With permission, Madam Speaker, I will make a statement about the business for next week. The business will be as follows:
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that statement.
May we have an assurance that there will be a further statement on Monday about the position in Iraq, when I presume a proper assessment will be available of the position there? Is he aware that it would not be acceptable to Opposition Members to see the debate on the RAF which is scheduled for Thursday as a vehicle for discussing that or other foreign affairs matters such as Bosnia? Thursday's debate stands on its own merits and we expect other Government time to be made available for other matters.
I press the right hon. Gentleman to schedule an early debate in Government time on the issue of care in the community. Recent events such as the Silcock case have fuelled existing concern about that important area of policy. There is much interest on both sides of the House as we approach the shift of responsibility from Government to local authorities for that policy area.
Can the Leader of the House give an indication of the likely date of the Budget, since, apart from that being of interest to hon. Members, we shall want a debate on the most important recent report of the Treasury and Civil Service Select Committee. As that will in part contribute to the atmosphere and framework of the debate on the Budget, it would be helpful to have that before the Budget itself.
On the hon. Lady's question about a further statement on Iraq, she will know that, as my right hon. and learned Friend said last night, we shall keep the House informed of the likely effects of the operation. He said that it would be some time before we could describe with certainty the detailed consequences, so I shall not make a commitment about a statement at a particular time, but I shall make sure that he is aware of the hon. Lady's request.
I recognise that the debate next week will be concerned with defence matters, specifically in relation to the RAF in terms of what I announced. But that will, I think, permit a quite wide-ranging debate—subject always to the decisions of the Chair—and it may be for the interest of the House that on this occasion the Secretary of State for Defence will speak in the debate, in view of recent developments.
The hon. Lady's next question was about a debate on care in the community. I acknowledge the importance of that subject and the widespread interest in it, in view of the impending changes, as well as the recent case to which she referred and a number of other issues. I am afraid that I cannot undertake to find time for a debate next week, or possibly for some little time, but I note the hon. Lady's request.
Finally, I was rather hoping that the hon. Lady would ask me about the Budget, because I have a little information to communicate. I am pleased to be able to tell the hon. Lady and the whole House that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer intends to open his Budget statement on Tuesday 16 March.
My right hon. Friend will be aware that the amount of business now before the House often prevents us from leaving the confines of the Palace of Westminster. Many new Members, and, I am sure, some who are not new, are blood donors. Will my right hon. Friend consider providing an opportunity for a blood donation wagon to come to the Palace?
I have a further brief question, too, if I may.
No, no. I said earlier this afternoon that I wanted to hear one question from one Member. Furthermore, the hon. Gentleman's question was hardly a matter for the Leader of the House. For all that, the right hon. Gentleman may like to say something about it, and we shall then move on.
I am tempted to make a remark about the amount of blood on the Floor, Madam Speaker, but I note my hon. Friend's interesting request. Blood donation is certainly an important service, but, as you kindly said, it is not a matter for me. Nevertheless, I shall ensure that the point is drawn to the attention of the appropriate people.
Will the Leader of the House confirm that a statutory instrument will be required to give effect to the recent cuts in hill livestock compensatory allowances? As the cuts are causing great concern throughout the upland areas of the United Kingdom, will the right hon. Gentleman use his good offices to ensure that there is a debate on the Floor of the House on that important issue?
I acknowledge the views expressed by the hon. Gentleman. I would wish to look into the exact parliamentary procedures required—but I hope that the hon. Gentleman will at least acknowledge that hill farm incomes have been rising.
I am sure that the Leader of the House is aware of the serious and deteriorating security situation in Northern Ireland. I have been told that that matter cannot be debated in the Northern Ireland Committee, but only on the Floor of the House. In view of the gruesome murders taking place on both sides of the political divide, will the right hon. Gentleman assure us that he will give us time next week to discuss something that affects the lives and well-being of the people in Northern Ireland?
Will the Leader of the House be able to find time for the President of the Board of Trade to discuss the rules governing receivership that were used in the termination of Lilley Group plc in Scotland—and especially the procedures whereby viable subsidiaries of that company which were trading profitably were also put into receivership? It will be noticed that, in early-day motion 1141, many hon. Members express concern about the procedures.
[That this House is deeply concerned at the cynical decision of the Clydesdale Bank, owned by the Bank of Australia, to call in the receivers on the Lilley Group plc and the subsequent actions of the receivers Price Waterhouse in ending the trading of financially healthy subsidiaries of the Lilley Group; notes that the receivers are now stating to companies who are owed money for works carried out for MDW, a Glasgow-based construction subsidiary, that debts outstanding of almost £16 million have been transferred to Lilley Group plc, who will be unlikely to make these payments because the majority of assets will be used to pay the banks; further notes that the subsidiaries, if sold, will not be liable to pay the debts owed to contractors for work done, which in turn will lead to substantial job losses and financial hardship for sub-contracting firms such as Fir-Side Joinery of Falkirk who are owed £200,000 by MDW for work already completed; and calls on the Department of Trade and Industry to introduce regulations to safeguard the rights of viable companies in such circumstances.]
I am sure that many hon. Members will have had similar experiences in their constituencies. Viable subcontractors find that outstanding debts are not paid, as happened in the case of Fir-Side Joinery, in Falkirk. Honest hardworking subcontractors see the money coming in for the work that they have done going to the receiver, and they never get a penny of it. Today and tomorrow, the Lilley subsidiaries will be relaunched and sold, and the people who take over will not be liable for debts owed for work done.
Is it not time for a discussion on the rules, to find out whether we can protect hard-working companies which have done the work and should receive the money?
Will my right hon. Friend ask the Home Secretary to make a statement next week in connection with the tragic death of Donna Cooper, a much loved 13-year-old schoolgirl who was killed by a stolen car driven, I understand, by someone out on bail? Such matters, involving the mindless taking of a car, affect lives, families and communities in the constituencies of hon. Members on both sides of the House. The subject deserves a statement, so that we can find out what else can be done to help in such circumstances.
It is clear from the reaction of the House that all hon. Members on both sides of the House would like to join in the expression of sympathy that my hon. Friend offered to the family involved. I shall certainly bring his request to the attention of the Home Secretary. As my hon. Friend will know, the Government have already taken steps to increase the penalties for joyriding, and are now examining some of the problems connected with offences committed by people on bail.
Will the Leader of the House set time aside next week for an attempt to clarify the procedures for relatives of Bosnian refugees who wish to obtain visas? I ask that question because of a particular difficulty that has arisen for the Bosnian families in Stockport. At present, the onus of responsibility to go to the nearest embassy lies with the applicant. As the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate, Bosnia is not an easy country to cross. A 17-year-old boy, the son of one of the families—
Order. May I give the hon. Lady a little guidance? She should at this stage not go into detail, but simply give a broad outline of what is required and why she seeks a debate next week. If she wishes to pursue an individual case, I am sure that the appropriate Minister would be prepared to consider it.
I apologise, Madam Speaker. I was giving the reasons why I wanted a debate next week. The problem arose from a particular difficulty in my constituency involving a 17-year-old boy who was required to cross the country to reach an embassy. I wondered whether the United Nations and the Red Cross could take more of an enabling role in helping applicants to get visas.
As the Leader of the House is allowing three full days of discussion on the treaty of European union next week, and as the issues are so deeply felt that it may be necessary for the debate to go further into the following week, will he have a word with the Chairman of Ways and Means to establish whether there is any possibility of discussing at an earlier stage the two amendments concerning a referendum? There is a widespread feeling in the House that, if a referendum were approved, the business of the House concerning the Bill on European union would be dealt with very quickly instead of very slowly.
First, I confirm my hon. Friend's prediction that it is possible that further time will need to be made available for the European Communities (Amendment) Bill. As for the rest, my hon. Friend will realise that that is not a matter for me. I hesitate to suggest that that is not a matter for the Chairman of Ways and Means, when he is here, because that sounds like a point of order. Nevertheless, I must steer him in that direction.
Will the Leader of the House ensure that time is provided next week for the Secretary of State for Health to make a statement on the indictment of the Government's commercialisation of health care provided today by the British Medical Association, which describes
a breakdown of many hospital services, leading to a two-tier provision of service as between those patients of fundholding and non-fundholding GPs, which is totally unacceptable."?
I cannot undertake that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health will make a statement on that matter next week. I have not had a chance to study what the hon. Lady says the BMA says, but the words she used do not bear much relationship to my experience or understanding of what is happening. I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend will find other ways of commenting on the subject.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday next week we shall be dealing with the Committee stage of the European Communities (Amendment) Bill? Is it the custom of the House that, in Committee, either hon. Members provide their names to the Chairman of Ways and Means or they are not called?
Order. May I give a little more guidance? Hon. Members are inclined—as in this case—to ask procedural questions, which are a matter for the Chairman of Ways and Means, not for the Leader of the House. We should not ask the Leader of the House to come to the Dispatch Box and answer questions on matters which are not his responsibility. I call Mr. Jones.
When will the President of the Board of Trade come to the House to make his statement regarding the assisted area map of Britain? There is apprehension in my constituency with 3,000 people out of work and the possible loss of a valuable status. Bearing in mind Wales's contribution in coal and steel, and with its massive unemployment at present, it would be wrong for any Welsh area to lose such a status. I should like the hon. Gentleman to tell the Cabinet about those matters.
The hon. Gentleman will know that my right hon. Friend is examining a number of issues at present. I cannot give him a definite date on which the assisted areas review will come forward, although I will ensure that my right hon. Friend is aware that the question has been asked, if only because it might well be asked again next Wednesday.
During the Prime Minister's Question Time on Tuesday, the Prime Minister announced that he had asked the Home Secretary to examine the question of juvenile offenders, and said that he was hoping to come forward quickly with proposals. Is it possible for the House to have a debate in the near future on this important issue, so that we can feed in the views of the House?
Again, I cannot promise an early debate. However, I can certainly confirm that my right hon. and learned Friend is examining urgently and critically the existing arrangements to deal with juvenile offenders in order to decide what measures, if any, it would be sensible to introduce.
Given the number of calls for a public inquiry into the death of my constituent, Thomas Adleigh, who died in the early hours of Christmas morning while waiting a prolonged period for an ambulance, will the Leader of the House find time next week for the Secretary of State for Scotland to make a statement on the reduction of overnight ambulance cover in the Argyll and Clyde health board area?
Can my right hon. Friend find an early opportunity to debate early-day motion 1154 on emergency services in Tayside?
[That this House notes that during the recent spell of adverse weather throughout Tayside, the police and other emergency services have carried out their humanitarian tasks with great skill and courage; further notes that Tayside Regional Council, Perth and Kinross District Council and Angus District Council have opened up council buildings as emergency shelters for stranded lorry drivers and motorists; congratulates the officers and men of 45 Royal Marine Commando, who, using their skis and Arctic experience, rescued many stranded civilians; and further congratulates the crews of the RAF search and rescue helicopter flight of RAF Leuchars for the vast number of emergency sorties completed in conditions of gales and below freezing temperatures.]
My right hon. Friend will be aware that, even today, many major roads in Tayside are still blocked and communities are isolated. He will be aware of the problems that the people in Tayside will face when the search and rescue flight is no longer available at Leuchars and when 45 Royal Marine Commando is not at its base at Condor. The skiing and Arctic ability of the commandos have saved many people's lives.
[That this House agrees that justice for all can only be a reality when there is provision for access to justice for all irrespective of wealth; notes that the intention of the Legal Aid and Advice Act 1949 was to ensure that no one was to be denied legal advice and representation because of inadequate finance; is appalled that the Lord Chancellor, as part of a Government purporting to espouse citizen's rights, proposes to restrict free legal aid only to those on income support or the equivalent, thereby excluding 12 million people from the legal aid provisions; and calls on the Government to abandon these proposals.]
It calls attention to the Lord Chancellor's proposals to change the eligibility rules for legal aid, the effect of which will be to deny free legal aid to 12 million people. That could prevent women from taking out domestic violence injunctions, or parents from making applications under the Children Act. Will the Leader of the House make time for the House to debate that important matter?
The hon. Lady is right to say that the Lord Chancellor has announced proposals and will shortly be tabling regulations to bring changes into effect. Those regulations will undoubtedly give rise to debate. I simply make the point that nearly half of all households will remain financially eligible for legal aid.
I support the calls today from my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) and others for an early debate on crime and law and order, and especially the police service. The Leader of the House will know that, throughout the Christmas/New Year recess, barely a day went by without news of some catastrophe involving youngsters and crime. It is time that the House had a proper debate on the matter.
I note the point made by my hon. Friend, which follows the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills. My hon. Friend will know that the Home Secretary is examining a number of matters that arise from the concerns expressed by hon. Members. I cannot add to what I said a moment ago.
Will the Leader of the House change his mind about having a debate on the national health service and the crisis that has arisen in almost every part of the service as a result of the introduction of the internal market? May I be helpful to the Leader of the House and pre-empt any remarks that he might make about Labour making a U-turn? I was at the press conference yesterday, and I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) did not say that we supported the trusts. But we desperately need a debate.
I did not have it in mind to make any aggressive remarks in response to the hon. Lady's question. However, it remains the case that, in addition to what I said to the hon. Member for Dulwich (Ms. Jowell) a while ago, I am not in a position to promise a debate next week.
My right hon. Friend will be aware that many customs clearance agents and freight forwarders in Dover have recently been made redundant as a result of the introduction of the single European market. Can he confirm that there will be an early opportunity to debate the efficiency and effectiveness of the Department of Trade and Industry in dispersing the British share of the 24 million ecu that the European Community has announced is available to assist customs agents and freight forwarders? There is anxiety in my constituency that, unless the procedures for dispersing that money are speeded up and made more efficient, it will not filter down to them.
I appreciate the reasons why my hon. Friend has raised that point. Indeed, I appreciate the assiduity with which he has pursued the matter on behalf of his constituents over a long period. He too might like to be reminded that my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, to whom he referred, will be here to answer oral questions on Wednesday.
I am afraid that I cannot add this week to what I have told the hon. Gentleman on previous occasions. Having had some discussions with the Chairman of the Committee, I am examining ways to proceed.
Has the Leader of the House been approached by the Prime Minister about making a statement next week in the light of press reports on the future governance of Scotland? If he has not, may I suggest that he encourages the Prime Minister to speak to the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) and other hon. Members who have had experience of devolved government and are interested in Scotland and the Union, bearing in mind that we are known as the Ulster Scots or, as our American cousins call us, the Scotch-Irish?
When the Leader of the House was compiling the business for next week and came to Thursday, did he observe that it was passing strange that Thursdays in the past few months have been heavy days on which all Members were expected to turn up? On Thursday of next week, the business is a debate on the Air Force, which does not normally arouse a great deal of interest among Members, although I realise its importance. Therefore, will he try to disprove the sinister suggestions that have been put to me, that the reason why such a debate was chosen was to distract Members from coming in on Friday for the debate on my Shops (Amendment) Bill? I thank him if those sinister remarks are wrong. I have known him and the work that he does for some time, and I suggest that he allowed a light Thursday so that Members will have time to study the booklet that they received from me this morning explaining the difficulties of introducing a shops Bill.
I had not expected the hon. Gentleman to join the conspiracy theorists who are normally to be found on the other side of the Gangway. I assure him that nothing more was in my mind than the ambitions presented to the House by my right hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling) about Fridays. Contrary to what the hon. Gentleman says, since the House resumed in the autumn, the pattern has been of light days, in the sense in which he uses the word. There have been few heavy Thursdays.
The Lord President will recall that a few weeks ago I raised the issue of pornography on the telephone, following the rape of a young girl in Hillingdon. He referred me to the Department of National Heritage—which surprised me—and I was referred back to the Department of Trade and Industry. Since then, I have had a debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill, in which the response from the hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Hamilton) was unhelpful. Next Tuesday, I have a ten-minute Bill which has all-party support.
Will the Lord President now or very soon add some weight to the need to regulate pornography on the telephone? I understand that he has two daughters, as do other right hon. Members on the Treasury Bench. I ask them please to consider what I have been saying for a long time, which is attracting all-party support. For that reason alone, will he do something about what is happening on the telephone, which I believe is corrupting and not very wholesome for a civilised country to accept?
The hon. Gentleman is right to say that I have two daughters. I also have two stepdaughters. I have no direct or indirect experience of the problem that he describes through them, but I am conscious of the importance that he attaches to the matter and of the sympathy that many people have for his views. I cannot make an absolute commitment, but I will do my best to be here next week to listen to his speech on the subject.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Welsh Grand Committee has not met since last February? Since February, thousands of jobs have been lost in my constituency and those of other Opposition Members. It appears that all representations to the Secretary of State for Wales are failing. Therefore, will the Leader of the House place on the Order Paper next week the appropriate motion to establish the Welsh Grand Committee to discuss the growing unemployment problems of Wales?
Is the Leader of the House aware that the Government's proposal to reduce expenditure under section 11 of the Local Government Act 1966 is likely adversely to affect the educational opportunities and life chances of many children of ethnic minority background in my constituency and those of many other hon. Members? If he is aware of that, will he please urge the Home Secretary to make a statement as soon as possible? If he cannot do that, will he arrange a debate on that important subject as a matter of urgency?
Is it possible to have an early debate on the recommendations of the Select Committee on Home Affairs, the most important of which is that the security services should be subject to full parliamentary scrutiny? Any such scrutiny committee should not be composed of Privy Councillors alone, hence my early-day motion 1089.
[That this House is strongly of the opinion that the security services should be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny; and moreover is opposed to a committee composed only of privy counsellors being established, which would be outside the normal Select Committee structure.]
Bearing in mind the allegations that have been made about the security services in the latest controversy involving the royal couple, is it not essential that, as in other democracies, the security service be subject to parliamentary scrutiny as early as possible? When can we have an early debate?
I cannot promise the early debate that the hon. Gentleman seeks; nor can I add to what was said by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage half an hour ago on the question to which the hon. Gentleman adverted. Obviously the report of the Select Committee, like all Select Committee reports, will be carefully studied.
Will the Leader of the House accept that we need a statement next week on the national health service, even if, after repeated pressing from my hon. Friends, he cannot manage a debate? A two-tier system is developing. I have in my hand a letter from the chief executive of the Bradford hospital trust which says:
I hope and would expect that preference will be given"—
Order. I have had to call several hon. Members to order today for developing their points rather than stating the principle of why they want a debate. The hon. Gentleman is a good parliamentarian and he knows what I am getting at.
One sentence, Madam Speaker. The chief executive of the national health service trust in Bradford is urging consultants to give preference to GP fund holders. That is a serious departure from all the pledges which the Government have given, and that is why we need a statement.
Has the Leader of the House seen early-day motion 1150?
[That this House congratulates the I.L.P. on its 100th anniversary, recognising that the Independent Labour Party held its inaugural conference in Bradford on 13th and 14th January 1893 and that its tradition is continued today by its direct successor organisation, Independent Labour Publications, which has maintained the I.L.P. historic initials and continues to work for the advance and development of democratic socialism.]
That motion contains the simple but powerful initials "ILP". It is about the formation of the Independent Labour party 100 years ago today in Bradford—an organisation which still exists as Independent Labour Publications. A debate on that topic would allow a general discussion on political issues, including democratic socialism, which is still very much alive. For example, Keir Hardie, who was a founder member of the ILP, was known as the Member for the unemployed in the House. We need many Members for the unemployed. We could discuss unemployment during a discussion on the early-day motion.
I am being urged by my right hon. and hon. Friends to grant the hon. Gentleman's request. However, I cannot add to the generous offer of my right hon. Friend to provide time for a wake. Nor, indeed, can I identify the undertaker.
Following the answer which the Leader of the House gave to the hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett), although he said that he could not make available any time next week for a debate on community care, will he make time in the foreseeable future before April for such a debate? He should do so especially in the light of the report by the Association of Directors of Social Services that social services throughout Britain are having to cut their budgets.
I repeat what I said to the hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett): I am not in a position to promise a debate, but I shall bear in mind the request given the longer time scale given by the hon. Member for Rochdale (Ms. Lynne). The ADSS provides a survey of social services expenditure every year at this time, and it is not unknown for it to make gloomy predictions. It must be recognised that funding to local authorities for social services is to be increased by 15 per cent. next year. That comes on top of a real increase of almost two thirds in local authority social services spending since 1979.
May I remind the Leader of the House of the implied and repeated promise to Members of the House of Commons that we would have an opportunity to debate the six documents on rail privatisation which the Secretary of State for Transport promised would be available before the publication of the privatisation Bill? Those six documents have not yet been received. As Members anticipate that, before the Leader of the House makes his next business statement, the Bill will have been published, will he use his good offices, first, to ensure that the six outstanding documents are made available to the House of Commons, especially the one on the pricing regime for Railtrack, which is crucial and central to the legislation, before the Bill is published; and, secondly, that we have an opportunity to debate the documents before Second Reading?
Finally, with regard to the Second Reading—
We have just had—I accept that it was thanks to Her Majesty's Opposition—a full day's debate on rail privatisation. It is to the credit of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport that he is making so much information so openly available in advance of Second Reading. It seems to me that the right way to respond to that is to treat that information as relevant to the debate which we shall undoubtedly have on the Bill.
Following the reply by the Leader of the House to my hon. Friend the Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) about hill livestock compensatory allowances, may I invite him to be a little more forthcoming? If, as seems likely, the Select Committee on Agriculture will consider that issue as a matter of urgency, can he give us an undertaking that the House will be given the opportunity to study and debate its report fully?
On the right hon. Gentleman's comment that the incomes of sheep farmers are said to have risen in recent years, I wonder whether he has noted the report of the west country sheep farmer who said that 50 per cent. of bugger all is still bugger all.
Will the Leader of the House consult his colleagues, the Secretaries of State for Defence and for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, about providing time for a debate on the implications of the second strategic arms reduction treaty and on the question of nuclear proliferation for this country? That debate is necessary in view of the present debate in the Ukraine, which is likely to continue.
The Ukrainian Government might sabotage the whole process, because Members of its Parliament are opposed to the fact that this country, among others, is not giving the Ukraine any guarantees that, if it gets rids of its nuclear weapons, we will not fire such weapons against them. Could the Government find time to debate that issue, so that the Ukraine could be given a negative security guarantee of that type?
The hon. Gentleman will recall that I have already announced in the business for next week a debate on defence-related matters, under the heading of the Royal Air Force. Despite the obvious importance of the matter to which he has referred, I cannot promise another debate at this stage.