Business of the House

– in the House of Commons at 3:30 pm on 10th October 2005.

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Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon Lord Privy Seal 3:30 pm, 10th October 2005

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement about changes to the business of the House for this week. Before doing so, I should like to pay tribute to former distinguished Members of the House and Government who died during the summer recess.

It is perhaps fitting that I should pay particular tribute to a former Leader of the House, Robin Cook. I assume that he would have regarded his time as Foreign Secretary as the pinnacle of his ministerial career, but history will certainly remember him as a modernising Leader of the House of Commons, who carried through wide-ranging reforms to the way in which we go about our parliamentary business.

Mo Mowlam was held in great affection both here in the House and throughout the country, above all because of her simple and straightforward honesty in dealing with the people whom she met, whether the President of the United States or the chef whom she went out of her way to thank during a visit organised by the Ministry of Defence.

The business for Thursday 13 October will now be a motion to approve the Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2005, followed by a debate on combating benefit fraud on a motion for the Adjournment of the House. I can also announce that the Opposition day debates on Wednesday 12 October will relate to the regionalisation of emergency services and to climate change.

Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

I join the Leader of the House in paying tribute to both Mo Mowlam and Robin Cook. I remember arriving as a young, new Member five years ago when Robin Cook was one of the towering giants on the Government Benches. He was a distinguished holder of the office of Leader of the House. I think that even the present Leader of the House would admit that he would be a hard act for any future one to follow. He will be much missed in the House. Mo Mowlam, a distinguished figure for many years who made a major contribution to the Government, will also be missed by people on both sides of the House.

I am grateful to the Leader of the House for the update on the business. Thursday's business relates to terrorism issues. It is only a statutory instrument and, given all the press reports in the last few weeks, we are clearly waiting for the full set of proposals from the Government, so can he give us any indication as to when we can expect those?

Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Shadow Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

I join in the tributes paid to Mo Mowlam and Robin Cook, both of whom not only made enormously distinguished contributions to the work of the House and to Government, but also established firm personal friendships with Members on both sides of the House and maintained great respect throughout their time in the House and beyond.

Will the Leader of the House confirm that, on Thursday, we will debate a single order, dealing with, I think, 15 different organisations, that is incapable of amendment? Will he reflect on the fact that that does not allow for proper and separate consideration of the different organisations involved on their merits, which might be appropriate in this case? I thank him for the fact that the order and the explanatory memorandum are now available in the Vote Office and for the clear notes that are provided explaining the significance of each of the organisations mentioned.

Given that the notes indicate that, as far as we are aware, many of the organisations have no actual membership within the United Kingdom, and therefore we are largely dealing with association or perhaps financial movements, will any subsequent orders be required under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002? Would it not be appropriate to bring those forward at an early stage, given that, if the Home Secretary feels that there is a proper threat, it is right that the House should consider them at the earliest opportunity?

Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon Lord Privy Seal

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making it clear that the draft order is available in the Vote Office, which allows hon. Members to see the details for themselves. At this stage, I do not want to be drawn into a debate about the draft order's contents and I am sure that hon. Members will take full advantage of the normal arrangements for debating a statutory instrument, when they have the opportunity to do so.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin Labour, Sunderland South

My right hon. Friend will recall that a two-week September sitting to put an end to the nonsense of the 80-day summer recess was one of the wide-ranging reforms introduced by our late colleague, Robin Cook. Now that the nice new screen has been fitted, will he assure the House that the September sittings agreed by Robin Cook will continue in the next parliamentary year?

Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon Lord Privy Seal

My right hon. Friend has been assiduous in asking that question—it was the last question he asked before the recess, so it is entirely appropriate that it is the first thereafter. I am relieved to see the screen in place, because my reply to his earlier question made it clear that the length of this year's summer recess was due to its fitting. It is important that we discuss and debate the parliamentary timetable, which the Modernisation Committee will do on Wednesday.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham

In endorsing the Leader of the House's gracious tributes to departed colleagues, may I say that Robin Cook, whom I was privileged to know, was an outstanding parliamentarian whose presence enriched this House, which has been greatly impoverished by his passing? Given that anti-terrorism legislation is of the highest importance in establishing the balance between security and freedom, and that it is desirable to try to command as much consensus as possible between the parties, does the Leader of the House accept that it makes a great deal of sense to debate all stages of the Bill on the Floor of the House?

Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon Lord Privy Seal

That question does not strictly concern this week's business, but I shall answer it in the spirit in which it was asked. I am sure that the usual channels will consider the hon. Gentleman's point in due course.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

May we have an opportunity for an urgent discussion this week on the recent European Court of Justice case that increases criminal law jurisdiction by the European Union against the wishes of the Government, whom I support on that issue?

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. The statement is very restricted, and the right hon. Gentleman is discussing the business of the House.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Conservative, Ribble Valley

We will debate issues relating to terrorism on Thursday. The Leader of the House knows that incidents about which hon. Members may want to ask questions have occurred in this country during the 81 days that we have been off. Will he reflect on opportunities for hon. Members to table written questions during the recess?

Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon Lord Privy Seal

As I have said, the Modernisation Committee will consider a paper on the organisation of the parliamentary year and I take the hon. Gentleman's suggestion as a contribution to that discussion.

Photo of Andrew MacKay Andrew MacKay Deputy Chairman (Candidates), Conservative Party

Further to the question asked by Mr. Mullin, the Leader of the House will recall the final business statement in July, when, in response to my question, he agreed to a fresh debate and a fresh vote on whether to sit in September. I assume that that promise still stands.

Photo of Geoff Hoon Geoff Hoon Lord Privy Seal

I certainly recall offering a debate, but I cannot recall offering a vote.