Business of the House

– in the House of Commons at 3:35 pm on 4th December 1986.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

Yes. Sir. The Business for next week will be as follows: MONDAY 8 DECEMBER— Second Reading of the Teachers' Pay and Conditions Bill.

Afterwards there will be a debate on EC documents on aid to shipbuilding. Details will be given in the Official Report.

Motion on the British Shipbuilders Borrowing Powers (Increase of Limit) Order.

TUESDAY 9 DECEMBER — Second Reading of the Abolition of Domestic Rates etc. (Scotland) Bill.

There will be a debate on a motion to take note of EC Document 8705/86 on food aid policy and management.

Afterwards there will be a debate on EC documents relating to air transport. Details will be given in the Official Report.

WEDNESDAY 10 DECEMBER—Remaining stages of the Teachers' Pay and Conditions Bill.

At Ten o'clock the House will be asked to agree the Civil and Defence Votes on Account and the Winter Supplementary Estimates.

THURSDAY 11 DECEMBER — Second Reading of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Bill.

Motion on the draft Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978 (Continuance) (No. 3) Order.

FRIDAY 12 DECEMBER—Private Members' motions.

MONDAY 15 DECEMBER—Until seven o'clock, Private Members' motions.

Motion for the Christmas Adjournment.

Proceedings on the Consolidated Fund Bill.

Mr. Speaker, the House will wish to know that it will be proposed that, subject to the progress of business, the House should rise for the Christmas Adjournment on Friday 19 December, until Monday 12 January.

Monday 8 December

Debate on Aid to Shipbuilding

Relevant European Documents:

(a) 9470/86Aid to Shipbuilding
9470/1/86

Tuesday 9 December

Debate on Food Aid

Relevant European Documents:

(b) 8705/86Food aid policy
+COR 1

Debate on Air Transport

Relevant European Documents:

(c) 5938/84Air Transport policy
(d) 7932/1/86Community air transport policy
(e) 8324/86Community air transport policy
(f) 8109/86Inter-regional air services
(g) 9132/86Inter-regional air services

Relevant Reports of European Legislation Committee

  1. (a) HC 21-xxvii (1985–86) para 3
  2. (b) HC 21-xxvii (1985–86) para 1 and HC 22-ii (1986–87) para 2
  3. (c) HC 18-xxvii (1983–84) para 9 and HC 5-xxi (1984–85) para 1
  4. (d) HC 21-xxviii (1985–86) para 4
  5. (e) HC 21-xxviii (1985–86) para 4
  6. (f) HC 21-xxviii (1985–86) para 3
  7. (g) HC 21-xxviii (1985–86) para 3]

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

I ask the Leader of the House two specific questions about next week. He will recall that a private notice question was recently asked concerning the Government's manipulation of the trade figures. The House was assured that the figures published on the day of the private notice question were accurate. We now know from the information available today that that was not so. I am sure that the Leader of the House will agree that the Minister in question has a duty to return to the House next week to clarify the position and correct the errors he made when answering the private notice question.

Will the Leader of the House confirm that the Government have already made up their mind to carry the Teachers' Pay and Conditions Bill through all its stages in three sittings of the House and have already promised to deliver it to the House of Lords immediately after Christmas? Does that not confirm the view of the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Pym) that, given a large majority, the Prime Minister would certainly abuse it?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I shall certainly look into the right hon. Gentleman's first point, with which I am not as familiar as he obviously is, and refer it to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. I accept that the right hon. Gentleman's second point is a matter of great substance. The House will understand the urgency in coming to a decision on these matters. With that in mind, I have tabled a motion which, if passed today, will enable amendments to be tabled to the Bill before Second Reading. I hope that the arrangements which I have outlined will prove to be helpful to the House. I note the right hon. Gentleman's point. I shall arrange for the matter to be considered further through the usual channels to ascertain whether a more acceptable day for the remaining stages can be found. We shall have to judge progress.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Budgen Mr Nicholas Budgen , Wolverhampton South West

Will my right hon. Friend find time to allow the House to discuss the issue of the compulsory attendance of pupils at the teaching of Punjabi in a number of schools in the west midlands? In particular, will he provide such an opportunity for those who wish to express doubts on behalf of the parents of children at the Colton Hills School in my constituency, who find that, against their wishes and against the promises in the prospectus, they are obliged to attend lessons in Punjabi?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

My hon. Friend has raised a valid point which could have wider application in the future. Therefore, I would like to draw his attention to the opportunity that would be presented by proceedings on the Consolidated Fund Bill, when he might make the matters more extensible to the House.

Photo of Mr David Alton Mr David Alton , Liverpool Mossley Hill

Is the Leader of the House aware that it is now nearly a year since the Leader of the Liberal party wrote to the Lord Chancellor asking that the cases against the 47 Liverpool councillors facing disqualification should be proceeded with with the greatest expedition? Is he further aware that the cases have now been put back to 26 January and the council is facing a potential 60 per cent. rates increase and a deficit of perhaps as much as £50 million at the beginning of the next financial year? Will he arrange for an urgent statement to be made to the House to demonstrate that there is no political manipulation of the judicial process, that the case will be heard as quickly as possible and that urgent assistance will be given to Liverpool in facing the crisis?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

Any innuendo that there was political manipulation of the judicial process would be greatly resented. Of course, I shall refer the hon. Gentleman's point to my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor.

Photo of Sir Anthony Meyer Sir Anthony Meyer , Clwyd North West

Has my right hon. Friend seen early-day motion 213 in my name and the names of hon. Members on both sides of the House regarding the proposed takeover of Pilkingtons by the financial conglomerate BRT?

[That this House deplores BRT's bid for Pilkingtons, a world leader in its own industry; and calls upon the Government to discourage the takeover of British firms with proven technical commitments and long-term research and development programmes by amorphous conglomerates interested primarily in short-term profits.]

In view of mounting concern that the long-term interests of advanced British industry are being subjected to the short-term requirements of the City of London financial institutions, will my right hon. Friend arrange for an early debate on that and related subjects?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I note what my hon. Friend has said. He gives a view upon it, but he will appreciate that I am unable to give a view, not least because it is at present before the Office of Fair Trading.

Photo of Gordon Brown Gordon Brown Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry)

Since the Secretary of State for Defence has refused to come to the House today to make a statement on decisions affecting the royal dockyards, will the Leader of the House ensure an early debate on the threat to 1,300 jobs at Rosyth, caused by decisions slipped out in Scotland today? Will he ensure that the Secretary of State, in his rush to privatise, does not fail to consult the work force as he promised only a few days ago to do?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence has acquainted the House with his proposals in a perfectly familiar way. However, I shall draw the observations of the hon. Gentleman to his attention. The hon. Gentleman, in his turn, will note from the business I have announced that there are plenty of opportunities for him to raise the subject.

Photo of Michael Fallon Michael Fallon , Darlington

Has my right hon. Friend noticed that the rise in the Government's popularity may be dated from the appointment of our hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie)? Without tempting my right hon. Friend to elucidate on the distinction between post hoc and propter hoc, can we have an early debate on early-day motions 257 and 281?

[That this House calls on the honourable Member for South Derbyshire, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department of Health and Social Security to make a statement about the interests of her relatives in ArthurAndersen & Co. a company which gains financially from contracts entered into by the Department of Health and Social Security itself and by regional health authorities.]

[That this House notes with dismay the attempt by the honourable Member for Cynon Valley to impugn the reputation of the honourable Member for South Derbyshire, insinuating that her spouse and a relative of his used her office to influence the award of contracts to their firms, and speculates whether the remoteness of the association would have been worthy of comment had the honourable Member not been female; and further suggests that this kind of implication with its sexist undertones does nothing to advance the interest of politically minded women who aspire to membership of this House and who are related to or associated with successful men of commerce.]

We should have a debate so that the attack on our hon. Friend through her husband's employment may be fully exposed and thoroughly repudiated.

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I share the distaste expressed by my hon. Friend and, what is more, I think that it is downright sexist. If the hon. Member concerned had been male, it would have passed unnoticed.

Photo of Ann Clwyd Ann Clwyd , Cynon Valley

Has the Leader of the House—he obviously has—had an opportunity to look at early-day motions 257 and 258?

[That this House calls on the hon. Member for South Derbyshire, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department of Health and Social Security to make a statement about the interests of her relatives in Arthur Andersen and Co. a company which gains financially from contracts entered into by the Department of Health and Social Security itself and by regional health authorities.]

[That this House calls on the Secretary of Slate for Social Services to set up an independent inquiry into the decision of the Wessex Regional Health Authority to award a £29 million computer contract to Arthur Andersen and Co., a consortium consisting of the accountants Arthur Andersen, IBM, and Technicom; calls on the Wessex Regional Health Authority to explain how they came to award this contract to a consortium which includes Arthur Andersen, when Arthur Andersen were the consultants advising the regional health authority on whom the contract should be awarded to; notes that Mr. Raymond Currie, is, according to the Institute of Chartered Accountants, a partner in Arthur Andersen, in charge of audit training; further notes that Mr. Brian Currie, the brother of Mr. Raymond Currie, is the senior partner in charge of the public service contracts division of Arthur Andersen and Co. the firm which was awarded this contract; is concerned that in the bidding for this contract Arthur Andersen and Co. came in late and after International Computers Limited; and that the same process seems to be taking place in East Anglia; and finally calls on the Secretary of State for Social Services to make a statement on allegations that the Department of Health and Social Security have made substantial payments to Arthur Andersen and Co. for work that has not been carried out or completed and that an internal investigation into these matters is now going on.]

Does he believe that the time has come to review the code of conduct for Ministers so that they have to register their close relatives who might benefit financially from contracts entered into by their Departments in the Register of Members's interests?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I do not believe for one moment that there is any conflict of interest in this case and I believe that the House demeans itself when—

Photo of Mr Willie Hamilton Mr Willie Hamilton , Central Fife

The right hon. Gentleman does not know that.

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I certainly would not take guidance from the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton). The hon. Member for Fife, Central is on the Select Committee on Members' Interests. If it is a matter of such concern, the Committee will consider it.

Photo of Mr John Biggs-Davison Mr John Biggs-Davison , Epping Forest

As a year has elapsed since the conclusion of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, should the House not have an opportunity to debate the dangerous and disquieting developments that have taken place since it was signed?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

My hon. Friend, who has a very clear record of consistency in his attitude to these matters, might consider raising the matter during the proceedings on the Consolidated Fund Bill. That would certainly be an occasion for it to be raised.

Photo of Mr David Steel Mr David Steel Leader of the Liberal Party

The answer of the Leader of the House to my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) was utterly unsatisfactory. Is he aware that it is nearly a year since I had correspondence with the Lord Chancellor about the need, in the public interest, to deal with the cases against the 47 councillors in Liverpool? The Government give the impression that they are prepared to allow the city to slide into financial chaos rather than to face the 47 by-elections because there would be nothing in it for them.

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

That is not a particularly worthy comment, in the context of the earlier remarks about political interference with the judicial process. [Interruption.] Oh, yes.

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I hear that endorsement, but I shall stand on my own observations. I have said that I shall refer the matter to my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor. Surely that is a reasonable and forthcoming response.

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack , South Staffordshire

Does my right hon. Friend agree with me that early-day motions are now a much debased currency? Would it not be good if the rules governing them could be referred to the Select Committee on Procedure?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

As my hon. Friend knows, the terms under which the House established the Select Committee on Procedure were such that the Committee itself could decide what to consider. I am sure that the Chairman of the Committee will have noted my hon. Friend's remarks, but I shall certainly draw them to his attention, anyway.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

Has the Leader of the House seen early-day motion 105?

[That this House is very concerned at the increase in the number of absent landlords and property companies that have taken over many of the estates previously owned by the National Coal Board; further condemns those property companies who are using the courts to a far greater extent to either evict families or, in many cases, cause substantial court costs to be added onto the rent thus putting families into further arrears; calls upon the agents who act on behalfof the property companies to reveal to councillors and other tenants' representatives the names and addresses of the real owners, including those companies based outside the United Kingdom; and, finally, calls for a public inquiry into the way in which the National Coal Board disposed of these houses and to establish whether any tendering took place before sale.]

It relates to the fact that the Coal Board has been selling off housing in the coalfields at less than market value. In one instance, it sold them for £3,000 for each dwelling. Most of the houses were semi-detached. According to a valuer, they were sold for less than the value of the ground upon which they stood. One property owner made a profit of £3,000 on each house by this deal. It did not go out to open tender.

Will the Leader of the House join those hon. Members who have signed the early-day motion and ensure that there is a public inquiry into this housing scandal? While he is about it, will he tell his hon. Friend the Member for Amber Valley (Mr. Oppenheim) that the National Coal Board owns the property in which the National Union of Mineworkers has one floor—in an 11-floor building—and that it has played no part whatsoever in any cleaning contract at any time?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I think that we all know grateful tenants when we see them. I have not given the early-day motion to which the hon. Gentleman refers the close attention that perhaps I should, but he will have every opportunity to raise the matter either on the motion for the Christmas Adjournment or on the Consolidated Fund Bill debate that will follow.

Photo of Mr Martin Brandon-Bravo Mr Martin Brandon-Bravo , Nottingham South

The Leader of the House is aware that today, during Prime Minister's Questions, my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Smith) drew to the Prime Minister's attention the outrageous attack by the president of the National Union of Mineworkers on two Members of this House. The Leader of the House will know that it is not for hon. Members on this side of the House to seek to defend Labour Members of Parliament, but it seemed to me to be an attack on the integrity and the duties, in the wider sense, of hon. Members. Will he find some time in the very near future for the House to debate such attacks on hon. Members?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

It is a most interesting proposition. My hon. Friend will be able to pursue that point in the debate upon the Consolidated Fund Bill. If, of course, hon. Members feel that this is a breach of privilege, there is a recognised procedure to be followed.

Photo of Mr Alfred Dubs Mr Alfred Dubs , Battersea

May I assure the Leader of the House that, although it is some time since he was last pressed on the establishment of an Anglo-Irish parliamentary tier, there is none the less a considerable weight of feeling behind this proposal, both here and in Dublin. Is it not time that the Government stopped equivocating, or that the Leader of the House stopped equivocating, and gave the House a chance to debate the measure so that the Anglo-Irish parliamentary tier can be started?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I suppose that, cautiously, I was waiting for a fairly spontaneous and unanimous manifestation of support for that idea—[Interruption.] Oh, yes. I should have thought that there is enough experience of Irish affairs to make one fairly cautious about initiatives. If the hon. Gentleman wishes the matter to be raised on the Floor of the House, this coming week is ideal from his point of view.

Photo of Mr Spencer Batiste Mr Spencer Batiste , Elmet

Will my right hon. Friend consider setting up this week an all-party committee of senior and experienced Privy Councillors with a view to their formulating a code of conduct compatible with national interests for the Leader of the Opposition, who does not seem to be able to work one out for himself? Does my right hon. Friend consider that it would be fair to exclude him from security briefings until he has had the opportunity of mending his ways?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

If the committee were to be brand new with very little working experience, its first task would be a major one. Perhaps, in the circumstances, this is something which will solve itself.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn , Islington North

Has the Leader of the House had an opportunity to see early-day motions 275 and 276 concerning the training of El Salvadorean army officers by the British Army and the hosting of a conference in London this weekend about Contra terrorism in Nicaragua?

[That this House deplores the decision of Her Majesty's Government to offer training facilities to officers of the El Salvador army; considers the record of the armed forces in El Salvador to be one of the most appalling violations of human rights and brutality; believes that the poverty of the people of El Salvador is due to high military spending; and therefore believes that the decision of the British Government to give aid to the army of El Salvador is a reflection of their policy of obedience to the United States policy towards the region.]

[That this House is appalled at the activities of the Contras in murdering and maiming people as part of their United States inspired plan to return Nicaragua to the servitude of the days of the Samoza dictatorship; and therefore demands that the British Government ban Contra organisation and funding in Britain and resume aid to the government of Nicaragua.]

In the circumstances, does not the House need a statement from the Foreign Secretary on Britain's relations with those two countries and the apparent approval that the British Government give to terrorism in Nicaragua by allowing the Contras to organise freely in this country?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I cannot accept or agree with the hon. Gentleman's observations in their entirety—he makes a point that he raised with me recently—but I shall certainly refer his comments to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.

Photo of Mr Michael Latham Mr Michael Latham , Rutland and Melton

Will my right hon. Friend investigate today and report to the House next week on what he can do to enable the people of this country to see their Parliament more easily? Is he aware that there are the most shocking queues for tours to go round the House? At 11.45 am today there was an absolutely enormous queue, and it is high time we did something about it.

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I note what my hon. Friend says. Perhaps he will allow me to point ut that there is a question for oral answer on that point on Monday.

Photo of Nick Raynsford Nick Raynsford , Fulham

Has the Leader of the House had an opportunity to consider early-day motion 165 concerning the London Regional Transport redundancies?

[That this House deplores the decision of the Board of London Regional Transport to close a major part of its builders organisation involving the loss of around 470 jobs; and calls on the London Regional Transport Board to reverse this decision immediately and to enter into negotiations with the unions representing the London Regional Transport Builders workforce on means of improving the business prospects of London Regional Transport Builders which safeguard the employment prospects of London Regional Transport employees.]

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the real concern in London about the further loss of 470 jobs, which is implicit in London Regional Transport's proposals? Will he urge his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport to come to the House and make a statement at the earliest opportunity, and allow for a full debate on this important subject?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

The hon. Gentleman's points are essentially for London Regional Transport. I shall of course draw the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport to the point that he has made.

Photo of Mr John Farr Mr John Farr , Harborough

My right hon. Friend is always very anxious to correct injustices. May I draw his attention to the case of the six people who were imprisoned for the bombings in Birmingham 10 years ago? Since then, in recent days, some very material new evidence has come forward in the form of new witnesses and new forensic evidence. Can my right hon. Friend persuade our right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to make an early statement next week, or give the House an opportunity to have a short debate on the matter, so that what may be an injustice can be removed which none of us would like to see persevered with?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I understand that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is clearly aware of the points made by my hon. Friend, but I shall most certainly draw his attention to the point that my hon. Friend has just made on this matter.

Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Newham South

Is the Leader of the House aware that the second late-night debate next Tuesday on EEC air travel is on five sets of European regulations and five Government memoranda on which the Select Committee on European Legislation has made seven separate reports, thus making 17 documents in all? Is he further aware that the terms of reference of the EEC Scrutiny Committee do not permit it to consolidate its seven reports into one? Will the Leader of the House bear that in mind when he consults his right hon. Friends on their response to the second special report of that Committee?

Photo of Mr John Wilkinson Mr John Wilkinson , Ruislip - Northwood

Will my right hon. Friend consider my amendment to early-day motion 91? It calls for the Royal Air Force to be equipped with the most effective airborne early warning control system available to defend Britain. In that regard, will he consider the establishment of a defence equipment appropriation Sub-Committee to the Select Committee on Defence, as the most key defence issues these days seem to be helicopters, airborne early warning, and so on, which require a degree of technical expertise and specialist information that can only be transmitted to the House through such a body?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I note what my hon. Friend says, but I am not sure that an initiative on my part is necessary to secure that end.

Photo of Mr Andrew Faulds Mr Andrew Faulds , Warley East

As a cultured creature, the right hon. Gentleman must be aware, is he not, that the National Portrait Gallery is in desperate need of greater space to exhibit its most marvellous collection? Is he aware, in that context, that the Government have done nothing at all to ensure that the National Portrait Gallery should get the site of the neighbouring dental hospital, and that if it does not move quickly, the site will go and be lost to the National Portrait Gallery?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I understand that, thanks to the good offices of the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), there will be an Adjournment debate on the arts on 11 December. With a little fraternal co-operation between the two hon. Members, the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) could snatch two or three minutes from that debate.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

I am deeply grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for calling me. The Leader of the House will agree that yesterday's debate on rum goings-on at MI5 was exceedingly interesting, and he played a not inauspicious part in it, but would it not have been interesting if the rest of the country could have watched it on their televisions? When will there be an early opportunity to debate a resolution on the televising of the Houses of Parliament, and in particular of this House? The whole country could then enjoy the Prime Minister's twice-weekly discomfort and listen to the Opposition's excellent speeches.

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I shall try to respond in a narrow and desiccated fashion rather than in the manner in which that question was put. In the concluding stages of this Parliament, it would be wholly unrealistic to try to take such a major decision.

Photo of Mr Peter Bruinvels Mr Peter Bruinvels , Leicester East

Will my right hon. Friend consider holding a debate on the sale and disposal of council houses? One million pople have by now been wise enough to buy their council houses. Most generous discounts are available, particularly for those wishing to buy council flats, but unfortunately many local authorities, including Leicester, are unwilling to make those discounts available, even though they could make us an even greater property-owning society.

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I am sure that there is interest throughout the House in the prospect of a debate on housing. However, judging by the business that I have just announced, private Members may have an opportunity to raise that subject. To that end, I wish my hon. Friend well.

Photo of Mr Ivor Stanbrook Mr Ivor Stanbrook , Orpington

May we have a debate on the Government's continuing commitment to the green belt, and in particular on the disgraceful application by the Prudential Insurance Company to construct a huge urban complex on 500 acres of a green field site in my constituency?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

It would not in any sense be appropriate for me to comment on the circumstances that have prompted my hon. Friend's question, but I shall certainly refer his remarks to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.

Photo of Mr Greville Janner Mr Greville Janner , Leicester West

May I agree with the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Bruinvels) that there should be a debate on housing, specifically in Leicester—not so that he can continue his silly, mindless blackguarding of that excellent city council but so that attention can be drawn to the needs of the 10,000 people waiting to be properly housed, and prevented from being housed by the Government's refusal to allow sufficient funds for people to have the housing that they so greatly need?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

The calm and measured way in which my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Bruinvels) requested that debate shows his confidence about the next general election, while the hon. and learned Gentleman's frenetic and feverish response shows his anxiety in that regard.

Photo of Mr Richard Holt Mr Richard Holt , Langbaurgh

My right hon. Friend will be aware that for the past two and half years I have been asking the Government to take action to improve the A1 north of Rotherham, and to bring it up to motorway status. Unless that is done, the north-east of England will continue to be deprived more than any other region in the country. May I tell my right hon. Friend that I have had a letter from the Minister in which he refuses categorically to consider the upgrading for which I have asked? The House deserves the opportunity to debate the subject, as the north-east is not getting its fair share of road transport provision.

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I note what my hon. Friend says and I realise the anguish that the news must have produced within him. He will understand that the motion for the Christmas Adjournment and the proceedings on the Consolidated Fund Bill are almost tailormade to provide the opportunity for him to draw attention to the matters which he has raised this afternoon.

Photo of Mr Laurie Pavitt Mr Laurie Pavitt , Brent South

Next week, some hon. Members from both sides of the House who are more lucky at bingo than I am will be presenting their ballot Bills. As the Leader of the House will know, this raises the starting gate for the ten-minute rule procedure. Will he take urgent action to stop the nonsense of hon. Members arriving here at 3 o'clock in the morning with their thermos flasks and sandwiches to await the 10 o'clock getaway so that they can be first in the queue for time on the Floor of the House?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I do not think that I have any authority to stop what I believe are bipartisan practices.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

Will my right hon. Friend arrange for an early statement on the miserable decision of the Atlas Express Company to close its Perivale branch, with a loss of work for some of my constituents? Could we have a statement on the redundancy terms that they will be offered in the light of the company not having made anything known on this subject? Could we have also a statement on what the length of notice should be, the company having been entirely unforthcoming to the work force?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I judge from my hon. Friend's remarks that the matters which he wishes to raise fall within the responsibilities of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment, and I shall refer them to him.

Photo of Mr Dale Campbell-Savours Mr Dale Campbell-Savours , Workington

May I refer the Leader of the House to early-day motion 155, which was tabled by my hon. Friends the Members for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore) and for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) and myself?

[That this House calls on the Prime Minister to state whether the security services ever carried out an investigation into suspicions, which surfaced at the time and of which Lord Rothschild was aware, that he was a Soviet spy and the fifth man.]

The right hon. Gentleman will see that in the motion we ask for the Prime Minister to come before the House to make a statement refuting allegations that have been made against Lord Rothschild, and to deal with innuendos which have been circulating over the past five years about his activities.

Is it not true that, if the Prime Minister had made a statement in reply to the motion tabled by my hon. Friends and myself, Lord Rothschild would never have been embarrassed in the way that he has? Is it not strange that it is only today, after the intervention of Lord Rothschild in a letter to the Daily Telegraph, that the Prime Minister has been dragged to the Dispatch Box? Yet even now she refuses to make the statement that my hon. Friends the Members for Hackney, South and Shoreditch and for Bolsover and myself demanded of her two weeks ago. Will she now make a full statement at the Dispatch Box?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

The remarks made about my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister by the hon. Gentleman, and the tone and terms in which they are made, tell the House more about him than they do about any other matter.

Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin , West Derbyshire

Has my right hon. Friend had time to read Monday's Hansard, which contains the report of a debate that took place on the EEC dairy industry? If he has done so, he will have noted that a number of hon. Members who wished to participate in a debate on an important subject were unable to do so. Is there any chance of him finding some time in the near future for a further debate to take place on this important issue?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

In this imperfect world I think that my hon. Friend will do best to vest his interests and ambitions in the proceedings on the Consolidated Fund Bill.

Photo of Mr John Maxton Mr John Maxton , Glasgow Cathcart

Is the Leader of the House aware that there is considerable speculation that the Government will make an announcement imminently in the form of a statement to the House on prescribing needles and syringes for drug addicts as part of their programme in their fight against AIDS? Given the public opposition expressed to this proposal by the Scottish Office Minister who has responsibilities for health matters, may I have an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that if a statement is made there will be a separate statement from the Scottish Office Minister?

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I cannot confirm the hon. Gentleman's speculation, but I shall draw the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland to the interest that he has shown in a statement being made.

Photo of Andrew MacKay Andrew MacKay , Berkshire East

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, notwithstanding last Tuesday's Supply day it would be illuminating for the House to have a further debate on insider dealing? It has become apparent that it is the attitude of the Leader of the Labour party and his staff, by colluding with Mr. Turnbull in Australia, that they believe only in dealing, quite rightly, with insider trading in the City and not with that which involves the secrets and security of the United Kingdom.

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I note what my hon. Friend says, but I shall confine myself to the narrower issue of whether we can have a further debate on insider trading. I am sure that it is a topic that could be considered in the Christmas Adjournment debate or in the proceedings on the Consolidated Fund Bill. I must tell my hon. Friend that I do not believe that there is any prospect of an early debate in Government time on this subject, important though it be.