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Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West): As the Leader of the House may be aware, Dovecotes primary school in Pendeford in my constituency is this year one of the 20 most improved primary schools in the country. I am sure that he will agree that the hard-working staff, head teacher, pupils and parents of Dovecotes primary school deserve the House's warm congratulations on their magnificent achievement. Does he also agree that the latest statistics are a welcome step towards a more sophisticated analysis of work and achievement in our education system, and represent a move away from the simplistic raw tables of bare results? Will he find time for the Secretary of State for Education and Skills to make a statement to the House next week on the achievements of so many schools around the country, including Dovecotes?

Mr. Cook: I congratulate my hon. Friend on having a primary school in his constituency that is in the top 20 in Britain. That must be a source of satisfaction to him as a Member of Parliament, and a source of pride to his constituents and to the head teacher.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): May we have a statement from the Secretary of State for Defence on what has been dubbed "operation homework", in which the Ministry of Defence supplied information to one Master

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Euan Blair on the arguments in favour of the nuclear deterrent? If the Secretary of State has more important things to do, may Conservative Members, in the spirit of Christmas, offer free tuition to Euan on the merits of nuclear deterrence? We would be quite happy to teach him about that subject now, just as we had to teach his father about it 15 or 20 years ago.

Mr. Cook: I expressed admiration for the hon. Gentleman at the last business statement, and he subsequently rebuked me for undermining his status and street cred among hon. Members on his own side. This week, for balance, I must tell him that I cannot think of anything more sad than those who have lives so empty that they worry about such trivia.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South): The Leader of the House will be aware of the concern throughout the House about the continuing use of the Barnett formula. Would it be possible to have a debate on that in the near future? In the context of Northern Ireland, while we appreciate the extra money that has been coming forth at different levels throughout the nation, we are concerned that, according to the Executive in Northern Ireland, the health service there will get worse if we continue to use that formula.

Mr. Cook: The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we are providing substantial additional resources for the health service for the whole of the United Kingdom, and that embraces Northern Ireland. I assure him that I follow closely the Barnett formula, and we shall ensure that it applies in a way that reflects the principles behind it, and the changing population statistics, which undoubtedly have a legitimate impact on the arithmetic involved. Our wish is to ensure that health standards across the whole of the United Kingdom are raised, whatever an area's allocation may be under the Barnett formula.

Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells): May I press the Leader of the House a little more about the European arrest warrant? He helpfully said earlier that this would not be agreed before the European Standing Committee had reconvened on Monday. However, in yesterday's debate on the European Union, the Minister for Europe said:


That conflicts with a motion passed by the House on 17 November 1998, which clearly states:


political agreement before the scrutiny process is completed. Will the Leader of the House give an absolute assurance that the letter of this resolution of the Commons will be adhered to in full, particularly as Ministers are always boasting that the House is to become more involved in European Union matters?

Mr. Cook: I have already given an undertaking to the House, on the authority of the Home Office, that that matter will not be agreed to until we have had our debate in Standing Committee on Monday, because it will be resolved at the Laeken summit, not at the Justice and

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Home Affairs Council, although it has been discussed there. The right hon. Gentleman is well aware of that fact and that there is broad agreement that there should be a Europe-wide arrest warrant so that we can expedite and make more efficient our own action against terrorists who pose a common threat to each of us. That has been well reported and extensively debated in the House, but the technical steps to put the matter into effect will not be agreed to until after Monday.

Mr. Andrew Mitchell (Sutton Coldfield): Has the Leader of the House had a chance during his busy week to read the report of the excellent debate in the other place on clause 110 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Bill? In the work that the Modernisation Committee is doing, will he bear in mind that that clause, which will have a fundamental effect on British criminal law, was not even discussed under the terms of the guillotine in this House? Will he ensure that that never happens again?

Mr. Cook: Following 11 September, I very much hope that the House does not find itself in such a position ever again. This is emergency legislation. It is important to show our constituents that we can scrutinise legislation adequately and thoroughly, and that we can act expeditiously when that is necessary for the safety of our constituents. That is why we want the Bill to become an Act before the end of the year. Three months after 11 September, the hon. Gentleman's constituents would find it odd if the House of Commons had not provided a legislative response to that danger to ensure that they are safer.

Mr. Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight): Right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House have expressed concern at the way in which the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards undertook her duties. Equally, other right hon. and hon. Members have expressed their support for her reappointment. In answer to the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond), the Leader of the House said that the matter has been ventilated widely in the press and in this place. That is true of the press, but not very true of this place, and most of us have no information apart from that which we can gather either from the press or from our colleagues.

Would not it help the House to publish in full the allegations made by the parliamentary commissioner and the reasons for the House of Commons Commission choosing to readvertise the post rather than reappoint her, so that we can have a debate based on fact, not backstairs rumour and gossip?

Mr. Cook: I have some sympathy with the hon. Gentleman's closing point. Mrs. Filkin made general observations that excited much comment in the press, but when she was interviewed on radio yesterday and asked to provide chapter and verse for the allegations, I was struck by the fact that she produced none and said that she was referring to stories told to her by journalists.

I welcome the statement made yesterday by the Speaker and I look forward to Mrs. Filkin's response detailing the allegations that she has made. I say to the hon. Gentleman that I and the other members of the House of Commons Commission are not clear about what she may have been alluding to in those allegations. Having made them, I hope that she provides detail to the House, the Commission and

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the press, because it is not fair to the civil service generally to refer to a named civil servant and then decline to name that civil servant.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield): Macclesfield borough council's housing officers have approached me on a serious matter that is developing as a result of the reference point rent system, which relates to housing benefit allocation. Where housing rents are high, it appears that the system does not enable sufficient housing benefit to be awarded to allow poorer people to retain their accommodation. Will the Leader of the House arrange for the appropriate Minister to make a statement so that the House may refer to the problem, which is occurring in an increasing number of constituencies?

Mr. Cook: It is indeed of serious concern to many. There is a real dilemma for all of us: we want to ensure that people can occupy the accommodation that they require irrespective of their income, but we do not want to return to past circumstances in which landlords have felt free to exploit the housing benefit system by charging unreasonable rents. A balance must be struck. I shall, however, invite my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions to write to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West): When the Prime Minister was questioned about Mrs. Filkin yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, he replied that that was a matter for the House. Will the Leader of the House grant the House a debate so that it can express its opinion? Such a debate would give us an opportunity to express the feeling of many of us that this is a job not for a civil servant or, indeed, a self-publicist, but for a judge.


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