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Mr. David Drew (Stroud): Will my right hon. Friend consider holding a debate on relations with our colleagues in the European Parliament? He will be aware that another investigation into foot and mouth is going on, held by the European Parliament. Bizarrely, Members of the House are being contacted through the individual offices of MEPs and the investigation has been accompanied by various Conservative party press releases, which do not give us a lot of faith in its being independent. The witness sessions also seem to leave a lot to be desired.
Is it not about time that we understood that if an investigation is being held by another Parliament but in this country, there are certain rules by which it should abide so that we have genuine independence rather than the charade that seems to be taking place?
Mr. Andrew MacKay (Bracknell): Is the Leader of the House aware of the widespread public concern following the Quintin Hann case this week about the conduct of rape trials and consequent publicity in the newspapers and elsewhere? Would it not be appropriate for a Minister to come here next week and give an initial view on whether we can amend the law to ensure that defendants remain anonymous until their cases are over and they are found guilty?
I do not think anyone would want the balance to be redressed by a removal of victims' anonymity, which is an important consideration. Whether all the press would welcome an extension of that anonymity to defendants is a matter of judgment, but I imagine some newspapers would express concern.
The matter should of course be kept under review. We shall be examining the law on sexual offences and sexual offenders in the coming days, and the hon. Gentleman may wish to pursue it in that context.
Dr. Stephen Ladyman (South Thanet): I accept that this may have to take place after the recess, but could we have a debate on selective education? My right hon. Friend may know from press reports that I had to commission a study on the performance and structure of secondary education in Kent, which is a purely selective county, when the county refused to do so. It shows some incredibly worrying trends. For instance, a far higher proportion of grammar schools are exhibiting falling standards than we thought, and there is a polarisation of education in the county that is clearly detrimental to pupils. When will we have an opportunity to make clear in the House the fact that selection is a Victorian strategy for education which has no part in the current century?
Mr. Cook: I congratulate my hon. Friend on his energy and initiative. I understand that the study showed good results in some state schools which are not necessarily being matched in the selective system.
This is a matter to be pursued at local level, and I commend my hon. Friend on the way in which he has stimulated the process. I remain proud that I taught in a comprehensive and that my children went to one, and I believe they have served our nation very well.
Sue Doughty (Guildford): As the Leader of the House will know, the world summit on sustainable development will take place in under two months, in August and September. During debates, we have regularly asked the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to come to the House and make a statement, especially following the negotiations in Bali that constituted the final preparatory committee meeting. Those negotiations seem to have ended in failure, particularly in relation to agricultural subsidies. Will the Leader of the House make every effort to persuade his right hon. Friend to make a statement before the end of the Session?
Mr. Cook: I fully understand the hon. Lady's concern about the forthcoming summit, and the great importance attached to it. Let me say in fairness to the Government that we have made it clear that we want it to be a success, and have taken a number of initiatives with the aim of ensuring that it addresses real issues and has a real outcome.
Since Bali we have had a further discussion in Brazil attended by my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister, who has had discussions with both South Africa, the forthcoming host, and Brazil, which hosted the last summit in Rio de Janeiro 10 years ago. I understand from my right hon. Friend that the talks made good progress, and I hope we are now on course for a successful summit and outcome. We will keep the House posted.
Mr. Cook: I congratulate my hon. Friend on having raised that issue. It has always been a mystery to me that, although accidents in the transport industry are tragic and very grave for those involved and make mega-headlines, our press and political system do not give the same attention to the steady and, over the year, much higher toll of accidents at work. The Health and Safety Executive is an important bulwark against that trend getting worse.
We are indeed carrying out a review of the machinery of Government in order to ascertain what is the best ministerial home for the HSE. In particular, we are keen to ensure that there is close collaboration between it and the Department for Work and Pensions, to secure the best possible help for the victims of injuries at work. I assure my hon. Friend that the outcome will guarantee very real ministerial commitment on what is an extremely important issue.
Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham): Yesterday, the Prime Minister called for an early debate on the euro. When will the Leader of the House accede to that wise and excellent request, and when will the Government tell the House their preferred entry rate of the pound against the euro?
Mr. Cook: Even as I rise, I can see television screens all over the City of London switching on to our exchanges. The right hon. Gentleman has been here long enough to know that we never comment on currency movements. When the Prime Minister requests a debate, I shall be happy to arrange it.
Mr. Tony McWalter (Hemel Hempstead): Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is disappointing that the Modernisation Committee will not be able to report in time to obviate the problems faced by all hon. Members because of the 82-day recess, which means that many of the issues that we want to raise on behalf of constituents who approach us when we are working in our constituencies during September will not be dealt with on the Floor of the House? Will he seriously consider whether it is sensible to have such an enormously long time during which we are unable to bring to the attention of the House matters of serious concern?
Mr. Roy Beggs (East Antrim): I welcome the decision of the Leader of the House to include a debate on the intelligence agencies in next week's business. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland came to the House in March, four months ago, to answer a private notice question on the break-in at Castlereagh police station. At that time, it was rumoured that one or more of the intelligence agencies had played a part in it, but since then suspicion has shifted to the Provisional IRA. Will the Leader of the House make time available for the Secretary of State to come back to the House before the summer recess and tell us whether it was indeed the Provisional IRA that was behind the break-in, and if so, what action he intends to take against its political representatives in the Northern Ireland Executive?
Mr. Cook: The hon. Gentleman will be aware that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be answering questions next Wednesday, and I am sure that that matter will arise then. Obviously, a police and security service investigation has to be dealt with with care and confidentiality, so I cannot advise on the extent to which he will be able to answer the question.