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Dr. Reid: I have some sympathy with the point that my hon. Friend makes, largely because my father was a sortera PHG, or postman higher grade, to be precise. I take the view that some of those things would have been better left unchanged. Nevertheless, the Government have made the commitment that we will allow the Post Office maximum freedom for its operational business. While I regret that, we have to stand by the decision.
Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk): I support the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale, West (Mr. Brady), because the Rhodesian police pension of my constituent, Reg Vincent, is now worth nothing. May I ask the Leader of the House to consider the recent visit of the Catholic Bishop of Bulawayo, Pius Ncube? When he visited the United States, he met Mr. Secretary Colin Powell; when he came to this country the other day, he was first stood up for a meeting by Baroness Amos and then ended up meeting Liz Lloyd from the No. 10 policy unit. Surely that says a lot about the Government's attitude to Zimbabwe.
Judy Mallaber (Amber Valley): Has my right hon. Friend been given notice of a statement to be made next week on a consultation document on domestic violence? When draft legislation is produced, will it be subject to pre-legislative scrutiny by a Joint Committee?
Dr. Reid: As the matter my hon. Friend has raised is still under discussion, I cannot specify a day next week. That in no way diminishes the importance of a subject which, as my hon. Friend knows, has been at the centre of a great deal of what the Government have done over the past few years. I am not in a position to reveal any detailed scrutiny plans that we have, but last year's modernisation plans committed us to increasing the number of Bills that are subjected to pre-legislative scrutiny. I think there were four during the last Session, and that number will be increased considerably in the next Session.
Mr. Roger Gale (North Thanet): The modernised sitting hours have effectively meant that on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays only London Members' constituents can arrive at the House in time for a tour before sittings begin. I am sure that you, Mr. Speaker, will be concerned to know that tours to take place on Mondays, the only days on which the House does not sit in the morning, are now being booked six months ahead. Many Members appear to be taking advantage of their ability to book tours far in advance to secure bookings for constituentsparticularly those from London, oddly enough. That means that many Members no longer have an opportunity to invite their constituents to visit the House.
First, will the Leader of the House investigate this? Secondly, will he consider applying the same sort of allocation scheme that is applied to tickets for Prime Minister's Question Time? Thirdly, will he come back to the House and allow us to revisit the whole issue?
Dr. Reid: I will act on the hon. Gentleman's first two requests. I am not aware of the details, but I will investigate the matter and, perhaps, write to the hon. Gentleman. As for his third, general point, I am well aware of the strong feelings that exist on all sides. I am also aware that when a change like this takes place it gives rise to a number of practical difficulties, in relation to Select Committeessome Committee Chairmen have brought those difficulties to my attentionand in relation to the visits mentioned by the hon. Gentleman. We should first consider whether the difficulties are insurmountable, or cannot be surmounted without considerable inconvenience. Then, after a reasonable amount of timeI do not think it can be done in the near futurewe should establish whether, in view of the difficulties, the House has changed its mind.
[That this House is deeply concerned by recent reports of the arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi by the Burmese Military Junta in Rangoon; and calls on the Government to lead the international community in redoubling its efforts to stop the Burmese regime's human rights abuses, to do more to assist Burmese refugees and to seek the immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi],
The motions, signed by 259 Members from all parts of the House and all parts of the United Kingdom, express concern about the taking into protective custody of Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma. I know that our right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has invited the Burmese ambassador to the Foreign Office, and we in the all-party Burma group are trying to arrange a visit to the ambassador to express parliamentarians' concerns.
Given the atrocious record of the military junta in Burma, the extensive cultivation of drugs to raise finance and the continued presence of British companies such as BAT in Burma, will my right hon. Friend either arrange an emergency debate or arrange for the Foreign Secretary to make a statement on a matter that is of grave concern to many Members?
Dr. Reid: I agree with my hon. Friend's sentiments, which I will not repeat because he expressed them as eloquently as I could have done. We do condemn those grave offences. The Government are very sympathetic to early-day motion 1296; we fully support the call for the immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi, and condemn the continuing human rights abuses in Burma. We seek every opportunity to draw attention to those abuses, not least during foreign affairs debates and Foreign Office questions, which took place yesterday. My hon. Friend has taken the opportunity to raise the issue again today, and I will encourage others to do so on every possible occasion.
Pete Wishart (North Tayside): May we have an early debate about the House's role in the ill-fated Scottish Parliament Holyrood building project? As the right hon. Gentleman knows, it was this House that signed the contract, it was this House that chose the wrong site, it was this House that commissioned the architect and chose the design, and it was this House that established an open-ended project with no cost-control management whatever. May we have a debate to find out why those decisions were made, and who is ultimately responsible for this shambles?
On any other occasion, the hon. Gentleman would be quite properly telling us to keep our nose out of the Scottish Parliament's affairs. The whole point of devolution is passing down the ability to make decisions, and I thought that the hon. Gentleman supported that. It seems that he supports it only when no one has to take any responsibility for their own actions. That is not in the Scottish national character: we face up to our own problems.
Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham): May I return the Leader of the House to a remark that he made about 10 days ago, to the effect that there was an element in the security services seeking to undermine the elected Government? Assuming that the remark was made in good faith, and assuming that there was evidence to support it, it is a very serious allegation. It amounts to saying that this elected Government were being suborned by unelected officials. That being so, may we have an early debate so that the right hon. Gentleman can tell the House what his evidence was and we can discuss what we should do about it?
Dr. Reid: I am sorry that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was not present for last week's business questions, when we dealt with this matter in some depth. I have nothing to add to what was said then, other than to correct, yet again, the right hon. and learned Gentleman's misapprehension, and the misrepresentation he is making, that I alleged that the security services were undermining the Government. What I alleged was that one or two individuals were undermining their own leadership and the intelligence and security services themselves. In other words, I was defending the security services against the calumnies that were being spread and the impugning of their own propriety with the suggestion that they were involved in acts of deception. I was on the side of the intelligence and security services; it was not the other way around.