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Business of the House

Volume 449: debated on Wednesday 19 July 2006

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a short business statement. The business for tomorrow will now be, first, a motion to approve the Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2006. Then, in response to requests from both sides of the House, there will be a debate on international affairs on a motion for the Adjournment of the House. The debate on international development, which was due tomorrow, will now be scheduled for another date. I shall, of course, make my usual business statement tomorrow as well.

I am grateful to the Leader of the House for acceding in his statement to the request made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) and other hon. Members on both sides of the House to debate international affairs, particularly the growing problems in the middle east. Tomorrow we will have departmental questions, his normal business statement, the order that he has mentioned and, possibly, a statement by a Minister. Will he programme tomorrow’s business so that we can guarantee four hours for the international affairs debate?

I cannot formally programme the business, but we will do our best to ensure that it proceeds as quickly as possible. The order is down for a maximum of an hour and a half, but, frankly, it is not particularly controversial. Two organisations connected with Omar Bakri Mohammad are to be proscribed. The case for proscribing the first organisation, the Baluchistan Liberation Army, speaks for itself. The second organisation, the TAK, is a Turkish terrorist organisation that has admitted to carrying out terrorist outrages in Turkey. Provided that hon. Members are relatively brief, we should be able to proceed quickly.

I, too, thank the Leader of the House for providing an opportunity to debate foreign affairs, for which, as he knows, we have been asking for some time. Tomorrow’s debate will inevitably deal with the developing, and concerning, situation in the middle east. I repeat my other request in relation to foreign affairs, which is for a specific debate on Iraq. Tomorrow it will be two years to the day since the House last debated Iraq in Government time.

Tomorrow’s debate is on international affairs, so there will be every opportunity to discuss Iraq, and I have no doubt that the matter will be raised. The need to schedule a foreign affairs debate has raised an issue: it is eccentric that while some debates are programmed in Government time each year, including five debates on defence and a number of others at the request of the House, other key areas, including international development and foreign affairs, must take their chance in negotiations through the usual channels. I hope to ask the Modernisation Committee, which I chair, to re-examine how scheduled debates in Government time are organised and which subjects are debated.

Would it not be better to have a substantive debate on the situation in the middle east, rather than an Adjournment debate on international affairs? There is a widespread feeling on both sides of the House that the United Kingdom Government have abandoned their role as an honest broker and have become a client state of an American Administration who are failing to live up to their global responsibilities. A substantive debate would allow “Yo Blair” to develop some independence of mind and thought.

As ever, the hon. Gentleman makes a small error, which is that when he speaks for himself he thinks that he is speaking for the whole House. It is appropriate for such an issue to be discussed on a motion for the Adjournment, so that debate can be very wide-ranging. None the less, I am up for there being more debates in Government time on substantive motions. Indeed, there have been two in recent weeks—one on the BBC and the other on the pensions White Paper. In many circumstances, that is appropriate. I am not in the least worried, and neither is my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, about having a debate on foreign policy on a substantive motion. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to use some of his Supply day time for a debate on that, let us see it.

The great majority of Members will be extremely grateful to the Leader of the House for moving so quickly to ensure that there will be an Adjournment debate on international affairs tomorrow. Had there not been such a debate, our constituents would not have understood why we were going into recess next week without one. May I press the right hon. Gentleman a little further? If, unfortunately, terrible events develop in the middle east during the recess, which might well involve our troops, can he give the House an assurance that it will be briefly recalled to debate those matters?

The question of the recall of Parliament is kept under active review by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and by senior Ministers throughout the recess. I am not just using that as a formula. The right hon. Gentleman will know, because it is a matter of record, that the House has been recalled on three occasions in the past nine years—in 1998, 2001 and 2002. If it is necessary, and subject of course to consultation with you, Mr. Speaker, I can assure the House that it will be recalled.