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Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock): What is the expected time of arrival of the British Overseas Territories Bill from the House of Lords? It is a welcome measure, but it is drawn very narrowly in relation to the important issue of citizenship. I am somewhat disappointed that it does not also embrace the question of representation, a concept that was canvassed by Baroness Symons before the Foreign Affairs Committee. For example, it was mooted that overseas territories might have access to the House and be able to petition it at the Bar. Should not the Government reflect, before they are arraigned before a court, on the fact that the existing representation for the citizens of our overseas territories is deficient in relation to the European convention on human rights? This is ultimately their Parliament, and we will not have full adult franchise until the British subjects peppered around the globe have representation here.
On the wider question, we should reflect carefully before taking the steps that my hon. Friend suggests. It is an important principleand important politicallyfor the residents of the overseas territories that they are self-governing and only involved with the UK to the extent that we handle their external affairs, defence and international obligations. We must be careful not to take any steps to erode their rights of self-government, which might turn out to be unpopular in the overseas territories.
Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West): The Leader of the House will know that the Government have confirmed that they intend to close two transplant units in April 2002. The hospitals at Wythenshawe in Birmingham and in Sheffield have been left with an uncertain future for a year. It is a source of great disappointment to those hospitals and the many thousands of transplant patients who depend on them that we still have not had a clear statement from the Government on what their recommended decision will be. Can we have an urgent statement and, for the sake of those hospitals and the people they serve, learn the Government's intentions, so that proper preparations can be made in time before April next year?
Mr. Cook: The hon. Gentleman is right that the concentration of transplant facilities has been under review for some time, and I stress that it is in line with sound medical advice and practice to ensure that adequate specialisation is focused on one site and is not dissipated too widely. I am not aware of the Department of Health having reached a decision on the local consultations or whether it has received a view from the local health authorities, but I shall ensure that if any announcement is made during the recess the hon. Gentleman is informed, preferably in advance.
Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle): Given the huge scale of the Government's achievements, can my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House explain why the Government have discontinued their annual report? Is there not a case for having a debate, perhaps when we return from the recess, about a possible role for the Office for National Statistics, which could publish a report independently of the Government that would look back to the manifesto commitments that were made?
Mr. Cook: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarkably loyal opening line. I have given several assurances that I shall write to fellow Ministers and I shall certainly write to the Whips to draw attention to my hon. Friend's opening sentence. Whatever we politicians might imagine, the outside world would regard it as strange if having had a general election only a few weeks ago we were suddenly to produce an annual report going back
Sir Robert Smith (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine): As the Leader of the House will know, my constituents will be concerned about the east coast main line, which does not, as is often thought, end at Edinburgh but carries on to Aberdeen. In his answer to the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg), the right hon. Gentleman gave an assurance that the franchisee, GNER, would be able to purchase rolling stock despite the uncertainty. Does he recognise, however, that the type of rolling stock required may depend on the type of track improvements that are decided on? Given that uncertainty, will he ask the Secretary of State to see whether he has any powers under section 56 of the Railways Act 1993 to underwrite the purchase of that rolling stock, so as to remove the uncertainty and ensure that at least some of the improvements come to the line as soon as possible to benefit our constituents?
Mr. Cook: I am not sure that I would encourage the hon. Gentleman to hope for an underwriting of costs by the operating company, but he has highlighted a problem associated with giving a 20-year franchise at the present time. The actions of any operator, including GNER, depend on the state of the track, which is why a two-year extension has been granted.
Paul Flynn (Newport, West): As a reforming and modernising Leader of the House, does not my right hon. Friend think that the debate on drugs to be held in October would be far more valuable if a motion were tabled on which the House could vote? The "World at One" radio programme has announced the result of its survey of opinion among hon. Members. It found that, of the hon. Members surveyed, four out of five want there to be a royal commission on drug use, because they think that the present drug laws perversely increase drug harm and are unenforceable.
Mr. Cook: I note what my hon. Friend says, although I would not wish to adopt the innovation of "World at One" surveys becoming the basis on which the House reaches a decision. At the present stage of the debate for which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has called, it is right that the House should have an open-ended debate in which hon. Members can express their opinions freely, without being polarised by a substantive motion and an amendment. That is appropriate for this stage of the debate, and I am sure that my hon. Friend will take part in the debate in October.
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): May we have a statement from the Foreign Secretary on the Government's attitude to the atrocious behaviour of the Russian army in Chechnya? That army is not merely in combat with guerrillas, but is perpetrating gross human rights abuses against the civilian population. If we cannot have a statement, may we at least have an indication of
Mr. Cook: There have been exchanges in the House on this matter on many occasions in the two years since the invasion of Chechnya. There have also been many exchanges on the matter between my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and Foreign Office representatives and their opposite numbers in the Russian Government. I fully share the hon. Gentleman's concern about human rights abuses in Chechnya, and I have often impressed on the Russian Foreign Minister the importance of winning the hearts and minds of the public in the effort to isolate people from the guerrillas. We shall continue to urge that view on the Russian Government.
Mr. Bob Blizzard (Waveney): My right hon. Friend may remember that, in April, the then Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions announced that £5.5 million in assistance would be given to fishing communities, to be delivered through the regional development agencies. Will he confirm that the Department of Trade and Industry is now responsible for that initiative? Will he ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to make a statement on the methodology used to divide that sum between the regions containing fishing communities?
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the apportionment should reflect the size of the fishing communities in each region? The bigger the fishing industry in an area, the more local economies have been dented, and the more assistance is needed. I have found no evidence of that thinking in the figures that I have seen regarding the apportionment of the money, so I should be grateful for any help that my right hon. Friend can give me.