Mr. Hain: I agree that citizens suffering from discrimination, including on the ground of disability, must be protected by the House. The hon. Gentleman will know that Northern Ireland questions will take place on Wednesday next week, so he will have an opportunity to raise these matters then. I know that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will certainly want to take account of his views.
Mr. Hain: I am very sympathetic to my right hon. Friend's point. We could make better use of Wednesday mornings for Select Committees, in particular. That is precisely one of the common sense and balanced set of changes that I am seeking to explore over the coming weeks.
Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire) (Con): Bearing in mind that two Cabinet Ministers gave evidence to the Hutton inquirythe Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defenceis it not only right that those should be the two people who deal with the debate?
Mr. Hain: We continually get a ray of darkness from the right hon. Gentleman. This is about handling the matter in a way that is satisfactory to both sides of the House in the light of what Lord Hutton's report says. We do not know where its focus will be and where its spotlight will fall in any conclusions. There is a range of institutions from the BBC to the Ministry of Defence and to the others involved for which there is ministerial accountability, so it is sensible to consider the report and then decide. I will report to the House immediately it is possible to agree a way forward. I will obviously hold business questions on the Thursday of the week in questionwhenever that is.
Mr. Michael Connarty (Falkirk, East) (Lab): I welcome the statement by the Leader of the House on the revised hours. I know that he is trying to be balanced, but I urge him to amend them only marginally. We now have a more intense, productive and focused week when we are here, and that should not be damaged.
To turn to other Government business, the House receivedI think quite warmlya ten-minute Bill from me in July that talked about amending the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 to take out the anomaly by which people's tips paid through the payroll are counted towards the minimum wage. Are the Government making any progress in introducing such a provision as an amendment to part of their business?
Mr. Hain: I will certainly make inquiries about my hon. Friend's latter point and let him know what the situation is. I, with him, voted for the changes to the sitting hours. I did not think that it was sensible for the House to sit at 11.30 pm, 12.30 am or 3 am and make legislation. However, the existing hours and
Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): As Chairman of the Procedure Committee, I thank the Leader of the House for his announcement about the sitting hours. He might not be aware that the Committee is issuing a questionnaire this very day to all Members of the House. Will he join me in urging all hon. Members to respond to the questionnaire, which, although short, is comprehensive? When he sees the replies that are received, he will see that it deals with every option that the House could consider.
On the day on which the statement on the Hutton report is made, will he, as the Leader of the House representing the best interests of the House, ensure that the business on that day is lightthere will be notice of when the statement is likely to take placeso that Mr. Speaker can allow maximum time for questioning?
Mr. Hain: I will bear in mind the important point that the hon. Gentleman makes. I have a copy of his excellent survey in front of me, which will be dispatched to hon. Members today. I am glad that he is conducting the survey because it will provide an important background to the Modernisation Committee's review. I have identified at least four options in the letter that I have dispatched today to all hon. Members: first, that we should revert to the old hours; secondly, that the new hours should stand; thirdly, that adjustments should be made to improve the new hours, including Committee sitting times; and fourthly, that the House should sit until 10 pm, as previously, on Tuesdays, but that we should keep the early hours on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Those are not the only options but they show the complexity of the issue. We need to take a bit of time to consider it, and his survey will help us to achieve that.
Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire) (Lab): Has my right hon. Friend read early-day motion 357, which is about an unjustified United States raid on the offices of the Iraqi Federation of Workers Trade Unions in Baghdad on 6 December?
[That this House notes that no explanation, apology or compensation has so far been proffered by the US military authorities in Iraq for the unjustified raid on 6th December 2003 on the temporary headquarters in Baghdad of the Iraqi Federation of Workers' Trade Unions (IFTU) which led to the arrest of eight IFTU leaders who were later released; congratulates a wide range of organisations around the world such as the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, the International Labour Organization, the Scottish TUC, the RMT union, the Labour Start web site, the Italian CGIL, the International Metalworkers' Federation and the Congress of South African Trade Unions for showing solidarity with the fledgling independent Iraqi trade union movement; regrets that the Iraqi Governing Council and Iraqi political parties failed to act to defend such an important part of the new civil society in Iraq; agrees with
I appreciate that it has been difficult to get information out of the Americans about what occurred, but will efforts to find out be redoubled so that we may have a statement to tell us what actually happened from their point of view? I am aware that the Foreign Office and the TUC are taking a progressive line to encourage the development of free trade unions in Iraq, but efforts need to be made so that the Americans respond in a similar way to this country. There was an answer on 27 November
Mr. Hain: I am concerned that we get to the truth of what really happened on the occasion that my hon. Friend mentions, which he also raised before Christmas. I assure him that in a democratic Iraq there must be democratically constituted trade unions. They should have the right to organise and their headquarters should have the right to be free from any intimidation or harassment. We should bear that principle in mind when trying to get to the bottom of the matter.
Mr. Michael Weir (Angus) (SNP): Is the Leader of the House aware of the proposal made yesterday by the hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Joyce) that Scotland adopt variable top-up fees if they proceed in England to prevent Scottish universities from being at a financial disadvantage? Surely we need a debate on the emptiness of the Government's devolution policy if Scotland is simply expected to follow policy decided here. Should the Scottish Parliament not have full financial independence so that it can adopt Scottish solutions rather than being forced to follow this place?
Mr. Hain: We know where the hon. Gentleman stands. He wants an independent Scotlandhe nodsdespite the fact that the people of Scotland have overwhelmingly rejected that. They prefer devolution with the strong Scottish Parliament that they have with responsibility for matters including education.
Mr. Martin Salter (Reading, West) (Lab): We are all aware of the pressure that the Leader of the House is under on the revision of the hours, but has he had an opportunity to cross-reference the Conservative Members who signed early-day motion 262 with their entries in the Register of Members' Interests on outside business concerns that might be influenced by the new regime?
[That this House notes that the revised sitting hours and related arrangements have now been in place for 12 months; believes that there is now sufficient experience of the new arrangements to enable the House to judge what