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Mr. Hain: I am trying to answer. The hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack) has been a Member much longer than me and is a much more distinguished parliamentarian than me[Interruption.] I happily give him that; there are probably many others.
Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme) (Lab): The Leader of the House will be aware that the Consumer Credit Bill commanded cross-party support in this place. In his negotiations with Opposition parties, may I prevail on him to allow the Bill to complete its parliamentary passage so that constituents in Newcastle-under-Lyme, north Staffordshire and across the country will no longer be victimised by loan sharks?
Mr. Hain: That is another Bill on which we should very much like to have achieved early Royal Assent, so that it could go on to the statute book, for the very reasons noted by my hon. Friend: loan sharks are a scourge across the country and we wanted to deal with them through the Bill. Unfortunately, the Opposition say that there is no proper time to scrutinise it, so we shall not make the progress that we wanted.
Pete Wishart (North Tayside) (SNP): In terms of outstanding business, motion 32 on the Order Paper, on the conduct of the Prime Minister in relation to the war against Iraq, is still outstanding. There will obviously be no opportunity to discuss the motion before the end of this Parliament, but does the Leader of the House agree that the opportunity of getting the Prime Minister bang to rights over the illegal war in Iraq could be significantly easier in the next Parliament?
Mr. Hain: That argument has been rerun again, again and again. The hon. Gentleman knows that that impeachment motion was never going anywhere, and that it was a device for him and his colleagues to make the point that they have made repeatedly, like an old gramophone record. That answers his point very fully.
Mr. Forth : Will we still be Members of Parliament on Monday 11 April, and will the Leader of the House guarantee that any legislation that remains to be completed will have an opportunity to be considered and scrutinised properly, and that there will be no undignified shovelling through of legislationeven if the Front Benchers have agreed it among themselves?
Mr. Hain: If the right hon. Gentleman still held the same position as he did when I came into this job, he would have been on the Front Bench, negotiating in exactly the same way as his successor. The answer to his question is that Members will cease to be Members after Dissolution when it takes place on Monday.
Mike Gapes (Ilford, South) (Lab/Co-op): Will my right hon. Friend clarify something that will, I suspect, cause much disappointment to many of my Muslim constituents? Is it the case that we could lose the provisions on incitement to religious hatred, and can he explain why?
Mr. Hain: I very much regret that it looks as though we shall lose the opportunity to introduce the new offence of incitement to religious hatred that would have given particular comfort to the Muslim community. However, the Opposition made it absolutely clear that they were not willing to see that particular clause of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill go into law, so they bear full responsibility for blocking it. I am sure that Muslim communities throughout Britain will take careful note of that, and of the position of the Liberal Democrats on the matter.
Mr. John Taylor (Solihull) (Con): Will the Leader of the House, even at this eleventh hour, cause his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to come to the Dispatch Box and tell the House exactly what is going on in China concerning MG Rover, which has massive implications in the midlands for the work force of MG Rover and the supply chain? This is a matter of great anxiety, which should be resolved before the election.
Mr. Hain: I understand the hon. Gentleman's constituency interest. He knows that the Secretary of State will answer questions on Thursday, when he will have a chance, if he catches your eye, Mr. Speaker, to put any question he wishes, with his customary vigour and effective representation.
Mr. Clive Betts (Sheffield, Attercliffe) (Lab):
Further to the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mike Gapes), will the Leader of the House give an assurance that he and his colleagues have done everything possible to try to secure the passage of the provisions in the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill relating to religious hatred? The issue is of vital importance to Muslims in our communities. They feel marginalised and threatened at present, and look to the House to say that they are an important and integral part of our society. We should do everything possible to defend them from those heinous crimes. Can my right hon. Friend tell us what the Opposition parties gave as their reasons for refusing to co-operate on this matter?
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Mr. Hain: The Opposition partiesthe Liberal Democrats and the Conservativeswill have to speak for themselves, but I find it very disappointing that they have failed to support the Muslim community, who have constantly asked for that protection, and who alone are isolated in being prevented from getting that necessary protection. I hope that note will be taken of that across the country. I am afraid that it has not been possible to reach agreementalthough if there is a change of heart in the next few hours there may be a reversal on that point. I certainly hope so.
Mr. Tim Boswell (Daventry) (Con): As the Pensions Act 2004 will come into force tomorrow, will the Leader of the House assure us that any affirmative resolutions required to operate it, and indeed other legislation currently coming into force, will be in place? No less importantly, can he assure the House that where assurances have been given in Committee about proper consideration under negative resolution procedures, there will be some opportunity of ventilating outstanding concerns about those important and sometimes vital technical issues?
Mr. Hain: It is certainly our intention to meet the objectives that the hon. Gentleman describes, and the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions will give careful consideration to what he has said, because I will draw it to my right hon. Friend's attention.
Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): Further to the answer that the Leader of the House gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Paul Farrelly), may I urge my right hon. Friend to take up the cudgels again on behalf of the Consumer Credit Billsomething that not only is urgently needed in many of the communities represented by hon. Members, but was debated fully in Committee? Indeed, we set aside eight sittings for debate, but we only used four of them. So it seems clear not only that there is unanimity on the proposals, but that the Minister for Employment Relations, Consumers and Postal Services, who ably led the Bill through the House, managed to give satisfactory answers to all the queries raised by hon. Members on both sides of the House. It would be good to see that legislation in place.
Mr. Hain: I very much agree. As my hon. Friend knows, and as the Minister whom he mentioned, who is sitting almost next to me, will confirm, the Bill completed all its stages in the House of Commons but got bogged down in the House of Lords. That is the reason why there is an inability to make progress with the Bill. I very much regret that such progress cannot be made, and all hon. Members' constituents will regret that as well. After we win the next general election, we will have to return to this matter and ensure that a consumer credit Bill is introduced.
I wonder whether it would be helpful to the House to say, with permission, that Parliament will be summoned to meet on 11 May, when the first business will be the election of the Speaker and the swearing in of Members, and that the State Opening will take place on Tuesday 17 May.
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