|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Following the conviction of the killer of little Sarah Payne yesterday, will the Leader promise us an urgent statement on what the Government propose to do to give all possible reassurance to parents throughout the country that everything will be done to ensure that something as horrible as this cannot and will not happen again? I believe that it is very important that we make an urgent response to the events leading up to this ghastly incident.
I pointed out that the motion refers only to Members. That is important. Will the Members who are allowed on to the premises be asked to sign the same form as staff? I assume that their staff will not be allowed in because, mercifully, the motion does not cover them. Will the Members be required to fill in the form, which we have always regarded as important for our security? It asks:
Have you ever been a member of, or supported a group or groups involved in any of the above activities?
Have you ever had a close association with anyone who, to your knowledge, has been a member of or given active support to any such group or activities?"
On the appalling murder of Sarah Payne and the trial that has just concluded with a conviction, I assure the right hon. Gentleman and the House that the Government already have several measures in hand to increase protection for vulnerable young children. We are introducing restraining orders and sex offender orders, which restrict the activities of known sex offenders. We are conducting a review of sentencing, which pays special attention to the risks posed by sexual and violent offenders. We are also expanding places on treatment programmes in prisons. We have introduced the possibility of extended post-release supervision for sex offenders, and are requiring the police and the probation services to work together to establish better arrangements for assessing sex offenders who have been released. I assure the House that we shall continue to do everything possible to protect young children. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will keep hon. Members informed of further developments.
Let me deal with the questions that the right hon. Gentleman asked about Tuesday's debate. It is a House of Commons matter and there will not be a Whip on this side. [Hon. Members: "Nor a payroll vote?"] Nor will the debate be time limited; it does not qualify for a specific limit under Standing Orders and it will therefore be open ended. Like any other motion of the House, it is wholly amendable. Conservative Members can table any amendments that they wish. As the debate commences at 3.30 pm, Divisions cannot be deferred, and we would not wish to have a deferred vote on the matter. We want a full and open debate on whatever amendments the right hon. Gentleman cares to table, and to hold a vote at the end of it.
I remind the right hon. Gentleman that we are dealing with a matter that dates only from 1997, when Speaker Boothroyd made her statement to the House. She withdrew from Sinn Fein Members access to areas within the parliamentary precincts. They had access without passes until then. They also had access to some 20 different services and facilities of the House.
The situation in Northern Ireland has changed since 1997. We have had the Good Friday agreement, and seen the election of the Northern Ireland Assembly. We have also seen the first ever verifiable act of decommissioning in the history of Northern Ireland and, only yesterday, the Northern Ireland Policing Board, including its Sinn Fein members, agreed on a new crest for the police, which includes a stylised version of the crown.
There have been enormous changes in Northern Ireland, and I do not see a case for this place remaining frozen in the position that it took in 1997, before all those events took place. One of the four Members currently barred from these premises is now a Minister in the Northern Ireland Executive. If he can be Education Minister for a part of the United Kingdom, why on earth can he not have access to the Vote Office, the Library or the travel office in the House of Commons?
Members in most quarters of the House support the peace process. If we really want to see peace in Northern Ireland, we surely ought to take this one modest step forward towards normalising the politics of Northern Ireland.
Mr. Kevin Hughes (Doncaster, North): Many hon. Members on both sides of the House have been eagerly awaiting the publication of the performance and innovation unit's energy review. Today's New Scientist claims to have a leaked copy of it. Now that the document is in the public domain, will the Leader of the House ensure that Members can have a copy of the report, and ask the appropriate Minister to come to the House and make a statement on it? Finally, does my right hon. Friend agree that anyone who has been married to Lady Thatcher for 50 years deserves a medal as big as a dustbin lid?
As to the energy review, I have no idea whether the document that the New Scientist has is the right document. In my experience, leaks are often inaccurate. I told the House at the start of the review that I wanted to ensure that hon. Members were informed when it was complete, and that commitment remains.
Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall): We welcome the publication of the Leader of the House's discussion paper on the modernisation of the House. Will he give us some indication of his timetable for consultation on it, as all Members are obviously extremely interested in these matters? Even if it is not within the time scale of the business that he announces this afternoon, will he tell us when he expects there to be a debate in the House on the matter?
In that connection, will the right hon. Gentleman give an undertaking that he will look carefully at the way in which the proposals that he has so properly set out in this discussion paper apply to our recent discussions on the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill? We take very seriously his statement that good security makes for good government. Is he satisfied that that has happened on this occasion? Given the Home Secretary's overheated threats last weekend, will the Leader of the House tell us whether every part of the Bill is essential to prevent and deter terrorist attacks over the Christmas holiday period? For example, does he really think that part 5 of the Bill, which relates to race and religion, must be on the statute book to deter and prevent terrorist attacks? What other parts of the Bill are essential for that purpose?
Mr. Cook: On the modernisation paper, I have requested the Clerk of the Modernisation Committee to mail a copy of my memorandum to all hon. Members, with a covering letter inviting comments and views on the proposals, preferably in writing, by 31 January. If we are going to take forward this modernisation package, it is important that we do so in a way that reflects the views of as many hon. Members among whom it is possible to get agreement as possible.
I stress that the objective of the package is to secure a more effective House of Commons. It is not about making life easy for Members of Parliament, and I do not imagine that any Member came to this place expecting an easy life. They did, however, expect the opportunity to do an effective job, and that is what we are seeking to secure.