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Ms Julia Drown (South Swindon): It has been reported that at next Monday's World Bank meeting, the US will block proposals to increase the voice and voting power of African countries there, whereas two weeks ago we thought there was the political will to achieve those proposals. Given the strong support in the House for Africa, and given that the Government have said that they want to support Africa in that way, could we urgently debate how we might influence US policy on the matter? If a debate is not possible, will my right hon. Friend get the message to Ministers that Members want them to do everything they can to achieve a positive outcome for Africa on Monday?
Peter Hain: As a son of Africa, though a British subject by birth, I obviously share my hon. Friend's desire to see a good deal for Africa. The Government have made that a priority to be achieved through the New Partnership for Africa's Development programme, which will bring enormous opportunities and resources to Africa in exchange for reform. I shall draw urgently to the attention of the Secretary of State for International Development the points that my hon. Friend makes.
Mr. Roger Gale (North Thanet): In reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), the Leader of the House chided the Opposition for seeking a referendum on the European constitution without knowing its contents. The Government, of course, have refused such a referendum on precisely the same terms. A few moments later, the right hon. Gentleman referred to the European constitution and the change that it would bring about. Is it a constitution and is it a constitutional change? If so, why do not the same rules apply to that constitution as apply to the euro and the agreement that the last Conservative Government reached to hold a referendum on it?
Peter Hain: The only Government who have ever held a referendum on Europe is a Labour Government in 1975. The only Government who will hold a referendum on the euro if the circumstances are right to join is a Labour Government. We have a proud record of referendums on Europe and we need no lessons from Conservatives, who have never supported referendums until they opportunistically see the chance to press seriously for the withdrawal of Britain from the European Union, which the shadow Leader of the House supports. That is their objective. As for the
Mr. Brian Jenkins (Tamworth): Will my right hon. Friend find time for a short debate, if not next week then before the recess, on the relationship between Parliament, Government and the media, to allow us to underline the political neutrality of the self-monitoring, publicly funded BBC?
Peter Hain: I understand my hon. Friend's concern. The director of communications at No. 10 spent some time on the matter before the Select Committee yesterday. There is a real issue for the political classthose of us at Westminster and the media, who together occupy a political bubble around Westminster in which messages are transmitted between us which bear little resemblance to what the public outside understand. There is a serious problem about the public's engagement with Westminster politics and the barriers put up around it by the political class to which we all belong. That is the issue that has to be addressed, in addition to the one raised by my hon. Friend.
Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield): May I pay personal tribute to Sir Nicolas Bevan for his outstanding service to the House over many years and his unfailing courtesy and friendship, which I have greatly valued?
Following up the question from my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young), I make a plea to the Leader of the House. If a Bill goes from Standing Committee back to the House on Report without many of the important clauses and new clauses being debated, if the Government table new clauses for the remaining stages of the Bill, and if it is an important BillI shall not name one, for obvious reasonsis it not obligatory for the Government to provide adequate time, which is more than one day, for the remaining stages? On behalf of the House I make a fervent plea to the Leader of the House to ensure that the House does its job properly.
Peter Hain: I understand the points that the hon. Gentleman raises, from his position of expertise and authority and speaking as he does on behalf of the Procedure Committee. The outcomes of pre-programmingbefore the procedures that the Government enacted for orderly businesswere not guaranteed either. If we could reach a better understanding with the Opposition on how to manage time sensibly, that would be a different matter.
Mr. David Chaytor (Bury, North): My right hon. Friend will know that on Tuesday the Government published the draft Bill on the nuclear decommissioning authority, which proposes spending £50 billion on cleaning up old nuclear power stations. He may also know that on Tuesday evening the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled against the Government by giving Ireland the right to be fully consulted on future decisions about Sellafield. Given that the high costs of reprocessing were a factor in the insolvency of British Energy, and that British Nuclear Fuels is about to announce a £1 billion loss on its accounts for the last financial year, is it not time that we
Peter Hain: My hon. Friend brings to us a very welcome expertise and interest in this area for which I think the whole House is grateful. I urge him to continue to display that interest and take it forward. Of course, there will be opportunities for him to raise the matter in future, but I am grateful that he has done so now.
Mrs. Angela Browning (Tiverton and Honiton): Instead of cross-cutting questions in Westminster Hall, please could we have a three-hour session here with the Prime Minister on cutting, cross questionsvery cross questionsso that he can explain some of his recent statements? They include the suggestion that officials never give evidence to Select Committees and his previous assertion that there was no constitutional basis to the euro, when he now says that there is such a basis. We could also ask a question that I and many others have asked him in seeking to find out when he knew about the dodgy documentbut he has clearly failed to answer. There are many more cross questions for this particular Prime Minister.
Peter Hain: That was a very cross question, if I may say so. The hon. Lady knows full well that the issue of the documents about Iraq was discussed in great detail yesterday in the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, and it will be discussed again in future. The Prime Minister is due to appear before the Joint Committee in the meeting that he has agreed to. The hon. Lady gave the impression that the Prime Minister was not willing to answer questionshe does so weekly in the House and he has given more statements in recent times than probably any Prime Minister in living memory.
The Prime Minister has also made himself available to the House to be questioned by Chairmen of Select Committees, in an unprecedented fashion. He is more accountable to the House than any Prime Minister in living memory, and we are proud that that is the case.
Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford): I refer my right hon. Friend to the answer that he gave to the hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr. Thomas). The consultation was indeed postponed for three months, but the period of consultation on GM does not cover the whole period in which there are results to be released by the Government on this subject. Given that President Bush has made the outrageous comment that the very sensible EU moratorium on genetically modified organisms is the cause of famine in Africa, surely it is time that this House debated these critical issues, whether there should be commercialisation of GM crops in this country, and whether such crops have any relevance at all to starvation in Africa.
David Burnside (South Antrim): May I add my condolences to those given to Lady Thatcher on the loss of Sir Denis? All hon. Members will have our little memories of Sir Denis. I remember that, when the doors were being closed at a British Airways reception in Blackpool about 10 years ago, Sir Denis came along with his minder and declared, "I do not know what reception I am at, but for God's sake give me a gin and tonic." He was acting as the loyal consort on behalf of the lady when she was up late writing her speech. There are some very fond memories of Sir Denis.
Earlier this week, half of the Ulster Unionist parliamentary party resigned the Whip because our party does not oppose the joint declaration from the British and Irish Governments. That requires two pieces of legislation, I believe, that have to be introduced into the House to allow for the possibility of an October election. One of them is the legislation relating to the new sanctions proposals. We object to it, but it must pass through the House in regard to the sanctions for those involved in a future Northern Ireland Executive being involved in non-democratic procedures. The second is legislation to allow a virtual amnesty for on-the-run terrorists and criminals out of Northern Ireland. Will the Leader of the House give the House some guidance? With only three weeks left before the summer recess and only two sitting weeks in September, when will those two pieces of legislation be introduced?