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Mr. Hain: Obviously—I do not expect this to happen—if everything falls over on 26 March, direct rule and cross-border co-operation will continue, and we will have to decide what to do. But that is by far an inferior and unsatisfactory alternative to plan A. Because of Sinn Fein’s continuing delivery on support for policing, I expect that devolution will occur on 26 March, with an all-inclusive power-sharing
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Executive in which the SDLP will be represented. There should not be any reason for that not to be achieved— [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: Order. The House should come to order.

Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire) (LD): On what the Secretary of State described as plan A, the DUP set a condition explicitly relating to full Sinn Fein involvement in Northern Ireland policing. Now that Sinn Fein has committed to exactly that, surely the conditions are being met, and the onus is on the DUP to play its part in restoring the Assembly. Does the Secretary of State see any justification for any party not now doing so?

Mr. Hain: No, I cannot, provided that, as I expect, we see a continuation of what has already happened in the initiatives taken by the Sinn Fein leadership following the special conference 10 days or so ago—delivery on support for policing and the rule of law. In that event—and that is what Sinn Fein is saying will happen—there is absolutely no reason for any Unionists not to join a power-sharing Executive on 26 March. I am optimistic because the alternative is only dissolution, not a postponement of 26 March, for which the legislation passed by Parliament does not allow.

Dr. William McCrea (South Antrim) (DUP): Does the Secretary of State accept that Sinn Fein’s conditional support for the rule of law, policing and the courts is totally unacceptable and will not advance devolution? Will he require Sinn Fein and Gerry Adams to call on their supporters to deal with terrorist crime? Does he not understand that DUP policy is condition-led, not calendar-led as he has suggested?

Mr. Hain: I understand the DUP’s position, and when the manifesto is published I shall be interested to see what it says. However, it seems to me that the St Andrews agreement, to which the DUP subscribed along with the other parties, is very clear. It refers to support for power-sharing and support for policing and the rule of law. Provided that, as I expect—and as indeed has already happened—Sinn Fein signs up to support for policing and the rule of law, there is no reason for Unionists in the DUP or any other party not to join it in governing in the future. If that opportunity were missed, it would mean a tremendous price for the hon. Gentleman’s party and all the other parties, because dissolution would face Northern Ireland politics with a very bleak future for a very long time.

Mr. Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury) (Con): Mr. Adams has delivered a statement about Sinn Fein’s support for the police. Is it not the case that the IRA carried out an investigation of the murder of Mr. Robert McCartney, and indeed that it holds intelligence on those who carried it out? If the IRA is serious about supporting the police, should it not hand that file to them so that those people can be brought to justice, and so that the other constitutional parties can feel confident that Sinn Fein is serious about its support for the police?

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Mr. Hain: The hon. Gentleman will have read, as I have, a statement by the president of Sinn Fein, Gerry Adams, in which he said:

He could not have been clearer or more explicit. With all due respect, I think that, in the circumstances, the hon. Gentleman should welcome that, should welcome the other progress made last week, should welcome the ard fheis motion, and should join the Government in saying that now is the time—with continued delivery on support for policing and the rule of law—for everyone to join in a power-sharing Executive and a new era for devolved democracy in Northern Ireland.

School Hours (Extension)

6. Mary Creagh (Wakefield) (Lab): What additional activities will be provided by allowing schools in Northern Ireland to extend their hours as a result of the children and young people funding package. [118056]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Maria Eagle): Under the children and young people funding package, almost two fifths of Northern Ireland schools are receiving extra resources so that they can provide additional activities such as breakfast clubs, homework clubs, study support, counselling and mentoring services, youth and sports clubs, arts and crafts, summer schemes, and environmental and health activities. A great deal of work is going on.

Mary Creagh: I am sure that the whole House will join me in welcoming that new money, which will reduce educational underachievement and improve health outcomes for the children of Northern Ireland. Has she made any assessment of the likely impact on the ability of parents, particularly mothers, to gain access to work opportunities, and can she reassure the House that she has given some consideration to long-term sustainable funding once the £100 million runs out in two years’ time?

Maria Eagle: Although the money in the package is part of a two-year programme and is intended to feed into bids through the spending review, we have every intention of ensuring—as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has made clear—not only that the most disadvantaged children can benefit from extended schooling, but that all children and all schools in Northern Ireland can do so in due course.

Many efforts are being made—through domestic Departments in Northern Ireland and through initiatives such as pathways to work—to ensure that people who are of working age but inactive are able to work, and the extended school hours are bound to help women return to employment.

Mr. Nigel Dodds (Belfast, North) (DUP): In welcoming the extra investment, which I hope will make an impact, can I urge the Minister to go further and to extend the programme from the current two fifths of schools to more schools in Northern Ireland, particularly in socially deprived areas such as in my constituency, where it would have a great impact?

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Maria Eagle: Obviously, I was not speaking loudly enough when I gave my first answer. I have already said that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has expressed the wish to extend the provision to all schools in Northern Ireland. I support him in that, and it would be valuable. There are pockets of deprivation elsewhere that would benefit from such support. Indeed, all schoolchildren in all schools would benefit from having such extended provision, and I hope that we will be able to provide that in due course.

Prime Minister

The Prime Minister was asked—


Q1. [119032] Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon) (Lab): If he will list his official engagements for Wednesday 7 February.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair): Before listing my engagements, I am sure that the whole House will wish to join me in sending our condolences and sympathy to the family and friends of Second Lieutenant Jonathan Carlos Bracho-Cooke of the 2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, who was killed in Iraq on Monday. He was a talented officer, and the whole House should be very proud of him and grateful for the difficult and dangerous job that he and others are doing on behalf of the country.

This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others, and in addition to my duties in the House I will have further such meetings later today.

Mr. Dismore: Last week the Community Security Trust reported a 31 per cent. increase in anti-Semitic incidents, including desecration of cemeteries and violence and abuse aimed even at children travelling to and from school, including in my constituency. Will my right hon. Friend respond urgently and positively to the recommendations of the all-party inquiry into anti-Semitism to demonstrate his absolute commitment to dealing with this appalling hate crime?

The Prime Minister: I am grateful for the all-party parliamentary group’s report on anti-Semitism and for the data compiled by the Community Security Trust, which show that there have been about 600 anti-Semitic race hate incidents. We are determined to do everything we can to stamp out this form of race hate, not only in respect of Jewish people but in respect of any members of our community. The announcement today by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government of a £5 million package, which will help us to combat extremism in local communities, will do something to help in that regard, but I think that a strong signal from the entire House of our abhorrence of any anti-Semitism or race hate crimes will be very welcome indeed.

Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): I join the Prime Minister in sending our condolences to the family of Second Lieutenant Jonathan Carlos Bracho-Cooke
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who died on Monday in Basra. I also associate myself entirely with what the Prime Minister said about racism and anti-Semitism.

We have also been reminded in the last week that one of the tragedies of war is that terrible mistakes are made and that people die from so called “friendly fire”. Does the Prime Minister agree that, when mistakes happen, the Ministry of Defence owes it to the families concerned to provide them with as much information as possible as quickly as possible about the circumstances in which their loved ones were killed?

The Prime Minister: Yes, of course I agree that that is what the Ministry of Defence should do. We deeply regret the distress caused to Lance Corporal of Horse Matty Hull’s family by the delay in concluding the inquest into how he died. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that we will do everything we can to co-operate with the coroner and to make sure that the additional distress that is now being caused to the family is minimised.

Mr. Cameron: I am grateful for that answer, but, specifically on the case of Matty Hull, the British board of inquiry three years ago saw a copy of the video that has now been released. The Ministry of Defence told the family at the time that some classified material had been withheld from them, but it did not tell them exactly what it was. The family thought that they were told that no tape existed. Is the Prime Minister entirely sure that in this specific case the Ministry of Defence did not in any way mislead the family?

The Prime Minister: I am satisfied of this: although it is true that the CD was not originally provided to the coroner or the family because it was of US origin, its existence was provided to the coroner in a list of exhibits supporting the UK board of inquiry. I can also say that it was an MOD witness at the inquest who advised the MOD legal team of the existence of the CD. The legal team then sought advice regarding disclosure, and as the US origin of the CD was not realised at that time, it was advised that the coroner could be made aware of its existence. What has happened subsequently is now well known. I deeply regret, as I said, any additional distress that has been caused to the family, but I do believe that the MOD acted in good faith throughout. Of course it is important that it makes sure that information is given to the families concerned.

Mr. Cameron: I do not for one minute underestimate the difficulties and sensitivities of these cases. The Prime Minister will be aware that the bodies of those who have fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan are returned via Brize Norton, in my constituency, and that the coroner’s cases are held largely in Oxfordshire. It seems to me that there are several issues: the distance that the families have to travel to the coroner’s court; the backlogs and delays in the inquests; and, now, the clear need for agreement with our allies, so that information, where possible, can be shared with relatives in a timely manner. Will the Prime Minister ensure that the MOD and the Department for Constitutional Affairs work together to improve and reform the system, and to give timely reports back to the House of Commons?

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The Prime Minister: Of course they should do that, and they will. Obviously, some of these situations are immensely difficult for the families concerned. Not merely have they lost their loved ones; they want to know, very properly, exactly what has happened. In addition, the whole purpose of the boards of inquiry that the UK forces undertake is to make sure that we learn the lessons of such incidents. Obviously, it is particularly distressing when a death occurs as a result of friendly fire. Unfortunately, in war, these things can happen, but in those circumstances it is particularly incumbent on us to make sure that we take into account very carefully and sensitively the concerns of the families involved. We will look again as a result of what has happened in the past few weeks to make sure that, in similar such circumstances—I hope that I can say this with some confidence—we can deal better with them.

Mr. Speaker: I call Colin Challen.

Colin Challen (Morley and Rothwell) (Lab): Thank you, very much, Mr. Speaker. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: Order. Let the hon. Gentleman speak.

Colin Challen: In their dreams, Mr. Speaker. In the light of the publication last Friday of the intergovernmental panel on climate change’s fourth report on its assessment of climate change, which shows unequivocally that climate change is likely to be much worse than previously thought, does my right hon. Friend agree that we have to speed up the implementation of our policies and revise our targets, including that which might appear in the climate change Bill? In the light of all that and of what he told the Liaison Committee yesterday, will he agree to meet me and representatives of the renewable energy industry to discuss the faster implementation of those policies?

The Prime Minister: I certainly would be delighted to do that on behalf of my hon. Friend. This is an extremely important issue, and coming up in the next few weeks is an energy White Paper, which will address security of supply and the question of how we replace the existing generation of nuclear power stations. Then there will be the climate change Bill, which, as my hon. Friend indicates, will make sure that we have sensible targets that this country can live with, and that we face up to our responsibilities in giving leadership on this issue. I point out that this country is one of the few in the world that will meet its Kyoto target; indeed, we will double it. We are leading the way internationally through the G8-plus-five dialogue, and making sure that we are working in harmony with our European partners and others to find a global framework that can allow us to put in place an international agreement to reduce carbon dioxide emissions after the Kyoto protocol expires.

Sir Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife) (LD): May I begin by associating myself with the Prime Minister’s earlier expressions of condolence and sympathy, and with his remarks about racism in all its forms? Does he believe that his successor should seek a mandate from the British people in an early general election?

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The Prime Minister: I think we should continue to implement the manifesto, on which we were elected, for strong public services, a strong economy and good policies on law and order.

Sir Menzies Campbell: That answer ignores one thing. At the last general election, the Prime Minister promised the British people that he would serve a full term. Now we know that he is going to serve only two years. Are not the British people entitled to their say about his successor?

The Prime Minister: There was I thinking that the right hon. and learned Gentleman wanted me to go, but he obviously wants me to stay. I thank him for that ringing endorsement and I am only sorry to have to disappoint him.

Q2. [119033] Dr. Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test) (Lab): Has my right hon. Friend spoken to the Chancellor of Germany about the proposed European wind super grid? If he has, what did she say to him?

The Prime Minister: As a matter of fact, I have discussed the super wind grid, as it is called, with Chancellor Merkel. It is potentially a very exciting project for a huge wind farm in the North sea, but—as my hon. Friend will recognise—many issues to do with cost and feasibility would have to be overcome. If we could increase significantly the amount of renewable energy that we get from wind sources, it would make a big difference to our ability to cut our CO2 emissions. My hon. Friend is right to say that such imaginative projects and the other measures that we will outline in the energy White Paper offer us the best way forward.

Mr. David Cameron (Witney) (Con): The Prime Minister has been having an interesting couple of weeks. During that time, has he noticed the vocal support of his Chancellor?

The Prime Minister: I will tell the right hon. Gentleman what I have noticed. While we have been getting on with the pensions proposals for the future of the country, with producing the energy proposals that guarantee energy security and address climate change, with managing the huge investment in our schools, as a result of the strong economy that the Chancellor has produced, and with investing in the national health service, what has he been doing in the last few weeks?

Mr. Cameron: We can take that as a no. I say to the Prime Minister that the Chancellor is not here, so we can have a frank chat about him. Does not the Prime Minister notice a bit of a pattern? In the rebellion over trust schools, the vote on the war in Iraq and now the row about cash for honours, every time the Prime Minister is in trouble, the Chancellor disappears. Why does he do it?

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