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Mr. Cook: I fully understand the anxiety that prompts my hon. Friend's question. The Cantle report drew attention to the serious problems that can arise in schools that have one single race or culture among their pupils. It is precisely for that reason that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Skills has urged all faith schools to include children from other communities, cultures and faiths. My right hon. Friend will put that position forward when we debate the Bill.
Mr. Nigel Dodds (Belfast, North): I seek further clarification from the Leader of the House in relation to the disgraceful motion that is to come before the House next Tuesday. In view of the fact that IRA-Sinn Fein youth were involved in serious violence against military installations in South Armagh at the weekend, supported and condoned by the leadership of Sinn Fein-IRA; of the murder of a man in South Armagh by republicans earlier this week; and of the fact that, as everyone knows, Martin McGuinness is chief of staff of the IRA, is it not appalling that the Government should come forward with the motion at this time, especially in view of the recent comment by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland that Northern Ireland was becoming a cold house for Unionists? Is this not more evidence of that fact? Is it not appalling that at a time when the House is debating and considering stronger measures to combat terrorism, the Government should consider putting forward measures to allow IRA-Sinn Fein and terrorist front men into this House and this precinct?
Mr. Cook: I gently put it to the hon. Gentleman that his party has participated in over 2,000 committee meetings with Sinn Fein members present. Unionists sit on the Executive of the Northern Ireland Assembly with
David Winnick (Walsall, North): Does my right hon. Friend recall how, during the 30 years of IRA terror, time and again all the parties represented in the House of Commons urged the IRA to drop the terror and adopt politics? Would it not therefore be right for office accommodation to be provided, possibly as a first step to Sinn Fein Members of Parliament taking their seats, bearing in mind the fact that, whether we like it or not, they were elected as Members of Parliament no less than ourselves? [Interruption.]
Mr. Cook: The last point that was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (David Winnick) is valid. Some 200,000 people took part in the elections of those four Members. Whether or not they voted for those Members, they are entitled to have their constituency interests adequately represented and looked after. I see no reason why we should deny those 200,000 electors Members who can have access to the precincts and to the House's facilities.
On the other point, my hon. Friend is correct. We have sought over the years to engage Sinn Fein and the IRA in the political process. We cannot now draw up the drawbridge and say that they cannot have a part in these political facilities.
Peter Bottomley (Worthing, West): The Leader of the House might at some stage explain what use of the House was made by the people elected for Sinn Fein before 1997. To my recollection, they came here only for publicity and to provoke public reaction.
The right hon. Gentleman said that the 18 signatures it had attracted were not impressive. The number has now doubled to 36. Does he need it to double again to 72 before he will allow hon. Members to demonstrate to our constituents that we understand how they feel about the matter? The Prime Minister said that it was a matter for the House, so will the Leader of the House give us the opportunity to vote on a motion of confidence in the present Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and to invite her to accept reappointment on the present terms?
Mr. Cook: I predicted last Thursday that after I had drawn attention to the fact that the early-day motion had only 18 signatures, the hon. Gentleman would be able to attract more. I congratulate him on his efforts since then, but I stand by the point that I madethat the number of
Dr. Stephen Ladyman (South Thanet): I was disappointed to discover that we will not have a debate next week on my right hon. Friend's plans for modernisation of the House, which would have given us the opportunity to lavish on him the praise that is his due for an excellent first step. It would also have given us the opportunity to add a few ideas. I offer my right hon. Friend the suggestion that it is nonsensical that when Ministers make statements to the House, we are not allowed to have the documents supporting those statements until the Minister has finished. If we could collect the relevant documents on an embargoed basis before the statement, we could ask informed questions instead of engaging in the knockabout that we have at the moment.
Mr. Cook: I hear what my hon. Friend says and we will consider what might be done on that matter. On the wider issue of the modernisation package, I remind the House that we are at the start of the process. We issued yesterday the proposals for a programme of work, not the outcome of that programme. My hon. Friend offers tempting reasons why we should have an earlier debate, but the best time for the House to debate the matter is when the Modernisation Committee puts firm recommendations to the House. In the meantime, we would welcome the contribution of any hon. Member who wishes to comment on the consultation document.
Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough): When the Leader of the House prepares his introduction to the motion next Tuesday, on access to the House of Commons, will he consider whether it is appropriate for the public to elect two sorts of Member of Parliamentthose who are prepared to accept the constitution, take the Oath and use the facilities of the House and the Chamber in the way we all do, and those who are not prepared to accept the constitution and who have spent much of their lives campaigning to bring it down? Is it right that under our constitution we should have two sorts of Member of Parliament?
Mr. Cook: As I understand it, the hon. and learned Gentleman and his party would wish to make the distinction between the two sorts even greater than I propose. They would keep anyone elected who does not take the Oath out of even the precincts[Hon. Members: "Hear, hear!"] I am grateful for such ready confirmation of my interpretation of what the hon. and learned Gentleman says. If the Conservatives want to make the gulf even larger than I propose, it does not lie with them to complain about two tiers.
Mr. Cook: I fully understand my hon. Friend's concern and it is widely shared on both sides of the House. I am confident that opportunities for discussion will arise in the future, but I remind my hon. Friend that we introduced an Act of Parliament to confer greater commercial freedom on Consignia and the Post Office. The decisions that have to be taken are not for Ministers, but for the management. I hope that the management in making those decisions will work with, and fully consult, the work force.
Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan): Yesterday, the Leader of the House published proposals to make the House more meaningful. Many of them are useful and constructive, but how do they square with his refusal to allow a debate on the fate of the existing Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards? How can the House hold the Executive to account if it cannot debate its own procedures? The right hon. Gentleman said that we could have a debate on the next commissioner. Does he mean that a debate could be held after that person has been selected by the House of Commons Commission? Would it not be invidious to have a debate when a person has been appointed, and for the hon. Member for Worthing, West (Peter Bottomley) to move his motion then? How many hon. Members have to sign early-day motion 513 before the Leader of the House does his democratic duty and allows a debate on the existing Commissioner for Standards?