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Mr. Hain: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for bringing that scheme to the attention of us all. I am sure that the Government will want to consider promoting that admirable Sure Start plus-type scheme elsewhere. Sure Start schemes have been among the most successful projects introduced by the Government in seeking to address the problems and hurdles faced by vulnerable and deprived childrenespecially in single-parent familiesand by those from ethnic minorities, with whom my hon. Friend works particularly closely. I hope that the pilot scheme will serve as a model for elsewhere.
Ian Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the great successes of this Government is their policy of introducing draft legislationand that its increased use in recent times might have avoided some of the little local difficulties that have occurred? What plans does my right hon. Friend have to take forward further draft legislation? Why is it that all Bills cannot be introduced initially in draft?
Mr. Hain: Some Billsthose relating to Northern Ireland being a classic examplearise urgently and have to be dealt with quickly. My right hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) was a pioneerand we are indebted to himin taking Bills forward on a pre-legislative basis. My hon. Friend is absolutely right in saying that draft Bills can be scrutinised, improved and amended. We are introducing 13 draft Billsthe highest number in the history of the House of Commons. I am sure that each of those 13 measures will be improved and that as a result, greater consent will be obtained and the views of Back-Bench Labour Members especially can be heard more than they have been in the recent past.
Mr. Adrian Flook (Taunton) (Con): The Leader of the House will be aware that the Highways Agency has published its technical report on the relative merits of dualling either the A358 or the A303 in Somerset. Given the sensitivity attached to the dualling of any road, particularly in an area of outstanding natural beauty, does the Leader of the House agree that there should be a debate on dualling roads?
Mr. Hain: I am not intimately acquainted with the dualling of the roads concerned, but I understand the importance of that matter to the hon. Gentleman, other local Members of Parliament, and their constituents. I
Paul Flynn (Newport, West) (Lab): When can the House debate the tragic consequences of the use of seroxat? We know now that the manufacturers of that drug suppressed research findings. One of the awful consequences of seroxat, proved in court cases in America and in cases in this country, is that it so modifies the behaviour of its users that in a number of instances they have taken their own lives and those of their families. This is a clear case of manufacturers putting greed before safety.
Mr. Hain: There is widespread debate about the status and role of seroxat. My hon. Friend vigilantly scrutinises all such drugs and I am sure that the Secretary of State for Health will examine closely my hon. Friend's remarks.
Mr. Roy Beggs (East Antrim) (UUP): Has the Leader of the House had the opportunity to read the exclusive article headed "Dirty Tricks" in yesterday's Evening Standard? It appears that an attempt is being made to hype up a row over Northern Ireland's participation in the Olympic games. Will the right hon. Gentleman make time as soon as possible for the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to come to the House to give a reassurance that in the event of a successful Olympic bid by London, all regions of the United Kingdom will have the opportunity to share the benefitsand that Northern Ireland's opportunities will not be sabotaged by some Irish attempt to restrict Northern Ireland's participation?
Mr. Hain: As Secretary of State for Wales and a Member of Parliament representing a Welsh constituency, I agree with the hon. Gentleman. I am pleased that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport made it clear, when she announced the Olympic bid, that all regions of the United Kingdom would have the opportunity to take advantage of the opportunitiesand that should apply to Northern Ireland as much as to Wales or anywhere else. After all, Northern Ireland has produced some fantastic athletesmost notably, Mary Peters.
Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab): The new sitting hours have made it more difficult for visitors from constituencies such as mine, in the west midlands. What discussions, if any, has my right hon. Friend had with the House authorities about establishing a reception centre for visitors, to improve the facilities available to them?
Mr. Hain: I am very much a champion of visitors to the House. When I was first elected nearly 13 years ago, I was absolutely appalled at the shabby way in which we used to treat visitorsand to some extent still do. Visitors, other than foreigners, elect us and they should be welcome here. This is their House of Commons and their Parliament. For that precise reason, I was discussing the other day with the Chairman of the Administration Committee how reception facilities for
Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk) (Con): Did the Leader of the House hear the Secretary of State for Defence speaking on the "Today" programme this morning? He talked about battlefield nuclear weapons and strategic systems and said that he had not seen headlines in The Sun and Evening Standard that appeared at the time. Is there not a case for a debate on the competence of Government press officers and an argument for discussing whether or not there should be a return to old-fashioned independent Government press officersrather than the hacks from Millbank who now advise Ministers?
Mr. Hain: That is a weapon of mass distraction from the hon. Gentleman. The Defence Secretary presumably answered questions on that matter in the Select Committee this morning. For the life of me, I have no idea how anybody can get uptight about a busy Secretary of State such as my right hon. Friend not remembering which newspaper he read nearly 18 months ago.
Mr. David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op): Will my right hon. Friend consider an urgent debate on the administration process and, in particular, the role of the administrator? A company in my constituency that is well known to certain people, Lister-Petter, has just been through the administration process. It appears that the administrator has chosen to favour some creditors at the cost of employees, the pension fund and other creditors. Is that matter not worthy of an urgent debate and some change in accountability?
Mr. Hain: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry will want to consider that carefully. My hon. Friend will have a chance to raise it at Question Time next week, but it certainly needs consideration.
Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): Will the Leader of the House be a lot more forthcoming about the Penrose report on Equitable Life? He will know, as we all do, that many of our constituents are very concerned. Will he give an undertaking that the report will be issued in full, unedited and unexpurgated, that it will be issued very soon, andjust as importantthat there will be a full debate on the Floor of the House on Penrose and everything relating to Equitable Life, so that our constituents can be satisfied that everything is being done to get at the truth? That applies not least to the issue of compensation, if it arises as a result of the inquiries into Equitable Life.
Mr. Hain: I agree that this is a crucial issue. Having been in Government himself, the right hon. Gentleman will understand that we must get this rightit is a complex matter, especially if the question of compensation arisesand I am sure he understands
Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield) (Lab): Has my right hon. Friend had a chance to look at a report published today by the International Development Committee on development assistance in the occupied Palestinian territories? It reveals levels of poverty in some parts of the occupied territories that are equivalent to those in sub-Saharan Africa, and mentions the particularly severe humanitarian impact of the wall being constructed by Israel. There are 176 signatures, from Members in all parts of the House, to early-day motion 407.
[That this House calls on Israel to cease immediately the building of its Separation Wall deep within Palestinian territory, which, according to the preliminary analysis by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs of maps published by the Israeli Government, will be 687 km long and will leave more than 274,000 Palestinians living in 122 villages and towns either surrounded by the Wall or trapped between the Wall and Israel's internationally recognised borders, some even requiring permits from Israel to continue living in their own homes; notes that the analysis estimates that a further 400,000 Palestinians living east of the Wall will be separated from their farms, jobs, markets, hospitals and schools, and that the Wall will have 'severe humanitarian consequences' for 30 per cent, of the entire Palestinian population of the West Bank; contrasts this with the fact that UN figures reveal that 54 Israeli settlements in the West Bank and 63 per cent, of settlers will be on the side of the wall next to Israel, giving Israel control over the richest agricultural land and the aquifer system which provides much of the West Bank's water resources; further notes that the Wall is made up of concrete, razor wire and electronic fences, trenches, motion sensors, guard towers and security roads, that it costs $4.7 million per kilometre and that it violates articles 53 and 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Britain is a high-contracting party, which forbids the destruction of property and confinement of persons by an occupier; welcomes the decision of the International Court of Justice to open hearings into the legal consequences of the construction of the Wall; further notes that, whilst Israel needs security, the Wall does not follow internationally recognised borders; insists that it does not become a de facto border for a future Palestinian state; further notes that only a reinvigorated peace process with full international support will stop the violence on both sides, not an 8 metre high wall; and calls on the British Government to bring all available pressure to bear on Israel to cease building this Wall].
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the time has come for a debate on the Select Committee's recommendations, and also on what we in this country should do about the position in the occupied territories, not just what we should say?