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Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): Is now not the right time to debate extending the powers of the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales? That might give the Leader of the House the opportunity to expand on his damning indictment of the Scottish Executive. Perhaps he could give the House an insight into whether he thinks that the problem is entirely the fault of the Scottish Labour party or whether he also blames its coalition partner colleagues, the Liberal Democrats.

Mr. Hain: This is another bit of nationalist spin joined by the Scottish press and the broadcasting authorities, who have completely misrepresented—as they all too often do—what goes on in the Scottish Executive and the leadership of the Labour party in Scotland. I have made it perfectly clear to those in Wales who want a Scottish parliamentary solution as an alternative to the present democratic settlement that, if they want that solution, they will have to have a referendum. There were tax-varying powers on which the people of Scotland voted in 1997, so there would have to be a referendum on that in Wales. As Scotland has had its own legal system for many years and Wales does not, there is also an issue there as to what is appropriate. Scotland, under the Scottish Parliament, has done very well. It is the case that Wales has done better economically; it has done better than any other economic region of Britain under the present powers of the Welsh Assembly.

I believe that the First Minister in Scotland, Jack McConnell, is doing an outstanding job and that the Scottish Executive are doing a good job for Scotland, with record public investment, record numbers of jobs being created and unemployment coming down. That has all happened under Labour and compares with what happened under the Conservatives when all that was in reverse. If the nationalists got their way, there would be an independent Scotland, and it would become bankrupt.

Geraint Davies (Croydon, Central) (Lab): Members of the House are regularly e-mailed with unsolicited pornography. Most recently, there has been a massive increase in illegal child pornography, and that has occurred at a time when the NCH has released a publication producing research linking internet child pornography and child abuse. May we have an urgent debate to push forward action against those who produce child pornography and to link up with action in the United States and in the industry? That should focus in particular on the United States, which is the origin of the transmission of millions and millions of illegal images that are causing crime globally?

Mr. Hain: I agree with my hon. Friend. It is absolutely revolting and obscene that we, and citizens the length and breadth of the country, including children, should receive such outrageous pornography on our e-mail systems. That is why the House authorities are monitoring the situation daily to try to block it and to put firewalls in place that stop it. He can be reassured by

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that and by the fact that the Government are considering how we can stop the flow—electronically, as it were—of such awful material across the Atlantic.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): When the Leader of the House had his little whinge about Opposition days, did he not let the cat out of the bag? He implied that Government Members of Parliament really do not want to be here, want to have something utterly predictable in their diary and are incapable of preparing for a debate unless they are given lots of time to be briefed about it. When will we get the spontaneity back into our proceedings and when will the Government and the Leader of the House, in particular, allow greater spontaneity in questions and in debates? Will he please drop this pathetic attitude on behalf of his right hon. and hon. Friends that, unless they are briefed well in advance and know exactly what will happen, they cannot function as Members of Parliament?

Mr. Hain: I do miss the right hon. Gentleman as shadow Leader of the House. He was great fun. His successor is doing a great job but the right hon. Gentleman provided extra spice and interest for us all. Having said that, I find his specific question extraordinary. He quite rightly wants advance notice of Government business but wishes right hon. and hon. Members to be denied knowledge of forthcoming business—perhaps on a Tuesday or Wednesday.

Mr. Forth: Yes.

Mr. Hain: So the right hon. Gentleman thinks it is a good thing, even if Members cannot plan their diaries and perhaps have to cancel appointments because an important issue has arisen on which they want to speak? It is not about Ministers but about right hon. and hon. Members having notice—as they always have with both Conservative and Labour Oppositions in the past. I hope that the welcome practice announced today will continue.

Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North) (Lab): Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Welsh Assembly voted yesterday to end the defence of reasonable chastisement in relation to parents hitting their children? Under the Assembly's present powers, it cannot do anything more, but will my right hon. Friend urge the Minister for Children to incorporate that policy into the forthcoming children Bill?

Hon. Members: No.

Mr. Speaker: Order.

Julie Morgan: Does my right hon. Friend agree that it cannot be right that adults have greater protection than children?

Mr. Hain: I was aware of the vote to my which hon. Friend referred. The Minister for Children is carefully considering that issue.

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Points of Order

1.11 pm

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I refer not to the presence of the current demonstration in Parliament square but to the volume of noise periodically projected into Parliament—such that right hon. and hon. Members cannot work peacefully in their own offices. When I spoke to the main protestor in Parliament square last night, he was frank enough to admit that the amplification is so loud because the small number of demonstrators want their protest to be heard above the traffic noise and penetrate these buildings. Does the Leader of the House know of any moves to ensure that Westminster city council which tells me it cannot do anything about it, or the police, who feel that they are not allowed to do anything respectively—can stop the pathetic failure to allow right hon. and hon. Members, staff of the House and residents to carry on their business undisturbed?

Mr. Speaker: I, too, am concerned about the noise to which the hon. Gentleman refers. I understand that matter has been taken up with the Leader of the House and the Procedure Committee. I hope that it can be resolved, because the demonstration goes beyond the normal peaceful protest in which I have been involved as a trade unionist and political activist—as have other right hon. and hon. Members.

Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I understand that, tomorrow, the performance and innovation unit at Downing street is to present the Prime Minister and senior Ministers with what is described as an audit of the Government's performance. As that document will have been produced using public funds, will it be possible to ensure that a copy is placed in the Library and is made available in the Vote Office?

Mr. Speaker: Why does the hon. Gentleman not raise that matter at Business Questions next week? Perhaps he will be at the front of the queue.

Mr. Hain: Further to the point of order raised by the hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis), Mr. Speaker. I agree with the sentiments that you expressed in respect of the situation outside the Palace. We shall proceed to deal with it as quickly as we can.

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Privilege

1.14 pm

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (LD): I beg to move,


I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for confirming that the report raises an important matter and for giving it precedence over all other business today. I hope that we can deal with it expeditiously, so that right hon. and hon. Members can go on to deal with the Bill set down for debate this afternoon. However, the report is important because it concerns the freedom of witnesses to give evidence to the House and its Committees without fear of penalty or punishment. That freedom has been reasserted by the House on many occasions.

The Constitutional Affairs Committee conducted an inquiry last year into the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service—a non-departmental public body whose board was appointed by the Lord Chancellor. Ms. Judy Weleminsky, a CAFCASS board member, submitted written evidence on her own behalf, much of it critical of the management of CAFCASS. She received advice that she was protected by parliamentary privilege when giving evidence to the Committee.

Ms. Weleminsky's evidence, along with evidence from many other witnesses, greatly assisted the Committee in reaching its conclusions—which were severely critical of CAFCASS management, of the organisation's failure to meet its responsibilities to vulnerable children affected by court proceedings and of aspects of the Lord Chancellor's dealings with CAFCASS.

One of the Committee's recommendations was that a fundamental review of the board of CAFCASS should be undertaken. The Government accepted that and other recommendations and commissioned a review. The chairman of CAFCASS had already resigned. Following the review the Lord Chancellor asked all the remaining board members to resign. Ms Weleminsky declined to do so.

In December, Ms Weleminsky received a letter from the Lord Chancellor that suspended her from duty as a board member and indicated an intention to dismiss her, on grounds that included an allegation that she had


Accompanying the letter was a document to which the letter referred—a review by a senior civil servant in the Department of Constitutional Affairs, Mr. David Crawley, of a dossier submitted by the former Chairman of the CAFCASS board, Mr. Hewson, before he resigned. The first of the six specific allegations set out in the document that accompanied the Lord Chancellor's letter was that


The document concluded that that evidence


The document goes on to list other allegations, which Ms Weleminsky disputes but which are not part of the Committee's concern in relation to today's motion. Our

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concern is that the words to which I have referred, even if they are combined with other allegations, could amount to a serious case of interfering with a witness.

As soon as that matter came to my notice I wrote to the Lord Chancellor expressing grave concern and asking for an explanation. After taking advice, the Lord Chancellor replied that his decision to suspend Ms Weleminsky did not


but further added that


He went on to give his view that


The Lord Chancellor's letter to Ms Weleminsky also reveals that he was considering her dismissal on the basis of allegations in the dossier before the review and before the decision to ask the entire board to resign. That correspondence is set out in appendices to the Committee's special report.


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