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Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle) (Lab): Voting ends today in the referendum for the North East assembly. Win or lose, can we expect a statement from the Deputy Prime Minister next week on the implications?

Mr. Hain: Well, let us await the outcome of the referendum—[Laughter.] We have heard before this negative sniggering and name-calling from the Conservatives, who do not want to devolve power to the people. This proposal is about giving the people of the north-east a voice, just as Wales has a voice through its own Assembly and Scotland through its own Parliament. We will see what the outcome of the referendum will be, but the Deputy Prime Minister has never been afraid to make statements to the House or to make himself accountable to it. I pay tribute to the way in which he has led the campaign, as opposed to a lot of Tory attacks and lies from the "No" campaign. They are seeking to deny the people of the north-east the voice that other constituent parts of the United Kingdom enjoy.

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): May I bring the Leader of the House back to his comments, and those of the Prime Minister yesterday, about illegal Travellers sites? It is recognised—certainly in my part of the world—that those who promulgate such sites are moving with a great deal more urgency than the Government. May we have a debate on this issue, so that those of us who represent such areas can draw attention to the fears, concerns, distress and, sometimes, anger of our constituents at the inadequacies of the planning law and, for example, the utilities' apparent belief that they have a duty to supply, and to maintain supply to, settlements that are wholly outside the law?

Mr. Hain: As the Prime Minister said yesterday, he very much sympathises with the points that the hon. Gentleman makes. I cannot say that there will be time for such a debate before Prorogation, but the hon. Gentleman can obviously apply for one. Given the feeling throughout the House on this matter, such a debate would be welcome.

Jonathan Shaw (Chatham and Aylesford) (Lab): In the light of the new role for Ofsted following the Children Bill—it will inspect children's services across different agencies—do the Government intend to give it any other roles in future, particularly in respect of the frequency with which good schools are inspected? It is vital that parents have information, but it is also important that we focus on the need for Ofsted to inspect schools that are performing well, and in which
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the parents have confidence. This week, a school in my constituency—St. Katherine's, in Snodland—is being inspected.

Mr. Hain: I have a great deal of sympathy with what my hon. Friend says. We will continue, in the coming years, to put resources into such areas—resources that would be put at risk if we were defeated at the next general election. We are looking not only at making that extra investment but at freeing up the delivery of front-line services in schools and across the public services. My hon. Friend will doubtless be encouraged by the measures that we intend to introduce to take forward the schools inspection agenda. It is true that the proper delivery of higher standards in our classrooms can sometimes be impeded.

Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury) (Con): I echo the call of the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Ms Taylor) for a debate in Government time on the workings of the Adoption Act 1976. National adoption week provides an opportunity to congratulate those local authorities, including Kent, that have achieved a considerable increase in the number of children in care being found loving homes, but there remain huge problems in the courts. There are delays, the advisory service is in a muddle, and judges are sometimes unwilling to realise that if we want people to provide loving homes for these desperately damaged children, they must ease the process along as quickly as possible.

Mr. Hain: The objective of finding loving homes for such children is shared throughout the House, regardless of party, and the Minister with responsibility for such matters will have heard the points that the hon. Gentleman makes.

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff, West) (Lab): As my right hon. Friend will know, there has always been a market for parliamentary memorabilia. In fact, this morning on eBay one could buy a House of Commons ashtray for £4.95, a bottle of whisky signed by John Major for £45 or a House of Commons carrier bag for 99p, but not—despite press reports—any of the new visitors' passes. Can my right hon. Friend shed any light on whether such reports are true?

Mr. Hain: I have been alarmed to discover that, apparently, visitors' passes do not have to be returned when visitors depart the House. I know that the House authorities will pay close attention to this issue and that it will be looked into very carefully—and you, Mr. Speaker, will also be concerned about it. It came to my notice only this morning that visitors' passes can sometimes be kept—indeed, they constitute a fashion accessory in some areas. That is very alarming indeed.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South) (UUP): The Leader of the House expressed great sympathy with the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew) regarding the situation in Darfur. Could we have an early statement on the pressure that our United Nations representatives are bringing to bear on the Security Council members present there? Those members may well be trying to
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keep the peace between nations, but they are doing very little to protect citizens' rights within nations, as they foster their own interests in Sudan and other places.

Mr. Hain: The Government of Sudan have apparently accepted the terms of the United Nations Security Council resolution that we were very instrumental in achieving, but a lot of progress still needs to be made. The situation remains desperate and a lot of stalling is going on in terms of the resolution, so the hon. Gentleman's question is very pertinent.

Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab): My right hon. Friend will have seen speculation in the press that the proposals on identity cards are getting increasingly narrow. Will he use his good offices to ensure that if such a Bill is included in the Queen's Speech, it is designed so that it can be built on as different needs develop? In particular, will he ensure that it is designed to help deal with the terrible new crime of identity theft, which is causing huge problems throughout the country?

Mr. Hain: My hon. Friend makes a very good point. The Home Secretary is in the process of finalising his proposals and he is bearing in mind in particular the pre-legislative scrutiny of such a Bill. He will want to take into account the point that my hon. Friend makes.

Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire) (Lab): Has my right hon. Friend seen the fine early-day motion 1799, on trade unions in Iraq, which is in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann)?

[That this House notes that free trade unionism is a key ingredient of a move from totalitarianism to democracy; welcomes the renewal of free trade unionism in Iraq; and calls on the Government to give assistance and priority to the strengthening of this movement.]

An admirable amendment has been included from my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Jeremy Corbyn), with whom I do not always see eye to eye on Iraq. The early-day motion asks the Government to help strengthen the trade union movement in Iraq, while the amendment encourages the applying of pressure on the Iraqi Government to ensure that changes in trade union law are made, in order to allow trade unions to be properly organised within the public sector—a move supported by the International Labour Organisation and the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions. May we have a debate on this issue?

Mr. Hain: It would be good to air this issue on the Floor of the House. We are determined to support the creation of a democratic Iraq, not just through elections
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early next year, but through the other instruments of civil society—especially trade unions—that make a democracy vibrant and possible. The Iraqi people and the Government certainly welcome my hon. Friend's championing of that cause.

Jim Sheridan (West Renfrewshire) (Lab): It is anticipated that the Prime Minister will be held personally responsible by many in the press and media, and in the House, for any British deaths in Iraq—I sincerely hope that there will be no more. If it is right and proper for the Prime Minister to be held responsible for those deaths, why is it not right and proper for British employers to be held responsible for the deaths of their employees? After all, as the statistics stand today, there is far more chance of being killed on a British building site than there is in Iraq, although that does not carry the same priority headline in the press.

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