Business of the House

– in the House of Commons at 3:42 pm on 17th March 1988.

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Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. If the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) continues to shout from a sedentary position, I shall have to order him to leave the Chamber.

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be as follows: MONDAY 2I MARCH—Conclusion of the Budget debate.

TUESDAY 22 MARCH—Progress on remaining stages of the Education Reform Bill (1st Allotted day).

Motions on the Income Support (General) Amendment Regulations and the Family Credit (General) Amendment Regulations.

WEDNESDAY 23 MARCH—Progress on remaining stages of the Education Reform Bill (2nd Allotted day).

Motions on housing benefit regulations. Details will be given in the Official Report. THURSDAY 24 MARCH—Progress on remaining stages of the Education Reform Bill (3rd Allotted day).

FRIDAY 25 MARCH — Motion for the Easter Adjournment.

Motion to take note of EC document on the establishment of a court of first instance. Details will be given in the Official Report. MONDAY 28 MARCH—Completion of remaining stages of the Education Reform Bill (4th Allotted day).

The House will wish to know it will be proposed that, subject to the progress of business, the House should rise for the Easter Adjournment on Thursday 31 March until Tuesday 12 April.

[Relevant documents:

Wednesday 23 March: Housing Benefit (Supply of Information) Regulations 1988; Housing Benefit (General) Amendment Regulations 1988.

Friday 25 March: European Community Document 8770/87, Court of First Instance; Report of European Legislation Committee, HC 43—viii (1987–88), para 2.]

Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Chair, House of Commons (Services): Computer Sub-Committee, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

I thank the Leader of the House for his statement. I think that we could go on record as saying that we object to the content or the timing of practically every item of business for next week.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to postpone consideration of the Education Reform Bill, on which there has been so little time for consultation? In particular, will he postpone consideration of the clauses to abolish the Inner London education authority — for which the Government have no mandate—at least until we know the outcome of the ballot being conducted by parents in inner London?

Will the Leader of the House move the debate on the social security regulations scheduled for Tuesday, so that they are considered at least earlier in the day—rather than late at night—to give his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services a better opportunity to explain why he is taking money from the poor at a time when the Chancellor is giving £2 billion to the very rich?

In view of the criticism by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments of the Scottish poll tax registration regulations, which try to give the registrar extra-statutory, extra-parliamentary snooping powers not included in the original Act, will the right hon. Gentleman withdraw the regulations and ensure that they do not come back to the House until they are properly drafted? Such behaviour by the Scottish Office makes it all the more important that the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs is established to keep an eye on what is going on. We have heard a great deal in recent days about party discipline on the Tory side of the House. When will it extend to discharging their duty to the people of Scotland?

Does the Leader of the House expect the Select Committee on televising the House to meet before Easter? It is now more than five weeks since the House voted, against his advice and that of the Prime Minister, to set up the Select Committee. Hon. Members on both sides of the House are becoming concerned about the delay, and are wondering whether it is evidence of the Prime Minister's continuing resolve to keep the cameras out.

Finally, will the Leader of the House arrange for an early debate on the Griffiths report on care in the community, which was placed in the Library of the House yesterday, and which deserves wide and deep consideration?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

The hon. Gentleman has raised five subjects. The first was about delaying the Education Reform Bill from next week's business. I regret to say that I do not believe that there is a case for doing that. All the stages of the Bill have passed through the House up to now by a substantial majority, and the timetable motion was approved by the House.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the social security regulations, and regretted that they were to be dealt with late at night. I too regret that, but it is necessary—particularly at this time of year — to have some important debates later in the evening.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the Community Charges (Registration) (Scotland) Regulations 1988. Those regulations are already in force. The points at issue are minor and technical, and relate to a supplementary inquiry form. They do not challenge the fundamental framework of the registration system established by the regulations, and there is nothing to prevent that system from starting to operate next month, as planned. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland is considering the points raised in the Joint Committee's report.

I share the hon. Gentleman's regret that we have not been able to set up the television Select Committee. As the House will know, the motion on the Order Paper has attracted two amendments, one from members of the Official Unionist party and the other from members of Plaid Cymru. I had hoped that it would be possible—and I still believe that it should be possible—to reach an agreement on the composition of the Committee through the usual channels. I regret that the two parties have not yet been able to reach agreement, and I hope that they will seek to do so as a matter of urgency. If they fail to reach agreement, the House must be invited to determine the issue. I hope that that will not be necessary, but if it is, I hope to make a statement in my business statement next week.

The Griffiths report is an important report which has just been published. I feel that it would be best for us to study it, but I shall refer the hon. Gentleman's request to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

Photo of Mr Cranley Onslow Mr Cranley Onslow , Woking

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the disgraceful scenes towards the end of the Budget speech earlier this week underline the need for the appointment of a Select Committee on Procedure—a need that is constantly brought to our attention by the persistently boorish behaviour of Opposition Members sitting below the Gangway? Will he bring forward a motion to do this, however reluctant the usual channels may be to co-operate?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

I have a great deal of sympathy for my right hon. Friend. It is necessary to set up the Procedure Committee and discussions are going on through the usual channels to see if we can do that as soon as possible.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

Does the Leader of the House agree that, if the Community Charges (Registration) (Scotland) Regulations 1988 are unlawful, it is not a minor or a technical matter? Does he approve of the Secretary of State sending registration officers out when they are being asked to undertake an illegitimate task? Would it not be much better to withdraw the regulations — [HON. MEMBERS: "No — the Act"] — preferably withdraw the whole Act, but at least ensure that if there is to be an Act it will be operated lawfully?

Does the right hon. Gentleman also accept that certainly we on this Bench endorse the comments that have just been made by the right hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow) about the setting up of a Procedure Committee? Some issues have been raised in recent weeks that we would like to see referred to that Committee, and we hope that that can be done as soon as possible.

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

I cannot add anything to what I have already said about the Scottish regulations. I understand that the points are minor and technical. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is considering the points that have been raised, and I do not think that I can add anything to what I have said about the Procedure Committee.

Photo of Mr Ivor Stanbrook Mr Ivor Stanbrook , Orpington

Is my right hon. Friend aware that no fewer than 344 hon. Members have signed early-day motion 6 calling for the removal of the anomaly whereby public service pensioners may get war service included in their pensions provided they did not serve overseas?

[That this House deplores the fact that, alone among public service pensioners, those whose service was overseas cannot count pre-appointment service towards their pensions; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to remedy this injustice to a dwindling group of elderly people whose working lives were spent in adverse conditions while dedicated to the service of British interests overseas.]

That is a majority of hon. Members and a far greater number than have signed any early-day motion in this Parliament or the last. In all those circumstances, surely some extraordinary measure should be available to enable my right hon. Friend to provide time for a debate on the subject.

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

I recognise the strength of feeling and the support that my hon. Friend has. While I shall keep the matter under review, I regret that I have nothing to say to him today, except that it seems to be a point that could well be made in today's debate or in the debate on Monday. That might help my hon. Friend.

Photo of Mr Stuart Holland Mr Stuart Holland , Vauxhall

Will the Leader of the House ask the Minister of State responsible for Channel fixed link matters to come to the House and make a statement next week on how he intends hon. Members to be able to make representations on this matter? Ministers constantly say that they are not responsible for the answers, that British Rail is. When, as the Member for the constituency of Vauxhall, which includes Waterloo, I went to put questions to British Rail at a seminar on the Channel link, I was refused access by the manager of British Rail. Short of barging my way through the doors to a committee room in Waterloo station, when can I actually get answers to questions on these matters, and get them here in the House of Commons?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

I recognise the hon. Gentleman's concern in these matters, and I shall certainly see to it that this matter is brought to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport. If there are matters properly for him to answer, I shall see that the answers are given to the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Mr James Hill Mr James Hill , Southampton, Test

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary mentioned the Council of Europe, and the work that it is doing in preparing a structure for possible legislation in this House. Would this not be a good time to have a debate on the work of the Council of Europe in its many forms and also, perhaps for the information of its members, to discuss one of its responsibilities—the European Court of Human Rights?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

I recognise the work that my hon. Friend and others do in Europe on these matters. I should like to find time for a debate on the very important issues about which they are concerned, but I cannot promise a debate at the moment. I shall bear the matter in mind.

Photo of Mr James Molyneaux Mr James Molyneaux , Lagan Valley

Following what the Leader of the House said about the difficulties over the establishment of the Select Committee on televising the House, is he aware that we on this Bench, and I think I speak for the two national parties on the Bench in front of me, would be happy to see an amicable settlement to this problem? May we suggest that the easiest way is to increase the membership of the Committee by one to 22?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

The trouble is that there are fairly well-established and long-standing rules about the size and composition of Select Committees; all parties have to agree with those as far as it is possible to do so. The right hon. Gentleman will recognise that we chose a Committee of a size that would enable two representatives of the smaller parties to serve, which I thought was helpful. Unfortunately, we have run into difficulties, but I shall bear the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion in mind.

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

Will my right hon. Friend arrange for the Secretary of State for Defence to place in the Library, and make a statement next week on, the internal Ministry of Defence document "Learning from Experience" which shows that up to £4 billion of Ministry of Defence expenditure every year is accounted for by overspending on missile procurement? As that document was wrongly called confidential—it is apparently in the possession of The Guardian—it ought to be placed in the Library forthwith.

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

I recognise my hon. Friend's interest in these matters. I have communicated with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence who is aware of the interest in the report and who is considering whether it would be appropriate to make it more widely available. I have taken my hon. Friend's point on board.

Photo of Mr Dick Douglas Mr Dick Douglas , Dunfermline West

Will the Leader of the House reflect a little further on what he said about the poll tax regulations for Scotland? This is the second occasion on which the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments has found the documents to be defective in drafting and indeed ultra vires. Will he reflect that the right thing to do is to withdraw the whole Act?

Could we have a statement next week from either the Secretary of State for Energy or the Secretary of State for Scotland on the negotiations that are due to take place very soon between the South of Scotland Electricity Board and British Coal in relation to coal burn from Scottish coalfields? This is a very important issue affecting thousands of jobs in Scotland.

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

I have already said that I shall refer the first point to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and I have nothing further to add on that. The second point, too, I shall refer to my right hon. and learned Friend; I have no statement to make on it today.

Photo of Mr Andrew Rowe Mr Andrew Rowe , Kent Mid

Will my right hon. Friend reflect on the fact that, when Lady Wagner's committee produced its report last week, it had the courtesy to invite hon. Members to hear what it had to say before it met the press? By contrast, now that the Griffiths report has been presented to his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services, it proves impossible for hon. Members to obtain copies of it because it is not held in the Vote Office. Will my right hon. Friend do something about that and, when there is a debate on the Griffiths report, will he link it with the Wagner report, which clearly hears closely upon it?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

I shall bear my hon. Friend's latter suggestion in mind. I regret that he has not been able to get hold of a copy of the report and I shall see what I can do to help him.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

Will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate on the Register of Members' Interests so that we may see how it is operating? Will he bear in mind the fact that today's Daily Mirror carried a story about Morgan Grenfell and the hon. Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay)? Apparently, Morgan Grenfell is inviting clients to have the hon. Gentleman representing them. That represents a serious undermining of the job of a Member of Parliament. Surely we should have a debate to see how the register is operating and how it is being abused, rather than allowing the House to be brought into disrepute by the publication of internal memoranda that seem to suggest that some Members of Parliament are operating as Handy Andies for the clients who pay them, which is quite wrong.

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

I have not seen the report to which the hon. Gentleman refers, but I have noted the Select Committee's proposals about the changes to be made in the registration of directorships and the further look that it proposes to take at lobbying. However, I do not foresee the need for a debate in the immediate future.

Photo of Mr Richard Holt Mr Richard Holt , Langbaurgh

Notwithstanding the excellent unemployment figures today, there remains a disproportionate number of people out of work in the north of England. Is my right hon. Friend aware that in the Ministry of Defence alone there are 500 clerical vacancies? Would it not be in the interests of the Government and the people if more Government Departments — including parts of the Ministry of Defence—were moved to the north-east of England?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

I recognise that that would be helpful, but I would also remind my hon. Friend that four fifths of the civil servants employed by central Government are located outside the Greater London area. That is a good record, but we shall continue to try to do better.

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

May I draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to early-day motion 759 on the current situation in Panama?

[That this House congratulates Manuel Solis Palma on being elected by the National Assembly as the new President of Panama; calls upon the British Government to recognise President Palma as the new Panamanian Head of State; condemns the continuing attempts by the Reagan Administration to de-stabilise Panama because of that country's refusal to withdraw from the contradora peace process; and further calls upon the United States Government to give a clear undertaking to abide by the terms of the 1977 Carter-Torrijos Treaty which requires all United States military personnel to withdraw from the Panama Canal Zone by 31st December 1999.]

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Panama is close to civil war due to the sanctions imposed by the United States Administration on the Government of Panama? Is he further aware that serious British maritime interests will be involved if there are difficulties around the canal zone? In view of all those facts, can the right hon. Gentleman say when there is to be a debate on foreign affairs, especially one that will enable us to discuss the situation in central America — Panama, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

In recent weeks I have said to one or two hon. Members who have raised the question of a foreign affairs debate that I am hoping to arrange one in the not too distant future, but I cannot tell the House today when it will be. I have seen early-day motion 759. We do not agree with that motion. The British Government recognise states, not Governments, in accordance with international doctrine. Relations between Panama and the United States are matters for those Governments.

Photo of Sir Nicholas Fairbairn Sir Nicholas Fairbairn , Perth and Kinross

Following the matter raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow), if the usual channels cannot agree to set up a Committee on the subject of defiance of the Chair, may we have a debate in the Chamber, with proposals from all parties for appropriate punitive and deterrent penalties for those who defy the Chair and are in deliberate contempt of the High Court of Parliament?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

My hon. and learned Friend is quite right. These are ultimately questions for the House. I sympathise very strongly with what my hon. and learned Friend has said. All that I can usefully say is that I hope that every hon. Member will, on reflection, acknowledge that support for your authority, Mr. Speaker, is fundamental to the work of the House, and that support for the principle of free speech is worth having only when it is expressed without qualification.

Photo of Mr Andrew Faulds Mr Andrew Faulds , Warley East

Does the right hon. Gentleman recollect that I asked him last week to demand of the Home Secretary that he come to the House to make a statement as to what he is going to do about the appalling backlog of naturalisation representations which are clogging up the works at Lunar house in Croydon? Is there any truth—the House needs to know this and the country needs to know this—in the story that the people who put in these applications are going to be asked to have them back and put them in as their initials come up on some list? Will he arrange for the Home Secretary to come down and make a statement?

As to the Select Committee on the televising of the proceedings of the House, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a general feeling that both sides could not have got together a more flaccid collection of right hon. and hon. Gentlemans than this bunch comprises? Will he accept that there is a need for the House—

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. There must be moderation in language in this place.

Photo of Mr Andrew Faulds Mr Andrew Faulds , Warley East

Will he accept that there really is a need for the House to debate the composition of this Committee or to increase the numbers so that some hon. Members with backbone can be put on it?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

When the hon. Gentleman rose, I thought that he was about to thank me for trying to help with the problem that he raised last week, but that must have escaped his memory. With regard to the composition of the Select Committee, I consider that there are some very fine right hon. and hon. Members on it and I think that we shall deliberate very successfully on the matter in hand once we get over the minor difficulty, which may have to come to the House, regarding membership of that Committee.

On the more serious matter of the difficulties at Lunar house, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is aware of the difficulties, which have been caused by the success of the campaign to encourage people to register for British citizenship before the deadline of 31 December 1987. A long-term plan for processing applications is being developed and my right hon. Friend will report to the House in the appropriate way as soon as it is the right moment.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth , Mid Worcestershire

Will my right hon. Friend arrange an urgent debate on the arrangements being made between the Fees Office of the House of Commons and the Inland Revenue so that Opposition Members, especially the Leader of the Opposition and the Opposition Chief Whip, who find the budgetary proposals on top rates of tax so objectionable, can arrange to repay any reductions in tax that they receive as a direct contribution to any element of Government expenditure that they favour? Will my right hon. Friend also help people outside the House who are embarrassed at the amount of their own money that they will be allowed to keep to decide the best way to treat that money, to help the Health Service or any other area of Government expenditure?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

My right hon. Friend has made proposals in the Budget which will help all who wish to give money to charity to do so more effectively. I hope that hon. Members in all parts of the House will take advantage of that concession.

Photo of Andrew Welsh Andrew Welsh , Angus East

Will the right hon. Gentleman allow the Select Committee considering the televising of our proceedings to consist of 22 members so as to allow representation from all parts of the United Kingdom and be satisfactory to the parties involved? Is he aware that it has been suggested that it would ease the Government's problem if the matter were solved by tossing a coin? May I urge him to recognise that that would be a totally unacceptable way to deal with matters affecting the whole United Kingdom? Does he agree that a membership of 22 would allow all parties and all parts of the United Kingdom to be represented?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

Unfortunately, the hon. Gentleman does not take on board the fact that increasing the Committee to that size and putting a third member for the minor parties on it would make the Committee disproportionate. That is a way in which we can proceed only if there is general agreement on all sides. I am trying to find a method that is generally acceptable to everyone, but most of my suggestions so far seem to have fallen on stony ground. No doubt the minor parties will have to content themselves with the matter being resolved by the major parties in the House, which I should have thought that they would wish to avoid.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

In the light of Tuesday's hooligan behaviour by what has been aptly named the provisional wing of the Labour party, which significantly has not been condemned by the Leader of the Opposition who in any event is powerless to do anything about it, could my right hon. Friend say what discussions he has had through the usual channels to allow this House to discipline itself? Further, could he say, in the light of the possible advent of television cameras into this House, whether he feels that the animal excesses to which we were subjected on Tuesday will be further exaggerated by the cameras, in which case could we have an urgent and further debate on that subject?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

I cannot promise an urgent and further debate on the subject in the near future. I fully recognise the concern that my hon. Friend has expressed about the behaviour in the House last Tuesday and I know that he is fascinated by what goes on through the usual channels. All that I can tell him is that what goes on through the usual channels is an attempt to be constructive. That has always been our approach to these matters and it will continue to be so. Unfortunately, Tuesday was not a very creditable day for the House of Commons, in my view.

Photo of Frank Cook Frank Cook , Stockton North

Is the Leader of the House aware that my most honourable and apparently flaccid Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Dixon) today met a delegation from Belfast who came here to discuss implications for the shipbuilding industry? As the only shipbuilding in which the Cabinet seems to be interested concerns directorships and receiverships, will the Leader of the House ensure that there is a debate on the shipbuilding industry in the near future?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

That is one of the subjects on which I know that many right hon. and hon. Members would like a debate, but I cannot promise one in the immediate future.

Photo of Mr Robin Squire Mr Robin Squire , Hornchurch

Will my right hon. Friend consider providing time in the near future for a debate on the affairs of London, as I understand was the practice in previous years? Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that there are 84 Members representing greater London—more than the number representing Scotland—and that many of them will wish to contribute to such a debate?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

My hon. Friend raises an important matter. I believe that we should have such a debate and I will see what I can do, but I cannot promise one immediately.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

Are we right in supposing that, in the considered reply to the considered question of his right hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Onslow), who is Chairman of the 1922 Committee, the Leader of the House has promised a debate on behaviour? Should it not be a wider debate on public behaviour considering, for instance, the actions of the right hon. Gentleman's former service, MI6, and what Mr. Anthony Cavendish had to say in his book about the smearing of the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath)? Would not such a debate be an ideal occasion on which to discuss early-day motions 228, 253, 272, 273 and 286, all on the subject of Westland?

[That this House notes in the book, Campaign, by Rodney Tyler, the Selling of the Prime Minister: from behind the doors of Downing Street and Conservative Central Office—A unique inside account of the Battle for Power that the author on page 1, chapter 1, paragraph 1, sentence 1, states 'It was an extraordinary turnaround in fortunes from the moment on 27th January 1986 when Mrs. Thatcher secretly confided to a close associate that she might have to resign …' and on page 3 that 'On the eve of the crucial Westland debate she herself felt shakey enough to doubt her future' though some around her later sought to dismiss this as late evening anxieties of the sort that had disappeared the following morning). It is certainly true that if Leon Britton had chosen to, he could have brought her to the brink of downfall, by naming the real culprits inside Number 10. Instead, he chose to remain silent', and calls on the Prime Minister to give a full account of what transpired between 3rd January and 27th January 1986, at Number 10 Downing Street, in relation to the selectively leaked Law Office's letter concerning the Westland Affair.]

[That this House notes that the Member for Aldershot on page 136 of his book Heseltine: the unauthorised Biography, states in relation to the Westland Affair that 'John Wakeham issued an order of the day which contained the trite, if effective message, that it was time for all good men to come to the aid of the party. We did and calls on the Leader of the House, The Right Honourable Member for South Colchester and Maldon, to explain when he first knew the role of the then Trade and Industry Secretary, The Right Honourable Member for Richmond, Yorks, in the matter of the disclosure of a selectively leaked Law Officer's letter.]

[That this House notes that in his book Mrs. Thatcher's Revolution, published this week by Jonathan Cape and Co., Mr. Peter Jenkins writes, on page 200 'Britton himself refused to enlighten the Select Committee on any point of substance. However, he is reputed to have told close friends subsequently that not only has she known perfectly well what had happened but that, on the day following the leak, had expressed her satisfaction to him at the way things had beenhandled. However at that time, the downfall of Heseltine had not been achieved. … He (Mr. Britton) might point the finger at her (Mrs. Thatcher). Potentially he now had the power to destroy her'; and calls on the Prime Minister to give the House a full account of her conversations with the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, the Right honourable Member for Richmond, Yorks, over the period from 3rd January and 27th January 1986, in relation to the selectively leaked Law Officer's letter concerning the Westland Affair.]

[That this House notes that in The Thatcher Years—A decade of Revolution in British Politics, published by BBC Books, Mr. John Cole, on page 170, considering the selectively leaked Law Officer's letter in the Westland Affair, writes 'why did he (Sir Robert Armstrong) not give her a quick interim report when he discovered that the leak was an inside job, authorised by her office? Why did Leon Britian not tell her? Or the private secretary concerned? Or his chief, who sits in the same room? Or her press secretary? And why did she never ask?'; and calls on the Prime Minister to inform the House of the answers to these questions.]

[That this House notes that, in the book 'Not with Honour—The Inside Story of the Westland Scandal', on page 142, Magnus Linklater and David Leigh write that 'Instead, following Havers's complaint, she spoke privately to Brittan about the leak. Although this is something the Prime Minister has failed to disclose, to widespread disbelief the evidence comes from an authoritative source, who told us: "The Prime Minister knew about the leak. She was pleased it had been done. There was a meeting between Britton and her after the complaint from Mayhew. Only the two of them were present … Britton assumed she knew of [the leak's] origins. You must draw your own conclusions." One of Brittan's friends adds, "Nobody thought it was a problem. The complaints were out of the public domain and any inquiry was expected to be a formality. Leon wasn't worried at all about it."; and calls on the Prime Minister to give a full account to the House of the meeting between herself and Right honourable Member for Richmond, Yorks, referred to therein.]

Moreover, at what stage in next week's proceedings on the Education Reform Bill will there be a full explanation from the Prime Minister as to why, if the Cabinet is such a happy family, Downing street authorised the leaking of the correspondence between Mr. Paul Gray and Mr. John Jeffrey? That was not the action of a very happy family, was it?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

The hon. Gentleman lives in a world of his own. I have nothing to say to anything that he raised.

Photo of John Reid John Reid , Motherwell North

Does the Leader of the House accept that there is no way in which I can follow my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell? However, on the community charge — [Interruption.]—the poll tax—does he understand that it is utterly unsatisfactory that he should come here today on the occasion of the second imposition of unlawful regulations to do with the poll tax on the people of Scotland and describe them as "minor and technical" matters? Does he understand that that is particularly galling as his colleagues in Government are the first to scream when anyone suggests unlawful action on the poll tax? Why are we not having a debate to discuss the vital distinction between unlawful action in imposing the tax and unlawful action in opposing it, which Conservative Members find so difficult to accept?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

When I first met the hon. Gentleman when he arrived in the House, I thought that he was one of the more sensible of the new hon. Members from Scotland, but he seems affected by some of the weaknesses of some of his colleagues. He gets very excited about points which are minor and technical and which relate to a supplementary inquiry form. I have promised to refer them to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, and that is what I shall do.

Several Hon. Members:

rose

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. I will call the hon. Members who have been rising, including those who were rising previously; but I remind them that we have a statement and a heavy demand on the subsequent debate.

Photo of Alistair Darling Alistair Darling , Edinburgh Central

Further to that point, does the Leader of the House realise that these poll tax regulations impose major obligations and severe penalties on people in Scotland, and that he cannot deliberately override the fact that there has been criticism of their drafting and that they are virtually incomprehensible to lay people? Is it not time that these regulations were debated, or, at the very least, that the Secretary of State came to explain to the House why he was prepared to brush aside these niceties in order to have his way with the people of Scotland?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

I am not getting high-handed or overbearing, or anything of the sort. I am merely saying that the points have been raised, and I am referring the matter to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. I should have thought that that was helpful and that the hon. Gentleman would have thanked me for it.

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire , Spelthorne

If my right hon. Friend is willing to have a debate on the behaviour and conduct of Members of the House, will he undertake to hold it before the House further considers whether it wants television cameras here? After Tuesday's disgraceful scenes, a growing number of us have great reservations about whether that decision was the right one.

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

I have already said that I do not see the possibility of a further debate on televising the House until some later time when we have a Select Committee report to consider. I very much hope that we do not need a debate on the behaviour of hon. Members, as I hope it will improve.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn , Islington North

Is the Leader of the House aware that the United States has today ordered 3,000 troops into Honduras, which can only exacerbate the dangers of war in that region and deliberately undermine the progress of the Arias peace plan in the central American conflict? Is he further aware that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) said earlier, the United States is imposing the most vicious sanctions on Panama, thereby causing great hardship to its people? In the circumstances, does not the right hon. Gentleman believe that there should be an urgent debate on central America and the need for a concrete peace plan there, which can only be achieved if the United States withdraws all its forces and stops its aggression against the Government and people of Nicaragua?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has answered a question on this. I have answered the question of the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), and I have nothing further to add.

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke Shadow Minister (Disability)

Following the right hon. Gentleman's reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) on the Griffiths report, is it not unacceptable that that report is available in the Library but not in the Vote Office? Is not that consistent with the Government's approach to this recent report? In contrast with Sir Roy's report on the Health Service, which was widely publicised and warmly welcomed, this report on community care was published in the aftermath of the Budget, with no ministerial statement or press conference and, it would appear, in the absence of a debate. As Sir Roy identifies an important role for local government and the disgraceful state of community care provision, does not that make it all the more important that the House be given the facts and the opportunity for an urgent debate?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

I have already told my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) that if there are difficulties in getting hold of copies of the report I shall see what I can do to help. The Government are giving careful consideration to Sir Roy's report, which makes wide-ranging recommendations about the future of community care. We need time to study them and take account of reactions to the report. The Government will bring forward their own proposals in due course. At this stage we are keeping an open mind and considering all possible options.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Vice-Chair, Labour Party

If the Leader of the House wants to persist in drawing up the membership of Conservative Members on the new Procedure Committee looking into the conduct and behaviour of hon. Members, will he bear in mind that the conduct of many Conservative Members will be blighted by the fact that they may well be Freemasons or moonlighters, like the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit), who has five directorships and chairmanships already? Perhaps they will also be blighted by the fact that they go trotting off on freebies to South Africa in the pay of the Botha Government. Will that allow Conservative Members to be members of this great Procedure Committee? Will he allow on to the Committee people who are emotional and tired during the course of the day, having escaped from the Bars? Will they be breathalysed before attending the Committee? What a farce it all is.

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

The Committees of this House are determined by the House, not by me. The procedures that we have used over the years have produced some funny results sometimes, but by and large the results have been satisfactory.