Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): Why does the Leader of the House keep wriggling and prevaricating on the subject of the Hutton report? He completely failed to answer the right hon. Member for Swansea, East (Donald Anderson), who asked a simple question about when the report would be made available to Members of this House. That was a relevant question, and perhaps the Leader of the House is about to answer it.
Why, oh why, cannot we have a proper length of debate on this very important report? It was commissioned by the Prime Minister, and is about the Government. It is of interest to every hon. Member and to many people outside the House. Why does the Leader of the House give the impression that he is evasive and shifty on this issue, when he could quite easily give us some straightforward and open replies about when the report is to be made available, when the statement will be made and when the debate will be held? Please can we have an answer now, so that the right hon. Gentleman no longer looks shifty?
Mr. Hain: The right hon. Gentleman would call me shifty and evasive if I were to recite the 10 times table. For an image of shiftiness and evasiveness, he need only consider the performance of the Leader of the Opposition on the "Breakfast with Frost" programme in connection with the issue of student finances. I have made it crystal clear that Lord Hutton has said that at the end of his statement, and not before
Mr. Hain: No, I will not give the right hon. Gentleman a guess, as it is a matter for Lord Hutton. He is one of the most senior and authoritative judges in the country, and it is for him to decide how to make the report public. The right hon. Gentleman should stop behaving in such an impudent fashion towards such a senior member of the judiciary. When Lord Hutton has finished his statement, the report will be made available to the House, in accordance with the judge's wishes.
Mr. Tony McWalter (Hemel Hempstead) (Lab/Co-op): Pursuant to the question asked by the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton) about the Procedure Committee report and the conduct of debates, does my right hon. Friend agree that Members of this House are not all equal when it comes to debating very big issues such as the top-up fees Bill and the Hutton report? As the Procedure Committee has noted, Labour Back Benchersespecially those elected from 1997 onwardstend not to get called. The minimum possible allocation of time per speech is eight minutes, which means that those hon. Members are always squeezed out. I am sometimes one of them. If my right
Mr. Hain: No, I will not negotiate with Mr. Speaker. Such negotiations are never held, as he has his responsibilities and I have mine. However, the House has heard what my hon. Friend has said. Obviously, we want as many hon. Members as possible to be called within the normal time for debate, in the proper fashion. The Scott report was also very important, and we intend to follow the precedent set at that time.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. McWalter) mentioned the Procedure Committee report. I want to take this opportunity to apologise to the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton) for not responding to his question on that subject. It is a very important report, and it needs to be considered by all Members so that progress can be made.
Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Con): Can the Leader of the House find time for a debate on the failure to provide equipment, such as body armour and biological, chemical and nuclear filters, to our military personnel in Iraq? The failure to provide such equipment when and where it was needed was in large part a result of the delay by the Government in placing the relevant orders. That delay was an attempt to quell the revolt against the war by Labour Back-Bench Members. In other words, soldiers were sacrificed for the purposes of political appeasement by this discredited Government.
Mr. Hain: That is the most outrageous allegation that it is possible to make. Our soldiers, who fought under the leadership of the Secretary of State, form the most effective fighting machine in the world, which the hon. Gentleman is denigrating[Interruption.]
Mr. Hain: The Ministry of Defence is considering whether enhanced combat body armour should become personal issue for all personnel, but it is too early to judge the outcome of that consideration. The issue was debated last week, but the hon. Gentleman was not even present to make that point and put proper questions to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, who would have been happy and confident to answer them because of his brilliant leadership during that campaign.
Will he use his good offices to discourage those in the Home Office who propose to introduce such measures, the receipts from which will be used to compensate and support victims of crime? Will he remind them that those proposals will not reduce minor crime and that compensation for victims of crime should be funded by central Government alone?
Mr. Hain: My hon. Friend is referring to what is obviously a consultation document, and I am sure that the Home Secretary and others will take his views into account. However, he will understand that we have two objectives: to protect victims and give them the support, redress and compensation that they need, and to maintain sensible rules, whether in respect of fines for road safety transgressions or other matters. It is a question of getting the balance right. The consultation paper has been issued and we will take all views into account.
Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood) (Con): The Leader of the House will know that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development reports that in 2002 the United Kingdom was the favourite country by far for applicants for asylum in the whole of the western world. We received many more than 100,000 asylum applicants in that year and are still head of the league for applications. Will he get the appropriate Minister to come to the House and announce a scheme whereby boroughs that contain a port of entry within their boundariessuch as my own borough of Hillingdonare fully compensated for the additional cost of unaccompanied refugee children? Such boroughs must bear that cost because of the Hillingdon judgment, and they may have to support children until they are 21, which could put some of them into the capping regime. That state of affairs is intolerable.
Mr. Hain: The issue is difficult and the hon. Gentleman is right to raise a constituency matter in that respect. The Government's policy on asylum, which I am sure that he supports, has been progressively to clamp down on illegal human trafficking, and we have done so with increasing effectiveness. We are advancing that policy and requests such as his should be considered in that contextalthough I notice that he is requesting extra public spending, which flatly contradicts his party's policy.
Andrew Selous (South-West Bedfordshire) (Con): Will the Leader of the House ensure that we have an early opportunity to discuss the proposals by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority on whether children conceived by in vitro fertilisation should continue to have the right to a father? If he cannot provide an early debate, will he at least ensure that there is a swift ministerial statement on the issue? In particular, section 25 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 stresses the need to put the well-being of children first and recognises the importance of fathers.