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14 Nov 2002 : Column 133—continued

Andrew Mackinlay: May I invite the Leader of the House to reflect on the representations made by my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) about Select Committees? One of the reforms that he can leave as a legacy as Leader of the House is guaranteeing and reserving slots for Select Committee debates, and handing stewardship and decisions as to which subject should be allocated to the Chairman of the Liaison Committee. That would be fair and would offer a guarantee. Days for Select Committee debates are entitled to as much deference as those days that are offered and made available, rightly, to the Opposition parties. It should not be a matter for the Executive to decide. I hope that he will reflect upon that.

The Select Committee on Foreign Affairs recently had a slot in Westminster Hall on the war against terrorism but so much water had gone under the bridge since its report was published that we did not discuss the report; it was no longer directly relevant. I hope the Leader of he House will consider that point.

Can the Leader of the House give us some opportunity to discuss the running of this place? Some things are not a matter for the Leader of the House but are delegated to Committees, and we have no opportunity for asking, probing and making representations. By way of example, there is a clutter of statues of Prime Ministers in this place. Soon there will not be enough room to stand up—and they were not the greatest parliamentarians. I want to see statues of Daniel O'Connell, Charles Stewart Parnell, Bradlaugh and the Red Clydesiders. That is who we should be recognising.

What is more, those red-and-white and green-and-white tents on the Terrace would never get planning permission. It is gross hypocrisy on the part of this place. Barry and Pugin did not design this building with those tents. It is time they came down.

Mr. Cook: My hon. Friend is in revolutionary mode this morning and I will take that as a bid for a plinth to be reserved for him in the Members Lobby.

I take seriously the importance of making sure that we debate those reports that are recommended by the Liaison Committee. My hon. Friend will have heard

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that in my statement I committed us to having a debate on the report by the Select Committee on Transport on the 10-year transport plan. As I recall, that report did not necessarily make comfortable reading for the Government, which shows that we are not afraid of having robust debate when Select Committees publish critical reports.

On the arrangements for the statues outside, my hon. Friend may wish to pursue that matter with my hon. Friend the Member for one of the Newham seats—I forget which one.

Andrew Mackinlay: West Ham.

Mr. Cook: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham (Mr. Banks) is Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Works of Art and has ambitious ideas for bringing other Prime Ministers into the Members Lobby, on which there may be divided views. I am sure that we could have a very entertaining full day's debate, if I can find the time, on the respective merits of Lady Thatcher and Daniel O'Connell for a plinth in the Members Lobby.

Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire): Given the powers that the Government now have to carry Bills over from one Session to the next, and given the ambitious programme announced yesterday and our desire for certainty, can the right hon. Gentleman take the House into his confidence and say which of those Bills he anticipates being introduced late in the Session and subject to carry-over?

Mr. Cook: As the right hon. Gentleman will recall, we committed ourselves when the resolution was passed on 29 October to consultation with other parties and I look forward to having those discussions in the next week. I am sure that hon. Members who come to them will wish to share what is said with their parties. At the present time, I would not wish to go further than what was said in the Queen's Speech.

On the issue of carry-over, the right hon. Gentleman rightly points out that carry-over will be a meaningful concept only for those Bills that may be introduced late in the Session. It is rather early in the day to name which Bills may be introduced then.

Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West): I was pleased to note in the Gracious Speech that legislative proposals will be brought forward on the Cullen inquiry proposals. I was disappointed to note that no proposals have been brought forward on corporate manslaughter. Can the Leader of the House indicate when legislative proposals on corporate manslaughter are likely to be before the House?

Mr. Cook: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that point because it gives me the opportunity to correct some of the reports that I read in the media saying that the fact that such proposals are not in the Queen's Speech means that they have been dropped from the Government's programme. The House has just heard the Queen's Speech for the second Session of a four-year Parliament. The absence of any particular measure from that Queen's Speech does not mean that it has been dropped from the legislative programme for a full

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Parliament. I hope that the House will not fall into the trap which so many of those in the media wish to dig for us, in implying that anything that comes in the third Session is of third order priority. It is a full Parliament. Each year, we will have a full Session—[Hon. Members: XYou said four years."] It will be a full Parliament of possibly five but certainly four Sessions. Perhaps at next week's business statement the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst may like to ask for the date of the next general election; he will get the answer Xdirectly".

On the question of corporate manslaughter, I advise my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Rob Marris) not to despair of the prospect that legislation may well be introduced in a future Session.

Pete Wishart (North Tayside): Given that only four out of the 19 Bills announced in the Queen's Speech apply to Scotland, will the Leader of the House and his right hon. and hon. Friends who represent Scottish constituencies continue to troop through the Lobbies and vote on issues which have no relevance to their constituencies and absolutely no bearing whatsoever on the people they are supposed to be down here to represent?

Mr. Cook: On this there is a clear difference of view between the hon. Gentleman and myself. I come here as a full member of the UK Parliament and I fully intend to carry out all my responsibilities in that role. On the question of Scottish legislation, the hon. Gentleman wanted devolution; he now has it. The Scottish Parliament has passed well over 40 Acts—far more than we might have anticipated in the context of Westminster—and the volume of Scottish legislation that can now be passed by that devolved Parliament fully underlines the value of devolution and the extent to which it can respond to the needs of the people of Scotland.

Mr. John Battle (Leeds, West): May I urge my right hon. Friend in this new parliamentary Session to make time for a full debate on compensation for victims of asbestos pollution in Britain? In recent months, the voluntary liquidation of asbestos polluting companies has meant that hundreds of victims in Armley in my constituency are denied compensation awarded to them by the courts. Furthermore, some major insurance companies are now claiming that they had not covered those companies in the first place. Can we have a full debate with a full Government response to tackle this matter before many more claimants, tragically, die?

Mr. Cook: My hon. Friend raises a serious matter. I fully understand the gravity of the issue in his constituency for those individuals, and their relatives, who are affected by companies going into voluntary liquidation without meeting their obligations. I certainly appreciate the importance of this matter and will draw it to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. I also encourage my hon. Friend to find ways in which he can

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pursue the matter to the benefit of his constituents. It sounds as if it is exactly the kind of issue for which we created the Westminster Hall debates.

Mrs. Angela Browning (Tiverton and Honiton): Will the Leader of the House encourage a Treasury Minister to make a statement to the House on EC insurance directive 73/239, which is of particular importance to Lloyd's names? The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that the European Commission has now commenced infraction proceedings against the Government. Before these proceedings started, the Government declined to put into the public domain exchanges between the Government and the Commission on the ground that the discussions were then informal. Now that the matter is in a formal arena, with infraction proceedings having started, both the Government and the Commission have invoked the EC privacy rule. It is about time that hon. Members were able to question Ministers about the proceedings that are now under way.

Mr. Cook: I am always open to invitations to encourage my ministerial colleagues in the Treasury and will draw to their attention the remarks of the hon. Lady, but I would be very unwise to make any comment without first consulting the Law Officers and the legal advice that has been received by the Treasury.

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