|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Llew Smith (Blaenau Gwent) (Lab): My right hon. Friend will be aware that on many occasions the Prime Minister and other Ministers, including him, said to Parliament or in media interviews that the reason we were going to war was not that we had to get rid of Saddam Hussein but the fact that he had weapons of mass destruction, that they could be used in 45 minutes and that they were a threat to the world. As the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) has just said, America has announced the winding up of the Iraq survey group and admitted that there were no weapons of mass destruction. May we have a debate in which apologies can be given? More important, I am sure that hon. Members will have noted that, although there have been resignations from the media for the coverage of the war, there has been no resignation from the Governmentfrom the people responsible for the wareven though it has resulted in more than 100,000 deaths among Iraqi people and, indeed, our own soldiers.
Mr. Hain: These matters were exhaustively gone into when my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made his statement on 12 October. He was questioned and exactly the points that my hon. Friend raises were made. My right hon. Friend robustly answered them, and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has repeatedly answered those questions in Prime Minister's questions over recent months.
Mr. Hain: Does my hon. Friend believe that Saddam Hussein should still be in power? The real choice now is not what the original decision was and the merits of the basis of the original decision; the real choice is whether we should have a democratic Iraq, with elections at the end of this month, or terrorists destroying the prospect of democracy in Iraq. That is the choice before us now.
Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) (Con): May we have a debate on the availability of information in books or chatrooms that could assist people to commit suicide? In Preston in September, a 19-year-old lady had a book called "Final Exit" and visited chatrooms and then, sadly, committed suicide. The Lancashire Evening Post is running a campaign entitled "Stop Pedlars of Death". May we have a debate on what can be done to close down the sources of the information that vulnerable young people are getting?
Peter Bradley (The Wrekin) (Lab): I have always believed that what matters most to my constituents is what happens outside their front door, on their streets and in their neighbourhoods, and how it affects their quality of life. I am worried, however, that we may have got it wrong, because the Liberal Democrats voted against the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 and, on Monday, the Conservatives failed to support the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Billindeed, those who turned up for the debate spoke against it. May we have an urgent debate to review the Government's policies and establish whether Government or Opposition Members understand the public's priorities better?
Mr. Hain: I am inclined to have a re-run of the Second Reading of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Bill, because there were only two Conservative speakers, compared with 18 Labour speakers. That demonstrates that the Conservatives are not interested in antisocial behaviour or clean neighbourhoods. They do not care about graffiti, fly-tipping, abandoned vehicles, noise pollution and other scourges of people's neighbourhoods. The Labour Government, however, are taking the matter forward, and we will continue to do so, even though we have to face up to the Opposition.
Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire) (Con):
The House welcomed the fact that on Monday the Prime Minister came here to make a statement on the Indonesian earthquake. The Leader of the House will accept that many Members were unable to participate in that exchange, and that some important issues arose and
13 Jan 2005 : Column 437
need to be discussed. May we therefore have a debate in Government time next month on issues arising from the Indonesian earthquake?
Mr. Hain: I realise that this is an extremely important matter and, as the right hon. Gentleman said, there was a full chance to question the Prime Minister about it on Monday. It will be kept under constant review. For example, the figures for British casualties and other casualties are being adjusted almost daily as more accurate information becomes available. We will certainly bear in mind the right hon. Gentleman's request.
Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab): May we have a debate on the need for a further Thames river crossing to the east, outside the borough of Thurrock, incorporating flood defences? I draw to my right hon. Friend's attention the fact that last weekend the M25 was blocked. That has an impact on us in Essex and north Kent but it also has a serious impact on the entire UK economy. The Dartford-Thurrock crossing is not so much a tunnel as a funnel, and we need alternative crossings so that people can get to the channel ports and airports without suffering 24 or 48-hour closures.
Mr. Hain: My hon. Friend raises a serious matter, especially given the location of his Thurrock constituency. I shall certainly make sure that the relevant Minister responds in detail to the points that he made, as certain issues need to be taken into account in future.
Mr. John Burnett (Torridge and West Devon) (LD): The Leader of the House will have noticed the increasing role of the Attorney-General and his Department in matters that affect the business of the House. At present, we have 10 minutes every four sitting weeks to hold the Solicitor-General to account. Will the Leader of the House agree to increase that time and ensure that we have greater opportunity to hold that important Department to account?
Mr. Hain: I think that the hon. Gentleman will find that the 10-minute slot is long established. He will know that there are other opportunities to question Ministers on the outcome of a policy. The Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General advise Ministers who, as was the case with the Minister for Rural Affairs and Local Environmental Quality, who dealt with hunting and its ban, and the Foreign Secretary, who is responsible for matters relating to the Guantanamo Bay detainees, can come to the House to answer questions and make a statement. They are the people who ought to be held to account in policy areas about which the House is rightly concerned. I therefore do not accept that there is a need to grant additional time to the Solicitor-General, but we will obviously keep the matter under review.
Mr. John Lyons (Strathkelvin and Bearsden) (Lab):
This week, the management of the national health service proposed changing the staff pension scheme from a final salary scheme to one based on average pay. Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on
13 Jan 2005 : Column 438
that important issue? Many of us believe that if something is good enough for MPs it is good enough for the hard-working staff of the NHS.
Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Con): Following the tsunami disaster, may we have a debate to explore how science can be used to improve detection and early warning for all types of global natural hazards? The lives of more than 100,000 people could have been saved by better warning systems, and science can play an important part in providing such systems.
Mr. Hain: I very much agree that science has an important role to play, which is why we have greatly increased expenditure on science in Britain. He rightly identified the importance of detecting major disturbances, which is why the Prime Minister asked the chief scientific adviser to look into the matter and report as quickly as possible. I understand from informal conversations that we have the potential and perhaps even the capability at present to monitor such things, so the question is how we can best enable the rest of the world to benefit from that.
Mrs. Anne Campbell (Cambridge) (Lab): May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the excellent report by the Modernisation Committee on sitting hours and ask him about September sittings, of which I am a great supporter? I understand why there will not be any September sittings this year, but I urge him to introduce a proposal enabling questions to be submitted within a two-week period. That would mean that we would not have a long time from the beginning of the summer recess until October when we are unable to table questions to Ministers.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|