May I ask the Leader of the House to state the business for next week?
The business for next week will be as follows:
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his statement.
Before we rise for the recess may we have a debate on the Government's non-interventionist economic policy, with particular reference to the complete absence of Government responsibility for change when unemployment goes up by millions and the claim that credit is due to them when unemployment goes down by thousands?
In view of the fact that we shall probably rise before the Government have reached a decision on references with regard to the merger between British Airways and British Caledonian Airways, could we also have a further statement next week about the Government's attitude to references relating to the merger, so that we do not go into recess without a more precise definition of the Government's attitude than we have been able to obtain this afternoon?
Could we have a statement next week on the future of the European collaborative programme on advanced communications technologies? Will the Leader of the House ensure that, in such a statement, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry explains the Government's reasons for delaying the announcement of funding for information technology—the Alvey programme?
Before the House rises could the Leader of the House make arrangements for statements to be made by the Secretaries of State for Scotland and for the Environment, which will give the former an opportunity to explain why the Government took the phasing-in of poll tax out of their legislation for Scotland earlier this year, and give the Secretary of State for the Environment the opportunity to explain why the Government want to put phasing into the English and Welsh legislation, whenever that appears? I am certain that that slight lack of consistency will have occurred already to the Leader of the House, if not to the Prime Minister.
Given that the Government's own advisers, the Social Security Advisory Committee, and many other bodies, cannot support the Government's proposals for the social fund under the social security legislation, will the Leader of the House also arrange next week for a statement, before we rise for the recess, from the Secretary of State for Social Services, to tell the House how he intends to modify his proposals in the light of the criticisms from the Government's own advisory body and many other professional and involved bodies?
May I repeat my request of last week that reports of Her Majesty's inspectors of schools be published before the House rises? Will the Leader of the House give us an assurance, in view of the possibility of those reports being published, that time will be allowed next week for the Secretary of State for Education and Science to make a statement on the findings of those reports?
Finally, will the Leader of the House confirm that the Government have now agreed that there should be a Scottish Minister on the Standing Committee considering the Local Government Bill, in recognition of the considerable significance that that Bill has for Scotland and the people of Scotland?
The right hon. Gentleman has raised eight points. He wanted a debate on economic policy. I cannot promise a specific debate next week, but I would have thought that, with a certain amount of ingenuity, some of the points that he raised could well be dealt with on Third Reading of the Finance Bill on Monday.
I shall refer the matter of whether it would be appropriate to make a further statement on British Airways to my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. I shall also refer the right hon. Gentleman's point about advance technology to my right hon. and noble Friend. It seems to me that the debate on Wednesday night might well cover some of the aspects of that.
The right hon. Gentleman asked me whether I could arrange for a statement on what he sees as a difference in policy between the community charge as enacted for Scotland in the last Parliament and what he believes to be the view of the Department of the Environment now. All that I would say to the right hon. Gentleman is that I would not necessarily believe everything that I read in the newspapers. I shall refer his points to my right hon. Friends. The right hon. Gentleman asked about the DHSS and the social fund. I shall refer those matters to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services. The right hon. Gentleman asked me about the reports on schools by Her Majesty's Inspectorate. I can give him the undertaking that they will be published before the House rises next week. I shall refer the question about what statements should be made to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science.
The right hon. Gentleman asked about Scottish Ministers. Following the points of order that were raised last week, I undertook to have the question of a Scottish Minister being appointed to this Local Government Bill Committee discussed through the usual channels. In the light of these discussions, I have agreed that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton), should be a Member of the Committee to deal specifically with Scottish aspects of the legislation. As I told the House last week, there are of course, ample precedents for Committees on Bills relating to Scotland not having a Scottish Minister as a member. While I have acceded to the Opposition's request in this case, my agreement is without prejudice to the composition of any other Standing Committee that may be set up in future.
Will my right hon. Friend take this parliamentary opportunity to deny categorically on behalf of the Government the report in The Independent this morning that a nuclear weapons test took place at North Luffenham in 1974 using radioactive material with a half-life of 25 years? Will he confirm that any such test would have involved a low-level material with a life of three to four months as described yesterday by the Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces?
As a matter of urgency, will the Minister arrange for a statement, and preferably a debate, next week about the European Commission's decision to harmonise value added tax? The Leader of the House will be aware that the Prime Minister appointed Lord Cockfield, a former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in her Cabinet, for the prime purpose of harmonising the internal market, of which harmonising VAT and excise duties is a vital part. The Prime Minister has not given any assurance about using the veto against VAT increases on clothing, books and newspapers. A debate or at the very least a statement is important so that we can pinpoint the areas in which the Government will use the veto. A deal should not be stitched up after the House rises on Friday of next week so that when we come back the whole thing has been shuffled off between the Prime Minister and Lord Cockfield.
I recognise that my hon. Friend and other hon. Members, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins), are anxious that these Committees should be set up promptly. However. necessary preliminaries, including membership, have to be agreed first. The House appreciate that Select Committees proceed best with all-party agreement, and we should not lightly depart from that basis. We hope to make progress on further Select Committees later today.
Does the Leader of the House agree that the four Northern Ireland orders which are unamendable and which the House will consider on Thursday are exactly the sort of orders that ought to be referred to the Northern Ireland Committee under Standing Order No. 99? Has he been able to find time to consider the representations I made to him about this matter? Does he accept that the decision not to reestablish the Select Committees before the summer recess is entirely that of the Government?
As to the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question, the decision was made by the Government, but it was done to seek all-party support for the Select Committees, which is the best way to proceed. I know that the hon. Gentleman is interested in making further use of the Northern Ireland Committee under our Standing Orders, as are other hon. Members, and I am willing to consider that.
Will my right hon. Friend reconsider his last answer? Does he think that the present procedures for dealing with proposed Northern Ireland legislation are satisfactory? Does he think it right that we should not be able to amend the greater part of the Northern Ireland legislation that comes before the House? Will he give further consideration to that point?
As to Thursday's business, is it not an affront that the House should be expected virtually to rubber stamp Orders in Council for Northern Ireland without any opportunity to amend? Is the Leader of the House prepared to give an assurance that he will seek to remedy that position before we return after the recess?
I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's concern about the inadequacy, as he sees it, of the manner in which Northern Ireland business is dealt with in the House. I am happy to talk to him about that to see what can be done, but I cannot give him an undertaking that an agreement can be reached.
Will my right hon. Friend accept that the Director General of Fair Trading will be severely handicapped by being unable to study the wise advice that would have come his way about the British Caledonian bid had questions been allowed to continue? Therefore, will he say when he expects to see the director general's report, and will he undertake that in the next Session we shall have a debate on aviation and competition policy in general?
Does the right hon. Gentleman think that the latest developments concerning the Peter Wright memoirs intensify the dangers of an infringement of the freedom of the press in this country? It would be monstrous for the House to adjourn and leave the matter unresolved. Therefore, if the right hon. Gentleman cannot provide an opportunity for a debate, will he ensure that the Attorney-General makes a statement to the House next week?
I appreciate that these are important matters, in which the Government have an important interest. The Government are upholding what they consider to be an important principle. I shall refer the right hon. Gentleman's point to my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General.
Does my hon. Friend's announcement of yet another procedure motion on the Channel Tunnel Bill mean that the Government intend to ask their supporters to overthrow this morning's important ruling by the impartial Standing Orders Committee that progress on the Bill should be halted because of the violations of fair play and petitioners' rights? If that is the Government's intention, is this not the most shameful episode in a long history of dubious practices and downright cheating on the Bill with regard to individual petitioners, and does my right hon. Friend understand that there will be ferocious opposition to this alteration of Parliament's will?
I appreciate that my hon. Friend feels very strongly about this issue, as do a number of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen. I understand that the Standing Orders Committee met this morning and recommended that Standing Orders should not be dispensed with in relation to amendments made to the Bill in another place. In the view of the Government, it is essential that the Bill reaches the statute book before the House rises for the summer recess. Therefore, I propose to invite the House to reconsider the matter.
The Leader of the House will be aware that, arising out of the Sampson report, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary has this week ordered an inquiry into police procedure and organisation in Northern Ireland. In view of that, and as inquests have not yet been held on six people who were shot dead by that same police service in County Armagh in 1982, will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate on this important matter, which some of us may feel is more important than the debate on the fluoridation of water in Northern Ireland, which is scheduled to take place next week? Will he try to ensure that the Sampson-Stalker report is laid before the House for detailed debate and scrutiny because that is the only thing that will dispel the suspicion in relation to this whole sorry incident?
It is now 13 years since Turkish troops invaded Cyprus. In view of the hardship that that has caused, and in view of the interest of the United Kingdom in seeing an early solution to the problem, may we have an early debate on the report of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs dealing with Cyprus.?
Will the Leader of the House give further consideration to the reply he gave to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition in relation to the poll tax? He suggested that we should not believe what we read in the newspapers, but the fact is that we know that Scotland is to be a guinea pig for this tax. Will he bring his right hon. and hon. Friends together to ensure that we are treated equitably in relation to the whole of the United Kingdom? Is it true that the formation of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs is being held up because of the Government's difficulty in finding sufficient Back Benchers for it?
My right hon. Friend has received two requests today for further information with regard to the British Caledonian and British Airways proposed merger. He received one from the Leader of the Opposition for a full statement before the House rises for the summer recess, and one from my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Sir P. Hordern) for a full debate when the House returns. I do not think that the first suggestion is adequate, and I think that the second suggestion will be too late.
Surely the House requires an adequate opportunity for hon. Members who did not get an opportunity to express a view today, to express it fully before the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry reaches a decision on whether to refer the matter to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. Will he give consideration to a short debate, even though it may be for only one and a half hours, before the summer recess so that we can make clear to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry that we do not want the matter to be referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission?
Will the Leader of the House enlighten us about the conduct of the Standing Committee on the Local Government Bill that met for the first time this morning? The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland did attend, but he did not respond to any points made by no fewer than four Scottish Members. We were given an assurance by the Minister for Local Government that Scottish questions would be replied to from time to time as was seen fit, or words to that effect. Does the right hon. Gentleman feel that that is an adequate response to the Scottish aspect of the Bill?
I do not think that during business questions I should answer detailed questions about proceedings on Standing Committees upstairs. However, I am certain that my right hon. and hon. Friends who represent the Government on that Committee will give adequate and excellent answers to the points raised.
In the context of my right hon. Friend's reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Sir D. Price), he will be aware that the Secretary of State for Energy has announced within the past fortnight that he proposes to have major legislation on the denationalisation of the electricity supply industry on the statute book in November. If the Select Committee on Energy is not reappointed, and since it is virtually the major vehicle of inquiry into such matters on behalf of Parliament, we will have a vehicle that is sitting without wheels and tyres until November and the opportunity of examining this major piece of legislation will not exist. Is this not a case of constitutional sack cloth and ashes?
My hon. Friend courteously wrote to me about these points and I appreciate that. I want to proceed as fast as I can, but I do not believe that I should proceed other than with all-party agreement as to the way we should proceed.
Has the Leader of the House noticed the publication of the report by the Select Committee on Trade and Industry about the United Kingdom motor components industry? Will he arrange for an urgent debate on the report in view of the apparent decision by Lucas Electrical to sell its automotive division to Fiat Motor company and other Italian companies on a piecemeal basis with a risk of further redundancies in Birmingham and the rest of the west midlands?
I cannot arrange a debate next week. In any event, it would he better to proceed when the Government have had a chance to study the report and make their response.
May I press my right hon. Friend further on re-establishing the Select Committees before the summer recess? Will he accept that it is an urgent House of Commons matter since the Select Committees have an obligation to report and work on behalf of the House? Some of them are anxious to get on with some urgent work, particularly the Select Committee on Energy in view of the pending legislation.
Has the Leader of the House noticed early-day motion 111 which was tabled yesterday and signed by myself and 18 other hon. Members?
[That this House expresses its concern at the announcement that 9,000 staff are to be made redundant by British Rail over the next three years; recognises that British Rail receives a lower level of support both per head of population and as a percentage of gross national product compared with other European railways; in addition, believes that the Government does not sufficiently acknowledge the benefits offered by rail as a national asset; calls on the Government to ensure additional and adequate funding for British Rail; and further calls on British Rail to look carefully at its staffing policies in the light of possible revenue generation.]
Does he recognise that there is concern on both sides of the House that British Rail may be forced, because of the reduction in the amount of grant coming from central Government, to concentrate only on its profit-making services, leaving many thousands, if not millions, of people without a rail service that they can afford either in terms of availability or of the price charged? Does the Leader of the House consider that, given the status of British Rail as a national asset, the House ought to have an opportunity to discuss its future, especially in view of the recently published report of the Select Committee on Transport? We ought to have an opportunity to discuss this before the recess, and I ask that time be made available to debate this important matter next week.
I should like to be helpful to the hon. Gentleman, but I am afraid that I cannot offer him time next week. I understand that job reductions will affect managerial and clerical support and not jobs giving direct service to rail users. British Rail aims to make the reductions through natural wasteage and internal transfers. Nevertheless, I recognise that it is an important matter, and I shall refer it to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport.
May I support my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling) and ask the Leader of the House when he will find time to debate the latest report from the Select Committee on Transport into the Alice-in-Wonderland situation within British Rail? Trains that arrive 10 minutes late are deemed to be on time, fare increases at six monthly intervals are deemed to be adjustments, reductions in PSO grant to the most under-funded railway network in Europe are described as tough but achievable, and the latest round of job losses will apparently include many grades except those of the chairman and members of the British Railways Board, which, together with incompetent Ministers, are responsible for this tragic and absurd situation.
May I press my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House further on the question of the establishment of the Select Committees? He said that he is endeavouring to proceed with the agreement of both sides of the House, which I understand he has. The Chief Whip on the Liberal Benches is indicating his assent, and I understand that the Labour party also wishes to move ahead. May I remind my right hon. Friend that, without the establishment of the Select Committee before we leave this place for the summer, the Clerk's Department will be idle and will be spending a great deal of money? I am sure that that would offend my right hon. Friend's natural inclination to save money or use it effectively.
When will the House have time to discuss the serious and important evidence presented yesterday by the Committee of Public Accounts, condemning in remarkably candid language mismanagement and financial anarchy involving millions of pounds of taxpayers' money? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Welsh Office is condemned for showing no serious concern about the breakdown of management and control at the National Museum of Wales which has been going on year after year? How can we consider the possibility of giving the Welsh Office greater powers over efficient local authorities in Wales when it has been condemned in that document as being grossly inefficient?
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that a debate on these important matters will be the more useful when the Government have had a chance to study the report and to make a response.
As the Member representing the eastern suburbs of the once great port of Hull, may I tell my right hon. Friend that the priority given by the Government to the regeneration of cities such as Hull has been warmly welcomed? Is he aware, however, that the biggest boost to the economy of areas such as Liverpool, Hull and Goole would be provided by abolition of the national dock labour scheme, which has played a significant part in the decline of Hull as a port? Is he aware that abolition would enable Hull and other northern ports to compete with Felixstowe and other non-scheme ports and private ports? Will he discuss legislation on those lines with his colleagues and at least provide time for a debate on a subject on which there is great feeling in the north of England?
Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Chancellor of the Duchy to make a statement in the House about the future of information technology research in this country? The right hon. Gentleman is right in saying that it will be possible next Wednesday to discuss research and development in the European Community, but is he aware that the remarks of the Chancellor of the Duchy in Manchester this week mean that there will be no matching programme of United Kingdom research and that we shall lose control of the United Kingdom element in any European programme?
I will certainly refer the matter to my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy. As I understand it, one of the most important aspects is to encourage the amount of private sector resources going into research as the Government are already putting in very substantial sums.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, whether or not it is decided to phase in the community charge, the introduction of the national non-domestic rate will proceed on schedule as the north stands to gain substantially from rate reductions for business?
Given the difficulty experienced by the usual channels in setting up the departmental Select Committees, will the right hon. Gentleman consider removing any further embarrassment by allowing Back-Bench Members on both sides to elect Members of Select Committees directly, enabling them to be far more independent of Government and shadow Government and thus to carry out their role of scrutiny better than at present?
Is my right hon. Friend aware of the concern in industry that the British space plans should be published as early as possible so that the many important projects that are under way can continue with some measure of certainty? Can he make any statement as to when the publication date will be announced?
In view of the wide public concern about the Government's plans to privatise the water authorities, will the Leader of the House give an assurance that the Select Committee report on pollution of rivers and estuaries will be discussed by the Government and debated by the House before there is any further move towards privatisation?
I recognise the importance of the report. I cannot undertake here and now to give the hon. Gentleman the assurance that he seeks, but I will look into the matter.
May I echo the request for an early debate on the membership of Select Committees? In view of the privileged position in which Scotland finds itself in terms of very high public expenditure and of greater per capita expenditure on the Health Service, does my right hon. Friend agree that there should always be English representation on Committees dealing with Scotland so as to keep an eye on the amount of taxpayers' money going to Scotland from the general Exchequer?
Is the Leader of the House aware that in the past couple of weeks there have been calls from Tory Members such as those from Bournemouth for a six-day week for miners? Will he arrange a debate on that subject between 24 July and 21 October? I am sure that people in the mining industry will be pleased to fill the public gallery if Members of Parliament are prepared to return to work during their three-month recess. Will the Government also accept a paper to read from Mr. Christopher Benson, chairman of the London Docklands Development Corporation—a man who is supposed to be super-efficient and receives £27,096 per year for working a two-day week—as it may help Tory Members who think that miners should work six days a week while some of those Members are moonlighting all the time?
If I organised such a debate during that period, I should certainly be here and I imagine that the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) would be here, but I wonder how many of the hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends would come along. I do not believe that the hon. Gentleman's comments about Mr. Christopher Benson are in any way justified.
That gentleman has done a great deal to turn around the situation in the London docklands and snide remarks of the kind made by the hon. Member for Bolsover are not appreciated.
In view of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's visit to Washington tomorrow, will my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House consider arranging a debate in the immediate or near future on the dangers of a trade war between this country and the European Community, on the one hand, and Japan and the United States, on the other, as the matter is becoming of ever grave concern?
The Leader of the House has announced that on Tuesday we shall have the opportunity to debate the ludicrously high salary increases proposed for Members of Parliament.Will he give an assurance that in dealing with allowances we can discuss the allowances paid for secretarial and research staff, and so on, as that is far more important than whether Members of Parliament get a rise?
May I remind my right hon. Friend that the Easter recess came and went and the general election intervened and that if the statement requested by my hon. Friend the Member for Elmet (Mr. Batiste) on the national space plan is not made before the summer recess it will be a grave dereliction of duty on the part of the Government? Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Select Committee on Trade and Industry, whenever it is established, should consider as a matter of urgency the decision-making process in relation to the United Kingdom space plans as there are clear signs that the Government either do not care or do not attach to these matters the priority that they deserve?
Is there any prospect of an urgent statement by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Corporate and Consumer Affairs regarding the measures necessary to protect tourists against blatant exploitation because the law appears to be inadequate? If the Leader of the House would agree to walk through Parliament square, he would find that a vehicle is habitually abusing the law by selling goods at extortionate prices. Both the police and the local authority claim that they have no power to prevent this from happening. Surely the law should be strengthened and measures taken to protect tourists who are so welcome in this city and in this area of it.
Before the House rises for the recess, will the Leader of the House allow time for a debate and division on the question of the Government's lack of a democratic mandate in the nations of Scotland and Wales? Will he comment on rumours circulating in the House that both Front Benches are united in wanting to avoid a debate and division on this important topic facing the Scottish and Welsh peoples?
As far as I am aware, this is not a matter on which there is any agreement between the two Front Benches. It seems that the matter has arisen several times since we have returned from the general election and that the hon. Gentleman is most concerned that his view is not finding a great deal of favour.