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7 Jan 2003 : Column 38—continued

Norman Lamb (North Norfolk): I noted the Secretary of State's response to my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Sue Doughty) on the question of energy supplies. The Guardian this morning reports that the Foreign Secretary admitted yesterday in a speech to ambassadors that security of energy sources is a key element of British foreign policy and yet there is no reference at all to that in either the Secretary of State's statement or in the earlier written statement from the Foreign Secretary. Is it credible to suggest that that issue is a key priority of British foreign policy and yet plays no part in the Government's thinking on the country that has the second largest oil reserves of any country in the world?

Mr. Hoon: May I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that he reads the entirety of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary's speech? I am sure that it is available on the Foreign Office website and the hon. Gentleman can look at the whole speech rather than relying on the rather tendentious account of it in The Guardian this morning.

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff, West): Will my right hon. Friend explain to the House what is meant by the phrase Xfull and active support" for the United Nations weapons inspectors, unless it means that, without a positive report from the inspectors of breaches by Iraq, British forces will not be committed into conflict?

Mr. Hoon: We have made clear the importance of all members of the international community supporting the work of the weapons inspectors. In practical terms, for example, that has meant that the United Kingdom has made available certain equipment to the inspectors

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pending their ability to procure equipment for themselves. XFull and active support" means not only supporting their work in principle, as is consistent with Security Council resolution 1441, but providing the practical assistance that will allow their work to be completed successfully.

Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham): Will the Secretary of State confirm the recent estimate of the Royal United Services Institute that a reasonable estimate for the cost of full British participation in a military operation in the Gulf will be about #5 million, rather than the #1 billion that the Government have set aside so far?

Mr. Hoon: I have not seen that detailed estimate. We have set aside the spending that is necessary to ensure that we have the required equipment. All military operations require some short-term urgent spending, and that has certainly been necessary for preparations for any possible operations in Iraq. However, I am not yet in a position to give the hon. Gentleman any fuller picture of the overall cost because, as yet, those costs have not arisen.

Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park): Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the new year exercise that you have given me this afternoon. [Interruption.] Bobbing up and down to ask a question, I mean. I see that the Secretary of State has cottoned on.

Before Christmas, I asked how many reservists were employed in the national health service as doctors and nurses. The Minister gave me a guesstimate and promised to write to me, which he did. He said:

The Secretary of State implied today, however, that he knows the figures. Does he think that it is important for the NHS and MPs, with our local hospitals to consider, to know how many people working in the NHS have had call-out notices, and what effect that will have on the treatment of our constituents?

Mr. Hoon: I indicated that the number of reservists that we are aiming to have available—in the short-term, at any rate—is 1,500. I also indicated that we are aware that that will have an impact on our hospital services, and the Department of Health and the Ministry of Defence have discussed it for some weeks. It is not necessary for me to deal with the matter in more detail than is set out by my right hon. Friend in the correspondence.

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Points of Order

4.31 pm

Mr. James Paice (South-East Cambridgeshire): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It has come to my attention during the course of the afternoon that British security forces have today discovered supplies of the lethal toxic ricin in properties in Wood Green. Arrests have been made and there are obviously suspicions of links with terrorist organisations. Have you received a request from a Minister to make a statement to the House, not least so that we can congratulate the security forces on their diligence? If not, perhaps we can seek such a statement through you during the rest of today's proceedings.

Mr. Speaker: I have received no such approach from any Minister.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): Under Standing Order 24, I beg to move the need for the House of Commons to debate measures announced today by the Secretary of State for Defence—

Mr. Speaker: Order. Under Standing Order 24, the hon. Gentleman must seek the Speaker's permission: he did so today and I refused. Perhaps he could try another day.

Mr. Dalyell: I did so on the understanding not that you refused my request, but that you properly and understandably said that you wished to hear the Secretary of State's statement first. It is against that background that I press my request. The fact is that he did not answer the crucial question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Lyons) about whether Britain would go ahead with the United States in the event that the United Nations did not support—

Mr. Speaker: Order. All I say to the hon. Gentleman is that the Secretary of State has made a statement. I do not give reasons why I refuse a Standing Order 24 application. The fact of the matter is that I have refused such a request. The hon. Gentleman knows that he can make such an application another day. Perhaps I will be in a better mood then.

Mr. Dalyell: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I do not want to tax your patience because, as you know, I have the greatest respect for you personally and for the office that you hold, but I am raising urgent matters indeed and by Saturday it will be too late. Surely the urgency of a war-and-peace situation takes precedence over health in Wales, albeit an important subject. It is terrible that the House of Commons is not able to discuss those issues on a substantive motion when we can do something about them. After all—

Mr. Speaker: Order. I must interrupt the hon. Gentleman. He knows the procedures of the House very well—indeed, he taught me a great deal about them. There is nothing to stop him making an application again tomorrow or the day after. I hope that he will not

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wish to pursue the matter further because he well knows that I am bound by the rules that the House has given me.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Have you had any indication that the Minister responsible for fisheries wishes to make a statement on the outcome of the European Council meeting that took place during the recess, given that the outcome has such enormous implications for so many coastal communities, particularly in Scotland and Yorkshire? Instead, the House has had to be satisfied with one answer from the Secretary of State from Scotland. As the right hon. Lady was not even present at the Fisheries Council, her knowledge of the subject is somewhat limited.

Mr. Speaker: There will be a full debate next week.

Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the widespread concern about flooding, has the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs indicated that she wishes to make a statement on flooding? In and close to my constituency there have been no fewer than 10 breaches of the River Stour, and I understand that another three or four inches of rain will put hundreds of houses in my constituency at risk.

Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Have you received any indication on whether the Government are giving serious thought to making a statement? It would be churlish not to congratulate the Environment Agency on its flood relief works, but one implication of it is that my hon. Friend the Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr. Hammond) and I seem to have collected all the floodwater that has been relieved from Maidenhead and up the Thames, and we now have a very serious flooding and sewage problem in our constituencies.

Mr. Speaker: I acknowledge the great distress of many of the hon. Gentleman's constituents. There was flooding in my constituency last summer, and it is a difficult situation for everyone concerned. I hope that Ministers take note of the concerns expressed by the hon. Gentlemen.

Mr. Bill Wiggin (Leominster): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I have in my hand a letter to you asking whether I might catch your eye on Thursday in the debate on the Health (Wales) Bill. Perhaps you could intimate to the House whether that Bill could be put to one side in order for the Standing Order referred to by the Father of the House to take precedence.

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