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Since then, there has been a raft of further allegations, some of them later substantiated in ministerial statements. Given that the Leader of the Opposition and Lord
Carlile, the Governments watchdog on terrorism, have both called for a judicial inquiry into further allegations of British complicity, may we at least have a debate on why the Government continue to refuse to set that inquiry up?
Ms Harman: The Prime Minister made it clear that the Government will have nothing to do with torture. We would never use it and never condone it; if any allegations are made, we want to see them investigated. Torture is a criminal activity, and anybody who engages in it needs to be brought to justice. Our position on that is absolutely clear, and, following through on that position, we need to make sure that any individual allegations are properly investigated. As the Prime Minister told the House yesterday, the Attorney-General is looking at whether the matter needs to be referred to the police so that they can investigate the allegations made by Binyam Mohamed.
We also need to make sure that the intelligence and security services are properly accountable for their methods and how they operate generally. We all agree on that, which we regard, first and foremost, as the work of the Intelligence and Security Committee, which has looked into the matter. I do not think that there is any point in the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Tyrie) or anybody else trying to make a point of in-principle difference on this issuewe all deplore the use of torture. None of us condones it or would have anything to do with covering it up.
We need to have a sensible discussion about how we investigate the allegations and make sure that the security services are properly accountable. There is something about the tone of the question that I do not likeit somehow implies that we are less against torture than the Conservatives. That is reprehensible, and we should not have to put up with it.
Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab): The Leader of the House has announced the return to this place of the Coroners and Justice Bill on next Monday and Tuesday week. I remind her that in this Chamber the Secretary of State for Justice was confused about the ramifications of that legislation for Northern Ireland. I was right and he was wrong; he had to write to me saying that the Bill covers Northern Ireland. I drew attention to the Bills implications for the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, a statutory body that opposes it.
May we have clarification before next Monday week on whether the Government themselves will amend the legislation to exclude Northern Ireland, to take cognisance of the legacy issues, or will the issue be bounced on us? Is this not a case of the architecture of a Bill being flawed and of the Governments having to say so early on and having to recognise the representations that have been made?
Ms Harman: If my hon. Friend is raising further points that he has not yet raised with the Secretary of State for Justice, I will ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to respond to my hon. Friends points. If there are any substantive points that would be not only of concern to my hon. Friend but of interest to Members more widely as we head into the debate on the remaining stages, I will ask my right hon. Friend to place a copy of his response in the House of Commons Library.
Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire) (Con): Further to the reply that the Leader of the House gave my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Alan Duncan) about Select Committees, has not the time come to review the role of the Modernisation Committee, which she chairs? It has not met since the summer recess last year, and that implies that it does not have an active agenda. Should it not be quietly buried and its residual responsibilities transferred to the Procedure Committee?
Ms Harman: The Procedure Committee is doing important work; the Deputy Leader of the House gave evidence to it yesterday, so it is clearly forging a way forward. There is no point in Committees meeting for the sake of it if their work is being carried through. The Modernisation Committee carried out an inquiry on regional Committees; that has now been brought to the House and is going forward. The Procedure Committee is looking at further matters. None of us wants Committees to meet for the sake of it, but all of us want to see the House being modernised. One modernisation issue that should be right at the top of our agenda is allowing the UK Youth Parliament to meet in this place.
Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): Although I absolutely applaud the tone of my right hon. and learned Friends response to the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Tyrie), there is an issue that the House should consider. Will she make available an early opportunity to debate the recently published Intelligence and Security Committee report, which fails to deal in any way with the concerns raised about UK security officers actions leading to torture?
Ms Harman: My hon. Friend has a long record of concern about these issues. We all want to make sure that there is full accountability and proper openness on those concerns so that we know that things are being done as we and everyone in this country would expect them to be done. I will ask the Home Secretary to write to my hon. Friend on the matter.
Nadine Dorries (Mid-Bedfordshire) (Con): The atrocities that took place in Luton this week should not simply end with expressions of disappointment in the House. A small group of Muslim extremists held placards with phrases such as Child murderers and Murderers from Basra on them. The point is that the group, which intended deliberately to incite public disorder, was allowed to form and was not removed from the scene. It was therefore successful.
More homecoming parades are planned in areas such as Watford and Bolton. Should we not have a debate in the House to discuss the protocol for handling those parades? The Royal Anglians live and train in my constituency. They deserved a good homecoming, but it was spoiled by behaviour that, had the police taken action, could have been prevented and stopped. We urgently need a debate on the issue.
Ensuring public order is an operational matter for the police, who I am sure will be looking at their operational activity in respect of the important homecoming parades. I can say no better than what the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) said: even those who did not agree with the war, including
those who marched in protest at the outset of the war, agree that nobody should take part in such demonstrations and that that is not the right way to treat our armed forces.
Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge) (Lab): Will the debate on 31 March give Members the opportunity to influence the content of next months Budget? In that way, the Chancellor might be advised that as important as supporting the banks are the issues of more support for carers and pensioners, the extension of concessionary travel to students in further education and training, improvements to our transport infrastructure, reductions in class sizes and improvements in compensation for redundant workers.
Ms Harman: Those are important points for my hon. Friend to draw to the Chancellors attention. We need to help people now and stabilise the economy, and all the things that my hon. Friend mentioned, such as investment in education and in our transport infrastructure, are important for the future. We have an agenda of care and concern for those in retirement and carers. We have to make sure that there is real help for the future, as well as practical help now.
Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): May we have an urgent debate on the car manufacturing sector? In January, to much fanfare, the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform launched a so-called auto manufacturing rescue package. Since then, hundreds of auto manufacturing jobs have been lost, including 150 at GKN in my constituency. Ogihara, Denso and Shimizu in my constituency are also suffering. When are we going to see the end of talk, talk, talk about saving jobs and actually see some action to save them?
Ms Harman: As my hon. Friend the Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Andrew Miller) has just reminded me, the £2.3 billion fund to help the automotive sector is available as from yesterday. That will be important, and we are working to ensure that those who need loans to buy cars can get that finance. I say to the hon. Gentleman that we are taking every action that we possibly can to ensure that we assist the automotive industry with new technology for the new generation of greener cars. We must not simply cut back on public investment. There has been action to stabilise the banks, quantitative easing, a VAT cut and extra money going into peoples pockets through tax cuts. All those things, which he opposed, help the economy. Ultimately that, as well as specific programmes, will help the car industry.
Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab): Next Thursdays business comes about as a result of a difference of opinion on a matter of detail between the Select Committee on Regulatory Reform and the Government. Will my right hon. and learned Friend look closely at when that debate will take place and reflect on whether we need to refine the Standing Orders governing Select Committees to enable time to be built in to avoid such matters of detail coming to the House instead of the matters of substance that really ought to take up our time?
Ms Harman: I know that my hon. Friend has made an important contribution to trying to get that matter sorted out, and hopefully there will be further discussions between him and the relevant Ministers before Thursday so that we will not be distracted by any important but minor points of detail and can instead get on to the main substance.
Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell) (Con): As the Leader of the House rather skilfully avoided answering a specific question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Alan Duncan), may I try again? Will the Chancellor of the Exchequer respond to the Oppositions Supply day debate next week on the economy? While we are about it, following what the Prime Minister said during Question Time yesterday, can we assume that the Prime Minister will be winding up the debate on the economy on 31 March that the Chancellor will open?
Ms Harman: I have announced to the House that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor will open the debate on Tuesday 31 March, which will be a full days debate on the Floor of the House. The Opposition have chosen the economy as the subject of their Opposition day debate, and in due course and in the normal way the Government will decide which Minister will open it.
Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): On 9 March the Home Secretary confirmed that the youngest person on the DNA database was a baby under the age of 12 months and the oldest a man of 90. When will the Government make a statement about the ruling by the European Court that the 1 million people who are on the DNA database but have not committed any crime should not remain on it indefinitely?
Ms Harman: We accept the Courts ruling in respect of the DNA database, and we will consider how to implement and comply with it. I say to my right hon. Friend and all Membersparticularly the Opposition, who seem to have an in-principle objection to the DNA databasethat we need every tool available for the police to investigate crime and bring offenders to justice. The scientific advances on DNA have enabled murderers and rapists to be held to account for their crimes. I believe that we should thank everybody who is involved in the DNA database and support it. It is a solution to problems, not a problem in itself. Of course we need it to be properly regulated, but I do not hold truck with any of the scaremongering about it. It is a thoroughly good thing.
Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con): May we have a debate next week on the merger of Lloyds TSB and Halifax Bank of Scotland? Will the Prime Minister please speak in that debate, so that he can explain his own contribution to the destruction of a solvent bank and billions of pounds of debt being loaded on the taxpayer? Might I say to the right hon. and learned Lady that holding the Prime Minister to account might further her own ill-concealed and patently ridiculous ambitions?
Mr. David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op): Last week, I raised with my right hon. and learned Friend the situation in the Sudan. We now know that what was initially a removal by a small number of non-governmental organisations is now a virtually wholesale removal of all NGOs from the country. That will lead to a humanitarian disaster. It would be right and proper for the House to discuss that in advance, so that we can see what we could do as a country. Millions of peoples lives are now being put at risk, so is it not right that the House has the opportunity to discuss that, to see how we may help?
Ms Harman: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The International Criminal Court is independent, and there is no way that the Government of Sudan should be taking it out on aid agencies at the expense of people who desperately need support. I can tell him that before the House rises for the Easter recess, we will have a full days debate about Africa on the Floor of the House, when there will be an opportunity to debate in detail the question of Darfur, and indeed that of Zimbabwe.
Christopher Fraser (South-West Norfolk) (Con): I have raised the issue of access to prostate cancer treatment many times in the House. As I am sure you are aware, Mr. Speaker, this is prostate cancer awareness month. Men living with prostate cancer report the worst NHS treatment of all common cancers. Will the Leader of the House make time for a debate in the Chamber on that very important subject?
Ms Harman: We do need to step up work on screening, early identification and treatment, and we have been doing so. The many billions of pounds extra that has gone into the NHS will play an important role in that.
Mr. Ian Cawsey (Brigg and Goole) (Lab): May we have a debate on the operation of the Criminal Records Bureau? The problem is not just the long delays in dealing with constituents mail. My right hon. and learned Friend might not have heard the recent File on 4 programme, which revealed that up to 2,500 teachers who have had allegations made against them and been totally cleared still have the details on their CRB file. People in certain occupations are open to vexatious complaints, and when they are totally cleared, surely that stain should be removed from their file.
Ms Harman: Perhaps my hon. Friend could seek a Westminster Hall debate on that. It is important that the records are in place so that those who are working with children can be properly checked out, but it is important also that the information is correct and that peoples lives are not blighted. Perhaps other hon. Members might wish to join my hon. Friend in a Westminster Hall debate.
Mr. Oliver Letwin (West Dorset) (Con):
Following the earlier comments about the publication of information by the Department for Communities and Local Government, will the Leader of the House give us a debate on the implementation of the Sustainable Communities Act 2007? When it was a Bill, the Minister responsible promised me in Committee that there would be a full and detailed breakdown of expenditure by central Government and their agencies in the localities.
That has not been published. Instead, information already in the public domain has been published. May we debate that statement?
Ms Harman: I have suggested that it might be a good idea for the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to meet Members, and I will put the right hon. Gentlemans name on the list of those seeking a meeting.
Mrs. Sharon Hodgson (Gateshead, East and Washington, West) (Lab): I feel strongly that I wish to add my voice to that of my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, West (Martin Salter) in calling for a debate on the motion to allow the UK Youth Parliament to use this Chamber for one day to hold its annual meeting. That motion appears on the Order Paper every day and is shamefully opposed by some of the backward-looking Opposition Members who bear no relation to the face of the modern Conservative party that their leader would like to portray to the world. What message about the sort of democracy that we have is sent to our young elected representatives who are members of the UK Parliament if we are so precious about this place that we will not even let them meet here for one day?
Ms Harman: My hon. Friend is rightthe so-called modern Conservative party wants to keep the House in the 19th century. I know that she is an assiduous Member of Parliament for her constituents in the north, but if she sticks around, she might have an opportunity to vote on the matter later this afternoon.
In the light of the statement that the right hon. and learned Lady made on Thursday 5 March at column 1007 of the Official Report that the equality Bill will be introduced in a few months, may we please have a statement on the timetable for its publication and progress? As an enthusiastic supporter of the Bill, may I say that, although my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) greeted the potential delay that that statement implied with joy and exultation, to me the possibility of having to wait till June, July or beyond represents a cruel and degrading punishment, potentially beyond endurance?
Mr. Speaker: Order. A few hon. Members are left who wish to ask a question, and I should have stopped at half-past the hour. The Deputy Speaker can take the questions, but I ask that they be brief. That is only fair.
Ms Dari Taylor (Stockton, South) (Lab): The national service framework for coronary heart disease finishes this year. It has achieved much, but cardio-vascular disease remains one of the biggest killers in Britain. Is not it time to discuss national service frameworks and make a policy in the House to ensure that they remain part of the delivery of the national health service?
Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): To revert to the Youth Parliament and the use of the Chamber, what would the Leader of the House say to an organisation that uses all the parliamentary tricks to try to force the business through at the end of business every day without proper debate? What does not having a proper debate on the motion say to our young parliamentarians?
Ms Harman: What does it say to our young future parliamentarians when Members call for a vote simply as a device to delay matters and do not even go through the Lobby? The Prime Minister included the matter in The Governance of Britain. He has asked the Chamber to consider allowing the Youth Parliament to sit here, and I think that we should just get over it and agree the matter.
Jim Sheridan (Paisley and Renfrewshire, North) (Lab): The Governments initiative to assist the car manufacturing industry is welcome, but may we have a debate on the car retail sector? The Treasurys recent decision to deny car dealers the ability to claim rebates for the tax revenue on tax discsa practice that has existed for approximately 30 yearscould have a serious impact on the car retail industry, with the potential loss of thousands of jobs. If we do not have a vehicle for selling cars, it could have an impact on car manufacturing.
Ms Harman: As ever, my hon. Friend makes a point that is important not only for his constituency and Scotland, but throughout the UK. I will raise the matter with the Chancellor, and my hon. Friend might also be able to raise it in the debate on 31 March.
Mr. Rob Wilson (Reading, East) (Con): It is now 30 years since our country elected its first woman Prime Minister. Will the Minister for Women and Equality make a statement to assure the House that she is doing all she can to bring about the advent of a second woman Prime Minister?
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