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Mr. Roy Beggs (East Antrim): As we Ulster Scots would say, "There's mair than yin moose loose aboot this Hoose". I have seen a mouse in the Terrace cafeteria, in the Members' Tea Room and, indeed, in the House of Lords. Is the Leader of the House taking seriously early-day motion 1393?
[That this House is concerned at the large number of mice which currently reside in the Palace of Westminster including the dining rooms; believes that it would be fiscally prudent for the Sergeant at Arm's Department to invest in a House of Commons cat to try to tackle this problem; and calls upon the House of Commons Administration Committee to investigate this matter.]
Will the right hon. Gentleman address the problem? As a cat lover and with some experience, I know that, as the mice do not discriminate between the Lords and the Commons, the problem will have to be addressed in similar ways. Will the right hon. Gentleman accept my advice that the females of the species are much better hunters than tom cats?
Mr. Cook: I understand the concern that prompts the hon. Gentleman's question. The Chairman of the Catering Committee, with his characteristic vision and foresight, suggested some years ago that we might employ a cat in the House. I have some sympathy with the view expressed by the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) that if there was a House of Commons cat it would rapidly become spoilt and overfed and would compete with us for the use of the sofas in the Library. As the proud owner of two Scottish terriers, I might move the modest amendment that we should try a Scottish terrier.
Llew Smith (Blaenau Gwent): The Leader of the House will be aware of concerns that terrorist groups can obtain materials to produce nuclear weapons. He will also be aware that Governments of different political philosophies already have such weapons and that if they are used they would be just as catastrophic as if they had been deployed by terrorist groups. Because of the consequences of the use of nuclear weapons, can time be set aside for a debate on weapons of mass destruction?
Mr. Cook: I am not sure that I can promise the House the opportunity for a specific debate on weapons of mass destruction, although the issue frequently arises when we debate other mattersnotably, for instance, in relation to our anxiety to ensure that Saddam Hussein does not
I wholly share my hon. Friend's view as to the importance of ensuring that we guarantee that the non-proliferation regimes are as healthy and strong as possible. I also share the view that, as we have managed to secure an end to the cold war and a reduction of tension in the northern hemisphere, we may be becoming complacent about the degree of risk from nuclear weapons elsewhere. It is in the interest of us all to ensure that nuclear weapons are not used in any circumstances, whether by Governments or non-governmental bodies.
[That this House is concerned to see the name of the honourable Member for Swindon North still listed on the official 10 Downing Street website as one of eight former Government ministers who had resigned; notes that the honourable Member was reported by the media as long ago as 2nd June to have been appointed Minister for Information Technology and Criminal Justice at the Home Office, but that this appointment had still not been listed on the Home Office Ministerial Team page of the official Home Office website by l0th June; and calls upon the Prime Minister to consult with other relevant Cabinet ministers to clarify the position.]
The early-day motion concerns the status of the hon. Member for North Swindon (Mr. Wills). The Leader of the House may be aware that on 29 May the Government reshuffle announced that the Queen had accepted the resignations of eight Ministers, including the hon. Gentleman. On 2 June, however, the press reported that the hon. Gentleman had been appointed a junior Home Office Minister, yet for a full fortnight after the first announcement the official No. 10 website recorded that the hon. Gentleman had indeed resigned and that the Queen had accepted that resignation. Only yesterday, after the tabling of the early-day motion by my hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Mr. Osborne), was the official website altered. It now states that the hon. Member for North Swindon has indeed been appointed an Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department and that he is
Mr. Cook: I have to confess to the hon. Gentleman that I have not had the leisure to peruse the websites as frequently and with such diligence as he has, and I am sure that the House is grateful to him for his explanation of his experience of surfing the Home Office website. My hon. Friend the Member for North Swindon (Mr. Wills) is indeed now at the Home Office, and I understand that he will be in action next week when he presents a Home Office statutory instrument.
Dr. Stephen Ladyman (South Thanet): Greenpeace has responded to the Prime Minister's speech on science by suggesting that the application of science in the future should become some sort of popularity contest, ignoring completely the fact that, unless scientists are allowed to get on with their research, we will not have any technology to apply in the first place. When will we debate science? When will we debate the Prime Minister's speech? When will we get an opportunity also to put ideas such as creationism firmly in the file marked "crackpot"?
Mr. Cook: I am very firmly of the view that those who teach science in our schools should stick very closely to established and agreed scientific fact and that we should not confuse that process by offering our school children an alternative perspective that has no sound scientific basis. I am not sure that one can readily argue that it is good teaching if children are offered as equally valid a scientific and a non-scientific explanation, and my hon. Friends at the Department for Education and Skills have to reflect on that matter with great care.
On the central point that my hon. Friend makes, I totally agree with him on the importance of our pursuing and providing every opportunity for scientific research. None of us, sometimes including those who are involved in the research, knows what may come of it at the end of the day, and we should not prejudge it before we start.
I entirely share my hon. Friend's wish for science to be debated properly. I particularly welcome the bid for the House to debate the Prime Minister's speech; I am always happy to consider such bids favourably. Given the crowded schedule of legislation that we have to clear before the summer recess, I cannot promise that that will be possible on that timetable, but we shall certainly consider my hon. Friend's wish, which the Prime Minister will share, to consider carefully his very good speech on science policy and its importance to our nation.
Angus Robertson (Moray): I am not certain whether the Leader of the House has been able to read the excellent report, published this week by the European Scrutiny Committee, entitled "European Scrutiny in the Commons", among the conclusions of which was the concern of members of that Committee, including myself, that
Mr. Cook: I have read the Committee's recommendations. I regret to say that I have not yet had time this week to read the full argument leading up to those recommendations, but I thought that that would be a satisfying way in which to pass part of this weekend.
On the specific point that the hon. Gentleman raises, as Foreign Secretary I oversaw the agreement of the concordats between ourselves and the devolved bodies. I am very keen that we ensure that we honour not only the letter but the spirit of those agreements. By and large, relations between central Government and the devolved bodies over presentation in Brussels have worked well, and it has been a good partnership, but we shall certainly look carefully at whether there is any way of improving the distribution of documents as part of that process.