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Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. In what is only a very short space of time for business questions, I urge everyone to recognise that questions have to be connected, however loosely, to next week's business.
Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): May we have an urgent debate in Government time on the need for reform of the United Nations? Given that article 4 of the UN charter refers to the need for a common standard of achievement of human rights by all peoples and that article 6 makes it clear that a state which persistently violates the principles of the UN charter may be expelled from the organisation, does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is incongruous in 2004 that Burma, Sudan, North Korea, Zimbabwe and Uzbekistan, to name but five bestial oppressors, remain fully paid-up members of the UN club? Is it not time that the UN stopped appeasing rogue states and started confronting them instead?
Mr. Hain: The hon. Gentleman has a good point as to whether or not those countries should be expelled from the UN. Even in South Africa's darkest days I do not recall it being expelled from the UN in precisely the way that he said. The high level group recently reported on the future of the UN. I know that he will have studied that report, which provides for a way forward on those important issues.
Ann McKechin (Glasgow, Maryhill) (Lab): My right hon. Friend may have noticed from today's papers that yesterday the students of Glasgow university elected Mr. Mordechai Vanunu their new university rector. I am sure that he will commend their choice of someone who has made such a personal sacrifice, over so many years, in the cause of peace. Will the Government assist the students at Glasgow university in calling on the Israeli Government to allow Mr. Vanunu to travel to the United Kingdom to meet the students in Glasgow, where I am assured that he will receive a very warm welcome?
Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Con): I cannot allow the season to pass without personally wishing the Leader of the House a very happy Christmas. May we have a ministerial statement in the House that Little Haven hospice in my constituency will receive an increase in its statutory funding, from the miserly 1.8 per cent. it currently receives to 5 per cent. from next year? That will give the people who sadly depend on the hospice services a happier Christmas, and will provide a good Christmas to the wonderful staff who work in all our hospices.
Mr. Hain: I am delighted that the spirit of chivalry applies in at least one place on the Conservative Benches. The hon. Gentleman is a spirited advocate of the cause of hospices, especially for children, and I am sure that his point will have been noted.
Geraldine Smith (Morecambe and Lunesdale) (Lab): The Leader of the House is already aware of the widespread alarm about proposals to privatise the postal services of the House. Will all Members be given the opportunity to vote on those proposals and may we have a statement on the issue in the House?
Mr. Hain: Those matters are outside my responsibilities; they are for the Board of Management, which has to comply with the correct tendering procedures. I am sure that the Board will have noted the strong points made by my hon. Friend and by my hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey). We have had a long association with the Royal Mail, but there must be competitive bids for the tenders and contracts must be agreed according to proper procedures.
Mr. Roy Beggs (East Antrim) (UUP):
Yesterday, two business men in Northern Ireland, one from Keady in County Armagh and the other from Dungannon in County Tyrone, suspected of smuggling alcohol worth millions of pounds, had £300,000 worth of their assets frozen by the Assets Recovery Agency. Will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate in the House so that we can consider whether our law enforcement agencies in Northern Ireland are sufficiently funded to go after the racketeering and smuggling godfathers in Northern Ireland? The media are at pains to stress the fact that neither of those business men had links with
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paramilitary organisations, but it is naive to think that they could carry on their operations without support from such organisations.
Dr. Brian Iddon (Bolton, South-East) (Lab): Because the debate on Tuesday of new clause 1 of the Mental Capacity Bill ended in utter confusion and because the Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Lammy), hinted that the Government would submit a further amendment to the House, would not it be right and proper for a statement to be madeeven a written statementnext week, before Christmas, so that we can consider the matter before debate begins in the other place?
Mr. Andrew Tyrie (Chichester) (Con): The Leader of the House seems to be a bit short on facts today. He was unaware that South Africa was expelled from the UN. He seems unaware that the Conservatives supported the Child Trust Funds Bill. He said that he was sympathetic to tax relief on small donations to political parties, unawareit seemsthat his Government rejected it. The Electoral Commission has just reported on the funding of political parties, although the report has not yet appeared in the Vote Office. There is widespread public concern that honours can be trafficked in exchange for funds given to political parties, especially now that more than half the life peerage is appointed by the Prime Minister. May we have an urgent debate on the Electoral Commission's report on state funding?
I said that the Electoral Commission report's proposals were interesting, from tax relief right across the board. I did not say that it was Government policy to back them, nor indeed whether it was Government policy to extend the size of the policy development grant. I said that the proposals were interesting. If there were cross-party consensus on them, we could no doubt look at them further.
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Mrs. Theresa May (Maidenhead) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Earlier today, in answers to questions, the Chancellor of the Exchequer falsely claimed that it was the policy of Her Majesty's Opposition to scrap Sure Start. It is not Conservative party policy to scrap Sure Start; it is Conservative party policy to keep Sure Start, as is well known by Ministers. May I seek your guidance on how I may ensure in future that neither the Chancellor of the Exchequer nor other Ministers mislead the House or use the House to make false claims about the policies of Her Majesty's Opposition?
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): The hon. Lady will know, of course, that that is not something strictly for the Chair to rule on, but she has, in fact, partly fulfilled her intention by putting it on the record. I have no doubt that she will be ingenious enough to think of other ways to pursue the debate.
Mr. Oliver Heald (North-East Hertfordshire) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I just make it clear that 706 questions remain unanswered from the last Session, not 306? I may have inadvertently got the figure wrong when I put it to the Leader of the House.
Ms Secretary Hewitt, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr. Secretary Prescott, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Secretary Johnson, Mr. Secretary Darling, Mr. Secretary Murphy, Mr. Peter Hain, Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe and Mr. Christopher Leslie, presented a Bill to amend the Consumer Credit Act 1974; to extend the ombudsman scheme under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 to cover licensees under the Consumer Credit Act 1974; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Monday 20 December, and to be printed. Explanatory notes to be printed [Bill 16].
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