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I was going to say that, after the next general election, that would involve seven Labour Members of Parliament. I would have thought that the last thing to do was to call my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Skills stupid and to criticise him for making a stupid statement. He has
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presided over increasing school standards, the recruitment of more teachers and classroom assistants, more modern schools, the refurbishment of schools, the opening of new schools and more IT equipment, including in Derbyshire. He can be proud of that, and the hon. Gentleman should withdraw his outrageous accusation.
Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend arrange an early debate on private companies and their social responsibilities? Is he aware that Western Power Distribution has written to members of the public in my constituency about stopping access to the Llanishen reservoir from 1 January 2005? In a meeting that I had with Western Power Distribution's representatives, they said that that is for pipe maintenance, but they also said that they will give no commitment to reopen Llanishen reservoir to the public. The area has been used for decades by the public for walking and enjoying the natural surroundings. The public in Llanishen are absolutely furious about Western Power Distribution's decision. Does he not agree that its decision is outrageous? Will he arrange for us to have a debate in which such subjects can be aired?
Mr. Hain: I am indeed aware of the value to local residents of Llanishen reservoir. They have had rights of access for a very long time, and I would want them to continue. I undertake to write to Western Power Distribution and take that point up, wearing my other hat as Secretary of State for Wales. I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree that Western Power Distribution has served Wales extremely well and does a very good job on behalf of Wales. Perhaps it can look again at that issue, given the points that she has made.
Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): Given the result in the English High Court this morning, may we have a debate entitled "Fake documents and who might be forging them", so that we can consider not just the documents that cost The Daily Telegraph so dear this morning but documents such as the forgery of the uranium imports from Niger, which cost us all dear in the sense that they informed the Government's disastrous policy in Iraq? Given that I seem to remember that, in his old campaigning days, the Leader of the House once emerged from a court vindicated, can he find it in his heart to congratulate the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvin (Mr. Galloway) on his victory today?
The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) took a different view on the war in Iraq. He did not think that we should intervene at all and that Saddam Hussein should stay in power. Saddam would be in power today if the hon. Gentleman's policy and that of the Liberal Democrats had been followed. It was a perfectly honourable policy, but its consequences would have been that the world's most brutal tyrant would be continuing to exercise his tyranny even today. Of course, he is now in jail, and the people of Iraq are a great deal better as a result.
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Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): The Leader of the House will well know that there are only some 37 or 38 legislating days between now and the Easter recess. Given the complete control that the Government now have over Commons business, will he give us his assessment of how many Bills in the Queen's Speech and outside it will complete all their Commons stages between now and Easter and of how many Bills will receive Royal Assent before Easter?
Mr. Hain: We may or may not exercise complete control over the House of Commons, as the right hon. Gentleman charitably puts it, but we certainly do not exercise complete control over the House of Lords.
Mr. Hain: "Thank goodness", he says, but Labour has less than 30 per cent. of the votes in the House of Lords. It is a Conservativewith a big C and a small cdominated second Chamber, and any speedy progress that we may make on excellent measures such as the Identity Cards Bill, the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill, the drugs Bill, or, indeed, the consumer credit Bill, the charities Bill and so on could be wrecked by obstructionism in the House of Lords.
Mr. Hain: "Good", he says, so the right hon. Gentleman thinks that the charities Bill, the Disabilities Discrimination Bill and the consumer credit Bill should all be obstructed in the House of Lords, does he? Well, now we know where he stands. Perhaps those on the Conservative Front Bench could either denounce him or agree with him, and then we would know where they stand, too.
Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South) (UUP):
In his statement, unless I misheard, the Chancellor made a welcome announcement that about £2 billion had been saved, including in the health service drugs treatment budget. May we have a statement from the Secretary of State for Health on whether the money will be retained in the health budget to buy the new drugs that people are
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crying out for in the treatment of Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis and other diseases, or on whether the money has been subsumed into some other budget?
Mr. Hain: I understand that the results of negotiations with the drug companies and others have released extra funding for front-line services. I am sure that the Secretary of State for Health will note the point that the hon. Gentleman makes, and, to the extent that I understood the point, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree with what my right hon. Friend has done.
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con): May I put in a word of support for the important campaign that the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) is waging to try to limit the activities of loan sharks?
May we have a statement from the Minister for the Cabinet Office about reports of accelerated destruction of departmental files in many Departments in the run-up of the coming into force of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 on 1 January? That appears to be an extremely worrying development, but I am happy on this occasion to exonerate entirely the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster because, as he is spending so much of his time on non-departmental work on Labour's election campaign, I cannot imagine that he has developed any file worthy of being shredded.
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman supports the Government's policies on loan sharks. May I therefore assume that he will encourage his Whip to ensure that the consumer credit Bill is given a free run through the House of Commons and the House of Lords[Interruption.] It is, of course, the right of the House of Commons to scrutinise it.
The hon. Gentleman is an expert conspiracy theorist. He is eloquent and diligent in his chasing of those theories, but this one takes the biscuit. Of course, a Labour Government introduced the Freedom of Information Act, and there are consequences as a result of that, including his ability to ask spurious questions.
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[Relevant document: The uncorrected transcript of Minutes of Evidence on the Future for UK Fishing taken before the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee's Sub-Committee on the Future for UK Fishing on 16th November 2004, from the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations, the Scottish Fishermen's Federation and WWF UK, HC 1278-i.]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): It gives me great pleasure to open our traditional annual fisheries debate. I am grateful both to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and to the business managers for enabling us to adhere to the recent convention that the debate is held before the important December Fisheries Council. It allows hon. Members to make specific points that are of particular interest to their constituents and enables me to take those on board before entering the negotiating chambers in Brussels. That is an opportunity for which hon. Members and I are extremely grateful.
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