Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Hain: I am very sympathetic to the hon. Gentleman's point about public funding for parties, which already takes place on a huge scale, although if taxpayers find out—he has conveniently told them—that the Conservatives have had £30 million, they will recognise it as bad value for money. Taxpayers have not got a good deal there. It is interesting that today's report from the Electoral Commission says that since being in opposition the Conservative party has found it increasingly difficult to attract individual and company donations and in 2003 reported that close to a third of its income came in the form of public spending. The year before, more than half of the Conservatives donation income was from public funds. We can move forward on a consensual basis on this and the Electoral Commission provides an interesting way of doing so.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his remarks on my clear statement on the handling of the Mental Capacity Bill on Tuesday—something that I do not want to see repeated.

It is for Alan Budd to decide when to report. He will report when he is ready to do so. If I may, I shall put into perspective the comments on Belmarsh. The Home Secretary has come to the House with a written statement at the earliest opportunity—

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): He has not.
16 Dec 2004 : Column 1821

Mr. Hain: I am sorry, but he has come with a written statement, a copy of which I have here and the key paragraph of which I quoted. I would have thought that that explained the matter clearly. The right hon. Gentleman will have a chance to study that statement and see the Government's position.

Mr. Forth: No.

Mr. Hain: This is the written statement, right before the House here. That is the answer to the point. The right hon. Gentleman is now supporting the Liberal Democrats as a coalition partner in making this point.

Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): Has the Leader of the House seen early-day motion 394 concerning the threat to the postal services in the House?

[That this House congratulates the postal staff in the Palace of Westminster for their continued excellent service and loyal dedication; is alarmed that the House authorities are intending to privatise the post services and have already contracted out screening of mail entering Parliament to an American company; and calls on the Serjeant at Arms to reconsider immediately.]

Can he tell us which Members were involved in any decision taken to put out to tender the screening process, which has now gone to an American company, and who made the decision to put our postal services out to tender? Will he join me in saying what a great job the Royal Mail staff in the House have done for a long time? Will he ask the Serjeant at Arms to withdraw the instruction to tender? At least will he explain to the House under whose instruction that happened?

Mr. Hain: I am certainly glad to join with my hon. Friend in praising the work of the Royal Mail staff here over many decades, if not centuries. As a fan of the Royal Mail I am disappointed that it did not get the contract for mail screening. I have looked into the matter, however, and I am content that all the correct procedures were followed. As a result of the tendering exercise, which was a legal requirement, the tendering panel decided, unanimously I understand, that the contract should be awarded to a company that could provide the required level of service. The Board of Management took the view, I understand, that the facility offered by the Royal Mail in this instance would not have provided the correct levels of screening that had been identified in the tender document. However, there is still the opportunity for the Royal Mail to bid for the internal mail delivery contract, which is now out to tender. The Board of Management had to put it out to tender because it would otherwise have been open to legal challenge. As Parliament needs to protect public funds, the House could not justify significant price increases which, I am afraid, the Royal Mail suggested for maintaining the same level of service. I hope that it puts in a strong tender.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con): May I revert to the question of the Lords' ruling on the detainees in HMP Belmarsh? The Leader of the House will know that I and many others have been pressing on that matter for many months now and asserting that their detention was unlawful. Next week, may we have a full debate or a full statement from the
16 Dec 2004 : Column 1822
Home Secretary? He has apparently asserted in a written statement that he will not comply with the judgment of the House of Lords and that he will continue to detain those people, notwithstanding the fact that that is unlawful. That is surely a disgrace and the House needs to have the opportunity to determine why the Home Secretary is prepared to defy the House of Lords.

Mr. Hain: There is no question of the Home Secretary defying the House of Lords. I shall quote another part of the written statement for the right hon. and learned Gentleman's benefit. The Home Secretary says:

this is the key point—

The right hon. and learned Gentleman will also have noted the point on which I quoted the Home Secretary earlier, which was that the Court of Appeal unanimously endorsed the Government's view that the provisions were compatible with our obligations under the ECHR.

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax) (Lab): Has the Leader of the House had time to look at early-day motion 377 about the return of the refugees to Falluja?

[That this House condemns the decision taken by the interim Government of Iyad Allawi to take DNA samples, fingerprints and retina scans of the residents of Fallujah when they are allowed to return to their homes on Christmas Eve; regrets the decisions to insist that residents have to wear badges, and to treat refusal as an offence; and believes that these requirements have sinister historical overtones.]

That will take place on Christmas eve, when the eyes of the west will be looking elsewhere. The people will have to go through checkpoints, be fingerprinted and DNA tested and, in many cases, will be going back to rubble. Even more sinisterly, they will have to wear a badge, which will be compulsory. That has certain sinister overtones historically. When can we have a debate on what happened in Falluja, where the people are, what aid has been given to them and what the centre of Falluja looks like now, after the Americans bombed it?

Mr. Hain: I am sure that the Secretary of State will want to look very carefully at the points my hon. Friend makes.

Dr. Andrew Murrison (Westbury) (Con): The Extradition Act 2003 allows UK citizens to be removed to the US without prima facie evidence or reciprocity, to the very great disadvantage of Mr. Giles Darby, my constituent, and others. Will the Leader of the House make time for a debate on that particularly perverse aspect of the special relationship?

Mr. Hain: I cannot promise the hon. Gentleman an early debate, but he has the opportunity to apply for an Adjournment debate in the normal way.
16 Dec 2004 : Column 1823

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) (Lab): May I take the Leader of the House back to the issue of Belmarsh and the decision made by the Law Lords this morning? I cannot understand why the Home Secretary cannot come here and make a statement. If he is able to make a written statement, he can make an oral statement. These are very serious issues. The Law Lords have said that it is not correct to hold people indefinitely in a prison in this country on the signature of a politician. Unless a case has been taken out against those individuals in the criminal courts—there are no signs of that happening—the logic of the ruling is that they should be released. The Home Secretary should come to the House and explain his policy on these matters. We have been found wanting by the highest court in the land and it is up to us to respond and—I hope—accept that judgment.

Mr. Hain: As I have explained, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has given a very full written statement. Home Office questions will take place on Monday, so in a couple of days my hon. Friend will be able to put those points to the Home Secretary. He has acted promptly in bringing a statement to the House at the earliest opportunity. Of course, in the end the House has the final say and will be the sovereign authority on the legislation.

Next Section IndexHome Page