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The hon. Gentleman has made a good point, and perhaps by implication another one: these issues are best left to the wisdom of local communities. People in the community can make judgments about the wisdom of the lateness or otherwise of licensing hours. There will undoubtedly be some parts of the country where such late opening is welcome, subject to the appropriate policing. In other parts of the country it may be less welcome and appropriate. The hon.
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Gentleman asks for a debate in Government time, but there is an Opposition day available in the first week back. I am sure that he can use his considerable new-found influence to persuade those on his Front Bench to devote that timethey have yet to decide what the debate will be aboutto that important question.
Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): With the announcement today of the shedding of so many defence jobs, affecting so many hon. Member's constituencies, surely it is right and proper that a Minister should come to the House to make that announcement and that it should not be made as one of 65 written statements. Will the Leader of the House assure me that when announcements of such significance are made in future a Minister will volunteer to come to make a statement to the House?
Mr. Hoon: I think that that question has been dealt with at some length and in some detail. A Minister came to the House and answered questions about the announcement in some detail. I cannot add more to what has been said already, not least by Mr. Speaker.
David T.C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con): The Leader of the House will be aware that the organisation charged with promoting gender equality is the Equal Opportunities Commission. A look at its website shows that of its 17 most senior members of staff only four are men. In Wales, where I come from, of the 50 people employed by the EOC only about five are men. Can we have a debate on the workings of the commission so that we can find ways of encouraging it to start practising what it preaches?
Earlier in my career I once had the privilege of working with Barbara Castle. I recall that when she was asked why as Secretary of State for Social Services she maintained the differential retirement ages at 60 and 65, she said that it was to redress the imbalance of thousands of years.
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Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a personal statement. The Committee on Standards and Privileges has today published a report concerning me and it has requested that I make an apology to the House by way of a personal statement. This I readily do at the earliest possible opportunity.
The complaint to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards followed the publication of two articles in The Sunday Times last March that made a number of allegations about my conduct. By far and away the most serious allegation was that I had sought to use my parliamentary position as Chairman of the Select Committee on International Development to obtain or to attempt to obtain some personal financial gain. In respect of this matter, the commissioner found in his report that there had been no indication whatever in the course of his inquiries that I had sought to exploit my position as Chairman of the International Development Committee to further my private interests.
The commissioner did, however, find that I had breached the code of conduct in a number of respects; that in certain instances I got it wrong. No one is sorrier than me for that. For what I got wrong, I said in person on Tuesday to the Committee on Standards and Privileges that I was very sorry and I repeat to the whole House that I am very sorry.
The Committee in its conclusions says that my case illustrates the importance, not least in terms of public perception, of Members scrupulously separating, and being seen to separate, their public role from any private business interests. The Parliamentary Commissioner says in his report that he does not believe that I set out to exploit my public position for personal advantage, but he took the view that I failed to exercise sufficient care in distinguishing my public concerns from some of my private interests. I accept that judgment.
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The Committee was in particular concerned about a letter that I wrote to the Secretary of State for International Development, which it concludes breached the advocacy rule. May I say that I apologised in person to the Secretary of State face to face back in April for anything that I might have got wrong in my letter to him, and I am confident that the Secretary of State accepted that apology in the spirit in which it was given.
In respect of my letter to the Secretary of State and other matters of concern, I have been given the opportunity to explain my actions. That I have done in detail. My explanations are in the report for the House and for anyone to see. My letter to the Secretary of State was clearly very poorly written, as it has led to a number of misunderstandings, but I have to accept, as I wrote the letter, that the consequence of those misunderstandings fall to me and, as I said to the Parliamentary Commissioner, I fully accept that the perception of an MP's conduct is important. The Parliamentary Commissioner and the Committee have concluded from their reading of my letter that I breached the rules, and I of course accept their judgment. That was most certainly not my intention.
I do not believe that there is anything in the Commissioner's findings or the Committee's report that suggests that I have done anything ignoble, dishonest or discreditable. In that I got matters wrong, I have at the earliest possible opportunity apologised in person to the Secretary of State and apologised in person to the Committee on Standards and Privileges, and now I say sorry to the House. I hope that the House will accept this as a heartfelt and unconditional apology for what I got wrong. I hope that any fair-minded person reading the commissioner's report will conclude that what I got wrong was by way of inadvertence and omission rather than through any deliberate attempt in any way to abuse my position as a Member of this House.
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James Duddridge (Rochford and Southend, East) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Earlier today, rather than reply to my question, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry said that he had placed a report on energy security in the House of Commons Library. I have been to the Library and it has no such report. I would appreciate your advice on what can be done to protect hon. Members from this sharp practice.
Order. We have to watch our language and, "sharp practice" is a bit strong under the circumstances. Let me look into the matter and we will see whether the report can be put in the Library.
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I wish to take this opportunity to place on the record the warmest congratulations ofI hopethe whole House to Seb Coe, Keith Mills and the whole 2012 bid team, including Barbara Cassani, who chaired the bid for the first year, on the excellence of their campaign and the result of which we are all so very proud.
The decision made by the International Olympic Committee on 6 July can change this city and this country forever. It awarded London the greatest prize that sport can bestow. The moment that Jacques Rogge opened that envelope will be one that millions remember for the rest of their lives. An act that appeared to take an age took in fact only a few seconds. Then we heard the simplest of statements: that it was "London", and that was sheer magic.
The very next day, however, that euphoria turned to agony. The events of 7 July will forever be linked to, and help to define the spirit of, the 2012 Olympics in London. Those two days showed the world, in different ways, the very best of London. On 6 July, in Singapore, the world sawdirectly personified in the presence of those 30 young people, representing 20 nationalities, from Langdon school in Newham in the east end of Londonthe tolerance and diversity that is London. They also saw a statement of our ambition for the future, which is not just to host the greatest sporting event in the world for 17 days but to unlock the ambition of millions of young people up and down our countrya real legacy for both capital city and country. In London the next day, and ever since, the world has seen the resilience of Londoners again, linked to a determination that the grief, the mourning and the outrage of the terrorist attacks will not translate into division or hate and to continue as the city of tolerance that has so defined us to the rest of the world.
Why was it that we won in Singapore againstas many would sayall the odds? There is a simple answer to that question. The IOC was moved by the spirit so clearly articulated and represented in our bid and the presentation to its members. The IOC realised that for London the games were much more than 30 days of Olympic and Paralympic sporting excellence. For London, the games are a chance to transform one of the poorest and most deprived parts of our capital city; to inspire millions of children with dreams of sporting success; to launch a nationwide cultural festival; and to unlock sporting talent, both at home and abroad.
On the strength of our bid to host the Olympic games, we have also begun a programme of sustained support and investment in our young athletes, with the development of the talented athlete scholarship schemeTASSand 2012 scholarships. We will bestow on our most talented young people the financial support that they need to realise their potential and to fulfil their ambition.
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We look back on a legacy of too much wasted sporting talent, especially in the children of families who are without the financial and other means to devote to nurturing the kind of talent that could become world class. There are too many children whose talent has never been developed, simply because their families could not afford the cost of their ambition. The talented athlete scholarship scheme and 2012 scholarships are direct and practical ways to address that problem. We celebrated the success of our gold medallists at the Athens Olympics, but we should remember that five of those medals were won by a combined margin of less than half a second. That is why, if we are serious about ensuring that talent and potential are realised, those two schemes are so important.
The results are already impressive. At the Amateur Athletics Association under-20s national indoor championships this year, TASS athletes won six gold medals, seven silver medals and six bronze medals. As one TASS athlete said:
Two weeks have passed since we were awarded the games and we know that our focus now has to be on delivery. There is no time to waste. Much of the effort and a substantial share of the resources spent on bidding for the games were focused on preparing for delivery. I am delighted to announce today that the Government have already taken the first major step in the development of the best ever Olympic park in Stratford. I have today given the London Development Agency the go-ahead to start the massive construction and regeneration programme that will shape the Olympic park to be ready in seven years' time. The first step is the undergrounding of the power lines that blight the Olympic park and the lower Lea valley.
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