Business of the House

– in the House of Commons at 3:34 pm on 24th February 1994.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree 3:34 pm, 24th February 1994

With permission, I should like to make a statement about the business for next week. The business will be as follows:

MONDAY 28 FEBRUARY—Motions on the European Communities (Definition of Treaties) (Europe agreement establishing an association between the European Communities and their member states and the republics of Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic and Romania) orders.

Motion on the Representation of the People (Variation of Limits of Candidates' Election Expenses) order.

Motion on the European Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) regulations.

Motion on the European Parliamentary Elections (Northern Ireland) (Amendment) regulations.

Motion on the Local Elections (Variation of Limits of Candidates' Election Expenses) (Northern Ireland) order.

Motions on the Scottish Revenue Support Grant reports. Details will be given in the Official Report.

TUESDAY 1 MARCH—Opposition Day (5th allotted day): until about seven o'clock, there will be a debate described as "Misuse of Overseas Aid Funds," followed by a debate described as "The Need for Investment in Education" on motions in the name of the Liberal Democrats.

Motion on the Community Care Special Transitional Grant report.

WEDNESDAY 2 MARCH—Opposition Day (6th allotted day): there will be a debate entitled "The State of Manufacturing Industry" on an Opposition motion.

THURSDAY 3 MARCH—There will be a debate on Welsh affairs on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

FRIDAY 4 MARCH—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY 7 MARCH—Motion on the Building Societies (EFTA States) order.

Motion on the Appropriation (Northern Ireland) order.

It may also be for the convenience of the House to know that the House will be invited to approve motions relating to the House of Commons Members' Fund on Friday 4 March.

It will certainly be for the convenience of the House to know that, subject to the progress of business, it is proposed that the House should rise for the spring Adjournment on Friday 27 May until Monday 13 June.

Photo of Margaret Beckett Margaret Beckett Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party

I thank the Leader of the House for his statement. In particular, I thank him, on behalf of all Members, for his early notice of the dates of the Whitsun recess, which confirms that we are to have a break around the date of the European election. Many hon. Members will have anticipated that, but it is very helpful to know it. [Interruption.]

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. I should appreciate it if hon. Members' conversations were a little less noisy.

Photo of Margaret Beckett Margaret Beckett Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party

I should like to ask the Leader of the House to arrange for an early statement from a Treasury Minister on the progress of a proposal made last autumn by Asea Brown Boveri to start the supply of new trains for the Northern line at the end of 1994. I stress that what is needed is specifically a statement from a Treasury Minister. London commuters need the trains, but the train makers need the order. The proposal has no up-front cost and comes, we believe, within Treasury guidelines. It seems that the roadblock is in the Treasury.

I remind the right hon. Gentleman that we are seeking Government time for a debate on Bosnia.

I ask him to arrange for ministerial statements, first, on what seem to be a series of U-turns on the Police and Magistrates' Courts Bill in another place and, secondly, on the fact that the Education Bill was given its Second Reading there 14 weeks ago but has not been heard of since. If the Government intend to abandon these B ills, it would be very helpful for the House to be told.

Finally, I have to say that there is concern among Welsh Members on all sides of the House at the fact that the Welsh affairs debate this year will not be on St. David's day.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I shall take the right hon. Lady's questions in reverse order, as I sometimes do.

On the question of the debate on Welsh affairs, I must, however gently, make the point that there would have been more scope for discussion of this matter had the usual channels been operating. Also, such debates have not always taken place on 1 March. Indeed, in roughly three years out of seven that is, in effect, impossible. It is probably for the general convenience of the House that the debate this year should take place next Thursday.

With regard to the Education Bill and the Police and Magistrates' Courts Bill, which are being dealt with in another place, I replied to an hon. Member on the corresponding occasion last week that it is entirely appropriate that comments related to the progress of those Bills should be made in the House in which they are currently being considered. The right hon. Lady may find that she will hear more of the Education Bill before too long.

I repeat the comment that I made last week: that of course we always keep under review the possible need for a statement or a debate on Bosnia. I think, however, that everyone would wish to express pleasure at the way in which matters went in Bosnia in the early part of this week.

The hon. Lady said that she wanted a Treasury statement on a report. I understand that she is expected to see the Financial Secretary about the matter, and I should like to leave it to that meeting.

I am grateful for the right hon. Lady's generous recognition of the advantages of an early statement about the Whitsun recess, which I have sought to make in line with the spirit of the Jopling report.

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

Has my right hon. Friend seen early-day motion 649 in the name of the hon. Member for Cannock and Burntwood (Dr. Wright), which deplores the lack of progress made in the adoption of the recommendations in the Jopling report?

[That this House notes that it is now two years since the Select Committee on Sittings of the House published its report (Jopling Report); deplores the fact that there has still been no action; believes that the procedures and sittings of this House are in urgent need of reform; and calls on the Leader of the House to provide an early opportunity for this House to vote on the reforms proposed by the Select Committee.]

Even more significantly, does my right hon. Friend recall early-day motion 9, which was tabled in the previous Session of this Parliament, signed by more than 100 Opposition Members, including the Opposition deputy Chief Whip, which urged that there should be an early debate on the subject? Would my right hon. Friend therefore consult the Leader of the Opposition and urge him to overcome his pathological objection to any reform so that we can have a genuine debate on the subject in the House?

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. That is an example of what I have just asked not to have.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I have seen early-day motion 649, and I recall early-day motion 9 in the previous Session. I am much encouraged by the number of Labour Members who are making it clear that they want progress on the matter. I hope that they will be prepared to impose that view on their Front-Bench team.

Photo of Mr Alex Carlile Mr Alex Carlile , Montgomery

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that, notwithstanding the fact that next week's Welsh day debate is on St. Winwaloe's rather than St. David's day, the Government remain committed to holding a Welsh day debate in Government time as near to St. David's day as such time permits?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I think that my good faith in the matter has been shown by my announcement about the debate.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Budgen Mr Nicholas Budgen , Wolverhampton South West

Will my right hon. Friend find time as soon as possible to debate early-day motion 520, which was signed by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-East (Mr. Turner) and no fewer than 56 Opposition Members?

[That this House condemns the massive and unacceptable pay increases and perks awarded to the Chief Executive and directors of Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries Ltd., bearing in mind the Government's strictures on excessive pay awards, exorbitant beer price increases for Banks' products in recent years, and the company's failure to enhance their employees' pay and conditions by any recognisable comparison with that awarded to its directors, together with the company's offensive decision to make a political donation of £10,000 to Conservative Party funds; believes that the present Chief Executive and directors are unfit for office; and calls for their immediate resignation.]

That shows that the Labour party's industrial policy is still based upon unlawful interference in the wages and the prices charged by private companies such as the Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries. Will he please allow the Labour party the opportunity to show that its policies are based on arbitrary interference in private property?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I confirm that everything I have seen of the Labour party's so-called "Business Plan for Britain" makes it a recipe for damaging interference in the success of business in Britain.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

Should we not debate next week Madam Speaker's extremely important statement? Is the Leader of the House aware that I had to be away from the House for 12 weeks before Christmas and that, during that time, I watched "Westminster Live"? I was frankly appalled at the way in which the House of Commons came over on that programme. For Prime Minister's questions, should not we consider having closed questions rather than the ridiculous open question system, which has caused so much of the trouble?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I shall confine myself to saying that we are all pleased to see the hon. Gentleman back and in such brief form.

Photo of Mr Peter Fry Mr Peter Fry , Wellingborough

Does my right hon. Friend recall that on several occasions I have asked for a debate on the future of British civil aviation? Given the recent report of the seven wise men to the Commission in Brussels, and the fact that there is great concern about the state of negotiations between Britain and the United States, which are of vital importance to British airlines, is it not time that we found time for a debate on that subject, since apparently we can spend many hours discussing sexual perversions?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I will of course bear my hon. Friend's representations in mind, but I cannot promise that in the near future.

Photo of Mr Dennis Turner Mr Dennis Turner , Wolverhampton South East

May I endorse the call by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) for a debate on public companies and their greed and avarice in recent times? Many chairmen and directors of companies are claiming for themselves far more than they are prepared to pay the workers in their industries, and far more than they are prepared to consider the needs of the people who buy their products. I make no apology for my early-day motion, or for any word in it. I support it, and I am asking for a debate on it.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

It appears that the hon. Gentleman is simply confirming the interpretation of my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West.

Photo of Mr Bob Dunn Mr Bob Dunn , Dartford

May we have an urgent debate early next week on socialist plans for Europe, as signed up to by the Leader of the Opposition, given that those plans would double the EC budget and massively increase taxation and borrowing in the United Kingdom?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

The very first debate I announced today is on a number of orders connected with Europe. I cannot be quite sure whether those points would be in order, but my hon. Friend might have a try.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

Why is there no Government statement or debate on the latest estimated job losses at British Gas of 25,000? When a major company announces the biggest single redundancy package in history, do the Government accept no responsibility, given their activities in the gas market? Does the Leader of the House understand why many British Gas workers believe that, if it were possible to go to gaol for economic crimes, Ministers and senior management would be behind bars?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

The hon. Gentleman puts his point in characteristically overheated terms. He is talking about a successful British company, which has been successful because it has been prepared to ensure that it operates efficiently.

Photo of James Paice James Paice , South East Cambridgeshire

During the long list of orders that my right hon. Friend read out for Monday concerning Europe and eastern Europe, will he ensure that there is a statement about the know-how fund for Russia? Most taxpayers will be anxious to ensure that no taxpayers' money is to be used to send the mayor of Lambeth to Moscow to advise Russia on democracy.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

It is highly unlikely that any money from the know-how fund is going in that direction.

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

May we have a debate on procedure, so that we can discuss your important and significant ruling, Madam Speaker—which, if I might humbly say so, I think would penalise regular attending Back Benchers and favour those who simply turn up to put questions into the Table Office and attend the Chamber only when they know that they will be called?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

That is perhaps the point of order that the hon. Gentleman wished to raise with you earlier, Madam Speaker. It might be more appropriate if it were raised in that form. I certainly do not intend to raise questions about your statement, which I thought was clear and sensible, and welcomed by most of the House.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff , Worcester

May I join my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Dunn) in calling for a debate on rather wider European matters than those scheduled for Monday to enable us to draw a real distinction between the preparedness of the Opposition to sign up to every jot and tittle of a European socialist manifesto while my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is determined to defend Britain's interests?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

There is a much wider debate, albeit not under a European heading, on Wednesday—the Opposition Supply day on the state of manufacturing industry. It is clear that, if the Opposition were in a position to sign up to the socialist policies that they espouse in Europe, the state of manufacturing industry would be grim indeed.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan , Falkirk West

In view of the tragic fatal accidents involving schoolchildren, may we have a statement on how the Government plan to improve safety standards in buses and minibuses, especially when carrying schoolchildren? Does the Leader of the House agree that the compulsory installation of seat belts would be a far more effective measure than the ill-thought-out suggestion being considered by the EC working party of a complete ban on double-decker buses, when there is no conclusive evidence that the safety record of double-deckers is any worse than that of conventional single deckers?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I note the hon. Gentleman's point about double-decker buses, with which I suspect many of my hon. Friends, and, indeed, Opposition Members, will have much sympathy. On his first point, I do not want to add to what I recall my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister saying in response to a question that he was asked by a Back-Bench Opposition Member last week.

Photo of Mr Roy Thomason Mr Roy Thomason , Bromsgrove

Will my right hon. Friend arrange an early debate on Hong Kong so that the House may demonstrate its support for the actions of the Governor?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I cannot promise an early debate on that matter, but my hon. Friend might like to make that point to the Foreign Secretary, when he is answering questions next Wednesday. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will be grateful.

Photo of Gwyneth Dunwoody Gwyneth Dunwoody , Crewe and Nantwich

Will the Leader of the House find time next week to debate, as a matter of urgency, what is happening to the Lomé convention in relation to the banana producers of the Caribbean, who are not only going bankrupt but are being destroyed by the lack of action of the EC?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I will bring that question to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and others with an interest in the matter, but I cannot promise an early debate.

Photo of Mr Ian Bruce Mr Ian Bruce , South Dorset

With roughly 12,000 mobile telephones being stolen every month, may we have an urgent debate on what the Government can do to stop them being recycled as rechipped telephones?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I cannot promise an early debate—[Laughter.]. One of my hon. Friends suggests that my reply should be, "I will ring you back."

Photo of Tessa Jowell Tessa Jowell , Dulwich

Will the Leader of the House find time next week for a debate on the disturbing recommendations of the inquiry into the murder of Jonathan Zito, particularly the need to make good the shortfall in medium-secure places in south-east London, and acute psychiatric beds in inner London?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

The hon. Lady will have heard what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said on the same issue at Question Time. She will also know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health announced a number of proposals in August last year to improve the care of the more vulnerable mentally ill people in the community. I am sure that my right hon. Friend will look carefully at any further lessons that can be drawn from that important report.

Photo of Mr Richard Tracey Mr Richard Tracey , Surbiton

Without wishing to be repetitive, will my right hon. Friend give urgent consideration to a serious statement on the implementation of the Jopling report on the business of the House? Like me, he must be aware of the views of the public, business men and people in considerable positions in this country about recent events in the House and the way that things are being dragged out totally unnecessarily, which is giving a most appalling image of the House to the rest of the country and to the world.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

Of course, as I have said before, I will give serious consideration to that, but I would make the point to my hon. Friend that, in many ways, we have made significant progress towards some of the aims of the Jopling report by the way in which we have nevertheless managed to conduct business.

Photo of Chris Mullin Chris Mullin , Sunderland South

Will the Leader of the House find time next week to tell us what representations the Government are making to the BBC regarding its decision to withdraw "Today in Parliament" from Radio 4 FM? It is already—if one is a Back Bencher in this place—like trying to smuggle messages out of prison. We cannot afford it to get any more difficult.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I note the point; it was raised from the Opposition Front Bench last week. I will follow it up in the way I outlined then.

Photo of Mr Philip Oppenheim Mr Philip Oppenheim , Amber Valley

Will my right hon. Friend find time next week to have a general debate on 15 years of Tory rule, to bring to people's attention what a marvellous thing it is that standards in Britain have improved so much over the past 15 years that—to take a random example recently highlighted by the press—an elderly ex-miner nearing pensioner age can behave with such vigour and sprightliness that now, in Tory Britain, he can maintain a foreign mistress in yuppieland?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I do not think that I can promise a debate next week.

Photo of Mrs Alice Mahon Mrs Alice Mahon , Halifax

May I return to more serious matters? Will the Leader of the House reconsider his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich (Ms Jowell), and agree to a debate on the lack of resources for the mentally ill—not just in London, but in the rest of the country? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that today's report said that a hundred Christopher Clunises could be at large in the country because of that lack of resources? Is he aware that in Calderdale, where we have only 77 acute beds for the mentally ill, it is proposed to close nearly half those beds?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I cannot add to what I said to the hon. Member for Dulwich (Ms Jowell), except that the hon. Member for Halifax really ought to look at some of the figures before making such comments. She should note, for instance, the increase in the number of community psychiatric nurses, and many other measures of the increase in resources.

Photo of Mr Rod Richards Mr Rod Richards , Clwyd North West

Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on corruption in local government so that the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) can have an opportunity to condemn Jim Brookes, the Labour leader of Monklands district council?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

Although such an opportunity was kindly arranged by the Opposition, I think that the debate that will follow these questions provides another. Unhappily, I see no sign of the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith).

Photo of Glenda Jackson Glenda Jackson , Hampstead and Highgate

The London Boroughs Association called today for urgent action to reduce the dangerously high and rising levels of air pollution in the capital, caused by vehicular traffic. Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate next week—perhaps a combined debate, involving both the Department of Transport and the Treasury—on why public transport in the capital is significantly underfunded, not least the Northern line?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

The right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) raised effectively the same point, in a slightly different form. Perhaps I could leave my earlier answer as it stands.

Photo of Mr Keith Mans Mr Keith Mans , Wyre

As it is unlikely that the Labour party will mention it in next week's debate on manufacturing industry, will my right hon. Friend find time for us to discuss Labour's proposal to end tax-cutting competition among European Community member states? It would seriously damage competition in this country—which has low levels of corporation tax—and, indeed, increase unemployment.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

That would clearly be spot on for next Wednesday's debate on manufacturing industry.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner , Bolsover

Will the Leader of the House answer a question about injunctions issued to the press? Will he investigate the number of injunctions that have been issued to the press, and the media generally, by and on behalf of Tory Members—including Ministers—during the past 15 years, and in the last few years in particular? Now that the Government have decided to raise the issue, I think that we ought to open the books completely.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I genuinely have some difficulty in fathoming precisely what point the hon. Gentleman thinks he is trying to make.

Photo of Jacqui Lait Jacqui Lait , Hastings and Rye

When my right hon. Friend arranges a debate on Europe, will he ensure that it is drawn widely enough to encompass early-day motion 618?

[That this House notes the hypocrisy of the Liberal Democratic Party over its policy on Europe; recalls the statement of Liberal Democrats' spokesman on Europe, the honourable Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber, that 'the Nation state in terms of the old concept of sovereignty has seen its day' (Official Report, 26th June 1991, column 1365); contrasts these remarks with his party's new policy of 'decentralised federalism'; believes that this new policy is contradicted by a long list of centralising proposals supported by the Liberal Democrats which include signing up to the Social Chapter, signing up now fora timetable fora single currency, a common defence and security policy, a common immigration policy, a common rural policy and, most significantly, accepting majority voting in the Council of Ministers, meaning the end of the national veto; believes that they have sought to disguise centralising policies, designed to create a United States of Europe, in decentralising rhetoric; and believes this to be a blatant attempt to mislead the electorate in the hope of gaining political advantage in the forthcoming European elections.]

That would enable us to highlight the Janus-like tendencies of the Liberal Democrats, who advocate "decentralising federalism" while signing up for the centralising social chapter.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

That is a debate that I really would have liked to arrange—and, frankly, I think that the Liberal Democrats should have scheduled it for their Supply day next week. It would have been interesting to hear what they said.

Photo of Mr Greville Janner Mr Greville Janner , Leicester West

May we have an early debate on the resurgence of fascism and racism in this country—not least in the light of the filthy literature put out by Combat 18, which calls for the repatriation of non-whites, in body bags or alive, and the weeding out and execution of Jews? Can the Attorney-General please be given an opportunity to tell the House why such people are not being prosecuted? If it is because the law is too weak, will he tell us when we can expect a change in the law?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

My right hon. and learned Friend theAttorney-General will be here to answer questions next Monday, but I will, in any event, draw the matter to his attention. From the sound of the publication, no one on either side of the House would wish to defend it for one moment.

Photo of Peter Tapsell Peter Tapsell , Linsey East

May I put it to my right hon. Friend, as Leader of the House of Commons, that I for one have the greatest respect for the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), and that, if we do not stop these guttersnipe attacks on one another, the whole House of Commons will be brought into disrepute?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I note what my hon. Friend has said, and I am sure that other people will have listened to it with care.

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

Will the Leader of the House create time for a debate on the standards of conduct in public life and public administration as they affect local government? Will he especially have the debate held around early-day motion 363?

[That this House notes that the Conservative Mayor of Stourport-on-Severn, Councillor Patrick Duffy, forged an election candidate's nomination form in order to split the vote; considers that the use of bogus candidates to split the vote is a squalid manipulation of the election process; and calls on the Conservative Party leadership to issue a statement disowning Councillor Duffy, who continues as Mayor of Stourport-on-Severn.]

That will enable Conservative Members, and the Government especially, to explain to the House why Councillor Patrick Duffy remains the Conservative chair of Stourport-on-Severn after having admitted forging an election nomination paper, and remains the mayor, and why there has been no condemnation from Tory central office of that attempt to manipulate the electoral process. It is not good enough for the judges to say that there is a technical deficiency in the law: it is outrageous, and it should be condemned.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I have no direct information of the case that the hon. Gentleman mentions, but the Government would condemn the use of forgery, whatever shape it took.

Photo of Mr Michael Bates Mr Michael Bates , Langbaurgh

Has my right hon. Friend had any request from the Labour party to use one of its Supply days to outline its taxation and spending policies, when perhaps the shadow Chancellor, who claims that the Labour party has no spending commitments, could hear from the shadow Health spokesman, who intends to abolish compulsory competitive tendering in the health service, at a cost of £140 million?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

That is another point that, with minimum ingenuity, could be got in order next Wednesday, since nothing is clearer than that those spending commitments would mean new burdens on British industry.

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

Many hon. Members make use of early-day motions during questions on the business statement, and use them fruitfully. However, in some quarters of the House people are criticising early-day motions, and want them controlled and restricted. Should we have a debate about early-day motions and the use, as well as occasional abuse, to which they can be put? Abuse has to be controlled by voluntary action, as we should have seen at Question Time today.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

If the hon. Gentleman will put down an early-day motion to that effect, I will consider it.

Photo of Mr Barry Field Mr Barry Field , Isle of Wight

I have asked my right hon. Friend before, and I have today written to him, about the Isle of Wight order, giving effect to a unitary authority on the Isle of Wight. I wonder whether he would be so kind, when he replies to my letter, as to consider the opportunity for the order to jump the queue that has been caused by the logjam created by the present impasse in Parliament, as the employees of all three local authorities on the Isle of Wight are worried about their job prospects and we want to make a start? As my right hon. Friend knows, we are the first unitary authority in the United Kingdom.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I have not yet seen my hon. Friend's letter, but he has mentioned it to me several times, and I can assure him that I have not forgotten it, even without the letter to remind me further.

Photo of Tommy Graham Tommy Graham , Renfrew West and Inverclyde

Will the Leader of the House arrange an urgent statement by the Secretary of State for Scotland about the ecological disaster around the coast of Scotland, where more than 55,000 sea birds have been washed up? The reason they died is totally unknown. Does he realise the urgency of the matter, and the extent of the concern among bird lovers in this country—there are a million of us—who are demanding an urgent scientific investigation and an explanation to ensure that the wildlife of Great Britain remains living and not washed up dead on the shores?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I cannot, as I think that the hon. Gentleman will understand, promise an early debate on that specific matter, but I have no doubt that my right hon. Friends, including the Secretary of State for Scotland, will carefully look into what he has said.

Photo of James Clappison James Clappison , Hertsmere

I support the request by my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye (Mrs. Lait) for a debate on early-day motion 618 so that we can have the opportunity to identify what, if anything, will be left of our national democracy after the Liberal party has finished handing over powers to Europe and down to expensive, unwanted and unnecessary regional assemblies.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

With the growing chorus of demand for a debate on those matters, I must necessarily give it consideration. I just wish that I thought that it would encourage the Liberal Democrats to give consideration to their policies.

Photo of Mr Gareth Wardell Mr Gareth Wardell , Gower

In view of the fact that the Sessional Orders were blatantly ignored on Monday evening when a demonstration took place outside the House, will the Leader of the House arrange for the Home Secretary to make a statement to assure us that he will ensure that no such illegal demonstration takes place again, and that, should it happen again, the Metropolitan police commissioner will be able to move in quickly and ensure that the situation does not get out of hand?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I shall bring the hon. Gentleman's question to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend, but I think I am right in saying that the Serjeant at Arms has written to the commissioner in the wake of Monday's events, and that you, Madam Speaker, made some observations on the subject on Monday night.

Photo of Mr Spencer Batiste Mr Spencer Batiste , Elmet

Will my right hon. Friend impress on my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment the desirability of having a debate on the planning regime for opencast mining before the present consultation period on the mineral planning guidance 3 expires?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I shall bring that request to my right hon. Friend's attention.

Photo of Mr Eddie Loyden Mr Eddie Loyden , Liverpool, Garston

Will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate, if not next week, some time in the near future, on thalidomide victims? He will be aware that the child victims are now parents themselves and householders, so their situation has changed. There is now a need for a review to see what the Government can do to assist those people.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

The right course would be for me to bring the hon. Gentleman's question to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health. Having been Minister of State for Health a number of years ago and involved in some aspects of this tragedy over the years, I well understand the concern that the hon. Gentleman has expressed.

Photo of Alan Meale Alan Meale Opposition Whip (Commons)

To return to an earlier subject, will the Leader of the House take the time and use his position to try to influence hon. Members, but especially Conservative Members? The intrusions into people's private lives that we have seen in the past few weeks have been outrageous, and I am thinking particularly of what has happened in the past week to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). Will he use his influence—I know that my colleagues will do the same—to try to stop this nonsense and allow people to lead a normal existence?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I do not think that it would be right to relate any comment of mine to a particular case, but the hon. Gentleman's remarks, like those of my hon. Friend the Member for East Lindsey (Sir P. Tapsell), will have been noted and heard with respect by all hon. Members.

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick , Walsall North

Following the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin), will the Leader of the House look up early-day motion 651?

[That this House is deeply concerned at the BBC's decision to cease broadcasting 'Today in Parliament' on Radio 4 FM from 28th March; believes this seriously questions its Charter obligation to broadcast 'an impartial account day by day' of proceedings in both Houses of the United Kingdom Parliament; and calls upon the Director-General of the BBC to immediately reverse this decision, which will deny an estimated 135,000 daily listeners to the programme access to it on FM.]

It is an all-party motion which reflects the strong feeling in the House that the BBC could be breaching its obligations to report Parliament properly if it were to go ahead with the plan to stop broadcasting Radio 4's "Today in Parliament" on FM. Bearing in mind the fact that the serious newspapers no longer report Parliament's daily proceedings, is there not an even greater responsibility on the BBC to continue to report Parliament? Would it not be most unfortunate if that were changed?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

It is a matter for the BBC, but, equally, all of us hope that the real concerns expressed in the House will be carefully considered by the BBC.

Photo of Ms Liz Lynne Ms Liz Lynne , Rochdale

Will the Leader of the House tell us whether the Secretary of State for Health is prepared to make a statement about the report of the inquiry into the Christopher Clunis case and the murder of Jonathan Zito so that we can question her on what she is going to do about that excellent but damaging inquiry and what action she will take?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I shall bring the hon. Lady's request to my hon. Friend's attention but, for the moment, I do not intend to add to what I said a few moments ago and what my right hon. Friend said during Prime Minister's Question Time.

Photo of Michael Connarty Michael Connarty , Falkirk East

I wonder whether the Leader of the House could find time in the business of the House to debate the possibility of legalising the supply of cannabis for people who have multiple sclerosis? While he is at it, could he also consider the possibility of debating early-day motions 280 and 432?

[That this House calls for the establishment of a Royal Commission to review the prohibition of the use of cannabis and to examine alternative options for control of the drug within the law; notes that millions of British citizens use cannabis for recreational and therapeutic purposes every year and that notwithstanding the enormous resources devoted by law enforcement agencies its popularity and availability continues to increase throughout all parts of the United Kingdom and across all sections of society; also notes the growing body of evidence which testifies to the medicinal and therapeutic properties of cannabis and its relative safety compared with other legalised drugs; and believes that the prosecution of thousands of otherwise law abiding citizens every year is both hypocritical and an affront to individual civil and human rights and that these resources would be better spent on improved drug education, health and welfare programmes.]

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

Such is the number of early-day motions that I am unsighted on the content of the two that the hon. Gentleman mentioned, but I shall of course consider them and his request carefully. As for the specific point he made, it is obviously very much a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, but it would need very careful consideration indeed.

Photo of Mr Bob Cryer Mr Bob Cryer , Bradford South

In view of the Prime Minister's recent and welcome interest in the British film industry, could we have a debate as early as possible on that industry because of the difficulties it faces? May we debate, for example, the potential closure of the Elstree studios and the potential closure of the BBC studios at Elstree, so that we can regain our position as one of the leading film-making countries in the world? A debate is important, because it is an industry which is too often ignored.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

As a result of the most interesting exchanges at Prime Minister's Question Time, that matter has already had more public exposure in the past hour than it has had for quite a long time. At the moment, I cannot promise a debate as well.

Photo of Paul Flynn Paul Flynn , Newport West

Does the Leader of the House realise that there will be anger about the postponement of the St David's day debate, which will be held on the saint's day of St Winwaloe—a Cornish saint who has several churches dedicated to him in one Liberal Democrat constituency? Why cannot the Liberal Democrats have a Winwaloe's day and allow the Welsh to have St David's day? In the past, there have been serious reasons for changing that date, but there is none in the current year. Will the Leader of the House make amends by ensuring that, in the St David's day debate, we can address the House in both the languages of Wales?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

The latter question is a matter for you, Madam Speaker, rather than for me. I am glad that the debate did not end up on the day of a Scottish saint, which would have left me in even more trouble.

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

May I underline the point made to the Leader of the House by my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Connarty) about the possible legalisation of cannabis? I refer him to early-day motion 280, which I have tabled.

[That this House calls for the establishment of a Royal Commission to review the prohibition of the use of cannabis and to examine alternative options for control of the drug within the law; notes that millions of British citizens use cannabis for recreational and therapeutic purposes every year and that notwithstanding the enormous resources devoted by law enforcement agencies its popularity and availability continues to increase throughout all parts of the United Kingdom and across all sections of society; also notes the growing body of evidence which testifies to the medicinal and therapeutic properties of cannabis and its relative safety compared with other legalised drugs; and believes that the prosecution of thousands of otherwise law abiding citizens every year is both hypocritical and an affront to individual civil and human rights and that these resources would be better spent on improved drug education, health and welfare programmes.]

An important debate is taking place on that issue outside the House, which involves not only aging hippies, but a large number of bodies such as police enforcement agencies, magistrates and doctors, and we should also have that debate here.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

The hon. Member for Falkirk, East raised the point in respect of sufferers from a particular disease, where the issues raised were somewhat different, if I may say so. The hon. Gentleman has raised it in a more general sense, and he knows well that the Government believe that what he is proposing would send out the wrong message to society about our attitude to drugs.

Photo of Kevin Barron Kevin Barron Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

Will the Leader of the House ask his hon. Friend the Minister for Energy to make a statement on what lies behind the Government's decision, conveyed to me yesterday in a written answer, that the enhanced redundancy payments which are currently being made to redundant mineworkers will end in April? Such a statement would give hon. Members on both sides of the House the opportunity to ask questions on why the Government are breaking their promise to Conservative Members, which they made to get them out of difficulties during the pit closure campaign 18 months ago.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I cannot promise a debate, but I shall—

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I cannot promise a debate or a statement, but I shall bring the question to the attention of my hon. Friend.