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Business of the House

– in the House of Commons at 3:31 pm on 2nd February 1995.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

The business for next week will be as follows: MONDAY 6 FEBRUARY—Second Reading of the Agricultural Tenancies Bill [Lords].

TUESDAY 7 FEBRUARY—Opposition Day (4th allotted day). Until about 7 o'clock, there will be a debate entitled "The threat to schools from the 1995/96 financial settlement" followed by a debate on passenger services under rail privatisation on Opposition motions.

WEDNESDAY 8 FEBRUARY—Until 2.30 pm, there will be debates on the motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Until 7 o'clock, motions on the Welsh revenue support grant reports. Details will be given in the Official Report.

Followed by motions on the Children (Northern Ireland) and the Children (Northern Ireland Consequential Amendments) Orders.

THURSDAY 9 FEBRUARY—There will be a debate on the White Paper on the future of the BBC on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

FRIDAY 10 FEBRUARY—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY 13 FEBRUARY—Opposition Day (5th allotted day). There will be a debate on a motion in the name of the Liberal Democrats. Subject to be announced.

I am not yet able to give even a provisional indication of business on Tuesday and Wednesday of that week, but it may help the House to know I expect the annual debate on the Royal Navy to take place on Thursday 16 February on a motion for the Adjournment.

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Shadow Secretary of State

I thank the Leader of the House for that information. He will recall that last week I asked for a debate on the civil service, not least because of the Government's failure to make a statement in the House on their response to the White Paper on the code of conduct. In view of the evidence presented to Lord Nolan's committee this week about the rights and obligations of civil servants, is not the need for a debate on the code of conduct in particular now becoming more urgent? Can the Leader of the House give any further information on his plans?

In view of today's announcement of 600 job losses in the Inland Revenue, and the consequent revenue-raising implications of the loss of an estimated £1.5 billion to £2 billion that will be written off in uncollected tax, when will the House have a chance to debate the full implications of both developments?

One of the issues still to be determined following the change of Budget date and the Jopling report is the timing of full-scale economic debates. I am aware that the Procedure Committee is still considering the issue, but today interest rates have been raised for the third time in six months. That increase will leave mortgage payers reeling. What plans can the Leader of the House announce to ensure that we have a full-scale economic debate in Government time as soon as possible?

Finally, we shall shortly have the Second Reading of the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill, introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes). Will the Leader of the House give an assurance that the Government will not try to block that Bill on Second Reading?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

The hon. Lady's first two questions are linked—her further request for a debate on the civil service and her comments on the information about the Inland Revenue. While I would not for a moment accept the inferences that she drew from the latter, I acknowledge the continued pressure for a debate on civil service matters. I shall continue to bear that in mind, even though I am not in a position to say anything more definite today.

Similarly, I cannot give an immediate undertaking about a particular date or plan for a large-scale economic debate. However, I am aware that there has been a great deal of talk about that ever since the unified Budget was introduced. I shall, as always, look constructively at the matters that the hon. Lady has raised.

On the hon. Lady's point about the private Member's disability Bill, my hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security and Disabled People will make the Government's position clear during the Second Reading debate. Of course, on Second Reading of the Government's Disability (Discrimination) Bill he made it clear that, for a number of reasons, he would be asking the House to support the Government's Bill, not that of the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes).

Photo of Mr Terence Higgins Mr Terence Higgins , Worthing

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the legal opinion produced by Compassion in World Farming, which refutes the view expressed by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food that it would be illegal for Britain to impose a ban on the export of live animals for slaughter?

As this is clearly an important issue and as it would be a shame if we could not debate the merits because the Department was hiding behind a legal smokescreen, will my right hon. Friend arrange for a debate, with Law Officers present, so that we can clarify the legal position?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I am, of course, aware of the opinion to which my right hon. Friend referred, but he will be aware that in a substantial statement yesterday announcing action on a number of fronts to achieve our aim—to end the production of veal from calves in veal crates not in this country, where it has already been ended, but elsewhere—my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food clearly set out the careful and thorough legal advice that he has received. I note the request from my right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Sir T. Higgins), but I cannot give the immediate undertaking that he seeks.

Photo of Mr Paul Tyler Mr Paul Tyler , North Cornwall

Will the Leader of the House take note of early-day motion 527, which has now been amended and is endorsed by hon. Members on both sides of the House, which welcomes BRAKE, the campaign for safer lorries?

[That this House, noting the terrifying cases of death and injury caused by defective heavy goods vehicles, welcomes the campaign BRAKES; and demands that the Secretary of State for Transport takes urgent action to protect the general public by extending the powers of traffic commissioners to allow the impounding of defective vehicles, by increasing the fines for companies running defective vehicles and by increasing the frequency and effectiveness of enforcement of the road traffic regulations.]

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the senior traffic commissioner has already warned that if the 20 to 25 per cent. cut in the inspectorate goes ahead, the result will be appalling—not only because of the damage caused to property by heavy lorries, but because of the large number of people who are killed or seriously injured? Does he accept that there is all-party concern on this matter and that it deserves an early debate?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

While I cannot immediately accede to the hon. Gentleman's request, I certainly acknowledge that anything connected with the safety of heavy vehicles and the possible consequences if they are defective is of concern to all hon. Members and to the public. My right hon. and hon. Friends will carefully consider any recommendations put forward by BRAKE.

Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler , Sutton Coldfield

May we have a debate on the leak of information about the talks on Northern Ireland? Does my right hon. Friend agree that although it is certainly the role of newspapers to expose the truth, it is a matter of public concern that The Times may have allowed itself to be used for propaganda purposes in an attempt to wreck the talks that have been taking place?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

The implicit comments in my right hon. Friend's remarks are perhaps all the more telling in that he is a former employee of The Times newspaper, going back far enough, and therefore I give great weight to his remarks. Beyond that, I can tell the House that the Cabinet Secretary is making inquiries into where the leak may have come from. Obviously, I do not want to comment further this afternoon.

Photo of Mr Doug Hoyle Mr Doug Hoyle , Warrington North

Will the Leader of the House ask the Home Secretary to make a statement in the House on the consequences of implementing the 64 recommendations of Sir John Woodcock in relation to the Whitemoor prison escape? As those will cost £150 million, will the Home Secretary tell us whether cuts will fall on other sections of the Prison Service, on the victims of violent crime, or on Streetwatch?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I am sure that, just as my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary is considering carefully the recommendations of that report, and will consider carefully anything that emerges from the other reports that have been set in hand, he will bear in mind the balance of cost and advantage, and take account of the sort of points that the hon. Gentleman has raised.

Photo of Peter Viggers Peter Viggers , Gosport

If no time is available for a general economic debate next week, may we have a debate on the much narrower subject of the explosion of house and mortgage prices among socialist house owners because, on the basis of the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition alleging that £800 had been added to the average house owner's costs this year, he and his friends have mortgages of £160,000? That must be a considerable problem and burden to them.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

My safest course is to hope that the Opposition Front Bench team will take note of my hon. Friend's point.

Photo of Mr Derek Enright Mr Derek Enright , Hemsworth

The Leader of the House will be aware that Bromley council has forbidden the parishioners of St. Edmund's church, Beckenham to park their cars outside the church after 9.30 on a Sunday, because they interfere with the trolleys that are going into Sainsbury's next door. As that is not in the spirit of Sunday trading as enunciated by the Home Secretary, will the Leader of the House arrange for the Home Secretary urgently to come along next week and assure us that churches will not be closed so that shops may stay open?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I have to admit that I was not aware of Bromley borough council's decision. I shall certainly bring the matter to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, who I am sure would not wish churches to be impeded in any way because of proper Sunday trading.

Photo of Mr Richard Tracey Mr Richard Tracey , Surbiton

May I support the call of my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) for a debate on leaking and on all matters that appertain to it? Surely all hon. Members believe that leaking information on critical and confidential discussions in Government or local government is counter-productive to the operation of government. The House should debate this as a matter of seriousness and of urgency.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

Personally I share my hon. Friend's view about the difficulties caused by leaks, of whatever kind. I am not sure that his view would be universally shared by all Opposition Members, but the extent to which it is shared in relation to the leak that has caused the difficulties in the past 48 hours has been clear and heartening.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

Will the Leader of the House ensure that another statement is made next week on Northern Ireland and on the framework document, so that we may ascertain precisely the Tory Government's end game in relation to resolving the problem of Northern Ireland and to ensuring lasting peace? We are all in favour of that. What we are concerned about is that, when the talks began, a united Ireland was neither ruled in nor ruled out. It seems that, as a result of the statement yesterday, a united Ireland has been ruled out, so it is important that we know exactly what the Government plan is. Where is it leading to? Surely we should now be told exactly what are the proposals of the Government to achieve that lasting peace.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I do not for a moment accept the way in which the hon. Gentleman asks that question. He was apparently attempting to put a similar question to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister towards the end of the exchanges a few minutes ago. I thought that my right hon. Friend had made the position absolutely clear—the overwhelming majority of hon. Members thought so—and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not seek to cause any further difficulty in this matter.

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack , South Staffordshire

May I return to the issue raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton (Mr. Tracey) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler)? Does the Leader of the House agree that a free, responsible press is absolutely essential to the functioning of a democracy but that an irresponsible press can undermine democracy? May we have a debate on the general issue of the freedom and ethics of the press?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I cannot add to what I said to my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) and another colleague, but I shall bear my hon. Friend's request in mind. I think, and hope, that the points, which have now been made by three colleagues, will be firmly registered by those responsible for printing the story in question.

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms , Newham North East

Is the Leader of the House aware of a recent report published by the Single Homelessness in London organisation which revealed that there has been a dramatic reduction in the number of places for homeless people in direct access hostels in the capital and that there is growing pressure on the dwindling number of places that are available? Will he arrange for an early debate on the problems facing homeless people in London?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I cannot promise an early debate, but I can point out that my right hon. and hon. Friends have in recent years devoted a great deal of effort, with considerable success, to reducing the problem of homelessness in London. I shall, of course, draw the hon. Gentleman's point to their attention.

Photo of Mr Bill Walker Mr Bill Walker , North Tayside

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of us on the Tory Benches would like an early debate on the constitutional and territorial integrity of the United Kingdom? As Unionists, we want to make it quite clear that we support the Union and apologise to no one for that.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I see no need for my hon. Friend to apologise for that. He will know that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made clear during the previous election campaign the importance that he attaches to the matter.

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

May we have a debate on parliamentary procedure and, in particular, ministerial replies to parliamentary questions? May I have an assurance that by the time that I give evidence to the Nolan committee next Thursday all the questions that I have tabled in recent weeks in relation to lobbying, especially those tabled to the Department of Trade, will have been answered in full?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

Without knowing the detail of the very large number of questions that I know the hon. Gentleman has tabled and the difficulties involved in answering them I cannot give him such an undertaking off the cuff. I know from the effort that I have put into answering the questions that he has put to me that every effort is being made to answer them and I am sure that every effort will continue to be made.

Photo of Mr Bob Dunn Mr Bob Dunn , Dartford

Will the Leader of the House arrange for an urgent early debate on the implications for jobs and taxation levels of the reimposition of trade union control and the policy of public ownership which will exist in the Labour party despite the rewriting, recasting or scrapping of clause IV?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

The hon. Gentleman's comment on my hon. Friend's important point was filled with nostalgia. I cannot promise an early debate, but it would certainly be an interesting issue to discuss.

Photo of Mrs Alice Mahon Mrs Alice Mahon , Halifax

May we have a debate on junior doctors' hours? Does the Leader of the House agree that, in view of the fact that the wife of British Telecom boss Iain Vallance earns £19,000 a year for two days a week as chair of St. George's Healthcare Trust, while junior doctors work up to 100 hours a week and earn £12,000, her husband's recent remarks showed gross ignorance and crass insensitivity?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I could see considerable merit in a debate on junior doctors' hours, which would enable my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health to set out strikingly the progress that the Government have made in reducing those hours.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

May we have a debate next week on the welcome news that the provision of travel passes for London's pensioners and disabled people has been confirmed for the forthcoming year to cover bus, tube and rail travel for the first time? That debate would inform people in London and around the country that their passes are safe once more and will not be undermined by the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

That was another very good point from my hon. Friend. I draw his attention to the fact that the Department of Transport is answering questions on Monday during which he may usefully find a way in which to underline that point.

Photo of Glenda Jackson Glenda Jackson , Hampstead and Highgate

As the Minister responsible for transport and road safety today announced a further swingeing cut of 20 per cent, in vehicle inspectorate staffing, and as the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) pointed out that BRAKE, the national campaign for safer lorries, was launched today, may we have a debate next week on the number of deaths on our roads due to ill-maintained lorries, including the 40,000 lorries estimated to travel on our roads without licences, which clearly concerns people more than the Government's dangerous rush to deregulation?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I have already made a couple of points relevant to the hon. Lady's question. First, the Department of Transport will answer questions on Monday and, secondly, returning to a point made by one of her hon. Friends earlier, of course the Government are ready to consider any recommendations made by BRAKE.

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith , Chingford

Has my right hon. Friend seen the text of recent speech by the Governor of the Bank of England on the economic impracticalities of a single currency? Is it not therefore important to have a debate on the single subject of the single currency, not least because I am aware that, while the Leader of the Opposition constantly dreams about a single currency, the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook), the foreign affairs spokesman, talks about it being a nightmare? In that spirit, may we have a debate and a free vote?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

My hon. Friend will have heard the responses of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to a similar request in Prime Minister's Question Time, in which my right hon. Friend drew attention to the myriad of views among Labour Members on those matters. I shall not seek to add to that.

Photo of Mrs Llin Golding Mrs Llin Golding , Newcastle-under-Lyme

Will the Leader of the House arrange a debate on children's rights in Britain? He must be concerned, as we all are, by last week's report of the United Nations committee— [Laughter.]—that Britain was continually violating the United Nations convention on the rights of the child. I am sure that he considers it serious, even if his hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham (Mr. Arnold) does not.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I cannot promise an early debate, but I am sure that the hon. Lady will be aware that, given the extensive improvements in the rights of children through the Children Act 1989, the suggestion that the Government are in any way neglectful of the rights and interests of children would, indeed, be far-fetched.

Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin , West Derbyshire

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to early-day motion 527.

[That this House, noting the terrifying cases of death and injury caused by defective heavy goods vehicles, welcomes the campaign BRAKES; and demands that the Secretary of State for Transport takes urgent action to protect the general public by extending the powers of traffic commissioners to allow the impounding of defective vehicles, by increasing the fines for companies running defective vehicles and by increasing the frequency and effectiveness of enforcement of the road traffic regulations.]

I urge my right hon. Friend to find time for a debate on that important subject so that Transport Ministers may inform us of the efficiency that they expect of the Vehicle Inspectorate executive agency, and point out that the Government would find any cut in inspections totally inappropriate, as it is essential that they are continued? There is a difference between wanting an organisation to be more efficient and wanting it to cut services.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

My hon. Friend makes an important point which I hope will be registered on the Opposition Benches. On the main issue that he raised, I cannot add to what I have now said twice: of course the Government would look very carefully at any recommendations in that area which seemed relevant and necessary.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan , Falkirk West

Is the Leader of the House aware that, since the last general election, Scottish Members have been denied an opportunity to question the Minister with responsibility for health in Scotland because he is not a Member of this House? Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Minister to make a statement next week to the Scottish Grand Committee so that he can explain, for example, why Forth Valley health board continues obstinately to refuse my reasonable request to hold at least one public consultative meeting so that the public can voice their objections to the proposed closure of Lochgreen hospital?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

If I may take the primary thrust of the hon. Gentleman's question as being a representation about a particular hospital matter in Scotland, I will of course draw that matter to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister in another place.

On the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question, I will bring his request in relation to the Scottish Grand Committee to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. However, I must point out that nothing has changed—the same applied before the general election—in respect of the inability of this House to question Members of another place and the inability of Members in the other place to question Ministers in this House.

Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin , Colchester North

I remind my right hon. Friend that European Standing Committee B debated the data protection directive some weeks ago. Is he aware that, despite being condemned by both sides of the Committee as being ludicrously bureaucratic and over-regulatory, that directive is likely to be approved by the Council of Ministers, partly because the Foreign Office simply has not given the directive the priority that it deserves on the United Kingdom Government's negotiating list? Is it not time that we did something about the way in which we scrutinise European legislation so that it is more accountable to the House and time that we brought the legislative system in the European Community more under control?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I have to say to my hon. Friend and constituency neighbour that I do not accept his comments about the position of the Foreign Office. Beyond that, I would certainly wish to draw his remarks to the attention of my right hon. and hon. Friends who will be concerned with proceedings in the Council of Ministers.

Photo of Mr Max Madden Mr Max Madden , Bradford West

On the issue of building confidence in the Irish peace process, will the Leader of the House answer a question of which I gave his office prior notice today? Do the Government intend to renew the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the orders linked to it?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

Yes. The Act is due for renewal by 22 March and I expect to bring forward the necessary motion in due course.

Photo of Mr Jacques Arnold Mr Jacques Arnold , Gravesham

May we have a debate on regional government during the course of which we could express the resentment of the people of Kent in respect of the proposal that they would have to pay increased taxation to sustain a vast and interfering bureaucracy at Reading, which is the Labour party's proposal?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

Once again, I find myself increasingly tempted by the requests for such a debate because the whole country, not simply the House, would like to hear from Opposition Front-Bench Members how they would justify the extra bureaucracy and the associated additional costs of some of the proposals that they appear to have in mind. However, the first thing to do would be to clarify just what it is that they have in mind.

Photo of Mr Eric Clarke Mr Eric Clarke , Midlothian

Will the Leader of the House ask the Secretary of State for Scotland to make a statement and have a debate on the future of the Forth rail bridge? I have tried on numerous occasions to ask the Secretary of State—whom I gave notice that I was raising this matter today—to answer questions about the inquiry. I have visited it with my hon. Friends the Members for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson), for Cunninghame, South (Mr. Donohoe) and for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell). The Forth rail bridge is the property of the people of Scotland and they are worried about its maintenance, safety and future. The matter should come before the House for discussion and I hope that the Leader of the House will give it the priority that it deserves.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I begin by reminding the hon. Gentleman of what I said either last week or the week before. Responsibility for the Forth rail bridge rests with Railtrack. However, as a result of representations made by hon. Members, my hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for education and housing in Scotland has made inquiries with Railtrack about the maintenance of the bridge. My hon. Friend is here this afternoon to hear further representations, and I am grateful to him for that. He tells me that he will write to the hon. Members concerned shortly.

Photo of Mr Rupert Allason Mr Rupert Allason , Torbay

I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to a written reply which I received from the Maritime Safety Agency on Monday, which disclosed that it was unable to declare precisely what proportion of the British fishing fleet is in Spanish hands. The industry believes that up to 30 per cent. of the British fishing fleet is Spanish owned, but now—under European regulations—the Maritime Safety Agency is unable to supply that information. Does my right hon. Friend think that mat would be a suitable topic to raise during the debate on the Royal Navy, given the responsibility that the Royal Navy will have in protecting the British fisheries fleet? Should there be a separate debate on the issue, or should the matter be raised during the debate on the Navy on Thursday week?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I see you, Madam Speaker, looking as puzzled as I am regarding the latter question, which is of course a question for you and not me, I am glad to say. No doubt you will offer what advice you can about what will be in order during the debate on the Royal Navy.

The right thing for me to do is to say to my hon. Friend that I will bring his point to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, who I am sure would wish to communicate with him about it.

Photo of Mrs Helen Liddell Mrs Helen Liddell , Monklands East

In view of the pleas made by my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) and the statements made last week by the Secretary of State for Social Security that Ministers do not earn enough, could time be made for a debate on this matter, particularly as the Secretary of State for Social Security suggested that Back Benchers' salaries should be reduced to enable them to take jobs elsewhere? Does not that create an interesting constitutional matter in relation to the role and responsibilities of those of us who are honoured to be elected to serve in the House and to represent the rights of our constituents?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

In recent times, the House has had a number of opportunities to debate the pay of hon. Members and Ministers, and I have no immediate expectation of providing a further opportunity.

Photo of Mr Michael Marshall Mr Michael Marshall , Arundel

My right hon. Friend will have heard the exchanges earlier with the Prime Minister in respect of the debate on Europe. Does he recognise that there is a specific question on the timing of when the House can express a view, given that the ministerial summit was proposed to take place originally at the end of January? Will he ensure that the House is given a full opportunity to express its views in proper time before that summit is confirmed?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

My hon. Friend will have heard my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's reply to him during questions. He will no doubt be aware of some comments which I made on the subject either last week or the week before. The working group which is working preparatorily to any summit of the kind that my hon. Friend has in mind will be carrying forward its work later this year. However, I will bear in mind the request for a debate, although I am not sure whether this is the appropriate time.

Photo of Ms Judith Church Ms Judith Church , Dagenham

Further to the important questions asked by my hon. Friends the Members for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) and for Monklands, East (Mrs. Liddell), will the Leader of the House make time for a debate next week on executive pay and pay relativity, in view of comments of the chairman of British Telecom, Sir Iain Vallance, to the Select Committee earlier this week that he would find the work of a junior hospital doctor more relaxing? That matter is raised in early-day motion 531.

[That this House notes with disdain Sir Iain Vallance's comments to the Employment Committee on 31st January suggesting that a National Health Service junior doctor's job might be more relaxing than his current position as Chairman of BT; notes particularly the results of a recent survey which showed over 50 per cent. of junior doctors worked beyond the recommended 72 hours on pay as low as £12,500 a year; believes this compares dismally with Sir Iain's current £663,000 BT salary including a bonus of £185,000 and other benefits of £13,000; further notes that Sir Iain's non-executive directorship on the board of the Royal Bank of Scotland brings in a further £50,000 for one-and-a-half days a month, a weekly rate of £1,371; considers this vastly over inflated salary is neither fair or just reward but a breeding ground for resentment— particularly within his own company—especially if one compares the weekly pay of various grades in BT, notably a domestic cleaner on £162.99, an operator on £193.48, and a clerical assistant on £190.91; and reminds him that it is thanks to the efforts of the workforce, especially CWU members, that last year he pocketed a performance bonus of £185,000, an increase of 105 per cent., whilst the workforce settled for 2.9 per cent. and that since privatisation in 1984 CWU members wages have risen by 80 per cent. whilst his have rocketed by 687 per cent.]

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

It appears that there is some kind of effort by Opposition Members to continue to raise this matter. I understand that and I do not complain about it, but having now commented on it twice, I will not try to have a third shot.

Photo of Paul Flynn Paul Flynn , Newport West

Would not it be futile to follow the right hon. Gentleman's advice on asking questions next week about reducing lorry dangers, as the Government have already told me that they have no intention of beefing up the MOT certificate procedure, which was the cause of the lorry problem in Sowerby Bridge where a tragedy occurred? The lorry involved had a forged certificate. Is not it true that the MOT certificate system is corrupt? A debate is essential so that we can expose the fact that the Department of Transport indirectly employs the lorries used in building the second Severn crossing and, of the 190 lorries involved, one third were found to be unlicensed and illegal. We need nothing short of a debate to expose the cowboys who are killing 700 people every year.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I have already drawn attention to the attendance here next Monday of the Transport Secretary and his Ministers and have given two or three assurances that the Government will consider any recommendations made by BRAKE. I do not think that I can add to that answer now.

Photo of Brian H Donohoe Brian H Donohoe , Cunninghame South

Further to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian (Mr. Clarke), will more serious aspects of the Forth railway bridge be taken into account, so that we can have a full debate? My hon. Friend and I visited the bridge, walked across it and took a boat in between the structures and it is clearly in a desperate state. It requires immediate attention and it requires more than my hon. Friend was offered in the reply. Will the right hon. Gentleman insist that the Scottish Office takes seriously the concerns that we are expressing about the structure? Given its importance—I understand that it is the eighth wonder of the world—perhaps he will treat the matter seriously and arrange time for a debate on the bridge.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I resist the suggestion that I have shown any sign of not taking the matter seriously. It is fair comment that the very fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton)—the Minister to whom I referred— has taken the trouble to be here, expecting that those matters would be raised, demonstrates the seriousness with which he takes the matter. He will have heard what the hon. Gentleman said and I am sure that he will consider it carefully.

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

I hope, Madam Speaker, that you noticed how dangerous it is up here, sitting between two beefy Scotsmen with flailing arms. May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day motion 430?

[That this House notes that the annual Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals which give details of the number of animal tests carried out in 1993 has still to be published; calls on the Home Office to take action to speed up the process of publishing annual statistics showing the number of animals used in scientific procedures; and demands that the statistics for 1993 are published immediately.]

Will he join me in sending the condolences of the House to the family of Jill Phipps, the young woman who was tragically killed outside Coventry airport, protesting about the export of veal calves. The right hon. Gentleman obviously understands the intense revulsion for that export trade throughout the country. Notwithstanding statements by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, may we have a debate so that the temperature and feelings of the House can be heard, not only in Government, but in Brussels?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

The first thing that I want to say, which I am sure that the House would want, is that we all share the hon. Gentleman's desire to send sympathy to the family of the woman killed at Coventry airport. On the rest of his question, the West Midlands police force is investigating the matter, under the supervision of the Police Complaints Authority, and it is right, certainly for me from the Front Bench, to await the outcome of that process.

Photo of John Austin-Walker John Austin-Walker , Woolwich

Earlier this month, the Secretary of State for the Environment launched a policy document, "Air Quality—Meeting the Challenge", which proposed a number of policies, including those designed to increase the use of public transport and reduce car usage. Is the Leader of the House aware that, on Monday, British Rail commuters face fare increases that are massively in excess of inflation? Londoners, who pay the highest commuter fares in western Europe, are especially hard hit. Will he find time next week for both Secretaries of State to come to the House to explain the apparent conflict in Government policy?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I have adverted several times to the fact that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport will be here to answer questions on Monday. The hon. Gentleman may have an opportunity to put that question to him then. However, it has been made clear by both my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that the aim of the Government's policy for the railways is to make them more attractive for people to use and, therefore, help stem the relentless decline in the use of the railways which has been taking place for more than a generation.

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

The Leader of the House has undoubtedly seen early-day motion 466 in support of the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill.

[That this House notes that the second reading of the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill on Friday 10th February 1995 is an historic opportunity to introduce full citizenship rights for the United Kingdom's 6.5 million people with disabilities; further notes that the Bill has the sponsorship of Right honourable and honourable Members from nine political groups in the House; recognises the support the Bill also has from the Rights Now Consortium, the TUC and many other groups and individuals; welcomes the Bill's inclusion of a Disability Rights Commission so that comprehensive antidiscrimination provisions can be activated and advanced on the same basis as those designed to tackle discrimination on the grounds of gender and race; and further welcomes the Bill's measures aimed at increasing accessibility to voting and to polling stations as the vote is the fundamental building block for the operation of democracy and civil rights.]

That Bill is now supported by hon. Members from all 10 political groups in the House, including from the two Conservative parties. Will the Minister clarify the answer that he gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor), in which he said that the Government would support its own Bill, the Disability (Discrimination) Bill? Does that mean that they will oppose the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill on 10 February?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I thought that I had made the position clear by referring to what my hon. Friend the Minister for Disabled People said on Second Reading of the Government's Disability (Discrimination) Bill on 24 January. I may not have made it clear that I was quoting his words from column 153 ofHansard, to which I refer the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Michael Connarty Michael Connarty , Falkirk East

Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to make a statement on the shocking revelations made on Scottish Television yesterday evening that thousands of British families who were formerly living in Northern Ireland have been driven into exile by kangaroo courts of paramilitary organisations during the period of the troubles? Why have none of the organisations, such as Families Against Intimidation and Terror, a non-sectarian group representing those who have been oppressed, been asked to be involved in discussions on the future of Northern Ireland? They must be involved if the real people of Northern Ireland, not the paramilitaries, are to decide how that structure will come about and people can return from exile to their homes.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I did not see the interview to which the hon. Gentleman refers, but I make the obvious point that avoiding such a position is among the objectives of the Government's efforts to ensure future peace in Northern Ireland. I imagine—obviously, I cannot know—that many of those involved in the organisations to which he refers are, in some way, members of political parties in Northern Ireland, and they clearly have a part in the process.

Photo of Mike O'Brien Mike O'Brien , North Warwickshire

In the light of the prison fiascos at Whitemoor and Parkhurst, may we have an urgent ministerial statement on the report of Judge Tumim into the privatised prison at Blakenhurst, which showed inefficient management, insufficient and untrained staff, and lack of control of prisoners? Does he agree that privatised prisons are not only an expensive folly but a dangerous folly?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I shall simply say that the difficulties experienced at Blakenhurst are of the kind often experienced when a completely new prison is opened, whatever the arrangements under which it is opened. I understand that those difficulties have now been resolved. The hon. Gentleman did not refer, as I would, to the fact that the chief inspector praised the quality, high motivation and enthusiasm of the Blakenhurst staff.

Photo of Mr George Foulkes Mr George Foulkes , Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley

I thank you, Madam Speaker, for leaving me until last.

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

Of course, I recognise that, but Front-Benchers are always left until the last, in my mind.

Photo of Mr George Foulkes Mr George Foulkes , Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley

But the exercise is particularly welcome as well.

On a more serious matter, may I assure the Leader of the House that Scottish Members of the United Kingdom Parliament would welcome more time to debate issues concerning London, particularly Westminster city council. May we have a debate to discuss not only the gerrymandering but the recent revelation, surprisingly— or perhaps not so surprisingly—in the Daily Telegraph, that £30 million was wasted on housing repairs? That brings disgrace not just to Westminster, but, as Parliament is situated within that London borough, to the whole country. Should not we be given time to debate that matter fully and have an explanation from Ministers?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

After that, I do not think that I can say that I am grateful to you, Madam Speaker, for calling the hon. Gentleman. However, I shall bring his representations to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.