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Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): The Baseball Ground.

Mrs. Beckett: No, not the Baseball Ground. The hon. Gentleman is out of date. We have a brand new football stadium, Pride Park, on which we hope to hold an international later this year, so the hon. Gentleman will be able to see it on television.

Despite the many attractions of different football grounds in different parts of the country, the germ of the hon. Lady's charge was that the White Paper had not been announced to the House. That is incorrect. My right hon. Friend launched it properly through a written statement to the House. The hon. Lady will know that it is not always possible to fit in the many issues on which Members might seek statements, not least because, perfectly rightly, so many statements have been sought on different aspects of the present difficulties in the countryside.

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax): May I repeat the request for a debate on Macedonia? My right hon. Friend will be aware of the serious situation that is developing there; the Kosovo Liberation Army is attempting an insurrection from Kosovo. Macedonia has been an oasis of peace in the troubled former Yugoslavia and the Albanian minority share in government and in all the institutions of state. They are in a terrible position as the militants take over. Greece, Bulgaria and other surrounding countries could be drawn into the conflict unless we act quickly. A debate is long overdue.

Mrs. Beckett: I know that my hon. Friend takes a great interest in these matters and pursues them with great

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diligence. The request from the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning) was for a statement; my hon. Friend asks for a debate, but I understand that they both seek to make the same point--the issue should be aired. I understand and sympathise with the points made by my hon. Friend. She will know that the Government unreservedly condemn the violence that has been taking place in Macedonia. We are fully supportive of the Macedonian Government. We recognise and want to support the efforts made in Macedonia to maintain plurality of representation. I can say to my hon. Friend only what I said to the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton, however: there will be an opportunity to question my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on Tuesday. Obviously, there may be opportunities after that for my hon. Friend to press for a debate, but I fear that I cannot undertake to find time for one in the near future.

Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall): Did the Leader of the House note the apparent suggestion made by the Conservative spokesperson that Easter should be postponed? May I suggest that an authority higher even than the Lord President of the Council would be necessary for that?

The Leader of the House will have noted that the Minister for Transport in the other place, Lord Macdonald, announced that, next Thursday, he would make a statement on the progress of the public-private partnership for the National Air Traffic Services. May we have an explicit reassurance from the right hon. Lady today that we, too, will receive that statement next Thursday, and that there will be an opportunity to debate it?

I draw the right hon. Lady's attention to the fact that we have received no statement from the Secretary of State for Social Security about the considerable problems facing families in the areas hardest hit by the foot and mouth crisis. We have had a great deal of sympathy and heard many words from the Prime Minister, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and the Minister for the Environment, who is responsible for the taskforce. My right hon. and hon. Friends and myself receive many representations--as, I am sure, do Members on both sides of the House--from families who cannot obtain assistance from the Benefits Agency at present, especially if no children are involved. I was in touch with the Benefits Agency earlier; no crisis loans are available in many circumstances for many of the hardest-hit families--be it in agriculture itself or in tourism and ancillary industries. May we have an immediate statement from the Secretary of State for Social Security on the steps to be taken by the Benefits Agency and on the introduction of flexibility in the system to cater for the problem?

I especially draw the right hon. Lady's attention to the fact that at least one regional newspaper, The Western Morning News, today felt it necessary to launch its own special relief fund to assist those families. It is organising "green welly day" on 30 March. Although many of us will support that, it really should not be left to the media to take such steps. Surely the national welfare state system should be providing the safety net for those families.

Mrs. Beckett: I am not entirely sure that the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning) meant to ask that Easter should be postponed, but I admit that

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one sometimes receives the distinct impression from the Conservative Benches that the mood is "Stop the world, we want to get off".

The hon. Gentleman asks about a statement to be made by my right hon. and noble Friend Lord Macdonald. I was not aware of the announcement that had been made in the other Chamber, but I think that the statement will be made in fulfilment of an undertaking given by Lord Macdonald during debates in that House. Of course, we have held many extensive, thorough and well-attended debates on the matter in this place.

The hon. Gentleman asks about social security payments, especially with regard to the problems faced by families as a result of the impact of the foot and mouth crisis. Obviously, I take on board his remarks and will certainly draw them to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security, although I do not promise at present that my right hon. Friend will make a statement. However, if I heard the hon. Gentleman's final remarks correctly, he said that support for the families, and so on, should not be left to the media--and, of course, it is not. As I am sure that he and the House acknowledges, the Government are already making available hundreds of millions of pounds in a variety of ways, and we have said that we will continue to do what we can to tackle the impact of the crisis.

Mr. Ernie Ross (Dundee, West): Will my right hon. Friend find time to discuss the Senior Salaries Review Body report on the office costs allowance? She will know that Members on both sides of the House and their staff have been waiting anxiously for that report. It is a very good one and goes some way to redress some of the difficulties that many hon. Members--and, more importantly, our staff, who are very loyal and dedicated--have with resources and the way in which we can finance them. Will some time be made available in the next couple of weeks to debate that very important issue?

Mrs. Beckett: My hon. Friend makes an important point about the review body's report, but I would slightly take issue with him because he suggests that all hon. Members are aware of it. Not all hon. Members have followed such matters with the assiduity of my hon. Friend, who has long been a very effective campaigner on behalf of Members' staff. As the report was published less than a week ago, many Members may well not yet have had time to study and assimilate its contents, but, of course, I understand, and take very seriously, the point that he makes. The way in which the staff of the House and Members' staff work is what makes the House work, and most hon. Members recognise the debt that they owe to their staff, but I am not sure that they are yet ready to debate an issue that has been on the table for only a few days.

Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden): Will the Leader of the House find time very soon for an urgent debate on the behaviour of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in relation to the report on Hollis Industries and the former Paymaster General, in view of the fact that the Secretary of State has claimed that he was not legally able to publish the contents of the report, because it was carried out under section 447 of the Companies Act 1985?

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Section 449, however, explicitly states that he may publish the information with the company's permission and that, even without that permission, he may publish it if doing so helps a public authority, designed by him, to fulfil its obligations. So what possible grounds are there for the Secretary of State to sue people who are making it clear that he held back that report and did not ask the former Paymaster General to come to the House to put the record right about the payment that he had received from Robert Maxwell? If he did not read the report and handed over the decisions to officials, what on earth is he there for?

Mrs. Beckett: That is a disgraceful remark from the right hon. Gentleman. I have not had the chance to consult my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on the matter, but I understand that he was advised, by the permanent secretary at the Department, that it should be dealt with by others, not by himself. Under those circumstances, it is quite disgraceful for the right hon. Gentleman to say that my right hon. Friend should have insisted on dealing with the matter himself. I suspect that the right hon. Gentleman would have had much more to say about it, and done so much more fervently, if my right hon. Friend had insisted on overruling the advice of his permanent secretary.

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