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Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde) (Con): You may recall, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the time available for questioning the Secretary of State for Defence on the publication of the defence White Paper was curtailed because of pressure of business in the House. Will the Leader of the House look again at providing an opportunity for a debate on defence procurement, because the Secretary of State mentioned in the White Paper, among other things, the possibility of reducing the number of aircraft in service or to be procured?
Mr. Hain: I know of the right hon. Gentleman's close constituency interest in the defence industry, and the long and expert interest he has taken in the issue of defence. I am sure that he will be pleased to know that his request will be accepted. The Secretary of State for Defence plans to have a debate on the White Paper as soon as it is possible to do so. [Interruption.] As soon as it is possible.
We agree with the right hon. Gentleman: the Government want strong defence for the country, and we want maximum opportunities for British defence-based industries to take advantage of supplying not only our own needs, but overseas contracts, too.
Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab): I note that on 14 January the Employment Relations Bill is due to receive its Second Reading. I wonder whether the Leader of the House might arrange for a statement that day from the relevant Minister on the Government's employment strategy. My understanding of the unemployment figures in the paper today is that more people are employed in the United Kingdom than ever before. However, I understand that some people are suggesting that the Government's programmes of new deals for jobs should be scrapped. Can we have a statement to clarify that issue on the day that the Employment Relations Bill has its Second Reading?
Mr. Hain: I will look sympathetically at that, because the employment record of this Government is second to none. There has been a rise in employment of nearly 1.7 million and unemployment has been cut to the lowest for generations. On the question of the new deal, I find it astonishing that the Leader of the Opposition has said:
Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): Whatever happened to pre-legislative scrutiny? The Leader of the House will recall that his predecessor but one produced a lot of high falutin' undertakings about how parliamentary life was going to be transformed by pre-legislative scrutiny. However, partly owing to the cock-up of last year's legislative programme and the late start this year, there is not much sign of any serious "pre-leg" scrutiny. Will the Leader of the House tell us how many of the Government Bills to be brought before the
Mr. Hain: First, I welcome the right hon. Gentleman back to business questions in a reincarnation of his impressive and energetic parliamentary obstructionism. I think that it adds to the quality of our debates and of the House in general.
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, a dozen Bills have been announced as draft Bills that will be subject to pre-legislative scrutiny. That is the largest number ever, and I am sure that he will welcome that for obvious reasons. I wrote to the Chairman of the Liaison Committee, as I indicated a few minutes ago, giving the projected timetable so that the Select Committees involved can set up their own programmes of work. They found that very helpful, and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would wish to take any opportunity to get involved as well.
Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): I wonder whether my right hon. Friend is a regular viewer of "EastEnders", or does he feel that being Leader of the House is enough exposure to soaps? May I draw his attention to early-day motion 309 and the case it involves?
[That this House notes that Dalip Tahil who plays Dan Ferreira in Eastenders may face removal from Britain for breach of work permit regulations; further notes press reports that he has received a letter from the Home Office rejecting his application to stay and work here; expresses its concern about these reports; and calls upon the Home Secretary to intervene in this case to ensure that Mr Tahil will be allowed to continue in his role not just because he is an excellent actor, and one of the few actors of Asian origin on national television, but also because the Ferreira family with their trials, tribulations and trysts will be left fatherless at this crucial time in all their lives.]
Dalip Tahil is an internationally renowned actor who faces removal from this country, not in the soap but in real life, because of work permit issues. I raised that matter with the Home Secretary on Tuesday, and he promised that officials would speak to me about it. I have just spoken to Mr. Tahil's solicitor and he has made an application to remain in this country under the highly skilled migrant workers scheme. I do not expect the Leader of the House to give me an answer today, but would he draw the attention of the Home Secretary to the early-day motion so that we can have the meeting that was promised?
Mr. Hain: I am sure that the Home Secretary will already have noted my hon. Friend's question, and I know of the close, expert interest he takes in such matters. This is a serious case with a lot of complications and he will understand that I cannot comment on individual cases.
My hon. Friend asked me about my television viewing habits. I must confess that I have not had time to see an episode of "EastEnders" for a very long time. I was in the humiliating position of answering a question about which two television programmes I saw more than twice a month. I am afraid that they were "The Premiership" and "Newsnight".
Mr. Hain: I have indeed done so, and as I indicated to the shadow Leader of the House a few moments ago, the Government are studying the Newton report very carefully. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is right to express concern about the position of the 14 foreign nationals. Equally, he will understand that the security threat to this country from terrorism from foreign sources is the greatest ever. We have never been in this situation beforeobviously the IRA experience was in a different categoryand, therefore, we have to take such matters seriously. That is why the powers exist under the 2001 Act to allow us to do so.
I am sure that, following the dreadful attack on our Istanbul consulate, and the attacks that are constantly being threatened or carried out on British interests across the world, the right hon. and learned Gentleman would want us to be very careful about how we deal with suspects, or people whom we have arrested, and how we keep them in a position where they cannot mount any terrorist attacks.
Mr. Wayne David (Caerphilly) (Lab): Will the Leader of the House ensure that there is a debate as soon as possible on the legacy of pit closures in south Wales in the 1980s? Such a debate is vital, because it has recently been suggested that a favour was done for the people of Wales by the devastation of communities right across the coalfield. That statement was made by none other than the Leader of the Opposition, whobelieve it or notis a Welshman.
Mr. Hain: I will certainly consider my hon. Friend's request for a debate. It would be interesting to have one, precisely for the reasons that he gave. He is able to apply for a debate himself. I was astonished to read in The Western Mail the statement by the Leader of the Opposition that coal communities had