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Dr. Reid: First, I thank the hon. Gentleman for his birthday wishes and for his rather cryptic comments in a language that the English do not know, but which he and I, and other Scots, probably understood.

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On the Northern Ireland Assembly (Elections and Periods of Suspension) Bill, I should tell the House that draft copies will be available this evening and will be sent to Opposition parties and Northern Ireland Members. I mention that because last night I spoke to several Members who were worried that they would not have sufficient time to read it. The Bill will be published on Friday at 7.30 am, and amendments will be accepted at the Public Bill Office between 11 am and 3 pm tomorrow. I should also tell Members who were awaiting with anticipation the debate in Westminster Hall that it had to be adjourned because of the emergency statement that took place last Thursday, and that we understand that the Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs has requested that it be rescheduled to July.

As for the hon. Gentleman's comments about the Bloody Sunday inquiry, it would not be appropriate for me to make any specific comments about that, other than to say that my experience in Northern Ireland taught me that if truth, reconciliation and justice are to be achieved in future, they must be undivided truth, reconciliation and justice. In other words, they must be achieved in such a way that all people in the community who have suffered, not just one section of the community, feel that their woes, concerns and pain have been addressed.

Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock): May I ask the Leader of the House about the allocation of time motion in respect of the Northern Ireland Assembly (Elections and Periods of Suspension) Bill, which will be early business on Monday? It is very important that we have a proper Committee stage. How much time does he intend to allocate to that, bearing in mind that we will not have seen the Bill, that he cannot be privy to the number of amendments that will be tabled before 3 o'clock on Monday, and that as the legislation that we passed postponing the elections was relatively short, the Bill must by definition be quite complicated. There are reports that Members who had decided to retire from the Northern Ireland Assembly will be on half-pay for some indeterminate period, although they are no longer MLAs. That illustrates the fact that we need to consider the Bill with forensic skill and in some detail, and that it cannot be bounced or railroaded through Parliament.

Dr. Reid: I take my hon. Friend's comments very seriously, not least because of the interest that he takes in matters of Northern Ireland and of parliamentary scrutiny. In an ideal world, we would not have the Bill at all, and elections would be going ahead. In a less than ideal—but approximating towards it—world, we would have an endless amount of time to scrutinise an important issue: the postponement of democratic elections. But we do not live in an ideal world, and events in Northern Ireland move sometimes with incredible speed and sometimes with incredible slowness, inch by inch. This is one of the occasions on which it is necessary to act with some alacrity to postpone the elections, and to do so having gone extra miles, and having taken extra time, right up to the last minute, to try to avoid postponement. That is why we

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shall have to deal with all the stages of the Bill in one day. I hope that within those limitations we will give it as much scrutiny as we humanly can.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): May we have a debate on rotten public services at rip-off prices in the form of higher taxation under the Government? They have already taken an extra £130 billion from the British people in higher taxes in the past six years, almost all Departments fail to spend even their existing allocations, and Ministers are all too fond of setting, missing and scrapping public service agreement targets. What confidence can the Leader of the House offer that the Government's record on public service reform and improvement will be any better in future than in the past?

Dr. Reid: Rather than condemning public services as rotten and rip off, the Government prefer to allow plenty of time to debate the way in which we match the unparalleled investment in our public services with radical reform. We want to match those two elements not simply because that is conducive to debate but because it results in genuine change and benefit to people's lives. I have already mentioned the changes in education. On health, there are 50,000 more nurses, 10,000 more doctors and 300,000 more operations. We achieve change in people's lives through radically reforming our public services, and we make adequate time available for debating that in the House. Yesterday's debate was an example of robust discussion ending in widespread support for the Government.

Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire): At Treasury questions, the Paymaster General pointed out that the Inland Revenue was dealing with 5.3 million cases of child tax credit and working family tax credit. If only 1 per cent. of cases go wrong and people lose out on benefits that they previously received, it means 80 cases per constituency. Can we hold a discussion about the problems? There is a specific difficulty in cases that involve several agencies. For example, the Child Support Agency, income support and child tax credit may affect each other. If difficulties arise in more than one agency, that creates an especially serious problem. Some of us are continuously on helplines; perhaps we could do with some help to deal with the matter.

Dr. Reid: The issue has been raised several times in questions and statements in the Chamber in the past week. Although the vast majority of cases have been tackled, a significant number remain to be transferred to the new credit system. Everything possible is being done: money is being spent and more human resources have been brought in to cope with the matter. I ask hon. Members to understand that although the position is distressing for everyone who has not received their benefit, the ultimate reward of the tax credit system for millions of people will be the biggest single advance for working families and pensioners in the history of the welfare state. Any complexity is therefore due to the huge step forward that the system constitutes.

Mr. Andrew Lansley (South Cambridgeshire): The Leader of the House knows that, on Saturday, it will be a year since the tragic crash at Potters Bar in which two

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of my constituents were killed. He must also know that there is mounting concern about the lack of progress in the investigation and any resolution of the cause of the crash. Will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Secretary of State for Transport to make a statement in the House next week about the investigation and what is being done to secure progress? The victims, their families and those who travel on the line every day need reassurance that their anxieties are not out of sight and out of mind.

Mr. Reid: Everyone on both sides takes the matter extremely seriously. The inquiry is under way and effectively in the hands of the Health and Safety Executive. People would frown upon any interference by the Secretary of State in such an inquiry. Of course, we want it to be done as expeditiously as possible, but we also want it done properly and not rushed. I believe that Transport questions will be held next Tuesday or Wednesday, and the hon. Gentleman can raise the matter then.

Paul Flynn (Newport, West): Should not the House reconsider the electoral systems that we imposed on the devolved Assemblies? Last week's bizarre result means that the Welsh Assembly now consists of 40 winners and 20 losers. Forty seats, of which 30 are Labour, were won on the first-past-the-post system. The other 20 Assembly Members benefited from an assisted places scheme, under which not one member of the Labour party got a seat although it won the vast majority of votes in the second ballot.

Will my right hon. Friend join me in hoping, like most Welsh Members of Parliament, that Rhodri Morgan, the Prif Weinidog of Wales, will soon announce that as he was elected as old Labour, he intends to rule as old Labour?

Dr. Reid: If I remember correctly, my hon. Friend is a convert on the subject—I mean the electoral system, not old Labour. Others who are not necessarily converts would take the view that although it might be too early to consider changing electoral systems in Scotland, Wales and elsewhere, we should bear in mind experiences thereof when examining future developments in our constitution for other areas. If that is not sufficiently cryptic, I can find another way of putting it.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood): May I draw to the Leader of the House's attention the report of the Select Committee on Home Affairs on asylum removals, which is one of the most important and damning Select Committee reports of recent years? It demonstrates that immigration control and the process of removing asylum seekers who are not entitled to remain in the United Kingdom are totally ineffective. Will the Leader of the House therefore ensure that a debate on the matter is not tucked away in Westminster Hall in the middle of July but held on the Floor of the House, as a matter of the utmost urgency, preferably in the next two weeks?

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