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I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that approbation, and, indeed, I am seeking to ensure
that there are more debates on motions that can be voted on. In respect of the one on Tuesday, both sides agreed. In my judgment, the quality of debate is in general higher if there are motions that Members can vote in favour of or against. That is what this Chamber is for, so I hope that we can continue doing that.
On the issue of substantive motions at reasonable times of the parliamentary week balloted for by Back Benchers, the hon. Gentleman knows that we are considering that in the context of Modernisation Committee reports. That was available to Members until 1994; it was abolished as what was in my view an inadvertent consequence of the implementation of some of the Jopling recommendations. I think that it worked well, but I obviously must get others to agree.
Mr. Neil Gerrard (Walthamstow) (Lab): My right hon. Friend will know that in just a few minutes time the report will be published of the public inquiry into the death of my constituent, Zahid Mubarak, in Feltham young offenders institution, and that that report is likely to have major implications for the Prison Serviceit might be as serious for the Prison Service as the report of the Lawrence inquiry was for the police service. In that context, I must say that I am surprised that there is no statement today to the House on this matter from a Home Office Minister, and that it is being dealt with by a written statement. When my right hon. Friend takes a look at that report, I hope that he will agree that it is of sufficient importance that it ought to be debated and that Members ought to be able to question Ministers on its recommendations and on their intentions of implementing them.
Mr. Straw: I hope that I have the approval of the whole House in expressing our deep sorrow to the family of Mr. Mubarak, who was murdered in his cell some years ago, for his death and all the anxiety that they have suffered since then as the inquiries have ground through. A preliminary response by the Government is to be issued today by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow that the recommendations will have to be the subject of debate in this Chamber or Westminster Hall. I cannot promise a debate in this Chamber before the summer recess, although it may be possible for there to be one in Westminster Hall. But in any event, those recommendations will have to be followed through.
Dr. Andrew Murrison (Westbury) (Con): Will the Leader of the House provide for a debate in Government time on the iniquities of the Extradition Act 2003, which stands to allow the extradition of the so-called NatWest three? Would he also observe that at present the United States can apply for the extradition of UK citizens without prima facie evidence, and yet a reciprocal arrangement with the US, whereby the UK can apply for the extradition of US citizens, does not yet exist?
Mr. Straw: I am not going to comment on that case, Mr. Speaker, if you will excuse me. I do not, however, believe that the Extradition Act is iniquitous; it is sensible and proportionate in dealing with a situation in which much greater movement of people occurs than ever did when previous such Acts were introduced.
Kali Mountford (Colne Valley) (Lab): It was clear during Tuesdays excellent pensions debate that we are moving toward consensus in the House, but it was also clear that there is some way to go on certain issues. Will my right hon. Friend look at dividing up that debate so that we can examine specific issues, and particularly how pensions affect women? Given their broken work record and the caring responsibilities that they have to take on, if we can get the pensions issue right for them, all the other people with broken work records will also be helped.
Mark Hunter (Cheadle) (LD): Can the Leader of the House find time for a debate on audiology services in the NHS? Literally thousands of my constituentsand, I am sure, those of many other Membersare waiting up to two years for an appointment for a hearing aid. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman agrees that that is totally unacceptable and merits this Houses further attention.
Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield) (Lab): I welcome my right hon. Friends efforts to find time for a debate on the Israel-Palestine issue, for which, as he knows, Members in all parts of the House have been pushing for some weeks. The situation is becoming urgent, particularly this week, when we should perhaps be celebrating the opportunity for Hamas and Fatah to reach an agreement on a two-state solution. Instead, we are dealing with the appalling kidnapping of a soldier, which my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Sir Gerald Kaufman) mentioned, and the appalling abduction of 20 Palestinian parliamentarians and seven Cabinet Ministers overnight. May I ask my right hon. Friend to make all possible efforts to have that debate at the earliest opportunity, and, if possible, to arrange a statement by the Foreign Secretary?
Mr. Bernard Jenkin (North Essex) (Con): May I echo the call of my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May) for fuller discussion in this House of the operation of the Human Rights Act 1998? I put it to the Leader of the House that the Prime Minister might be rather disappointed with todays business announcement, given that yesterday he said the following about my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition:
He finally announced a domestic policyhis own Bill of Rights...Come on....I am happy to debate the right hon. Gentlemans policies.[ Official Report, 28 June 2006; Vol. 448, c. 254.]
Mr. Straw: We are providing the time: the 18th allotted day for the Opposition is in just 10 days time. The hon. Gentleman is a man of very great influence in his partylet us have a debate, in Opposition time, on the Human Rights Act.
Mr. John MacDougall (Glenrothes) (Lab): I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, but the last questionabout the possibility of a debate on the Human Rights Act and its merits, or otherwisewas the one that I was going to ask. However, I also think it important to consider some of the claims that have been made publicly about a Bill of Rights without further consideration having been given to the wider legislative framework within which such a Bill would have to operate.
Mr. Straw: I am glad to know that my hon. Friend is supporting Opposition Memberssome Opposition Membersin putting pressure on their Front Benchers to use their Opposition time sensibly. I have to say that they have squandered some Opposition days on the most eccentric subjects
Michael Gove (Surrey Heath) (Con): As we approach the anniversary of 7/7, may we have a debate in Government time on a subject that I know is dear to the heart of the Leader of the Househow we can build a secure and tolerant multi-ethnic society? The need for a review of Government policy is urgent. The right hon. Gentleman may be aware that a recent freedom of information inquiry, which was passed to me, reveals that the Government have given a grant of £150,000 to the Muslim Council of Britain. He may not be aware, however, that its new chairman, Dr. Muhammed Abdul Bari, recently invited to Britain a Saudi cleric who called Jews pigs and monkeys, and who also said that Hindus were idol worshippers to whom it would be wrong to talk sweetly. Dr. Bari was also involved in inviting a Bangladeshi cleric who has called for American troops to return from Iraq in coffins if they do not convert to Islam. May we have an opportunity to examine where Ministers have gone wrong in tackling extremism?
Mr. Straw: I of course wholly deplore the remarks attributed to those two clerics, as does the whole House. That said, I defend the Governments decision to provide some modest financial aid to the Muslim Council of Britain. I, as Home Secretary, was the Minister who first did that, and I accept my responsibility in that regard. It is a sensible organisation that faces its own difficulties in trying to hold together a very diverse community that is itself under pressure. As for a debate on communities, there will be a debate on aspects of that issue. A debate is coming upI am not being disingenuous in pointing this outon the Intelligence and Security Committees annual report, which covers aspects of 7/7. That is an opportunity to raise some but not all of the matters that the hon. Gentleman referred to.
Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) (Lab): The Leader of the House will have heard yesterdays exchanges at Prime Ministers Question Time on Trident and its possible replacement, and on the legality of replacement within the terms of the non-proliferation treaty. Is the Leader of the House in a position to tell us when the relevant Select Committee reports will be available, and when the Government will make a statement on the cost and legality of replacing Trident, and on their strategy for fulfilling our obligations under the non-proliferation treaty? When, moreover, will there be a vote in this House, on a clear substantive motion, on whether we are to continue down the nuclear armament road?
Mr. Straw: The hon. Gentleman says from a sedentary position that such a debate will be on an Opposition day. No, it will not; it will be on a Government motion. I must point out to my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Jeremy Corbyn) that there is no issue of legality. I am happy to give him a seminar outside this Chamberor inside iton our obligations under the non-proliferation treaty, but of the five nuclear weapon states that are under that treaty, we are the one that has made the most progress in meeting our obligations. We have reduced our nuclear warhead systems from three to one. I led for the British Government at last Mays revision conference, which sought to get an international consensus in order to make further progress. However, we were thwarted by other member states.
There will be a debate on this issue. As I told the House last week, I cannot anticipate at this stage the most appropriate form for that debate, but it will be one that shows proper respect for the House. My hon. Friend will excuse me if I remind him that he, as well as I, stood on Labours manifesto at the last election, which said:
We are...committed to retaining the independent nuclear deterrent.
Mr. Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con): Given the unsustainability of the imbalance of representation between England and Scotland and the worrying democratic deficit that that creates, may we have an urgent debate on the future shape of the constitutional settlement currently in place between these two great countries?
Mr. Straw: We have had plenty of debates on that issue. I shall just say two things to the hon. Gentleman. First, he and his partywhich, as I reminded the House last week, was once called the Conservative and Unionist partyneed to be extremely careful in pursuing the populist but wrong-headed line of suggesting that there is a contradiction between devolution to Scotland and the integrity of the Union. The second point that he needs to be aware of is that English MPs, of whom I am one, have overwhelming power over the Scottish Parliament in respect of one thing that is fundamental to all its operations: the allocation of money to it.
Ms Diana R. Johnson (Kingston upon Hull, North) (Lab):
May I follow on from the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Kali Mountford)
and ask for a debate in Government time on carers and the White Papers good recommendations on pensions? Carers were rather sidelined during this weeks pensions debate, and in fact we have a good strong message for carers.
Mr. Straw: I certainly understand my hon. Friends concerns, and I hope that there might be an opportunity to pursue this matter before the recess in Westminster Hall or in an Adjournment debate, and after the recess, on the Floor of the House.
Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): I am sure that the Leader of the House will want to join me in condemning the sickening hate mail received by Scottish tennis ace Andy Murray simply because he favours one football team over another. Do we not need a statement to remind fans, the media, commentators and pundits that football is just a game? Good-natured rivalry is what makes it so special around the world, so should we not make an appeal to stop all the cajoling and browbeating about who should support whom?
Mr. Straw: Everyone needs a sense of proportion about football. Bill Shankly famously said that some people believed that football was a matter of life and death, but that in fact it was much more important than that.
Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): Will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate so that we might get cross-party support to try to change the ridiculously undemocratic system of Orders in Council? This is an urgent matter. Yesterday afternoon, the whole of the Northern Ireland education system was changed radicallyand in my view, detrimentallyby the vote of a Committee. No amendments were allowed, and no costings were brought forward. That is outrageous. The Order in Council procedure will apply until the Assembly returns, and it must be changed.
Mr. Straw: I shall certainly pursue those concerns with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, but at the end of her question my hon. Friend acknowledged that the fundamental problem is that the Assembly has been suspended. If it had not been, the matter to which she refers would be one for the democratic representatives in Northern Ireland.
Mr. Greg Hands (Hammersmith and Fulham) (Con):
May we have an urgent and early debate on our countrys chaotic immigration system? Yesterday, the Minister for Local Government, who has responsibility for community cohesion, said that of course we needed to debate it, and two examples from my constituency prove that. In the first, a person who has applied for indefinite leave to remain received a letter from the Home Office saying that his name appeared on the UN list of individuals belonging to or associated with the al-Qaeda organisation, but then apologised for any delay or anxiety caused by consideration of his application. My other constituent works for the European Bank for Research and Development, and is
one of thousands of other Bulgarian nationals here on business visas who have been asked to produce 16 sets of additional documents within 28 days in order to prolong their stay. Surely our priorities are wrong if we are apologising to alleged al-Qaeda members yet harassing people with rare skills who are doing important jobs in this country in sectors such as international development?
Mr. Straw: I cannot comment on those individual cases, save to say that Bulgaria is one of those countries whose nationals need work permits in Britain. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman and other Opposition Members would be the first to complain if we did not conduct proper checks of people seeking work permits.
[That this House notes with concern that representatives of Overseas Territories based in the UK are not invited to lay a wreath at the Cenotaph in London on Remembrance Sunday; recognises the huge contribution made by Overseas Territories to supporting the UK military both during war time and during peace time and the number of lives lost whilst serving on behalf of British forces; pays tribute to the residents of the UK's Overseas Territories for their loyalty to the British Crown; and calls upon the Government to allow one representative from an overseas territory to lay a wreath on behalf of all the Overseas Territories at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday.]
It is supported by hon. Members of all parties, and deals with the recognition of overseas territories. It proposes allowing representatives from those territories to place wreaths at the Cenotaph, whereas at present, that is done on their behalf by a Minister. It is absurd that London representatives of those territories are not allowed to recognise their war dead. Those representatives, in rotation, should be allowed to place wreaths at the Cenotaph themselves.
Mr. Straw: I commend my hon. Friend on raising this important issue. I shall pass on his concerns to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, and to the Lord Chancellor, who is responsible for the Cenotaph ceremony.
John Bercow: Can we have a statement next week from the Home Secretary about his intended treatment of Rwandan genocide suspects? A number of such individuals currently reside in the UK, and at least one has been granted indefinite leave to remain. A statement by the Home Secretary would enable him to make it clear to the House whether he intends to deal with such people by extradition or by domestic prosecution. In particular, he would be able to underline the important point that asylum should be granted to people fleeing persecution, and not to those seeking to evade responsibility for their suspected persecution of others.
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