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Mr. Hain: I will deal with that nonsense in due course. First, I join the hon. Gentleman in acknowledgingas I know the whole House will wish to dothe importance of holocaust day. The message must be, "Never, ever again." I also hope that we will all work together to confront neo-Nazi forces still in British politics. We did that with the National Front, including through the campaigns of the Anti-Nazi League some years ago, and we must do the same with the British National party today. I also wish to thank Mr. Speaker for allowing the use of Westminster Hall for the special ceremony, attended by Her Majesty the Queen, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, to commemorate holocaust day.
Discussions will be held through the usual channels on the European Union Bill, and we will table a programme motion in due course. However, it has been the case in the past that EU treaty amendment Bills were heard on the Floor of the House, and I see no reason to change that.
I cannot tell the hon. Gentleman when the National Lottery Bill will come to the House, nor can I give him information at this stage on the Management of Offenders and Sentencing Bill. However, his allegation about that Bill is wrong.
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Mr. Hain: Yes, it was. It was subject to detailed scrutiny and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary took that into account in drawing up the Bill that was eventually introduced. It is very interesting to note that an unusual amount of filibustering took place in Committee on this Bill. I do not know whether that was deliberate, to allow questions such as the hon. Gentleman has just put claiming that the Bill had insufficient time: I merely note what happened. The time that we have provided for the Identity Cards Bill is fully adequate for its remaining stages and we do not intend to make any changes.
I am not able to give the hon. Gentleman a date for the Budget and I do not think that he seriously expects me to do so. He mentioned a black hole, but the real black hole is in Tory finances. They propose £35 billion-worth of cuts, which is inconceivable and completely unrealistic, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has repeatedly made clear. They also propose £4 billion in tax cuts, but nobodyexcept Conservative Front Benchersbelieves that they could have tax cuts, massive savings and cuts in spending on that scale. They simply could not do everything at the same time.
It is very interesting to note that the Leader of the Opposition's own policy document on taxes says that the options discussed in that paper represent a menu from which a Conservative Government may draw when formulating their Budgets. It goes on to say that the presence of a particular option in that paper or in its successors in the consultation series does not constitute any guarantee or promise that the particular option in question will form part of any Conservative Budget. So, we cannot even believe the £4 billion tax cuts that they say they will introduce. The contrast is between a Labour Government, who have introduced economic stability of a kind that we have not known for generationshigh employment, low mortgage rates, low interest rates, low inflation and economic growth year by yearand the mess and the black hole created by the last Conservative economic plan.
Mr. Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley) (Lab): My right hon. Friend will be aware that in south-east Northumberland we have had a black Wednesday, with the announcement that 500 jobs at a pharmaceutical factory are to go, and of course the loss of Ellington colliery, with 300-odd jobsnearly 900 jobs altogether. Will my right hon. Friend arrange a debate, not on the narrow subject of south-east Northumberland but on the north-east as a whole, so that at least the Members for that region could point out the disadvantages that they are getting from the Government?
I know that, especially to my hon. Friend, the issue of collieries such as Ellington is very important, and I share and identify with him on that matter, representing as I do a similar constituency, where coal
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mining is an indelible part of its traditionindeed, in its case, its present. Obviously we are very sad about the closure of Ellington colliery and we will fight to preserve all jobs wherever and whenever we can. However, a balance needs to be struck. The difference between the situation now and under the Conservatives, when mines and pits were closed by the hundred, is that then there was nowhere else for the miners to go. There were no alternative jobs. When my hon. Friend says that he and his constituency have been let down by this Government, the truth is that, as I believe he is on the record as saying, unemployment has been cut massively in his constituency. There are job prospects in the region because the north-east is doing better than it has done for generations. We must recognise that there will be a process of switch in jobs and a process of churning, but at least we are going to work with those involved to find them new job opportunities.
Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall) (LD): May the Liberal Democrats entirely endorse what the Leader of the House has just said about holocaust memorial day? I am sure that colleagues in all parts of the House will do so.
I am sure we all hope that the elections in Iraq this weekend will produce the maximum turnout and suffer the minimum disruption from terrorists. When will the Prime Minister be in a position to make a statement on the outcome of those elections, and the implications for the presence of British forces in Iraq? In particular, when will there be a timetable for the reduction in those forces and their replacement by troops from Iraq or from other Islamic countries, as the security situation permits? This morning, No. 10 Downing street has indicated that that prospect is under review. When can we be given a firm exit strategy, and does the Leader of the House accept that the mere presence of British and American troops in Iraq may feed that insurgency and disruption?
On the European Union Bill, the Leader of the House was very coy last week when I asked him about the timetable. Bearing in mind the timetable not only in this House but in the other place, can he now give us a firm indication of whether he intends and hopes that Royal Assent will be achieved before the end of April?
Can the Leader of the House give an undertaking that the Home Secretary will be prepared to give us a statement on the important issue of deaths caused by police drivers? The Leader of the House may have seen an important analysis in the Daily Express today, which reveals that 55 crashes a day take place involving police vehicles, leading to 30 deaths every year. I have raised this subject on numerous occasions, not least because, as the Leader of the House may recall, I was a member of a police authority for many years. Successive Home Secretaries have said that the situation is improving, but it is clearly deteriorating; may we have a statement?
I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's comments about holocaust day, which reflect a common position throughout the House. I will bear in mind what he said about Iraq. Sunday will be a historic day for Iraq, and the extent of Iraqi participation in the election is enormous, with 8,000 candidates, 150,000 officials and thousands of polling stations. Whatever we felt about the warI respect the different view that he took
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about military actionour common objective is for democracy to triumph over terrorism, bloodshed and attempts to bomb Iraq back into Islamic fundamentalism and tyranny of Saddam Hussein's kind. That must be the choice, so we all want the elections to succeed.
The hon. Gentleman asks when British forces might withdraw and mentions the exit strategy. I understand those points, but our motto is, "We're not quitters". We will not turn our back on the Iraqi people or the Iraqi Interim Government. We will ensure that we finish the job and support the transition of Iraq from tyranny into democracy because that is the clear strategy on which we have embarked. Of course we will want to withdraw British forces as soon as possible, but we will not do that except at the request of the Iraqi Government. If they want us to go, we will of course go, but meanwhile we are stabilising and reinforcing their security forces and providing those forces with the opportunity to take over.
I cannot provide the hon. Gentleman with a timetable for the European Union Bill at this stage. However, it might depend on Opposition co-operation. If the Conservatives, especially, want the Bill to go through quickly, they can provide us with a ready-made plan through the usual channels. It might, however, suit them for it not to go through quickly, so it is their choice.
We fully accept the seriousness of the issue of deaths on the road caused by police drivers. The Association of Chief Police Officers is well aware of the criticisms that have been levelled. It launched new guidance last year and there is considerable investment in driver training in the police service. Management controls are constantly reviewed to ensure that robust risk assessments are in place and that the maintenance of safety is the priority at all times. However, there is no question but that the numbers are too high.
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