Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Hain: I shall consider the latter point as soon as I can. I agreed with the hon. Gentleman when he asked me about it recently. It is a great opportunity to examine the excellent report from the House of Commons Commission. It should prove an interesting debate and we shall arrange it as soon as possible.

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman asked about the middle east peace process because the Prime Minister confirmed only yesterday that he is giving progress on it absolute priority. It is important in its own right to reverse the historic injustice done to the Palestinians and ensure that they have an independent state and, at the same time, ensure a secure Israeli state, living in partnership alongside the new independent Palestinian state. The Prime Minister is confident that we can make progress on that now that the American elections are out of the way.

I cannot believe that the Deputy Prime Minister, who is extremely accountable to the House and, almost more than any other Cabinet Minister, makes himself available around the House, flatly refuses to discuss fire and rescue control centres with hon. Members. However, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister will have noted the hon. Gentleman's comments.

The hon. Gentleman referred to Noel Crowley, the former leader of my local council, who made some points and whose views are greatly respected. It does not automatically follow that what is done in Wales should be done in England. The purpose of devolution is to effect policies and models that are relevant to the different conditions in each part of the United Kingdom. We can learn from best practice. Indeed, perhaps in the case that the hon. Gentleman raised, there is some learning to do. However, in Wales there is learning to do about, for example, much shorter waiting lists in the health service in England.
4 Nov 2004 : Column 455

Tony Wright (Cannock Chase) (Lab): The hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald) said that we had waited a year or so for the Civil Service Bill. In fact, we have been waiting for approximately 150 years. When we get one in the next week or so, will the Government draw attention to its constitutional significance through an oral statement? In introducing the measure, will they state the procedure whereby they intend Parliament to take it forward?

Mr. Hain: There are no plans for an oral statement. A consultation document will be published in which the draft Bill will appear. I know that my hon. Friend's Committee has taken an active interest in this matter and will no doubt continue to do so.

Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire) (Con): When will the Secretary of State for Health present his public health White Paper to Parliament, and can we thereafter have a full day's debate in Government time so that Members on both sides of the House can urge the Government to take a robust approach to smoking in public places?

Mr. Hain: I think that the right hon. Gentleman will be encouraged on that matter by the forthcoming public health White Paper. On the timing, it will be quite soon.

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): Can the Leader of the House arrange for another debate on Zimbabwe before the England cricket team leave, particularly in relation to early-day motion 1855, which draws attention to the expulsion from Zimbabwe of COSATU, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, and particularly the treatment of a fellow parliamentarian, Roy Bennett—who has visited this place quite recently—who has now been sentenced to 15 months' hard labour and is out breaking stones in Harare prison at this very time?

[That this House deplores as an insult to the international trade union movement and an affront to the principle of free association the recent deportation from Zimbabwe of a COSATU delegation; condemns the sentencing by the Zimbabwean Parliament of Roy Bennett, Member of Parliament for Chimanimani to 15 months' imprisonment with hard labour; regards the penalty as grossly disproportionate and the culmination of a sustained campaign of hate and personal abuse waged by Zanu PF ministers and the state-controlled propaganda machine against a culturally-sensitive and progressive elected representative of the people; and calls upon the governments and parliamentarians of member states to uphold Southern African Development Community Treaty principles of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Zimbabwe.]

I know the views of the Leader of the House on this matter, but can he say whether there is any chance of another debate on Zimbabwe soon?

Mr. Hain: I know, and the Foreign Secretary is well aware, not least because of the regular points made rightly by my hon. Friend, of the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe. The treatment of Roy Bennett and the trade unions in Zimbabwe is outrageous, and there are now reports that the very farms that were commandeered by the Mugabe clique in the so-called land reform process are just lying waste, with not only
4 Nov 2004 : Column 456
the white farmers having been driven off them but, in my view, even more importantly, the black workers by the hundred having been left destitute. The way in which Mugabe has allowed such a fantastic country virtually to collapse is outrageous. I repeat that had I ever been eligible to tour with the England team, which is pretty unlikely, I would have refused to tour, as I do not think that any encouragement or succour should be given by English cricketers going out there to play.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): May we please have an urgent debate in Government time on Burma, given that the so-called State Peace and Development Council, the ruling military junta in Burma, is guilty of the most savage violations of human rights every day, in the form of rape as a weapon of war, compulsory relocation, forced labour, the use of human mine sweepers, child soldiers, religious persecution and the bestial destruction of villages on a daily basis, with more than 1,400 political prisoners languishing behind bars? Does the right hon. Gentleman, as a humanitarian, agree that it is important that we have the chance of a debate in this Chamber, so that the argument for a robust European Union sanctions policy on oil, gas and the telecommunications sector can rapidly be developed?

Mr. Hain: I applaud the hon. Gentleman's sentiments. He is increasingly respected across the House for the way in which he focuses on international injustice. Certainly, the injustice in Burma is at least on a par with that in Zimbabwe, and it is one of the really troubled spots across the world. His points are valid, and I am sure that the Foreign Secretary will want to take note of them.

Ms Dari Taylor (Stockton, South) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend organise a debate on the adoption and fostering of children? Last year, the House supported an excellent but challenging piece of legislation, with targets that referenced the number of adoptions that should take place year on year. We need reassurance that those targets are being met, and if they are not being met, we need the opportunity to discuss the reasons why. I ask this during national adoption week and remind the House, with great warmth, that the legislation was about one thing: providing a loving and stable family home for vulnerable children, 25 per cent. of whom never achieve that goal.

Mr. Hain: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing this important matter to the House's attention. If she has the opportunity to get a debate on it, I am sure that it will be welcomed by the House. I know that the Minister for Children, Young People and Families will be with her in spirit on the important point that she has made.

Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): May I ask my right hon. Friend for an urgent debate on Post Office Ltd.'s urban reinvention programme and its impact on our communities? In my constituency, Post Office Ltd. has proposed the closure of a post office in an urban neighbourhood renewal area. It makes no sense for one Department to oversee Post Office Ltd. and provide it with public money, while another, which is trying to
4 Nov 2004 : Column 457
reinvent local economies and save local shopping precincts, is being undermined by Post Office Ltd.'s closure programme. We need to assess the impact of that programme and have a debate on the matter here on the Floor of the House.

While I have my right hon. Friend's ear, may I draw his attention to South Eastern Trains, which is the only publicly owned and run rail franchise in the country? It is outperforming its private sector predecessor, so is it not about time we had legislation to bring the railways back under public control?

Mr. Hain: I understand that my hon. Friend, who is an excellent Member of Parliament, has just been lucky enough to be selected to serve on the Gambling Bill Standing Committee. The nature of his question illustrates that the story going around that that Committee has been packed with cronies is not true. I understand his point about the Post Office's plans to either close or sell off directly managed Crown post offices, because they form an important hub on our local high streets and are an important part of our towns and cities. Whatever the Post Office does, it is important that it should bear local feelings in mind.

On South Eastern Trains, I note the point that my hon. Friend makes.

Next Section IndexHome Page