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19. Mr. Greg Knight (East Yorkshire) (Con): If he will make it his policy to disclose prior to May 2005 the sum earmarked from the existing Cabinet Office budget to cover the total cost of creating a separate post of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. [206111]

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Alan Milburn): The costs will be published in the Cabinet Office annual report and resource accounts for 2004–05 when the Cabinet Office accounts are laid before the House.

Mr. Knight: Is it not the case that however the right hon. Gentleman spins it, a large amount of public money is being used to fund a Minister whose main job   is to run the Labour party's next general election campaign? If he wants to restore trust in this
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Administration, should not he follow the advice of my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) and forgo his ministerial salary? If he needs more money than an MP's pay, or needs staff, should not those be funded by the Labour party, not by the British taxpayer?

Mr. Milburn: As the right hon. Gentleman well knows, I have Government responsibility and also Labour party responsibility. If I were him, I would be cautious about raising issues about value for money. He must be aware of the 300 per cent. increase in Short money—public money—given to the Conservative party since 1997. Given his and their performance, people will wonder whether they are getting good value for money.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend go further than that? The Short money is, I   think, worth about £4 million a year to the Tory party, and the Liberal Democrats get a hefty chunk as well from the British taxpayer. What concerns people like me is that some of that money could be spent for party political purposes by the Tories and the Liberal Democrats, shifting personnel who are supposed to be paid from the parliamentary provision. It is high time that there was an investigation, with e-mails and everything else uncovered, to find out where the money is going. The British taxpayer wants to know.

Mr. Milburn: My hon. Friend makes an important point, as always. It is important that all parties account
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for how public money is being spent. I will account for   how my office is financed, and I am sure that the Conservative party and the Liberal Democrats heard my hon. Friend's strictures.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con): May I   wish the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster a very merry Christmas? Does he agree that he got his Christmas present a little early this year when he was awarded a £137,000 a year Cabinet Minister's salary to run Labour's general election campaign? But the question on the Order Paper is about the costs of his office. He has said that those will be published in the report and accounts of the Cabinet Office. He knows that that will not be until after the general election. Why is he so shy about telling the country what, as a whole, he is costing us? He is not usually shy. Does not he think that he is giving the country value for money, running Labour's general election campaign out of the public purse?

Mr. Milburn: It is not a question of being shy or secretive; that is precisely why the information will be published in the normal way. The hon. Gentleman keeps   saying that he knows the date of the election. I am sure that we would all like to hear it. [Interruption.] Oh,   the hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald) is suggesting a date. I think that there is only one person who knows the date of the election, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman and I, and everyone else, will be acquainted with that in due course.

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Infant Death Syndrome

12.31 pm

The Solicitor-General (Ms Harriet Harman): This morning, my noble Friend the Attorney-General made a statement in another place about the review of infant death syndrome cases. His statement is as follows:

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Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con): I thank the Solicitor-General and the Attorney-General both for the statement and for giving me prior notice of it and sight of the accompanying report. The report is a model of its kind, both for clarity and for explanation of the Attorney-General's actions.

Can the right hon. and learned Lady help the House a little further in respect of the Cannings-type cases that have been referred? She says that only three cases referred are on a par with the Cannings case and another 25 have some features analogous to it. Will she amplify that statement? Is there a common thread or theme running through the cases about which she can inform the House at this stage, or is that not a matter on which she can provide greater clarity? The public will want some reassurance and understanding of what those cases are about.

After the 297 cases were considered, 180 were deemed to require no further action; therefore 117 are currently under some form of review. As the right hon. and learned Lady has made clear, 89 of those relate to shaken baby syndrome—a subject that, although it has been touched on in the House before, has not formed part of any clear statement. I appreciate her point that we must wait for the decision of the Court of Appeal, but there is a risk of public disquiet about that category of case. Can she provide an assurance that the Attorney-General and she are satisfied that the Court of Appeal will be able to examine all the issues surrounding those 89 cases and will therefore be able to provide some answers; or does her Department need to do further work on some of those cases, because they might not be on a par with the cases that are to be considered in the summer? Can she also provide an assurance that, after the Court of Appeal has made its decision, there will be a further statement to the House on what her Department and the Law Officers will do then?

Will the Solicitor-General provide some guidance on what is to happen to cases that were not considered because they were more than 10 years old? I appreciate that the Law Officers had to draw a line somewhere, but is it not likely that there are cases more than 10 years old that fall squarely within the relevant areas? In those circumstances, can we be sure that those who might have been wrongly convicted, and indeed served their sentences and been released, will be able to bring their case to the attention of the CCRC or to the Court of Appeal? What facilities will the Law Officers make available to such people to help them?

As I said on an earlier occasion, these cases highlight the problem that arises, or may arise, when the opinion of consultants or doctors, however eminent, substitutes itself for the scrutiny of the evidence before a court. It is greatly to be hoped that in future this sort of problem will not arise again because of a greater awareness of the fallibility, or potential fallibility, of expert witnesses.

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