The Leader said that, on Monday, December 4, the House would debate remaining stages of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill (Gerry Sutcliffe for the Government). On Tuesday, December 5, Opposition Day (1st Allotted Day), there would be a debate entitled "Government Failures on Public Health" (Government speaker tba), followed by a debate entitled, "Failure of Government Transport Strategy and Mounting Capacity Crisis on British Roads and Railways" (Douglas Alexander and Stephen Ladyman). Both debates would arise on an Opposition motion.
The Leader confirmed, as he had told the House earlier, that there would be a Commons statement on the White Paper on Monday, December 4. Asked to expand on the nature of the consultation on the policy, Mr Straw recalled the history of the previous discussions on the nuclear deterrent before the last three general elections. The Government had stated very clearly then that it intended to maintain the independent deterrent. It had not been an issue at the 2005 election.
Asked about comments by Kendall Myers, the Leader said he understood that the State Department had described him as an academic. He was entitled to his views, but he believed that his comments on Churchill were misplaced.
House of Lords reform
Asked about the latest progress, the Leader said that the Joint Committee on Conventions had just reported. Ministers were now at the point of internal agreement on a Government response to that report, and hoped to publish it before Christmas. The plan then was for a debate on it, initially, in the House of Lords. Part of the decision would be to agree a Message to the Commons of what they thought about the report, on which the Commons would then come to an agreement.
The Leader was asked about a Guardian report that he was intending to "ram through" changes to the arrangements. He said he did not agree that was an accurate description of the report. The factual position was that Government awaited the report by Sir Hayden Phillips. He hoped it would be possible to reach a consensus with the other parties, as he had been able to achieve when he previously held responsibility for party funding as Home Secretary. It remained to be seen whether the co-operation which he then secured would be forthcoming. Asked about the timing of Sir Hayden's report, he said he had no precise information on whether it would be either side of Christmas.
Trident and White Paper
Asked if the white paper, published on Monday, would be a consensus of the Cabinet view, the PMOS said yes it would be; the Defence Secretary and Foreign Secretary have been speaking to Cabinet colleagues in detail and initial discussions about the decision have been made already.
Asked what his reaction to the Times story regarding the official from the US saying that UK and US relations were one sided, the PMOS said that much more importantly was that the State Department described the individual as an academic, not a representative of the State Department.
Asked how concerned was the Prime Minister about the contaminated British Airways flights, the PMOS said, as he'd said before, this was a police investigation, it will be allowed to proceed as a police investigation. The Prime Minister had said there will be no diplomatic or political barrier to that police investigation. In terms of public health, as the Health Protection Agency have said, the risk to the pubic is low, but we will continue to be transparent with the public about what is found, the risk assessment on that, but at the same time we will give the police the time and the space to carry out their investigation. Asked in more general terms if the Prime Minister was concerned about the risk of a terrorist attack using polonium, the PMOS said it would be best to avoid any speculation until more facts were known.
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