Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:31 pm on 12th July 2001.

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Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Shadow Leader of the House of Commons 12:31 pm, 12th July 2001

I thank the Leader of the House for that information. We welcome the opportunity to debate the Select Committee nominations on Monday. Will he confirm that there will be a free vote for Labour Members on both the Front and Back Benches? The business motion tabled today in respect of the debate seeks to finish the deliberations at 7 o'clock on Monday, so if a statement is made, we will be left with only two and a half hours to debate this important matter. The House will appreciate that the Opposition are very interested in these procedures. I do not expect him to commit himself now, but will he agree to be flexible in terms of that particular business motion if a statement is made? Obviously, we all look forward to hearing from Donald Anderson and Mrs. Dunwoody. I hope that the curtailment of time will not preclude hon. Members on either side of the House from contributing to such an important debate.

Yesterday, along with colleagues on the Opposition Benches, I voted against the draft special educational needs code of practice because it was flawed and did not recognise the individual and specific needs of children. I am pleased to see that the Government withdrew the code later in the day. Will the Leader of the House outline how the Government will now proceed with the code, particularly as we are coming not only to the parliamentary recess but to the long summer holidays in the educational world? Parents, teachers and Members of Parliament would be anxious if the Government were to publish their changes to the code during the summer weeks when there is no proper opportunity to scrutinise them. How do the Government intend to proceed with this matter?

Earlier this week, the press reported that there are to be significant changes in the Cabinet Office in respect of the way in which the Government deal with national crises. Apparently, as a result of the way they handled the fuel crisis last year and the foot and mouth crisis this year, there are to be changes in the way COBRA—the Cabinet Committee that deals with crises—is run. When the Deputy Prime Minister returns to these shores, could he be asked to come to the House before we rise for the summer recess so that we might all be apprised of the Government's thinking on the way in which national crises are dealt with?

Finally—I am sure that I do not need to ask this question—will the Leader of the House reassure us that the Prime Minister will be available in the coming week to make a statement to the House on the talks on Northern Ireland?