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Mr. Hain: I understand the hon. Gentleman's point about Exmoor. He is right to raise the matter, and the Secretary of State will certainly want to take account of his remarks if the impact is as he describes it. As my right hon. Friend said, the effects are balanced right across the country. Moreover, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman agrees that reform of the original subsidy system, which was provided by a bloated and inefficient common agricultural policy, was much needed. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for nodding. Although the general terms of the Secretary of State's announcement were welcomed, I understand that its application to his own area is an issue, and my right hon. Friend will want to take close account of his remarks.
[That this House applauds the courage and patriotism of GCHQ translator Katharine Gun who made public information about a memo from the US Government National Security Agency requesting UK assistance with a covert surveillance campaign of the United Nations Security Council members such as Mexico and Chile prior to voting on a resolution which would have endorsed the proposed invasion of Iraq in March 2003; welcomes the decision to drop the charges against her for breaching the Official Secrets Act; considers that the actions of Ms Gun qualify her as a whistlebloweran employee who, on the basis of principle, exposes a malpractice or a miscarriage of justice that deserves public attention; calls on the Government to reform the Official Secrets Act so
The motion, while praising the courage of whistleblower Katharine Gun and welcoming the decision, albeit somewhat late in the day, to drop all charges against her, calls on the Government to reform the Official Secrets Act to afford whistleblowers the defence of public interest, which, if a jury is so persuaded, will be deemed an absolute defence?
Mr. Hain: My hon. Friend will know that the Government introduced both legislation to protect whistleblowers and the Freedom of Information Act 2000, so our record in this respect is very good indeed. However, she is of course able to apply for a debate and to question the Solicitor-General when she appears in the House shortly.
Mr. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD): I am aware that following this business we are to have a statement by the Solicitor-General. Having listened to the Attorney-General's statement in the other place this morning, I am sure that it is apparent to most observers that it raises more questions than it answers. Speaking as a one-time procurator fiscal depute, it is surely apparent that someone in Government has danced with tackety boots all over the notion of independent prosecutors bringing prosecutions in the public interest. It is inevitable that in the course of the next few days more information will come into the public domain about the case and the decision to drop proceedings. Will the Leader of the House give me an assurance that when it does, we will be allowed the opportunity to discuss it fully?
Mr. Hain: The hon. Gentleman is hunting for conspiracies that do not exist. The Solicitor-General's statement, like the Attorney-General's statement, will be crystal clear on the matter. The decision was taken by the Crown Prosecution Service on evidential grounds following consultation with independent prosecuting counsel and the Attorney-General. Such decisions are essentially for the independent prosecuting counsel. There is no point in the hon. Gentleman's shaking his headthat is the fact of the situation.
Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) (Lab): Will the Leader of the House make time as early as possible next week for a full debate on all the security information that was sought before the conflict in Iraq, particularly the bugging operation that apparently went on at the United Nations? Does he not think that the British public and taxpayers who pay for all this have a right to know what went on, who made the decisions, and who authorised that bugging to go on, if it did? In the interests of transparency, an early debate would be very welcome.
[That this House notes with great pleasure that this year sees the celebration of the 300th Anniversary of relations between Gibraltar and the United Kingdom; further notes during this long period of time the closeness of that relationship and the ongoing support of Gibraltar to the United Kingdom, especially during periods when the support of Gibraltar was of crucial importance; further notes, with pride, the deep commitment of Gibraltar as a member of the British Islands and Mediterranean Region of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association to the principles of the Commonwealth in which it is a highly respected member; and believes there is a need for the fullest cooperation and understanding between the two countries in any decisions that may need to be taken that would in any way affect Gibraltar and this should only be done with the fullest involvement and co-operation of the elected representatives of Gibraltar and its people.]
The Leader of the House will be aware that next week a special service of thanksgiving will take place in London to celebrate that great anniversary. As he is renowned for his campaigning for democracy over many years, will he bring to this House at the earliest possible opportunity legislation to give the people of Gibraltar the same democratic right to vote to elect a Member of Parliament to this House that is enjoyed by everyone else in the United Kingdom?
Jon Trickett (Hemsworth) (Lab): Can the Leader of the House find the time to discuss the miners' compensation package? Such a debate would allow those of us who represent mining constituencies to congratulate the Government on recognising the suffering that miners underwent during their years of working underground. It would also allow me to raise the case of my constituent Mr. Harry Fletcher, who is 80 years old, worked underground all his life creating wealth for this country, and now suffers from the most severe vibration white finger imaginable. His records have been lost and there is no longer any living witness to the fact that he was employed underground, which has led to the denial of his application for compensation. Will the Leader of the House allow us to debate that matter on the Floor of the House or, if not, will he at least bring that case to the attention of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry?
Mr. Hain: I will certainly do that. As a representative of a former coal mining community, in concert with my hon. Friend I know that these cases worry many of our constituents who are in an appalling state of health,
Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): Will the Leader of the House reconsider the sleight of hand that he practised in not giving a proper answer to my hon. Friend the shadow Leader of the House? When asked why we are not getting proper oral statements from Ministers in this House during which they can answer questions from Members, the Leader of the House resorted to some slick comment about written ministerial statements. Even he must understand that there is a difference between a written ministerial statement, which cannot be questioned by Members, and a proper oral statement when Ministers come to the Dispatch Box and are prepared to answer questions from Members of Parliament from both sides of the House. When will the Leader of the House stop taking refuge in this ridiculous written ministerial statement procedure and get his colleagues to come and answer properly at the Dispatch Box?