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David Burnside (South Antrim): Would the Leader of the House find time to debate next week the continuation of locally based and recruited security support for the civil power in Northern Ireland? He will know from his experience that there has been no time since 1920 when we have not had locally-based and recruited mobile armed back-up to the civil power: first the A, B and C special constabulary; then, in the 1970s and for the next 30 years the Ulster Defence Regiment; then, from the mid-1990s, the home-based battalionsnow threeof the Royal Irish Regiment. For the first time ever, the security of the people of Northern Ireland is being put at risk by this Government. Will he find time to have that debate so that we can get a commitment from the Government to continue home-based, locally recruited back-up for the police in Northern Irelandthat is, the home battalions of the Royal Irish Regiment?
Dr. Reid: I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's remarks will be noted by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, as well as by the Secretary of State for Defence, and I have no doubt that he will find opportunities, in Adjournment debates or in other ways, to raise the matter again.
Dr. Reid: Yes, indeed. As I said to the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), I am pleased to try to find time to debate the NHS at any time, and that applies to the Audit Commission report. That report was based on a snapshot of the situation halfway through the last financial year. The NHS has moved on since then, and we are pleased that performance at the end of the year is even better. The resources and reforms are beginning to bite. Contrary to what the report implies, we expect that the majority of NHS trusts, and the NHS as a whole, will end the year in financial balance. I suspect that the demand from Conservative Members that we debate the report will quickly diminish once the year-end figures start to come out.
Mrs. Patsy Calton (Cheadle): Will the Leader of the House say what steps are being taken to ensure fair scientific scrutiny of the evidence for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? I understand from a note that I have obtained from the Library that only one of the Committees concerned has a member with any scientific qualifications.
Dr. Reid: The hon. Lady asks about scrutiny of evidence. I have already made some comments about the difficult task that faces people in assessing and analysing the evidence. I have every confidence in the first step of that, which is the operational intelligence assessment that is being carried out by our intelligence services. I think, however, that she is referring to the second step, which is the work of the Committees and their potential capability for securing expertise to make judgments of a technical nature. I am sure that the Committees will be able to make arrangements to supply themselves with such capabilities, and that the House would want them to be able to do so.
Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): May I ask the Leader of the House whether we can have a debate in the near future on the need to streamline the police disciplinary procedures? Yesterday in Cumbria, an internal inquiry that cost £2 million and took three years to complete collapsed owing to lack of evidence. It concerned a minor complaint about the misuse of police vehicles. It not only cost a fortune, but robbed the people of Cumbria of the dedicated services of nine police officers for three years. We need not only a debate, but new legislation to streamline the shambolic system that we have inherited from 50 or 60 years ago.
Dr. Reid: I thank my hon. Friend for bringing that matter to the attention of the House. It is certainly disconcerting in a number of ways. I cannot promise him a full debate on that particular issue, the details of which I do not know, but I promise to bring it to the
Mrs. Angela Browning (Tiverton and Honiton): Can we have a debate next week on the middle classes? I am sure that the Leader of the House will have noted that in Liberal Democrat News of 30 May, Jonathan Calder, who is a member of the party's federal policy committee, wrote an article about the Conservative policy of scrapping tuition fees. He says that it
Dr. Reid: That was obviously written for a member of the working class, since we have come to expect the Liberals to say to the working class that the middle class is stupid and to the middle class that the working class is stupid. That is in the nature of Liberal politics. I shall do what I can, however, because I think that we should always try to make opportunities to bring class analysis into these matters.
Geraint Davies (Croydon, Central): Will my right hon. Friend consider a debate on the sharply rising costs of living and working in London, not only from the private sector point of view in terms of business rates and commuter fares going up, but in relation to the London weighting that is given to public servants, which is quite out of line with private sector costs and is leading to a migration of public servants out of the capital?
Dr. Reid: As my hon. Friend will probably concede, we have done a considerable amount to assist people working in London through housing and various other mechanisms. I should have thought, given the nature of the subject, that Westminster Hall might be an appropriate venue to discuss it, because he is speaking not only about financial issues, but a range of measures that would enable people to recruit, to work and to live in London more easily than at present.
Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield): May I express my sadness that so much of the time at business questions is taken up by Front Benchers, given that it is a time for Back Benchers to raise issues of concern? May I therefore raise with the Leader of the House a matter that is of concern to menamely, that he has announced for next week a carry-over motion for the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill? Does he accept that that has proved necessary because the Government failed to provide adequate time to debate that Bill on the Floor of the House and elsewhere? Will he give me an assurance that he will, as a matter of urgency, review the whole programming policy to ensure that this House has adequate time to debate important Bills?
On the planning Bill, no, it is not that we have just discovered that we did not allow enough time for scrutiny. As I explained to the Front-Bench spokesman for the Liberal Democrats and to the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst, we intend to change some of the details of Crown immunity. There will be further time for scrutiny, and I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would welcome that, rather than complain about it.
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): Has the Leader of the House had the opportunity to glance at the helpful reply by the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Mr. Rammell) in last night's debate on the detention of Tariq Aziz? Whatever differences we may have about Iraq, are we not united in thinking that we have to ask the Americans whether such people are to be put on trial? That cannot be left for ever. We have to be careful about victor's justice and to show that the west has higher standards than other people who do not have trials.
Dr. Reid: We have always believed that the Iraqi leaders most responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes should be brought to justice, and that that should be done as soon as possible. There are strong arguments for allowing the Iraqis themselves to bring to justice those who have committed crimes against them. We shall therefore need to explore what kind of investigative and trial processes they can adopt. United Nations Security Council resolution 1483, which was adopted on 26 Mayunanimously, I might sayaffirms the need for accountability for crimes and atrocities committed by the previous Iraqi regime. It also appeals to member states to deny safe haven to those members of the previous regime who are alleged to be responsible for crimes and atrocities, and to support actions to bring them to justice. I hope that that answer brings some solace to my hon. Friend.