Business of the House

– in the House of Commons at 2:36 pm on 23 November 1989.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

Yes, Sir. As the House is aware, the debate on the Address in reply to the Gracious Speech will be brought to a conclusion on Tuesday 28 November.

AT THE END OF MONDAY 27 NOVEMBER—Motion relating to the Severn Bridge Tolls Order.

The business for the remainder of next week will be as follows:

WEDNESDAY 29 NOVEMBER—Until about seven o'clock, motion to take note of EC document on the social charter. Details will be given in the Official Report.

Motion to take note of EC documents on Community-Japan trade. Details will be given in the Official Report.

Motion to take note of EC document on Community shipping. Details will be given in the Official Report.

Motion on the Local Government Act (Competition in Sports and Leisure Facilities) Order.

THURSDAY 30 NOVEMBER—Debate on a motion to take note of the outstanding reports of the Public Accounts Committee, to which the Government have replied.

FRIDAY 1 DECEMBER—There will be a debate on eastern Europe on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

MONDAY 4 DECEMBER—Second Reading of the Coal Industry Bill.

[Relevant documents for debate on Wednesday 29 November:

(1) Relevant European Community Document 8997/89 Revised Draft Community Charter Fundamental Social Rights

Relevant Report of European Legislation Committee HC 15-xxxvi (1988–89) para 2

(2) Relevant European Community Documents

(a) 6552/87Community-Japan Trade
(b) 5395/88Relations between the Community and Japan

Relevant Reports of European Legislation Committee

  1. (a) HC 22-xix (1986–87), para 4
  2. (b) HC 43-xxiii (1987–88), para 2

(3) Relevant European Community Documents

(a) 8368/89Community Shipping Industry
(b) UnnumberedCommunity Shipping

Relevant Reports of European Legislation Committee

  1. (a) HC 15-xxxiv (1988–89), para 2
  2. (b) No report yet made.]

Photo of Dr Jack Cunningham Dr Jack Cunningham Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

What are the Government's intentions about the intended debate on the report of the war crimes inquiry? Do the Government intend that this matter should first be debated in the House of Lords? If so, why has that decision been made? The Leader of the House must be aware that this is a highly controversial matter for many reasons. There are strong feelings on both sides of the House that this business should first be discussed in the Chamber.

What are the Government's intentions in relation to the environmental protection Bill, which forms a major part of their programme? Surely, it would also be proper and normal procedure for that legislation to begin its consideration in the House of Commons. Will the Leader of the House confirm that that will be the case?

Has the Leader of the House seen the Education (Student Loans) Bill which was published after three and a half years of consideration and is, effectively, a one-clause Bill, an enabling Bill, which asks the House of Commons to give the Secretary of State for Education and Science unlimited powers to do whatever he may wish about student loans? The Bill is so constructed as to prevent proper and sensible discussion of the proposals in the House of Commons. I urge the Leader of the House to withdraw the Bill and to ask his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to reconsider the way in which the Bill has been drafted.

Is it not a disgrace that, halfway through this Parliament, there is still no Select Committee on Scottish Affairs? The affairs of Scotland should be discussed in such a committee and the Government have a duty to the House to establish one. The continuing delay is totally unacceptable to the Opposition and should be unacceptable to Conservative Members as well.

Will the Leader of the House confirm that totalitarianism is finally crumbling and that we will soon see free elections for the leadership of the Conservative party? Does he not have a duty to welcome glasnost in Conservative affairs?

Photo of Mr Richard Holt Mr Richard Holt , Langbaurgh

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. This is too long.

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

Order. It is taking rather longer than in the past.

Photo of Dr Jack Cunningham Dr Jack Cunningham Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman have a duty to himself and to his party to participate? May we ask him to reconsider his decision not to hand in his nomination papers?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

I shall deal first with the last point raised rather eccentrically by the hon. Gentleman. When the Conservative party feels the need to take lessons in democracy from the Opposition for the election of its leadership, it will be a sad day. Under the leadership of my right hon. Friend, the Conservative party has won election after election and will continue to do so.

The hon. Gentleman raised the more substantive matter of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs. I have had discussions about that with some hon. Members and intend to refer to it if I am called to speak in the debate.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the war crimes motion. It certainly remains my intention to arrange a debate on that before the House rises for the Christmas recess. It would be considered in either House before the other as a matter of convenience, and certainly the views expressed in both Houses would need to be considered when and if a legislative proposal came before the House. I cannot give any assurance about the sequence of events.

The hon. Gentleman also asked about the environmental protection Bill. We intend to start that Bill in this House. He also spoke about the Education (Student Loans) Bill, but what he said does not have any significance for today's proceedings. He will have an opportunity to speak on the matter when the Bill is brought before the House.

Several Hon. Members:

rose

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

Order. Before calling Back Benchers, I remind the House that business questions must be about next week's business and that hon. Members should not make general points which may be party political. We must stick to next week's business, because many hon. Members wish to participate in today's debate.

Photo of Mr Fergus Montgomery Mr Fergus Montgomery , Altrincham and Sale

Will my right hon. and learned Friend look again at early-day motion 68 from last Session which I drew to his attention a few weeks ago? The motion is about the injustice to war widows who were widowed before 31 March 1973 and is signed by over 300 hon. Members from all parts of the House.

[That this House recognises the unfair treatment of the war widows and widows of servicemen who retired before 31st March 1973 and those widows who married their husbands after their retirement from the Armed Forces both prior and subsequent to 6th April 1978 and urges Her Majesty's Government to remove these artificial time bars in order that all war widows and widows of servicemen may receive the current rate for those pensions irrespective of the date of their husbands' retirement or the date of their marriage.]

Has my right hon. and learned Friend seen the letter this week in The Times signed by Admiral of the Fleet Lord Hill-Norton and other distinguished gentlemen? Does he recall the battles between 1964 and 1970 by the late Airey Neave to get pensions for the over-80s? If we were able to do something for those people in 1970, why can we not do something now for war widows? May we have a debate next week?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

I understand the widespread sympathy for the case represented by my hon. Friend in the question that he has asked—not for the first time. The House will know that there will be an opportunity for the matter to be considered in tonight's Adjournment debate to be initiated by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris). There may also be an opportunity to discuss the matter in tomorrow's debate.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

Will the Leader of the House try to make it his objective during the present Session to see that the House has an opportunity to debate regulations, especially those affecting the livelihoods of many people, before they come into effect? I regret that that was not possible on the order that banned the haddock fishery in the North sea, but will the right hon. and learned Gentleman try to find time to debate the prayer on that subject in the name of my right hon. and hon. Friends?

Secondly, has the Leader of the House had the opportunity to look at the amendment to the Loyal Address in the name of my right hon. and hon. Friends, which regrets the lack of a clear commitment to early entry into the exchange rate mechanism of the European monetary system? If that amendment is chosen under the standing order for a Division next Tuesday evening, will the Leader of the House be disposed to support it?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

On the last point, if that amendment is chosen for debate on Tuesday, no doubt the hon. Gentleman can speak in support of it. He may speak on the topic even if it is not selected. We shall look forward to hearing his views then. It is desirable for regulations to be considered in the House before they come into effect. That is not always the case, but I shall bear in mind the point made by the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Mr Anthony Grant Mr Anthony Grant , Cambridge South West

Has my right hon. and learned Friend noted early-day motion 1 in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery), which is about the reform of private Bill procedure?

[That this House welcomes the constructive statement made on Thursday 9th November by the Leader of the House when he stated that he hopes 'to come .forward with proposals' regarding the treatment of Private Bills; recognises that this is a complex and difficult subject to which the Joint Committee on Private Bill Procedure and a number of honourable Members have devoted considerable time and effort; regrets that a group of Labour honourable Members have, during the last session, used the existing procedures in such a way as to deprive over twenty organisations, including local authorities, professional bodies and public and private companies, of their right, having presented Private Bills to Parliament of the reasonable expectation of fair treatment to bring their Bill to the Statute Book and not be subjected to blocking tactics that had nothing to do with the merits of their Bill; believes that this behaviour by Labour honourable Members brings Parliament into disrepute; and therefore urges most strongly that Her Majesty's Government should take whatever steps are necessary early in this session of Parliament to ensure that the presenters of Private legislation shall have safeguarded fully their rights to have their petition of Parliament properly considered.]

Has my right hon. and learned Friend noticed that it is unusual in that it is signed almost entirely by a large number of knights and dames? Despite that, it also commands the support of a large number of Opposition Members, who would welcome reform of this rather archaic procedure. Will there be an opportunity to consider this next week?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to this remarkable motion, supported by a positive phalanx of knights and dames from the shires—a breed of great value and vitality. The topic of the private Bill procedure is likely to occupy the House because of a number of matters that are yet to come before us. As my hon. Friend knows, supervision of such Bills and the allocation of time for opposed private business are matters for the Chairman of Ways and Means and we shall have to look forward to moves on that front in due course. The wider question—the complexity of the private Bill procedure, in the light of the recommendations of the Joint Committee—is still under consideration. As I have already said, we intend to put forward proposals in respect of that.

Photo of Mr Jeff Rooker Mr Jeff Rooker , Birmingham, Perry Barr

When the House debates the Hetherington report on war crimes, will the debate arise out of a motion to approve the report, or a motion to take note of it? The report concerns only a narrow area, on which we would be required to legislate later, and it would be useful to have the right hon. and learned Gentleman's thinking on that in advance.

On Wednesday, there will be a debate on the European social charter. Most of us who freely admit that we voted no in the referendum in 1975, have in the past few years seen the Common Market develop into what is beginning to be a real community, one for peace and greater individual rights for our citizens. Is it not about time that we started to think seriously about some kind of institutional connection between this Parliament and the European Parliament?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

No conclusion has yet been reached on the way in which the debate on war crimes will be conducted. I take note of the importance that the hon. Gentleman attaches to it. I also take note, with some exhilaration, of his conversion to such enthusiastic support of the European cause. In the light of this dramatic change in position, we need to give some consideration to the point that he makes.

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Southend East

Will the Government make a statement early next week on the statesmanlike and constructive proposal by President Mitterrand yesterday that the problems of the EEC and of Britain would be resolved by allowing Britain to return to membership of the EFTA organisation? Is not this proposal urgent in view of two further debates next week —one on the destruction of our industrial relations legislation and the second on the imposition of sharp controls against trade with Japan? Could we not have a statement on whether the Government are prepared to consider President Mitterrand's sensible plans?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

I am sure that President Mitterrand will be delighted to receive the unexpected support of my hon. Friend. Such an alliance is not usually formed on that topic in this House or anywhere else. I cannot share my hon. Friend's enthusiasm for the proposal made by President Mitterrand, but if my hon. Friend wishes to elaborate it, in an effort to persuade more people of his wisdom, he will have a chance to do so in tomorrow's debate.

Photo of Margaret Ewing Margaret Ewing , Moray

I return to the vexed issue of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs. Does the Leader of the House accept that a passing reference to the issue in a general speech may not be sufficient? Does he accept also that the House has been in breach of Standing Order No. 130 for over two years? Does he believe, therefore, that the issue merits a separate debate so that we can clarify the position and establish such a Committee? Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman had any negotiations with the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) and the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross (Sir N. Fairbairn), who seem prepared to flaunt tartan at the state opening of Parliament but when asked to do any work for Scotland say no?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

I cannot endorse the comments of the hon. Lady on the attitudes and objectives of my hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross (Sir N. Fairbairn). I have consulted quite widely on the Select Committee for Scottish Affairs, and I shall be disclosing the limited nature of my conclusions when I discuss the matter in the debate next week.

Photo of Mr Robert Rhodes James Mr Robert Rhodes James , Cambridge

Following the question of the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) on student loans, when the debate is held it will have to be a brief one because there will be only one clause to discuss. The Bill will give unlimited powers to the Secretary of State for Education and Science. Is this not an insult to Parliament?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

I am dismayed that my hon. Friend should express such a view so tersely. He will have an opportunity to discuss the matter when the Bill comes before the House for its Second Reading. We look forward to hearing my hon. Friend elaborate on his views rather more effectively on that occasion.

Photo of Mr James Lamond Mr James Lamond , Oldham Central and Royton

Will the Leader of the House bear in mind the fact that the Government have now received Professor Silberston's report on the future of the multi-fibre arrangement? As the report lightly discards the concern of many about the possible loss of more than 30,000 jobs in the textile industry, most of which are concentrated in the north-west of England, a region which is already badly hit by unemployment, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman arrange a full day's debate on the professor's report before the Government take any action on the MFA?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

The hon. Gentleman is right to remind us of the importance of the textile industry, of the MFA in relation to it and of the report to which we have already referred several times during business questions. The House may know that people were invited to send representations to the Department of Trade and Industry by the 17th of this month. The consultation period has been extended, however, to allow further representations to be made. The report will require to be debated in the House, but no decisions on it are urgent.

Photo of Mr Jonathan Aitken Mr Jonathan Aitken , South Thanet

Can I persuade my right hon. and learned Friend to treat a little more seriously the gauntlet that was thrown down by President Mitterrand in his remarkable speech last night? Surely the French President has asked the crucial question which has been camouflaged from the British people for several years, which is whether we really want to be in a European economic and political union or whether we want to stop at the single market. The House should surely debate this great issue to answer President Mitterrand's question before my right hon. and learned Friend goes to the Strasbourg summit early next month.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

It is not the function of the Leader of the House in answering business questions to respond to gauntlets thrown down by the President of France or anyone else. It is my function to ensure that debates take place on matters of importance. I cannot agree with my hon. Friend that the important matter that he has raised can be regarded as an official secret which has been camouflaged in any way. It has been debated in the House on many occasions since the early 1970s. My hon. Friend will have an opportunity of debating it tomorrow if he wants to do so.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

May I endorse the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, Central and Royston (Mr. Lamond) on the Silberston report? Does the Leader of the House accept that there is an urgent need for a debate on the textile industry, bearing in mind that 14,000 jobs in Bradford depend on textiles? Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman realise that the industry is apprehensive about the high level of interest rates currently imposed by the Government and the increase in water charges, which are linked to privatisation? There needs to be a debate so that the Government can make clear their support for the industry and the retention of jobs within it, which appear to be threatened by the proposals contained in the Silberston report?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

Nobody should have any doubt about the importance that the Government attach to the textile industry and employment in it. Not a single session of business questions has passed without my asserting that fact loud and clear. I have already said today, and I say it again, that there will be an opportunity to debate the Silberston report. There is no likelihood of decisions being taken imminently because the GATT round negotiations do not visualise that until some time next year. It will be possible to discuss the effect of economic conditions on the industry in our debate on Tuesday of next week.

Photo of Mr Andrew Rowe Mr Andrew Rowe , Kent Mid

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that my constituents and the people of Kent have been confronted with an extraordinary position? British Rail is regarded as being too stupid to find a route through south-east London, but now that private enterprise has come along with greater imagination, British Rail is confident that it can find such a route. Meanwhile, the people of Kent are confronted with the proposition that the only conceivable route is the one that was designed by people too stupid to find a way through south-east London. As there has been no opportunity to debate the issue because British Rail has not brought forward the necessary legislation, can my right hon. and learned Friend find a way to enable the House to debate the issue urgently?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

I understand, of course, the repeatedly expressed anxiety of my hon. Friend and other Members for Kentish constituencies about this important matter. He will know that an agreement has been reached between British Rail and Eurorail, and they have decided that the matter could best be considered on the basis of a Bill to be brought forward next year. That will provide at least one opportunity to consider the matter, and I dare say that my hon. Friend will find others between now and then.

Photo of Martin Smyth Martin Smyth , Belfast South

Concern has been expressed about the lack of a Scottish Select Committee. Has the Lord President had similar, widespread conversations about setting up a Northern Ireland Select Committee, which has been needed for the past 17 years?

Is the Lord President aware that, although the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is one of the sponsors of the National Health Service and Community Care Bill, only one of the clauses refers to Northern Ireland? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give an assurance that legislation for Northern Ireland will also be by Bill in this House?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

I cannot give the hon. Gentleman an assurance in precisely the form that he requests. I shall bring to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland the hon. Gentleman's expression of concern about this matter, which I understand well enough.

Photo of William McCrea William McCrea , Mid Ulster

Will the Leader of the House find time for a full-scale debate on the deteriorating security position within the Province of Northern Ireland? Will he bear in mind the dastardly attacks on my constituents, the continuous attacks on members of the RUC, UDR and Army personnel and the extraordinary statement by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland that the IRA cannot be defeated? Should we not have a full-scale debate on that matter?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

My hon. Friend is certainly entitled to raise that matter in the House in the context of the debates currently taking place, just as he has now done. The House will join with him in condemning the continuous brutality of violence and terrorism to which he has drawn attention. The House extends its sympathy to those in his constituency and elswhere who have suffered from that violence. However, he should not think that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is in any doubt about the need to sustain the campaign to defeat terrorism in every conceivable way.

Photo of Mr Alf Morris Mr Alf Morris , Manchester Wythenshawe

Will the Leader of the House arrange for an oral statement —and I emphasise the importance of its being oral—on the Government's intentions for people with haemophilia who, in the course of NHS treatment, were infected with the AIDS virus?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

All I can say is that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Health is planning to make a statement shortly.

Photo of Mrs Edwina Currie Mrs Edwina Currie , South Derbyshire

Next week's business will attract a great deal of attention among our constituents, who have the advantage of being able to watch rather more of it than we can. I wish to put two questions to my right hon. and learned Friend. First, when are we likely to have the Second Reading of the broadcasting Bill? Secondly, when are we likely to have the opportunity to watch satellite television in this House? In other words, when will we have a dish on the House so that we can watch the dishes within it?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

I am tempted to say—save for the denunciation that it would earn from my wife—that my hon. Friend must speak for herself. A dish aerial has not yet been considered, but I shall draw the matter to the attention of the appropriate Committee.

Photo of Mr Andrew Bennett Mr Andrew Bennett , Denton and Reddish

Will the Leader of the House confirm that the census order has to be debated by the House within the next 10 days to a fortnight? Will he ensure that there is plenty of time for a full debate, since it appears that the next census information will be published by postal code area, which will make it far easier for junk mail to be delivered to individuals, destroy the confidentiality of the census and make it possible for insurance and mortgage companies to redline particular postal code areas?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

The hon. Gentleman, not unusually in the course of asking a business question, has set out the substance of his point at such length that there is scarcely need for a debate. I shall draw his point to the attention of those responsible.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale , North Thanet

Further to the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie), my right hon. and learned Friend will recall that, when the House debated the report of the Select Committee on Televising the Proceedings of the House, it rejected an amendment that sought to introduce full satellite coverage on a start-to-finish basis. That was regarded as a wrecking amendment because the House was told that it was not technically possible. Since that time, there has been some negotiation behind the scenes in which I was privileged to play a small part and, as a result of assistance given by Astra, the satellite company, British Telecom and Sky Television—

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

Order. It is business next week, please.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale , North Thanet

As a result of that assistance the House is now being covered from start to finish on satellite. Will the Leader of the House, who is also the Chairman of the Select Committee on Televising the Proceedings of the House, make time available so that the House can reconsider the matter and vote the necessary funds so that the general public can see the full workings of the House of Commons?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

Again, my hon. Friend is right to draw attention to developments that have taken place since he last raised the matter on the Floor of the House and it would be appropriate for him and me and others to look at the matter more fully in the course of the Select Committee's proceedings.

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

Since the Leader of the House has been grounded and has to spend far more time in London, has he noticed just how filthy and chaotic the streets of London have become? When, when, please, can we have a debate on London affairs? We have had debates on Wales, Scotland and the north but not on London affairs. After all, many hon. Members have had one.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman, whose notoriety outside the House in these matters is so formidable, has caught your eye, Mr. Speaker. I share the hon. Gentleman's concern about the extent to which many parts of London are far from attractive in their present appearance. There will be a full opportunity to debate that matter when the environmental protection Bill comes before the House. I hope that then, and on other occasions, attention will be drawn to the fact that by far and away the least attractive, worst kept areas are almost always in Labour-controlled boroughs.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

In view of tonight's debate on the understandably emotive subject of pre-1973 war widows' pensions, will my right hon. and learned Friend help the House by reminding it that those widows have a pension which, on average, is two thirds higher than the ordinary male old-age pension and, rightly, has been made completely tax free by the Government; that about 80 per cent. of them have another old-age pension and that some have other means of support, including their own occupational pensions? Will my right hon. and learned Friend point out to the House that, much though we would like to give them more money, exactly the same arguments would apply to anyone who was widowed during the war, whether their husbands were in the mines or in the emergency services—

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

Order. There is great pressure by right hon. and hon. Members to speak in the debate later today. The matter to which the hon. Gentleman refers could well be raised in tonight's Adjournment debate.

Photo of Mr Joe Ashton Mr Joe Ashton , Bassetlaw

Is the Leader of the House aware that yesterday, 164 parliamentary questions to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry were handed in? Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman further aware that having to enter a raffle—for that is what it is—of that size to ask a decent question is an abuse of the Order Paper? Can he do nothing to stop the Whips in all parts of the House, Parliamentary Private Secretaries, pressure groups and research officers handing in batches of 12 or 15 questions all the same, which creates an enormous amount of work for the civil servants and makes a mockery of Question Time?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

The hon. Gentleman refers to a matter about which right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House have strong feelings, and it was raised in the House yesterday when you, Mr. Speaker, said that it was an appropriate subject for consideration by the Procedure Committee. As that Committee's Chairman was then and there present, I dare say that the matter will be taken forward.

Photo of Mr James Kilfedder Mr James Kilfedder , North Down

Will the deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the House provide time for an urgent debate on political progress in Northern Ireland as a prelude to a possible meeting of constitutional politicians in the Province, in order to break the present harmful political logjam?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

I cannot promise a debate of the kind that my hon. Friend requests. I know, of course, of his continuous serious interest in that matter, and shall once again bring it to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Photo of Mr Dale Campbell-Savours Mr Dale Campbell-Savours , Workington

Can we have a debate on the gathering of crime statistics by police authorities—particularly in the light of the case of Mr. Ron Walker, a Kent police officer who lost his job when he blew the whistle on a number of officers who were fiddling crime statistics? In so far as that gentleman has been the subject of a grave injustice and has never been compensated, can that matter now be debated at Westminster?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

The hon. Gentleman has done more than enough to draw attention to that matter, and I will ensure that his concern is transmitted to my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary.

Photo of Mr Bob Dunn Mr Bob Dunn , Dartford

My right hon. and learned Friend will know that I have often raised during business questions the matter of the high-speed rail link as it affects the county of Kent. On each of those occasions, the Leader of the House promised to pursue the matter with the Secretary of State for Transport. Has my right hon. and learned Friend done so, and if he has, what was the response of my right hon. Friend the Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Parkinson)?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

I did raise that matter with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, as has my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Dunn) and other right hon. and hon. Members on more than one occasion. I shall remind my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State of those expressions of concern.

Photo of Mr Norman Buchan Mr Norman Buchan , Paisley South

Will the Leader of the House reconsider his answer on the crucial question of the establishment of a Scottish Select Committee? The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that he had reached a limited conclusion, which I take to be longhand for saying no. We understand his embarrassment and dilemma at not having enough Tory Members to represent the Conservative side, but surely that has now changed. Half the work of running the Tory party in Scotland is now done by the Minister of State, Scottish Office, who is responsible for health and education, so that the Government can distort the lapses of the Tory party in Scotland. There is also the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor), who has already disappeared from the House and is presumably on his way to Scotland, to try to restore Conservative morale there.

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

Order. The hon. Gentleman must restrict his questions to next week's business and not refer to a possible future debate.

Photo of Mr Norman Buchan Mr Norman Buchan , Paisley South

I am asking, Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the House to expand on his phrase "limited conclusion". If he is saying no, there will be little point in having a debate next week. The Leader of the House has at his disposal at least two hon. Members who could serve on the Scottish Select Committee. I am asking him to follow the diktat of the House, to establish the Committee, and appoint to it the hon. Member for Southend, East and the half-Minister for health and education.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

Those matters would most appropriately be raised in the course of a debate, and I have nothing to add to my earlier remarks.

Photo of Mr Ivan Lawrence Mr Ivan Lawrence , Burton

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that a number of right hon. and hon. Members are surprised and disappointed that a matter as important as the prosecution of Nazi war criminals, which one had every reason for thinking would be debated in this House first, will be discussed first in the House of Lords? Can my right hon. and learned Friend explain why that is so, whether it is not too late for him to change his mind, and whether it is still his intention that there will be a vote in this House on the issue?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

I understand the point that my hon. and learned Friend has made. Arguments can of course be advanced for both sides of the question of the sequence in which the two Houses consider the matter. We certainly have every intention of holding a vote in this House, as my right hon. Friend the former Home Secretary said.

Photo of Mr Greville Janner Mr Greville Janner , Leicester West

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman please arrange for an early debate concerning the failures of justice in this country, especially in the light of the six-month imprisonment of my constituent Geoffrey Mundy for offences with which he had no connection and of which he has now been completely cleared? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman arrange at the same time for consideration of the importance of swift payment of compensation in such cases? Geoffrey Mundy has suffered for a long time, but has still received no compensation whatever from Her Majesty's Government.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

Again, I understand why the hon. and learned Gentleman has raised the point. It is, however, not easy for me to arrange for it to be debated in the House more fully than he has just done. He may have an opportunity to raise it again in an Adjournment debate, and what he has said will certainly reach the ears of my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary.

Photo of Bernard Braine Bernard Braine , Castle Point

May I revert to the question asked by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) a moment ago, and echo his unhappiness that a matter as supremely important as the handling of alleged Nazi war criminals who may be resident in this country with British nationality should first be raised in the unelected House? Will my right hon. and learned Friend assure us that, if that arrangement cannot be changed, the matter will be brought to this House and time will be found for it to be dealt with here and not pushed off into the distant future?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

As I have said, there are arguments to be advanced on both sides of the question of which House should consider the matter first. The important thing is for it to be presented for early consideration in both Houses. We have given an undertaking that that will happen before the Christmas recess, and we shall stand by that undertaking.

Photo of Mr Peter Hardy Mr Peter Hardy , Wentworth

I did not hear the response of the Leader of the House to my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) when he asked about the placement of the green Bill. May I ask him to ensure that that Bill starts its passage in this House, not least because it will touch on a number of matters of real and urgent importance to hon. Members on both sides?

If the Bill is to begin its progress in the other place, may we at least ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to provide a full day's debate in our House, so that matters of urgent importance can be considered before the Bill is discussed in the Lords?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

As I have already said, it is intended that that Bill should start its progress in this House and not in the other place.

Photo of Mr Richard Holt Mr Richard Holt , Langbaurgh

In view of yesterday's clearcut statement to hon. Members on both sides of the House by officials of the Department of Transport that the Government have no plans, have never had plans and do not seem likely to have plans to introduce a motorway to the north-east and Scotland by an eastern route, may we have an early debate on transport? The matter affects not merely the roads but the well-being of the entire, north-eastern region, which has been severely neglected in the decision.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

I cannot comment on the precise points raised by my hon. Frend, but I can certainly register the importance that he attaches to the prospect of a debate on the subject, and pass it on to those concerned.

Several Hon. Members:

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

Order. The House knows that I am always reluctant to curtail business questions, but more than 40 hon. Members wish to participate in this afternoon's debate, and I have also received an application under Standing Order No. 20. I shall allow questions to continue for a further 10 minutes. I hope that those who are anxious to participate in the debate may decide that their questions could appropriately be asked on another occasion.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

Why does not the Leader of the House change his mind about the reform of private business? Will he not make a statement next week? Does he not remember that, during the fag end of the last Session, he had many sleepless nights because some of us, quite properly, opposed the Associated British Ports (No. 2) Bill? It would allow South African coal to be imported and lead to the loss of thousands of miners' jobs and the closure of scores of pits. Slave labour is used in South Africa and Colombia. Why does not the Leader of the House get that reform through? Then we should be able to deal with the private Bill procedure in a proper, regulated fashion.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

One matter that must be considered when we look at the prospects for reform of the private Bill procedure is that those who bring private Bills before the House for consideration should be given the chance to have their Bills considered promptly and on their merits without the risk of being interrupted by the kind of interventions that were made by the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends during the last Session. It is very important that we should provide hon. Members with the prospect of their Bills being properly considered here, without obstruction for other reasons.

Photo of Mr Donald Thompson Mr Donald Thompson , Calder Valley

Although it does not have the problems of litter and untidiness that face London, Yorkshire has many problems and has also had much success in dealing with them. Can we expect a debate about Yorkshire affairs next week?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

I would certainly hesitate to say that the affairs of Yorkshire are unimportant in the House, but I cannot offer the prospect of a debate for every county during next week.

Photo of Mrs Alice Mahon Mrs Alice Mahon , Halifax

Would the Leader of the House make time for a debate on homelessness, particularly youth homelessness? Not a penny of the money that was made available last week will go to the north of England. It is just as devastating to be young and homeless in Halifax as it is in London.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

The hon. Lady must accept that in his statement last week my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that an additional £250 million would be made available for a crash programme in respect of homelessness. The hon. Lady will also recollect that, at any one time, 100,000 local authority owned properties are standing empty. Homelessness could be substantially alleviated if those properties were brought into occupation more promptly.

Photo of Mr John Bowis Mr John Bowis , Battersea

I do not know how often my right hon. and learned Friend pedals to work, but I am sure that he agrees with me that the growth in cycling as a form of transport is very welcome. Nevertheless, the House has not, to my knowledge, debated cycling as a form of transport. Will he provide an opportunity for right hon. and hon. Members to consider the dangers to pedestrians of cyclists whizzing past them on pavements and the dangers to motorists of unlit cycles cluttering up our roads?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

I shall certainly take note of my hon. Friend's balanced attitude towards the art of cycling and the hazards that flow from it, but I cannot promise him the prospect of an early debate.

Photo of Keith Vaz Keith Vaz , Leicester East

May we have a statement early next week on the crisis that is gripping the Crown prosecution service? As the Leader of the House may know, it is one third understaffed. Every week, hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers' money are spent on private solicitors rather than on the service. Last week, the Attorney-General, who is in the House, confirmed that senior police officers of the Metropolitan police were not co-operating with the Crown prosecution service. When may we have an urgent statement on this important matter?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

I have been able to glean a certain amount of information about the points raised by the hon. Gentleman from the fortunate proximity of my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General. He challenges the existence of a crisis. There is no crisis. He challenges some of the other facts that are at the root of the hon. Gentleman's question. I think that he had better start again by offering some questions direct to my right hon. and learned Friend.

Photo of Mr Gary Waller Mr Gary Waller , Keighley

My right hon. and learned Friend rightly said that no decision on the future of the multi-fibre arrangement is likely, following publication of the Silberston report. However, does he accept that an early rather than a later debate would be helpful to the industry, bearing in mind the fact that the manufacture of textiles and clothing employs about 500,000 people and that the industry is subject to many changes? It would therefore appreciate a reduction in the present uncertainties.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

My hon. Friend is right, once again, from our side of the House to draw attention to the importance that we attach to the textiles industry. We have invited representations on the Silberston report and we are still proposing to consider them. It would be right for those representations to be received and considered. On that basis, I recognise the need for an early debate.

Photo of Mr Max Madden Mr Max Madden , Bradford West

Will any part of next week's business offer me the opportunity to raise the threat of closure hanging over the Bradford law centre and other parts of the voluntary sector? Although we understand that the Leader of the House is preoccupied with trying to stop Tory Members challenging the Prime Minister, does he accept that many poor people in Bradford are preoccupied with their battles against local bureaucracy and that, if they lose the free and independent help offered by the Bradford law centre; they will be greatly disadvantaged? What can he do to help them?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

Of course the Government are concerned about the availability of advice to those citizens who seek it. I cannot give any undertaking or promise in respect of the Bradford law centre; nor, at first sight, can I see an opportunity for the hon. Gentleman to raise the issue during next week's business. However, I shall draw the matter to the attention of my right hon. Friend.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

Could we have an early debate on student support so that I can draw to the attention of the House the problems of students in my constituency and throughout the borough of Ealing who are getting into rent arrears and other forms of debt because Labour-controlled Ealing council still has not paid their grants for this term? Can we have a statement as early as possible next week, so that the plight of those young men and women can be investigated properly and Ealing council brought to book for its failure in administration?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

If the shortcomings of Ealing borough council are anything like those described by my hon. Friend, I hope that it will respond as quickly as possible to the fact that he has raised the matter in the House today.

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire

At last, can we have a debate on the franchise? Since the poll tax was introduced, 130,000 people have disappeared off the electoral register and are to he replaced by expatriates. Is it not the case that, as democracy is being extended in eastern Europe, in this country it is in danger of creeping away?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

I cannot begin to accept the premise of the hon. Gentleman's question. I see no case for the debate that he proposes.

Photo of Mr Timothy Devlin Mr Timothy Devlin , Stockton South

Further to the question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-West (Sir A. Grant), will my right hon. and learned Friend consider two further points about the private Bill procedure? First, will he do his utmost to revive those private Bills which have been lost, as they include the crucially important River Tees Barrage and Crossing Bill, which is absolutely essential to the future redevelopment of Teesside? Secondly, will he review the wider procedures of the House? With so many hon. Members wishing to speak in debates, unless legislation is guillotined in the coming year, we shall constantly be dealing with the early clauses of Bills in excessive detail and making no proper progress.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

My hon. Friend raises two quite distinct points. In answer to his second point, obviously I always have in mind the recommendations of the Select Committee on Procedure on the management of timetabling legislation, but I have reached no conclusions in respect of any particular Bill at present. On his first point, he is quite right to draw attention to his own concern and that of his constituents about that particular private Bill. I shall bear that in mind, and I have no doubt that the Chairman of Ways and Means will bear it in mind when he considers how to handle these matters in the days and weeks ahead.

Photo of John Battle John Battle , Leeds West

Will the Leader of the House reconsider his announcement that he is not prepared to have another debate on the statement on homelessness, as it will not cover homelessness in many towns and cities? My own city of Leeds, where 300 a month are announced homeless and which has one of the lowest numbers of empty council properties in Britain, will not receive a penny from the statement. I ask him again for a discussion on the matter so that we are not left with the impression that the Government are tackling homelessness in London where it is more visible to Ministers and overseas visitors rather than the roots of the problem in all our towns and cities.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

There is no ground whatsoever to believe that the Government are concerned with the problem only in London. The Government's housing policies are directed towards improving the situation throughout the country. No doubt the hon. Gentleman will have the opportunity to raise the matter, perhaps even in the course of the current debate.

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn , Islington North

Will the Leader of the House take the opportunity next week for the House once again to debate the ambulance dispute so that hon. Members can bring to the House first-hand experience of the way in which the management of the ambulance service, conniving with the Minister, is preventing a safe and efficient 999 service from being made available to the people of Britain?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

The disruption of the ambulance services over the past 10 weeks is causing mounting distress to patients. Only yesterday, cases were reported of elderly ladies urgently needing transport to hospital being refused it by ambulance crews. The Army, police and voluntary services are maintaining an emergency ambulance service in London and Hertfordshire, but the trade unions have arranged a complete withdrawal of emergency cover. Against that background, management has proposed that negotiations should be resumed on the basis of an increase of 9 per cent. to cover the 18 months from 1 April 1989. That will be an increase of 11·8 per cent. for qualified ambulance men and women in London. In addition, an increase of £500 is proposed for certain specially trained staff. That is a good offer by any standards and we hope that it will lead to the staff side returning to the negotiating table.

Photo of Matthew Taylor Matthew Taylor Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Trade and Industry), Chair of Communications, Liberal Democrat Party

I hope that the Leader of the House can find time in the near future for a statement on the extraordinary circumstances at South West Water. It now faces two prosecutions brought by the Director of Public Prosecutions, neither of which will be heard before privatisation. One of those would have been heard were it not for the fact that the DPP stepped in because of its seriousness. I hope that at least the House feels that the privatisation of South West Water should be delayed until those important matters are heard, especially when we hear that the management is about to double or triple its salaries when privatisation goes ahead.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Howe Mr Geoffrey Howe , East Surrey

I cannot comment on any of the premises of the hon. Gentleman's question but I doubt whether the House will reach the conclusion that he suggests. Those responsible will no doubt take account of the fact that he has raised the matter in the House.

Several Hon. Members:

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

Order. We must move on. At least two of the hon. Members who are standing are seeking to speak in the subsequent debate. I hope that they will not feel deprived.