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Mr. Hoon: I have driven by that magnificent new stadium and seen the facilities now available for the people of Coventry, so I recognise why my hon. Friend makes his suggestion. I will draw it to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport.

Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire) (Con): Many of my right hon. and hon. Friends have strong views about the Government's proposals for police reform and have pressed the Government for a debate. On reflection, does he agree that it was ungenerous of him to describe such representations on behalf of our constituents as "whingeing"? Will he now answer the question that he has been asked twice by my hon. Friends the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) and for Forest of Dean (Mr. Harper)? Why can we not have a debate on a substantive motion, or are the Government no longer interested in the expressed view of Parliament?

Mr. Hoon: The right hon. Member will know, given his careful attention to such matters, that the process is a long one. The early stages include the opportunity for voluntary amalgamations by police forces who judge that to be appropriate, followed—in the event that there is no agreement on a way forward—by a longer period of consultation. In the spirit in which the issue has been raised in recent weeks, it is right that right hon. and hon. Members should have the opportunity to express their views in anticipation of that second stage, but obviously before any specific conclusions are reached, it would not be appropriate to have a debate on a substantive motion.

Mr. Fraser Kemp (Houghton and Washington, East) (Lab): In this new era of bipartisanship, will the Leader of the House join me and the Conservative Opposition in endorsing the views expressed by the hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) on 15 November? He outlined the view that Opposition Front Benchers should divest themselves of any outside interests that conflict with their position. Will my right hon. Friend endorse that view, especially bearing in mind the concerns expressed by the Committee on Standards in Public Life?

Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend makes an interesting suggestion and the issue will certainly be a test of bipartisanship. The hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) has recently talked regularly of observing not only the spirit but the letter of the ministerial code, but does he believe that the spirit of the
 
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ministerial code should also apply to Opposition Front Benchers? If he wishes to encourage Ministers to observe the spirit of the code, it should apply equally to Opposition Front Benchers.

Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell) (Con): Following the question asked by the hon. Member for Rochdale (Paul Rowen), may I press the Leader of the House for a ministerial statement once the coroner's inquest on those who died in the tsunami disaster is over? The report that has been published has shown significant failings in Thailand in particular, in contrast to Sri Lanka and Indonesia, where the FCO behaved well and did a great job. It is important for the victims, and so that the lessons can be learned, that we have a statement—if not a debate—immediately after the coroner's report.

Mr. Hoon: The right hon. Gentleman raises the issue in a fair and proper way. He will know from his own previous ministerial experience that Governments always look carefully at any recommendations made by coroners arising out of the inquests that they conduct. I assure him that if the coroner does make specific recommendations, they will be considered in the same way as the recommendations of the recent report have been considered by the Government.

Mr. Tom Harris (Glasgow, South) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend allow an early debate on the importance to our national life of the print media? That would give the House an opportunity to express our concerns about the atrocious mismanagement of the Daily Record and Sunday Mail newspapers by their owners, Trinity Mirror Management, and the plans to downgrade the former from an excellent national newspaper to a regional newspaper by closing its Aberdeen and Dundee editorial offices.

Mr. Hoon: My hon. Friend has raised an important issue for his constituents and the country that he serves so well in this Parliament. I am sure that the message will be received by those whom he wants to hear it.

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): Surely this House is entitled to at least a statement on the whole issue of rendition flights, so that hon. Members can question Ministers on what they know about such flights. Today we learn that airport staff may be subject to prosecution if they service those flights. Significant legal opinion suggests that they may be aiding and abetting an illegal activity by doing so. Surely, given all the public concern, a Minister must come to the Dispatch Box and explain what he knows about the matter.

Mr. Hoon: As I made clear earlier, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has clearly set out not only the Government's position but that of the EU presidency, following the exchange of correspondence with the United States Secretary of State. There are a number of opportunities to raise those issues, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will take full advantage of them.

Ms Diana R. Johnson (Kingston upon Hull, North) (Lab): I have an important issue to raise with the Leader
 
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of the House about housekeeping matters. As a great tea drinker, I wonder whether he can explain why, when carrying out their duties during lengthy Standing Committee sittings, hon. Members are allowed to drink only water, not tea and coffee. Can he explain that to me?

Mr. Hoon: I have noticed in recent weeks that the range of my responsibilities has been expanding to include the post office, the bar downstairs and, now, the question of stimulants in Committees. That may well be a matter that I must draw to the attention of Mr. Speaker's distinguished Chairmen's Panel because I suspect that it is more in its province than mine.

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) (Con): That last question took the biscuit. [Hon. Members: "Resign!"] I have nothing to resign from.

May I ask the Leader of the House for an early debate on British representation overseas? As he will know, this year and next year, a number of our high commissions, embassies and consulates will close, including those in Lesotho, Madagascar, Swaziland, Tonga, Vanuatu, Kiribati, Bahamas and a number of consulates in the United States and Germany. He must understand that lowering the British flag also lowers our influence and that the vacuum created will be filled by other countries—including, of course, China.

Mr. Hoon: I am aware of some restructuring of the way in which Britain organises its representation overseas. The hon. Gentleman is perhaps only telling the House half the story in the sense that, clearly, that representation is being extended in other parts of the world. At all stages, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, who is responsible for such matters, has sought to maintain the United Kingdom's considerable influence around the world. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me the opportunity to pay tribute to those diplomats and civil servants who serve us so well overseas.

Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North) (Lab): My right hon. Friend is aware that the Government of Wales Bill will be presented to the House this afternoon. I welcome the Bill, particularly as the Welsh Assembly will be given increased legislative powers, but it is disappointing that we do not yet have a date for the Second Reading. Can he give an indication of when the debate on Second Reading is likely to take place? Can he confirm whether the Bill's consideration in Committee will take place on the Floor of the House?

Mr. Hoon: I certainly hope that my hon. Friend will not have to wait too long for details of the Second Reading of that particularly important Bill for Wales. We will look at the appropriate rules to see how such major constitutional legislation should be dealt with properly.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con): May I support the call by the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) for an early debate, or at least a statement, on extraordinary rendition? It is a matter of very great concern if the United States is flying people across the world to be interrogated in
 
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private places beyond the reach of the law, whether local or international. That is a sort of mobile Guantanamo bay. It cannot be right. We need to know what is going on, and we need the opportunity to express our views.

Mr. Hoon: The right hon. and learned Gentleman is a distinguished Member. He knows full well that the United States Secretary of State has set out very clearly that what he is claiming is simply not the case: the United States is not involved in transporting people across the world for the purposes of torture. The United States rigorously observes the relevant US law and, indeed, the relevant international treaties.


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