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Mr. Woolas: I should mention that my hon. Friend has been campaigning on this issue. The motion is certainly important. The Child Support Agency continues to work with EDS, the computer supplier, to resolve the problems with the new IT system. As our casework demonstrates, we encounter such problems almost daily. Although, as my hon. Friend has acknowledged, there have been improvements, the system is still far from perfect.
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The Government are keen for those who are still on the old scheme to benefit from the reforms as soon as possible. We want our constituents to move to the new system because it is better, simpler and fairer—and, as my hon. Friend says, at the end of the day it is the children whom we are trying to help.

Mr. Nigel Dodds (Belfast, North) (DUP): There has rightly been much discussion in the House and elsewhere about the future of the Scottish regiments, but the Government must be aware of the great concern in Northern Ireland about the future of the home battalions of The Royal Irish Regiment, which has given valiant and courageous service for many years in difficult and challenging circumstances. Will the Deputy Leader of the House commit himself to an early debate on this important issue in Government time?

Mr. Woolas: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence takes the issue extremely seriously. We shall have a number of opportunities for defence debates during the coming Session, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will want to contribute.

Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North) (Lab): When will the long-awaited public health White Paper eventually be published, and when can we debate it? I am sure my hon. Friend is aware of yesterday's decision by the Scottish Executive to ban smoking in all enclosed public places, which I warmly welcome. The all-party group on smoking and health has visited Ireland and seen the success of the policy there, and Wales voted for a ban two years ago. Will my hon. Friend ask our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health to be bold and safeguard the health of all employees, wherever they may work—in offices, in restaurants or in bars?

Mr. Woolas: They did warn me that controversy might arise. The answer to my hon. Friend's question is no, but the Government are committed to publishing a White Paper as soon as possible—any day now.

My hon. Friend has raised this issue persistently. I have spoken to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House about her views on smoking in public places, and he is of course aware of the Scottish decision. The House will want to hear the views of the Welsh Assembly, and will await the White Paper's publication with interest.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): Is the Leader of the House in New Zealand in his capacity as Leader of the House or in his capacity as Secretary of State for Wales? If it is the former, will he report to the House on whatever he has discovered? If it is the latter, will he try to plan his diary better in future so as not to miss Thursdays?

Mr. Woolas: In fact, we get very good value for money from my right hon. Friend. He has visited Australia in his capacity as Secretary of State for Wales, where he championed the Welsh economy and inward investment. That followed a successful trip to China, as a direct result of which jobs have been brought to Wales. He is currently in New Zealand at the invitation of its Prime Minister, and is visiting the Parliament there. As
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a member of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, the hon. Gentleman will surely acknowledge the desirability to the House of those links.

As for the timing, my right hon. Friend—as I said—asked me to pass on his apologies. This window of opportunity before the final week of the Session was convenient. As I am sure the hon. Gentleman will acknowledge, my right hon. Friend has not missed business questions in two years.

Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle) (Lab): If we vote down the Lords amendments to the Hunting Bill on Tuesday, what exactly will be the procedure for invoking the Parliament Act?

Mr. Woolas: The procedure for invoking the Parliament Act is a matter for the House. I have announced the time that is available, and I am confident that there will be enough—although it takes only 30 seconds for my hon. Friend to say no, which I suspect will be his response. I can confirm that there will be a free vote for all members of the parliamentary Labour party, in line with our manifesto commitment.

The point about the Parliament Act—this is of course something of which you are fully aware, Mr. Speaker—is that its invocation is a process rather than a decision. We should see Tuesday's debate in that light.

Pete Wishart (North Tayside) (SNP): We have just learned from a No. 10 briefing that the Prime Minister has no intention of raising the redeployment of The Black Watch when he meets President Bush later today. Does the Deputy Leader of the House not find that extraordinary, given that the Black Watch have provided the president with international cover and credibility during the past few weeks? Perhaps the hon. Gentleman could gently suggest that it might be in the Prime Minister's interests to raise the issue—and, most important, seek a reassurance that no further such deployments will take place.

Mr. Woolas: I understand the hon. Gentleman's point, but the Prime Minister cannot involve the detail of military decisions in conversations of this nature. It would be wholly wrong of him to play politics with our armed forces, which is effectively what he would be doing.

I prefer to listen to members of the Black Watch who are currently in Iraq. They have made clear in media interviews that they would prefer politicians of all political colours not to hamper them in their work by commenting on their involvement. They would rather we gave them our backing, and did all that we can to support them. To play political football with the Black Watch, as I think the hon. Gentleman is—

Pete Wishart: No.

Mr. Woolas: There is an honest disagreement here. I think that that is what the hon. Gentleman is doing.

Mr. Tony McWalter (Hemel Hempstead) (Lab/ Co-op): At the risk of putting my hon. Friend off, may I congratulate him on the lucidity and well informed character of what he has been saying today?
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My hon. Friend will know that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has recently mentioned several times outside the House the importance of the money that he has designated for science, and how vital science is to the Government's strategy. He will also know that the Chancellor has not actually made a statement in the House to that effect. I am particularly concerned, because the Science and Technology Committee has said that it is vital that effective investment be made in engineering and science in terms of the capacity of developing countries, and many of us want to query the Chancellor's intentions in this regard. Will my hon. Friend direct the Chancellor to come to the House to deal with this very important issue?

Mr. Woolas: I feared that my hon. Friend was going to ask me about political philosophy but he has shifted to engineering and science, a very wise move. I expect the pre-Budget report and the spring Budget to continue what is a very strong track record on science investment. There is all-party agreement on science's importance to this country, but not on the provision of money for it. For example, as I discovered in preparation for today, one consequence of following the advice of the leader of the Liberal Democrats—his policy is to abolish the Department of Trade and Industry—would be the abolition of £2.4 billion-worth of investment in science; not a popular policy, I would have thought, in his constituency.

Alistair Burt (North-East Bedfordshire) (Con): Before the excellent Minister for Work, the right hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Jane Kennedy), makes her decision on the implementation of the temporary working at height directive, will the Deputy Leader of the House arrange for an urgent debate so the House can influence her to exempt those who are already qualified to make judgments about safety in the outdoor adventure industry, thus avoiding the embarrassment of UK mountaineering safety standards being accepted by climbers throughout the world as the gold standard while, seemingly, the only people not sharing that view being the Health and Safety Executive and, potentially, the British Government?

Mr. Woolas: The hon. Gentleman has raised this issue before in an Adjournment debate, and I wrote to the Minister responsible for such matters outlining his views. I shall not comment on the details of the temporary working at height directive because I do not know what they are.

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