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22. Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk) (Con): What plans she has to improve ways in which firms can be protected from fraud. [147844]

The Solicitor-General (Ms Harriet Harman): The Crown Prosecution Service and the Serious Fraud Office are engaged in the work across government of the criminal justice agencies to improve the protection of firms against fraud.

Mr. Bellingham : The Solicitor-General and I have corresponded on this matter. I am grateful to her for taking seriously the issue of fraud suffered by small firms, but more needs to be done. Does she agree that it would make sense if the SFO's main advisory panel contained a small firms representative? I appreciate that she may not know the exact answer, but can she tell the House how many stop now orders have been issued by the Office of Fair Trading?

The Solicitor-General: I shall have to write to the hon. Gentleman with a response to his question about the OFT. I shall consider including a small business representative on the SFO advisory panel, but I agree that more needs to be done to protect businesses, both large and small, against fraud. That is a matter of ensuring that Government Departments and agencies work together. We intend to make sure that that happens, but we must also work with business to ensure that everything possible is done to advise and inform firms about how to protect themselves against fraud. We are also working with the Law Society and the professional accountancy organisations, and we are working internationally as well. We aim to toughen up on the proceeds of crime so that fraudsters do not think that they can commit a crime and live off the proceeds.

Mr. Mark Todd (South Derbyshire) (Lab): I wish to draw the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend to a case in my constituency, in which a small firm was able to produce what I thought was very substantial evidence of fraud by a company in Hampshire. My conversations with the local police in Hampshire have revealed that the main difficulty about pursuing the matter was the lack of available resources, and also that dealing with small-business fraud is given a relatively low priority in local police forces. Is not that a critical part of this picture?

The Solicitor-General: My hon. Friend is right to raise the issue of the amount of resources that the tackling of

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fraud is able to command. Fraud is not just a technical, victimless crime—there are real casualties along the way in terms of people's jobs, finances and, often, homes. I ask my hon. Friend to bring the case to my attention and I shall look into it.

Rasul et al v. Bush

23. Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): What discussions the Attorney-General has had with the Attorney-General of the United States on the subject of the amicus brief prepared on behalf of parliamentarians in the matter of Rasul et al v. Bush. [147845]

The Solicitor-General (Ms Harriet Harman): The Attorney-General has not discussed the proposed amicus brief in the case of Rasul et al v. Bush as part of his discussions with the US authorities about the UK detainees in Guanatamo Bay.

Mr. Heath : That is very disappointing, particularly given that it has been supported by four former Law Lords, a former Master of the Rolls and 85 right hon. and hon. Members of this House, including three former Cabinet Ministers and, indeed, the right hon. and learned Lady's predecessor. One wonders why the Government have not involved themselves in some action on behalf of British citizens who are incorrectly imprisoned.

Can the Solicitor-General update the House on the negotiations that the Attorney-General has entered into? We heard from Ambassador Pierre-Richard Prosper a week ago that some movement was imminent, but that now seems premature, and the prospects are rather disappointing. Will she enlighten us as to when these people will either face due process or be released?

The Solicitor-General: The Attorney-General and I are being kept informed about the proposed amicus that is being prepared by the peers and hon. Members, including my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dudley, North (Ross Cranston), to whom the hon. Gentleman referred.

As far as we are concerned, I refer the hon. Gentleman to what the Prime Minister said to this House on 7 January:

He went further on 11 January, saying:

The timeframe of the Supreme Court is far beyond that, so we have a nearer focus on the matter. I remind the hon. Gentleman that the Prime Minister said that the timeframe is within "the next few weeks".

Business of the House

12.32 pm

Mr. Oliver Heald (North-East Hertfordshire) (Con): Will the Leader of the House please give us the business for next week?

The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Peter Hain): The business for next week will be as follows:

Monday 19 January—Second Reading of the Civil Contingencies Bill.

Tuesday 20 January—Debate on attendance and behaviour in schools on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Wednesday 21 January—Opposition Day [3rd Allotted Day]. There will be a debate entitled "Failure of the Government to introduce a Civil Service Bill" followed by a debate entitled "Failure of the Government to address the West Lothian question".

Both debates arise on an Opposition motion.

I welcome the move by the official Opposition to return to the traditional practice of announcing the subject of their debates. That advance notice will assist all Members in planning their work for the week ahead. I hope that this sets the pattern for the future.

Thursday 22 January—Second Reading of the Armed Forces (Pensions and Compensation) Bill.

The provisional business for the following week will be:

Monday 26 January—Second Reading of the Fire and Rescue Services Bill.

Tuesday 27 January—Second Reading of the Higher Education Bill.

Wednesday 28 January—Opposition Day [4th Allotted Day]. There will be a debate on a motion in the name of the Liberal Democrats. Subject to be announced.

Thursday 29 January—Motion on Members' estimate matters.

Friday 30 January—Private Members' Bills.

I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for the remainder of January will be:

Thursday 22 January—A debate on the Report from the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee on the illegal drugs trade and drug culture in Northern Ireland.

Thursday 29 January—A debate on "Afghanistan: the development challenge".

During the business statement last Thursday, hon. Members inquired about the publication of the Hutton report. Although the publication of the report is for Lord Hutton, not for the Government, I did commit to draw Lord Hutton's attention to the point that was raised by the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler). Lord Hutton has informed me that when he announces the date for the publication of his report, he will also announce the arrangements for publication. Lord Hutton has also informed me that he has taken note of the point raised by the hon. Member for North Cornwall in relation to the publication of his report. I

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have committed to keeping the House as informed as possible on this issue, and I hope that hon. Members are reassured by this statement.

Mr. Heald: May I thank the Leader of the House for his comments about prior notice on Opposition days? He should not, however, hold his breath because from time to time we will want to be topical.

May I ask the Leader of the House about the failure by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to respond to this week's Opposition debate on post offices? He will know that I raised a point of order at the time, but does he agree that whenever possible the Secretary of State should respond to a debate moved by the shadow Secretary of State? Will he reassure us that there has not been a change in the Government's practice? We understand that from time to time the Secretary of State may not be able to attend a debate, but an explanation should be given—it should be good, too.

The Leader of the House will remember that last week he was asked detailed questions about the Hutton report, including a question about the structure of the debate, and that he said that he would give the matter further thought. Can he tell us, first, whether the Prime Minister will open the debate and, secondly, whether the Defence Secretary will make the winding-up speech? Will there be a substantive motion on Lord Hutton's recommendations and an opportunity for the House to vote on the matter?

Does the Leader of the House understand the widespread frustration in the House that the Prime Minister feels able to go on the Frost show and answer questions about authorising the release of Dr. Kelly's name, whereas when he is asked questions in the House he hides behind the need to wait for the report's publication? [Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale, West (Mr. Brady) says that that is "dodging". Whatever it is, it is not satisfactory.

Finally, the Leader of the House will know that during this week's Opposition day debate on shortages of equipment for the armed forces in Iraq, the shadow Secretary of State for Defence called on the Defence Secretary to resign. The shadow Secretary of State for Defence cited the case of Sergeant Roberts, who was shot in the chest and would have survived had he not been ordered to hand over his body armour to other troops because of shortages. Since that debate, Sergeant Roberts's taped diaries have been released. In them, he said to his wife:

Can we expect a personal statement on the matter from the Secretary of State for Defence in the next week?

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