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Mr. Heald: I thank the Leader of the House for the business. Was he as flabbergasted as I was by the remarks this morning by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Clare Short)? One understands the difficulties, but when will we hear a Government response on the issue?
The Prime Minister has just announced a new commission for Africa and a new emphasis on Africa. Is it not about time that we had a debate on Zimbabwewe have not had one since 1997now that the Government's quiet diplomacy has obviously failed? Is
I have pressed the Leader of the House on several occasions to tell us when the Penrose report is to be published. Hundreds of thousands of pension scheme members are worried about the loss of their life savings, and there is also concern on both sides of the House about the issue. Is it right that we are to have the statement next week? The rumour is that it will be on Tuesday. Is the Leader of the House able to give us clear information about that so that we do not have to wait for the Sunday newspapers, as we so often do these days?
The Leader of the House knows that we would like early debates on the airports and defence White Papers. Can he help us on those? When will the draft Mental Health Bill be produced for pre-legislative scrutiny? He will know that many Members on both sides of the House are concerned about that. Will we have to wait to hear about that in the Sunday papers, or will he tell us about it today?
Last week, the Government made announcements about the reform of the examination system, immigrants' benefits and substantial changes to the civil service and we had the inspired leak about genetically modified foods. To round off the week in recess, the Prime Minister gave an interview in the News of the World about proposing drug testing for school students. Does the Leader of the House agree that it is an important principle that announcements should be made in this place? When he said on the "Today" programme on Monday that there were too many announcements to inform Parliament about all of them, was he being serious and, if so, will he tell us what sort of announcement he will not be informing Parliament about? Will it be the tricky ones, or does he just want to leave something for the Sunday papers?
Mr. Hain: On the last point, if the hon. Gentleman looks at the "Weekly Information Bulletin"as I am sure he has donehe will see that from 6 to 12 February there was a whole list of written ministerial statements
Mr. Hain: Indeed, written ministerial statements, because the time of the House could not be constantly filled up with statements. The Government are held accountable to the House through those statementson top of which, the Government, whether the Prime Minister or other members of the Cabinet, have given regular statements, weekly statements, on all those key issues. May I suggest that that was a typically fatuous question from the shadow Leader of the House? On that point[Interruption.]
Mr. Hain: May I express surprise about the titles of the Opposition motions? I am grateful to the shadow Leader of the House for the advance notice, as it is in the interest of Members to know what next week's business
The shadow Leader of the House said that he was flabbergasted by the statement made by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Clare Short). May I simply repeat what the Prime Minister said? It was a deeply irresponsible statement, and that says it all.
Mr. Hain: The Prime Minister has repeatedly made statements and answered questions on Africa over the past few years. He is a Prime Minister who has taken more interest in rescuing Africa from poverty than any of his predecessors. On Zimbabwe, the same is true. When I was a Foreign Office Minister, I remember regularly making statements to the House, answering debates in Westminster Hall and answering questions in robust terms. If behind the question put by the shadow Leader of the House is the view that Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe is being dragged into a desperate state by that tyrant, I agree. We are working continuously with other African leaders to bring that situation to a conclusion, so that the people of Zimbabwe can be liberated from that tyranny. I notice, however, that there is never any suggestion from the Opposition for an alternative policy to deal with Zimbabwe.
On the planned, or proposed, English cricket tour, discussions have been going on, as the hon. Gentleman knows. Ultimately, the decision is for the English cricket authorities; they have sought and been given advice. Their adviser, Des Wilson, has drawn up a framework for taking a decision, and a decision will, ultimately, be taken.
The hon. Gentleman asked about the Penrose report. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury has said on several occasions, most recently only a couple of weeks ago on 12 February, that the Treasury plan to publish the report in full as soon as possible and that it will answer questions following publication. He asked when, and whether it would be next week. When is when we are ready to do so[Interruption.] I understand the concern of Members and all our constituents about the matter, but the hon. Gentleman should appreciate that the Government will give a considered response when we are ready to do so, so that we can take the matter forward.
On the defence and airports White Papers, and all the others, I have already answered those questions, as the hon. Gentleman has put them to me before. On the draft Mental Health Bill, a great chunk of it has already been subject to consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny, as he knows. The question is when the remaining issues are to be considered, and we shall take that forward when we are able to do so.
If it was so necessary to persuade members of the United Nations Security Council to support the second resolution, why did the Prime Minister later assure the House that that resolution was not necessary before he took the country to war? Will the Leader of the House ensure that the Prime Minister comes to answer that question and to explain precisely how the implications of those cases relate to the remit of the Butler inquiry? For example, the Attorney-General has already indicated in the other place that the Foreign Secretary must answer questions about GCHQ. He has already said that there are important issues that are the Prime Minister's responsibility, and the later statement from the Solicitor-General cannot possibly cover that. So when will we get that opportunity to question the Prime Minister?
Will the Leader of the House confirm whether the full advice and instructions given by the Foreign Office legal team to the Attorney-General before he produced his opinion on the legality of the Iraq invasion will be made available to the Butler inquiry and made public? As he knows, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell) has consistently asked for that to be made public. The leader of the Conservative party did not regard it as important that we saw the legal advice on the invasion of Iraqhe wanted to go to war anywaybut we have consistently asked for that, and we now believe that it is extremely important.
I have a constituency interest in GCHQ: the listening post is at Morwenstow in my constituency. I want to know whether my constituents are being put in an invidious position by what they are being asked to do. The Prime Minister set up the Butler inquiry. He, and only he, can answer to the House on its remit.
Mr. Hain: I do not know where the hon. Gentleman was yesterday, but the Prime Minister was here, answering questions put to him by hon. Members from across the House, and the hon. Gentleman could have put any question to him if he had been called. The Prime Minister is here every week. He appears before the Liaison Committee. He makes statements to the House. He is a Prime Minister who is more accountable to the House than any of his predecessors, and the hon. Gentleman ought surely to recognise that.
On the Gun case and the events that transpired yesterday, as the hon. Gentleman knows, the Solicitor-General is about to make a statement to the House, and the hon. Gentleman will be able to pursue any question that he wants then. The Attorney-General has already made a statement in the other place.
On the Attorney-General's adviceagain, as the Prime Minister has made it clear this morning, and he would have made it clear if he had been asked yesterday by the hon. Gentleman or any of his colleagues if they had taken the opportunity to do sosuch advice is never published, and it never has been by previous Governments. That is the situationfrankly, it is irresponsible to suggest otherwisebut, as he also knows, a summary of the essential point that the Attorney-General was making appeared in an answer to a parliamentary question, as appropriately tabled. In fact, the House was informed of the gist of the advice, but it has not been the practice to publish the Attorney-General's advice because Law Officers' advice is not published. It is private advice to the Government.