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Is my right hon. Friend aware that my constituents in Orsett will naturally be disappointed with that response, as they would have taken the opportunity to show the Prime Minister the green fields that will be built on if Tillingham Hall is allowed to go ahead in the green belt of Essex? Realising that my right hon. Friend is unable to comment on We detail of the outstanding appeal which has been to public inquiry, will he re-emphasise that it is general Government policy not to allow development in the green belt, except in exceptional circumstances?
I thank my hon. Friend for his understanding of the fact that I cannot comment on something that is subject to appeal. I assure him that it is general Government policy to seek the preservation of the green belt. That must be at the heart of any constructive and socially constructive environmental policy.
Is the Leader of the House not concerned about the increasing lawlessness of his Government, to such an extent that they have constantly had to introduce retrospective legislation to get themselves off the hook? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the latest example of that is that the Home Secretary, who has now received—
Has my right hon. Friend seen a report which finds that the number of individual shareholders in the United Kingdom has risen to no less than 16 per cent. of the population, which is the same figure as in Japan and only 3 per cent. less than in the United States? Does my right hon. Friend agree that there will he a continuing welcome for the Government's policies of privatisation and wider share ownership, which serve not only to increase the nation's wealth, but to underpin independence and dignity?
I agree with my hon. Friend's points. The personal equity plan? Which was announced in this year's Budget, is just one further example of the attempt to develop people's capitalism. I am certain that that will be at the heart of the election appeal which we shall put in the most effective form and in such a way as to console my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mr. Galley).
This morning when the Secretary of State for Energy made such a ringing declaration of the Government's devotion to nuclear power and its future in Britain's energy production, was he speaking for the Government as a whole? Do the Government show any concern for the enormous public anxiety about the safety of nuclear power in the aftermath of Chernobyl?
Of course my right hon. Friend was speaking on behalf of the Government. This Administration need no instruction on the necessity for safety in the development of a nuclear programme. Before anyone casts aspersions, express or otherwise, on the quality of work in our nuclear industry, and what it has already achieved in terms of safety, let it be understood that it will be a poor day for this country when its energy choice is capriciously narrowed to deliver it more and more into the hands of the interest groups which would otherwise serve it.
Order. I think that I know what is upsetting the right hon. Member. I ask him to put the point of order to me, and I shall ascertain whether I can deal with it.
My point of order, Sir, is that, if the Leader of House wishes to associate with our policy, surely—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—he should do so directly and not abuse Question Time when answering a question on supplementary benefit and the 9 million people who are living below the poverty line. Mr. Speaker, you would not allow any other hon. Member to answer a question in the way that the Leader of the House sought to do. I am putting it to you that that was an abuse of Question Time. It should not be allowed. There are rights in the House for minorities and we expect you to uphold them. We would have expected you to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman when he abused Question Time— [Interruption.]—as you would have done with any other hon. Member. We understand the right hon. Gentleman's difficulties—
I am delighted that you should want to hear it, Mr. Speaker, without the noise. The point to you was that there was an abuse of Question Time procedure by the Leader of the House. If anybody else had sought to answer a question which had not been put, he would have been called to order by you and not been allowed to do so. The question related to supplementary benefit and poverty—issues which are of some concern to some hon. Members — not to South Africa. If the Leader of the House wishes to dissociate himself from his party's policy, he should do it in another way.
Order. The right hon. Gentleman knows as well as anybody that it was an open question and that I am not responsible in any way for the content of answers. We frequently hear things in the House which we do not like. That is what democracy is all about.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. With respect, there is a serious point of order for you. This is the second time this week that the Minister answering at the Dispatch Box seeks in the reply to distort the policy which my right hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) and I have been pursuing on South Africa. On Tuesday it was the Prime Minister and today it was the Leader of the House. My point of order is that it is not understood outside the House why the Deputy Leader of the Labour party should be allowed to come back three times on a question, whereas we are not allowed to reply to the answer.
Order. The answer to the right hon. Gentleman's question is well known to him. We have a convention in the House of two Front Benches, and he knows that that has been a long observed tradition. On his second question, throughout the questions to Home Office Ministers various Back-Bench Members attempted to imply that the policy of the Opposition was not entirely in tune. It is not unknown for similar accusations to be made against the Government party or the right hon. Gentleman's party.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not clear that the two points of order raised by the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), the leader of the SDP, and the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Steel), the leader of the Liberal party, have been brought before the House because of the exposure of the profound differences of view between the two right hon. Gentlemen? Would it not be of assistance to you if the two right hon. Gentlemen sat beside one another, if they could possibly hear to do so?
Are you aware, Mr. Speaker, that we all worry about the distorted answers that we receive to our questions? My point of order is that today, having heard the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), it is evident that you should seriously consider running a little class—a sort of seminar—to which you can invite hon. Members and where you can provide them with the sort of ingenuity that is needed to raise a point of order and to make a further point at the same time.