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Mr. Winterton: The Chancellor has emphasised the importance of business costs, so will he tell British business that the cost of entry to the euro is likely to be some £33 billion? How does he equate that with his desire to keep business costs down and this country's ability to take decisions to contain inflation?
Mr. Brown: Precisely because of issues that are raised by the hon. Gentleman and others, it makes good economic sense to assess those matters in an appropriate way. That is why we have set five economic tests: the effects on investment, on financial services, on employment and on the flexibility of the economy and whether there is sustainable convergence. All the issues that he raises can be dealt with as we examine those five assessments.
The hon. Gentleman's problem is that, if he thinks that the matter should be dealt with by a prudent examination of the five tests, he will support leaving the issue open and not ruling it out on principle. However, at one and the same time, some Conservative Members say that we must look at the issue as a matter of detail and others say that they will never join, on principle.
I understand that the hon. Gentleman is a member of Conservatives Against a Federal Europe. "John Major"--[Hon. Members: "The right hon. Member for Huntingdon."] Conservative Members do not like hearing their own policy. I think that the House would like to know what they subscribe to. "John Major", it says--[Interruption.] This is very interesting--
The House will wish to know that on Wednesday 17 January, there will be a debate relating to sport in European Standing Committee 'C'. Details of the relevant documents will be given in the Official Report.
Mrs. Browning: I thank the Leader of the House for giving us the business for next week. I wish to make two comments about it. First, the Second Reading of the Vehicles (Crime) Bill is scheduled for Monday whereas the Second Reading of the Hunting Bill will be on Wednesday. That will cause a great deal of inconvenience to Members who had hoped to attend the House to hear the Hunting Bill debated on Monday. I hope that the right hon. Lady has not changed the order in which the Bills will be debated simply to pray in aid the fact that the Government have put the issue of law and order before that of hunting.
Secondly, I have said several times before that it would not have been acceptable for the House to have debated embryology and then had a deferred vote. I thank the right hon. Lady for ensuring that the debate will be held at a time when Members can cast their votes following the debate on the subject. Conservative Members will have a free vote on the subject, and I am sure that she will confirm that Labour Members will have a free vote, too. It is a matter of conscience, and individual Members should cast their vote as they think fit.
Despite the fact that we are near the end of term, an important matter has occurred this morning and it merits the House's attention. Will the Leader of the House consider whether we should have a debate on the matter shortly? I am referring to this morning's Home Office press release announcing the names of the electoral commissioners. That was a surprise because on 6 December my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) tabled a written question asking when commissioners were to be appointed. The answer given by the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department yesterday at column 181W gave no hint of the names or when they would be released. Surely that should be corrected and the House should have a chance to discuss the matter because it is relevant to the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Bill, which was guillotined in the last week of the previous Session, so restricting the opportunity for hon. Members to address that issue.
Why will the House have to wait until mid-January before the electoral commissioners are appointed, as the Home Office press release states? Surely we could debate that in the coming week and have them in place for the new year. Will the Leader of the House consider that because it is important and needs to be addressed? Will that decision not further complicate the implementation of the Bill's main provisions on donations and expenditure on 16 February if the matter is not dealt with until January next year? I hope that the Leader of the House will share my concern about the way in which the business has been handled and the disrespect it shows to Members of the House for announcements to be made without providing a written answer or an opportunity for us to discuss it.
Mrs. Beckett: First, I can certainly assure the hon. Lady that we moved the debate on the Vehicles (Crime) Bill because we wanted to change the order of business; the decision had no relevance to the issue of what might come first. Looking back as, sadly, Opposition Members rarely do, to their last Queen's Speech in the 1996
The hon. Lady also asked whether the Labour party was committed to a free vote on embryology. I am pleased to hear that her party is to have a free vote, although I would have anticipated that. However, I remind her that when the Donaldson report was published on 16 August, the Government said that they would lay regulations to give effect to its recommendations so that they could be followed through, and those regulations would be laid before the House so that it could reach its decision on the basis of a free vote. There is no question that it will be anything other than a completely free vote.
As for the Home Office press release, I am afraid that I am not familiar with precisely what was said or why, and, to be perfectly honest, I am not entirely sure of the hon. Lady's point. However, the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 has been extensively discussed. People are aware of the issues that arise from it. I understand that the House is interested in who the commissioners may be, but I am not aware of a suggestion that we should debate those appointments. Indeed, successive Governments have not thought that there should be accountability, other than through Ministers, for appointments that are made through the proper public appointment process.