|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Hain: The hon. Gentleman quite properly makes his point and will be aware that the Prime Minister is due to appear before the Liaison Committee after the publication of the Hutton reportwhich will provide another opportunity to subject the issue to the Committee's closest possible expert scrutiny. Given the precedent set by the Scott reportwhich I am sure the hon. Gentleman agrees also dealt with a serious matterthe one day allocated to debating Hutton is entirely proper. I am sure that you, Mr. Speaker, will note the number of right hon. and hon. Members who wish to catch your eye and will allot the time available for speeches accordingly.
Mr. Alan Hurst (Braintree) (Lab): Is my right hon. Friend aware that just before Christmas, Conservative-controlled Essex county council decided to end the provision of meals at primary and secondary schools? He will appreciate that that decision has caused great concern among head teachers and governorsparticularly in small schools. Terling primary school in my constituency, which has just 100 pupils, estimates that it will cost an extra £4,000 per annum to maintain the provision of meals privately. Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on that important issue?
Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West) (Con): Following press reports today, does the Leader of the House share my concern that the Deputy Prime Minister appears to be travelling around the country spreading confusion about the future of the Barnett formula? Given that the right hon. Gentleman has called for a great debate on that formula, can there be an early statement on Government policypreferably before the Government rely upon the votes of Scottish Members to force tuition fees on my constituents and those of other English Members?
Mr. Hain: All right hon. and hon. Members are equal. [Hon. Members: "No."] Indeed we are. Or is it the new policy of the Conservative party to Balkanise the House of Commons and insist that certain right hon. and hon. Members will be able to vote only on certain issues?
The Deputy Prime Minister, quite properly, made a number of comments about funding regional government. Government policy on the Barnett formula is well known. We are in favour of maintaining that formula, which has operated effectively over time, and have distributed resources across the United Kingdom in accordance with its provisions. The Opposition can call for a debate on that issue at any time.
Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle) (Lab): Ministers are quoted in the press today as saying that the Government do not have the numbers to win next Tuesday's vote. Are there any circumstances in which the Higher Education Bill will be withdrawn?
Mr. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD): May I associate myself with the concerns expressed earlier by the hon. Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale (Mr. Duncan)? He referred to this morning's report in the Scottish press about the equipment given to troops in Iraq. I bring to the attention of the Leader of the House a report that appears on the front page of one newspaper. It refers to a regimental sergeant-major in the Black Watch, and states:
Mr. Hain: The hon. Gentleman raises this matter quite properly. Obviously, he will seek to pursue it, either through a debate in his own name or by other means. However, as I have said consistentlyand I repeated it on Sky television on Sundaymy right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is doing an outstanding job. He is a very valued Cabinet colleague, and he will listen carefully to what the hon. Gentleman has to say. The hon. Gentleman should address the specifics of this matter to my right hon. Friend, or raise them in other ways.
Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): May we have a debate on the shocking decision to change the name of East Midlands airport to Nottingham airport? As my right hon. Friend knows, the airport is owned by Manchester airport. The equivalent would be to rename Manchester airport Salford airport or, to give a Scottish example, Glasgow airport Rutherglen airport. The chief
Mr. Hain: I understand why my hon. Friend raises this matter. I guess that I would take a similar view if I were a Leicester Member of Parliament. However, this is a commercial decision by the airports group involved. We do not have any power to intervene, and my hon. Friend must raise the matter with the company. The Civil Aviation Authority has said that it is content that there are no safety implications. I am sure that my hon. Friend will want to make the fiercest representations with local people on this matter, and I recognise that that is what he is doing now, quite properly.
Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell) (Con): The Leader of the House is quite right to see as one of his main duties the need to ensure that the public have confidence in this House. He will share my view that people will have that confidence only if, by and large, we debate issues that concern them. Will he therefore reconsider the possibility of holding a two-day debate on Hutton? The right hon. Gentleman and I were both Members of this House when the Scott report was published. The significant difference between then and now is that we now have Westminster Hall. Many of the debates that have been criticised on the front page of The Times could be held there. That would allow us to have more two-day debates, when that is considered to be relevant by Mr. Speaker, the right hon. Gentleman and others. Will he reconsider the matter?
Mr. Hain: I have answered that question already. It is clearly the Conservative message of the day. However, the truth is that Westminster Hall debates make this Government more accountable than any other, as Ministers must answer questions in those debates. Previously, that happened only in Select Committees or on the Floor of the House. The extra accountability offered by Westminster Hall will be evident in respect of the Hutton report, as it is on all other issues.
David Winnick (Walsall, North) (Lab): Will there be an opportunity next week for a Minister to make a statement or answer questions on the expected decision by the England and Wales Cricket Board regarding the tour of Zimbabwe? That is important, given Mugabe's totally lawless tyranny. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the issues involved are the same as those that arose 30 years ago, when Labour Membersand I emphasise that it was Labour Membersprotested against cricket being played in apartheid South Africa? My right hon. Friend demonstrated against that proposed tour in a more practical way when it was necessary for such demonstrations to be held.
Mr. Hain: Indeed, my hon. Friend joined me and others in fighting that evil. The regime in Zimbabwe under Mugabe is indeed barbarous. People heard my views on this matter when it first arose last year, but the ECB has written to the Foreign Office to ask for advice. The Government will reply shortly, and the Foreign Office remains ready to offer guidance on safety and