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21 Nov 2002 : Column 798continued
Mr. Cook: This story is now spiralling out into the stratosphere. At no point did the Chief of the Defence Staff say that he had no confidence in the Secretary of State for Defence. If I may say so, the hon. Gentleman has no right to misrepresent the Chief of the Defence Staff, whose words should be treated with greater respect than he is showing for them. Nor did the Chief of the Defence Staff say anything about this Administration's neglect of the armed forces, probably because, as he also served under the previous Conservative Government, he is aware that this Government is the first for 20 years to start to increase defence spending, unlike the massive cuts that he witnessed under the Conservative Administration.
Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby): May I take the Leader of the House back to the point made by the hon. Member for North-West Leicestershire (David Taylor), my Leicestershire neighbour, about the questionnaire in the consultation on the future development of air transport in the midlands? May we have a statement specifically on the questionnaire from the Secretary of State for Transport? Not only have my constituents found that they have had to wait months to get a copy of the questionnaire, but it is so hopelessly flawed that it includes the following question:
The questionnaire has cost the taxpayer a great deal of money. On the basis of this questionnaire, there is a proposal to ruin all the ground between Coventry and Rugby. Will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement on this questionnaire?
Mr. Cook: I am aware that there have been a number of complaints about the consultation process, and they will obviously have to be taken into account by those assimilating the response to it. However, I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that there are more airports in the midlands than East Midlands airport. I am not entirely sure that they necessarily agree with him.
Pete Wishart (North Tayside): What assurance can the Leader of the House give us that Monday's debate on Iraq will give us the opportunity to consider a proposition that would compel the Government to seek a United Nations mandate before any military is taken in Iraq? Given that so little separates those on the Government and Opposition Front Benches on this issue, we are unlikely to have an amendment from them. Will he therefore use his considerable influence to ensure that we can consider such a proposition, that it is properly debated and that, if necessary, we can divide the House on the future role of the UN?
Mr. Mark Francois (Rayleigh): On Monday, the House will debate the very serious prospect of going to war with Iraq. However, yesterday, there was an official Ministry of Defence press conference at which the Secretary of State for Defence and the Chief of the Defence Staff were publicly at variance about the degree of strain placed on the armed forces by having both to prepare for that conflict and to cover for the firemen's strike. Who does the Leader of the House believe is rightthe Secretary of State for Defence or the principal military adviser to the Cabinet?
Mr. Cook: I have to say that there is nothing original left to say on the topic, and I do not think that the hon. Gentleman has found it. Let me put a question to Conservative Members. If they are really saying that they believe that the conclusion of the Chief of the Defence Staff is that he cannot sustain a military action in Iraq and also handle the fire dispute if that disputes proceedsis that what they are claiming he said?will they tell the House which of the two they would jettison and not carry out?
Yvette Cooper, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr. Secretary Prescott, Mr. Secretary Straw, Mr. Secretary Murphy, Secretary Helen Liddell and Secretary Peter Hain, presented a Bill to make provision enabling alterations to be made to the total number of Members of the European Parliament to be elected for the United Kingdom and to their distribution between the electoral regions; to make provision for and in connection with the establishment of an electoral region including Gibraltar for the purposes of European Parliamentary elections; and for connected purposes. And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Monday next, and to be printed. Explanatory notes to be printed [Bill 7].
Mr. Secretary Blunkett, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr. Secretary Prescott, Mr. Secretary Milburn, Mr. Secretary Murphy, Secretary Helen Liddell, Secretary Peter Hain, Hilary Benn and Yvette Cooper, presented a Bill to make provision about criminal justice (including the powers and duties of the police) and about dealing with offenders; to amend the law relating to jury service; to amend Chapter 1 of Part 1 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998; and for connected purposes. And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Monday next, and to be printed. Explanatory notes to be printed [Bill 8].
Mr. Morley: I am pleased that the House has an opportunity to debate the take-note motion on the European documents, particularly in the light of the circumstances of which we are all aware. I refer to the Commission proposals and to the very bad recommendations from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea in relation to the state of North sea stocks and cod, in particular.
The debate was originally scheduled to give Members an opportunity to discuss the proposals for the reform of the common fisheries policy. That was important in that it would have allowed them to contribute their views. However, we cannot ignore the severe scientific advice on the state of stocks, and nothing could underline more clearly the need for the Council of Ministers to take brave and radical decisions on the future shape of the CFP. We are debating the issue at the right time, because the time for decision is the December meeting of the Council of Ministers. It will not be an