Asked if the police had been in touch, the PMS said she had no further information than what had been said at the briefing that morning. The lobby gasped and the PMS said she was not sure that her answer had warranted a sharp intake of breath.
The Leader said that, following the constituency week recess next week, the next Business would be on Monday, February 19 - Motions relating to Benefits Up-rating (James Purnell for the Government), followed by a debate on Human Rights: Values, Rights and Responsibilities on a motion for the Adjournment of the House (Vera Baird). On Tuesday, February 20, the House would debate remaining stages of the Planning Gain Supplement (Preparations) Bill (John Healey and Mark Francois), followed by remaining stages of the Income Tax Bill (same Ministers). For the remainder of the week: Wednesday, February 21 - Opposition Day (6th Allotted Day), debate on a subject to be announced; Thursday, February 22 - Motion to approve the Draft Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 (Continuance in force of section 1 to 9) Order 2007 (Tony McNulty), followed by a debate entitled "Health Challenge England: New Directions for Public Health" on a motion for the Adjournment of the House; Friday, February 23 - Private Members Bills.
The Leader was asked how and when the Order would be handled in the House, and the manner in which Parliament would express its view. He said that, as far as he was aware, discussions were continuing.
House of Lords Reform
The Leader, responding to a question, said that there would be the opportunity for debating the issue during the four-day debate on the forthcoming Budget. He could not indicate the date of the Chancellor's statement.
Muslim concerns-terrorism powers
The Leader, referring to his comments earlier, he said he wholly rejected the assertion that Britain was "a police state". He pointed out that nearly 30pc of his constituents were Muslim, and the vast majority wanted to live like everyone else. They were concerned about the obvious stereo-typing from which they had to suffer. They were also angry about criminal terrorists who darkened the name of Islam and the way in which their religion, which was a fine one, was linked unacceptably (as they believed) into the issue.
Asked if the Prime Minister would be making an announcement on paedophiles, the PMOS replied that the Prime Minister would announce that in the coming months we would introduce a new power for police to enter and search a registered sex offender's home for the purpose of assessing the risk they posed to the community.
Health Service Reconfiguration
Asked if Patricia Hewitt had raised the issue of Cabinet Ministers campaigning against reconfiguration in their own constituencies, the PMOS replied that the issue was not raised. We did need to differentiate between two things. Where there was a local consultation process going on, it was perfectly legitimate for MPs and Ministers to make their views known as local representatives of the community. However it became different when decisions were taken following that consultation and decisions were announced. But we were not yet at this stage.
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