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Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): May we have an urgent debate on corporate governance, particularly the corporate structure of the Tchenguiz family? We know them well in the north of England because they run a company called the Estates and Management group, which gives a tough time to elderly and vulnerable leaseholders in many of the northern towns, using all sorts of strategies to extract money. They have a corporate structure that the House of Commons Library describes not just as a chain of companies, but as a spaghetti of companies registered in the Virgin Islands, the Bahamas and elsewhere. May we have a debate on the company, which is involved in a major takeover of a restaurant and pub chain? Let us find out exactly who owns it, where it is owned and how it conducts its business.
Mr. Hoon: I cannot promise my hon. Friend an early debate, but there are opportunities that he might seek to exploit by way of an Adjournment debate or a debate in Westminster Hall. If I may say so, he has probably made his point just as effectively today.
Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): In the light of tragic events overnight, may I yet again ask the Leader of the House when we will have a debate on the political situation in Iraq, which, extraordinarily, we have not had in the lifetime of this Parliament? Perhaps we might also have a debate on the role of the Attorney-General and his attempt to gag newspapers with the threat of the Official Secrets Act not on the grounds of national security, but on the grounds of potential embarrassment to the Prime Minister or to any presidents with whom he happens to have conversations.
I echo the widespread irritation and annoyance at the cancellation of the debate next Thursday on police restructuring. The Leader of the House must realise that already the options have been reduced without Members having any opportunity to express an opinion. In my part of the country, the south-west, we face the
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prospect of a police force whose area runs from the Isles of Scilly to Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire. Tewkesbury is nearer to Scotland than to the tip of Cornwall. Many hon. Members want to raise important questions. Westminster Hall is not an adequate substitute. We need a debate in the Chamber.
Lastly, has the right hon. Gentleman come across the "Fantasy Health Minister" website? I understand that the Secretary of State for Defence is a frequent player. Is the Leader of the House aware that one can accumulate a large number of bonus points for allowing colleagues a free vote on the issue of smoking?
Mr. Hoon: My right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and for Defence have regularly come before the House to set out the position in Iraq. Foreign Office questions takes place next Wednesday, I believe. There are regular opportunities for hon. Members to raise the matter of the political situation in Iraq, and I have never been in any doubt that they seek every opportunity to do so, and very successfully.
I am slightly surprised, but perhaps I should not be, to hear yet again Liberal Democrats not even prepared to see effective enforcement of important legislation that safeguards our security and liberties. If the hon. Gentleman is really telling the House that there are no circumstances in which the Attorney-General should exercise long-standing powers under the Official Secrets Act, he needs to say so a little more plainly, rather than resorting to the kind of sub-editor's headlines that he tends to speak in. The Attorney-General has a legal responsibility, which I suspect was given to him by a Liberal Government. It needs to be exercised from time to time. That is done with great restraint and only in certain limited circumstances, but it is an important power that must be exercised from time to time.
Mr. Ian Austin (Dudley, North) (Lab): May we have a debate on the irresponsible and antisocial use of fireworks this year? Everybody enjoys bonfire night, but I do not see why my constituents should have their lives made a misery in the days and weeks running up to and after bonfire night each year. Such a debate would enable us to examine the extent to which police and local authorities have been using the new powers that were given to them last year, and it would give us the chance to discuss whether tougher restrictions would enable my constituents to live free from the noise, nuisance, disturbance and danger that fireworks can cause.
My hon. Friend has raised an important issue, which inevitably comes up each year. May I assure him, having examined the figures on the number of complaints this year, that there has been a significant reduction, not least because of the very effective measures the Government have implemented to limit concerns in the community, particularly among the elderly and the vulnerable? If there is a requirement for additional change and reform further to reduce the threat to people, we will re-examine the matter.
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Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): Will the Leader of the House arrange for an Education Minister to make a statement about the decreasing number of students coming forward to study physics and chemistry, which is causing grave problems for important manufacturing industries such as pharmaceuticals? AstraZeneca, the largest employer in my constituency, has spoken to me at length about the matter. The problem is that too few teachers are prepared to teach those subjects in secondary schools, which therefore reduces the number of students who go on to study them at university. Chemistry and physics are vital to the future of this country.
Mr. Hoon: I am always delighted to serve as a substitute for those hon. Members who fail to get called at Question Time. I am delighted to emphasise to the hon. Gentleman the importance that the Government attach to training teachers in physics and chemistry, not least as someone whose physics teacher advised him never to darken his door againadvice that I was glad to follow. The issue is important for industry, and we must continue to train the right number of physicists and chemists for the future of our high-technology industries.
Mr. Marsha Singh (Bradford, West) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend find time to debate the south Asian earthquake disaster, which The Independent described today as "the forgotten disaster"? I am proud and pleased about the response of the Department for International Development and the British Government, but 100,000 people could die during the winter. Tents and shelters are still needed, and 2.3 million people will need food. In my constituency, concern is growing, especially among my constituents with Kashmiri or Pakistani backgrounds, that too little is being done too late. Will my right hon. Friend find time for that debate?
Mr. Hoon: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising the issue. The international community clearly needs to emulate the example set by the British Government, which my hon. Friend has generously acknowledged, in ensuring that there is not a further disaster this winter in remote and inclement parts of Pakistan. He is right to raise the issue, which the British Government are, I assure him, keeping at the forefront of their mind.
Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East) (DUP):
After yesterday, does the Leader of the House believe that he can persuade the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to return to the Dispatch Box, this time to explain the major changes he intends to make to public administration in Northern Ireland, including local authorities? The Secretary of State was smuggled into a Belfast hotel earlier this week, and he has not made a statement to this House, which would have allowed hon.
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Members an opportunity to ask questions. Will the Leader of the House ensure that the Secretary of State comes to this House to explain himself?
Mr. Hoon: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland was here yesterday both answering questions and initiating debate. I know that the hon. Gentleman is a skilful and successful parliamentarian, and I am surprised that he did not take the opportunity when my right hon. Friend was smuggled into the House to put those questions and participate in that debate. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will have further opportunities on future occasions.
Ms Celia Barlow (Hove) (Lab): Will the Leader of the House make time for the Home Secretary to make a statement on the case of my constituent, Amir Nazabzadeh, who was arrested at his home on 15 November, pending deportation? I strongly feel that my office was misled by Home Office officials, who told us that Amir was served with a removal order on 10 November, although the removal order was dated 15 November, that no removal directions had been set, although he was scheduled for removal on the next morning, and that he had been moved from Heathrow, although he was still there. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that Amir will not be removed until my representations of 6 October have been fully considered and until the friends of Amir have had time to take guidance on a judicial review?
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