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Mr. Hoon: We are not divided over that issue. The Government strongly support trade justice. Ministers at the Department of Trade and Industry and other Ministers involved in international negotiations have put the case very forcefully. Indeed, it is fair to say that the Government have led the way in arguing, not only in those international discussions but domestically, that it is important that we develop those principles. If the hon. Gentleman were being fair, instead of implying criticism of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, he would congratulate him.
Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore) (Lab):
Will the Leader of the House find time for not only a statement but a full debate in the House on Iran to discuss the implications
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of the President of Iran's appalling statement recently and the response of the president of the Iranian resistance, who said:
"I again declare that a third option, namely democratic change through the Iranian people and resistance, is the only serious option in dealing with the Mullah's unbridled dictatorship, which is not only the enemy of the Iranian people, but also the enemy of peace, democracy and humanity."
Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend makes a good point. I have already indicated to the House the Government's serious concern about the statement made by the new Iranian President. Other aspects of what is happening in Iran at present are causing the Government considerable anxiety. I certainly recognise that this is a matter that the House will want to consider in more detail at a later date.
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East) (Con): Does the Leader of the House recall from his time as Secretary of State for Defence the settlement announced in 2000 of claims for the British internees in the far east under the Japanese, and the award of £10,000 for each of them? Five years later the Government stand condemned by the parliamentary ombudsman for retrospectively excluding about 700 people who suffered in that way. May we have a statement on the Floor of the House from the Minister with responsibility for veterans about the derisory offer of £500 compensation to those people affected, instead of him continuing to shelterit saddens me to say thisbehind what have so far been two written ministerial statements?
The hon. Gentleman has followed these matters with great care, and I heard supporting voices from the Opposition Benches, but I was very proud of what the Government did in providing compensation to far eastern prisoners of war. My father served in the far east and I recognise that that was a particularly brutal and nasty aspect of conflict that affected many people. It is necessary that these decisions are subject to rules, and I assure him that a great deal of thought and care was given to drawing them up. This was a matter not of looking at the cost, but of trying to ensure that the rules were fair. The hon. Gentleman referred to 700 people. I hope that he will take it from me that drawing in another group will not necessarily solve the problem to which he refers, because by adjusting the rules to take account of a further group, another larger group may well become eligible. These matters have also been subject to litigation. I assure him that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence and other relevant Ministers look at these issues with as much compassion and sensitivity as possible. Bearing in mind that no previous Government had taken such a decision, we brought forward the scheme because we felt that the country owed a debt of honour to those people who suffered in that way in the course of the second world war. But it is not possible simply to provide an unlimited scheme. The scheme has to be subject to certain rules, and those rules necessarily unfortunately exclude some people from participation.
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Anne Moffat (East Lothian) (Lab): I, too, would like to ask my right hon. Friend for a debate on fair trade, but I should like to ask for it from a positive perspective, because it could be used to encourage local authorities to become fair trade councils. Local authorities could encourage events such as those that are taking place in my constituency on Saturday, where a house has been turned into a fair trade shop in which Fairtrade goods will be sold, so that the communities are encouraged to buy those products. I congratulate Lesley Wilson, who has championed the cause in my constituency.
Mr. Hoon: I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend for putting the matter in such a positive way. This is something that the Government take extremely seriously, and I know that it is also taken seriously by a number of local authorities throughout the country. I am delighted that her local authority and people in her constituency are promoting the event on Saturday.
Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): I do not know whether the Leader of the House is aware that some major international decisions on space matters are due shortly, namely on global monitoring for environment and security, Galileo and Aurora, all of which affect several Departments of State and research councils. In addition, at the European Space Agency's ministerial council in December, important decisions will be made on the level of UK participation in those European flagship programmes. Will the Leader of the House give some serious thought to whether we can have a debate in Government time on space matters so that we can probe the Government on their intentions for UK participation and highlight some of the first-class science that is being carried out by British firms and research establishments?
Mr. Hoon: I congratulate the hon. Lady on raising these important issues, not least by giving such emphasis to science, which is sometimes neglected in our discussions in the House and in the country, despite the fact that we have some of the world's leading scientists and some of the best research on these questions. I am always intrigued by the range of my responsibilities. I am delighted that they extend into space, and I shall certainly encourage my colleagues to ensure that the House is kept fully informed of the way in which those particular issues develop in the course of the British presidency.
Mr. Clive Betts (Sheffield, Attercliffe) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend organise an early debate on the future of the special steels industry, which would allow an opportunity for Sheffield Members to raise the worrying announcement this week from Outokumpu, a large steel producer in my constituency, of 700 redundancies? I want to seek assurances that the Department of Trade and Industry and Yorkshire Forward will use every possible endeavours, first to save what jobs and production capacity we can, secondly to ensure the future of the remaining 800 jobs, and finally to give every assistance to those workers who do lose their jobs to find alternative work and to obtain the necessary retraining.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise that disturbing development. I was aware of that
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prospective announcement, and it is a matter that I know will cause grave concern in and around Sheffield, which has such a great heritage, particularly in the special steels industry. I am well aware that the matter will cause great anxiety to families and people in Sheffield, and it is important that they are supported. I can assure my hon. Friend that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry will provide appropriate support and assistance to those who may be affected by the announcement. The Government certainly take the matter seriously.
Mr. Nigel Dodds (Belfast, North) (DUP): May we have an early debate in Government time on the Government's plans for post-primary education in Northern Ireland and the Government's attack on Ulster's fine grammar schools? Such a debate would provide an opportunity for the Government to correct what the Secretary of State for Education and Skills said earlier at Question Time when she said that this had the support of, and had originated in, the Northern Ireland Assembly. That is not the case, because the Assembly did not have the opportunity to vote on the matter, and the people of Northern Ireland have made it clear, through a household survey of the entire Province, that they reject the Government's plans. May we have an early debate so that the Government can be tackled on the issue?
Mr. Hoon: I am slightly disappointed in the approach taken by the hon. Gentleman to education matters in Northern Ireland, not least because my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland recently announced a specific fund to help the education and training of young people and students in Northern Ireland, amounting to some £45 million in the next financial year, rising to £55 million thereafter. That demonstrates the determination of my right hon. Friend and the Government to ensure that Northern Ireland benefits from higher standards of education and training across that part of this country.
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