr. Roy Beggs (East Antrim): Does the Leader of the House accept that, after Tuesday's partial apology from the IRA, it is more important than ever for the Government to present their promised statement on Northern Ireland before the summer recess? Does he agree that it must spell out the full implications of the Prime Minister's statement at Hillsborough about the breaches in the IRA's ceasefire? The Prime Minister said that the Government would
Mr. Cook: As the hon. Gentleman knows, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland welcomed the apology; it is a useful contribution to the peace process. However, the hon. Gentleman is right that the apology is valuable only if it helps us to make progress with the peace process. The test of the apology is whether we make the progress that is necessary to secure a permanent and just settlement in Northern Ireland. That is the Government's objective.
Mr. John Smith (Vale of Glamorgan): I acknowledge the leading role that the Government play in supporting international research into air travel and deep vein thrombosis. Will my right hon. Friend undertake to ensure
I note that my right hon. Friend is not flying away on holiday this summer. However, all hon. Members will receive a free copy of the fitness-to-fly self-assessment guide before the House rises next week.
Mr. Cook: I am sure that all hon. Members will be grateful for any addition to their holiday reading. I am glad that my hon. Friend has had an opportunity to repeat his point in the last business statement before the recess. He has been one of our most regular contributors and I congratulate him on the tenacity and diligence with which he has pursued a serious issue. We are trying to make progress on the matter, and I believe that our Government have made a useful contribution to the international debate on it.
Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham): Notwithstanding the amusing exchanges between the Leader of the House and my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), some important issues arise from the conduct of the business yesterday and today. Less than 16 hours after a major debate on a subject, a Secretary of State is coming to the House to make a major statement on it. That cannot help hon. Members to debate in a well informed fashion.
More importantly, we will consider the Proceeds of Crime Bill later, and there is no doubt that our time is being squeezed. Whatever the Leader of the House thinks of the measure, it is not perfect and it needs fine tuning. Could we table a manuscript amendment to the programme motion so that we can sit longer to ensure that all hon. Members scrutinise the Bill fully?
Mr. Cook: Although the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) and I seek to be as interesting as we are when we make our points, there is always a profoundly serious purpose in our exchanges. I do not think that the House can reasonably criticise my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence. I think it very important that the House should hear as often as possible and at every opportunity about any developments in our armed forces. We had a debate yesterday, we will hear a statement today and we will certainly have a further debate when the House reconvenes after the recessan announcement that I have just made. I do not see any reason why my right hon. Friend should be criticised for coming to the House separately to make a clear statement on a new strategy for the defence forces.
I note that the hon. Lady says that the Proceeds of Crime Bill is not perfect. I did not detect that view from the Leader of the Opposition yesterday, when he expressed the Conservative party's strong support for the Bill. With that good will and support, I am sure that we can make good progress today.