Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD): Can a small amount of time be made available for the appropriate Minister from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to explain to us what representations will be made with regard to the British citizen Kenny Richey, who has been on death row in Ohio for the past 18 years but who this week had his appeal upheld? The court there made an order for his release or retrial within 90 days. That takes this from being a matter relating to the judiciary to a matter that is political. For the Ohio authorities to retry after 18 years a man to whom they gave a plea bargain offering him a sentence of 11 years would be nothing short of outrageous.

Mr. Hain: I understand the point that the hon. Gentleman makes. As he knows, Her Majesty's consul general has lobbied persistently on the case and may well have had some influence on the outcome. We will monitor it carefully and continue to work on it to see that it is suitably progressed.

Dan Norris (Wansdyke) (Lab): The ill fated Bath spa project is four years overdue and still not open, with no opening date in sight. It is £20 million over budget and it is costing every one of my constituents—every man, woman and child—the equivalent of £116 each in waste. May we please have an urgent debate on local authority spending and some of the madcap councils—the one in question happens to be run by the Liberal Democrats and the Tories—so that we can address the waste? As a Government we provide millions to local authorities. The Opposition parties talk about getting rid of waste, but this example clearly shows that they are off-beam and out of touch.

Mr. Hain: My hon. Friend paints a horrifying picture of Conservative-Liberal Democrat incompetence and failure to take forward important projects, as the Bath spa project undoubtedly is, in an effective and cost-efficient manner. I hope that the voters of Bath and all the voters in the next general election will bear in mind the prospect of a Labour Government on the one hand, and on the other—who knows?—perhaps a
27 Jan 2005 : Column 469
Conservative/Liberal Democrat-supported alternative, which would plunge the country into the boom and bust from which we recently escaped under Labour.

Mrs. Jacqui Lait (Beckenham) (Con): May I press the right hon. Gentleman on the issue of the National Lottery Bill? Many charities will have been devastated by the announcement from the Big Lottery Fund that it will not give grants after the end of May. If he cannot promise any early progress on the Bill so that we can see it through this Parliament before the end of May, will he please ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport or the charities Minister to make a statement to the House about what the Government plan to do to help the charities that find themselves in such a terrible pickle?

Mr. Hain: DCMS and Home Office Ministers will want to pay careful attention to the point that the hon. Lady has made.

David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): Has the Leader of the House seen early-day motion 593, which was tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Mr. Reed), myself and others?

[That this House notes the decision of England World Cup winning captain Martin Johnson to announce his retirement from rugby at the end of this season; congratulates him on his outstanding contribution to Leicester Tigers, England and the British Lions over the last 15 years, culminating in England's Rugby World Cup victory in Sydney in November 2003, after success at club, international and Lions level; praises him for the respect in which he is held throughout the world of sport; and wishes him every success in his retirement.]

The motion marks this week's announcement of the retirement of one of the towering figures of global rugby, Martin Johnson, whose 15 years in the game culminated in the English world cup victory in Sydney. My right hon. Friend will no doubt agree that those achievements are well worth the knighthood that has been accorded to leading figures in other sports, but can he find time in next week's programme for a debate on the importance of international sport in promoting both individual well-being and the international standing, and indeed the economy, of the United Kingdom?

Mr. Hain: I very much agree with my hon. Friend. As Secretary of State for Wales, may I say how much I praise Martin Johnson, particularly as he ferociously led the England pack against Wales on far too many occasions? I know that the England team's performance since the heroic victory that he led in the world cup in Sydney has not been as good without his leadership. From Wales's point of view, that is a very good thing, especially since Wales is going to hammer England on Saturday week in the Millennium stadium.

Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): The Leader of the House can keep dreaming.

May we have an urgent debate on the implementation of the new railway timetable that was introduced in December? Now we have had the timetable for more
27 Jan 2005 : Column 470
than a month, it is quite clear in Oxfordshire that it is neither being delivered nor is it deliverable. Some services have almost never run on time. There is suspicion that the timetable benefits cities and harms rural areas, and genuine anger is building up. Can we have a debate early next week so that Ministers can hear in public just how bad things are on our rural railways?

Mr. Hain: It is always difficult to get a timetable that satisfies absolutely everybody, but I am sure that there was no intention—the Secretary of State for Transport would not have agreed to it either—that rural services would be discriminated against in favour of cities or towns. Equally, I am sure that the Secretary of State will want to respond to the point that the hon. Gentleman has made on behalf of his constituency.

Mr. Michael Weir (Angus) (SNP): Is the Leader of the House aware of the concerns in Scotland about the proposal concerning aggravated trespass on royal or Crown lands in the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill? Can he confirm whether the UK Government will press ahead and legislate on this matter for Scotland even if the majority of Members of the Scottish Parliament decide that it is properly an issue for the Scottish Parliament and decide to uphold the legislative decisions that they made on this very issue just last year in their landmark Land Reform Act? If he cannot tell the House the position, can the Home Secretary come to the House, preferably today, to address the important question of who calls the shots in making law in a devolved area for Scotland?

Mr. Hain: I understand the point that the hon. Gentleman makes, but I point out that the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill will have its remaining stages on Monday 7 February, as I announced just now. He will have an opportunity to put his point of view on that occasion. Meanwhile, I know that Home Office Ministers will have noted what he said.

Hugh Robertson (Faversham and Mid-Kent) (Con): The report of the Iraq survey group and the initial report of the Volker inquiry both highlighted the extent of corruption at the United Nations during the oil-for-food scandal. Given that we now know that Saddam Hussein and his personal entourage benefited to the tune of $10 billion from that corruption and that the Secretary of State for Defence in this House has made a link between that money and the funding of the insurgency that is currently threatening the lives of British troops and civilians in Iraq, may we have a debate in Government time on the oil-for-food scandal, particularly so that we can find out whether the Government believe that the fault lies inside the UN itself or with the Security Council, which was constantly warned but took no action?

Mr. Hain: As a Minister between 1999 and 2001, when the policy was enforced, I was concerned about the amount of oil being smuggled on Saddam's behalf and about the way in which the oil-for-food programme had been working. I am sure that there was no deliberate attempt on behalf of the Security Council or the United Nations Secretary-General or his officials to do that. The hon. Gentleman has made a very serious charge, and I know that the Foreign Secretary will want to consider it very carefully.
27 Jan 2005 : Column 471

I make one other brief point: of course, what we knew was that Saddam was propping up his tyranny by the illegal raking off of oil-for-food money and oil revenues. That would still be going on if he were still in power. When we look at the balance on whether the military action was right or wrong, we have to decide whether, with all the difficulties that exist at the moment—I know that the hon. Gentleman agrees with me on this—an Iraq moving into democracy provides a better future for the Iraqi people than an Iraq trapped under Saddam's murderous and corrupt tyranny.

Next Section IndexHome Page