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Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham): Will the right hon. Gentleman find time to have an early debate on the Government's use of the Crown's prerogative? Does he understand that there is considerable concern among hon. Members that the power to recall Parliament is vested in the Executive and not in the House, and that we are deploying troops for a substantial period without the House's authority being obtained on a substantive motion? Does he understand that motions on the Adjournment, although desirable and useful, are not a proper substitute for a substantive motion authorising such action?
Mr. Cook: I am very interested in the right hon. and learned Gentleman's views. I should like his confirmation that he expressed those views when the Government of whom he was a member repeatedly committed troops on a motion for the Adjournment. That is the long-standing basis on which the House has debated these affairs. I repeat what I said last week: whether or not there is a substantive motion, no one who has sat through the debates that we have had on this matter can be in any doubt about the will of the House and the overwhelming support from both sides for what we are doing.
Vernon Coaker (Gedling): Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on young people? The alienation of young people from the political system must be one of the greatest causes of concern. Other issues that affect young people include the provision of youth service facilities in our communities.
Mr. Cook: My hon. Friend raises an important point. All hon. Members attach importance to ensuring that the health of our democracy is strong among young people as well as among the rest of the electorate. I cannot promise a debate on this subject in the near future, but my hon. Friend can continue to raise this important issue through the vehicles available to private Members.
Mr. Andrew MacKay (Bracknell): Will the Leader of the House ensure that the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry makes a statement at the Dispatch Box next week on the Aldous report, which her Department has not published? It refers to the affairs of the hon. Member for Coventry, NorthWest (Mr. Robinson), Hollis Industries and related Maxwell companies. It is essential that the report be published, and that the Secretary of State explain to the House why her predecessor did not make further inquiries, bearing in mind what the report is alleged to have said.
Mrs. Ann Cryer (Keighley): Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on town and country planning? To be more precise, can we have a debate on the type of town and country planning administered by the Israeli Government on the west bank and Gaza? To this day, Palestinian homes are being bulldozed while illegal settlements are being established with encouragement from the Israeli Government. Such a debate would let the Palestinian people know that we are concerned about their welfare, and that we have them and their position at heart.
Mr. Cook: I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend on the importance of the approach that she outlined. The Mitchell report recommended that there should be a ceasefire, and that it should be supported by confidence-building measures, which plainly must include respect for the homes of people who live in the territory administered by the Palestinian authority. We want to see a return to the peace negotiations. That is why my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has been in the middle east in the past two days, and that is the message he is carrying.
Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire): The House will welcome the creation of the Liaison Committee and the motion next week to set it up. Will the Leader of the House explain why the motion in "Remaining Orders and Notices" creates the Committee in a new way? It adds new, admittedly distinguished, members who are not existing members of departmental and domestic Select Committees. Will he confirm that that debate will be restricted to the matter of the membership, and will not enable the House to discuss some of the "Shifting the Balance" issues from the report published in the previous Parliament? If in that debate we cannot discuss the future role of the Liaison Committee, will he find time for a further debate so that we can?
Mr. Cook: The terms of the motion are not entirely new: there is a precedent. In the past, Sir Terence Higgins was added to the membership of the Liaison Committee and was treated with respect and honour by that Committee. I have included one additional memberhe is a senior Member and has served on the Liaison Committee beforeas I believe that the Committee would benefit from his wisdom and experience. However, it is a matter for the House to decide when we debate the motion.
That debate will turn on the motion to set up the Liaison Committee. The wider matters from "Shifting the Balance", to which the hon. Gentleman referred, are being examined by the Modernisation Committee. I hope that, in the near future, it will produce a report which will enable us to debate all those issues.
Mr. Cook: If I may say so, the Government have been punctilious in providing opportunities for the House to debate the coalition against international terrorism. Today will be the fifth full day of debate on the subject since the events of 11 September. We shall continue, when appropriate, to provide opportunities for the House to consider the Government's action and to make sure that we are taking every possible step to ensure that Osama bin Laden is brought to justice before he can strike again.
I strongly disagree with what my hon. Friend said about the British Overseas Territories Bill. It is an important measure and regarded as a matter of great significance throughout the overseas territories. I remind the House that it carries through the commitment that we made in the previous Parliament to extend British citizenship to those citizens of the overseas territories who want it. That commitment is very much welcomed in the overseas territories, and I hope that the House attaches importance to it.
Mr. Gregory Barker (Bexhill and Battle): Disturbing and serious claims were made in last Sunday's "Panorama" about this country's ability to withstand and cope with a chemical or a biological terrorist attack. Given the woefully inadequate response from the Deputy Prime Minister yesterday to the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) about effective co-ordination between civil and military emergency co-ordinators, when will we have a proper debate on civil defence and emergency planning in the light of the current international situation, so that we can reassure an increasingly worried public?
Mr. Cook: I assure the hon. Gentleman that he will have many opportunities in the near future to raise those issues. It would be a competent matter to raise in today's debate, and in the three-day debate we shall be holding on the emergency anti-terrorism Bill. A civil defence Bill will also have to be considered by the House. There will be plenty of opportunities for the House to explore those issues. However, I hope that none of us will encourage alarmism or public dismay. We regularly practise contingency planning, and we carry out exercises with all those involved. We shall continue to do everything we can to ensure that we are ready to respond, but sometimes it is not wise to publish the full details of that response.
The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon): I am grateful for the opportunity to set out once again the Government's position on international terrorism. It is wholly proper that I should do so again. The threat posed by Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network and our response to that threat are matters that the House should debate regularly. That we can and that we do are key differences between ourselves and the repressive regime that we are fighting in Afghanistan.
Yesterday, I returned from visiting Washington, where I had discussions with, among others, the United States Secretary for Defence, Donald Rumsfeld. We discussed the future direction of the campaign, how we can sustain its momentum and how we can strengthen the coalition.
I repeated again that the United Kingdom remains steadfast in its commitment to the campaign against international terrorism. Since 11 September, the United Kingdom has stood beside our closest ally, the United States. We will conduct this campaign together for as long as it takes. As the House is aware, many other nations stand with us and many others are making significant offers of military support.
From the outset, we have responded positively to the United States' requests for military assistance by allowing them to use the airbase at Diego Garcia, by firing our own Tomahawk cruise missiles and by providing air-to-air refuelling and reconnaissance aircraft. As my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence announced last Friday, we have significantly increased our contribution to the continuing military campaign. An amphibious task force, maritime patrol aircraft and transport aircraft have all joined the forces that we had already made available.
The United States has made no secret of how much it values our support. Donald Rumsfeld made that clear in our joint press conference on Tuesday. He repeated that the United States values our involvement in the planning and prosecution of the military campaign. It welcomes our particular expertise in a number of key capabilities and the considerable experience, talent and skill that our armed forces provide. We have long enjoyed a uniquely close relationship with the United States and the tragedy of 11 September has made that relationship closer still.
At the start of the campaign we set ourselves a number of campaign aims. Let me take this opportunity to restate them to the House. First, I shall deal with our wider campaign aimsthose that we hope to achieve in the longer term. We aim to do everything possible to eliminate the threat posed by international terrorism, to deter states from supporting, harbouring, or acting complicitly with international terrorist groups, to reintegrate Afghanistan as a responsible member of the international community and to end its self-imposed isolation.
Secondly, I shall set out again the immediate aims of the action that we are undertaking in Afghanistan. We aim to bring Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda to account. We aim to prevent Bin Laden and al-Qaeda from posing a
It is important to remind ourselves that achieving those aims, particularly the longer-term aims, will not be possible by military means alone. The campaign will be fought on many fronts and by many different means. It will be fought with diplomacy, and we have already formed a strong coalition with nations of all religions from across the world. It will be fought with financial measureswe have frozen the bank accounts of terrorist paymasters all over the world. It will be fought with humanitarian aid$700 million has already been pledged to house and feed the refugees in Pakistan. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development will say more about that later.