Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op): I am sure that my hon. Friend will be delighted to hear that Co-operative Financial Services, which includes the Co-operative Bank and the Co-operative Insurance Society, has been ranked No. 1 on sustainable reporting criteria for delivering UN environment programmes. I am sure that many hon. Members in their places today are very proud of that achievement. Bearing that in mind, will my hon. Friend consider the possibility of having an urgent and early debate—if the next Session, if not this one—on the Government's attitude towards corporate social responsibility, in order properly to highlight the importance of this successful sector? We could then show that the Government do encourage good endeavours such as the Co-op and want more of them.
11 Nov 2004 : Column 937

Mr. Woolas: I am more than happy to congratulate Co-operative Financial Services on being ranked No. 1 in the world for its sustainability reporting relating to the UN environment programme. Some 2,000 sustainability reports are now produced worldwide and it is increasingly becoming a mainstream practice. I acknowledge my hon. Friend's work as chairman of the all-party group in promoting corporate responsibility and sustainability, and I congratulate him and the CFS again, especially in view of the part of the country that I represent.

Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell) (Con): May I remind the Deputy Leader that he has cited the pressure of business as a reason for not debating important subjects, yet the Government have left a half-day today completely empty and unused? That time could have been used to debate some of those subjects. Will he consider having a debate on the entirely unacceptable and illegal practice by many international criminal gangs of using automated dialling equipment to run up substantial premium-rate phone calls on behalf of innocent people in the United Kingdom? That activity is utterly unacceptable: it must be stopped, and the House needs to deal with it quickly.

Mr. Woolas: The hon. Gentleman made two points. On the allocation of time, I am sorry that he thinks that this afternoon's business is a waste of time. It is, of course, an Opposition motion and the debate was granted in response to requests made by Opposition Front Benchers. Once again, when my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House is magnanimous and acts on behalf of the whole House, Conservative Members rather churlishly have a pop at him, rather than thank him.

On the second issue, the hon. Gentleman makes a valid point. The problem is significant and is perhaps not acknowledged enough by commentators in the public debate. On Monday there is the opportunity to put questions to the Home Office, but I will ensure that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is made aware of the hon. Gentleman's point, which has also been made by other hon. Members.

Mr. David Chaytor (Bury, North) (Lab): My hon. Friend will appreciate the significance of the Prime Minister's visit to President Bush in clarifying a number of different aspects of the special relationship, not least the question of the American attitude to climate change in the next four years. Given the Prime Minister's stated priority of dealing with climate change as part of the G8 and EU presidencies, I endorse the need for the Prime Minister to make a statement when he returns from Washington next week. Is it not time that the Government, who are reviewing their climate change strategy, found time for a debate on climate change itself? If I recall correctly, our only opportunity to debate the subject in the last few months was an Opposition day debate on a Tory motion, which was subsequently withdrawn. Will my hon. Friend find time for a debate on climate change in the very near future?

Mr. Woolas: My hon. Friend makes a valid point. There have been calls for a debate on this subject and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House is well aware of them. On the matter of the Prime Minister making a
11 Nov 2004 : Column 938
statement, I can do no more than refer my hon. Friend to the answer that I gave to the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler). Climate change is one of the issues being raised with the American presidency and we need to campaign at all levels within the US about it. Our problem on this issue is not only the President, but the Senate.

David Burnside (South Antrim) (UUP): On this Remembrance day, will the Deputy Leader ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to come to the House to deal with a charity legislation problem that is affecting our ability to raise funds for the Royal British Legion in Northern Ireland? I declare a past interest, having been an adviser to the British Legion on VE-day and VJ-day remembrance. We created an instant poppy card that brings in revenue of millions of pounds, in addition to the traditional form of fund-raising for the British Legion. It is very difficult nowadays. We saw in the press recently that in some of our major British cities there are no people fundraising on the days before Remembrance Sunday.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom where the charities law does not allow the £1 instant poppy card to be sold, yet Northern Ireland is an excellent source of fundraising for the British Legion and the fine cause it represents. Will the hon. Gentleman ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to deal with that anomaly and ensure that charities legislation allows modern forms of marketing and fundraising, such as the use of the instant poppy card, to be used in Northern Ireland? That would help raise the income going to the Royal British Legion.

Mr. Woolas: The hon. Gentleman makes a sensible point. I shall be more than happy to ensure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is made aware of it. The problem that he identifies seems wrong, and it should be put right. I am sure that the whole House supports the British Legion. May I take this opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to remind the House that there will be a fantastic display for Remembrance day at 6 pm this afternoon? It has been organised by the British Legion, and involves a fly-past of this House by Lancaster bombers.

David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): Eighty-six years and two hours or so ago, the guns at last fell silent on the battlefields of Europe, after an intense and bloody conflict without precedent or parallel. Has my hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the House seen early-day motion 1887, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz), and signed by me and other hon. Members? It states:

It draws attention to the 1915 battle of Loos, and in particular to the intense fighting that took place around the village of Auchy les Mines in northern France. Many hundreds of soldiers from Leicestershire died in that
11 Nov 2004 : Column 939
conflict, including a large number from my constituency. That battlefield is now threatened with being turned into a rubbish tip. Will my hon. Friend ask the Foreign Secretary to approach his French counterparts to see what can be done to protect the area? More generally, will he ask the Secretary of State for Defence to find time to summarise the threats that may exist to similar areas in northern France and the rest of Europe, so that we can give appropriate protection and honour to the areas where a million of our countrymen died?

Mr. Woolas: I am aware of that early-day motion, and it is right and proper for a Leicestershire Member to raise this matter. I think that I am right in saying that 500 members of the Royal Leicestershire Regiment were killed in that battle. I have seen the press reports about the problem with battlefield sites. I can confirm that the Government are very aware of this matter. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence maintain a close interest in the question of war graves and of battlefield sites. Although the UK cannot decide what another sovereign state may do with its own land, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is in contact with the French authorities on this matter.

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): This is the final question today, so may I congratulate my hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the House on his fabulous performance? We hope to see him at the Dispatch Box on many more occasions in the future.

The specific point that I want to raise is that 13 per cent. of drivers in this country drive without any form of insurance. Unfortunately, many of them cause accidents, and the innocent drivers of the other cars involved in those accidents face two problems. They
11 Nov 2004 : Column 940
have to deal with the accident itself, and are then left significantly out of pocket by the increased premiums that they have to pay. Is not it time that the tax disc system was reformed to make sure that more cars are insured? Will the Govt allow a debate on this matter, or, more importantly, make provision in the Queen's Speech for changes in the law?

Next Section IndexHome Page