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Mr. Wayne David (Caerphilly) (Lab): Given that we now have a fair question before us on a forthcoming EU constitutional referendum, can we have a debate at the earliest opportunity on the importance of strong EU external border controls?
Mr. Hain: Indeed, I strongly agree with my hon. Friend. The Government are committed to strong EU border and immigration controls, and we are prepared to continue spending the money and investing it to ensure that our border controls and security are tightened up against illegal migration. By contrast, alternative proposals from the Conservatives would result in savage cuts in immigration and border control budgets, as well as the adoption of systems that are far too expensive. The Australian system, for example, would cost £50,000 per head, which does not square with existing spending patterns or fiscal probity.
Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell) (Con): I hesitate to be harsh with the poor Leader of the House after his humiliation at the hands of the Government Whips yesterday, when all his motions were defeated on the Floor of the House. However, I take issue with his reply to my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald), and his suggestion that filibustering had taken place during the Committee stage of the Identity Cards Bill. That is a direct attack on the senior and distinguished Chairman of that Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Derek Conway). The Leader of the House will recall that the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) had to come to the House and apologised for making allegations of filibustering, which are an attack on the Chair. Would the Leader of the House like to apologise to my hon. Friend?
I am advised that the Chairman repeatedly intervened in Committee, and tried to call Conservative Back Benchers to order. The Conservative Front Bench is all over the place in its policy on identity cards, as there is complete disagreement between the Leader of
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the Opposition and the shadow Home Secretary. That may well be reflected in the chaos among Tory Back Benchers and the filibustering in Committee.
On the question of sitting hours, I am grateful that the right hon. Gentleman voted in the same Lobby as me. [Interruption.] No, it is not a question of humiliation. I put a motion before the House with a clear choice, and it was carried. I voted against the amendment and, like the right hon. Gentleman, I would have preferred to keep the 7 o'clock conclusion. My job as Leader of the House is to try to enable the House to come to consensus. We did so last night, as there was a clear decision, unlike the last time this was decided, and that is that.
Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills) (Con): Now that the Home Secretary has announced his intention to seek urgently powers of house arrest over British citizensand, incidentally, put us on a par with Burma and Zimbabwewill the Leader of the House make sure that he makes a statement next week confirming that there will be no guillotines or timetables on such an important matter, and furthermore that the Joint Committee on Human Rights will have enough time between First and Second Reading to report to both Houses of Parliament, so that when the matter is discussed on the Floor of the House we are in a position to examine the matter in hand properly?
Mr. Hain: Of course that is an important matter. The exact handling of any legislation will be discussed and agreed through the usual channels. It is an agonisingly difficult choice for anyone involved in Government and for the whole House to strike a balance between what the Home Secretary is proposing and any better solution to the problem. It is important that those who have been involved in terrorist activity, or of whom we have intelligence that they are involved in terrorist activity and could, for all I know, be plotting to blow up the House of Commons, are dealt with properly, and at the same time that the rule of law applies and civil liberties are protected as far as possible.
The Home Secretary set out his proposals in a statement to the House, quite properly, and he was questioned about them, but he made it clear that those proposals were part of a debate in order to strike the right balance. I note that the Muslim Council of Britain, for example, has welcomed the proposals, pointing out that they end the discrimination between foreign and British citizens. The council wants to see a situation where civil liberties are protected but we are properly guarded against the threat of suicide bombers and the like. I am sure that is what everybody wants, including the hon. Gentleman.
[That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Local Government Pension Scheme (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2004 (S.I., 2004, No. 3372), dated 17th December 2004, a copy of which was laid before this House on 22nd December, be annulled.]
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It seeks, in the form of a prayer, to annul statutory instrument 3372. That would have the effect of reducing the pension rights of hundreds of thousands of local government workers, and it was laid by the Government, rather disgracefully, on the last day before Christmas. How many signatures do we need to get on early-day motion 579 before the House is granted a debate and a vote on such a vital issue, which will affect the terms and conditions of many of our constituents?
Mr. Hain: I have dealt with the substance of the matter, but on my hon. Friend's question about how it will proceed, the Government are aware, as is the Deputy Prime Minister, of the strength of feeling reflected in the early-day motion, which my hon. Friend expressed, quite properly, and which was also expressed earlier. We will bear that in mind as we take the statutory instrument through and deal with it, as we must, before the House.
Mr. Graham Stringer (Manchester, Blackley) (Lab): I, together with other right hon. and hon. Members representing constituencies in north Manchester, received a very unwelcome fax this morning from Phil Davidson of BAE Systems. The fax announced the end of defence repairs and maintenance at the Chaderton factory. That will mean the complete end of manufacturing at that plant, which has manufactured aeroplanes for more than 70 years, and it will mean the loss of 335 jobs. Can my right hon. Friend arrange for a debate next week in order that we can discuss whether the Nimrod mark 4 programme can be restarted, as that is probably the only chance that workers at the plant will have of remaining in employment at another manufacturing base in south Manchester?
Mr. Hain: I will draw the attention of the Secretary of State for Defence and the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to my hon. Friend's important question on behalf of his constituents. The plant was a flagship local company which, I think I am right in saying, built the Lancaster bomber. It is disappointing that the situation has arisen, although there are huge changes in defence procurement and priorities. I know my right hon. Friends will take careful note and look at the situation in the light of what he said and the campaign that he has led so ably to defend the future of the company.
Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con): Can the Leader of the House provide an early debate on the selection of CommitteesSelect, Standing and other? That is particularly important as, after the election, we will be setting up Select Committees. Does he agree that it is undesirable that those on the Front Benches should have the influence that they now have on the selection of Committees? It would be better by far if membership of a Committee were decided by ballot, with the Selection Committee filling up only the residue.
I understand the point that the right hon. and learned Gentleman makes, but the House voted on the matter a couple of years ago and decided against the course that he advocates.
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Dr. Desmond Turner (Brighton, Kemptown) (Lab): Climate change has reached the top of the political agenda. It is one of the two prime topics set out by the Prime Minister for our presidency of the G8 and of the European Union. Does my right hon. Friend agree, especially in the light of the fact that the Government are currently consulting on a review of climate change policy, that whether nuclear power, renewable energy, both or other measures are important, it is timea very apposite timeto have a full debate on climate change policy on the Floor of the House?
Mr. Hain: I understand the impetus behind my hon. Friend's request. Climate change is one of the most critical issues facing the world and therefore the House. That is why the Prime Minister is leading the international drive towards effective global action to deal with climate change. When there are opportunities to debate it, we will take them.
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