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Mr. Hain: I understand and respect the hon. Gentleman's view. As I have discovered, there is an honest difference of opinion between Members of all parties. It is my job to try to find the centre of gravity, and I will do that.
David Cairns (Greenock and Inverclyde) (Lab): My right hon. Friend began, appropriately, by wishing everyone a happy Christmas and a happy new year. Will he now join me in wishing members of the British Jewish community a happy Chanukah? In that connection, I draw his attention to early-day motion 123,
[That this House condemns the terrorist, anti-Semitic attacks on the two Istanbul synagogues 'Oasis of Peace' and 'Beth Israel' killing 25 people and injuring over 300; also condemns the arson attack which destroyed a Jewish school near Paris on the same morning; notes that these attacks were preceded by deadly anti-Semitic terrorist attacks on synagogues and Jewish community centres in Casablanca and Tunisia; recalls the description of Jews by German MP Martin Hohman as 'guilty people' and a 'nation of perpetrators'; records the anti-Semitic speech of the outgoing Malaysian Prime Minister; recognises that the last three years have seen a dramatic increase in anti-Semitic incidents against the UK Jewish community and the rise in support for the BNP; notes that there is no conflict between Judaism, Islam and Christianity; rejects those who cynically exploit differences of opinion over Israel and Palestine to promote anti-semitism; and calls upon the Government to institute a zero tolerance policy to combat anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and racism in all its forms by raising the issue at the UN and in Europe and encouraging firm action by the police and the Crown Prosecution Service.]
The motion outlines in horrific detail the rapid rise of anti-Semitism and increase in anti-Semitic attacks throughout Europe and beyond, citing the two bombs in Istanbul which killed 25 people and injured 300 more. Early in the new year, may we have a debate on the rise of anti-Semitism throughout Europe and in the United Kingdom in particular, so that all Members can say to the decent, law-abiding Jewish community in this country that anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic attacks are intolerable? In the past they have been allowed to go unchecked, and we know where that has led. A message must be sent to the Jewish community that the Government take this extremely seriously: they must be absolutely confident of that.
Like my hon. Friend and, I am sure, all other Members, I am strongly committed to rooting out and confronting anti-Semitism and racism of all kinds wherever they appear, in this country or in Europe as a whole. It is essential that we confront the problem and do not duck it, whether in pub conversations, in local communities, in schools or in more threatening contexts. The rising tide of anti-Semitism throughout European Union countries, including Britain, is
Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold) (Con): May I return to the subject of our sitting hours? May I make a strong plea for the matter to be considered by Members of this Parliament, who have experience of the workings of the House of Commons? New Members will not have had the benefit of that experience.
One reason why I think the hours should be reformed is timetabling. Let me say, at the risk of boring the House, that I played a part in the progress of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill. It took a whole year to complete the passage of a major section of that Bill, dealing with important infrastructure projects such as terminal 5. It was not discussed in the House at all, and will have to be discussed in another place.
If our sittings ended at 9 pm every night, we would have an extra five hours. I believe that that would result in much less timetabling. It is a good example of the way in which the House ought to work. I urge the Leader of the House to consider the matter sooner rather than later.
Mr. Hain: The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill is a bad example of good programming and good timetabling, and lessons have been learned from it. As the hon. Gentleman will know, it is virtually alone in that respect. There are many good examples, such as the Communications Bill and the Hunting Bill, which were mentioned only recently in the Modernisation Committee's report on programming. After a debate on the Floor of the House following the publication of that report, the House agreed to the arrangements for timetabling.
The hon. Gentleman cannot blame the sitting hours for the difficulties with the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill, which were caused by the way in which the Standing Committee operated. I hope they will not be repeated. He pulled a 9 o'clock finish out of the hat, as it were. Having had detailed discussions with scores of Members in all parties, I can tell him that just about everyone has his or her own suggestion of a starting or finishing time for the House and for Committees. It is because I want to find a consensus that the Modernisation Committee will, in due course, wish to consider the matter. I will make an announcement to the House next year, when I am in a position to do so.
Mr. Clive Betts (Sheffield, Attercliffe) (Lab): Can the Leader of the House give us an idea of when the Second Reading of the Pensions Bill is likely to take place? It contains worthwhile proposals to guarantee that when firms become insolvent, their employees will keep their pensions.
Many people will not have a particularly happy time this Christmas. UEF in Sheffield and Hydrotools have already gone into liquidation, and employees' pension prospects have been substantially worsened as a result. Will the Leader of the House ask the Minister who presents the Pensions Bill to pay particular attention to early-day motion 200, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Kevin Brennan)?
Mr. Hain: I well understand why my hon. Friend has drawn my attention to that important motion, signed by many Members. If I were a Back Bencher, I would have been inclined to sign it myself. I believe that some 44,000 workersincluding employees of ASW in Cardiff, with which I have dealt as Secretary of State for Waleshave received disgraceful and scandalous treatment. Some have given 30 years' service and, having built up their pensions, have been robbed of them. That is why we are introducing legislation providing a pensions protection fund to prevent this from ever happening again. Discussions are being held with the Minister for Pensions to establish whether any assistance can be given to workers in this desperate predicament.
Did my right hon. Friend see last week's CBI figures, which showed that capital intensity in each hour worked in the United Kingdom economy is 60 per cent. less than in the United States, 32 per cent. less than in Germany and 25 per cent. less than in France? Does that not tell us that the real British disease in UK productivity is the short-termism and conservatism of British capital, and the attitude to British industry? May we have a debate on UK productivity, so that we can expose the problem we have had to experience for so long?
Mr. Hain: After last night's defeat of Chelsea, my football club, I will not trade rival greetings with my hon. Friend. As for productivity rates, if he looks at the evidence in the Red Book and at the wider picture, he will see that the gap between British and German and French manufacturing, in particular, is closing rapidly. We still have a long way to go to catch up with the United States, but there have been improvements, and all our measures are designed to produce further improvements. The picture is not as bleak as he paints it; it is getting better, and I would expect him to welcome that.