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Interest Rates

13. Mr. Kelvin Hopkins (Luton, North) (Lab): Whether the UK will retain independent control of domestic interest rates in the event of the European constitutional treaty being adopted. [197396]

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Paul Boateng): The adoption of the European constitutional treaty would not affect the UK's capacity to retain independent control of domestic interest rates.

Mr. Hopkins: The enormous rise in the parity of the euro relative to the dollar has put the eurozone economies in serious danger of grave recession. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on keeping us out of the euro at least for the time being, so we do not face that danger. Does he agree that keeping economic and monetary union provisions separate from the constitutional treaty would have been more sensible and made it clear that signing up to the treaty does not mean signing up to the euro?

Mr. Boateng: My hon. Friend has a particular position, both on the euro and on the constitutional treaty. He knows a great deal about the treaty, and he will appreciate that, by our amendments to articles I.11 and I.14, we secured significant changes in the Convention, which made it clear that it is the responsibility of member states to co-ordinate economic policy. We retained our control in these areas while maintaining our position at the heart of Europe. That position would be sacrificed if Opposition Members were ever to have their way in relation to the treaty.

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Business of the House

12.30 pm

Mr. Oliver Heald (North-East Hertfordshire) (Con): Will the Deputy Leader of the House please give us the business for next week?

The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Phil Woolas): As you are aware, Mr. Speaker, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House is on Government business in New Zealand. He has asked me to pass on his apologies to the House for his absence today.

The business for next week will be as follows:

Monday 15 November—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Armed Forces (Pensions and Compensation) Bill, followed by a motion to approve a ways and means resolution on the Pensions Bill, followed by a debate on Thames Gateway on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Tuesday 16 November—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Pensions Bill, followed by procedure and associated motions relating to the Hunting Bill, followed by consideration of Lords amendments on the Hunting Bill, followed by, if necessary, consideration of Lords amendments.

Wednesday 17 November—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Civil Contingencies Bill, followed by consideration of Lords amendments.

Thursday 18 November—Consideration of Lords amendments.

The House will be prorogued when Royal Assent to all Acts has been signified.

The House may like to be reminded that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced this morning that the pre-Budget report will be on Thursday 2 December.

Mr. Heald: I thank the Deputy Leader of the House for the business. Will he join me in welcoming the Sikh community to Westminster today? Has he seen early-day motion 1890, which commemorates the thousands of victims of the anti-Sikh pogroms of November 1984, acknowledges progress made since then—the current Prime Minister of India is a Sikh—and calls for an inquiry into what happened at that time?

[That this House remembers with sadness the 20th anniversary of the November 1984 anti-Sikh pogroms when thousands of innocent Sikhs were killed or injured across India; notes with pleasure the many positive changes that have since taken place in India where the current Prime Minister is a Sikh; and expresses the hope that the Government of India will continue to pursue the path of reconciliation in relation to those events by instituting an inquiry into them that can bring closure to the victims and relatives of those who suffered at that time.]

Would it be possible to have a debate about that in the short amount of time remaining before prorogation?

Is the hon. Gentleman able to give any further news about how the full list of Bills and draft Bills which the Government expect to introduce in the next Session will be published at the time of the Queen's Speech?
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Although we welcomed the enlargement of the European Union on 1 May, the number of workers coming to the United Kingdom from the new EU countries is far higher than expected. The Home Secretary promised to review the Government's open-door policy if that happened. When can we expect a statement from the Home Secretary with his response?

Where is the draft Civil Service Bill?

Can we have a statement from the Deputy Prime Minister accepting the verdict of the north-east referendum and committing the Government to abolition of the unelected regional assemblies?Were not the Prime Minister's remarks yesterday, when he immediately backed those unpopular bodies, saying that they were "perfectly good", a complete denial of democracy? Was that not in sharp contrast with his attitude to the future of the Scottish regiments, when he refused to give an answer and left them dangling in the wind? Is that not a disgraceful way to treat the Black Watch when they are fighting for their country? Is it right that their homecoming is to be "Thank you and goodbye to the regiment"? Can we have an urgent statement on their future?

Finally, as we remember those who gave their lives for us, can we have an urgent statement about one group of veterans in particular—those who sailed in the Russian convoys and deserve a separate Arctic campaign medal? Three hundred and sixty hon. Members in all parts of the House—a majority—support the campaign. Can we have a positive response from the Government today?

Mr. Woolas: I confirm that I have read early-day motion 1890 and support the hon. Gentleman's remarks about the Sikh community. The hon. Gentleman will understand that we cannot debate the matter before the end of the Session, because the business has been allocated for the three or four remaining days.

On the publication of the list of Bills and draft Bills, I confirm that, as in the past, we will place the list in the Library to ensure that as much information as possible is available to the House. On draft Bills, as much information as possible is being made available to the Liaison Committee to allow discussions to take place.

On the Civil Service Bill, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has announced that the consultation document, which includes a draft Bill, will be published by the end of the Session. I cannot confirm the exact publication date, so the shadow Leader of the House must wait for a few more days.

Turning to the political points made by the shadow Leader of the House, it is simply scaremongering to say that people from the EU accession countries will flood this country. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has made statements on the matter, and I shall give the House some facts. Some 45 per cent. of the 90,000 people who have registered under the scheme were already in the country—the scheme has brought out into the open and made legal what was perhaps illegal.

Our economy requires those people, some of whom, as the head of the British Hospitality Association said yesterday, work in hospitality. Only 16 of those 90,000 people have successfully applied for income-related benefits, and only 14 of them have been given a council house. As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary pointed out, the people on the registered
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scheme have already contributed £20 million to this country in income tax and national insurance and £120 million of output to the economy. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has a good record on that matter.

It is not true, as some newspapers stated this morning, that the Government claimed that only 13,000 people would come into the country under the scheme. That estimate came from University College London, and it was a net figure including both immigration and emigration. The scaremongers who claimed that more than 1 million people would flood into the country were absolutely wrong, and the intent behind their scaremongering has been exposed.

On the north-east regional assembly, I recall the Deputy Prime Minister coming to this House and making a statement. [Interruption.] I think that Conservative Members want to hear more from the Deputy Prime Minister, which would be good. The Deputy Prime Minister could then repeat the figures on the enormous investment that is taking place through the regional development agencies, which were set up by a Conservative Government and which Conservative Members are happy to criticise.

It was interesting to see the shadow Leader of the House make up another policy on the hoof. The Conservative party has revealed that it would abolish the regional assemblies. Conservative Members criticise us for holding a referendum to enhance democracy, but they want to take away the only vestige of democracy that holds the quangos to account in the regions.

The Prime Minister has answered the question on Scottish regiments and the Black Watch. The decision must be made in the proper way. The Army and the armed forces will consider the various options to ensure that the extra money that is being provided for the defence of our country is spent in the most appropriate way. A decision will be taken shortly.

On the Arctic convoys, I think that the hon. Gentleman made a point on behalf of the whole House. The Prime Minister responded to that in yesterday's Prime Minister's Question Time in as positive a way as was possible, given the procedures that he has to follow.

To finish on a non-partisan point, today is of course Remembrance day, and I join the hon. Gentleman in his remarks on the tributes that have rightly been paid all over the country.

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