Will the Leader of the House tell us the business for next week?
The business for next week will be as follows:
MONDAY I6 JANUARY—Consideration in Committee of the Security Service Bill (1st Day).
Motions relating to School Curriculum Development Committee and Secondary Examinations Council orders. Details will be given in the Official Report.
TUESDAY 17 JANUARY—Conclusion of consideration in Committee of the Security Service Bill.
Motions on Scottish Housing Support Grant Orders. Details will be given in the Official Report.
WEDNESDAY 18 JANUARY—Opposition Day (1st Allotted Day). Until about seven o'clock there will be a debate entitled "The Freeze on Child Benefit". Afterwards there will be a debate entitled "The Inadequacy of Government Provision for Pre-school Education and Child Care". Both debates will arise on Opposition motions.
Motion to take note of EC Document on the beef regime 1988–89. Details will be given in the Official Report.
THURSDAY 19 JANUARY—Motions on the Rate Support Grant Report (England) 1989–90 and supplementary reports, details of which will be given in the Official Report.
FRIDAY 20 JANUARY—Private Members' motions.
MONDAY 23 JANUARY—Opposition Day (2nd Allotted Day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion, subject for debate to be announced.
I thank the Leader of the House for his statement.
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether he intends the football identity card Bill to be introduced in the House of Lords or in this House? It is a most contentious measure that invades the civil liberties of tens of thousands of people wishing quietly to go about their lawful business and involves the disclosure of confidential personal information to commercial companies. The Bill shows that the Government are prepared to allow football and its law-abiding spectators to be taken as hostages. Instead of dealing with the yobbos, the Government propose to make life even more difficult for their victims—the clubs, the spectators, and the police. The Bill is clearly so controversial that it should come first to this elected House. Will he now follow the precedent set by the then Norman St. John-Stevas as Leader of the House in 1979 when he accepted our representations over a similar matter and withdrew the proposal to introduce a controversial measure in the Lords?
When do the Government expect to announce the outcome of their policy review of the National Health Service? When may we expect a statement to be made in this House, and will it be made by the Secretary of State for Health or the Prime Minister?
When will we have a debate on the Fennell report on the King's Cross disaster? This is not just a constituency interest of mine. It affects all who travel on London Transport and, indeed, is of interest to anyone concerned with transport safety—and, God knows, that includes practically everyone in the country at present.
Does the Leader of the House recall that the Secretary of State for Education and Science told the House in December that he would be happy to debate the proposed replacement of student grants with student loans and that he would like it to be debated before 1 February and in Government time? When does the right hon. Gentleman intend to make his right hon. Friend happy, if he means to do so?
May I remind the Leader of the House that the Standing Orders of the House still require the establishment of a Select Committee on Scottish Affairs? When does he expect to come to the House with some proposals to ensure that Scottish Labour Members can serve on that Committee and do their duty, which they want to do, whether or not his colleagues want to?
The hon. Gentleman asked me five questions about the business for next week and I shall do my best to answer them. He asked about the Football Spectators Bill. I can confirm that it will start in another place, and it is perfectly proper for it to do so. Successive Governments have started substantial measures in the House of Lords. It must be for each Government to organise their legislative programme and to decide on the appropriate House for the introduction of their Bills.
I cannot give the hon. Gentleman a specific date for a statement on the future of the NHS, but it will not be too long in coming. While I have not been able to confirm this, I imagine that the Secretary of State for Health would make the statement.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the Fennell report on the King's Cross fire is an important issue which should be debated. I recognise that, although the hon. Gentleman has a constituency interest, the matter is of wider concern. I regret that the arrangements that we previously proposed for a debate were unacceptable to the Opposition. I cannot promise a debate in Government time in the immediate future, but I shall certainly bear his point in mind.
I recognise that student loans are a suitable matter for debate. I shall discuss the hon. Gentleman's question with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science and see whether I can make the hon. Gentleman happy in the not-too-distant future. However, that is not necessarily my first priority in these matters because he is an understanding gentleman.
We had a reasonable debate recently in the House on the Scottish Affairs Select Committee, and the House reached a conclusion. If I thought that the position had changed in any way, I would come forward with proposals. During the debate constructive suggestions were made and I have invited the hon. Gentlemen who made them to come and talk to me. I would be prepared to meet them and anyone else to see whether any progress can be made, but I cannot be too optimistic at present.
In view of the question of the shadow Leader of the House, is my right hon. Friend aware that the Football Spectators Bill cannot come fast enough for those of us concerned for our constituents who have football grounds near their houses? Does he accept that the various press reports of rumblings on these Benches against the Bill are wholly unfounded and that we commend the Government on their admirable step? I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider introducing the Bill sooner rather than later.
I take note of my hon. Friend's points. It is an important measure and there is no room for any complacency in any part of the House. Last season there were more than 6,000 arrests at football matches and 6,500 ejections from grounds, so it is right that the Government proceed as soon as they can.
As over the past year there has been both an enormous increase in the frequency in food poisoning, with more than 50 deaths from salmonellosis and increases in the number of cases of listeria infestations, as reported yesterday in the press, and as those are the direct responsibility of his colleagues in the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, will the Leader of the House provide time for a debate on this matter as soon as possible?
I cannot promise a debate in the immediate future, but the Government are working with both the retail and manufacturing sectors of the food industry to address the problem of listeria in those foods most likely to be contaminated. The Department of Health is looking at the new data accumulating from various sources and considering their implications with the relevant experts.
Although I am tempted to register most strongly with my right hon. Friend my opposition to the national football membership scheme, my question relates to early-day motion 40.
[That this House calls for a full and early debate on the Barlow Clowes affair.]
Will my right hon. Friend seek to arrange at an early date a debate on the sad saga relating to the collapse of the Barlow Clowes companies, bearing in mind that more than 180 hon. Members have registered in that early-day motion their concern and demand for a debate?
I fully recognise my hon. Friend's concern. There is nothing that I can usefully add to what has been said in this House in the recent past. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry is co-operating fully with the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration and the right course of action is probably to wait for that report to decide how best to proceed.
As it has now become obvious that the price of a competitive economy is safety, and as there is evidence of reduced maintenance and inspections over a wide range of British industry, when may we have the opportunity to debate reconciling safety with the drive for profits?
I cannot accept the premise of the right hon. Gentleman's question. The Government have brought forward a whole range of measures covering a wide range of policies which have been designed to improve safety. I see no incompatibility between a profitable and well-run industry and maintaining high safety standards. The chances of high standards being maintained are improved if the business is run efficiently.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that many hon. Members believe that the provision usually made for foreign affairs debates is completely inadequate? Instead of having occasional debates over the whole tour d'horizon of British interests, would it not be better to have more debates on regional issues so that most of us might have an opportunity to speak on important matters?
I recognise my hon. and learned Friend's concern which is shared by a number of our colleages. I recently wrote to my right hon. Friend the Chairman of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs setting out my views on the matter. I shall try to meet the spirit of what my hon. and learned Friend says, hut, looking at past debates, considerably more hon. Members would have been able to take part if some of the speeches had been a little shorter.
Although the constituency of Richmond, Yorks has technically been unrepresented in this House only since the beginning of the week, is the Leader of the House aware that substantial issues are now arising in that area—for example, the lack of establishment of the local police force which the county council is anxious to press on the Home Secretary? Will the right hon. Gentleman explain why the Government have decided to adopt an entirely different procedure in filling the vacancy in Richmond compared with the attitude adopted by the official Opposition in calling the Govan by-election quickly to keep the electors of Govan properly represented? Will he assure us that there will be no undue delay in moving the writ for Richmond?
Will my right hon. Friend tell the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) that our hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry) has been widely reported in the local press as looking after constituency affairs in the Richmond area in the interim?
My right hon. Friend is quite right. Conservative Members ensure that, when there is a vacancy, one of our hon. Friends looks after the constituents' interests.
Is the Leader of the House aware of the increasing hazard to fishermen in the Firth of Clyde and the Irish sea caused by British and American submarines either submerging below them or getting caught in their nets? Is he aware that the latest incident took place on 3 January just off the coast of my constituency where the American submarine Will Rogers surfaced under a fishing vessel, the New Dawn? Will he arrange for either the Secretary of State for Defence or the Secretary of State for Transport, whoever is the responsible Secretary of State, to make an urgent statement to the House on that matter?
I am aware of this issue because I had the doubtful pleasure of hearing the hon. Gentleman speaking on the radio last night, and I gather that his comments were repeated this morning. This is a serious and important matter. The collisions between Royal Navy submarines and civilian craft are very rare. Submarine commanding officers are well trained in the avoidance of surface craft and every care is taken to avoid collisions. The Ministry of Defence pays fair and reasonable compensation to owners of civilian craft when Royal Navy vessels are shown to be liable. Accidents involving non-UK vessels are a matter for the Governments concerned.
My right hon. Friend may well have read in the press that last week there was a 17-mile tailback of traffic in the north of England on the A1 on a day when there was very little commercial traffic on the road. That was in juxtaposition with a reply that I received from the Department of Transport stating that it has no plans now, or in the medium or long term, to uprate the Al to motorway status. Is not that a disgrace and a matter that should be debated in this House?
I cannot accept my hon. Friend's latter remark. However, in view of his comments, I will certainly refer the matter to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport. I hope that it is possible to arrange a debate, but I cannot promise one in the immediate future.
Has the right hon. Gentleman had an opportunity to read early-day motion 241 titled:
Safety in the building and construction industry."?
It has been signed by 205 hon. Members from most parties, excluding the Conservative party, although Conservatives are welcome to sign it if they want to do so.
[That this House is deeply concerned and disturbed by the increase of accidents in the building and construction industry, leading to an increase in deaths and serious injuries; believes that this is partly due to the increase in self-employment, namely, lump labour and to some construction companies, in order to increase profits, ignoring the Health and Safety legislation; welcomes the efforts of workers and trades unions in the industry to halt the increasing numbers of deaths and injuries; fully supports the present campaign by workers and unions and other interested bodies to improve the situation; and further believes that there should be more factory inspectors appointed and that the legislation should be improved so thatstronger action can be taken against those employers who ignore the legislation and thereby put the lives of the workforce at risk.]
The matter is important because of the increase in deaths and serious injuries in the construction industry. Will he assure us on the basis of this early-day motion that we will have an early debate on the matter because it is vital for people working in the industry?
I am sure that the whole House will want to wish the hon. Gentleman a happy birthday. He has taken the opportunity to raise an important matter. The Government are concerned about health and safety in the construction industry generally. That is why we support the vigorous enforcement blitzes and publicity campaign on construction safety being run by the Health and Safety Executive and why we have given the HSE the resources that it asked for in the last public expenditure round.
Safety in the construction industry is relevant to the debate on the Employment Bill which is currently before the House. I cannot promise the hon. Gentleman a specific debate in the immediate future, but I will bear his point in mind.
May I express the hope that there will be a carefully prepared reply to my question as well? May we have a debate on the scandalous conduct of Westminster city council? Does the Leader of the House think that it is right that Westminster city council should award a £78,000 consultancy contract to Messrs Touche Ross when a partner in that company is the district auditor charged with the responsibility for investigating the scandal of the sale of Westminster's cemeteries? Is there not a clear conflict of interest, and should not the Government step in and put an end to this nonsense?
It is not primarily a matter for the Government. It is understood that the contract to which the hon. Gentleman refers has been discussed with the Audit Commission in accordance with the code of local government audit practice approved by Parliament. The commission is satisfied that it constitutes no threat to the auditor's independence. Once again, the hon. Gentleman's wild allegations do not stand up to inspection.
When the Leader of the House reads Hansard tomorrow, he may be amazed to note that his hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney) told the House during Northern Ireland questions that the blazing row between the Prime Minister and Mr. Haughey concerning extradition has been resolved. If that is true—and the Leader of the House is in a position to find that out—will he see to it that the House debates that matter at the first opportunity so that we may all know how the row was resolved, the compromises that were made, and what is to happen to Mr. Ryan?
I give the hon. Gentleman my assurance that I shall read Hansard tomorrow, and when I am reminded of what was said I shall determine the appropriate course of action.
The Leader of the House will be aware of the serious economic situation confronting the fishing industry as a result of lower total allowable catches and high interest rates. Given the small number of opportunities that right hon. and hon. Members representing fishing constituencies have to debate such matters, should not another debate be arranged in Government time, when the responsible Ministers can give their estimates of the economic damage done in terms of lost jobs and lost output that will be suffered by fishing areas resulting from the Government's policies?
If we are able to organise such a debate, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will present a more balanced account of the situation than he managed to give in his question to me. He must acknowledge the substantial success achieved by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in the negotiations, when the United Kingdom's share of total allowable catches suffered less than those of many other Community countries. However, it is an important issue, and, although I cannot promise an early debate, I shall bear the matter in mind.
Does my right hon. Friend share the increasing concern felt even among supporters of abortion law reform, such as myself, about the terms of the private Member's motion in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Miss Widdecombe), which is to be debated on Friday 20 January? Does my right hon. Friend agree that that motion, calling as it does for unlimited parliamentary time to be allocated to a private Member's Bill, represents a fundamental and far-reaching change in our parliamentary arrangements? Does he accept that the debate on that issue should be kept separate from the abortion issue itself, and that it would be wise to make use of a different procedure rather than a private Member's motion?
My hon. Friend raises an important point. I have read the private Member's motion on today's Order Paper to which he refers, but whether it is in order is a matter for you, Mr. Speaker, not me. However, we should consider carefully before seeking to amend Standing Orders through private Members' motions. I shall say no more at this stage, but if I catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, during the debate in question I shall seek to elaborate.
My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heller) mentioned the many deaths and serious accidents occurring in the construction industry. Is the Leader of the House aware that that situation is common to many industries? Will he arrange for the Secretary of State for Employment to come to the Dispatch Box and tell the House that he will do something about ensuring that there is a proper number of safety inspectors to do the job which would help to solve the problems?
The hon. Gentleman is not being fair. Of course there are difficulties, but the steps that the Government have taken to support the Health and Safety Executive to do what can be done is to be commended, not criticised. I have said that this is a right and proper subject for debate, but I cannot arrange one in the immediate future.
Since my right hon. Friend will be aware that we are all anxious to expedite the privatisation of Short Brothers, and since the company, which is wholly owned by the Government, will apparently require capitalisation to the tune of many hundreds of millions of pounds, can he say what legislative procedure will be necessary to place the company in the private sector?
No, I cannot, because the arrangements have not yet been made. There is nothing that I can add to what my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, the Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers), said in answer to a question earlier today, but we shall be able to address any legislative needs when the proposals have been finalised.
The Leader of the House will recall that the Secretary of State for Transport told me during questions on his statement on the tragic air crash on the MI that four aircraft with the same engines would be grounded. He has said since then that a considerable number of other aircraft have been grounded, although he has not told the House. Should there not be a further statement from him immediately, not on the results of the inquiry, which we must await, but on what is to be done to quell the fears of travellers and air crew about other aircraft while awaiting the results of that inquiry, because those fears are great and they are continuing?
The answer given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) during Prime Minister's Questions today should clearly be taken into account by everybody in order to lessen speculation. I do not think that there is need for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport to make a statement, but I shall refer the hon. and learned Gentleman's point to him to see whether he feels it necessary to say anything further.
Will my right hon. Friend refer at some stage to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary's interesting decision to cut off funds payable to Hackney council under section 11 I of the Local Government Act? Does he agree that it is now time that the House had a general debate about the activities of the race relations industry which would be of particular interest to Wolverhampton where, following the death of a West Indian, Clinton McCurbin, the officers of the council for community relations used their position as public servants to attack the police in a wild and unwarranted way and were not even prepared to accept the verdict of the coroner's inquest?
My hon. Friend raises important issues. I wish that I could be more forthcoming about a debate at Government time so that he could expand on the points that he has made, but he might seek to raise some of those matters on an Adjournment debate, which would not exclude the possibility of a debate in Government time if I could find such time, but I cannot be too optimistic.
Since the Government are supposed to be opposed to terrorism, why are we being represented at the funeral of Hirohito, one of the most notorious terrorists of all time? Does that not reek of double standards? Surely there should be an early debate to consider this important matter.
No, that is not necessary. The Government, and indeed the British people, have repaired many difficulties of the past, and good relations between the United Kingdom and Japan are in everybody's interests.
May I refer my right hon. Friend to the report on private Bill procedure produced by the Select Committee so ably chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest (Mr. McNair-Wilson)? Does he agree that the report contains important recommendations that merit early and full debate in the House, and can he offer us the prospect of an early debate on that subject?
I have been even more forthcoming than that. I have suggested that I am seeking to arrange a debate before the Government respond to that report so that the House may have a chance to express views on an important and complicated set of proposals. I hope to arrange that in the fairly near future.
Is the Leader of the House aware that the spokesman for the private sponsors of the proposed Gateshead city technology college has said that the aim of the school will be to educate children for the needs of business? Will he arrange for an early statement to be made by the Secretary of State for Education and Science in which he can assure the House that the aim of school education, especially for children up to 16 years old, is to educate the whole person and to prepare young children for the whole of their lives—not merely to turn out fodder for the temporary needs of business?
I should have thought that giving people an education that enabled them, among other things, to compete in today's highly competitive world was desirable. I shall refer the hon. Gentleman's point to my right hon. Friend—but I cannot promise an early debate.
Will my right hon. Friend accept that, unlike the Opposition, many of his hon. Friends are deeply reassured that the Football Spectators Bill will be starting in another place? Hopefully, it can be sunk without trace there and will not need to surface here.
Will my right hon. Friend give us back our slot for European questions? Perhaps not 80 per cent. of our legislation will be decided in Europe, but much of it will be. My right hon. Friend is deeply aware of the democratic deficit, and yesterday, in the one week in four when we have European questions, not one of them was reached.
My hon. Friend prefaced his reasonable question with a sentence that was not particularly helpful in his getting a favourable reply.
The previous arrangement, whereby a 20-minute slot was provided within Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Question Time, was agreed through the usual channels. That was subsequently changed to the current arrangement following further discussions through the usual channels. If right hon. and hon. Members generally hold the view that the current arrangements should be changed, discussions could be held again through the usual channels to determine whether that meets with general acceptance.
The Leader of the House promised us a debate on the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Private Bill Procedure. When will we have that debate? In the meantime, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that British Rail is making an announcement today or tomorrow about the siting of the second London terminal for the Channel tunnel, a decision that has widespread strategic implications for the whole of London and the south-east. It is being introduced through the private Bill procedure, which underlines how urgent it is to have a debate and to do something about the way in which that procedure is being used to circumvent all the planning procedures established by this House and used throughout the country.
I recognise the importance of the issue being considered by British Rail. I told my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate) that I hoped to arrange a debate in the not-too-distant future on the general subject of the way in which we handle private Bills in this House. That is an important subject, and we need to debate it.
Bearing in mind my constituents' long suffering at the hands of Ealing council, may we have an early and specific debate on the action of that council, which now proposes to increase rates by 35 per cent. in the coming year, having already increased them by 65 per cent. two years ago? Is my right hon. Friend aware of the extreme suffering of pensioners, disabled people and many others, about whom the Labour party on Ealing council professes to care so much, as a result of these wicked arrangements?
I am sure that the whole House is grateful to my hon. Friend for raising this matter. I wish it were possible to arrange a debate in the near future. I cannot do that in Government time, but my hon. Friend is ingenious at raising such matters in the House, and I am sure that he will give them the airing they need.
Has the Leader of the House been informed that the Secretary of State for the Environment is reconsidering the Torbay ballot on the selling of council houses, for which only 16 per cent. voted in favour? As it looks as though there will be a re-run ballot, may we take it for granted that, in line with the practice used by the Government against local authorities, since the Government have made a mistake in the legislation the cost of the re-run will be paid for by the Secretary of State for the Environment?
Is my right hon. Friend aware that Sheffield, Hallam Liberals have been sending me cheques for monitoring my speeches? Is it not time that we had a debate on this in case Short money, which is public money, is being used for such purposes?
I did not know that the Liberals in Sheffield had been sending my hon. Friend cheques for monitoring his speeches. No one sends me cheques for monitoring mine. However, I can understand that in Sheffield they believe that my hon. Friend's speeches are so good that they deserve that sort of support. I would find it hard to believe that that was the purpose for which Short money was given—or that that was what it was being used for.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is widespread support for just one initiative announced last year by the former Under-Secretary of State for Health, the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie)—the proposal to impose a ban on the production and sale of a form of chewing tobacco that goes under the trade name Skoal Bandits? Will there be an early opportunity for the House to consider regulations that would impose such a ban?
Bearing in mind the serious catalogue of murders in the Province of Northern Ireland, will the Leader of the House consider giving time for a full-scale debate on security there? My constituency has bourne the brunt of attacks along the border, recently and for many years. In the Castlederg area at least 20 members of the security forces have been murdered, yet not one person has been brought to justice or found guilty of those murders. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman can understand the frustration and fear with which people living in the border areas have had to exist for many years.
I accept what the hon. Gentleman says. I fully understand his feelings and those of his colleagues in Northern Ireland about the difficulties with security. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, as one of his prime concerns, continually tries to improve the arrangements. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not take it amiss if I tell him that it is difficult to see how I can arrange a debate in the immediate future—although the subject is worthy of proper discussion in the House when time is available.
Does the Minister think it appropriate that we should have an immediate debate on the dangerous practice of carrying chemicals by air? Following the importation into this country of 27 tonnes of PCBs from Canada to a spot near my constituency, I have been carrying on a long and detailed correspondence with the Department of Transport.
I was alarmed this morning to receive a letter which agreed that these products cannot be properly safeguarded in a crash or fire but said that the Government intended to do nothing about that. The letter seemed to suggest that PCBs would not survive an air crash. If they had been on board the aircraft that crashed over Lockerbie, they would not have survived. They would have changed into dioxins and dibenzofurons. A situation like that at Seveso might have recurred, and large tracts of country would have been unhabitable for decades. The Department of Transport does not think that this is a serious problem. Is it not time that this House told it that it is?
The hon. Gentleman knows much more about this than I do, but I do not think he has correctly interpreted my right hon. Friend's position. He is concerned about the possible release of dioxins in the extreme temperatures of a fire. As a first step—by which I mean the first from this moment—he will discuss with the Health and Safety Executive and the Civil Aviation Authority whether to propose an international review through the ICAO.
In view of the Prime Minister's significant statement at Question Time today that the Government are taking active steps to prevent British firms from participating in the building of the chemical warfare establishment in Libya, could we have a debate next week to enable the House of Commons to send a simple message to the other EEC countries that their Governments, particularly Germany, should follow exactly the same course? Appalling problems are created by chemical warfare. If the EEC is meant to stand for freedom and liberty, is there no procedure whereby that course could be followed, with the Government's splendid example being sent as a clear message to the other EEC countries?