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Mr. Hanson: Generally, hon. Members--even the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth)--have given a broad welcome to the amendments. The hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning) made a valuable point about her backing and the strong support from children's charities in Wales and elsewhere for the amendments. I pay tribute to their efforts in promoting the measures that we are considering today. In Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) spoke strongly about those matters, and I welcome his support for the amendments.

Briefly, in response to the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge), the key point of Lords amendment No. 4 is to tackle the very issues that she raised on behalf of the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnorshire (Mr. Livsey), who is retiring. It will empower the commissioner to consider any matter affecting the rights and welfare of children in Wales and make representations to the Assembly. As the hon. Member for Richmond Park rightly said, children in Wales will occasionally be sent to young offenders' institutions in England, but the commissioner will now be able to look at and monitor the performance of those institutions; he will also be able to make representations to the Assembly about whether it wishes to make representations to the Government about how they are impacting on children from Wales in those institutions. I hope that that answers her points; indeed, the amendment was introduced in response to those very concerns.

The right hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) raised several issues. First, however, may I wish him and his wife Elinor well in retirement? I am acutely aware that, although he is retiring from the House of Commons, he will still be a Member of the National Assembly for Wales for the foreseeable future. I pay tribute to the work that he has done during his 27 years in the House; I acknowledge the efforts that he has made and the co-operation that we have achieved on some joint objectives. We have had differences, and will continue to do so, but he can be proud of things to which he has contributed during his time in the House.

As I am mentioning retiring Members, I should also mention my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands). He has not contributed to our debate but I know that he is proud to sit in the Chamber today for, possibly, the final time as a Member of Parliament. He has represented his constituency for 30 years, since 1971, and experienced the pain of defeat in 1970 in Cardiff, North, whose constituents he had served since 1966. I pay tribute to his work; I know that many Labour Members have welcomed his contributions,

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value his integrity and appreciate his work as a Minister; we are sorry to see him go. I make one prediction about the forthcoming election; Labour will hold Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney.

The right hon. Member for Caernarfon raised the question of international co-operation. He spoke about the possibility of children being abused in different countries and the difficulties that will arise. By virtue of this key amendment to the Bill, the commissioner will be able to consider any issue affecting children in Wales and make representations to the Assembly. If, for example, a child in Wales suffers abuse in another European country or, indeed, elsewhere in the world, the commissioner can make representations to the Assembly and, via that body, the Government about the way in which those rights and welfare issues can be tackled.

The Government recognise the need for international co-operation and co-ordination in identifying child abusers to reduce the risks to children in this country and abroad. We are working, for example, with an Interpol specialist group on crimes against children and with the United Kingdom National Crime Squad. There are also bilateral negotiations and initiatives involving UK agencies and other countries, both in Europe and elsewhere, to tackle the issues raised by the right hon. Gentleman. Much of that will be an informal network, but the Government certainly recognise those issues.

The right hon. Gentleman also mentioned that further technical amendments may be necessary as a result of the Lords amendments. I have looked into the matter and do not believe that they will. Obviously, we shall review the matter. If he wants in his last 48 or 60 hours as a Member of Parliament to write to me with details of his concerns, I shall certainly consider them and reflect on them in due course.

I welcome, as ever, the contribution of the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst to the debate. I say to him what I said earlier: the Government will reflect on and consider the experiences in Wales. The Minister of State, Department of Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow and Furness (Mr. Hutton), will be examining the matters, and the Government will reflect on them.

Mr. Bercow: Where is the Minister of State?

Mr. Hanson: I suspect that he is busy governing on behalf of the people of Britain. We speak for the Government as a whole.

Mr. Bercow: There was a reason for my inquiry. I very much hope that the Minister of State will not be doing that for many minutes because he is supposed to be replying to my Adjournment debate.

Mr. Hanson: The hon. Gentleman will recognise that it is possible to govern from Whitehall as well as from the House of Commons. I am sure that my hon. Friend will be here shortly to contribute to what might be quite a lengthy Adjournment debate if the business of the House is completed speedily.

I very much welcome the Bill. It is historic and ground-breaking legislation. As the right hon. Member for Caernarfon said, it is the first Bill produced in partnership between the National Assembly and the Government. I very much welcome and appreciate the spirit in which

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the House and, indeed, the other place have considered the amendments. We have a particularly strong working relationship with the children's charities. I pay tribute to the officials of the National Assembly and of the Wales Office. I wish Peter Clarke, who has recently been appointed the first Children's Commissioner for Wales, every success, and look forward to working with him during--dare I say it--the new Parliament.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 5 and 6 agreed to.

Armed Forces Bill (Programme) (No. 3)

Ordered,


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Armed Forces Bill

Lords amendments considered.

Clause 31

Extension of jurisdiction


Lords amendment: No. 1, leave out clause 31.

10.13 am

The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr. John Spellar): I beg to move, That this House agrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

Mr. Speaker: With this we may discuss Lords amendments Nos. 2, 3 and 5 to 11.

Mr. Spellar: Despite the official form of words, the Government very much regret losing such useful measures. The amendments remove from the Bill the whole of part IV, which deals with Ministry of Defence police, and all other references that are relevant to part IV.

It is interesting to reflect that, only a few months ago, the hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith) told the House during the debate on the Queen's Speech on 11 December that he welcomed the proposals on the MOD police. As I recall, he did not single out any other part of the Bill for favourable treatment. That positive reaction came as no great surprise to us. After all, the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key) had in April last year asked the Secretary of State for Defence:


We did not go that far, but in that light, I would have thought that the hon. Gentleman would welcome our proposals. Indeed, he continued in the same vein on Second Reading on 9 January, when moving a reasoned amendment that did not mention the MOD police.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough): Is the hon. Gentleman therefore intending, if the Government are fortunate enough to be re-elected, to reintroduce the measures?

Mr. Spellar: As always, we shall have to consider the availability of parliamentary time, as hon. Members know full well. That is why it is so unfortunate that the Opposition have behaved so disgracefully.

Mr. Robert Key (Salisbury): Before the Minister goes any further down that path, I should point out that it is not the Opposition who have contrived matters, but the Government who have conceded something in the other place. It is nonsense to rant about things that I said some years ago. Of course it is true that I wanted to extend the jurisdiction. We warned the Government that they were heading for trouble, but they would not listen and have had to climb down as a result. That is entirely the Minister's fault.


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