Will the Leader of the House state the business for next week?
Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be as follows:
TUESDAY 6 FEBRUARY—There will be a debate on agriculture on a motion to take note of EC documents, details of which will be given in the Official Report.
WEDNESDAY 7 FEBRUARY—Until seven o'clock, motions on social security benefit uprating orders and regulations. Afterwards motions on other social security regulations. Details will be given in the Official Report.
THURSDAY 8 FEBRUARY—Opposition day (6th Alloted Day). Until seven o'clock there will be a debate on an Opposition motion entitled "The Scottish Economy".
Motion to take note of EC documents relating to rights of residence. Details will be given in the Official Report.
The Chairman of Ways and Means has named opposed private business for consideration at seven o'clock.
FRIDAY 9 FEBRUARY—Private Members' Bills.
MONDAY I2 FEBRUARY—Until seven o'clock private Members' motions.
Remaining stages of the Property Services Agency and Crown Suppliers Bill.
It may be for the convenience of the House Mr. Speaker, to know that, subject to the progress of business, it will be proposed that the House will rise for the Easter recess on Thursday 5 April until Wednesday 18 April.
|(a) COM(89)660||Agricultural Price Proposals 1990–91|
|(b) 7010/89||Adjustments of agricultural structures|
|(c) 8309/89||Milk Quotas|
|(e) OJ C128||Agrimonetary System (Court of Auditors Special Report No. 1/89)|
|(f) Un-numbered||Non-food Agricultural Commodities|
|(g) SEC(89)2097||Agricultural Situation: 1989 Report|
|(h) 8076/89||Set-aside of arable land|
|(i) 10912/89||Sheepmeat Regime: heavy lambs|
|(j) 7548/89||Monitoring of export refunds|
|(k) 7549/89||Scrutiny of European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (Guarantee Section) expenditure|
|(m) 7566/89||Physical inventory checks for intervention stocks|
|(n) Un-numbered||Sheepmeat and goatmeat Regime|
Relevant Reports of European Legislation Committee
In view of the importance of public expenditure to all of us and our constituents, is the Leader of the House yet able to tell us when we can have a debate on the Government's public expenditure White Paper?
Given the widely reported news that the Top Salaries Review Body is recommending that judges, senior civil servants and officers in the armed forces are to be given salary increases of 13 per cent., will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement to be made by the Secretary of State for Health to explain why people on high salaries are to be given such large increases, for which taxpayers will be obliged to pay, while the taxpayers themselves are denied the opportunity to fund a more generous settlement for ambulance personnel—something which they would be very happy indeed to do? Are not we entitled to an explanation of the perversity of Government decisions and of the unfairness of Government decisions in respect of ambulance workers?
Given the Prime Minister's very serious admission this week that she and other Ministers, albeit unwittingly, had given the House of Commons false information in respect of the Colin Wallace affair, is not it now clear that we in the Labour party have always been right in demanding that the security services be made accountable to Parliament? Is not it now obvious that we need greater accountability on the part of the security services to this House? Will the Leader of the House arrange for an early debate on this important matter?
As I have already told the House in answer to an earlier question from the hon. Gentleman, I hope to arrange a debate on the public expenditure White Paper in the relatively near future. Obviously, the precise planning will have to be left to the usual channels.
The hon. Gentleman's second point concerned the announcement being made today of the Government's reaction to the reports of the various review bodies. He will know that that announcement is being made in accordance with practice established over many years: in the form of a written answer—indeed, I think, more than one. If the hon. Gentleman studies those matters carefully—and they deserve careful study—he will find that they relate to the levels of pay and remuneration for the financial year that has not yet started. He will recollect that the ambulance workers' pay claim relates to a year in which virtually every other group of workers in the National Health Service has settled. Virtually all the ambulance workers' colleagues have already settled at substantially lower figures. That is the point that needs to be taken into account.
On the hon. Gentleman's last point, may I say that there will no doubt be a number of further discussions about the matters arising from the statement made earlier this week, and the statement that will be made later this afternoon. There will also be two Adjournment debates on related topics in the week ahead.
Order. The whole House knows that we are to have a very important statement. May I urge hon. Members who could keep their questions for another time to do so? I should like to get on to the statement by about 4 o'clock.
If my right hon. and learned Friend saw "Newsnight" last night he will be aware that the Government's proposal to go back on their election commitment not to open up more immigration to this country is rejected by two people out of three. Will he arrange an early debate so that the people of Hong Kong may realise that the commitment erroneously given by the Government will not be sustained by the House of Commons?
That question will have to be judged when the matter comes before the House in the appropriate fashion. My hon. Friend will know that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made a very full statement on this matter after his return from Hong Kong. It is my impression that that statement was very widely supported on both sides of the House.
I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the dates of the Easter recess. Those of us who try to combine something of a family life with our parliamentary duties welcome his early announcement and hope that we can encourage him in this practice.
Has he had an opportunity to look at early-day motion 415 on drugs in sport?
[That this House notes with dismay and alarm events at the Commonwealth Games in Auckland which have resulted in competitors from the United Kingdom being tested positively for drugs; expresses its concern at the failure of Her Majesty's Government to bring anabolic steriods within the scope of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and to make theirpossession and supply criminal offences; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to cease its procrastination and either to introduce legislation for this purpose or to endorse the private Member's Bill of the hon. Member for Fife, North-East due for Second Reading on Friday 2 March, which is to the same effect.]
I am sure that he shares the dismay felt by hon. Members on both sides of the House at the fact that these Commonwealth Games, like the Olympics before them —which ought to have been celebrations of excellence—have been marred by the cheating of drug taking. Can he give an undertaking that the Government will make an early announcement that they will bring in their own provisions to outlaw the taking of anabolic steroids or, alternatively, that they will support the private Member's Bill of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell)?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his welcome of my announcement about the Easter recess. It is clearly desirable to proceed as far as is possible in the direction of giving people a greater assurance about such arrangements as far ahead as we can.
The hon. Gentleman is right to draw attention to the concern that is widely felt about the evidence of drug taking in sporting activities. The importation and supply of anabolic steroids and similar drugs are subject to controls under the Medicines Act 1968. The Government are considering whether those controls should be strengthened.
Will my right hon. and learned Friend give urgent consideration to providing the Opposition with an extra Supply day so that they can bring forward for discussion their tax proposals which, as The Independent has shown this morning, could well mean that over a period of time taxpayers who earn between £18,000 and £30,000 might be charged an extra £4,000 per annum in tax?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing attention to that important evidence about the high tax policies that are now being canvassed by the Labour party. We should be grateful to The Independent, whose birth is owed to the greater prosperity of that industry under this Government, for giving clear publicity to such important information.
In that case, I shall leave that question.
Is the Leader of the House aware that there is a widespread feeling across the House that a Select Committee of the House—preferably the Select Committee on Privileges—should be allowed to hear the evidence submitted by Colin Wallace? As this point has been taken up by the Opposition, and as the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows that it is a matter on which I wrote to you, Mr. Speaker, on Tuesday, can he say when he will be bringing forward a motion to permit that reference to be made?
The right hon. Gentleman understands, I think, that questions of privilege are submitted in the first instance to you, Mr. Speaker, for your determination, before I can take any action whatsoever. The right hon. Gentleman also knows that he will have the opportunity of raising the very case with which he is concerned on the Adjournment debate on Monday week. He can develop his case then.
Following last week's inconclusive conference at Geneva on the Vietnamese boat people, will my right hon. and learned Friend arrange for the Foreign Secretary to come to the House next week to tell us what steps he is taking to improve conditions in the camps, to improve the screening procedure for the boat people in Hong Kong, and to set up an adequate monitoring service in Vietnam to look after the returned boat people?
My hon. Friend will understand that considerable progress was made at last week's conference to complete international agreement. All the participating countries, with the exceptions of the United States and Vietnam, agreed that the mandatory repatriation of non-refugees would start on 1 July 1990, with full international monitoring. I shall bring my hon. Friend's additional points to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary who may consider the points that he has made.
Is the Leader of the House aware that 13 people infected with AIDS due to routine blood transfusions have now died and that others face early death? Is he also aware that the ex gratia payment of £20,000 given to people infected with AIDS by blood products is not paid in transfusion cases? In view of the recent announcement by Canada's Health Minister that his Government will treat both cases equally for compensation, may we have a statement next week, hopefully, one that follows Canada's lead?
Does my right hon. and learned Friend have any detailed knowledge of the reports of the Parliamentary Commissioner and of the Select Committee covering the Parliamentary Commissioner? Does he agree that there would be a substantial benefit if the reports of the Parliamentary Commissioner and of the Select Committee were debated on the Floor of the House?
As my hon. Friend knows, I have discussed that point with the Select Committee on the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration. The usual pattern is that particular cases and reports that deserve attention are dealt with on the Floor of the House in the way that my hon. Friend describes. So far, there has not been a pattern of providing regular debates on matters dealt with by that Select Committee.
It is becoming increasingly obvious that there is division within the Government on devolution, as borne out by the recent speech by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in favour of it and another speech by the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) which dismissed devolution as constitutional nonsense. Will the Leader of the House bring forward a motion as soon as possible to outline the Government's policy towards devolution throughout the United Kingdom?
That point was dealt with in the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland a while ago. He said that all members of the Government, particularly those affected by devolution matters are in continuous consultation on devolution in different parts of the Kingdom. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues will study with care my right hon. Friend's speech, which received widespread commendation although the right hon. Gentleman may not have been quite so optimistic about it.
Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on the deteriorating security situation in the Province? In the first few days of this year in my constituency, a young business man and part-time member of the Ulster Defence Regiment has been murdered, two young men are in intensive care having lost their legs in a terrorist bomb attack—both were members of the UDR—the village of Sion Mills in my constituency has been flattened in a matter of days and one of my colleagues on the Magherafelt district council has been the subject of an attempted murder. Does not that merit a full-scale debate in Government time?
I fully understand why the hon. Gentleman emphasises the impact of terrorism on his constituency. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and all members of the Government are aware of the importance of that. That is why we continue to maintain our campaign against terrorism as vigorously as possible. I shall take into account what the hon. Gentleman said in considering the programme for the weeks ahead.
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman reconsider his derisory reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) a few minutes ago about what form of inquiry or debate the House will hold on matters that are causing widespread anxiety throughout the country and the House? Is it not absurd that the Leader of the House should suggest that the whole matter could be dealt with in an Adjournment debate? Surely he should consider what form of general inquiry should be held. That is what the Government will be forced to do eventually, so why does he not use his authority to initiate an inquiry sooner rather than later? In the meantime will he make sure that a sufficient number of copies of Paul Foot's book on Colin Wallace are placed in the Library so that the misinformed members of his party can catch up with the rest of us?
I am not sure that I am in the business of promoting the business of the Foot family. My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary made a statement and produced a document on Tuesday dealing fully with that matter. That is an exemplar of the way in which the Government have sought to respond to any legitimate cause of anxiety about the matters raised in the book. There have been a range of inquiries. The outcome of the most recent investigations was fully reported to the House in the answers given on Tuesday. There is no case for further inquiries such as the right hon. Gentleman requests.
Will my right hon. and learned Friend make an early announcement about the way in which the Government propose to deal with the legislation on immigration from Hong Kong? Does he agree that the proposals are clearly a flagrant breach of the promises that were made by the Conservative party and that they involve a permanent change in the nature and composition of the British people? As there is no urgent need for the proposals, would it not be better to debate the matter on the Floor of the House so that the Government have a full opportunity to persuade the British people, against the wishes of some of us, to approve of the proposals rather than sending them for more private and disciplined consideration in Committee?
My hon. Friend will know that procedures designed for the passage of legislation through the House include its consideration in the ordinary way by Standing Committee. This legislation will be brought before and debated by the House in the ordinary way and it will receive the consideration that it deserves. I must repudiate absolutely the suggestion that the legislation, when it comes forward, will represent a breach of any kind of breach, let alone a flagrant breach, by the Government.
I recently wrote to the Secretary of State for Social Security asking how many people in my constituency are in receipt of invalid care allowance and I received the answer that that figure was not available. Will the Leader of the House please look into that and try to discover why that figure is not available since the local DSS office must surely know who is in receipt of that benefit?
Will my right hon. and learned Friend find time, additional to that allocated on the Order Paper today, to discuss the five important motions that will affect the rights that Back-Bench Members have enjoyed for decades? As we are to have an important statement this afternoon, which will inevitably eat into the time allowed for that debate, and as that debate must finish at 7 o'clock, not much more than an hour and a half will be available. Given the importance of the motions to be considered, does my right hon. and learned Friend consider that that is sufficient?
My hon. Friend will understand that that is one reason why you, Mr. Speaker, have said that this is a case for a shorter than usual time to be allotted to business questions. My hon. Friend will also understand that the motions are the result of recommendations from the Select Committee on Procedure and that they have been before the House for consideration for a long time.
May we have an urgent statement on the issue of compensation for Christmas island veterans? The Leader of the House is aware of the case of my constituent, John Hall, which was highlighted in early-day motion 37.
[That this House condemns the Government's policy towards compensation for ex-servicemen, like Mr. John Hall of Belgrave, Leicester, who served on Christmas Island during the nuclear tests in the 1950's and who as a result of this are suffering from the effects of exposure to radiation; and calls upon the Government to seize this opportunity to show compassion and justice by awarding substantial compensation to our Christmas Island veterans without further delay.]
Mr. Hall is dying of leukaemia and he has five separate medical reports which connect his serious illness to the events on Christmas Island. Today, with all-party support, he began legal proceedings against the Government because of their failure to pay compensation. Does not the Leader of the House believe that it would be fair and just in all the circumstances of these cases if the Government were to save Mr. Hall the agony of High Court proceedings and pay the compensation that those veterans so richly deserve?
The hon. Gentleman is more than familiar with the background to the topic. He knows that, despite our sympathy with any particular case, we see no reason to make special compensation arrangements for test veterans. On the other hand, we are ready to pay appropriate compensation wherever the Crown's legal liability is established and where there is firm evidence to show that, on a balance of probabilities, ex-service men have suffered ill health as a result of exposure to radiation during the course of their duties. Despite my sympathy with the point raised by the hon. Gentleman, there has been no change in the position.
Will my right hon. and learned Friend accept that, whatever my hon. Friends the Members for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) and for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) might say, there is strong support on the Conservative Benches for what many of us consider to be an honourable recognition of national responsibilities which is in no sense a repudiation of any manifesto commitment, and that even if it were necessary to adjust a manifesto commitment, circumstances can sometimes demand such a change?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his support for the point of view that I have tried to express. The purpose of the Government's approach to the question is to take what steps are sensible and necessary to sustain the confidence of the people in Hong Kong and at the same time to reach conclusions acceptable to the British people. There will be ample opportunity to debate that matter.
May I press the Leader of the House on the need for a wider debate on the security services and for him as the Leader of the House to recognise that there is support on both sides of the House, certainly on the Labour Benches, for adequate parliamentary scrutinising of the security services which, to a large extent, remain a law unto themselves? With respect, Adjournment debates can be no substitute for a full-length debate. When shall we debate that matter, which has become all the more important as a result of the scandal, the disinformation and the rest, that have now been revealed, on which we are to have a statement in a few minutes?
On that aspect, the hon. Gentleman will have to await the statement later this afternoon. The wider question has been the subject of debate in the House on a number of occasions over the years. It remains open to the Opposition to select one of their own days for debating that issue.
Will my right hon. and learned Friend find time next week to consider giving the House an opportunity to debate sentencing policy? Is he aware that my constituent, Mrs. Noone, was brutally murdered last year and the man accused of her murder recently committed suicide, unfortunately before he could be brought to trial. Is he further aware that the man accused of the crime had previously been sentenced to life which, in practice, turned out to be 12 years? Does not this unhappy incident eloquently and strongly put the case that a life sentence should mean just that—life.
My hon. Friend understandably draws the attention of the House to the particular case with which he is rightly concerned. I shall bring it to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, who is considering the preparation of a White Paper dealing with such matters and will be making a statement about it shortly.
I am sure that the Leader of the House and the House will be aware that the Sealink ship, the St. Columba, was badly damaged by fire in the Irish sea yesterday. The emergency services undertook excellent work; of the 294 people on board, only one received minor injuries. Will he and the House join me in thanking the emergency services which included the coastguards, the fire service, the RAF at Valley, the social services department, the Women's Royal Voluntary Service, trauma counsellors, the Samaritans, police and all the others who worked so hard to minimise the injuries? He will also be aware that Sealink is conducting its own inquiry to discover the cause of the fire. Will he assure us that, if necessary, the Department of Transport will also undertake an inquiry to find out whether regulations need to be tightened to prevent such incidents? Will he pass on that message, and the congratulations of the House on the work done by the emergency services, to the appropriate Secretary of State?
I am sure that the whole House would wish me to join the hon. Gentleman in expressing our appreciation of the work carried out by the emergency services which he identified so comprehensively. I shall bring the other matter that he raised to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport. There are virtually routine arrangements to ensure that such matters are considered as a matter of course.
Mr. John Bowls:
Will my right hon. and learned Friend have another look at the possibility of a debate on the traffic and transport options for London, preferably this week but certainly before the end of this month? That will enable hon. Members to contribute to the consultative process and guide my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport along the paths of righteousness, which happen to be public transport paths not the publicly unwanted and environmentally damaging route of new highways.
Will the Leader of the House find time to debate the terms of reference of the Calcutt inquiry and in a form that allows us to move amendments so that we can ensure that the inquiry investigates why it was that when Colin Wallace drew the attention of child abuse in Kincora to the attention of his superior in 1974 no action was taken and six further years of child abuse ensued? That inquiry should also investigate the links between the late Airey Neave—in writing—with Colin Wallace, commissioning work from Colin Wallace to continue his disinformation activities. It should also investigate the information passed by Airey Neave to Peter Wright, in Peter Wright's capacity as an MI5 officer, about figures in public life. It should investigate the meeting held between Peter Wright and the late Airey Neave in the period immediately before the decision of Airey Neave to offer his campaign services to the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher). It should investigate the meeting that took place in the Cumberland hotel a week before the murder of Airey Neave, when Airey Neave sought to recruit a former officer of MI6 to set up a small group to involve itself in the internal struggles of the Labour party.
I do not think that the House will have any enthusiasm for the way in which the hon. Gentleman has sought, through an extended intervention, to make as many allegations as possible, and many of them against a late and respected Member of this House. The matters upon which he touched have been largely the subject of fully conducted investigations, including two full reports on the allegations in respect of the Kincora boys' home. There is no case to make any special arrangements in relation to that matter.
My question has no association with the question asked by the hon.Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone). Has my right hon. and learned Friend noticed the remarkable similarities and parallels between the Colin Wallace case and the Stalker affair? Does he accept that in the view of many, one reason why Mr. Stalker was removed from his inquiry was that he had blundered, or was about to blunder, into the circumstances concerning the Colin Wallace case?
In those circumstances, and bearing in mind that throughout the whole of Northern Ireland questions, Prime Minister's questions and business questions there were numerous requests for various debates on various matters related either to the Colin Wallace or to the Stalker affairs, will my right hon. and learned Friend give consideration to an early debate at a suitable and convenient time?
Obviously, I give consideration to any request made to me in the House. However, as I already said, all those matters have been the subject of full investigation in a whole range of different forums. There will be further opportunities to put the points raised to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence later this afternoon.