Yes, Madam. The business for next week will be as follows:
MONDAY 25 OCTOBER—Debate on a motion to take note of the outstanding reports of the Public Accounts Committee to which the Government have replied.
TUESDAY 26 OCTOBER—Until 7 o'clock, a motion relating to the Management and Administration of Safety and Health at Mines Regulations, followed by a motion on the Education and Libraries (Northern Ireland) Order.
Motion relating to the Education (School Teachers' Pay and Conditions) (No. 2) Order.
WEDNESDAY 27 OCTOBER—Opposition Day (19th allotted day). There will be a debate on coal on an Opposition motion, followed by motions relating to the Assisted Areas Order and the Assisted Areas (Amendment) Order.
THURSDAY 28 OCTOBER—Opposition Day (20th allotted day).
Until about 7 o'clock, there will be a debate entitled "The prevention of crime" in the name of the Liberal Democrats, followed by a debate entitled "The need for a cold climate allowance" in the name of the Scottish National party.
FRIDAY 29 OCTOBER—Motions on the Priests (Ordination of Women) Measure and the Ordination of Women (Financial Provisions) Measure.
MONDAY 1 NOVEMBER—Consideration of Lords amendments that may be received to the Railways Bill.
The House will also want to know that European Standing Committee B will meet on Wednesday 27 October at 10.30 am to consider European Community documents Nos. 8426/92 and 8682/93 relating to packaging and packaging waste.
[Wednesday 27 October:
European Standing Committee B—Relevant European Community documents: 8426/92, 8682/93, packaging and packaging waste.
Relevant European Legislation Committee reports: HC 79-vi (1992–93), HC 79-xv (1992–93); HC 79-xxxvii (1992–93).]
I thank the Leader of the House for that statement and for providing a little extra time—although only a little—for the coal debate. However, one and a half hours will be nothing like time enough for all the right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House who will want to take part in the debate on assisted area status. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider the amount of time allocated to that matter.
I make a broader point. It would be bizarre if, following a long summer break, we were to have a further long gap between the old Session and the new. Our constituents want us to debate value added tax and zero rating, and unemployment. No one but the Government could want Parliament immediately to take a further long holiday.
I ask the Leader of the House to arrange as soon as possible a debate on public expenditure. The House has not discussed the Government's public expenditure plans since 15 May 1991. I should have thought that even the Leader of the House would accept that events have moved on since then.
I am not sure how much sympathy there will be for the hon. Gentleman's remarks about reducing the length of time during which people will be able to attend to their duties in their constituencies. At any rate, I take note of the point. As ever, an issue such as the public expenditure debate is best left for discussion through the usual channels—I believe that the usual channels have already adverted to the matter. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Procedure Committee has published a report which touches on this matter and at which the Government are looking with appropriate care.
The hon. Gentleman kindly acknowledged that, following discussions through the usual channels, we had sought to provide rather more time than usual for the motion relating to the management and administration of safety and health at mines. However, I am afraid that I am unable to give the same undertaking about the assisted areas order.
Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance to the House that, following the return of the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary from Cyprus, they will come to the House and explain the silence of the Foreign Office in regard to the appalling attacks and demonstrations that have occurred in Cyprus relating to Her Majesty the Queen, the head of the Commonwealth? Is not it extraordinary that the Foreign Office should have said nothing in the face of those appalling demonstrations, when the EOKA terrorists, who are the centre of the demonstrations, were responsible for the deaths of Greek Cypriots and were hanged in accordance with British law at that time as well as the law in Cyprus? Will my right hon. Friend ask my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to come to the House with an explanation?
I shall certainly bring my hon. Friend's request to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. I am sure that my right hon. Friend deplores what happened as much as my hon. Friend does. I understand that there has been an apology from the President for the discourtesy that this country feels has been shown on this occasion. However, it should not detract from the fact that there can be no doubt that Her Majesty the Queen will be warmly received at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting.
Given the appalling murder of a police officer last night, I thank the Leader of the House for accepting our request for a Supply day next week in the name of the Liberal Democrats and for allowing us to debate the prevention of crime.
Can the Leader of the House tell us something about the business on the following Monday? If the House sustains the amendments to the Railways Bill that have been passed in the Lords, can he undertake that there need be no further consideration of that Bill in this House and that therefore the Bill, as then amended, will be passed into law and the Government will not seek to reverse it, once again, later next week?
Has my right hon. Friend had an opportunity to read the report of Dr. Jenkinson, who is acknowledged as the world's leading authority on soil science? In that report, which was published yesterday, he says that we are wasting hundreds of millions of pounds through the nitrates directive because the standards that have been set are unnecessarily high. That is just one example of the way in which the European Community has taken no account of cost benefits relating to water. Will it be possible for us to have a debate at some time relating to water and cost benefits, because we are all concerned about the protection of the environment and about the increasing cost of these unnecessary impositions on our constituents?
My hon. Friend, understandably, has made a point which has been expressed to me in a constituency capacity by the Anglian water authority. My hon. Friend is well aware that the Government take the view that it is necessary to look at the balance between the costs and advantages of a particular policy. We are seeking to ensure that that balance is struck in our discussions on European matters.
Is the Leader of the House aware that early-day motion 330 calling for the enactment of my Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill, which was tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Dr. Berry) and has all-party support, now has well upwards of 300 signatures?
[That this House believes that anti-discrimination legislation is necessary to ensure equality of opportunity for people with disabilities; and calls for the early introduction of a Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill.]
Is it not disgraceful for it to have been said that we cannot afford the provisions of the Bill? Will the Leader of the House arrange for a ministerial statement to explain to us next week why we can afford civil rights for everyone else but not for Britain's 6.5 million disabled people?
It will not surprise you, Madam Speaker, and I doubt that it will surprise the right hon. Gentleman, to learn that I do not for a moment accept the rather tendentious proposition with which he concluded his remarks. As for his earlier remarks, I shall bring them to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security and Disabled People.
Is my right lion. Friend aware that we have not had a debate on civil aviation for some time? Is he also aware that the present bilaterial negotiations between the United States and us seem to have reached an impasse? As failure to reach an agreement could endanger the US Air/British Airways deal, which is vital to the future of British Airways, should not the House have the opportunity to discuss this important issue before too long?
I shall certainly bear my hon. Friend's request in mind. It is an important matter, but I cannot encourage him to expect that I can find an early opportunity for precisely the debate he requests. I shall, however, draw his comments to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport.
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that there are two Opposition days next week when it would have been possible, had it been thought right, to explore such matters further. I cannot undertake to find Government time for such a debate in the near future but that is in no way intended to underestimate the importance of the problem. Although the hon. Gentleman may disagree with some of the views expressed from this Dispatch Box and, indeed, from the Opposition Dispatch Box, I think that he will acknowledge that there is universal concern that we should move to a negotiated peace settlement, difficult though that has proved, and that we should maintain the humanitarian effort in which the British Government and people have played a major part.
The Government announced the new sea defence coast protection policy during the recess. Will my right hon. Friend arrange time for the House to debate it, certainly before the winter sets in and the whole of the east coast is threatened once again?
Coming from the east coast myself, I recognise why my hon. Friend has raised that matter, but, before we have got very far into business questions, we already have a list of requests for debate which would fill all the time that the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, Fast (Mr. Brown) wished to make available.
Could the Leader of the House arrange for a short statement from the President of the Board of Trade on the 630 job losses at Jetstream Aircraft at Prestwick and especially on what action he will take to eliminate the unfair subsidies to Jetstream's competitors, both through the European Community and the general agreement on tariffs and trade?
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the appalling attacks on the Queen in Cyprus prove that the EOKA tendency is alive and well and that there is reason for the people in north Cyprus to be fearful of the proposals being made in the south? It is many years since we had a debate on Cyprus and, to some extent, the failure to settle the Cyprus problem is a failure of British foreign policy. Might my right hon. Friend speed a debate in the House in which we could fully consider the issues and help to find a solution?
I endorse the request for more time for a debate on the Assisted Areas Order. As the right hon. Gentleman will know, the order covers a wide range of constituencies, and in constituencies such as mine, in Bradford, which has been removed from the assisted areas map, it is a matter of considerable controversy and concern, and will almost certainly mean the loss of many jobs. I am sure that many hon. Members' constituencies are similarly affected, so I hope that, rather than the debate being limited to an hour and a half, it will be given three or four hours, or even longer. The best option would be an open-ended debate, so that any hon. Member who wanted to speak could do so.
Under the normal arrangements and Standing Orders of the House, significant numbers of orders are discussed in which many hon. Members have an interest, and some of them may be frustrated as a result of our normal practices. I am sorry, but I cannot add to what I said to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East in our opening exchanges.
My right hon. Friend will know that we entered the single market on 1 January. Ten months have now passed, and one of the big problems at our ports and airports is how our customs and excise men are managing to deal with drugs, tobacco, alcohol and the many other substances that seem to go through so easily these days. Is it not time that we conducted a review of their work, supported them where we can and ensured that some of the failures of the European single masrket customs system are outlined at this early stage?
May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to the earlier exchange between the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and myself about the possibility of the Northern Ireland Grand Committee meeting to discuss the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1993? That is an important order with a vast range, and it has come to the House 12 years after its conception. It demands greater scrutiny than would be possible during the hour and a half that would ordinarily be spent on it on the Floor of the House. Can we have a commitment that the Northern Ireland Grand Committee will meet to discuss that issue?
I did not hear the exchanges between the hon. Gentleman and my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, but my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown), the Whip sitting beside me, has just muttered to me that my right hon. and learned Friend said that the hon. Gentleman's request was a matter for me. I shall endeavour to ensure that the request that the hon. Gentleman has delivered to me across the Floor of the House—I make no complaint about that—is given appropriate consideration.
Did my right hon. Friend catch sight of the admirably succinct letter in The Times yesterday from Judge Stroyan, which said:
I am paid to administer the law, not to pontificate about it"?
In view of recent and rather rash pronouncements from some of the judiciary, will my right hon. Friend arrange for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Lord Chancellor's Department to make a statement to the House outlining the
rules that apply to judges' pronouncements? Many of us remember a better time when judges remained silent expect on the bench.
[That this House offers its congratulations to the organisers and participants in the Pensioners' Lobby of Parliament against the imposition of VAT on gas and electricity and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to abandon this proposal; is further concerned at the facilities of the House for visitors, the humiliation of queueing outside and the lack of refreshment facilities and toilets for them; and therefore calls for an urgent review of the facilities and entrance for visitors with a view to using Westminster Hall for this.]
It congratulates the people who lobbied Parliament yesterday about the VAT that is to be imposed on fuel next year, but is the right hon. Gentleman also aware that those people suffered the normal indignities of those who try to come to Parliament to see Members—queuing for hours outside and being unable to get in, to get refreshments or to see their Members? Most arrived in and departed from London extremely frustrated.
Will the Leader of the House take it upon himself to consider as a matter of urgency the way in which lobbies are organised, so that the carriage gates entrance can be used, Westminster Hall can be used for security checks and as an assembly area, and refreshments and toilet facilities are properly available, so that people can exercise their democratic right to lobby their Members of Parliament, as they should be able to do at all times?
As you will be well aware, Madam Speaker, with your particular responsibilities, this matter is, in substantial part, a matter for the Administration Committee. I will draw the hon. Gentleman's remarks to the attention of the Chairman of that Committee, who is not in his place at the moment. I understand that the Committee intends to consider at an early meeting the rules that govern the organisation and reception of mass lobbies at the House.
Does my right hon. Friend find it surprising that we shall not have a debate about housing next Wednesday in view of the latest local government ombudsman's report, which shows that maladministration by council housing officers is the biggest single cause of complaint, or is that why the Opposition never choose housing as a subject for debate?
Has the Leader of the House read the maritime report given to the House in the recent past? It reveals the appalling number of deaths of seamen because of the loss of ships at sea. Is it not about time, especially in view of the Government's policy of deregulation, that the House addressed the issues of merchant seamen, merchant ships and safety at sea?
Will my right hon. Friend consider a debate on early-day motion 2445, which was signed by the hon. Member for Eccles (Miss Lestor), newly elected to the shadow Cabinet? The motion calls for cuts in defence and for the abolition of Trident.
[That this House welcomes the overwhelming vote at the Labour Party conference calling for United Kingdom defence spending to be reduced to the average level of other West European countries, allied to constructive plans for defence diversification, arms conversion and the transfer of the savings made to economic and social priorities by investment in job creation and economic development and the restructuring of Britain's crumbling infrastructure; recognises the importance of the call for making retraining of the defence sector workforce a priority; applauds the conference majority decision calling for the immediate scrapping of the Trident submarine and weapons programme as an essential step towards the elimination of nuclear weapons worldwide; believes that in rejecting Trident the United Kingdom can demonstrate genuine support for strengthening the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and bolster the consolidation of a comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty; further believes that the lifetime costs of Trident deployment kwill be at least £33 billion when re-fit, replacement and decommissioning are included and that it is the hidden extra costs of continuing the United Kingdom nuclear weapons programme that is bound to reduce drastically the possibility of a positive peace dividend; and therefore calls upon Her Majesty's Government to support the cancellation of the Trident programme and to plan the investment of resources saved into job creation and industrial innovation in the civil economy.]
Surely the House should know whether the Labour party is serious about our national security?
The thought crossed my mind that it was just possible that the hon. Member for Eccles might not have anticipated yesterday's events when deciding to sign the early-day motion earlier in the week. It seemed to me to leave room for some interesting discussions in the new shadow Cabinet in due course. There must have been quite a lot of people who were surprised—including, perhaps, the Opposition Chief Whip, whom I see here. As one rather ingenious commentator put it on the radio at lunchtime, the purpose of the rules was to bring about the election of fewer Scots and more women. The result was to get more Scots and fewer women.
May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to the announcement this morning by the German nuclear industry that it is withdrawing from its contracts with British Nuclear Fuels? If that is followed by similar acts by other international nuclear industries, the viability of the commissioning of the thermal oxide reprocessing plant must be brought into question. In view of the fact that the Government have consistently refused a public inquiry, surely it is proper that the House has the opportunity to debate the economic, social, environmental and proliferation problems that the THORP commissioning will bring us.
If I remember rightly, a little before the summer recess there was a debate on those matters which was initiated by the Liberal Democrats. I cannot add to what was said then, especially because, as the hon. Gentleman well knows, those matters are currently under appropriate consideration by my right hon. Friends.
Can my right hon. Friend arrange a debate next week on early-day motion 2453, signed by hon. Members of all parties, which calls for reconsideration of the decision by the Radio Authority to get rid of the London Broadcasting Company?
[That this House, mindful of the good service to Londoners of the London Broadcasting Corporation, and mindful of public support for it over many years, regrets the decision of the Radio Authority to withdraw its franchise and calls upon that body to reconsider this decision urgently.]
This is a very popular station with 2 million Londoners. Its demise is greatly regretted by many people and should be debated in the House at an early date.
Is it not about time that we had a debate on the advice that was given recently to the Transport Select Committee that the single most important measure that we can take to reduce road traffic casualties would be to introduce daylight saving and that advancing British time by one hour throughout the year would cut the number of serious and fatal accidents by 600 each year? When will the Government screw up the courage to implement that long overdue reform?
Obviously, a number of factors must be taken into account when considering those matters, including that to which the hon. Gentleman referred. My right hon. Friends will announce their proposals when they finish their consideration of all the issues involved.
Will the Leader of the House press the Prime Minister when he reports on the Commonwealth Heads of Government conference to take the opportunity to condemn the arrest and imprisonment of Mr. Amanullah Khan, a Commonwealth citizen, in Brussels on Monday? Will he urge the Belgian authorities to release immediately Mr. Khan, the chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, and warn all non-EC countries that applications to extradite those visiting the EC quite legally will not be entertained in future?
If time cannot be found next week for a Scottish ministerial statement on the report of the inquiry into the cervical smear programme scandal which took place at the Inverclyde Royal hospital, Greenock, can I assume that the Secretary of State will refer to that very important matter when he addresses the meeting of the Scottish Grand Committee next Thursday?
On the grounds of fairness and open government, would it be possible for the Leader of the House to arrange for those Cabinet Ministers who have been subjected to such hostile criticism in Lady Thatcher's book to be given the right to come here and put their own point of view? Is it not somewhat unfair that Lady Thatcher has the opportunity to subject those Cabinet Ministers to such criticism, while we want to hear their right of reply?