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Mrs. Beckett: No; I would not accept that. I would simply make the point again. What the right hon. Gentleman says does not conflict with the basic point that I am making, which is that it has very often been a matter of great satisfaction to the Conservative party to be able to have, and to rely on, the votes of Northern Ireland Members, when there was devolution and when there was not devolution. Throughout the course of the Government led first by the late Lord Wilson and then by Lord Callaghan, the Conservative party relied very frequently indeed on Northern Ireland Members' votes.
I simply remind the right hon. Gentleman and his party that it has never been the policy of the Conservative party, during the years when it supported devolution, to call for two-tier membership of the House, and that it has shown considerable inconsistency on that issue, both in that matter and in its approach to the actions of Northern Ireland Members. I wonder when the Conservatives will tell Members of the Ulster Unionist party and other parties that they do not intend to allow them to play a full part in the House, either.
[That this House is appalled at the shocking revelations of child abuse throughout Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales; condemns the professional people entrusted with the care and wellbeing of the most vulnerable children in society, who have failed to assure their safety, need and protection; and recommends that there be a public inquiry throughout the United Kingdom, the setting up of a commission in every region throughout the United Kingdom similar to the one set up in Ireland to counsel and advise abused victims and that the victims be granted legal aid in order to bring abusers to justice.]
As a Member of Parliament, I feel horrified and ashamed that we allow child abuse to continue for years. Thousands of children have been abused and a lot of the abuse has gone undetected. It is time that the House and the Government apologised, especially for some of the Government-run homes where children are being abused. It is time that we held a national public inquiry. It is time that we took a leaf out of the book of southern Ireland Members of Parliament: they set up commissions.
I hope that the Leader of the House will allow time to debate child abuse fully, in order to bring these perverts and paedophiles to justice. We owe it to our children. Talk is no use; we need action. Every national and international newspaper is crying out for vengeance, in order to rid the country of this filth.
I fear that I cannot undertake to find time for a special debate on the Floor of the House in the near future, but it strikes me that this is exactly the type of issue, which commands support across the parties, on which my hon. Friend or others of his view might seek a debate in Westminster Hall.
Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire): The first Bill that the Government introduced in this Session was the Hunting Bill. The Leader of the House has said that the Government have introduced 18 Bills. When can we expect the adoption Bill?
Mrs. Beckett: I remind the hon. Gentleman that he is wrong. [Interruption.] The first Bill debated was the Vehicles (Crime) Bill, which is proceeding very well through its stages in the House. I hope that the hon. Gentleman's question does not represent the start of a pretence by the Conservative party that, in some way, there is a party political difference on adoption--or, indeed, on child welfare. There is none and, frankly, it would be shabby and damaging to adoption if the Conservative party intended to continue with that tactic.
Mrs. Claire Curtis-Thomas (Crosby): As a member of one of the wealth-generating professions--engineering--may I ask when we shall have an opportunity to discuss the manufacturing industry in the United Kingdom and its relationship to the ever-growing university budgets, developing research to underpin that manufacturing?
Mrs. Beckett: My hon. Friend is a qualified engineer. Indeed, she repaired one of the lifts in Norman Shaw recently. Of course it is very important that we continue to give the right attention to the manufacturing industry. She is right to draw attention to the additional support that is being made available, as a result of the investment forthcoming under the Government, to underpin the research and development that that industry needs. I fear that I cannot undertake to hold such a debate in Government time in the near future, but I draw to her attention the fact that the Opposition have chosen, perhaps unwisely, to debate such issues next week, and she might like to take part in that debate.
Mr. John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings): On the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning), which related to the order on teachers' so-called performance-related pay, I am obliged to remind the Leader of the House of the relevant Standing Order No. 17(2), which states that if the Speaker, in his wisdom, determines that there has been insufficient debate and defers the matter,
Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North): Has my right hon. Friend noticed that a betting firm is telling callers that under no circumstances can it envisage the Tories winning the next election and that the head of that betting firm has made, or is about to make, a very large donation to the Tories? Perhaps that could be described as a loss leader. Given that I suggested that individual donations should be capped when a large donation was about to be made to the Labour party 10 days ago--at least I am consistent--is there not a case for capping individual donations during the next stage of political party finance reform?
Mrs. Beckett: My hon. Friend is absolutely right; he is showing complete consistency and makes an important and serious point. As he knows, the capping of donations is raised from time to time, but that will be a matter for the Electoral Commission in future, because of the way in which the Labour party has strengthened the controls on party funding, which the Conservative party refused to discuss when in power for reasons that are daily becoming all too apparent.
Mr. Stephen Day (Cheadle): Given the fact that, inexplicably, the right hon. Lady seems to think that the Government's failure to introduce an adoption Bill was the Opposition's fault, can she tell the House what the Government's attitude will be to the Adoption Bill--a private Member's Bill, sponsored by my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman)?
Mrs. Beckett: No, I cannot. I am not familiar with the text and content of the Bill. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) for promoting further discussion of such an important and serious issue, but the Government will obviously have to consider her Bill if the House decides to debate it.
Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire): Does my right hon. Friend accept that service men and women who have been killed in the line of duty have made a supreme sacrifice for their country? Can we have a debate based on the proposal of Rita Restorick, whose son was killed by the Provisional IRA while serving in the forces, that a posthumous medal should be issued in such circumstances? If the Americans can award the purple heart posthumously, surely the House can consider taking similar action?