HC Deb 17 March 2003 vol 401 cc724-5 9.40 pm
The Parliamentary Secretary, Privy Council Office (Mr. Ben Bradshaw)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a short statement about the business for tomorrow.

There will now be a debate on Iraq on a Government motion. The business for the remainder of the week will remain unchanged and there will be the usual statement on Thursday.

May I say how sorry I am that my right hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) is not making this statement? I hope that the whole House will join me in paying tribute to the outstanding contribution that he made as Leader of the House.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst)

May I echo the Minister's words about the right hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook)?

I very much welcome the statement. It is right that we debate the matter tomorrow. Will the Minister confirm, however, that the debate will start at 12.30 pm and continue until 10 o'clock, when the votes will be held?

Mr. Bradshaw

Yes, I can confirm that.

Mr. Andrew Stunell (Hazel Grove)

May I add our words to those of the Minister and the shadow Leader of the House in support of the work carried out by the right hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) in his role as Leader of the House?

I remind the Minister that the Foreign Secretary—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Hon. Members must let the hon. Gentleman speak.

Mr. Stunell

The Foreign Secretary told the House just a few moments ago that there was a tendency for nations that have voted on 1441 to change their interpretation of it.

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is a business statement. The time for the hon. Gentleman to raise that issue has passed. Perhaps he will catch my eye tomorrow.

Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion)

May I associate Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National party with the Minister's comments on the former Leader of the House?

Tomorrow's vote will be desperately important and many of us will want to oppose the Government. Although they are not legally bound to pay attention to the vote, will the Minister give an undertaking—an assurance—that the Government will be honour bound to pay attention to it? If so, every Member's vote will count, and it will therefore be a real vote on whether we should go to war or not. Will he also give an undertaking that if the vote goes against the Government, they will not go to war?

Mr. Bradshaw

The Government have bent over backwards to honour their commitments to the House and I am confident that they will do so again tomorrow by giving the House an unprecedented opportunity to express its will.

Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell)

Will the Minister tell the House whether the Prime Minister will lead the debate tomorrow and how much time he will spend in the Chamber?

Mr. Bradshaw

Yes, the Prime Minister will lead the debate tomorrow. I do not know how much time he will spend in the Chamber, but I suspect that it will be a lot.

Mr. Speaker

I have a statement that may help the House.

The Secretary of State invited me in the course of his statement to specify a time by which amendments to the Government's motion on Iraq must be submitted. Members who want their amendment to appear on the Order Paper tomorrow morning must, of course, table it before the House rises tonight, but I will consider for selection any amendment that is submitted in good order before 10 am tomorrow.

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