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Mr. Hain: The House is grateful to the hon. Gentleman for bringing these matters to our attention and for the eloquent and consistent way in which he raises the plight of people in the Darfur region. The crimes are totally unacceptable, and the Foreign Secretary is monitoring the situation closely with other colleagues throughout the world. They will take note of what the hon. Gentleman said.
Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab): When my right hon. Friend meets the House authorities to discuss our cleaning staff, will he bring to their attention the e-mail that I received this morning from Union Network International, the international trade union operating out of Geneva, which includes messages of support for our cleaners from cleaning workers in countries as far afield as Australia and South Africa? Given the importance of the image that we create, will he try to reach agreement with his opposite number to ensure that the Conservatives, too, support our campaign to get proper wages for the people working around us?
Mr. Hain: I do not want to make this a partisan issue; it is a House issue. I agree with my hon. Friend that we all want our cleaners to be remunerated properly and given good conditions of service that are reflected in their hourly rates, overtime and night-time duties and holidaysall those points were put to me today. I know that the House authorities will have taken note of hon. Members' points. Albeit working through an independent contractor, the House must be a model employer, so in these circumstances we have to ensure that we really act as such.
Mr. Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight) (Con):
In view of the obvious but sadly unfulfilled desire of the Prime Minister to apologise to the House for something for which even the most partisan observer could not possibly hold him responsible, may we have a session every week called Prime Minister's apologies? He would thus have the opportunity to apologise for the dome,
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weapons of mass destruction, his broken promises on tax, his broken promises on dentistry, misleading "Newsnight" on hunting, his failure to help to promote democracy in Zimbabwe, and so on.
Mr. Hain: That question was straight out of one of this morning's Conservative tabloids. When the Prime Minister appeared before the Liaison Committee for well over two hours, no one laid a glove on him. It was a dominating performance and he answered every question directly. Far from apologising, the Prime Minister can take great credit, as now the longest-serving Labour Prime Minister, for record employment, economic stability, continuous growth, low mortgage rates, low inflation and record public investment, all of which would be put at risk if the Conservatives won the election and returned us to public spending cuts and boom and bust.
Mrs. Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op): I am very encouraged by moves towards peace in the middle east and especially by the Prime Minister's success in convening the Palestinian conference in London. Will there be a statement to indicate how the important question of Palestinian Authority incitement to violence against Jews and Israelis is being tackled? Does the Leader of the House agree that statements such as those coming from the Palestinian Authority saying that the characteristics of Jews are betrayal and treachery cannot be accepted?
Mr. Hain: Of course those statements cannot be accepted. My hon. Friend will welcome the steadfast determination and leadership on the matter that the Prime Minister has shown, including by persuading the American Administration to make promoting the middle east peace process a priorityit is welcome that that is being done under Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. That should be taken forward with great energy because there is no dispute that it is more important to resolve in the current international situation than the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis. A secure Israel must be the outcome, with an independent Palestinian state existing alongside it in friendship, rather than anger. The London meeting on 1 March will play an important part in helping the Palestinian Authority to assume a proper governing role in Palestine, rather than playing that which it has had over the past few years.
Mr. Tony McWalter (Hemel Hempstead) (Lab/Co-op): Will my right hon. Friend prevail on his Cabinet colleagues to arrange an early cross-cutting debate on the ramifications, and especially the economic consequences, of having laissez-faire in student choice for universities? For example, the Forensic Science Society recognises that forensic scientists need a degree in chemistry or biology followed by a masters degree in forensics, but we have 57 undergraduate forensic science degrees, none of which are recognised, or will get people jobs. That is an example of the way in which universities provide courses that are pretty near useless and give the wrong impression to people who want to work in such fields.
I am sure that the odd useless degree is being offered throughout the country, and it would be
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surprising if that was not the case, given the thousands of degree courses that are offered. Surely my hon. Friend should welcome record investment in our universities and the fact that we are introducing a fair student financing system by restoring grants and bringing into effect a system through which people will repay fees and loans only if they are in work and earning more than £15,000 a year. He might have noticed a report this morning showing that graduates are earning more than ever before.
David Cairns (Greenock and Inverclyde) (Lab): May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to a report out this morning from the Jewish Community Security Trust which records a record increase in violent anti-Semitic assaults in the UK, including 28 incidents against Jewish school children and Jewish schools? [Interruption.] This is a serious issue and Conservative Members demean themselves with that sort of heckling. Will my right hon. Friend find time in the busy schedule after the recess for a debate on the increase in anti-Semitic assaults so that we send both a clear signal from every quarter of the House that anti-Semitism will not be tolerated in this society and a clear message to members of the Jewish community that their protection and safety matters as much as that of any other citizen?
Mr. Hain: The rise in such incidents recorded in the latest report by the Jewish Community Security Trust reveals a totally unacceptable level of attacks and other incidents. That is why there have been regular meetings between the Home Secretary and the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and close collaboration between the police and the Community Security Trust. We have also strengthened the law against racism, including raising the maximum penalty for incitement to racial hatred. We want those laws applied energetically to anyone who practises anti-Semitism or commits such horrific attacks.
Jim Sheridan (West Renfrewshire) (Lab): My right hon. Friend will be aware of the private Member's Bill, promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Hepburn), on directors' responsibilities for health and safety. It would be inappropriate to ask for Government support at this stage, but will my right hon. Friend use his good offices to ensure that the Bill gets a fair wind through the House of Commons? If it is successful, it will go a long way to reducing the number of accidents and fatalities at the workplace, which is a vital concern for all our constituents.
Mr. Hain: I think that the Bill gets its Second Reading on 4 March. Health and safety is important and must be paramount, and the Government have given it that position. We will obviously want to consider my hon. Friend's points carefully.
Dr. Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) (Lab):
My right hon. Friend has greatly enhanced the
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opportunities for pre-legislative scrutiny and has stated the ambition that it should be a normal occurrence. Does he harbour similar ambitions for post-legislative scrutiny, in particular the scrutiny of Executive agencies charged with implementing legislation once it is passed by the House?
Mr. Hain: My hon. Friend takes a careful and studious interest in such matters. He has a point. We should find ways to have better post-legislative scrutiny and to monitor the impact of legislation. For example, it was only as a result of Back Benchers' experiences of the disastrous Child Support Agency, as then configured, in their surgeries in the early 1990s that its whole operation was reviewed. It might have been better if the House had had a proper mechanism for monitoring that. We need to consider such scrutiny, perhaps in the new Parliament.
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