Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:37 am on 15th March 2007.

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Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Chair, Modernisation of the House of Commons Committee, Leader of the House of Commons and Lord Privy Seal 11:37 am, 15th March 2007

Let me just deal with those points in turn.

The right hon. Lady makes a serious point about whether Ministers answering parliamentary questions should at least meet the standards set by the Freedom of Information Act. I cannot comment on the specific case that she raises because I do not know the circumstances of it. However, it is certainly the case that Ministers all strive to ensure that, at the very minimum, they are at least as forthcoming with the House in respect of the answers that they give as they would be required to be by the Freedom of Information Act. I will ensure that that is maintained. The matter is being discussed by the Procedure Committee, which is examining written questions.

The right hon. Lady asks me about Morgan Tsvangirai. I entirely share the utter horror of all decent people throughout the world at the way in which the thugs of Robert Mugabe have sought to use the truncheon, rather than debate, to determine the future of that once-wonderful country, which has collapsed into the worst situation of almost any African country that one can think of, because of the total mismanagement of Robert Mugabe. What I said two weeks ago is correct; I promise that the only issue is finding a date on which Foreign Office Ministers can be present for the debate, because they have travel plans—I know that it sounds slightly lame, but it happens to be true. I am sorry that we have not been able to find time, but we will continue to work on that.

Thirdly, the right hon. Lady referred to our debate yesterday. I should just say that it was actually my noble Friend Lord Kinnock who resolved the issue of nuclear disarmament for us, and there was much relief that he did so before my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister took over. It is true that the issue of nuclear disarmament and nuclear weapons has always been difficult for the Labour party. I take one view on the subject and some of my colleagues take another, but I do not think that a party should be criticised for agonising over what is unquestionably not just a defence and security issue but, in many people's eyes, an issue of conscience and morality. I draw to the right hon. Lady's attention the fact that although the numbers involved were slightly smaller, some rather senior people in the Conservative party rebelled against their party Whip, including Mr. Ancram.