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Mr. Hoon: I am always grateful for such spirited contributions from the hon. Gentleman. Perhaps I misunderstood his recent remarks when he suggested that the Procedure Committee was considering looking afresh at the sub judice matter. I had taken that to mean that it was considering new ideas. I cannot see any purpose in holding a debate while the Procedure Committee is still engaged on that consideration. However, I am perfectly willing to see the hon. Gentleman and discuss those matters with him.
I have heard on previous occasions the hon. Gentleman's observations on the Modernisation Committee and the inevitable overlap between its excellent work and that of the Procedure Committee. Hon. Members have accepted that that is the inevitable consequence of modernisation. It is important that the House continue to modernise its procedures and arrangements to ensure that the people whom we represent fully understand and appreciate the excellent work that is done here.
Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North) (Lab): After the earthquake in Pakistan and Azad Kashmir, what scope is there for a debate during which we can consider the efforts of the United Nations, our Department for International Development, our Foreign and Commonwealth Office and our Ministry of Defence? With winter setting in, we need to know the extent of the unmet need and whether further co-ordination is required to ensure that aid is there before winter arrives. That needs to be done urgently.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that important issue. It is important not only for the United Kingdom's relations with Pakistan, with which we work closely, but domestically, because I know from recent visits that the issue directly affects many of our constituents with a Pakistani background and close relatives in Pakistan. I assure my hon. Friend that the Government take the matter seriously. We have not only led the way in financial assistance, but we have provided assistance in kind, not least in the form of three large helicopters from the Ministry of Defence. We will continue to take the issue seriously.
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Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East) (DUP): The Leader of the House said earlier that legislation for the so-called on-the-runs was due to be presented shortly. We have heard that for perhaps the past eight weeks, since the Government shared their view with a terrorist organisation but not with parliamentarians. There is growing concern in Northern Ireland about the expectation that the Government will extend the measure to embrace almost everybody who committed a crime before 1998, without having them appear before a court. Will the Leader of the House ensure that, if the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is not going to introduce the Bill in the next two weeks, he will make a statement to the House to clarify the matter?
Mr. Hoon: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising an important issue that is sensitive for many people not only in Northern Ireland but elsewhere in this country. I emphasise that the measure is a determined contribution to achieving a peaceful resolution to the situation in Northern Ireland. There are times when extraordinarily difficult decisions have to be made. I assure the hon. Gentleman and the House that, as soon as the Bill is ready, it will be published in the usual way and all hon. Members will have the opportunity of seeing and discussing it.
Mr. Mike Hall (Weaver Vale) (Lab): Cheshire county council, under a review that is euphemistically called "Transforming Learning Communities", proposes to close one secondary school and at least two successful, buoyant primary schools in villages in my constituency. I should like a debate on the fact that Cheshire county council has placed a gag on the head teachers and teachers in those schools for speaking up for their schools while the review continues. That is an abrogation of their democratic rights and an affront to their civil liberties. Will the Leader of the House grant me a debate on that next week?
Mr. Hoon: I cannot promise my hon. Friend a debate next week, but he raises an important matter. There is a process under way of ensuring that we have the right sized schools in the right places to deal with the population. I accept that that sometimes causes difficulties in local communities and that we must keep it under review. I am sure that my hon. Friend will ensure that the matter remains at the forefront of concerns in his constituency.
Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): May we have an urgent debate on the ministerial code, which is allegedly written and policed by the Prime Minister? Is not it the case that, sadly, yesterday's resignation by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions was brought about by a combination of political pressure and withdrawal of support from Labour Back Benchers? How is it that everybody else can see what the Prime Minister is unable to perceivethat integrity and honesty in government and in politics are important? If the ministerial code is to mean anything, we should take it away from the Prime Minister and give it to someone who knows what decency and integrity really mean.
I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman has taken that approach. As I made clear, successive
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Prime Ministers have been responsible for supervising the ministerial code. That position has continued for several years and I am happy to endorse it, because I know how seriously my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister takes the ministerial code.
Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): May we have a debate as soon as possible on Iran? Does the Leader of the House accept that it is not only the Iranian President's words about Israel last week or the nuclear programme that cause concern, but Iran's grisly human rights record? In July, two young men were killed in north-east Iran merely for being gay, and 30 young people under the age of 18 are on death row. Those are only the people we know about. May we have a debate and break with convention by not holding it on the Adjournment of the House but on a resolution, so that the Government of Iran understand that not only the Government but the whole House is worried about our relations with that country?
Mr. Hoon: I emphasise again the importance that the Government attach to the disturbing situation in Iran. My hon. Friend is right to point not only to the terrible statement by the Iranian President but to a range of other issues that the Government clearly take seriously. Indeed, this morning, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary set out several concerns to the Cabinet about Iran. It is therefore much in our minds and we must continue to deal with it through the careful international diplomacy that has produced results. It is a clear sign of the international community's unity that France and the United States co-sponsored a resolution to ensure that there is a genuine way forward for the international community to deal with the disturbing situation in Iran.
Richard Younger-Ross (Teignbridge) (LD): Earlier this week, Best Mate tragically died at Devon and Exeter racecourse. Will the Leader of the House ensure that the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs makes a statement to explain why, against the wishes of the racecourse owners and the race horse owners, it was not allowed to be buried at the racecourse?
Mr. Hoon: I am sure that my distinguished predecessor, Robin Cook, would have had an answer to the hon. Gentleman's question. He had undoubtedly forgotten more about horse racing than I will ever know. I do not know the answer, but I shall try to find out.
[That this House believes that British Telecom should automatically make available its free BT Privacy Service to stop unwanted calls to all customers who previously signed up to the service at a cost of £21 a year; and is astonished that BT has no plans to alert paying customers to the fact that the service is now free if they subscribe to BT Privacy and that they say it is up to customers who subscribed in the past to request the change.]
The motion has solid cross-party support and highlights the practice of BT, which continues to fleece its customers for a service that it provides free to brand
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new customers. BT stops taking the charge only if its loyal customers ask for that. May we have a debate on consumer rights?
Mr. Hoon: One thing that I do know about BT is that it has a very effective public affairs department, so I am sure that my hon. Friend's raising of this issue on the Floor of the House will already have been considered by the company. I am sure that she will achieve the desired effect by raising it in this way.
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