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After 10 years, five Home Secretaries and countless Criminal Justice Acts, the police seem too busy to solve major crimes, so may we have a debate in Government time on Labour’s total failure to get a grip on serious and violent crime?

Today it has been reported that the Government want to extend the period for which terror suspects can be held without trial to 58 days. The Leader of the House has consistently said that such announcements should be made to the House first, but yesterday, when the Prime Minister made his security statement, he made no mention of 58 days. In interviews two days ago, the Home Secretary refused to set a limit. What changed the Home Secretary’s mind? Why did the Prime Minister not announce the decision to Parliament in yesterday’s statement, and when will the Home Secretary come to the House to make a statement?

At 8.20 yesterday, Admiral Lord West said he was not

By 9.5 he said that he was “personally, absolutely” convinced. Another Minister in the Government of all the talents, Lord Jones of Birmingham, attacked the Government’s change to capital gains tax, saying that it was a “terrible thing”. Lord Malloch-Brown—another GOAT, currently resident in Admiralty house—believes that we need to talk more to Hezbollah but less to Washington. With every passing week, the Prime Minister’s big tent looks more like a circus marquee, so may we have a debate in Government time on collective ministerial responsibility?

Mr. Speaker, you couldn’t make it up. Finally, may we have a debate on maritime safety, in which we could discuss the appropriate use of maritime flags. Yesterday Admiral Lord West raised the maritime flag D: “Keep clear: I’m manoeuvring with difficulty.” Perhaps the Prime Minister should have raised flag M: “My vessel is stopped and is making no way through the water.” Is it not time that he pulled into port and let another captain take over the job?

Ms Harman: The shadow Leader of the House raised a number of serious points, one of which was about regional accountability. The Government remain committed to strengthening accountability, through the House, for regions in England. That is the position that we are taking forward, but we need to discuss how we develop proposals. We have suggested that the issue be looked at by the Modernisation Committee; as the right hon. Lady is a member of it, she knows that it will discuss regional accountability. Our position remains absolutely clear: we want strengthened regional accountability to the House. The exact form of that accountability will be a matter for discussion and agreement within the House.

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The right hon. Lady mentioned EUFOR, to which the Foreign Secretary referred when he led the debate on the Queen’s Speech. The right hon. Lady and other colleagues will, if they see fit, have the opportunity to raise the issue again in Foreign Office questions on Tuesday.

The right hon. Lady raised the issue of alcohol consumption; I know that that is a concern among Members on both sides of the House. That may well be a subject for a topical debate, as it seems to be topical almost on a weekly basis.

The right hon. Lady talked about Home Office targets for the police. I do not accept the idea that the police treat the crime of a stolen milk bottle and murder with the same seriousness; I think that that is completely wrong, and a wrong point.

The House had an extensive discussion about detention yesterday, following a statement by the Prime Minister. The Home Secretary has made it clear that she will seek discussions with all parties. We want to have the right powers to protect everyone in this country and the right safeguards for all suspects. Proposals will be brought before the House, hopefully on the basis of an agreement across all parties. We will continue to consult and hope that agreement will be reached.

Mr. Don Touhig (Islwyn) (Lab/Co-op): Will my right hon. and learned Friend find time for a debate on the next round of post office closures? As Royal Mail will not tell me anything of its plans for closures in my constituency, although it tells me in a letter that “as an important stakeholder” I will be “notified” but not consulted, at least a debate would give Members an opportunity to discover how much more damage that pretty awful management is to inflict on the post office network.

Ms Harman: The future of the Post Office and individual post offices is important for all Members of Parliament. My right hon. Friend will know that the Government have committed £1.7 billion of investment in the post office network up to 2011. He referred to the post office local area implementation plans. The Government remain committed to national networks, and it is important for all hon. Members to respond and be involved in the consultation. The Post Office should take representations from hon. Members seriously and not simply notify them of the outcome.

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): Following yesterday’s statement, may we have a further statement outlining the details and practicalities of the e-borders proposals? Given that 90 items of information can be required of people going in or out of our airports, which will be an El Dorado for identity theft, what security measures will be in place at every airport to make sure that that information does not get into the wrong hands?

On 4 July the Prime Minister said that

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As many of us still feel that the extradition treaty is one-sided and unfair and needs urgent revision, may we, as a House, join in that continuing discussion?

May we have a statement on the arrangements for the loan to Northern Rock? Yesterday the Prime Minister refused to answer questions on the terms of the loan to Northern Rock on grounds of commercial confidentiality. As that information has been freely available on the internet and is in the hands of every banker, market maker and trader, why is the British citizen—the taxpayer—the only person who is not allowed to know what has been done with our money in that respect?

Lastly, may we have a debate on multitasking, with particular reference to the Home Secretary? When she was reporting the latest fiasco to have befallen the Home Office—only four months after the event—the Home Secretary said that she wanted to be a Minister who acts rather than talks about that situation. May I gently suggest that we want a Minister who does both?

Ms Harman: The hon. Gentleman asks about data collection when people leave and arrive in the country. We are clear that as much data as can be captured to help with immigration information and anti-terrorist information should be collected and, subject to appropriate safeguards, shared. He has a regular opportunity to raise such issues at Home Office questions.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the extradition treaty. Nobody in the House should argue that if there is evidence that somebody has committed a criminal offence abroad, such as in America, we should allow them to escape justice in this country and not be extradited. We have to remember that that is the basis of extradition— [Interruption.] There is a question about reciprocity, but we should first say what we want to do in this country. Do we want to harbour criminals from other countries? We certainly do not. Do we want to ensure that those who have committed offences here are brought back? Yes, we do. It is not about doing a deal, but about doing the right thing in respect of each possible offender in each possible country.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned Northern Rock, which would be a suitable subject for an Opposition day debate. The Chancellor set out the position clearly yesterday—that he will bring to the House by way of an oral or written statement any further information that can be made available.

Dr. Brian Iddon (Bolton, South-East) (Lab): Is it the Government’s intention to bring to the Floor of the House for debate—before they develop the next 10-year strategy—the results of their recent consultations on the current 10-year drug strategy?

Ms Harman: The relevant Minister will no doubt bring further information to the House, but my hon. Friend could propose that subject for a topical debate. It crosses a number of areas of concern, so it would be appropriate for such a debate.

Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell) (Con): Let me return to yesterday’s security statement by the Prime Minister. The Leader of the House will have seen—it was all over the newspapers, television and radio this morning—stories suggesting that the Government are
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about to extend the detention limit from 28 to 58 days. If so, the Prime Minister should have told us yesterday, or will the Leader of the House confirm that it has all been made up by the media and that there has been no briefing whatever?

Ms Harman: What I can tell the House is that the position is as it was set out by the Prime Minister yesterday. Before that, it was set out in a document laid before the House by the Home Office on 25 July, which says:

Four options were set out then and hon. Members have set out further options. As the Prime Minister told us yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will seek talks across the parties to determine what proposals we can put before the House.

Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central) (Lab): Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that there is now hope of universal agreement that this Parliament has to act in the interests of democracy against the arms race in party political spending, which has grown out of control over recent elections? Does she also agree that, as a democratic Parliament, we should be very cautious about accepting the suggestion of the leader of the Conservative party that we trade off party political donations—they may have to be examined—especially when at the moment there is no national consensus about state funding for political parties? The British public have not yet been properly consulted, so we need to adopt great caution before moving in that direction.

Mr. Speaker: Order. I ask hon. Members to ask about next week’s business. It is easy to get a question in, but we are supposed to be debating the business for next week.

Ms Harman: My hon. Friend will have an opportunity—not next week, but in due course—to debate his important point further. Provision is made in the Queen’s Speech for a Bill to ensure correct controls on party campaign funding at elections. I agree that we must tackle the problem of the arms race. No one wants to see more and more money being spent by the parties in an arms race on election spending, particularly when fewer and fewer people are voting, so it is right to move forward on tackling that arms race.

Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): Judith Todd, daughter of the late Garfield Todd, long associated with Rhodesia and Zimbabwe, came to Parliament yesterday to discuss, among other things, the desperate plight of the people of Zimbabwe. Their plight is easily forgotten. When he was Leader of the House, the current Secretary of State for Justice promised that there would be a major debate on this subject here in the Chamber in Government time. Although we had one debate just before the recess, we were promised a debate on the Floor of the House before Christmas. Will the Leader of the House tell us whether we can have that debate? I would like it next week, but that might be expecting too much. Will she promise me a debate on Zimbabwe before Christmas?

Ms Harman: I will take the hon. Gentleman’s point as a suggestion for a topical debate next week.

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Mrs. Ann Cryer (Keighley) (Lab): Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that it might be useful to have a debate next week on the importance of Select Committees in providing checks and balances between the Chamber and the Executive? It has been suggested that we should move forward to regional Select Committees. It seems to me, however, that all parties are having difficulties in providing personnel for the existing Select Committees. Is it therefore a good idea to have many more?

Ms Harman: My hon. Friend’s point is one of the reasons why proper consideration of how regional accountability is to be introduced is necessary. I pay tribute to the work of Select Committees. All Members will recognise that they have enormously improved the House’s scrutiny of the Executive. We want to make sure that we bring in strong, robust, credible, regional accountability, but in the process we must in no way damage the important work of departmental Select Committees.

Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP): Yesterday, in the statement on national security, to which my party has given broad support, the Prime Minister announced a strengthening of the e-border programme. While we recognise the importance of checking the background of those who enter the United Kingdom, in the absence of that programme being implemented in the Irish Republic, or being applied along the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, people from Northern Ireland are likely to be treated as foreign nationals when travelling to this country. That has grave implications for the Union. Will the Leader of the House arrange a debate to discuss the economic, social and constitutional consequences of the strengthening of the e-border programme?

Ms Harman: I will bring the hon. Gentleman’s important and substantive points not only to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland but to that of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. I am sure that they will want to reassure him, and it might be a good idea for him to seek a meeting with them to ensure that the matter is dealt with satisfactorily.

Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North) (Lab): May I support the comments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Mr. Touhig) about post offices, as I am dismayed by the announcement of closures in my area? My point, however, is about yesterday’s security statement. I was pleased that the Government have consulted Muslim women and plan to set up a committee to consider access and influence in mosques. Will my right hon. and learned Friend use her position and talk to other Ministers to ensure that Muslim women in Wales are involved in such important discussions? May we debate the issue next week? The key to capturing hearts and minds lies with Muslim women, and they should be at the centre of any strategy.

Ms Harman: I thank my hon. Friend for that point. As she will know, I and the other Minister with responsibility for women have as one of our priorities
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the empowerment of black and Asian women within their communities. We are also determined to ensure that there are more black and Asian women councillors. Part of the process is to include all communities within democracy so that they feel that they have a real stake in its future.

Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire) (Con): May I be this week’s shop steward and ask about the Senior Salaries Review Body report on pay and allowances? What could that report conceivably have contained that requires four months for the Government to reflect on it? Is this a unique example of the Government seeking to bury good news?

Ms Harman: First I said that it would come shortly. Then I reassured the House that it would come very shortly. Last week it was imminent. Today I can say that the time draws nearer and nearer —the time that will surely come.

Tom Levitt (High Peak) (Lab): The whole House will be aware that the High Peak constituency is the spiritual home of the right to roam. I therefore welcome the Government’s intention to extend the right to roam to coastal areas. At present, however, the intention is to introduce that right as part of the marine Bill. As we all know, the marine Bill has been delayed beyond this Session. Will my right hon. and learned Friend consider, perhaps next week, introducing the right to roam in coastal areas in a stand-alone Bill, separate from the marine Bill, so that we can fulfil our commitment?

Ms Harman: It has been announced that the marine Bill will be produced in draft, which will enable full involvement and consultation, not only by Select Committees but by those outside the House. This matter is a priority for the Government, so we will bring the Bill forward. No doubt all those concerned with the matter in my hon. Friend’s constituency will contribute to that process.

Justine Greening (Putney) (Con): May we have a debate in the House on the capacity of local police teams and community safety teams to deliver on Government targets? My part of London now has fewer police than it had a decade ago. Our policing is 24 head-count below the budgeted total that it is meant to have. At the same time, safe and stronger community funds are being cut. Meanwhile, only yesterday, the Prime Minister talked about what needs to be done in communities such as mine to help national security. May we have a debate on the overall Government strategy, so that we can make sure that it works as a whole?

Ms Harman: I will bring the hon. Lady’s comments to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, and ask her to write to the hon. Lady. But the hon. Lady is struggling under a misapprehension. Her constituency has more police than 10 years ago.

Justine Greening indicated dissent.

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Ms Harman: Indeed it has. There are more police community support officers, and a big investment has been made. I will invite my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to write to the hon. Lady and place a copy in the House of Commons Library, as other Members are showing an interest in this point.

Mrs. Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op): My right hon. and learned Friend might be aware that I have been campaigning for justice for my constituent, Michael Shields, who has now been transferred from prison in Bulgaria to prison in this country. Now that there is confusion about whether it is appropriate for the Bulgarian or the United Kingdom authorities to consider granting a pardon for Michael Shields, will she ensure that there is a debate, or if not, a statement in the House?

Ms Harman: I understand that my hon. Friend, who has championed her constituent’s cause, has sought an Adjournment debate. It is important to be able to repatriate to this country people who have committed offences abroad so that they can serve their sentence nearer their families. If the original conviction was made abroad, however, it appears that its overturning must be campaigned for and achieved abroad. No doubt she will bring the matter further to the House’s attention.

Mark Hunter (Cheadle) (LD): All Members of the House will be aware of growing concern over the military covenant. Last week, the nation came together to pay tribute to servicemen and women who made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of their country. Given the Royal British Legion’s campaign to honour the covenant, does not the Leader of the House feel that it is important to have a debate in Government time to consider such issues further?

Ms Harman: There are regular defence debates, and perhaps I can take the hon. Gentleman’s point as a suggestion for next week’s topical debate.

Dr. Phyllis Starkey (Milton Keynes, South-West) (Lab): Will the Leader of the House consider allowing a debate on the public health impact of nail bars? A constituent has drawn my attention to the fact that the proliferation of nail bars with staff who are not properly qualified is leading to, in particular, problems resulting from the use of methyl methacrylate to attach nail extensions. The chemical damages the nail bed, and is banned in the United States. This issue is of great importance to women in my constituency and throughout the country, and it would be helpful to have a debate about its public health aspects as soon as possible.

Ms Harman: I will bring my hon. Friend’s points to the attention of my ministerial colleagues. There has indeed been a proliferation of nail bars, and I think that if there are public health implications we need to be confident that they are being looked into. I will ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health to write to my hon. Friend.

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