Will the Leader of the House give us the business for next week, please?
Consideration of Lords amendments to the Natural Heritage (Scotland) Bill [Lords].
The Chairman of Ways and Means has named opposed private business for consideration at seven o'clock.
TUESDAY 25 JUNE—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill.
Motion to amend the Standing Order on European Standing Committees.
THURSDAY 27 JUNE—Debate on the Royal Navy on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.
FRIDAY 28 JUNE—Private Members' motions.
MONDAY 1 JULY—Debate on the Army on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.
[Wednesday 26 June
European Standing Committee B
Relevant European Community Document 4822/91 Excise Duties on Mineral Oils
Relevant Report from European Legislation Committee HC 29-xvii (1990–91).]
Will the Leader of the House arrange for a Minister to make a statement next week on the continuing problems of the Kurdish people and the Government's safe haven policy? If the Foreign Secretary can make statements abroad about that, we are entitled to have a statement in this House.
Secondly, are we not entitled to have a debate in Government time on the unemployment crisis in view of the record figures? It should not be up to the Opposition to have to raise such issues all the time. It is up to the Government to provide time.
Thirdly, and this is a matter that affects all hon. Members, can we have a statement from a Minister, preferably from the Leader of the House, about the problems that hon. Members face in getting proper answers from Ministers to written questions, particularly in Government Departments where there are executive agencies? It really is not good enough. We knew that agencies would mean a diminution of ministerial responsibility, but it is not good enough to receive only a holding answer from a Minister when we ask questions on behalf of constituents, and when a proper answer never appears in Hansard. We are entitled to proper answers and the Leader of the House owes it to us to make a statement.
It is your central concern, Mr. Speaker, and that of the Leader of the House to protect the rights of Back Benchers in matters such as Wednesday's debate on Europe. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that Back Benchers should be given ample opportunities to contribute to Wednesday's debate, especially his right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher)? Does the right hon. Gentleman also agree that it is important that the right hon. Lady should express her views in this House rather than confiding them abroad to American business men?
Finally, in view of the widespread interest and debate on the subject, will the Leader of the House arrange a debate on Majorism some time next week. It need not be a long debate—
I agree that the hon. Gentleman's first point raises an important issue. He knows that the Liaison Committee has recommended that a half day should be given to the issue of aid to refugees, which clearly includes that matter. I knew that that issue would be aired soon and I hope to find time for that debate in the near future because it will give us a useful opportunity to discuss these matters.
The hon. Gentleman knows that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Employment made an important and full statement yesterday on many aspects of unemployment, an issue that we have debated on many occasions. As far as I can see, hardly a day goes by in the House without some of my hon. Friends pointing out the real dangers of the Labour party's programme for a national minimum wage and the effect that that would have on unemployment. I assure the hon. Gentleman that there is no shortage of opportunities for raising that matter, and that we seek every opportunity to compare the two parties' respective policies on employment. It is clear that the Conservative party has the policies that provide long-term employment, while the Labour party's policies would greatly increase unemployment in the short term.
On the hon. Gentleman's third point about answers in the House and agencies, I should like to make the position clear to him. With the exception of those of a confidential or personal nature, all letters from chief executives are placed in the Library of the House and its Public Information Office. In addition, copies of those letters are available to hon. Members, researchers, the media and any other interested parties through the Public Information Office. Some of those letters are very long and detailed. The important point is that the answers are available to the House, to hon. Members and to others outside in the same way as they would be through the columns of Hansard.
The hon. Gentleman's point about the European debate was a complete waste of business questions. He knows very well that that is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) and for you, Mr. Speaker.
The hon. Gentleman was floundering in his last question. The plain fact is that all aspects of the Government's policy under the leadership of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will be fully outlined in the months ahead, not only in speeches all over the country, but in this House and in many other debates. We are only too delighted to take every opportunity to make those contrasts—not least the contrast between expanding public spending programmes which are prudent and within the capacity of the taxpayer to pay, and those which would involve an increase of 15p in the basic rate of tax. We look forward to every opportunity to ram that message home, together with the message that the Labour party has learnt nothing from the mistakes that it made during the last election.
Will my right hon. Friend arrange for an early debate on the decision of the South Yorkshire police authority to settle out of court instead of allowing the events which arose from the mass demonstration at the Orgreave coking plant to be tested in the civil courts? Is he aware that to have dealt with the matter in that way is costing a great deal of money to the taxpayers and charge payers of South Yorkshire and that the matter has been stitched up between the Labour-controlled police authority and the lawyers for the claimants? The matter should be debated in the House.
I do not think that it would be right for me to comment on those issues today because the civil action was entirely a matter between the South Yorkshire police and the individuals involved. We have had several opportunities to debate the much wider issues which arose out of that period. However, I have taken note of what my hon. Friend requested and I shall draw it to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.
Is the Leader of the House aware that the award of £500,000 or more in damages and costs to 39 miners who were injured, maliciously prosecuted and in other ways damaged by the South Yorkshire police is unprecedented in the history of British law? Does he recall that on 19 June 1984 the then Prime Minister and the then Home Secretary, who is now a Commissioner in Brussels, described what happened as "mob rule", that the then Home Secretary said that those charged with riot might face life imprisonment, that the case was tested in the courts and that the courts threw out the charge of riot, and that the men were proved innocent?
Is the Leader of the House aware that the other day when the settlement was made it was clear that in so far as there was violence, it was on the part of the police, and it was admitted during the riot trial that the BBC transposed the film to show stones being thrown before the cavalry charge although the police video confirmed otherwise? Indeed, the ministerial responsibility for what happened was established on 22 July 1985 when I made public the text of the "public order tactical operations manual" which the Home Secretary had approved. This is a matter of ministerial responsibility on which the Home Secretary should make a full statement.
It is not for me to comment on the allegations. The whole House and the country know that during that period there were some disgraceful episodes and some clear provocation. The police had to handle matters often in conditions that were extremely difficult. On the specific case of the miners, I have already made it clear that that action was entirely a matter between the South Yorkshire police and the individuals. The right hon. Gentleman knows that all police use of force is governed by the rule of law.
Will my right hon. Friend accept that he made a slip of the tongue in an answer a moment ago? It is not the South Yorkshire police who want the matter settled—it is the South Yorkshire police authority, which is predominantly left-wing Labour-controlled and supported the miners' pickets. The South Yorkshire police and the police from Derbyshire and all over the country had to put up with a disgraceful display of public disorder. They want the matter heard in open court so that their case can be known to the country.
I accept the point that my hon. and learned Friend makes that it was the South Yorkshire police authority.
With regard to next Wednesday's debate on Europe, will the Leader of the House confirm that this Chamber is, to repeat the famous phrase, the heart of Parliament, and that it is therefore a matter for him to make sure that, instead of traipsing round the rubber chicken circuits in the United States, Members of this House who wish to criticise Government policy should do so here in debates? Therefore, it is up to him to persuade his right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) to be here to do her duty.
I have never seen it as the job of the Leader of the House to persuade individual Members to come and speak in particular debates. That would be to move outside my sphere of responsibility. However, I confirm to the right hon. Gentleman that it is an important debate next week and that I have followed the approach of my predecessor, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe), and sought to fix the debate on a motion for the Adjournment. That will enable it to be a European Community debate in which the House will have an opportunity not only to consider the White Paper but to express its views on issues which are expected to be considered at the forthcoming European Council. That is why it is timed as it is. I believe that that will be for the convenience of the House. I think that it will demonstrate the overwhelming support of my right hon. and hon. Friends for the position being taken by my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary in their approach to the European negotiations.
Would the Leader of the House consider rearranging business in the near future to permit Conservative Members to debate the impact on employment patterns of the introduction of a minimum wage, a jobs tax and a strikers' charter—policies enthusiastically endorsed by the Leader of the Opposition and all Members who take the Labour party Whip?
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. I am not sure that it is necessary to have a specific debate, but if a slot can be found for one, I will welcome it. However, Government time is limited if we are to rise in reasonable time for the summer recess. My hon. Friend is entirely right, and we shall take every opportunity to point out the damaging effects on employment and standards of living of those and many other aspects of Labour policies.
May I return to the matter of Orgreave and, in the presence of the distinguished Chairman of the Select Committee on Procedure, ask whether the Leader of the House will table a motion next week to refer to the Select Committee on Procedure the case whereby members of the British public can be smeared in the House of Commons and subsequently cleared of any criminal charges by the courts, but the smears remain on the record? Today's announcement relates to a civil matter arising out of the men being cleared of criminal charges. I am certain that the Leader of the House appreciates that the smears against the men and their families by the former Prime Minister, the then Attorney-General, the present junior Minister at the Ministry of Agriculture—the hon. Member for Penrith and the Border (Mr. Maclean)—and the then Home Secretary still remain on the record. Will the Leader of the House confirm that he is not in favour of members of the British public being smeared by Parliament and cleared in the courts but the smears being allowed to remain?
That matter does not seem to me to be appropriate for the Select Committee on Procedure.
Will my right hon. Friend seriously consider providing time next week for the Government to explain to the House and to the country why they are not already carrying out the priority proposals being put forward by the Labour party? Could it be that those proposals would cost a further £35 billion?
As my hon. Friend knows, in a previous capacity I had the task of costing the Labour party's programme before the last general election. I was struck by two factors. First, the Labour party was absolutely unable to undermine the accuracy of the costings. Secondly, and astonishingly, the figure grew by the month so that there was extra spending above that of the first costing. I suspect that that will happen again and I am sure that the Labour party will be unable to undermine the costings announced today by my right hon. and learned Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. I agree with my hon. Friend that these are extremely important matters, not only for the House to discuss, but for the country.
If the Leader of the House will not have a debate, will he ensure that the appropriate Minister comes to the House to make a statement on the state's conduct during the miners' strike, and the collusion that took place between the Government, the judiciary and Mrs. Thatcher's private army, the police—[Interruption.]
If we can get her here on a fee, we might be able to hear what she has to say, so that we can obliterate her statements about the miners being the enemy within. It is time that the public understood that the state, through the taxpayer, had to fork out £6,000 million so that the ex-Prime Minister could tackle the miners, their communities and their families. It is time that a public inquiry was held so that the whole truth can be revealed.
If the hon. Gentleman feels so strongly about the matter, he might like to talk to those who occupy the Opposition Front Bench to see whether he can persuade them to hold such a debate. They have many opportunities to arrange full-day debates. The hon. Gentleman might like to see whether they would be willing to have a debate in the time available to the Opposition. I can assure him that we would not be averse to having a debate and going over the issues again.
Can my right hon. Friend confirm that during the debate on the European Community next Wednesday we shall have the opportunity to refer to the importance of the raspberry growing industry in Tayside and the dangers that it faces from dumping by eastern European countries? It is probable that some hon. Members, and possibly some Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers, as well as some in the Treasury, do not fully understand the importance of that industry to Scotland in particular and to the United Kingdom generally. There must not be barter—we must not give the industry away to try to persuade eastern Europeans to become democrats.
I of course recognise my hon. Friend's great interest in these matters and I know of the importance of the raspberry industry to his constituency and to that part of Scotland. I can assure him that the Government recognise it, too. I think that I told my hon. Friend previously that when I was Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food I tried on several occasions at this time of the year to take steps through the European Community to help the industry. I can confirm that if my hon. Friend were called to speak in the debate it would be relevant for him to raise the matters to which he has referred this afternoon.
On a domestic matter, on most mornings this week there have been six to eight Select Committees or Standing Committees sitting in public. At the same time, on the front door, as it were, at St. Stephen's entrance, where the public might want to enter the Palace, there is a notice stating that the public are not admitted without an appointment. Can the Leader of the House make a proposal that would make this place rather more welcoming and voter-friendly than it is at present?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising the matter with me. I should like to look into it, and I will write to him after I have done so.
I do not much care who initiates a debate on Liverpool, but will my right hon. Friend ensure that whoever replies to it from the Government Front Bench understands that the matter is no longer for Liverpool and Liverpool alone, which has been governed by incompetent and ineffective Labour moderates for the past four years? It is a national matter and in the interests of the people of Liverpool something must be done about it.
As my hon. Friend knows, the debate on Monday is in the name of the Liberal Democrats. I am sure—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where are they?"] I know that they are not here now, but I was going to say that I am sure that many of my right hon. and hon. Friends are very pleased that the subject has been chosen for debate on Monday. I agree with my hon. Friend that the matter is not confined to the government of Liverpool. The slide to anarchy in Liverpool demonstrates to the country generally the dangers of militancy—in fact, it is not militancy that we are facing at the moment—and the dangers of so-called "moderate" government on the part of a local authority. I think that my hon. Friend is right to say that, while the issue is the government of Liverpool, there are much wider national repercussions.
Can the Leader of the House find time before the Luxembourg summit to debate the urgent matter of the banana protocol under the Lome convention? Unless we can reach an agreement soon which guarantees the price of Caribbean bananas and access to the United Kingdom economy, many jobs will be lost in my constituency. If an agreement is not reached, the economy of the Windward Islands will be destroyed and there could be a dramatic increase in the international drug trade. In Kingston in 1987 the former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher), promised the Caribbean people that their interests would be protected after 1992. I hope that the House will have a chance to implement that promise.
As I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) a moment ago in relation to the raspberry industry, that matter could be appropriately raised in the debate on Wednesday. The purpose of Wednesday's debate is not just to look at the issues that will come up in the European Council but to look at developments over the past six months and to have a wide-ranging debate on the EEC.
My right hon. Friend announced that we would be dealing with Lords amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill on Tuesday. Will he confirm that that will be the occasion of an experiment in terms of the paperwork for Lords amendments? I hope, therefore, that hon. Members will pay attention to the new procedure on that day to see whether it is helpful to the House and to the progress of business. We need to ensure that that is properly publicised.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend as Chairman of the Procedure Committee for doing just that. He is right to say that we shall be having a trial run of the recommendation on Lords amendments which the Procedure Committee thought would be helpful. I hope that those hon. Members who are listening to this exchange will consider how the matter is tackled on Tuesday and let my hon. Friend and me know what they feel about the change.
Has the Leader of the House seen the report of the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys showing that 1 minion people are missing from the electoral register, which is related to the development and operation of the poll tax? That is particularly serious among attainers, those coming up to 18—who should be appearing on the electoral register for the first time. Should not hon. Members of all people debate that matter urgently?
The hon. Gentleman knows that the two are unconnected.
Will my right hon. Friend reconsider his answer about putting executive agencies' replies in Hansard? Will he remember that those agencies are run by civil servants and are accountable directly to the Public Accounts Committee and that replies should be in Hansard even if a fuller letter is subsequently sent to an hon. Member?
I have already said that there are problems about that because sometimes the replies are lengthy. We need to allow a little more time. That is a matter which can be looked at again when we have had sufficient experience to see what the demand is.
We have a number of debates on the armed forces coming up next week. Please may we have an Adjournment debate on the police which would give us the opportunity to raise not only the incidents at Orgreave but similar incidents at Wapping? A number of Opposition Members were accused of all sorts of things by Conservative Members when we gave the House the benefit of our eye witness accounts. We saw the police thuggery at Orgreave and Wapping. Opposition Members are unequivocal in condemning violence, whether it is committed by pickets or by the police, but not one word of criticism do we ever hear for police thuggery from Tory Ministers or Back Benchers.
We are having the debates on the armed forces because, as the hon. Gentleman will know, I am obliged to find three days during the year for such debates. Because of the Gulf crisis and the need to deal with a great deal of legislation, it was not possible to have them earlier. I will bear in mind what the hon. Gentleman says about a debate on the police, but it would help if acknowledgement were sometimes given to the immensely difficult tasks that the police carry out in difficult circumstances on many occasions in protecting the public.
My right hon. Friend will recall that in 1982 the Government brought before the House proposals that would allow local authorities to charge a flat rate for school .transport. He will know that at that time Kent county council published plans which would have allowed all parents to benefit, whether their children lived 2·9 miles or 3·1 miles from the school, and that that proposal was thrown out by the other place. In the light of the Audit Commission's report, will my right hon. Friend find time to allow the House to debate school transport once again?
I have not seen the Audit Commission's report, but I shall certainly look at it. Frankly, I do not think that there will be an opportunity to debate that matter in Government time before the summer recess. Looking at the commitments ahead, it will he difficult enough to fit everything in. However, there are other opportunities available, such as an Adjournment debate, for my hon. Friend to raise that matter.
Will the Leader of the House urgently arrange a public transport debate, which would enable right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House to discuss Government transport policy, particularly in respect of investment in the railway system? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is intense concern about the delay and, it is feared, the inevitable sabotaging of the modest West Yorkshire electrification scheme because of the Government's refusal to give it loan approval? That feeling has been intensified by the leaking of news today that the Government are to make a considerable investment in the rail system for London and the south-east. All of that smacks of double standards. Will the Leader of the House urge the Secretary of State for Transport to give the go-ahead to the West Yorkshire scheme, which is badly needed for the jobs and regional investment that it would bring?
The Government, through British Rail, are investing record sums in the railway system, and a good deal of the investment to which the hon. Gentleman refers—for example, in relation to the channel tunnel— will benefit the whole country, not just London and the south-east. On Wednesday, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport announced the possibility of a further increase in British Rail investment. It is unlikely that we shall find time for a debate before the summer recess, but it is open to the Opposition to choose subjects on their own Supply days.
May I draw the attention of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to early-day motion 967?
[That an Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, That she will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House a Return of all papers held by the Secretary of State for Defence relating to the Board of Inquiry instituted to investigate the circumstances of the explosion at the Suffield Range, Canada, on 7th July 1989, which grieviously injured three young Grenadier Guardsmen, Austin Hicks, John Ray and Sean Povey.]
I draw the attention of my right hon. Friend also to early day motion 776, to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces, reported at column 134 of Hansard on 3 June, and to that made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister this afternoon. Both statements referred to the accident as tragic, but as one for which no one could be blamed. Is my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House aware that not only was the board of inquiry not asked to investigate, but it called no evidence whatever in investigating why the shell had lain in a non-impact area of a live firing range for six years? That was a serious error, and such statements just do not wash. May the House please have an early debate on early-day motion 967 so that we can be told the truth?
While I am pleased that justice is being done in respect of compensation for miners, a television programme will be broadcast tonight in which the most senior officer in the Grenadier guards will say that he believes that the three guardsmen concerned—one of whom, Sean Povey, is a constituent of mine—should receive compensation. I remind the right hon. Gentleman of the strong feeling which exists on both sides of the House and which is expressed in early-day motion 902.
[That this House calls on the Prime Minister, as a matter of urgency, to review the decision taken by the Ministry of Defence into the case of the three guardsmen who suffered the loss of both legs and other injuries in July 1989 when they were engaged in a training exercise; deplores the continuing refusal of the Ministry to pay any compensation at all; and urges the Prime Minister to realise that an injustice has therefore been done to Sean Povey, Adrian Hicks and John Ray, which should be righted as quickly as possible.]
Why is it that the three guardsmen concerned, who have been crippled for life, should suffer the additional stress of not knowing whether or not they will win their court case? For heaven's sake, let us have some compassion from the Government.
Solicitors acting for the three soldiers are considering the question of negligence. To enable them to do so, the Ministry of Defence has already released a summary of the board of inquiry and will shortly release the range standing orders. The Minister has also stated that it will be willing to consider any further requests for information. I repeat that it will be possible for right hon. and hon. Members to raise that matter in the debate on Monday week.
My right hon. Friend announced that the Government will next week move an amendment to the procedures relating to European Standing Committees. Will he indicate whether that tells the House that the Government are, in some rather underhand way, seeking to reverse the decisions taken by a European Standing Committee relating to patent law and the pharmaceutical industry? If they are, that is despicable and totally unjustified.
No, the point is fairly technical. As I have said, I wish to have a review at the end of the Session of how the European Standing Committees have gone. I have been discussing them fairly regularly with members of the Committees and, broadly, they have been going extremely well. However, a number of matters have arisen which I am prepared to look into. The subject that we are discussing next week is very technical and my hon. Friend will see that it is on the Order Paper. It relates to an anomaly which has emerged—if a Committee comes to no conclusion on an issue, it is not possible to report back to the House. The amendment has been tabled simply to deal with that, as has happened on one occasion.
Will the Leader of the House arrange for an early debate on the slow catastrophe being suffered by the peoples of Iraq? Six months after the bombing, people are suffering and dying as a result of those bombs. Will he give special attention in that debate to the Shia peoples, who are out of range of the television cameras and in deadly peril from Saddam Hussein's forces? Is it not about time that the United Nations and the coalition finished the job that we started?
Without commenting on the matters of substance that the hon. Gentleman mentioned, it is unlikely that it will be possible to find time for a wide-ranging debate on those issues, although one aspect, on aid to refugees, is being recommended for debate on Estimates day, as I have already said, and I hope to find time for that shortly.
May I urge my right hon. Friend to consider an urgent debate on the burden of taxation on the average wage earner? He will be aware that there have been some costings of policy ideas coming from various quarters of this House, especially from the Opposition Benches, showing that it could cost the average wage earner more than an extra £20 a week in income tax. My right hon. Friend will agree that this House should consider the effect that that would have both on prospective growth and in terms of a possible brain drain.
I agree that an additional £20—or 15 pence in the pound, which is another way of putting it —would have a substantial effect on growth, the brain drain and incentives generally, and I believe that it would be strongly resisted by many people in this country if they knew that it was in prospect. I therefore agree with my hon. Friend that it will be important to have opportunities in the House for the programmes that lead to a tax burden of a further 15p in the pound to be thoroughly explored, although I do not know that we shall have a specific debate.
May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day motion 963 on the regrading of nurses, and ask for a statement next week, in view of the fact that 40,000 outstanding regrading payments are due to nurses from 1988 and that 150 of them are in Bradford?
[That this House notes with great concern that nationally 40,000 nurses are still awaiting re-grading appeals about pay scales awarded three years ago, that over 150 nurses are affected in Bradford; and expresses outrage that Dr. Mark Baker, Chief Executive of the Bradford Hospitals Trust, should have received by contract, a rapid re-grading with a 10 per cent. salary increase to £66,000 per annum, free car and a £5,000 performance bonus linked to closure, cut-backs and sackings; and condemns this class-ridden policy, ,for the National Health Service.]
Those nurses were outraged at the recent 10 per cent. increase given to the manager of the new Bradford national health service trust—which, as the Leader of the House knows, is a step towards privatisation of the national health service—by which his salary will increase to £66,000 and he will get a £5,000 performance bonus for closing hospitals, closing a baby unit and sacking 300 workers. Nurses and other NHS workers feel outraged at that preferential treatment. We would like a statement next week so that the Leader of the House can set his face against that class-ridden policy.
I think that some people feel outraged when the policy of NHS trust hospitals is described as leading to privatisation from the NHS. The hon. Gentleman knows that that is perfectly untrue. However, as regards the substance of the early-day motion, I well understand his remarks about nurses and Ministers have already emphasised that they wish clinical regrading appeals at all levels to be heard quickly and fairly. The obstacle to achieving that has been the unions' insistence on retaining very complex procedures. The salaries of chief executives of NHS trusts have already been discussed in the House. The level of their salaries is a matter for individual NHS trust boards to decide.
Will my right hon. Friend—as a former Secretary of State for Education and Science—call a debate as a matter of urgency to discuss the appalling education conditions in Labour-controlled Lambeth? Is he aware that headmasters in the borough have appealed to the Department to help before irreparable damage is done to the children? Does he agree that grant-maintained status will be one way forward for parents there?
To take the second point first, my hon. Friend is right—that is one option available to some of the very good schools currently suffering from Lambeth council's administration.
As for my hon. Friend's first point, he probably knows that my hon. Friend the Minister of State is meeting representatives of Lambeth council this very afternoon to discuss education in the borough. We must wait to see what comes out of that meeting before deciding whether it would be appropriate to report to the House.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is not a question of money. Lambeth is spending 17 per cent. less than its standard spending assessment on education. It is, I think, a question of the council's sheer inability to operate sound financial systems and proper administrative procedures.
Is it not about time the Leader of the House organised a proper debate on the telecommunications industry? Virtually no Government statements have been made since the statement on 5 March by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. During the ensuing period of deafening silence, GEC Plessey Telecommunications plc in Coven try has announced 267 more redundancies, bringing the total number of job losses in that one firm in the past three years to more than 2,500.
The Leader of the House may reply that he will refer that point to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. If he does, will he at least ensure that the DTI replies to me? Like most Opposition Members—and, probably, most Conservative Members as well—I am getting fed up with the way in which the right hon. Gentleman is becoming a bottomless postbox. Every week we make our requests; they go into the postbox, and then disappear. We never receive any replies from the Departments concerned.
As the hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well, the point of business questions is to discuss next week's business, and my responsibility is to decide what it should be. It is up to hon. Members to pursue the substance of their questions. It is entirely possible for the hon. Gentleman to approach Ministers and Departments directly—he should not feel that he must always do so through me.
My right hon. Friend has said that there will be service debates next week. Would it be in order to raise in those debates the situation in Kuwait and the question of secure areas for the Kurds?
The debates will concern the armed services generally, but it may be possible to raise those aspects in one of them.
Is the Leader of the House aware of the anxiety and depth of feeling among ICI employees—not least in my constituency—about the continuing threat of a hostile Hanson bid against that important enterprise? Will he respond to yesterday's dignified and impressive lobby of Members of Parliament by employees from all ICI's north-west sites —who feel that the Government have adopted a do-nothing approach—by at least arranging a statement next week? The matter is of great concern to right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that early-day motion 921 on the future of the Brigade of Gurkhas has been signed by no fewer than 139 right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House?
[That this House believes that the Gurkhas have a unique record of service in the British Army and loyalty to the British Crown, that their qualities of adaptability and devotion to duty will still be required in the defence of Britain's interests in an uncertain world in the future; and calls on Her Majesty's Government to confirm that the Gurkha Brigade will continue to have a worthwhile and viable future in the British Army as previously declared by the Right honourable Member for Ayr, the former Secretary of State for Defence on 22nd May 1989.]
Will he suggest to the Secretary of State for Defence that he make a statement next week to the effect that the brigade will have a viable and worthwhile future in the British Army, which was the assurance given by his predecessor in a statement on 22 May 1989, or, if not, give a similar assurance in the Army debate on Monday 1 July?
I welcome the opportunity to pay tribute to the fine record of the Gurkhas, as is made clear in the early-day motion. The Secretary of State for Defence made it clear in his statement on 4 June that consultations were taking place within the Army on the future structure of regiments and corps. My hon. Friend will appreciate that it would not be possible to make statements about the future of individual units in advance of that process being completed.
In the light of the 140 redundancies announced at the Leyland-Volvo bus manufacturing plant in Workington, arising out of deregulation, privatisation, cuts in revenue support and cuts in bus grant—in effect, the destruction of the British bus industry—may we have a debate on those issues, which are causing much concern in my constituency?
There are, of course, other ways in which those matters can be raised in the House. I cannot find time for a debate in Government time on those specific issues before the summer recess because we have many other matters to which to attend.
There is great interest in the continuing discussions on the GATT round, particularly in relation to the multi-fibre arrangement. My right hon. Friend will be aware that many people in my constituency and throughout the Yorkshire textile industry are watching the negotiations carefully. In view of their importance, will my right hon. Friend find time soon for a debate on the progress of those discussions?
I have commented on many occasions on the GATT round and its importance for the textile industry, and I assure my hon. Friend that I well understand that. The Government are aware of the industry's wish to minimise the uncertainty and of the need to agree arrangements for the future of international trade in textiles before the current multi-fibre arrangement expires this year. As my hon. Friend will know, the European Community has proposed an interim extension of the current MFA to the end of 1992. I shall convey to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry my hon. Friend's desire for a statement, but perhaps we should wait for the most appropriate time in the progress of the talks for that to be done.
If next Wednesday's debate on the European Community is to be really worth while, it is bound to concentrate on the forthcoming summit meeting in Luxembourg. That being so, will the right hon. Gentleman make certain that the latest version of the draft treaties on political union and on economic and monetary union are available in the English language in the Library so that hon. Members in all parts of the House know precisely what propositions of a federal kind are now being placed before us?
I appreciate that, as always, the texts are changing as the negotiations proceed. I will discuss the matter with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs who will, of course, be taking part in the debate.
As my right hon. Friend is aware, we invariably have an annual debate on the Government's public expenditure proposals. Would he consider a small constitutional innovation—using the usual channels, as I judge that there is mutual interest on both sides of the House—to debate the Labour party's policies, together with the Government's spending policies, so that Opposition Members can advertise the annual minimum extra cost of £35 billion and we can seek to demonstrate how that will be paid for, either through more borrowing or through taxation?
There should not be much difficulty about that. In any debates on tax and economic matters, and on matters concerned with employment, unemployment and industry, it is relevant for hon. Members to comment on alternative policies and proposals. Indeed, I recall that in various economic debates in 1986 and 1987, when I was Chief Secretary to the Treasury, I spent a considerable time costing Labour's alternatives.
Is the Leader of the House satisfied that a single day's debate on Europe will be adequate to explore the full range and diversity of views on the Tory Benches, never mind any comments that Opposition Members might wish to make? The debate should take place on a substantive resolution so that Tory unity on the issue can be tested on a vote. Will the Prime Minister be leading from the front in that debate so that the fudge that he is developing on the single currency can be fully explored, debated and tested?
It is the normal procedure to have a one-day debate. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will lead for the Government in that debate—a Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister often does so in such debates. A Treasury Minister will deal with the Treasury aspects.
As for a substantive motion, we are following the recommendations of the Procedure Committee on the format for these debates. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe) talked about that a short time ago, when he said:
In future, such debates might be renamed simply `European Community debates' and would give the House an opportunity to express its views on issues that are expected to be considered at European Council meetings."—[Official Report, 28 June 1990; Vol. 175, c. 530.]
We are following that procedure. I believe that an Adjournment motion is the proper way to proceed.
I assure the hon. Gentleman that one day will be ample time in which to demonstrate that the vast majority of my right hon. and hon. Friends are wholly behind the Government's approach to these negotiations.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that tomorrow there will be a debate on local councils and the provision of council services? Will he use his considerable influence to ensure that at least one Opposition Militant Member of Parliament is present so that we can establish for whom Militant would vote in the Liverpool, Walton by-election?
I am afraid that I have no influence over the Militants—nor, it seems, have many Labour Members. I cannot tell what will happen tomorrow. I am sure that my hon. Friend will wish to develop his point in that debate.
Will the Leader of the House join me in deploring the increasing tendency of some Ministers to decline to meet hon. Members on legitimate matters? Does not the right hon. Gentleman find it unacceptable that the appropriate Scottish Office Minister has refused to meet me to discuss the circumstances of the death of an eight-year-old girl in an accident on a roadway in the village of Bargeddie, notwithstanding the fact that a petition signed by more than 1,000 people was presented to the House?
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that we should deplore rumours that the Secretary of State for Health has declined to meet on 8 July, the anniversary of the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986, the all-party group led by my right hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) and others to discuss an important matter? Surely the right hon. Gentleman will discourage Ministers from living in ivory towers.
I assure the hon. Gentleman that Ministers certainly do not live in ivory towers. They spend a great deal of their time not only going around the country, discussing issues and meeting people, but meeting deputations of hon. Members from all parties. It must be for Ministers to decide individual cases. I do not know of the two matters that the hon. Gentleman raised, but I shall draw them to the attention of my right hon. Friends.
Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that there will be enough time in Monday's debate on Liverpool to discuss all the matters contained in early-day motion 992 and everything else that has gone wrong in four years of so-called moderate control in Liverpool?
[That this House condemns the fact that after four years of so-called moderate Labour rule, Liverpool has more than 5,500 council dwellings standing empty, representing misery for thousands of families and a loss in rent of £4·5 million per year, uncollected rent arrears of £25 million, rate arrears of f22 million, absenteeism amongst the workforce the equivalent of 1,200 full-time employees being paid for doing no work for the council at all, has proved so incompetent that it has failed to claim millions of pounds in Government grant, has so little control of its finances that the 1988–89 accounts understated their spending by nearly £17 million, and has so failed the people of Liverpool that rubbish is piled high in the streets, whilst the two Labour parties bicker about who is most to blame.]
In particular, will there be time to debate the conduct of entertainment licensing by that Labour-controlled authority? As my right hon. Friend knows, entertainment licensing involves a great deal of money as well as the success, or failure, of many businesses. It has become widely known in Liverpool that the conduct of these affairs by the Liverpool Labour group can be described only as corruption deep inside that group.
I fear that half a day on Monday will not be enough time to explore all the issues that my hon. Friend would like to raise. Often, there are not enough opportunities to do so because of the pressure of time. It will be possible to raise all these matters in tomorrow's debate. If it is convenient for my hon. Friend to be here, he may like to elaborate on his point then.
Is it not an outrage that the poll tax payers of south Yorkshire should now have to pay £500,000 in compensation for what was a military operation organised by the Home Office? Why should that burden fall solely on south Yorkshire? I was an eye witness to much of what happened on the picket lines, as was my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). Is the Leader of the House aware that often a brother among the police faced a brother among the miners, and that there was very little trouble with the Yorkshire police and very little violence? The violence came from imported police —mainly from the metropolitan authority. That is why the inquiry has been held in silence, why the facts have not been published, and why the costs should be borne by all taxpayers rather than by south Yorkshire alone. As miners will tell the right hon. Gentleman, the police there had a very good record. So let us have an inquiry now.
I do not think that those are questions for me to answer in relation to next week's business.
Will my right hon. Friend find time soon for a debate on the state of the licensed trade? He will recall that, following the Monopolies and Mergers Commission report on the brewing industry, some well-intentioned legislation was introduced but, unfortunately, there have been some side effects. Some licensees have found themselves in a difficult position and the trade is calling for a general review of the policy. Will my right hon. Friend suggest to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry that we might have a debate on that topic?
I think it unlikely that I shall be able to find time for a debate on that topic in Government time, although it may be possible for it to be raised in other ways.
We are aware of concern about the difficulties currently facing some pub tenants. As my hon. Friend knows, we have already responded to pub tenants' concerns by introducing legislation to give them security of tenure. In 1993, the Director General of Fair Trading will be reviewing all the measures that the Government have introduced, when their effectiveness can be assessed. If my hon. Friend wishes to raise matters well in advance of that, however, opportunities are available to him.
Is the Leader of the House aware of the report placed in the Library last week on criminal records? It promotes a single centralised system, which would have serious civil liberties implications. The Lindop report said that that could be done by administrative fiat, without Parliament even being told or having an opportunity to debate the matter. Will the Leader of the House ensure that we do, indeed, have an opportunity to debate it before any such decision is made?
I am not familiar with the issue that the hon. Gentleman raises, but I shall discuss it with my right hon. Friend.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is specifically Conservative legislation on competitive tendering which now offers the ordinary people of Liverpool the chance, at last, to have their bins emptied and their rubbish collected? Has he noticed similarities between Labour local government in Liverpool in action—with bins not being emptied and threats that the dead will not be buried—and the demise of the last Labour Government in 1978–79, when we suffered from a similar pattern of activity? Will my right hon. Friend arrange for the House to have a debate on competitive tendering so that the Labour party can eat its words on that subject, as on so many others?
I would go further than my hon. Friend. It is interesting to note that the one way that Liverpool council has been able to find out of its dilemmas of mismanagement, and all the other difficulties that have afflicted Liverpool, has been to take advantage of Conservative policies. Conservative policies and Conservative actions are now enabling that council to begin to clear up the mess. It is significant that those same policies were opposed throughout by the Labour party. The matter therefore goes further than my hon. Friend suggests, although I agree with him, and he will be able to develop his argument both in the debate tomorrow and on Monday.
[That this House views with the utmost concern the fact that the plans for and the mock-ups of the new generation of Class 323 cross-county advanced electrical trains with an expected 30 year service life and which are currently on display at the Tickford factory in Coventry, fail to make adequate provision for disabled people; notes that the three-car, 289 seater trains provide only one wheelchair place per unit; further notes that access from the platform to the train is made needlessly difficult for independent disabled people as passengers have to climb two steps from the platform to board the train; condemns the glaring omission of toilet facilities for disabled people; deeply regrets that no real consultation with disabled peoples' organisations had taken place; and therefore calls upon British Rail, as a matter of urgency, to consult fully all relevant organisations of disabled people with a view to introducing acceptable and user-friendly standards and provisions for disabled passengers and wheelchair users in Class 323 trains and in all its new rolling stock; in particular urges the provision of toilets for disabled people in all British Rail passenger trains; further considers that disabled people deserve a far better deal from British Rail; and recognises that this requires financial support from Central Government as well as legislation making decent provision for disabled people mandatory.]
Clearly British Rail is not investing in provisions for the disabled. The new 323 train is a glaring example of that. Will the Leader of the House give us an opportunity for a debate on discrimination against disabled people?
I have seen the early-day motion. I understand that British Rail's policy is to aim to provide access for disabled people on all new rolling stock, with wheelchair-accessible toilets on all long-distance routes. On short routes, the policy is to cater for toilet access for disabled passengers at stations. Much remains to be done, but the needs of disabled passengers are now considered carefully before any investment.
Is my right hon. Friend satisfied on reflection that the type of debate which he said might be available to my hon. Friends the Members for Hornchurch (Mr. Squire) and for Surbiton (Mr. Tracey) would be of sufficient length to bring out the seriousness of the issues to which they alluded? Does he agree that it would need a lengthy debate—and one which, by its nature, is in the Government's gift—to emphasise the fact that, although it is now well established that Labour's plans would lead to a minimum increase of 15p in the pound in the basic rate of income tax, by the time that is taken into account, together with its pledges to increase national insurance contributions, we should be facing a marginal rate of income tax of about 50p in the pound? Would not a major Government debate give the public the opportunity to understand the implication of voting Labour into office?
I agree with my hon. Friend, but there will be opportunities for such major debates inside and outside the House. However, I would go further: if one considers the document on many aspects of policy which was published by the Government this morning, one will see that there are opportunites to explore parts of that in many debates other than purely economic ones.
Will there be a statement by the Secretary of State for Defence in the next few days about the order for tanks for the British Army, which is of great concern to my constituents? Or is the further delay explained by the fact that the Government are still looking for alternatives? Are they not the only Government in western Europe who, instead of buying from their own producers, would look for alternatives in other countries?
I understand the importance of the matter. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence Procurement has already made it clear that the Government intend to make a further announcement before the end of the month. That is not very far away, so the hon. Gentleman can be sure that there will be a statement in the near future, and certainly before the end of the month.