|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Cook: I must say that the proposition that there are tensions on that matter between the Prime Minister and the Chancellor seems to rest on an extremely large reading of what the Chancellor said yesterday. That was a faithful restatement of Government policy, and it has been Government policy since 1997.
The House will have opportunities to debate European policy over the next few weeks. We shall be particularly interested to learn what will be the policy of the Opposition after their defeat at the election, and whether their position on the euro will be "never" or whether they will rethink their opposition, having been defeated on their commitment to rule the euro out for only one Parliament.
Lawrie Quinn (Scarborough and Whitby): I also welcome my right hon. Friend to his post. Following a recent visit to my constituency, he knows the importance of tourism to the rural economy. Will he find time for a debate on the impact of the foot and mouth crisis on the rural economy, particularly tourism, as many people are wondering whether they will survive this season? The Government need to address the future of our rural economies, especially the problems in the tourism industry.
Mr. Cook: I fully understand that foot and mouth has had an impact not only on the agriculture industry, but on the wider rural economy, especially tourism and the leisure industry. Those matters are entirely relevant to the statement of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which follows. After all, they are matters that the Government will consider carefully. [Interruption.] Obviously the microphone is paying close attention to this exchange. That is why the Government have changed the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food into a Ministry for rural affairs and the environment. We shall take that wider perspective as we address the crisis in the rural economy.
Mr. Cook: The hon. Gentleman has expressed himself on a matter about which he obviously feels deeply, and which is of deep concern to a number of former service men. In the previous Parliament, there were a number of exchanges on this matter in the House, and I must tell him that we have no plans to hold further debates on it. However, he has available to him all the devices of the House to pursue this matter, which is clearly of real concern to him.
Geraint Davies (Croydon, Central): May I add my congratulations to my right hon. Friend on his recent appointment? In the light of President Bush's continued resistance to the Kyoto protocol, when might we have another opportunity to discuss the protocol, particularly with a view to establishing a common European stance? Will he give assurances that the environmental impact of transport will continue to be at the forefront of those debates following the departmental restructuring?
Mr. Cook: I reassure my hon. Friend that, in the decisions that the Government take, we shall continue to put great emphasis on the environmental impact of transport, as the Chancellor has already shown in successive Budgets. On the Kyoto principle, my hon. Friend will be aware that, at the Gothenburg summit, all the countries of the European Union agreed that it was important that European Union members should proceed to ratify the Kyoto protocol. It would not be right to proceed with further parliamentary processes before the forthcoming meeting on the Kyoto protocol, which I think will be held in Germany next month. However, I assure my hon. Friend that the Government are fully committed to carrying out our part of the European share of the cut in greenhouse gas emissions, which we were required to do as part of the Kyoto protocol. We have every intention of proceeding and it is very important for the next generation that we do so.
Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough): In view of the importance of programme motions to the proper scrutiny of Bills in Standing Committees, does the Leader of the House accept that they should be properly debated and voted on? Does he also accept that it would not fill the House with confidence about his reforming zeal as a new Leader of the House dedicated to improving scrutiny of the Executive if his very first act were to ensure that programme motions were not properly debated and were voted on in deferred Divisions?
Mr. Cook: The hon. Gentleman must be aware that any motion that is tabled can be voted on. He must be aware that the last report of the Modernisation Committee made observations on that matter. The matter is relevant to the motion that we shall consider next Thursday.
[That this House expresses concern at President Bush's intention to move beyond the constraints of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in developing missile defence; and endorses the unanimous conclusions of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, which recommended that the Government voice the grave doubts about NMD in the UK, questioned whether US plans to deploy NMD represent an appropriate response to the proliferation problems faced by the international community and recommended that the Government encourage the USA to explore all ways of reducing the threat it perceives.]
Does my right hon. Friend agree that, in the past, there has been a parliamentary tradition whereby major changes in defence policy have not always received the fullest parliamentary scrutiny? In the spirit of a modernising agenda designed to give greater powers of scrutiny to the House, will he find time in the very near future to arrange a debate in Government time on President Bush's proposals for national missile defence, particularly its implications for the United Kingdom's defence and foreign policy?
Mr. Cook: I have read the early-day motion. The crucial issue is the extent to which the United States can find agreement with Russia. We have urged on Washington the importance both of consulting closely with close allies and of entering into dialogue with Russia to find a strategic framework within which America can meet its real and strongly perceived perceptions of the threat to it from rogue states. It would be entirely proper for any of the Members who signed the early-day motion to raise their concerns in the debate on foreign affairs and defence to be held tomorrow.
Mr. Forth: I congratulate the Leader of the House on his recent promotion. As a Member of the House with long and distinguished service and a parliamentarian of great repute, will he give us his personal guarantee that he will always put first the interests of the House as a whole, and that he will ensure that in no way will the traditional rights of opposition and scrutiny be reduced in the interests of the Government getting their business more easily, more speedily or without proper scrutiny and accountability?
I hope that in my period in office I shall be able to provide for more effective scrutiny of Government legislation and actions by all Members of the House, whether on the Opposition or on the Government side. It is an important principle of parliamentary democracy that Governments deliver the programme on which they were elected, so I do not intend to do anything that will
Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion): In welcoming the right hon. Gentleman to his new post, may I remind him of the agonising debate that we had in the last Parliament on therapeutic cloning? After long debate and much thought, many Members on both sides of the House decided that we would vote in favour of therapeutic cloning on the basis that we would have an early Bill to outlaw human cloning for other purposes. That legislation was not mentioned in the Queen's Speech. Will we have an early debate on this matter, and will we have an opportunity to consider legislation on human cloning as it is a grey area that has not yet been outlawed in this country, and all Members agree that it has huge ethical implications?
Mr. Cook: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising this complex issue, which provokes strong feeling. He will be aware that, because of its complexity, this will not be an easy matter on which to legislate. The commitments that we have given are for a full Parliament and not just for the first year. I believe that this is an example of when draft legislation may be of value in enabling those interested in the subject to comment before the House legislates, but we shall have to explore that as the Parliament proceeds.