HC Deb 11 February 2002 vol 380 cc21-2 3.31 pm
The President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Robin Cook)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a short statement about the business for Wednesday 13 February. The first item of business will now be a motion to approve the fifth report of the Committee on Standards and Privileges. It will be followed by a debate on the appointment of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, and by the remaining stages of the British Overseas Territories Bill [Lords.]

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst)

I thank the Leader of the House for his announcement. I am sure that the House is pleased that the report of the Committee on Standards and Privileges is being dealt with promptly: that must be in the interests of all concerned. I also think it appropriate for us to deal with the question of the new Commissioner for Standards as promptly and expeditiously as possible.

Mr. Cook

I am grateful for the right hon. Gentleman's support. My statement has been issued on the first sitting day after the report's publication, and I think it is in everyone's interest for us to move promptly and to be seen to do so.

Mr. Andrew Stunell (Hazel Grove)

May I add the support of the Liberal Democrats? We think it right for progress to be made quickly, and we welcome the statement.

Mr. Cook

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's support.

Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion)

I welcome the opportunity to debate these matters on Wednesday. Will the Leader of the House confirm that we shall also have an opportunity, when debating the behaviour of the former Minister for Europe, to discuss his dealings with the Romanian-British action group, the result of which so far appears to be the loss of 6,000 jobs in this country's steel industry and the donation of £125,000 to the Labour party?

Mr. Cook

I cannot see any possible connection between the purchase of a steel company in Romania and the loss of jobs in the steel industry in Wales.

I appointed the ambassador who drafted that letter. He is an excellent diplomat, and it was entirely right and proper of him to invite the Prime Minister of Britain to congratulate the Romanian Government on their decision. We should understand that, for the Romanian Government, that step towards breaking up a centrally planned economy was major and historic, and very important if Romania is to succeed as a member of the European Union.

Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby)

Given the Prime Minister's statements of unswerving support before the general election last year, will the Leader of the House arrange for him to be present at the debate on the report of the Standards and Privileges Committee so that he too can judge whether his actions and statements were wise?

Mr. Cook

I am sure that that point will be made ad tedium during Wednesday's debate, and that plenty of my colleagues will be here to defend the Prime Minister.