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Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) (Lab): In view of the continuing fighting in Fallujah and Najaf and the death last night of American servicemen, as well as the death of a large number of Iraqi civilians over the past few days and weeks, and the very serious statement made by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, calling for a political rather than a military solution, will the Leader of the House ensure that we have a statement from either the Prime Minister or the Foreign Secretary at the earliest possible opportunity, and a full debate on the whole desperate situation in Iraq, where we are increasingly seeing the Vietnamisation of a war that the Americans simply cannot win? We need a political solution brought about by the international community, with the Iraqi people.
Mr. Hain: Like my hon. Friend, no doubt, I marched against the Vietnam war. I see absolutely no comparison with the situation in Iraqon the contrary. It is a very difficult situation, with terrorist groups and others seeking to destabilise the operations of the coalition forces. I agree, however, that a political solution is needed, and that is precisely what the Government are backing, with power due to be handed over to the interim Iraqi governing council in June, as part of creating a free and democratic Iraq and solving the political problem that existed for a generation under Saddam Hussein's undemocratic dictatorship.
Mr. Andrew Stunell (Hazel Grove) (LD):
I thank the Leader of the House for his hint that there will indeed be two days for the Pensions Bill. May I encourage him to change that hint to a firm promise? I draw his attention to the publication of two recent written statements by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, one on sustainable development and the other on energy efficiency, with the latter running to 116 pages and incorporating a 16 per cent. reduction in the
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Government's CO 2 emissions policy targets. Does he agree that it is not really satisfactory for the Secretary of State to have made only one statement to the House on environmental matters since the general election, and will he ask her to put in a rather more diligent performance?
We welcome the statements that have been made, but is it not time for the House to have a proper debate on Iraq, where we appear to be in a descending spiral of more disorder, more troops, more casualties, and, according to senior diplomats, no plan B? Will the Leader of the House assure us that we will have an opportunity to debate the Government's strategy on Iraq thoroughly in the near future?
Mr. Hain: Iraq is debated at the highest level in the House almost daily, and certainly weekly. Only last week, the Prime Minister made a statement to the House on Iraq, and the hon. Gentleman and others were able to question him. Despite the difficulties and the attempts being made to destabilise Iraq and prevent it from going down the democratic path favoured by the Government, we will get through in the end.
The hon. Gentleman's point on energy efficiency is an important one, but I disagree fundamentally with his allegation about the Secretary of State, who is widely admired throughout the world for her leadership on environmental issues and on tackling climate change and rising CO 2 emissions. She has done more than any other Environment Minister in the world to drive forward that agenda, and she should be praised for that, not criticised.
David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): Has the Leader of the House seen early-day motion 1059, tabled by the hon. Member for Colchester (Bob Russell) and signed by many other Members, on international noise awareness day?
[That this House places on record its appreciation to the UK Noise Association, a coalition of key organisations lobbying on different aspects of noise, for the work it undertakes in seeking to tackle the increasing nuisances and problems caused by unnecessary noise, particularly by anti-social neighbours; is alarmed that Britain's cities are up to 10 times noisier than a decade ago and that tranquil areas in the countryside are fast disappearing; is further alarmed that 32 million people in the UK are exposed to high levels of noise and that an estimated 2.5 million live in homes with bad sound insulation; notes that 28th April is the ninth international noise awareness day; congratulates the UK Noise Association for supporting the event and assisting honourable and Right honourable Members in the formation of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Noise Reduction in Society; and calls on the Government to introduce further measures to make the country a quieter place.]
International noise awareness day was yesterday. The early-day motion draws attention to the work of the UK Noise Association and the fact that 32 million people in this country are now subjected to excessive levels of
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noise, with 2.5 million homes having either no or very little noise insulation. Tranquil areas of Britain have virtually disappeared. When my right hon. Friend is making bids for the Queen's Speechfewer than six months away, and I believe that the process is under way nowwill he ensure that appropriate legislation is entered in the pipeline? Our Government have been quiet about noise for far too long.
Mr. Hain: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his noisy question. He raises an important issue for all Members of Parliament. We all know that our constituents are increasingly worried about the problem and I am sure that the Secretary of State will want carefully and closely to consider the points that my hon. Friend made. We are implementing an EU directive requiring compliance with noise maps and the production of action plans to manage noise from the transport industry in particular. We are also tackling night noise through antisocial behaviour legislation. We are on the case, but I am sure that my hon. Friend will make any additional points to the Secretary of State.
Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire) (Con): On the same issue of noise and antisocial behaviour, when can we have a debate on the report of the Procedure Committee on Sessional Orders, which would allow the House to deal with the unsightly cacophony on Parliament Square? Does the Leader of the House recall telling me last November that that problem would have to be dealt with sooner rather than later; and does he recall telling my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton) a month ago that there would shortly be some good news on the matter? Does he also remember that, the last time I raised the matter with him, you, Mr. Speaker, also expressed interest in the debate?
Mr. Hain: I think that pretty well all the points that the right hon. Gentleman made in those questions are true. We are on the case, but I am sure that, with his long parliamentary and governmental experience, he will appreciate that it is not a straightforward matter. We are examining whether existing procedures and measures can be utilised more efficiently. That, rather than relying on potentially time-consuming legislation, is my preferred course. We will see how it goes and I hope to report back to the right hon. Gentleman when I can.
Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): As my right hon. Friend will know, the enlargement of the European Union will take place on Saturday 1 May. Will he arrange an urgent debate next week so that the House can examine the benefits of enlargement? That is particularly important in view of the scare stories that Conservative Members have put about over the last three monthsfor example, that millions of people will be getting on easyJet flights from Warsaw and Prague. We need to argue that that will not materialise on Saturday. Will he also arrange, through the Secretary of State for Transport, for the Leader of the Opposition to go to Luton airport to find out whether that actually happens?
It would be valuable for the Leader of the Opposition to do so, because he was in power as Home
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Secretary when the accession treaty was signed and these measures first started on their road. As regards my hon. Friend's wider point, we heard the same scare stories when Greece, Portugal and Spain joined the European Union. They were all poor countries
Mr. Hain: As my hon. Friend reminds me, Ireland as well. Exactly the same scaremongering took place then. We have put measures in place to stop any abuses of the benefits system. Enlargement will take place, and I assume that both sides of the House support the enlargement of the EU as an important reunification of Europe, which will create greater stability, greater prosperity and protect our environmental standards.
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