Business of the House

– in the House of Commons at 3:31 pm on 25th May 1995.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

The business for the first week back after the spring Adjournment will be as follows:

TUESDAY 6 JUNESecond Reading of the Crown Agents Bill [Lords].

WEDNESDAY 7 JUNE—Until 2.30 pm, there will be debates on the motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Remaining stages of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill [Lords].

THURSDAY 8 JUNE—Motion in the name of the hon. Member for Wantage relating to disclosure of specified Select Committee papers.

Motions on the European Communities (Definition of Treaties) (Partnership and co-operation agreement between the European communities and their member states and the Russian Federation) order and the European Communities (Definition of Treaties) (Partnership and co-operation agreement between the European communities and their member states, and Ukraine) order.

FRIDAY 9 JUNE—Debate on the White Paper entitled "Tackling Drugs Together"—A Strategy for England 1995–98" on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

The House will also wish to know that European Standing Committee B will meet at 10.30 am on Wednesday 7 June to consider European Community Document 4069/95, relating to Consumer Protection: Unit Pricing.

MONDAY 12 JUNE—Motion on the Northern Ireland (Emergency and Prevention of Terrorism provisions) (Continuance) order.

Remaining stages of the Medical (Professional Performance) Bill.

I expect to provide for Opposition time on either Tuesday 13 June or Wednesday 14 June, and to take Government business during the first part of Thursday 15 June. Friday 16 June is a non-sitting Friday.

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. Will he confirm that he will be tabling a motion today to enable a Select Committee to work to clarify and implement the recommendations of the Nolan committee on the rules and procedures of the House? I hope that the House will welcome that development, as I am sure those outside it will. I hope especially that a welcome will be given to the movement by the Government over the past seven days on the Nolan report, which I believe has been in the public interest and the best interests of this Parliament.

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the motion that he tables today will be before the House next week and that the Select Committee will meet as soon as possible? Will that Committee be required to make an interim report by 7 July for debate before the summer recess?

The Leader of the House has not scheduled an Opposition Supply day for the first week after the forthcoming recess, although he has promised us one during the week after that. I ask him to remind us of the number of Supply days remaining and give us an assurance that the remaining Supply days will be spread evenly throughout the remainder of the Session.

Last week, the Leader of the House promised information about economic debates in Government time as soon as possible. Is he yet able to say when those debates might be, or will the disagreements between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Governor of the Bank of England determine the time scale of economic debates in the House?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

The timing of economic debates, details of which I still cannot give the hon. Lady, will be determined by what seems sensible and the convenience of the House.

The hon. Lady will realise that the problem with Opposition days is partly that the Opposition day debate that should have taken place yesterday was cancelled for reasons that we all understand and appreciate. That led to the tributes yesterday which we all heard—admirable tributes, if I may say so—and which slightly complicated matters. My recollection is that that Supply day will be the 13th and that there are eight such days yet to come. I shall do my best to ensure that they are as evenly spread as is consistent with securing the reasonable passage of Government business.

It may be that by now the motion on the Nolan report has been laid. If not, that will happen shortly. It makes provisions—I shall not read the full text of the terms of reference—for how the principal recommendations that relate to the House might be clarified and implemented and recommends specific resolutions for decision by the House. It is also required by the terms of reference that I am tabling that there should be an interim report, not later than Friday 7 July. As the hon. Lady knows, the purpose of setting that date is to provide an opportunity for debate were debate to be occasioned by the interim report.

As for when the resolution will be brought before the House, I expect and intend that that will happen the first week back after the recess. We shall want the Select Committee to meet as soon as it can after its terms of membership and reference have been agreed.

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire

I appreciate that the business announced covers relations with Russia and the Ukraine but it does not mention Shropshire. May I inquire of my right hon. Friend that one may know soon that the Government have accepted the balanced and wise budgets determined by Shropshire county council and endorsed by the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Grocott) and my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. Gill) and myself, or is it still their intention to pursue confrontationally their original budget?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I had better say to my right hon. Friend that I would like to bring his question to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.

Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

When may we have a debate on the Green Paper proposals on identity cards, so that those of us who think that they are an unwelcome addition to the powers of the state over the individual and that they are wide open to fraud and error can make that view clear? When we get that debate, will those members of the Cabinet who agree with my view of this matter be allowed to speak?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I rather doubt whether there is any member of the Cabinet who would put any point in quite the same way as the right hon. Gentleman, but, in any event, I will certainly bear in mind the request for a debate on the identity card Green Paper.

Photo of Mr Terence Higgins Mr Terence Higgins , Worthing

Should not my right hon. Friend point out to the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) that we abolished Supply days some years ago and that we have Opposition days nowadays? Could we have some time for debates on Select Committee reports, as there are a number of reports now outstanding which deserve time to be debated on the Floor of the House?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

As always, I shall bear in mind my right hon. Friend's courteously put requests. I would just make the point that I acted extremely promptly in response to a request from one Select Committee Chairman, and others recently, to provide time for the debate that took place on the affairs of the Church Commissioners.

Photo of Mr Alf Morris Mr Alf Morris , Manchester Wythenshawe

The Leader of the House knows that I speak as chairman of the managing trustees of the parliamentary contributory pension fund. If not in the first week back, when can we now expect to debate the senior salaries review board's recent recommendations on parliamentary pensions?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I cannot give a precise date at the moment, but the right hon. Gentleman above all will know that my task is to consult the trustees in advance of that, and that I hope to do fairly soon after the recess.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton , Macclesfield

In fully supporting the views just expressed by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris), may I also pick up a point raised by the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor)? It would be very helpful indeed if the House could have a full economic debate to enable Conservative Members to display to the House the amazing amount of good news about the United Kingdom economy, and at the same time enable Conservative Members who wish to do so to provide some very positive and helpful suggestions to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Government that will help the Conservatives to win the next general election.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I always particularly enjoy my hon. Friend's helpful and positive suggestions.

Photo of Gwyneth Dunwoody Gwyneth Dunwoody , Crewe and Nantwich

Has the Leader of the House seen the statement by GEC Alsthom and ABB, both of which are rolling stock manufacturers, which says that the Government's attitude towards private finance for railway privatisation is a totally pointless exercise? Will he therefore arrange, since hundreds of jobs are at risk in railway rolling stock in this country, for us to have an urgent debate, as soon as the House reassembles, on the total chaos that is being created in the railway industry by the utterly unwarranted nonsense of privatisation?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I do not accept either half of the hon. Lady's propositions about the effects of rail privatisation, or, indeed, its interrelationship with the private finance initiative, but I will of course draw her remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend.

Photo of Mr Jacques Arnold Mr Jacques Arnold , Gravesham

When we return, may we have a teach-in on share options, because there seems to be considerable ignorance in the House on the mechanics and working of share options, which was particularly well displayed by the Leader of the Opposition, who knows about the proceeds of share options because they financed his leadership campaign?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

There seemed to be a good deal of misunderstanding, but my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister more than adequately corrected it.

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

As the business for the week after the holiday is not exactly fizzing with ideas, would it not be a good opportunity to have a debate about nurses' pay, especially taking into account the fact that the Prime Minister, within five minutes, was justifying share options of more than £250,000 while attacking nurses who are struggling to get 3 per cent? It is high time that we were able to declare to the people out there that nurses do not want to go on strike, they just want justice. If a minimum rate of pay is good enough for Members of Parliament, it should be good enough for nurses up and down the country.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

The notion that my right hon. Friend was in any way attacking nurses is totally inconsistent with anything that he said this afternoon or on any other occasion. I remind the hon. Gentleman that it was the present Government who gave the nurses the independent pay review body that they had always wished to have.

Photo of Mr Andrew Rowe Mr Andrew Rowe , Kent Mid

My right hon. Friend will be aware that in the debates that have followed the Nolan committee report it has become clear that the interaction between some of the recommendations and the possible composition of this place is close. In the possible debate on the subject, will my right hon. Friend allow us to discuss the nature of the House of Commons that is required in the 21st century and to make some suggestions as to what Nolan might look at next, such as the undisclosed financial interests of a number of journalists?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I am sure that the Nolan committee will note my hon. Friend's latter suggestion. It would be for the Chair to judge what might or might not be in order in such a debate, but I suspect that my hon. Friend would find his own ingenious way into it.

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

Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Minister responsible to make a statement to the House following the meeting of the International Whaling Commission in Dublin between 29 May and 2 June? When he relays that request, will he also ask whether there is any truth in the rumour that a deal has been done between the British whaling commissioner and the Faroese over not raising in the plenary session the issue of pilot whale slaughter? Those Faroese who are slaughtering the pilot whales are murdering scum. If any deal has been done between the British commissioner and the Faroese there will be an awful lot of anger in Britain.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I am sure that my right hon. Friend responsible for those matters will note the hon. Gentleman's comments and, of course, attribute to them the weight that his serious interest in these matters over a long period of time would rightly merit. I cannot make any promises about a statement, but I shall certainly bring the request to my right hon. Friend's attention.

Photo of Mrs Teresa Gorman Mrs Teresa Gorman , Billericay

Will my right hon. Friend find time for us to debate early-day motion 1175 on the shocking report about child abuse in Islington?

[That this House deplores the behaviour of the honourable Member for Barking in seeking to shuffle the blame onto others for the findings of the independent White Report; condemns Islington Borough Council which, during the period when the honourable Member for Barking was its leader, betrayed the children in its care, exposing them to severe abuse in council-run homes, failed to investigate such abuses and allowed those responsible to escape unpunished; believes that the stain of political correctness and corruption ingrained in Labour-run local authorities like Islington led to this scandal; and calls upon the honourable Member to accept her share of the responsibility and to apologise without reservation to the victims.]

Such a debate would enable us to establish whether the matter should be brought before the appropriate Select Committee so that those involved can be closely questioned, including the hon. Member for Barking (Ms Hodge), who was leader of the council at the time and dismissed the report when it was brought to her as simply sensationalist journalism.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

The question of what a Select Committee should consider is for the Select Committee itself, in this case the Select Committee on Health, and I have no doubt that that suggestion will be noted. My hon. Friend will have heard what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said a few moments ago about the fact that the reports of what has occurred obviously cause considerable concern. I hope that Islington borough council will act swiftly on the recommendation in the White report that the council should review its equal opportunities policy in its application to child care.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

Will the Leader of the House give consideration to how it is proposed to enact the European Community data protection directive, which goes way beyond the Data Protection Act 1984 passed by the House? If the Government are to enact it, should not it be via primary legislation rather than piecemeal reserve powers?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

As always, I shall give consideration to a point that the hon. Gentleman raises, but I am not in a position to speculate on that consideration at the moment.

Photo of Mr Piers Merchant Mr Piers Merchant , Beckenham

In view of the tragic bus accident on the M4 earlier this week in which, sadly, 10 people lost their lives, will my right hon. Friend find an early opportunity for a debate on coach safety and, in particular, the fitting of safety belts on Britain's coach fleet and whether the present maximum speed limits are satisfactory for coaches?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

My hon. Friend will know that, as I said in the House yesterday morning, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport has asked for an urgent report on the accident and it is being looked into by the Vehicle Inspectorate. Any question of a debate might sensibly await the outcome of those investigations.

Photo of Mrs Alice Mahon Mrs Alice Mahon , Halifax

Will the Leader of the House make time for a debate on the national lottery? He will be aware that a national lottery was justified by the fact that it would provide money for good causes. Would not it be good if we could debate the fact that £13 million has gone into the back pocket of a Tory Member of Parliament and huge profits are now going into private pockets? It is not time that we had a look at where that money is going?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

It may be appropriate in due course to debate the early experience of the lottery, but we are talking about very early experience. It is clear from further distributions this week, for example, among the arts, especially at regional level, that many of the causes in which I am sure that the hon. Lady is interested are benefiting.

Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier , Harborough

Will my right hon. Friend arrange an early debate on local authority market rights? Is he aware that Labour-controlled Leicester city council, owing to the six and one third mile rule, has prevented citizens in Oadby and Wigston in my constituency from holding a market to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the civil war in Leicestershire? Does he not agree that it is wholly undemocratic that socialists in the city of Leicester can control the rights of people who cannot even vote for them?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I had better confess that I was not fully informed about the precise circumstances in Leicestershire that my hon. Friend has described, but I shall ensure that the matter is drawn to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment and others.

Photo of Mr Roy Thomason Mr Roy Thomason , Bromsgrove

Does my right hon. Friend think it appropriate to have an early debate on the future of capping of local authority expenditure, with a view to reviewing whether caps should continue, while retaining some system of control to ensure that there is not excessive expenditure and demands made by profligate Labour local authorities?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

The whole way in which Labour authorities use money, to which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister adverted at Prime Minister's Question Time, may merit debate, but I regret that I cannot propose such a debate next week.

Photo of Mr Max Madden Mr Max Madden , Bradford West

Will the Leader of the House confirm that the terms of reference of the committee set up to consider the Nolan recommendations will be debatable? Will he give an undertaking that there will be a specific allocation of time for such a debate? In referring to the terms of reference, the right hon. Gentleman mentioned resolutions. If resolutions are introduced, will he ensure that the Committee is invited to consider what would happen to Members who consistently defy such resolutions? As he will know, some hon. Members consistently refuse to observe resolutions relating to Members' interests—as have some former hon. Members—and nothing is ever done about it. Will he ensure that next time we are advised on what would happen if hon. Members refused to observe such resolutions?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

The question of a debate would normally be discussed through the usual channels, of which I would expect to take account. The particular aspects of the Nolan recommendations to which the hon. Gentleman referred are for the Committee to consider, along with all the other Nolan recommendations in relation to the House.

Photo of Paddy Tipping Paddy Tipping , Sherwood

May we have an early opportunity to discuss the problems of endangered species? The Leader of the House will understand the urgency of that request since today's opinion poll shows that the popularity of the Conservatives is at a record low?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

The hon. Gentleman will have, no doubt, made such a point on a number of earlier occasions. As I have said several times in the House, that point was pretty frequently made two years before the last election and look what happened then.

Photo of Mr Patrick Thompson Mr Patrick Thompson , Norwich North

Bearing in mind the welcome given by many of my constituents and others in the country for the consultation paper on identity cards, may I support the request of the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) for an early debate on the subject? Will not such a debate provide an opportunity to rebut some of the phoney arguments against the cards' introduction?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I am almost being invited to take every side in the debate before we even have it, but I note that further request for such a debate.

Photo of Andrew MacKinlay Andrew MacKinlay , Thurrock

Will the Leader of the House consider having a debate on the problems of thousands of householders caused by negative equity? Does he realise that negative equity is causing great anxiety to many families, including those in Braintree, Macclesfield, Thurrock and elsewhere? The Government and the Opposition have to deal with the problem because it is jeopardising our economy and blighting the lives of many thousands of families.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

The most effective contribution that the Government can make over a period is to ensure that the present economic recovery is sustained. That is what we are doing and will continue to do.

Photo of Mr David Shaw Mr David Shaw , Dover

Will my right hon. Friend arrange for a debate on the abilities of those who make decisions in the Ministry of Defence? Will he explain how anyone with any ability can close the Royal Marines school of music when independent accountants said that the Ministry of Defence's figures are wrong, when independent chartered surveyors acting as valuers said they are wrong and when some 300 jobs are likely to be lost from the largest employer in Deal? Surely it is about time that we had proper financial decision-making in Government and not that undertaken by the Ministry of Defence.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

My hon. Friend has rightly, honourably and properly made his point about the Royal Marines music school at Deal for a long time. I know, and my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence will know, how disappointing the decision is to the people of Deal, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend will consider what my hon. Friend has said.

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

May we have an early debate on the Government's policy of removing surplus places from schools? Is he aware that one of the biggest schemes has been in Warwickshire which has been thrown into chaos and where the plug may have to be pulled on part of the reorganisation because of delays by the Government and the Department for Education in making decisions? They got their procedures wrong and have had to be hauled before the courts to be told that they have not only shortchanged the children of Warwickshire in terms of school funding but messed up the administration of the whole reorganisation scheme.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I cannot make a quick, off-the-cuff comment on what the hon. Gentleman says, but I shall, of course, bring it to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education.

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith , Chingford

Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on Britain's nuclear deterrent? Although they are clear about our policy, a number of my constituents are concerned that there seems to be a difference of opinion in the Labour party. Labour Back Benchers think that we should get rid of our nuclear deterrent whereas members of Labour's Front Bench want to hang on to it but never use it. Is there not a need for a debate so that Labour Front Benchers may have the opportunity to explain to the Great British public why they intend to waste money on what they will not use while we see the necessity for a deterrent?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

If the time existed in the parliamentary timetable, I would be tempted to have as a match for every Opposition day a Government day when we could debate what the Opposition do not want to talk about, and that would be one of the topics.

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

Today, probably at this very moment, the House of Lords is discussing electoral registration and the fact that the electoral register is in an utter mess because between 3 million and 4 million are missing from it. If the unelected House can discuss this key issue, why cannot this House do the same, given that we are directly elected?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

Despite the hon. Gentleman's rather aggressive style from time to time, I always consider what he says, but my positive and constructive suggestion to him, as to my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), is that he might consider raising the issue on a Wednesday morning.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

Will my right hon. Friend provide time for a debate on inheritance tax immediately after the recess so that we can investigate what the effect on nurses and others would be of the Labour party's proposals apparently to tax the passing of gifts from one spouse to another? Should not the House consider what Labour is proposing?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

My hon. Friend echoes a point that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made, and he presents a further attractive possibility for a debate.

Photo of Andrew Miller Andrew Miller , Ellesmere Port and Neston

Will the Leader of the House ask the Secretary of State for Education to come to the House to make a statement about education expenditure? Will he specifically ask her to clarify the contradiction which exists between her Department's position and that of Cheshire county council—which is Conservative and Liberal-controlled—over SSA expenditure on education? Either one party or the other is right, but both parties involved are the Conservative party. Only one approach can be right—which is it?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I always seek to provide clarification where I can, and I note the hon. Gentleman's request in this case.

Photo of Mr John Wilkinson Mr John Wilkinson , Ruislip - Northwood

May I reiterate to my right hon. Friend my previous pleas for an early debate on the European aspects of civil air transport policy? Will he find time on our first Thursday back—in addition to the debates on Russia and Ukraine—to discuss the proposed European flight time limitations, about which the British Air Line Pilots Association has severe reservations?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I note my hon. Friend's reservation and while I cannot make promises, I shall keep it in mind.

Photo of Paul Flynn Paul Flynn , Newport West

While it is right that we should debate the awful tragedy on the M4 this week in which 10 people died, should not we also debate the 60 deaths a week which occur on the roads of this country? The people killed include Anne Carrinton, who was killed on 1 February in Fleet, Hampshire, and Susan Gardiner, who was killed on 12 February in Brentwood, both of whose families asked me to bring those deaths to the attention of the House because they believe that they were caused in collisions with slow-moving vehicles carrying bull bars. Is not it right that we consider what opportunities there are for us to reduce the terrible number of 60 deaths a week by practical methods, such as daylight saving, compulsory seat belts and banning bull bars?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

Either the hon. Gentleman or someone else—I apologise for my memory not being clearer—has put this point to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. [Interruption.] It was the hon. Gentleman. In that case, he will recall that my right hon. Friend undertook to look into the matter. No doubt he is doing so, and he will respond to the hon. Gentleman in due course.

Photo of Lady Olga Maitland Lady Olga Maitland , Sutton and Cheam

Will my right hon. Friend consider having a debate on equal opportunities for both men and women? I raise the matter because serious concerns have arisen that women are being offered positive discrimination in the selection of Labour candidates for parliamentary seats. That is demeaning, insulting and undemocratic.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

My hon. Friend's view about the matter is widely shared, not least by many other women.

Photo of Mr Rhodri Morgan Mr Rhodri Morgan , Cardiff West

Will the Leader of the House arrange for an early debate on the extraordinary admission tucked away discreetly in Monday's written questions that the Government have had to approve retrospectively and on an extra-statutory basis £165 million worth of managerial expenses paid unlawfully by the Government between 1 April 1991, when the new NHS internal market reforms came in, and 1 April 1995? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that a totally unprecedented breakdown of public expenditure control has occurred? Should not any Government who take pride in looking after the public finances and the rule of law as governed by the House recognise that something terribly serious has gone wrong? Has not the matter been given a fig leaf of parliamentary respectability by the extra-statutory payments authorisation? Does not the matter require a debate as to whether the original law was defective or deliberately deceptive because the Government wished to hide the rampant growth in managerialism following the new legislation?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I cannot judge whether the matter requires a debate at the moment, but there are various ways of looking at such matters. In any event, I would first want to draw the hon. Gentleman's question to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health.

Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin , Colchester North

Does my right hon. Friend recall that, when we used to have the Budget in March, there used to be a separate public expenditure White Paper in the autumn and a series of debates devoted to that topic? Echoing the request of the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor), would not it be useful to have a debate about public expenditure, so that the Government could demonstrate how Conservatives are manfully striving to control it, whereas every policy statement by the Opposition shows that they are determined to increase it whatever they may be pretending?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

That appears to be another good candidate for the putative Government days to which I referred and I will bear it in mind. It also adds to the strength of the case for the economic day for which the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) asked.

Photo of Gordon Prentice Gordon Prentice , Pendle

May we have an early debate on the unfolding scandal of the Churchill papers? May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to column 647 in yesterday's Hansard where, in reply to questions that I tabled, the Heritage Secretary confirmed that the £12.5 million valuation was conjured out of the air by an antiquarian bookseller and that the collection has not even been fully catalogued? Is not that a grotesque scandal and a waste of money?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I am sure that the board in question took the best possible advice before coming to its conclusion and I do not think that anything that the hon. Gentleman has said in the past few moments calls that into question.

Photo of James Clappison James Clappison , Hertsmere

May I support the request of my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester, North (Mr. Jenkin) for a debate on spending, which the Opposition ought to welcome? Is my right hon. Friend aware that, earlier this week, the Leader of the Opposition promised a long and gruelling slog to control public expenditure while, in the past three weeks alone, Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen on health, transport and industry have made commitments at the Dispatch Box to increase spending? Could we have a debate to clear up any misunderstanding about that and to find out who is going on the gruelling slog, or whether the Leader of the Opposition will be going off on a frolic of his own and the rest of the Labour party have dropped out already?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

If I can combine the debate that my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester, North (Mr. Jenkin) wanted with the more closely targeted debate that my hon. Friend has just advocated, I would be happy to find time for it and will bear it very much in mind.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans , Ribble Valley

May I support the call by the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) for a debate on rail privatisation? It was a great shame that, in the debate the other day, only five of her comrades turned up—all sponsored by one transport union or the other. Such a debate would give us an opportunity to concentrate on the statement by Jimmy Knapp that, if his members do not get a 6 per cent. pay rise, they will embark on another damaging strike. Perhaps this time we can get across the message that, if they do so, the only people whom it will damage will be the people they are there to serve—their customers.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I very much agree with my hon. Friend and I hope that his words will be borne in mind by those at whom they were directed.

Photo of Mr John Marshall Mr John Marshall , Hendon South

As one of the sponsors, may I echo the plea for an early debate on early-day motion 1175? Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is one of the biggest scandals in local government in London? Will he congratulate the Evening Standard on its persistent and responsible campaign which unmasked this scandal, and will he condemn the indifference of the Labour party to that scandal in the home of new Labour—Islington?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

From what I have seen, I would certainly want to join my hon. Friend in congratulating the Evening Standard on bringing that matter to the public's attention. I have already made some observations about what I hope those concerned with the affairs of Islington borough council will do about it.