Will the deputy Prime Minister tell us the business for the first week after the summer recess?
The business for the first week after the summer adjournment will be as follows:
TUESDAY 17 OCTOBER—There will be a debate on the Griffiths report and community care on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.
WEDNESDAY 18 OCTOBER/THURSDAY 19 OCTOBER—There will be a debate on a Government motion to approve the Defence Estimates 1989 (Cm 675)
FRIDAY 20 OCTOBER—There will be a debate on top-up loans for students on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.
May I thank the deputy Prime Minister for his statement and welcome him to his new job? I fear that it bears an uncanny resemblance to a Government training scheme, with him dogsbodying around for an ungrateful boss but with no—[Interruption.]
—with the right hon. and learned Gentleman dogsbodying around for an ungrateful boss, but with no guarantee of a proper job at the end of it.
May I thank him also for so promptly honouring the undertakings of his predecessor and for arranging debates in Government time on the Government's response to the Griffiths proposals on care in the community and for the debate on the proposals to replace student grants with student loans? We would, of course, have preferred both those debates to be on substantive motions, and we especially object to the student loans debate being held on a Friday.
May I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman during the recess—[Interruption.]
Order. I appeal to the House to settle down. I repeat that this is a day for Back Benchers, but these interruptions are taking up a lot of time and I am anxious to call as many hon. Members as possible in the next debate.
May I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to give some thought during the recess to establishing a Select Committee on Scottish Affairs? The people of Scotland and their elected representatives feel cheated at the failure to establish this, the only Select Committee that has not been established as required under the Standing Orders of the House. As there is now a new Back Bencher for Scotland, the Government may find it easier to find Tories to take their places on that Committee.
Finally, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman confirm that the much postponed debate on Members' pensions and on the possibility of severance payments for Ministers will be arranged during the spill-over period? I am sure that he will agree that the House should have an opportunity to vote on the severance pay proposals before the next reshuffle.
I acknowledge the benevolent part of the hon. Gentleman's opening remarks and I shall leave the rest on one side by expressing my gratitude for his observations about the debates that we have been able to arrange on the Griffiths report and on top-up loans. I note his point about the arrangements for debates. At present, they are designed for the general convenience of the House. If he wishes to have any alternatives considered, that can be done through the usual channels.
The hon. Gentleman also raised a topic that is not unfamiliar to the House—a Scottish Affairs Select Committee. One regrets the inability to form a Select Committee on Scottish Affairs. I think that, in the light of whatever factors he cares to mention, if anyone has any new proposals to make on that, they too can be considered through the usual channels.
It has also proved difficult to arrange a debate on parliamentary pensions and severance payments. I hope to be able to find time for that shortly after the House returns in October.
My right hon. and learned Friend is aware, from his highly distinguished service at the Foreign Office, that the House of Commons is remiss at debating foreign affairs. Will he give his attention to that matter, in view of the enormous changes that are taking place in the world and our inability to consider them?
I am clearly aware of the importance of the matter my hon. Friend has raised. It is important to acknowledge that my predecessor recently arranged for two debates on foreign affairs, so I cannot rush in, ambitiously, in the near future.
I welcome the right hon. and learned Gentleman to the distinguished office he has now assumed. Those of us who have been in the House on Thursdays for business questions have heard the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) quite properly ask for for debates on the Griffiths report and student top-up loans. I am pleased that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has managed to deliver them so quickly. If he repeats that performance over many Thursdays, he will be an especially popular Leader of the House.
In view of his legal background, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman arrange a debate on the White Paper on legal services, as the House has never had an opportunity to comment on the Government's proposals? In view of his experiences this week, will he arrange a debate on homelessness and those threatened with homelessness?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his opening remarks. I do not feel impelled by any experiences this week to consider his last suggestion. Obviously it can be looked at. I am grateful for his appreciation of the announcement about debates on the Griffiths report and top-up loans. Legal services are an important issue and I am prepared to consider what can be done about a debate on them.
I do not think that the House normally feels impelled to have a debate simply because of the observations of a Head of State of a friendly nation, which I have of course, noted with interest. My hon. Friend will recall that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer recently tabled a full paper on that subject for consideration by a Committee in the House. That is the best way to handle it.
Will the deputy Prime Minister capitalise on the very warm reception he has just received from the House by trying to be a reforming Leader of the House? Will he start with the private Bill procedure, which has developed into a shambles in recent years? Will he notice the large number of Bills that are now being blocked? Will he take note of the excellent report of the special Procedure Select Committee on reforming private business, as that needs to be implemented as soon as possible, even if it involves having a "high noon" with the people who have just appointed him to his new post?
I know of the hon. Gentleman's close interest in the important but extremely complicated subject of private Bill procedure; I also know of the reports which have been considered recently, but which I have not yet had time to study fully. I shall certainly endeavour to do so during the recess, and to consider the matter in the light of the hon. Gentlemen's observations.
I know that my right hon. and learned Friend will be aware that it was hoped in some quarters that a Government statement might be made about Hong Kong and the so-called flexible package before the rising of the House. It is quite understandable that that has not proved possible, but will my right hon. and learned Friend convey to our right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary that, should he feel during the recess that circumstances in Hong Kong require him to introduce a new policy, he should not feel constrained from doing so, but will operate in accordance with Hong Kong's needs and interests rather than waiting until Parliament resumes?
My right hon. Friend will gather from the new arrangements made for ministerial duties in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office that my right hon. Friend the new Foreign Secretary manifestly attaches importance to the subject of Hong Kong. I shall certainly draw my right hon. Friend's proposal to his attention, however, so that he can keep it well in mind.
The Leader of the House will be aware that, for some of this week, 10 Downing street appears to have been operating as a rather less than efficient estate agency. In view of that inefficiency, can we expect the announcement, soon after the recess, of a debate on the privatisation of the various stately homes handled by the Prime Minister?
I think that the hon. Gentleman will find that most, if not all, of the stately homes in which he takes such a close interest are not in state ownership, but are owned by trusts established for the purposes for which they are being used.
May I congratulate the Leader of the House on his appointment to a position that will bring him into close touch with all Members of Parliament? May I also congratulate the Prime Minister, who has been the subject of some cheap and hurtful gibes, on the appointment of the new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland? Would it be possible to debate the political situation in Northern Ireland immediately after the recess to see whether we can make new political progress?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his opening remarks. Of course I understand his continuing interest in the topic that he has raised; the House has had several recent opportunities to discuss Northern Irish affairs in some detail, but I shall certainly keep his suggestion in mind.
Will the Leader of the House ensure that next year's defence debates follow soon after the publication of the defence White Paper? For three years, there has been a pause of five to six months, to which I believe many hon. Members on both sides of the House object.
May I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for his unfailing courtesy and distinguished service as Foreign Secretary over the past six years?
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for those last remarks. If what he has described has happened in each of the three preceding years there may well have been good reasons for it, but I shall certainly take account of what he has said.
Let me join other hon. Members in welcoming my right hon. and learned Friend warmly to his new and important post. In view of the major outbreak of salmonella poisoning in my constituency and in other parts of the north-west, and the statement on food safety that we are about to hear, can my right hon. and learned Friend assure the House that an early debate on food safety and the Government's proposals will be possible after the summer recess?
In the short time for which he has occupied his new position, has the right hon. and learned Gentleman had an opportunity to read early-day motion 1245, concerning the sacking of Tilbury docks shop stewards?
[That this House is outraged by the brutal attack upon the rights of free trade unionists by the arbitrary decision of the port employers at Tilbury Docks to summarily dismiss only the 16 shop stewards in a clear and provocative attempt to intimidate trade unionists acting in full compliance with the Government's onerous laws.]
Does he not realise that there should have been a debate on the matter—even, perhaps, at this late hour—particularly as the redundancy payments scheme is being used in such a flagrantly anti-trade union and anti-democratic manner? Is it not a disgrace that shop stewards should be sacked in this way and that other ordinary members of the dock unions should then have been placed in an almost impossible position because, if they had stayed out, the dockers who have been sacked would get no compensation whatever? It is the worst possible use of money in an anti-trade union way, and I hope that that will be taken on board by the Government.
The hon. Gentleman was first elected to this House from Merseyside on the same day as I was, and I have known of his interest in the future of the dock industry since that time. However, I confess that I do not think that the advice that he has given his fellow workers in the industry has served them to the best advantage. The Government have been obliged to introduce legislation which was recently enacted in respect of the dock labour scheme. The shop stewards who were dismissed were among a larger group made redundant by their employers and, despite risking dismissal for breach of contract by going on strike, they have received special compensation of up to £35,000 in redundancy.
In welcoming my right hon. and learned Friend to his new tasks, may I ask him whether, as deputy Prime Minister, he will look at all aspects and give proper guidance about Government policy, perhaps in a fuller way than he has been able to do in the past? If he will not move to adventurous experiment on procedure, may I urge him at least to work for a consolidated advance to modernise our procedure in the House? Lastly, the Procedure Committee consists of many senior men who spend many hours trying to bring forward concepts for modernisation. Could we have early debates on the Committee's reports and not have them deferred as has happened in the past?
I can tell my hon. Friend in response to his first observation that I shall of course endeavour to discharge the duties of my office to the best of my ability. My hon. Friend has a considerable and quite proper interest in the procedural reform of the House. I shall study all the reports that have so far been produced and look forward to those that will be produced in the years to come. I shall try to reach a balanced conclusion, which is what I think my hon. Friend is urging upon us.
Is the deputy Prime Minister aware that the reception that he received upon reading out the Government business for when we come back was probably the greatest accolade that any Tory Minister has received in the 19 years that I have been in the House? Is he also aware that the Prime Minister cut a very lonely and beleagured figure next to him? In view of that——
In view of that, will the Leader of the House be more magnanimous to the dockers and bear in mind that, like him, many of them have lost their jobs? However, unlike him, they did not get another job at the same rate of pay. Dockers have got the sack, and unlike the Leader of the House will have to scramble to get back to work and go on the dole. Will he re-examine his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) and try to find some method to stop the employers in the docks treating dockers like cattle?
The future of the docks industry and the dock workers in it has recently been very fully considered by the House. The arrangements now being administered were approved by the House a short time ago.
Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that he enjoys the respect, affection and admiration of the whole House? He may have missed an item in the newspapers last week about what happened to the former Secretary of State for the Environment in a field in Hampshire last Saturday. He went up in smoke. I hasten to add that I was not responsible for his martyrdom, but I am sure that he is aware of the anxiety, indeed the anger and perhaps apprehension, felt by all my constituents about the prospect of Foxley Wood, a new town of 5,500 houses, being built in my constituency. Will he please try to find time for a debate as soon as we return on the whole business of planning and rebuilding within the south-east?
It took my hon. Friend an uncharacteristically long time to disclose the nature of his inquiry. I am sure that the House will have followed him with interest. Now that he has arrived there, I can agree that the matter of planning in many places, not least in the south-east of England, raises a large number of complex conflicts of interest, in my constituency as well as his. Clearly, this will need to be debated and considered in the house on more than one occasion.
I welcome the right hon. and learned Gentleman to his new position. However, can we have an assurance that the translation of the former Secretary of State for Defence to the Back Benches does not ensure that he pursues, perhaps rightfully, a business interest to the detriment of his parliamentary interest, because it would not look well in Scotland if Tory Back Benchers refused to serve on a Select Committee on Scottish Affairs, and preferred to pursue interests outside the House? I know of the Leader of the House's interest in these matters, so could we have an assurance that he will make a statement on them when we return?
In view of the translation of the previous Leader of the House to the Department of Energy, can we know when the South of Scotland electricity board and British Coal will sign a contract to ensure the continued employment of miners in Fife and central Scotland?
I shall draw the last question of the two raised by the hon. Member to those who know more about it than I do. As to his first question, it would not be proper for me to comment on any personal implications of what he has said. The House has its own rules for considering such matters.
My right hon. and learned Friend will be well aware that not long ago there was a debate on the Clergy (Ordination) Measure, which took place early in the morning, when there were virtually 100 hon. Members present. Should the measure be resubmitted, will he ensure that it is debated at a better time of the day?
In more general terms, will my right hon. and learned Friend consider giving the House the opportunity to debate the affairs of the Church of England? These tend to be debated in a curmudgeonly spirit despite the Church of England's successes—for example, in launching an urban fund—which show that it is a lively and central institution, and that it would be a good subject on which to have a debate.
I join my hon. Friend in his admiration for many of the works and activities of the established Church. I cannot join him in such close familiarity with the legislative procedures recently affecting it, but I shall look into the matter in the light of his question.
Will the Leader of the House recap what has happened over the past four Thursdays, when Welsh Members pressed his predecessor to arrange a debate in the Welsh Grand Committee so that the Members can discuss the National Health Service in Wales? Having reflected on the replies that have been given, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman be more positive by ensuring that we have debates on Wales? In the first week that we are back after the recess, will the right hon. Gentleman allow the House to debate the Children Bill? Many people will be looking forward to the implementation of the Bill, and it is high time that grandparents, divorced people and others were protected by the Government through this Bill being enacted. Will he arrange an early debate on the Bill?
At this stage, I cannot usefully add anything to what has been said by my right hon. Friend the previous Leader of the House on the hon. Gentleman's first point. I know that this is a matter that has caused a good deal of anxiety, and it will no doubt be considered again when the House returns. As to the Children Bill, that is manifestly important legislation that will need to be considered again before long.
My right and learned Friend has made a great start by announcing a week's business without one of these pointless, frustrating and silly debates after 10 o'clock on European directives. Could we have a day's debate on what our future policy on the EEC should be, bearing in mind that the Government seem rightly to be becoming more and more frustrated at the bureaucratic Socialist nonsense coming from Brussels, but on the other hand seem powerless to do anything about it, apart from complaining, because of the problems of the Single European Act? Is it not high time that, for the sake of democracy, we have a full day's debate on where we stand on the EEC?
I fear that I am unable to take the enthusiasm that I had for the beginning of my hon. Friend's question to its conclusion. The Single European Act has been discussed on many occasions and I am sure that the House will find further opportunities to consider the general matter which my hon. Friend has raised.
Does the Leader of the House agree that, whenever there is a major tragedy, everyone welcomes the efforts of the three emergency services? Will he make time for a debate so that we can ascertain why the members of the ambulance staff are singled out for different treatment from the staff of the other services when it comes to wages? Is he aware that officers of the ambulance staff union are balloting members on industrial action? Does he realise that the rest of the country believes that the Government are using patients in the most cynical way by deliberately treating the ambulance service differently from the police and the fire service?
The hon. Lady knows that negotiations in respect of the ambulance service are matters for the ambulance Whitley council. The trade union side rejected the management side's improved offer when the negotiations adjourned on Tuesday. As she said, the officers of the trade union side declared their intention to ballot members on their willingness to take industrial action. The outcome of that will not be known until September. I hope that the trade unions will take up the management side's offer of a joint review of the operations of the salaried structure rather than threaten to put patients at risk.
Will my right hon. and learned Friend, who richly deserves both those prefixes and both the offices that he now holds, arrange an early debate on London's traffic, which is causing increasing concern?
May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to the first special report of the EC Legislation Committee, which was published this week, which incorporates correspondence between myself and the former Leader of the House on changes for scrutiny of EC legislation? The proposed changes are welcome, but is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that they do not go far enough? Does he recall that the important report from Mr. Delors on economic and monetary union, which was recommended for debate by two Select Committees, has yet to be debated? Will he arrange a debate early on our return, bearing in mind the fact that decisions have been made by the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer that bear upon that issue? Does he think that that is a good advertisement for parliamentary democracy?
I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's close and practical interest in these matters. I am familiar with the special report to which he refers, but I confess that I have not yet re-examined it with the attention that I shall no doubt give it. He will know that the matters which interest him are currently being considered by the Procedure Committee. We shall look forward to its recommendations on the topic.
The decisions so far taken in the European Council in respect of the Delors report have not related to any specific legislative proposals. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has put a full explanatory memorandum before the Select Committee on the Treasury and Civil Service and has given extensive evidence to that body on that topic. That is an important manifestation of the interest of the House in this subject.
In view of the discussion about the pay increases of senior directors, will my right hon. and learned Friend, with all the authority of a very successful former Chancellor of the Exchequer, arrange for a debate in which he may be able to remind us all, as he did in the past, that such increases do not cause inflation but that Governments, and Governments alone, do so?
I have always appreciated the straightforward nature of my hon. Friend's views on the causation of inflation. It must be said that one other factor that plays a part in generating inflationary pressures is expectation. Expectations cannot be influenced in a sensible way that will enable unemployment to fall at the same time that inflation is tackled, if people in positions of senior management award themselves grossly over-inflated pay increases.
Has the Leader of the House caught sight of statutory instrument No. 247 on credit unions in Northern Ireland, the object of which is to increase certain facilities to members of such organisations? While that concession is welcome, the House should surely debate at an early date the refusal of the Registrar General of Friendly Societies to extend the same concessions to credit unions in Scotland and elsewhere in mainland Britain. Should not the registrar general be reprimanded for his insensitive and foolishly inconsistent behaviour?
I confess that I have not yet devoted a great deal of my time to studying the particular topic that the hon. Gentleman mentions. On that ill-informed basis, it would not be right for me to rebuke the official concerned. However, now that my attention has been drawn to the issue, I shall see whether it is a proper matter for debate.
I add my good wishes to those that have been expressed to my right hon. and learned Friend.
Would it be possible to arrange as early as possible a debate on freedom of expression and speech in connection with the Salman Rushdie case, which raises important questions as to the nature of our public society and citizenship? The House has not yet given a clear lead as to the priorities of public society in this country and of British nationality.
I understand my hon. Friend's interest in the Salman Rushdie case, which caused me considerable concern in my previous office. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has made a number of important speeches on that topic, and it rates suficiently important to be worth considering as the subject of a future debate.
Although my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has given evidence before the Treasury and Civil Service Select Committee, in view of industry's need to enjoy currency stability above all things, does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that it would be a good idea to debate the question of this country joining the exchange rate mechanism—particularly as many people both outside and inside the Government apparently believe that we should join it sooner rather than later?
I appreciate that that matter is one of optimum interest and of great importance. Clearly, it may be appropriate at some stage for the House to have an opportunity to debate it.
I congratulate the deputy Prime Minister on eluding the tricky knitting of the Madame Defarges of Downing street, and welcome the qualities that he brings to this House—which include great stability and sound experience.
I welcome also the right hon. and learned Gentleman's statement of intent to study before the first week of business after the recess the numerous reports of the Select Committee on Procedure. Will he consider also how he might best bring his good offices to bear in putting a stop to the Government's increasing practice of leaking information to the press before making statements in this House, and of treating the House with disdain and contempt? Will he ponder the fact that only by good examples being set at ministerial level—and by that I mean starting at prime ministerial level—may ordinary Back-Bench Members be expected to behave properly and to conduct themselves with decorum?
I shall not compete with the hon. Gentleman in drawing parallels from experiences of the French revolution, but I can assure him that the Government and all its members are conscious of the need to pay due respect to the House, and that leaking and the other disreputable habits to which he refers are not something for which the Government are properly to blame.
Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that it was traditionally the case that the request for a statement about the business for the following week came from the Leader of the Opposition, a practice which in recent years seems to have fallen into disuse? Like many doctors, the Leader of the Opposition is availing himself of a deputising service. As the Leader of the Opposition is such an important plank in our strategy for re-election at the next general election, and as Parliament will, in all probability, shortly be televised, is it not necessary to have him here as often as possible?
Will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate on low pay, particularly in the National Health Service and British Rail? Is he aware that I have two pay slips from British Rail workers in Workington, one of whom supports a wife and three children and the other a wife and two children, and both show a take-home pay of £88 a week? How can people live on such money? What am I to tell British Rail workers when they come to the Labour club in Workington on Saturday to discuss their pay levels with me?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, there are a number of arrangements within the structure of our social services, of which family credit is one, that may relate to such problems. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to have a more general and far-reaching debate, it is open to the Opposition to suggest that.
Will my right hon. and learned Friend please try, through the usual channels, to secure the appointment of a shadow Leader of the House worthy of facing him in the months ahead as the disparity of talent is matched only by that between the Leader of the Opposition and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister?
Will the Leader of the House arrange for an early debate on local authorities' provision of permanent sites for gipsies and travellers? Is he aware of the latest daft decision of Conservative-controlled Bradford council to spend £1,260 a week of ratepayers' money for private security guards to watch a field and to report if gipsies and travellers return to camp on it? If that same protection were provided for the other 27 sites in the district, it would cost ratepayers £1·8 million a year. Will the Leader of the House urge the Secretary of State for the Environment to refuse to designate the existing two sites in Bradford until a third permanent site is provided, proper provision is made by local neighbouring authorities and the House has had an opportunity to debate the issue?
The details that the hon. Gentleman gives of the particular problem with which he is so familiar underline my impression that that area of legislation and practice is one of extreme difficulty and complexity, which many of us will have come across in our constituencies. All that I can say at this stage is that he should encourage his right hon. and hon. Friends to press for the matter to be debated more widely.
My right hon. and learned Friend has dealt in an exemplary way with the institutions of Europe—I am particularly thinking of the Council of Europe, the Western European Union and the North Atlantic Alliance—when he has so often been Chairman of the Council of Ministers, and the co-operation that we have all had from him should not be forgotten.
In asking for a debate when we resume, I would go to the most important debate that the Conservative party is facing—the pollution of our environment. We must have a strong policy—certainly in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food—on the dumping of sewage and sludge in the waters around our coast. I am sure that such a debate would be well attended.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his opening remarks. No hon. Member doubts the enormous and fast-increasing importance of the environmental problems arising from an expanding population, growing economic activity and shrinking space. It is one of the consequences of the high rate of growth and prosperity in the past 10 years. Nobody is more conscious of the importance of these matters than my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.
Will the Leader of the House take cognisance of the many representations, as reflected by my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell), for a proper debate on the Health Service in Wales? Will he note that there is disappointment that there was no statement on the Health Service in Wales today and that we are still waiting for the documents promised by the Secretary of State for Wales at the Dispatch Box on 1 March? Can he add his weight to that of his predecessor in calling for those matters to be put right? Can he persuade the Secretary of State for Wales that he has not been reshuffled to a Department of empty packaging? Will he make plenty of time in the next Session for a debate on all the matters on which content is outstanding in Wales, including those in early-day motion 879,
[That this House calls on the Government to accept the verdict of the electors of the Vale of Glamorgan who rejected the Government's plans to undermine the National Health Service; calls on the Government to accept that most people want more money to be spent on the Health Service and now realise that Britain is spending a smaller proportion of national income on health than most other advanced countries; notes the widespread anger that has been caused by the introduction of eyesight and dental test charges and the proposition that doctors should be turned into accountants; and consequently calls on the Government to withdraw the Health Service White Paper and the nine consultative documents published for England.]
early-day motion 1183,
[That this House calls on the Secretary of State for Wales to make public his plans for the future of the Health Service in Wales in the light of the Health Service Review; renews its plea to him to publish the documents promised to the House on 1st March and to honour his promise to the House that, before the White Paper on Health is implemented there will be plenty of time for dialogue and suggestions; regrets that documents for Wales were not published at the same time as those published for England; expresses the fear that, despite careful attempts to appear more reasonable than the Secretary of State for Health the Secretary of State for Wales intends to promote policies which will be equally damaging to the Health Service in Wales as those being pursued for England; reminds him that the Prime Minister's approach to the Health Service has been decisively rejected by the voters of South Glamorgan and North Wales and by the people of Wales as a whole; stresses that cups of tea and soft words are no substitute for clear proposals and open debate on the future of the best-loved public service in Wales; and calls on the Secretary of State to come clean on his intentions.]
early-day motion 1001,
[That this House notes that on 1st March, the Secretary of State for Wales told the House that before the White Paper on Health was implemented there would be plenty of time for dialogue and suggestions and expressed the specifichope that the White Paper would be debated in the Welsh Grand Committee when he would be interested to hear the views of honourable Members; notes that he has taken specific steps to avoid any such debate when the Welsh Grand Committee meets on 28th June; and, while welcoming the opportunity to contrast the very real needs of Valleys communities with the failure of the so-called Valleys Initiative, nevertheless deplores the unwillingness of the Secretary of State to either explain or debate his intentions regarding the future of the health service in Wales.]
and early-day motion 1182,
[That this House notes the decision of the Secretary of State for Wales, after 10 months deliberation, to give heavily-qualified approval to the strategic plan put forward by the South Glamorgan Health Authority; emphasises the implied rejection of the proposal to close Sully Hospital; remarks that authoritative local sources had already predicted that Sully Hospital would be reprieved; now calls on the Health Authority to issue an immediate statement guaranteeing the long-term future of Sully Hospital on the basis of its present services plus an expanded service of therapeutic and remedial work as well as providing the site for the neighbourhood hospital to serve the eastern part of the Vale of Glamorgan; and notes that Sully Hospital is ideally suited to fill these roles and that such a decision will win applause from specialists, doctors, nurses and all other employees as well as from patients and the public who have campaigned for the future of Sully Hospital as well as fitting in with the Secretary of State's findings and providing the best way forward for the Health Service in South Glamorgan.]
which are on health; on those that are on local services in Wales, which are early-day motion 1246,
[That this House notes that the July statement on Welsh local government finance failed to provide local authorities in South Glamorgan with adequate information about the intentions of the Secretary of State for Wales or to offer adequate guidance to local authorities to assist in their financial planning; notes that the introduction of a unified business rate, far from bringing benefits, will involve a sharp increase in costs to businesses in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan; notes that the Government intends to pretend that this is now a part of national taxation; notes that while more money will be raised through a unified business rate in South Glamorgan, less money will be returned to the local authorities on the Government's present policy; further notes that the introduction of poll tax at the same time provides a regressive tax which hurts most those who earn least as well as introducing great uncertainty; doubts whether the Government's safety-netted figure of £195 for Cardiff is an adequate calculation, as it ignores the costs of inflation, evasion and poll tax administration; and calls on the Government to provide more information and more money for the local authorities, residents and businesses of South Glamorgan, Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan.]
early-day motion 1244,
[That this House notes that the purpose of the July Statement on Welsh local government finance each year is to give information about the intentions of the Secretary of State for Wales, to offer some guidance to local authorities to assist in their financial planning, and to allow informed debate to take place; believes that the 1989 statement needs to be particularly clear and informative as it comes at a timeof upheaval; notes with alarm that this year's statement proved anecdotal and uninformative; calls on the Secretary of State for Wales to recognise that his selection of £175 as the standard assessment figure for Wales is meaningless because the figure ignores the costs of inflation, evasion and poll tax administration and as the figure is based on his own calculations and assumptions, the basis of which he has not published; further calls on him to recognise that he depends on a Welsh Office view of savings to be made by local authorities without indicating how these savings are to be achieved; points out that his expenditure assumption fails to take into account true increases in inflation during the year; points out that local authorities need a proper basis on which to plan their finances; and appeals to the Secretary of State to celebrate his relief at surviving in office by issuing a genuine statement on local government finances which will give full and clear information to honourable Members, local authorities and the general public.]
and early-day motion 1232,
[That this House deplores the Government's plans to introduce the poll tax in Wales, despite its overwhelming rejection by the Welsh people; condemns the wholly inadequate rebate system; notes that the poorest communities in Wales will suffer, and regrets that the opportunity to give detailed information on the effects of the tax on Wales, to honourable Members on the floor of the House was not taken by the Government.]
and on those on the many other Government failures in Wales, which are early-day motion 1033,
[That this House notes the distinction drawn by the Secretary of State for Wales and his predecessor between the Valleys Initiative which was launched by one of them and the Valleys Programme which was launched by the other; is saddened to see the public conflict between two former Cabinet colleagues about who was responsible for what; regrets the refusal of the Secretary of State for Wales to answer simple questions asking for a list of projects and costs funded, respectively, under the Initiative and the Programme; finds the excuse of cost unconvincing when the Prime Minister was willing to fill 34 columns of Hansard and waste £4,600 of taxpayers' money to answer a question seeking a list of her so-called achievements since 1979 and when her Government has done so much damage to Valleys communities during the same period; and is forced to conclude that the Secretary of State has no real answers and to concur with the judgement of Lord Crickhowell that the Valleys Programme contains nothing new.]
early-day motion 1034,
[That this House notes with alarm and regret the refusal of the Secretary of State for the Environment to accept his share of responsibility for the plight of elderly people who face the effects of cold in winter; calls on him and the Secretary of State for Wales to offer adequate funds for home insulation work to make up for the decimation of numbers employed on insulation work as a result of changes in Government training schemes and thus restore hope that such suffering will be ended.]
early-day motion 1057,
[That this House notes the proposals for a management buy-out of the West Wales Region of the Welsh Development Agency and the subsequent denial by the Welsh Development Agency in Cardiff; notes that the suspended officers at the Welsh Development Agency's Carmarthen office first approached senior officers at the Welsh Development Agency last year and undertook six months of numerous meetings and discussions on theproposal and asks the Welsh Development Agency whether it acquiesced or encouraged the proposals and further asks if similar proposals are being considered or being developed in other regional offices of the Agency; notes the Secretary of State for Wales's denial, both in the Welsh Affairs Select Committee and in reply to a written Question from the honourable Member for Carmarthen, of plans to privatise the Welsh Development Agency in whole or in part; regrets that the Secretary of State allowed the discussions on the management buy-out to reach such an advanced stage; asks the Prime Minister to set up an external inquiry into the origin of the proposal, including the involvement of the Welsh Development Agency centrally and the Secretary of State in discussions; and reaffirms the total commitment of this House to a publicly accountable Welsh Development Agency playing a vital role in economic development in Wales.]
early-day motion 1091,
[That this House is appalled and concerned by the substantial and widening gap between the rich and the poor in England and Wales confirmed in the recently published Office of Population Censuses and Surveys studies; notes that the highest death rates are in Wales and the North; and believes that the Government should urgently take action to alleviate unemployment, poverty and poor housing all of which are established as major contributors to mortality rates in these areas.]
early-day motion 1224,
[That this House deplores the failure of the Secretary of State for Transport to make a statement about the inspector's report following the inquiry held at Bristol in February and March 1989 to consider objections to the Government's proposal to double toll charges on the Severn Bridge despite the fact that he has been sitting on the report for a number of weeks; and believes that the Government proposal to implement the increases in September 1989 should not take effect and that there should be a full debate on the matter in the House of Commons.]
I am afraid that the immense talents of my Parliamentary Private Secretary were not quite able to match the speed reading technique adopted by the hon. Gentleman. I appreciate the continuing interest in the prospect of a discussion on the particular aspects of the Health Service in Wales. I have seen the previous exchanges about it and I shall discuss the matter with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales. Nothing that the hon. Gentleman has said diminishes the importance of the fact that the Government are spending record amounts on the National Health Service, which is treating more patients than ever before. That will be taken into account in Wales, as in the rest of the kingdom.
If my right hon. and learned Friend had come with me this morning to Battersea dogs' home, he would have heard a better class of barking than we have heard from the Opposition. More importantly, he would also have been able to witness the launch of a voluntary dog registration scheme which involves the painless implanting of a chip to enable dogs and their owners to be restored to each other. Can that subject be debated at an early date so that we can consider how Parliament might build on that voluntary experiment?
I share my hon. Friend's interest in this topic. In my constituency, there is also a home for animals abandoned by their owners, which is run by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. However, I have not yet been driven to the conclusion that my hon. Friend's suggestion is an urgent topic for consideration on the Floor of the House.
In a non-controversial way, may I ask the new Leader of the House whether arrangements can be made for an early debate on the power and patronage of the Prime Minister? Will he bear in mind that when Conservative activists were being interviewed on a radio broadcast this morning, some of them said that the Prime Minister was acting more like a dictator than anyone else they knew who had occupied that office? I hope that such a debate can be held and in it, will it be possible for the Home Secretary to participate, as well as the Leader of the House, and for them to give us their views?
In view of the priority that the Prime Minister earlier today quite rightly attaches to the sovereignty of this House in European issues, could my right hon. and learned Friend ensure that we have these debates in more prime time than we had on Tuesday night, when important issues were being debated at 1 am? It is one thing to be rolled over by the Commission in policy areas where it was never dreamt that it had any competence; it is another thing for these things to be finessed through in the early hours of the morning when there are hardly any hon. Members here and there is no press here and the great British public are quite unlikely to know what is being done on their behalf in a totally undemocratic way.
My hon. Friend has raised a point that has been raised many times on both sides of the House. The matter is now being considered by the Procedure Committee under the distinguished chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery), and I have no doubt that my hon. Friend's question will be properly considered.
May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day motion 935 dealing with the level of pensions?
[That this House condemns the statement made by the Secretary of State for Social Security that the elderly population as a rule is now healthier and more independent than ever before; believes that such statements are designed to disguise the reality that many pensioners are living below the poverty line as a direct result of Government policy to abolish the earnings link under the Social Security Act 1980 and that the Government has further eroded the value of pensions by making pensioners responsible for 20 per cent. of their rates; and calls on the Secretary of State to takeimmediate action to uprate the state retirement pension to the level it would have been had the earnings link not been abolished.]
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman arrange for an early debate on the matter before we go through our annual weeping and wailing about the plight of pensioners during the winter? The right hon. and learned Gentleman will be aware of the great hardship that is being suffered by thousands of pensioners in Britain. Does he agree that the House would be justified in having an early debate on the matter?
The hon. Gentleman refers to a topic that the House has discussed on many occasions and to which it will no doubt return. It is worth impressing on the hon. Gentleman, however, that during the seven years from 1979 to 1986, pensioners' total average net income increased in real terms by 23 per cent. That is a very important achievement which should be taken into account.
I understand that one of the matters referred to in the report is the need for the question to be considered expeditiously, and I shall bear that in mind in considering how soon the House should have a debate.
From the warm reception that the Leader of the House received from Conservative Members this afternoon, it is clear that he has not passed his political sell-by date. I hope that the Prime Minister noted that reception, because if anyone should be feeling embarrassed, isolated and awkward this afternoon, it is her.
Although business questions are not quite as good as foreign jollies, I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will enjoy the occasion. We ask fairly futile questions; he gives us responses which are no doubt even more futile; and the world goes on much the same.
May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day motion 1248 dealing with congratulations to President Arup Moi, who I am sure the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows?
[That this house extends its warmest congratulations to President Daniel Arap Moi of Kenya for the significant and courageous decision to destroy 2,400 elephant tusks confiscated from poachers; calls upon Her Majesty's Government to compensate the Kenyan Government for the $3 million forgone through the destruction of the ivory; commends the Kenyan example to other countries and in particular Hong Kong; and recommends that the EEC establishes a fund sufficient to compensate all those African countries willing to destroy ivory stocks.]
The early-day motion congratulates Kenya on incinerating $3 million-worth of ivory taken from ivory poachers.
May we please have an early debate on animal conservation—in particular on elephants, whales and sharks?
One of the lessons that I am quickly learning in this job is that I ought to concentrate my reply on the main part of the question put to me. I have studied the early-day motion to which the hon. Gentleman referred, and I share his respect for the actions taken by President Moi. The whole House feels a deep sense of concern for the future of wildlife—particularly elephants, but also the other species that the hon. Gentleman mentioned. I am sure that the House will find opportunities of considering the matter further.
So that the taxpayer can get value for his money, will my right hon. and learned Friend arrange a debate on the Short money and the way in which the Opposition parties are funded? Is he aware that the Labour party has produced a report condemning Labour MPs for junketing abroad while the House is sitting? Should he not arrange for a copy of that report to be given to the Leader of the Opposition?
May we have a debate on the reshuffle? Most people think that it is minor, not Major, and that we have the same old pack of awful policies. They cannot see Howe it does any credit to the Tories and with all the traffic congestion, it is still a case of no Parkin', son. As the Prime Minister has double-crossed and over-Hurd, is not the best policy for the electorate to place a single cross on a ballot paper for their Labour candidate.
Will my right hon. and learned Friend consider offering to the Opposition a half-day debate if they undertake to use it to explain to the House their policies for the reform of domestic rates? Is he aware that the debate they initiated earlier in the week was a total farce as they were unable to explain to the House how they intend to reform the domestic rating system? They said—to use their words—that their policy still needs "sophisticating". We hope that they will use the summer recess to "sophisticate" their policy for reform of the domestic rates. Until they manage to do so, it does not lie in their mouth to criticise our proposals for the community charge.
My hon. Friend's point is of the utmost importance. I doubt the Opposition's ability to achieve any sophistication, in that respect or any other. I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends will take every opportunity of driving home to the electorate through the recess the massively higher burden that would be involved in any of the Opposition's alternatives.
During the recess, will the Leader of the House study the state of the franchise? In 75 constituencies over the past year, it has declined by over 1,000. The Prime Minister puts that down, possibly, to the postal strike of 1988. But there was no postal strike in Scotland between the 1987 and 1988 register. Some hon. Members think that there should be a debate on the impact of the poll tax on the electoral register. It seems to be fiddling the franchise in Finchley and a number of other constituencies.
One of the factors that the hon. Gentleman should bear in mind is that, in the context of his question, there is no sense in referring to the community charge under the misleading title of poll tax.
I welcome my right hon. and learned Friend to his new position. May we have an early debate on the duties and responsibilities of hon. Members, including Select Committees? If so, could we not look forward to the opportunity of explaining that Conservative Members welcome the opportunity to work for the Prime Minister in whatever job we do, whether as Back Benchers or Ministers? We do not expect former Secretaries of State for Defence, whether they are from Leeds or Ayr, to serve on Select Committees if they do not wish to.
My right hon. and learned Friend will be aware that hon. Members can see television programmes from the existing land-based channels. During the recess, will he give thought to providing the terrestrial facility because satellite television may bring to us programmes which will expose the inadequacies of the Opposition and their policies, and I would not like to miss the opportunity of seeing them?
[That this House notes that no Labour honourable Member including his Deputy and the entire Shadow Cabinet and Parliamentary Labour Party have publicly supported the Leader of the Opposition in his common-sense remark to the leadership of the National Union of Railwaymen.]
Does he think that we should have a debate on the motion, which reminds the House that not a single Labour Member—including the shadow Secretary of State for Transport and the deputy leader of the party—has publicly supported the Leader of the Opposition's common-sense remark to the leadership of the NUR? Does he think that it would be a good wheeze suddenly to arrange a debate for either today or tomorrow so that the Leader of the Opposition has to return from wherever he has gone for his early holiday?
I do not think that we need a debate to follow through the implications of what my hon. Friend has said. We all welcome the observations attributed to the Leader of the Opposition in urging a sense of reality upon the NUR. We must all hope that Opposition Members will take an early opportunity universally and unanimously to follow their leader's example and urge the NUR to follow the advice of many in its own leadership and bring the strikes to a halt as soon as possible.
How nice it will be for those of us who have long admired my right hon. and learned Friend's achievements—not least his greatest achievement in removing exchange controls—to have him back in the House at a time when we will be discussing the fiscal relationship between our country and Europe. Will he find time early in the new Session to debate alternative monetary structures so that we can consider the free market alternatives to EMS, the ecu and central banking? Those alternatives include the liberalisation of legal tender so that European currencies can be exchanged freely within European countries and the denationalisation of central banks so that we can develop a free market in currencies as an alternative to EMS, the ecu and so on.
My hon. Friend wishes a pretty comprehensive agenda on the House. I do not think that I can follow her quite as far down the road that she has taken us this afternoon. However, my hon. Friend was right to draw attention to the fact that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I achieved a very fair conclusion at the Madrid summit to the effect that the suggestions made in the Delors report are by no means the only way of approaching the matter.
Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that Government Back Benchers achieved a rare but nevertheless welcome victory in the vote following the ten-minute Bill procedure yesterday? Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that those engaged in providing essential public services should not strike either on a full-time or a part-time basis while tribunals or arbitration procedures are available to them? Is it not time that we had a debate on that issue and time that we protected the public during industrial disputes?
My hon. Friend is entirely right to draw attention to the importance of being ready continually to examine and re-examine the best way y of trying to protect the public from the undoubtedly massive inconvenience of strikes and industrial disruptions to essential services.