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Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington): My right hon. Friend will know that the Standards and Privileges Committee will publish its report on amendments to the code of conduct tomorrow. Will she make time for a debate on those very important matters before the Easter recess, when many Opposition Members will be able to go on indefinite holiday, because there is a lot of misrepresentation in the press about the rules--indeed, there is some confusion in the House about them?
Mrs. Beckett: I was not aware that the Committee intended to publish its report tomorrow, and the House will be grateful to my hon. Friend for that information. Obviously, I shall, as always, take the report very seriously. I agree with my hon Friend's observations about the importance of the House carefully considering those matters, and I take heed of his request, but I cannot undertake to find time to debate the report in the next two weeks. However, if the report appears tomorrow, it will form part of the portfolio of matters that the House is being asked to consider.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. Many Members wish to ask a question of the Leader of the House and only a limited amount of time is available in view of other business. Too much argument is creeping into the questions, so I ask hon. Members to be as brief as possible.
[That this House welcomes the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology's report on complementary and alternative medicine; notes the widespread and increasing use of complementary and alternative medicine in the UK; supports improved
It broadly supports the Lords report on complementary and alternative medicine. Will the right hon. Lady confirm or deny the rumours that the Government are about to publish their response to that report tomorrow or perhaps on Monday? Does she recognise the urgency of that response given that the recommendations on research--particularly that into homeopathy--have a bearing on the foot and mouth crisis? There is very strong anecdotal evidence that a remedy called borax can stop animals getting the disease. It is urgent that research is commissioned.
Mrs. Beckett: I am well aware of the great and serious interest that the hon. Gentleman takes in these matters. Again, I am not aware of the imminent publication to which he refers, but the recommendations that have been made are being considered carefully. I believe that a response is likely, but I am not aware of the precise time scale. I understand his point and will add it to the list of requests, but I cannot undertake to grant his request at the moment.
[That this House is extremely concerned to learn that thousands of asbestos related disease sufferers and other industrial injury victims may be unable to claim compensation because the Iron Trades Insurers hived off the company's pre-1990 liabilities into a separate company registered as Chester Street Insurance Holdings Ltd that recently went into voluntary liquidation, suggesting that it may well have been launched with inadequate resources; and calls on the insurance industry to give an undertaking that it will settle all current claims not covered by the company's assets as well as those which arise in the future.]
That motion and early-day motions 355 and 450, which also stand in my name, draw attention to the Iron Trades Holdings insurance scandal in which that company dumped its liabilities in Chester Street Holdings, leaving it with insufficient assets. In fact, the liquidator's initial report is that the assets represent only 5 per cent. of liabilities. If my right hon. Friend cannot provide me with a date for a debate on the insurance industry, will she draw to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer the need for the insurance industry to provide the certainty that all the victims of
Mrs. Beckett: I am aware of the campaign that my hon. Friend and others have run on this matter. I understand and share their concerns that victims of such serious diseases should receive the compensation that is their due fairly and speedily. I will certainly draw my hon. Friend's remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor, because my hon. Friend is right to suspect that I cannot find time for a debate on the subject in the near future. It is my understanding that the Policyholders Protection Board will deal with and meet the claims for compensation, but I will draw all my hon. Friend's remarks to the attention of the Chancellor.
Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire): Yesterday afternoon, the Prime Minister said that he would give serious consideration to the case for postponing the local elections. As the Leader of the House has announced no such legislation, would the House be right to conclude that the local elections will go ahead as planned?
Mrs. Beckett: The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that I announced the business for the coming week and the provisional business for the following week. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said entirely properly that we are listening to the important representations that the Government are receiving on the matter. The right hon. Gentleman will know that those representations are not all one way and that the tourism industry has expressed increasingly strong concerns. The Government will have to consider the matter seriously, but the right hon. Gentleman will recall that, in peacetime, no Government have suspended local elections except for what some might regard as the unfortunate precedent when the noble Lady Thatcher suspended local elections when she intended to abolish the authority in question.
Mr. Huw Edwards (Monmouth): Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on the educational implications of the case of Marjorie Evans, my constituent who was suspended as a head teacher for 18 months and has now returned to school with no evidence having been found against her? Does my right hon. Friend agree that the case raises a number of issues that relate to the way in which teachers deal with disruptive pupils and the way in which head teachers and teachers are disciplined?
Mrs. Beckett: My hon. Friend makes an important and powerful point that raises concerns that are shared across the House. Although, like the whole House, I am aware of the case, I admit that it had not struck me that it had dragged on for 18 months. I strongly share my hon. Friend's view that that can only be damaging to all concerned. I cannot undertake to find time for a debate on the matter in the near future, but he might consider the opportunities offered by Westminster Hall. However, I certainly undertake to draw his remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment.
Mrs. Beckett: The House might like to know that. As the right hon. Gentleman rightly says, the Committee shares some of the concerns identified. We recognise that there have been some successes, but also some problems. The Committee is considering that. However, the right hon. Gentleman is right to say that we should not prejudge those discussions.
Mr. Syd Rapson (Portsmouth, North): Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on television programme funding? Channel 4 recently broadcast a programme called "Seven Days that Shook Britain". Although it was good, there were sinister and worrying undertones about the way in which it was produced. Cameras were placed in the homes of the main operators of the dispute before and during it and bugged telephone conversations were broadcast. I am concerned that funding might be received from companies to promote a dispute purely for the benefit of television.