Thursday 30 JuneThere will be a debate on "Helping Africa to fight poverty" on a motion for the Adjournment of the House, followed by at 6 pm the House will be asked to approve all outstanding estimates.
Chris Grayling: The Leader of the House has just confirmed his decision that the debate on the Second Reading of the Identity Cards Bill will be held next Tuesday. He was, of course, until two months ago Secretary of State for Defence. Does he not remember, in that role, taking a decision that next Tuesday should also be the day when the Royal Navy holds a major international celebration to mark the 200th anniversary of the battle of Trafalgar? It is an event that will be held in the presence of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, and many Members of the House will be attending.
Does the Leader of the House not realise that setting the debate for such an important and controversial measure as the Identity Cards Bill on the same day as that major national occasion will be seen as an insult to the Royal Navy, to the royal family and to Members of the House? Does he not also realise that Members attending the event may struggle to get back to the House in time for the vote, and certainly will not have the opportunity to participate in the debate? Will he recognise the clash that he has caused and move the debate on the Identity Cards Bill to a different day next week?
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Two weeks ago, I asked the Leader of the House whether we could have a debate on the problems that the Licensing Act 2003 is causing for small village halls and clubs. He refused. Yesterday the issue was raised with the Prime Minister at Prime Minister's questions. He showed that he had little idea of the nature of the challenge facing many of our halls and clubs. There are only six weeks left for those halls and clubs to comply with the new regulations that the Government have imposed on them. I ask the Leader of the House again, will he provide an opportunity for Members to debate this issue once again, to allow them to tell the Government of the very real problems that these measures are causing for halls and clubs in their constituencies, so that something can be done about it before it is too late?
Why are the Government delaying the Committee stage of the National Lottery Bill? Even though the debate on Second Reading is over, they are still refusing to give dates for the Committee. It is a disgraceful measure, whereby the Government are hijacking national lottery money to plug the gaps in their public spending plans. It received widespread criticism in the House and elsewhere. Given that delay, are the Government planning to drop the Bill; or is there another reason for what is an abnormal and unwarranted delay in the Committee stage?
Finally, let me take the right hon. Gentleman back, once again, to the issue of Zimbabwe. When I asked him last week and the week before for a statement by a Foreign Office Minister on the disturbing situation there, all he could suggest was that we hold an Opposition day debate on the issue. Does he not think that the situation in Zimbabwe is serious enough for the Government to provide the House with a proper briefing about what they are doing, without having to be dragged and, indeed, argued into doing so by the Opposition?
Mr. Hoon: As someone who is looking forward to participating in next Tuesday's celebrations and to voting at 10 pm on Tuesday, I was somewhat surprised to hear of the difficulties. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members will be able to witness the splendid celebrations on Tuesday and still be back in time to vote at 10 o'clock. That is certainly my plan and my intention.
As for the National Lottery Bill, there is simply no delay. We had a vigorous debate on Second Reading very recently; and, of course, the Bill will take its place in a crowded legislative programmecrowded simply because the Government are determined to make the necessary changes in our society and to ensure that the legislation that we set out in our manifesto, on which we were elected, as I have to remind the hon. Gentleman each week, passes into law and into effect.
Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab):
May we have a debate in Government time on the Government's proposals to abolish the right of appeal on visitors' visas
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for oral hearings? A number of hon. Members had a very useful meeting with the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality yesterday. The fact is that the abolition of that right of appeal is not covered in the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill, because Ministers can make such decisions according to the rules. This issue affects a large number of our constituents, especially those of hon. Members with immigration case loads. Will my right hon. Friend consider whether we can debate that very important issue?
Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend is an acknowledged expert on this question, and I shall certainly not trade detail with him from the Dispatch Box given his expertise. I will certainly ensure that my right hon. Friends with responsibility for such issues are made aware of his concerns.
Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): Sadly, there is news today of a further 30 people killed in Baghdad and many others wounded. The British Army is in the field in Iraq. The last statement from a Minister was, I believe, on 31 January from the Foreign Secretary. We have not had a debate for a whole year. Can there ever have been a time when British forces were not given the benefit of a proper report to the House while engaged in active service over such a long period?
Many commuters in overcrowded, sweltering trains will have been exasperated by the announcement by the Association of Train Operating Companies last week that it proposes to charge more to travel in those trains, particularly given that South West Trains has increased its profits so massively. May we have a debate on those proposals, so that we make it clear that we support public transport, want people to use it and do not want to discourage people from using trains in the capital city and elsewhere?
I understand that progress has been made on setting up the Select Committees. That is very welcome. What plans has the right hon. Gentleman to set up the Scottish Grand Committee and, I hope, to move away from its slightly anodyne proceedings in the previous Parliament, perhaps by incorporating some novelties, such as Question Times for Ministers and considering Sewel motions passed to it by Scottish Ministers?
That was flatly contradicted by the Paymaster General in her statement less than half an hour later. Given that a lot of people feel strongly about the matter and want clarity, may we have a debate entitled "Chaos in the Tax Credit System" and, if so, will the Leader of the House assure me that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will open it and not send a junior Minister? The Chancellor of the Exchequer has become the Macavity of the Cabinet: