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[That this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to mark the 70th anniversary of the Soviet-induced famine and genocide in Ukraine; urges it to recognise officially that in 193233 the Soviet regime under Stalin employed genocide to destroy opposition in Ukraine; emphasises that it should acknowledge publicly
Can Her Majesty's Government find time officially to recognise that the famine was deliberately induced by the artificial policy of collectivisation under Stalin? It was a deliberate act of genocide to wipe out opposition in Ukraine. If Her Majesty's Government could do that, it would be a bold step in support of human rights.
Mr. Hain: I respect the hon. Gentleman's reasons for raising this matter, and I pay tribute to him for keeping the issue under public scrutiny. Famine was one of Stalin's most terrible crimes. However, we do not think that the United Nations is the right forum in which to resolve such complex historical issues, even though terrible crimes are involved. I am advised that the Ukrainian Government withdrew a draft United Nations resolution, and instead issued a statement at the United Nations, which was agreed with the Russian Federation among others. We will obviously keep this issue under review.
Mr. Russell Brown (Dumfries) (Lab): After years of dissatisfaction, weeks of deliberation and a certain amount of research, I applied earlier this week, through the good offices of the Speaker, for an Adjournment debate on honours lists. This morning, the Table Office informed me that such a debate could not be held, because such questions are usually referred to the Prime Minister, and he does not answer Adjournment debates. If Back Benchers cannot raise an Adjournment debate on the honours list system, will my right hon. Friend find time in the House for one to be held?
Mr. Hain: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving me prior notice of his question. I am concerned that he should have the opportunity to apply for a debate on the honours system and issues connected with it. It is a proper matter to discuss in the House. The Table Office quite properly advised him that the Prime Minister does
I am sure that there is a way of resolving this problem. I shall discuss with No. 10 whether a Cabinet Office Minister could answer any such debate should my hon. Friend be successful in applying for one.
I take this opportunity to encourage all hon. Members to do what I have written to Welsh Members of all parties encouraging them to do: to put forward names for honours to be considered by the relevant committees. Many people do fantastic voluntary work in our communities. They are the local heroes and heroines of our communities, and they make up the life of our country and contribute such a lot. They should be in pole position for honours. There should be more nominees, and I hope that all Members will put in their nominations.
Mrs. Patsy Calton (Cheadle) (LD): May I add my request for a debate on the botched and sham consultation procedures used by the Post Office for their closure programme? Yesterday, I was supposed to receive a special delivery package to inform me about closures in my constituency, but it was lost in the post, as was that of the hon. Member for Stockport (Ms Coffey). To lose one special delivery package could be considered a misfortune, but to lose two looks like carelessness. A copy has turned up today, but the clock is ticking on this consultation, which will end on 27 January. That is not six weeks from today or yesterday.
Given the timing of the start of this exercise over Christmas, will the Leader of the House support my request for an extension to the consultation period in my area, and for proper consideration of the needs of all our local communities based around post offices?
Mr. Hain: Given the number of questions that have been raised with me about post office closures, the Post Office must clearly think carefully about how it proceeds, especially about its consultations with local Members of Parliament. I replied to my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale) about his situation. It is imperative that Members of Parliament are properly advised and fully involved. I am sure that the chairman of the Post Office will want to consider carefully the points that the hon. Lady and my hon. Friend have made.
Dr. Brian Iddon (Bolton, South-East) (Lab): The only day when my constituents can get down from my constituency to London, take the Line of Route tour and enjoy the workings of the House is a Monday. This year for the first time I am unable to book our sixth-form students on to the Line of Route on a Monday, because they will have taken their A-levels by the time a slot is available. My right hon. Friend may be surprised to learn that the Line of Route tour is booked up until late June or early July. Will he ask the House authorities
Mr. Hain: I am grateful that my hon. Friend has raised this matter with me. I, too, have been concerned about this situation. My constituency is almost 200 miles away, and I have had difficulty agreeing dates with local schools and others who want to visit the House and take advantage of the Line of Route tour. I have asked the Serjeant at Arms to look into this problem, because I think that we should have more flexibility and more structuring of the arrangements so that Members from London and nearby are encouraged to come in the earlier part of the day, and to begin Line of Route tours much earlier on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday than they currently do. The staffing and cost implications need to be considered, which is why the Serjeant is looking into the problem at my request. We could consider having extra opportunities on Fridays. I am sure that London Members would be willing to be allocated earlier times, especially on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, so that Members such as my hon. Friend and others with constituencies outside London can take advantage of the Line of Route.
This essential service is provided for our constituents to visit the Palace. As we all know, it is very popular, and it helps to keep the House of Commons and Parliament as a whole closely connected to the citizens who put us here. I am involved with fellow members of the Modernisation Committee in considering a range of issues about reconnecting the House of Commons with voters. They include not just the Line of Route but a proper reception centre, so that visitors can be treated properly and admitted with some dignity and with decent security. That is very much on our agenda.
Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) (Con): One of the unintended consequences of the new hours is the loss of our opportunity to bring our constituents here on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The Leader of the House tells us that he is having a "big conversation" with Members about the hours. What we do know is that they simply are not working. We cannot be in two places at once.
I remember how things were when I was elected in 1992. I am not saying that we should return to all-night sittings, which were clearly ridiculous, but the new hours have knocked the stuffing out of this place. I know the Leader of the House likes collecting jobs; well, there is a third job for him, now: to play Santa Claus, and ensure that the Modernisation Committee presents proposals early in January so we can think about the hours that we need to make this a proper working Parliament.