Will the Leader of the House tell us the business for next week?
The business for next week will be as follows:
MONDAY 3o JANUARY—Remaining stages of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Bill.
Debate on a motion to approve the House of Commons (Services) Committee 2nd report, Session 1987–88, on access to the precincts of the House.
WEDNESDAY I FEBRUARY—Opposition Day (3rd Allotted Day). Until about seven o'clock there will be a debate entitled "The Housing Crisis". Afterwards there will be a debate entitled "The Blight of Low Pay". Both debates will arise on Opposition motions.
THURSDAY 2 FEBRUARY—Consideration in Committee of the Official Secrets Bill (2nd Day).
FRIDAY 3 FEBRUARY—Private Members' Bills.
MONDAY 6 FEBRuARY—Opposition Day (2nd Allotted Day, 2nd half). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion, subject for debate to be announced.
The Chairman of Ways and Means is expected to name opposed private business for consideration at seven o'clock.
I thank the Leader of the House for his statement. First, can he tell us when we are to get the long-promised debate on the Fennell inquiry report into the King's Cross fire?
Secondly, following the publication of the report by the independent inquiry into the making of the Thames TV film "Death on the Rock", will we get a statement next week about inaccurate information given at the time by Ministers and subsequent lies peddled by Government press officers?
Finally, could the Leader of the House make sure that next Tuesday's statement on the future of the National Health Service discloses who has conducted the Government's market-oriented review, who was consulted and who gave advice? The House is entitled to know this, especially at a time when the ethics of the market place have penetrated so far into the British private health sector that human organs are apparently being bought and sold.
The hon. Gentleman has asked me three questions about next week's business. First, he asked about a debate on the Fennell report. I appreciate that this is an important matter about which he is greatly concerned. I regret that I have nothing to add to what I said last week.
The hon. Gentleman asked about the television programme "Death on the Rock" and the report on it. I do not see any likelihood of a statement next week. I have not yet seen the report, but this matter was settled by a proper court of law which returned a verdict of lawful killing. If the conclusions of Lord Windlesham's report are as the media suggest, I can say now that the Government profoundly disagree with it.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the French Government and such bodies as the Council of Europe intend holding massive celebrations this year to mark the French revolution 200 years ago? Will he ensure that no member of Her Majesty's Government or, I hope, any right hon. or hon. Member attends those celebrations, because the revolution is entirely abhorrent to most English people?
My hon. Friend's request goes rather wide of my responsibilities. I know that those who will be considering the matter to which he refers will take notice of his comments, as they always do.
Does the Leader of the House acknowledge that many right hon. and hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies are inundated with representations about anomalies in the administration of the poll tax? Will he make time available for those matters to be fully aired in the House?
If the Government, in considering the Windlesham report, are not prepared to allow a Minister to make a further statement clarifying what happened on the Rock, does the Leader of the House at least accept that the report could be the useful basis of a debate on the relationship between Government and the broadcasting authorities?
We had a considerable number of debates on the community charge, and I cannot promise another one on that subject next week. I have said to the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) that I propose to arrange a debate on the broadcasting White Paper in February. Whether or not the views that the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) wishes to express are relevant to that report will be a matter for you to decide, Mr. Speaker, not me.
I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to early day motion 334, entitled "Hirohito's War Crimes":
[That this House, in view of alarming new evidence as contained in the BBC television programme, Hirohito—Behind the Myth, shown on Tuesday 24th January and in the book Unit 731, confirming that Hirohito was a vile war criminal, strongly urges the Foreign Secretary not to attend his funeral.]
As the House has not yet debated that very sensitive issue, will my right hon. Friend find time for it to do so?
As British Rail is likely to announce in the next few days its preferred rail link with the Channel tunnel, will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that the House may have a debate then so that right hon. and hon. Members can demand protection and compensation for constituents who may be affected?
I understand that British Rail is still considering the choice between the route options identified in the report it published last July. British Rail will need to seek statutory authorisation for any route it finally chooses. Therefore, the House will have an opportunity to debate the matter in full. The private Bill procedure for authorisation of the new railway works will almost inevitably be needed.
Is the Leader of the House aware that, in view of the need to maintain good relationships with the modern and democratic Japanese Government, our Government should invite the Duke of Edinburgh to attend a ceremonial state function in honour of Japan's new emperor rather than advise him to attend the funeral of the old emperor solely because, if the Duke of Edinburgh attends Hirohito's funeral, it will offend thousands of former prisoners of war? The Duke of Edinburgh should be advised not to attend the funeral on that ground alone, rather than because right hon. and hon. Members condemn Hirohito—something they are not entitled to do, because they do not have the evidence to do so.
I heard the right hon. Gentleman express those views on the radio earlier in the week, and I respect them. However, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister answered a question on the subject earlier today, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs has explained the reasons for the attendance at the funeral of my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary, and my right hon. and learned Friend has himself written to the right hon. Gentleman. I have nothing to add to that.
Has the Leader of the House had an opportunity to see early-day motion 328, signed by 152 right hon. and hon. Members?
[That this House condemns the decision of British Coal to commission Research Services Ltd. to undertake a survey of miners at Kellingley Colliery to obtain their views on the privatisation of the coal mining industry; further condemns British Coal for providing the names and addresses and clock numbers of miners to this public relations company, without their knowledge and consent; considers this to be an invasion of privacy and a threat to civil liberties; and calls for an urgent statement by the Government as to why British Coal are spending their scarce finances to provide information for potential private owners.]
The motion expresses concern at British Coal's appointment of a public relations company to invade the privacy of miners' homes. We have evidence that that could be in breach of the Data Protection Act 1984. Will the right hon. Gentleman request his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to investigate and to make a statement to the House?
May I again draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to early-day motion 241?
[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 trade 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 that stronger action can be taken against those employers who ignore the legislation and thereby put the lives of the workforce at risk.]
The motion concerns safety in the building and construction industry and has been signed by 244 hon. Members, including the leader of every non-Government party in the House, excluding my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. Leaders of the Opposition do not sign early-day motions, although mine has been signed by members of the shadow Cabinet. Is it not clear that this matter concerns the whole House? Two Conservative Members have signed the motion. Should we not have an early debate on the issue, which is vital to those in the construction industry?
Of course the Government are concerned about health and safety in the construction industry generally, and the subject is relevant to debate on the Employment Bill, which is currently being considered and will return to the Floor of the House in due course. I am sorry that I cannot offer the hon. Gentleman a debate in Government time, but there are other ways in which he could pursue the need for a debate.
Is my right hon. Friend determined to leave a debate on the important report by the Joint Committee on Private Bill Procedure until everyone in the House and outside it has forgotten what was in the report? Will he then only put down a motion to take note, or will he accept his duty as Leader of the House to put the recommendations of that Committee—of which I was not a member—before the House so that it can take positive decisions before its report has passed out of memory?
I do not think that there is much risk of that happening. The report is very important and significant, and my colleagues and I are currently studying it. I have told the House that we shall first arrange a debate so that we can hear the views of the House. When we have heard its views, we shall bring forward our proposals on how the matter should be dealt with.
Will the Leader of the House make time available for a debate on foreign aid? Is he aware that the Government have promised to fund a £20 million water drilling exercise in 10 states in India, but are now saying that they will not do so? Is he further aware that a firm of some excellence in my constituency stands to lose that order, and that our competitors—the Russians, the Italians and others—are more than likely to take up the Indian Government's offer of a contract because they are determined to go ahead? May we have a debate on this urgent matter in the near future?
As south-west London is for the second time suffering chaos caused by the closure of Battersea bridge as a result of a refuse barge colliding with it, will my right hon. Friend ensure that a statement is made in the House by the Secretary of State for Transport to tell us what steps he will take to raise the standards of competence and safety in navigation on the Thames?
Is the Leader of the House aware that in 15 minutes' time the Secretary of State for Transport is due to conduct a press conference in his headquarters about the central London rail study report, the publication of which has been well publicised? Is he aware that that report is not available in the Vote Office, although it is the subject of a written question? Would the Secretary of State for Transport dare to announce an investment of billions of pounds in Scottish railways or transport other than in a statement in this House? In spite of the Government's policy on inflation, why have fares in London risen by double the rate of inflation? The rate precept on London ratepayers has been increased by 50 per cent. in the current order to assist London Transport. That is a very inflationary move.
I recognise the perfectly legitimate concern of hon. Members. However, the hon. Gentleman has not quite stated the position as it is. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport has made an announcement by written answer this afternoon on the central London rail study report. That does not represent a new policy initiative. The report stems from a joint study by British Rail, London Regional Transport and the Department of Transport and it outlines possible options for future decisions. However, as much work remains to be done before the Government can take decisions, a debate at this stage would be premature. I recognise that certain documents are not available in the Vote Office, and I will make immediate inquiries about that.
My hon. Friend is referring to a detailed and complicated document. Perhaps it would be better to wait until right hon. and hon. Members have had time to consider it properly before I consider the possibility of a debate. However, I am sure that hon. Members will want to return to that matter.
May we introduce the idea of a debate before the Budget to give the Government advice on how to spend the £15,000 million surplus that is constantly referred to in the media? Could we point out that the rate support grant for Derbyshire county council has been reduced from 61 per cent. to 46 per cent. and that that should be restored to keep the price of kids' school meals down and keep the price of meals on wheels down which Derbyshire has managed to hold steady since 1981 despite all the difficulties? If we had such a debate, we could advise the Chancellor on how to preserve services, instead of his squandering the money on tax cuts for the wealthy.
The hon. Gentleman knows better than to ask a question like that. He knows perfectly well that we have just had a debate on the Autumn Statement. I will be arranging a debate on the public expenditure White Paper, which is relevant to the hon. Gentleman's point, and the Budget will be on 14 March. The hon. Gentleman has plenty of opportunities to raise his points. Perhaps he would like to think carefully about what he wants to say before he says it.
When might my right hon. Friend be expected to present proposals to the House to increase the co-operation institutionally between Members of this House and British Members of the European Parliament, especially as the urgency of the matter increases as we get nearer to 1992?
I am anxious that there should be close co-operation, and there is no complaint from the Members of the European Parliament and the British Government about the co-operation between the two. There are difficulties about access to the House, and I had hoped that it would be possible to make progress on an agreed basis, but that does not seem possible.
Another good reason why no one should go to Emperor Hirohito's funeral is the disgraceful decision by the Japanese authorities to kill 300 minke whales—[Interruption.] I am sorry that some Conservative Members find it funny-on the peculiar ground that they want to see how many there are. That is rather like pulling up a plant to look at its roots in order to see how it grows. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House what protests are being made to the Japanese authorities, and will he arrange an early debate on animal conservation?
I should like to initiate a debate on animal conservation and I wish that I could find time for one in the near future. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman has connected two matters which I do not consider are properly connectable. Nevertheless, I shall refer his point to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.
Is my right hon. Friend able to say when the Local Government Bill, which will implement the recommendations of the Widdicombe report, will come before the House, in view of the fact that Ms. Linda Bellos, the former leader of Lambeth council, who is still a serving councillor, is on the short list to become deputy chief executive of the London borough of Hackney?
Has the Leader of the House seen Mr. Speaker's comment yesterday that the following question was a legitimate question to put to the Leader of the House? Did the Leader of the House note the remark of the hon. Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken) that MI5 "fingered" six Conservative Members of Parliament as unfit for office, clearly on the basis that they should not see classified material? What will happen if those Members are appointed to a Select Committee, such as the Select Committee on Defence or the Public Accounts Committee. and have access to classified information, as I have as a member of one of those Committees? Should not the Committee of Selection now ask to see and perhaps even take evidence from MI5 to establish who those Members were and whether they should have access to classified material? If not, there must be an inconsistency. I shall not drop this subject until I get an answer.
My right hon. Friend will remember that last week he kindly undertook to consider the opportunity for a debate arising from early-day motions 249 and 250.
[That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Price Marking ( Petrol) (Amendment) Order 1988 ( S.I., 1988, No. 2226), dated 20th December 1988, a copy of which was laid before this House on 22nd December, be annulled.]
[That this House notes the recommendation of the Trade and Industry Committee that petrol prices should continue to be displayed in gallon as well as litre terms on boards visible from the roadside; notes that the Price Marking ( Petrol) (Amendment) Order 1988 will remove this requirement with effect from 23rd January; and calls for a debate on the Order.]
The latter has now collected more than 202 signatures. This is a matter of considerable public interest and importance. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will guide us as to what he can do to help.
I said that I thought that those matters were best discussed through the usual channels. I regret to have to tell my hon. Friend that the discussions are still continuing.
My right hon. Friend will probably be able to tell us when we last had a debate on our relationship with the Isle of Man. I should like to refer to the current corruption trials taking place on the island, but which might be sub judice. As we provided the police who did the investigation, the judge who sits in the court and the liquidator who steals legally millions of pounds from those creditors who have lost money through the failure of the Manx Savings and Investment Bank, is it not time that the House had an opportunity to debate the subject?
I cannot promise my hon. Friend an answer to his question as I do not know when we last had such a debate in the House, nor can I promise him one in the near future. I shall look into the matter and write to my hon. Friend.
Would it not be appropriate to have a statement early next week on the appointment of the deputy chairman of the IBA and its successor body, given Lord Chalfont's dubious links with commercial organisations? Is it not clear to the Leader of the House that Labour Members have no confidence in Lord Chalfont's appointment, given what has emerged so far? The Prime Minister's reponse to date has been completely inadequate.
If there is to be a debate on the Windlesham report, will the Government make it clear that it would be highly unlikely that television companies would be clamouring to make documentaries if the three IRA terrorists on active duty in Gibraltar had succeeded in killing innocent men and women?
Will the Leader of the House arrange for two urgent statements to be made, the first by the Home Secretary announcing that he has given a soldier's farewell to the Guardian Angels, the American vigilante group, and the second by the Secretary of State for Transport announcing that he is providing extra funds, transport staff and transport police so that law-abiding citizens who rely on public transport can travel in comfort and safety and with the maximum protection?
I shall refer the hon. Gentleman's points to my right hon. Friends. We are opposed to private citizens adopting a policing role, except as special constables. We are in favour of active citizens playing a full part in acting as the eyes and ears of the police. There can obviously be no objection to people travelling on the Underground if they do so in an unprovocative manner as fare-paying and law-abiding citizens. If they act unlawfully and engage in conduct likely to provoke a breach of the peace, their presence will not be welcome. In that event. they could not expect to be exempt from the ordinary processes of the law.
The number of British Transport police officers policing the Underground will be increased significantly. In the meantime, they will be reinforced by a loan of officers from the Metropolitan police and the City of London police forces.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Crown Prosecution Service pays solicitors two and half times as much as it pays members of the Bar for exactly the same work? Does that not show that if the independent and separate Bar is abolished—as is intimated in the Green Paper—the cost of legal services will be much greater for the ordinary person in the street? Will he therefore reconsider the answer that he gave my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, North-East (Mr. Thurnham) and arrange an early debate on the Green Papers so that these matters can be brought before the public?
I have no doubt that these matters will be brought before the public, but time for study and reflection by right hon. and hon. Members on this important matter will be profitable.
Will the Leader of the House arrange for an early debate on the length of hospital waiting lists in Leicestershire and especially at the Glenfield community hospital in my constituency? Is it not intolerable for a man such as Mr. George Brown, who is 82 years old, to be told in December that he could not have an appointment until October of the following year? Even if the case were not urgent, surely there should be a debate; but it is urgent and he has not been given an appointment, so the matter must be dealt with swiftly.
The hon. and learned Gentleman is usually fair. It is obviously impossible for me to investigate the details of the matter that he has raised. We have many debates relevant to the Health Service. I cannot promise the hon. and learned Gentleman an early debate, but if he writes to me I will look into the matter.
Has my right hon. Friend read early-day motion 322?
[That this House views with grave concern reports that widespread peak-time closures of motorway junctions on the M25, M3, M4 and M40 west of London are almost certain to be adopted by the Department of Transport; calls for immediate publication of the report by consultants Rendel Palmer and Tritton if it recommends this; and urges the Department of Transport not to proceed with a scheme which would have disastrous consequences for the very same local roads whose congestion problems the M25 and other motorways were designed to solve, but instead to concentrate on positive measures to improve the motorway network.]
It deals with motorway junction closures. Is my right hon. Friend aware that Sir Alan Bailey, permanent secretary at the Department of Transport, told the Public Accounts Committee last week that the Department had not ruled out widespread junction closures on the M3, M4, M25 and M40 at peak times? Has my right hon. Friend any idea of the chaos that that would cause on local roads west of London, and will he arrange for an early debate?
There is no truth in reports that widespread peak closures of junctions on the M25, M3, M4 and M40 west of London are being considered by the Department of Transport. Rendel, Palmer and Tritton is still completing its review of the M25. We will consider its report on where delays and queuing on the M25 and the adjacent network are occurring and recommended outline solutions for further study. It is too early to say what it will recommend for the M25. It is not looking directly at the M3, M4 or M40.
Will the Leader of the House arrange a debate on the Register of Members' Interests, which is in the Library and should be in the Vote Office at any time? The register has never been debated. For instance, we could look at the shrinking number of clients that some hon. Members are listing. They seem to be registering umbrella companies. The hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry), who appears to have done that, and other hon. Members could give an adequate explanation of why it has occurred. We could discuss other procedures that allow hon. Members to present Bills about audit committees, such as the one on the Order Paper today. They have no connection with such Bills, apart from the fact that they are parliamentary advisers to Price Waterhouse. There seem to be some good reasons for debating the issue.
The House has decided what information should be put into the Register of Members' Interests. So far as I know, every hon. Member complies with the wishes of the House. By the tone of his question, it seems that the hon. Gentleman wants to pursue a witch hunt, requiring hon. Members to go further than the recommendation of the House, and he will not get any support from me.
Will my right hon. Friend find time for the House to debate the threat by a minority of lecturers in our further education system to withdraw their labour? Such a debate would allow many hon. Members to express their constituents' concern that their children's future will be damaged for ever because of a disruption of examinations. It would also give us an opportunity to say that that minority are doing a great deal of damage to the reputation of an otherwise honourable profession.
I sympathise with my hon. Friend. His views are shared by many Conservative Members. I regret that I cannot find time for a debate on this subject in the immediate future.
I link my protest with that of the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) about the absence of a statement on the central London rail study. I gather that documents have been put in the Library and that there are three volumes of material accompanied by a written answer. In today's business questions, there have already been five questions about London transport matters. I urge the Leader of the House to try to make sure that we have an opportunity for all parties, rather than just the Government, to comment on policy options such as those being presented, and that we have an early debate before further decisions are announced or expected.
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman was present when I answered previously. The report does not represent any new policy initiative. It is a report of a study group. It outlines possible options. Much more work needs to be done before the Government will be in a position to take decisions, and then a debate would be appropriate.
I remind my right hon. Friend of the interest that he expressed a few weeks ago about the important national game of cricket. May we have an early debate on the recent decision of the international cricket conference with a view to discussing the different treatment of Basil D'Oliveira, who was born in South Africa, from that of his son Damian, who was born in this country?
Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in 1969, the MCC cancelled a tour of South Africa by this country because it was not allowed to select Basil D'Oliveira? He would not have been allowed to play in South Africa. That gentleman repeatedly played for England with great distinction and coached in South Africa for many years, also with great distinction. His son will not be able to coach in his country of origin or play for England in the way that his father did. Is there not a serious unfairness in that?
Has my right hon. Friend noticed how the Government's policies have increased inward and internal investment in Scotland and thus increased the number of jobs available and brought down the unemployment figures? Does he agree that the apparent political problems in Scotland, resulting in a meeting of all Opposition parties in Scotland tomorrow, could have a destabilising effect and damage confidence? Is it not about time that the House had an opportunity to discuss ways and means of testing the opinion of the Scottish electorate on the future of Scotland and whether Scotland wishes to remain part of the Union?
I wonder whether my hon. Friend is giving perhaps a bit too much importance to what might go on next weekend in Scotland. We will have to see what comes out of the meeting. I wonder whether the goings on of various Opposition parties are quite as significant as he suggests.