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I do not intend to repeat my answer to the hon. Member for Romsey (Sandra Gidley), but it is important to acknowledge that there have to be limits on the arrangements for providing assistance. In the case in question, those limits affect the issue of the solvency or otherwise of the principal employer. I have nothing further to add to my earlier comments.
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John Robertson (Glasgow, North-West) (Lab): At the time the Olympics have been awarded to London, may I tell my right hon. Friend that the special Olympics 2005 are taking place at this very moment in the fair city of Glasgow? Will he discuss with our right hon. Friend the Minister for Sport and Tourism including people with special needs in the celebrations to be held here in 2012?
Mr. Hoon: I take this opportunity to congratulate all those who have been involved in the organisation of the special Olympics. Having seen such events in previous years, I know what tremendous voluntary efforts go into them. I am sure that all those associated with the successful bid will play their part in supporting such excellent initiatives as the special Olympics.
Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con): The Leader of the House will be aware that the paediatrician Professor Sir Roy Meadow is appearing before the General Medical Council in response to allegations of misdiagnosis in certain child death cases. Eighteen months ago, the Minister for Children and the Solicitor-General made statements to the House about the review of cases in the light of the judgment. Will the right hon. Gentleman find time for one of those Ministers to update the House on what has happened since thenhow the review has progressed and how many people who may have been wrongly accused of and sentenced for murdering their child or children are still in jail?
Mr. Hoon: I understand how sensitive the issue is to those parents, but before we take further action it is important to allow the current proceedings to be concluded, so that we can identify the circumstances as accurately as possible. However, I assure the hon. Gentleman that the responsible Minister is keeping track of these matters and will write to him when the proceedings have been resolved.
John Austin (Erith and Thamesmead) (Lab):
My right hon. Friend will know that the House used to have an annual debate on the Metropolitan police, when the Home Secretary was the police authority. Although we now have a police authority for London, today's tragic events have shown that there is a national dimension to the work of the Metropolitan police. Will he consider
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reinstating the debate on the role of the Metropolitan police, so that the whole House can discuss the national role that they play?
Mr. Hoon: I have already paid tribute, but am pleased to do so again, to the emergency services, especially the Metropolitan police. From my previous responsibilities, I know the extent to which the Metropolitan police provide specialist services and activities that are clearly to the wider benefit of the country as a whole, and I pay tribute to those who are involved in that work. I think that it is important that the House regularly debates the work of the police as a whole across the country, but in saying that I do not detract in any way from the excellent work being done by the Metropolitan police service.
Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove) (Con): Following the Leader of the House's robust responses to the hon. Members for Eastleigh (Chris Huhne) and for Romsey (Sandra Gidley) about the payment of compensation in pension schemes when one of the companies involved is still trading, is he aware that exactly the same circumstances apply at MG Rover, whose pensioners are not receiving any compensation because one of the companies involved is still trading? Will the Leader of the House kindly give me a response to those particular circumstances, and make it clear that those people will eventually receive compensation?
Mr. Hoon: The hon. Lady knows better than I do that the financial arrangements at MG Rover are still the subject of investigation. There is still serious consideration of how to take forward the opportunities there, and the question of pensions is obviously of vital concern to many of her constituents and to others who were formerly employed at the company. I hope that she can be patient for long enough to allow the full inquiry to be completed.
Mr. Speaker: Order. The Home Secretary has promised us a statement on the grave situation in London at the moment. I think that it would be more appropriate to suspend the House until the Home Secretary is here. I understand that he is ready, but he must brief his Opposition colleagues, and that is what he is going to do. I shall therefore suspend the House until 10 minutes to the hour. That will be the best course of action.
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The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Charles Clarke): First, may I apologise to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the House for being slightly later than I had hoped in making this statement?
As the House will know, this morning there have been a number of terrorist attacks in central London. The situation is developing and I am not yet in a position to give a conclusive account of all that has happened, but I wanted to keep the House as fully informed as possible.
I begin by expressing on behalf of the whole country our sympathy for those injured and for the families and friends of those who have died. I am not in a position at this time to give precise details, but what I can say is that four explosions have been confirmed. The first was on a tube train between Aldgate East and Liverpool Street. The second was on a bus in Woburn place. The third was on a tube train between Russell Square and King's Cross and the fourth was on a tube train at Edgware Road station. As yet, we do not know who or which organisations are responsible for those criminal and appalling acts. Of course, our first responsibility is to protect and support the public at this time. The Metropolitan police are in operational command, using well established and tested procedures. The health services are providing first-class care and support.
On transport, the underground is closed and will remain so for some time; it will certainly be closed today. There are no buses in central London and Transport for London will decide when to resume services later today. Overground services are subject to substantial delays. Most stations are open, but some are closed. Network Rail will try to reopen them as soon as it can. Airports are operating normally. People are strongly advised not to travel into central London, as the emergency services must be allowed to do their work in the most effective way they can.
The Cabinet was informed this morning and since then I have chaired Cobra meetings to ensure that the whole Government commitment is properly co-ordinated and any necessary support is provided. The Prime Minister is returning to London from Gleneagles to chair a Cobra meeting later today. I will continue to keep the House fully informed.
David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con): I am grateful to the Home Secretary for coming to the House so promptly this afternoon. We understand only too well the matters that constrained his time.
I join the Home Secretary in saying that the thoughts and prayers of Opposition Members are with all those who were killed or injured earlier today and their families and friends. I, too, pay tribute to the men and women of our emergency services. Their response to events such as this is invariably heroic and we thank them from the bottom of our hearts.
This morning's explosions were acts of almost unspeakable depravity and wickedness, planned with the deliberate intention of taking innocent life, and the whole House condemns them utterly. This is an attack
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not just on our capital city, but on our country and our way of life as a whole. It goes without saying that the Government will have our full and wholehearted support in dealing with this assault on our society. We stand ready with them to play our part.
I welcome the Prime Minister's assurance earlier today that the important work of the G8 meeting in Scotland will go on and will not be disrupted by today's terrible events. Now is not the time to allow the terrorists to disrupt our lives in any way.
Now is also not the time for many questions, so I have just three straightforward ones for the Home Secretary. Could he tell the House what plans have been put in place to protect other British cities that may be at risk at this point in time? There is obviously confusion at such a time, but the most important thing is that people remain as calm as possible. To help with that, what plans do the Government have to keep the public informed about events as the day unfolds? Finally, will the Prime Minister or the Home Secretary return to the House on Monday, when more information is known, to make a full statement on this terrible event?
A prime aim of terrorists is to demoralise and divide our communities. It is right that we should be angry at today's atrocities, but it is no less essential that we should remain both clear-headed and united. We say to the terrorists that they will not succeed in setting us against one another. Britain has a long history of dealing with terrorism. We have joined together to fight it in the past; today we do so again. For now, the terrorism that walks the streets of London has no face, but whatever its origin, whatever its motive, our response will be the samethe British people will not be cowed and the terrorists will not win.
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