Business of the House

– in the House of Commons at 3:31 pm on 23rd January 1997.

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Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor Shadow Leader of the House of Commons 3:31 pm, 23rd January 1997

May I ask the Leader of the House for details of future business?

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Tony Newton): The business for next week will be as follows: MONDAY 27 JANUARY—Until about Seven o'clock, Second Reading of the Sex Offenders Bill. Followed by progress on remaining stages of the Education Bill.

TUESDAY 28 JANUARY—Conclusion of remaining stages of the Education Bill.

WEDNESDAY 29 JANUARY—Until Two o'clock, there will be debates on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Conclusion of remaining stages of the Crime and Punishment (Scotland) Bill.

Motion on the Police Grant Report (England and Wales).

THURSDAY 30 JANUARY—Until about Seven o'clock, Second Reading of the Civil Procedure Bill [Lords]. FRIDAY 31 JANUARY—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY 3 FEBRUARY—Motions on the English Revenue Support Grant Reports. Details will be given in the Official Report.

The House will also wish to know that on Wednesday 29 January there will be a debate on artists' resale rights in European Standing Committee B. Details of the relevant documents will be given in the Official Report.

Wednesday 29 January:European Standing Committee B: European Community Document: 7050/96 relating to Artists' resale rights. Relevant European Legislation Committee Reports: HC51-xx111 (1996–96). Monday 3 February: The relevant orders are as follows:The Local Government Finance Report (England) 1997/98, Special Grant Report (No 23); The Limitation of Council Tax and Precepts (Relevant Notional Amounts) Report (England) 1997/98.

I regret that once again I am not able to be as forthcoming as I would like about the second week.

Mrs. Taylor:

I start by thanking the Leader of the House for moving the debate on the police grant report to Wednesday which will allow more hon. Members to participate in the debate on the English revenue support grant reports on the following Monday. Can he tell us whether an Opposition day will be scheduled during that week?

Are the Government intending to respond to Lord Nolan's suggestion today that the funding of political parties should be examined by a Select Committee of the House? Does the Leader of the House agree that that issue should be examined, but that it is a pity that the remit of the Nolan committee was not widened as requested by the Labour party two years ago? Does he further agree that the principle of an independent inquiry has to be maintained in all those areas if public confidence in any new rules is to be established? Is not the Nolan committee itself an appropriate body to look at party funding?

Secondly, what arrangements is the Leader of the House making to ensure that the House is kept updated on the issue of BSE, in view of the reported memo from the Meat and Livestock Commission that the rules to protect the public from BSE are still being broken and today's report that cattle are being exported with misleading BSE-free certificates? The issue has been widely discussed, but it still causes much concern to constituents and Members of Parliament and everyone should be kept as fully informed as possible. Will there be a statement next week?

Thirdly, has the Leader of the House seen today's report on child benefit fraud by the Select Committee on Social Security? If so, will he now reconsider his refusal of our offer of co-operation on legislation to change the rules for obtaining birth certificates to close "The Day of the Jackal" loophole? Does he now regret not taking up the offer that I and my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) made in November 1995? Has he ruled out taking any action in what is left of this Parliament? Would not closing that loophole save millions of pounds of taxpayers' money?

Finally, what are the Government's intentions with regard to the Wirral, South by-election?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

First, I thank the hon. Lady for her acknowledgement of the way in which we have responded, following discussions in the usual channels, to the number of points made about next week's business, including the handling of the Education Bill. I am also aware of the desire of the Labour party—and, no doubt, the minority parties—for Opposition time, and I continue to bear that in mind.

So far as Lord Nolan is concerned, I thought the request by the hon. Member for Dewsbury was a little curious as she did not acknowledge the fact that there was a thorough investigation by the Select Committee on Home Affairs in 1994. It may be that she preferred not to refer to that because we have implemented all the recommendations and the Labour party has not.

I cannot promise a statement next week on BSE, but I will bring the hon. Lady's point to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, who has over many months made plain his willingness to keep the House informed on developments when he thinks it appropriate.

On the question of the Select Committee on Social Security's report on fraud, we recognise that the report makes a valuable contribution to the debate on curtailing fraud, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security will give the recommendations careful consideration. I will also draw his attention to the point that the hon. Member for Dewsbury has made today—I acknowledge that she has made it on previous occasions—about birth certificates.

Lastly, the hon. Member for Dewsbury will be aware of what has been said by my right hon. Friends on the Wirral, South by-election. The moving of the writ is not a matter for me and I cannot add to what has been said.

Photo of Charles Wardle Charles Wardle , Bexhill and Battle

Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on the conduct of Department of Trade and Industry inspectors' inquiries? Is he aware that questions remain unanswered about earlier inquiries—for example, those into Blue Arrow, Guinness and House of Fraser? Is he further aware that there are questions about the circumstances in which inspectors were appointed and about the conduct of the inquiries?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I will certainly bring those matters to the attention of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade.

Photo of Mr Paul Tyler Mr Paul Tyler , North Cornwall

How soon will the House have an opportunity to examine the implications of the apparent change in stance by the Cabinet this morning on the subject of monetary union? On a separate and more detailed point, when will we have a statement on the Government's attitude to investment in the tourist industry? The promotion and development of that industry to its full potential is incredibly important to many parts of the country. Yesterday, Ministers gave me the figures relating to the reduction in the amount of money now made available to the English tourist board. It has dropped from 30p per head in real terms to just 10p, while at the same time, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have increased spending on their tourist boards by 50 per cent. in real terms. That demonstrates how important they consider the tourist industry to be to their economic development.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

The hon. Gentleman will have heard what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said on the first matter he raised, so I do not see any need to add to that.

I acknowledge that tourism is an important industry. It makes a great contribution to employment opportunities in this country as well as to foreign earnings for this country. I am sure that his desire for a debate on the subject is shared by my hon. Friends, but he need only look at today's business statement and recall the other matters that he knows will come before the House to appreciate that there is great pressure on time.

Photo of Mr Andrew Rowe Mr Andrew Rowe , Kent Mid

My right hon. Friend may be aware that the Lib-Lab coalition running Kent county council is so monumentally incompetent that one of its spokesmen has said that it requires a 10 per cent. increase in real terms merely to stand still. As the confusion, anxiety and distress among the population of Kent at the proposed cuts by that incompetent coalition is so extreme and well-founded, may we have a debate on the council as a matter of urgency?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

From what I hear at the Dispatch Box each week, my hon. Friend's view of that council is unanimously shared by the Members of Parliament for Kent. Perhaps they would like to group together to put in an application for a debate on the council on a Wednesday morning.

Photo of Mrs Alice Mahon Mrs Alice Mahon , Halifax

Will the Leader of the House make time for a debate on the Child Support Agency, which is still not working efficiently or fairly? It is causing a great deal of distress to thousands of families and also a great deal of work for Members.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I am afraid that I cannot undertake to provide time for a debate for the reasons that I have already touched on. I draw the hon. Lady's attention to the fact that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security is due to answer questions on Tuesday.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

In past European debates one must admit that there have been slight differences of nuance on the subject between myself and my right hon. Friend. Could we have another debate on Europe soon so that my right hon. Friend and I can debate our identity of view on what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said today? My right hon. Friend would then be able to agree utterly with me that it is totally out of order for anyone on the continent to suggest that we should have a unified system of taxation in Europe.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

That is a very helpful question from my hon. Friend, and I should simply like to thank him for it.

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

My hon. Friend is always being called these days.

Photo of Mr Andrew Faulds Mr Andrew Faulds , Warley East

Not often enough.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we must have a debate [HON. MEMBERS: "Prompt him."] I do not need prompting; I am very good at my own words. We must have a debate on foreign affairs before the Government eventually cede to the need for a general election. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of two areas where an international crisis could break out literally at any moment, for both of which the British Government in the past have been responsible? Is he aware that in Cyprus the British Government were guarantor to the constitutional arrangements of 1960, which the Greek Cypriots aborted in 1963 and in which the Turkish forces only intervened 11 years later, as they were entitled to do under the treaty of guarantee, after the Nikos Sampson coup, which tried to bring about enosis with Greece?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the other area is Israel—a fake country which was created because of the Balfour declaration promises and because of the immense American pressure under President Truman on Haiti to give the one critical vote needed to create Israel? It has depended entirely on American subvention ever since.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I can readily agree that the hon. Gentleman is very good with his own words, but there do seem to be rather a lot of them. I will bear in mind his request.

Photo of Mr Keith Mans Mr Keith Mans , Wyre

Following the Government's decision to provide more opportunities for youngsters to join the cadet movement, will my right hon. Friend seek time for an early debate on the subject so that Conservative Members can reinforce their long-standing commitment to the movement—a commitment that can be contrasted to the attitude of Labour Members, particularly members of the teaching profession who have been hostile to the movement for many years? In such a debate we could also show our resistance to the proposals made by the shadow spokesman on education, the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett), for a politically correct millennium youth movement, which will doubtless be run by social workers.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I shall bear in mind that suggestion for a debate as many important points could be made in it. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the excellent cadet forces in my constituency which I visit from time to time.

Photo of Doug Henderson Doug Henderson , Newcastle upon Tyne North

I declare an interest as a member of the GMB. The Leader of the House may be aware that 200 workers at GCHQ have had their jobs privatised and taken over by a company called Vosper Mantech, which is to announce today that it has reached a recognition agreement with the GMB union. In light of the new situation, will the Leader of the House find time next week for a debate on GCHQ, where double standards now apply? Some 200 engineering workers and others now have the benefit of trade union recognition, which I welcome, while 4,000 other employees of GCHQ are denied that liberty. Will the Leader of the House accept that that is a priority subject and that time should be found for a debate on it?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

Given the background to which I have already referred a couple of times, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will understand that I cannot promise an early debate on the subject. I will, however, ensure that his words are studied by my right hon. Friends involved.

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack , South Staffordshire

Does my right hon. Friend recognise that there is no more important subject for the House to debate during this Parliament than the future and structure of the United Kingdom? Will he find time, either on one of the three days the week after next, or shortly thereafter, for a full day's debate on a substantive motion affirming the integrity of the United Kingdom?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

As I rather expected, my hon. Friend's suggestion has widespread support from my hon. Friends and I will give it most careful consideration.

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

Why is the Leader of the House fighting shy of having a debate or a statement on the funding of political parties prior to a general election? It should be the first item on the agenda before the general election is called so that when people cast their votes they know where the money is coming from. My hon. Friends refused to support the recommendation, not because it was no good, but because it did not go far enough. We are demanding that the Tory party reveals where it gets its funds from and the Tory party refuses to say. It was £19 million in the red last year and now it is suddenly £24 million in the black. Where has the money come from? Overseas. The public should know where the money comes from before the general election. We are prepared to tell everyone where our money comes from and it is time that the Tory Government came clean.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

The hon. Gentleman might be in a stronger position if his party had implemented the recommendations of the report that we have already had.

Photo of Mr Ivan Lawrence Mr Ivan Lawrence , Burton

Further to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir P. Cormack), has it not been an enormously long time since the House had the opportunity of debating whether, if Scotland had its own Parliament, Scottish Members of Parliament would be able to vote and decide on matters of English taxation, but English Members of Parliament would not have the opportunity of voting on Scottish taxation? Is not that matter so important that we should have debate on it very soon—or at least, before the general election?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I have already told my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire that I shall give that suggestion careful consideration and I anticipate support for such a debate from the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell).

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick , Walsall North

We can discuss political party funding on 12 February. As for next week, should not the Secretary of State for Defence return to the House early next week and explain the circumstances that have now surfaced—that the decision about the royal ship was made four months ago and the only reason for its being announced yesterday was because of the forthcoming election? Is it not unfortunate, to say the least, that the present Government—desperate to win the next election—are willing to bring the Queen into electioneering? Why should the Secretary of State for Defence have made his statement yesterday when that decision, rightly or wrongly, was made immediately after the Tory party conference?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I reject, out of hand, the suggestion that the Government are seeking in any way to bring Her Majesty into electioneering.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton , Macclesfield

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to early-day motion 432?

[That this House recognises the problem caused to the Teachers' Pension Agency funding by the increasing number of teachers seeking to retire shortly after reaching the age of 50; also recognises that such early retirements are, in many cases, of value to the teacher concerned, the school and its pupils; and believes also that further bipartisan consultation is necessary before any final decision is made on teachers' early retirement.]

This relatively new early-day motion relates to teachers' early retirement and has been signed by distinguished Members of Parliament on both sides of the House. It asks that the consultation period, which officially ended last Friday, be extended. As a result of the responsible and constructive mass lobby of the House by the National Association of Head Teachers, I believe that there are good grounds for permitting further time for consultation. Will my right hon. Friend find time either for a short debate or for a statement from the appropriate Minister?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

Perhaps I might draw my hon. Friend's attention to the fact that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment is due to be in the House on Wednesday next week to answer questions.

Photo of Margaret Ewing Margaret Ewing , Moray

As the Leader of the House found an earlier question from the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) helpful, will he advise the House on whether the Foreign Secretary will be making a statement to the House next week? We have all been told that, in the near future, he is going to make various speeches in respect of flexibility in European Community developments, yet the House of Commons is to be denied the opportunity to question him. Of particular interest to me are the issues of structural funds and cohesion funds, because, under the auspices of the Secretary of State for Scotland, the Highlands and Islands Convention will be meeting in Stornoway on 3 March and it would be helpful if we could have some form of discussion about the Government's view of those matters.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

Going slightly at a tangent, I take this opportunity to assure the hon. Lady that, after the difficulties that she felt were caused on an earlier occasion, I have carefully noted the date of the next meeting of the Highlands and Islands Convention. Having said that in a helpful and friendly spirit, I have to say that I do not know of any plans for a statement to the House by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary next week.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

May we have a debate next week on the important subject of libraries and their great value in respect of the education and recreation of our citizenry of all ages? That will give me an opportunity to raise in the House the threat to libraries in Ealing posed by Ealing's Labour council, which threatens to close Pitshanger library and curtail services in other libraries so as to save £300,000 out of a budget of no less than £250 million, which is a record budget for Ealing. The council is incompetent.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I sometimes think that my hon. Friend's observations about Ealing borough council could occupy every Wednesday morning from now until whenever and I must confine myself to encouraging him to apply for one of the slots.

Photo of Mrs Helen Jackson Mrs Helen Jackson , Sheffield, Hillsborough

When the Leader of the House is considering a further statement or debate on the bovine spongiform encephalopathy crisis, will he ensure that that debate or statement contains a full presentation about the disposal of BSE waste? He will be aware that it is apparent from answers in Hansard that only 3.8 per cent. or 1.1 million of all the slaughtered cattle have been destroyed. The rest are stored all over the country in warehouses and cold storage. The House has never been given a proper statement about the escalating costs of storage, transportation and incineration of that waste and it is high time the Government put it on the record.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

That is certainly a matter which the House has had opportunities to question my right hon. and learned Friend about on many occasions when statements have been made. Of the many logistical difficulties of this whole exercise, the disposal question has been among the most difficult. No one has made a secret of that. I shall bring the hon. Lady's remarks to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend.

Photo of Mr Timothy Devlin Mr Timothy Devlin , Stockton South

If, as I hope, the Leader of the House is now considering a debate on the constitutional arrangements, may we include in it some reference to the progress of the English regions? People in my part of the world are now beginning to wake up to the fact that, if we have a regional assembly in Newcastle, not only will they pay a Geordie tax to Newcastle but they will be given the crumbs from Newcastle's table when everything from London is filtered through the regional assembly sitting 40 miles away.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

My hon. Friend is right to say that the confusion and dangers of much that the Opposition say on the constitution are not confined to the issues previously raised in relation to Scotland. They underline the case being made for a debate.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

On Thursday 16 January, Mr. Mohamed Al Fayed went far further on television during a "Dispatches" programme than he has ever gone before. May we have a statement next week in defence of the good name of us all? This goes beyond a party matter. The leader of the House should watch a video of what was said because the statements that were made brought us all into disrepute. It is simply not good enough for the Leader of the House to say that the matter is being looked at. It is like the Dickensian circumlocution office, because a number of the right hon. Gent's colleagues want to know whether what was said was true. If it was, something had better be done about it; if it was not, our good name should be protected. That is a duty of the Leader of the House.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that, in one sense, his question puts me in a little difficulty because it has been the convention for many years that, as Leader of the House, I am also Chairman of the Committee on Standards and Privileges, which is examining cases that interrelate with what I understand was on the "Dispatches" programme. The hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) is also a member of the Standards and Privileges Committee and she will agree that the right course is to ensure that the Committee's attention is drawn to the hon. Gentleman's remarks so that it can consider them.

Photo of Mr Phil Gallie Mr Phil Gallie , Ayr

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the gastronomical and cultural disaster that faces countrymen of ours right across Europe? I refer to the haggis ban by the European Community. Is he aware that the haggis consists mainly of sheepmeat? Will he find time for a debate to discuss the merits of French frog legs and snails, or German rubber sausages, compared with the juicy, succulent haggis?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

This sounds like dangerous territory for an English man to get involved in, so I shall confine myself to saying that I hope that, as normally happens to me annually, I shall have the chance to enjoy some haggis at the Burns night celebration in my constituency.

Photo of Ms Jean Corston Ms Jean Corston , Bristol East

Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on the subject of early-day motion 434?

[That this House notes the Government's decision to suspend the General Household Survey for 1997; notes that this survey has provided essential national information annually about how society is changing not available in such rich variety from any other source and which accounted for 27 tables selected for inclusion in the Government's own key report Social Trends 1996covering trends in household size, patterns of family building and dislocation, contraception, school-leavers and adults with GCSE grades A-C, membership of occupational and personal pension schemes, consumer durables in the home, visits to dentists, cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, kind of help given by carers, unpaid services given voluntarily, mobility aids for the elderly, dwelling tenure by ethnic group and occupation, tenure one year after divorce, underoccupation and overcrowding, use of car, activities in the home, and participation in sport, games and physical activities; finds that the consultation period for this decision was 20th December 1996 to 3rd January 1997, covering the Christmas period and when the House was in recess; and urges the Government to restore the GHS on a regular annual basis in 1998.]It concerns the Government's decision to suspend publication of the "General Household Survey", a unique survey of 10,000 households. In the introduction to the last survey, two major users were described the Government for policy formulation and public sector organisations for measuring change. The survey was also the source of 27 tables or sections in the 1996 edition of "Social Trends". To add insult to injury, the consultation period for that decision was 20 December to 3 January, when the House was not sitting, most people were away for the Christmas holiday and Government Departments, research and university departments were closed. Was that done because the Government do not want people to see the evidence of how people's life chances have been betrayed by the Government? It is important that we discuss the matter, so that the household survey can be restored as soon as possible.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I am sure that the hon. Lady's words will be carefully examined. I understand that the decision by the Office for National Statistics was taken in the light of an overall consideration of users' needs for social survey data. The introduction of several new household surveys in recent years means that we are now better informed than ever about social conditions.

Photo of Mr John Marshall Mr John Marshall , Hendon South

Will my right hon. Friend call for an early debate on EDM 383?

[That this House welcomes the RSPCA's review of the United Kingdom's system of quarantine and rabies control; notes that the review concluded that rabies vaccines are now very effective and failure rates are minute, blood tests to check that the vaccine is effective are now standardised, international standards for microchips have now been agreed, there has been no proven case of rabies in quarantine in the United Kingdom in the last 25 years, the EU rabies eradication programme has reduced the rabies-infected area in Western Europe to only 130 square miles, Sweden, which introduced a system of vaccination, blood testing and permanent identification in 1995, has reported no health or security problems, the costs and inconvenience of quarantine lead many pet owners to smuggle animals into the United Kingdom, there are no statutory welfare standards for quarantine kennels and in a recent NOP survey, 86 per cent. of people said they would accept an alternative system to quarantine if it was scientifically proven to keep the United Kingdom rabies-free; supports the RSPCA view that a system of vaccination, bloodtesting and permanent identification for cats and dogs from EU countries which are recognised by the World Health Organisation as being rabies free in those species would provide the United Kingdom with equal, if not greater protection against rabies as quarantine; and therefore calls upon Her Majesty's Government to commission a full-scale risk assessment and full economic audit to determine how a different system could be effectively implemented to maintain the United Kingdom's rabies free status.] Does he accept that the present rules in respect of quarantine for dogs are unkind to their owners, unkind to the animals and unnecessary. An early debate would be well received by both sides of the House.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

My hon. Friend will know that the Government announced in November that our rabies policy was being reviewed. Work is continuing, and it would be more appropriate to consider a debate when that work has been completed.

Photo of Edward O'Hara Edward O'Hara , Knowsley South

Will the Leader of the House find time for an urgent debate on the future of the car industry in Britain, consequent upon Ford's recent announcement that it intends to shed 1,300 jobs at the Halewood factory in my constituency? The implications are extremely serious. Apart from those 1,300 jobs, a further 3,200 jobs at Halewood may be in jeopardy in the near future, not to mention the gearbox plant there, and 10,000 or more jobs at Ford's plants elsewhere in the country. Ford, the leader in car sales in Britain, will end up importing three of the four best-selling models, at a cost of several billion pounds to the balance of trade. That demonstrates that the vaunted policy of easy inward investment, especially in the car industry, is also easy go.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

While I understand why the hon. Gentleman raises the matter, and why several Merseyside Members did so last week, I should say firmly that the totality of car investment decisions taken and announced recently, including that by Nissan, makes it clear that the car industry has a good future in this country—significantly better than it had 17 or 18 years ago, when the Government came into office. The hon. Gentleman will know that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Industry has agreed to meet a delegation of local Members of Parliament, local authorities and trade union delegates to discuss further the concerns that have been expressed about Halewood.

Photo of Mr Jacques Arnold Mr Jacques Arnold , Gravesham

May I support the earlier call for a debate on the financial crisis at Kent county council? My constituents are in uproar at the proposals by the Labour and Liberal Democrat coalition running Kent county council that there should be cuts of 34 per cent. in the adult education budget, 34 per cent. in the youth budget, 3 per cent. off primary schools and 7 per cent. off secondary schools—all that at a time when the Government have made available an extra £22.5 million, which means an extra 3.6 per cent. on the funding for education. During that debate it should be pointed out that Labour finance spokesmen in the House have said that they do not need more money. Let us reflect on what would happen if the Labour party was in government.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I certainly acknowledge that the speech by the shadow Chancellor earlier this week undermines— to put it mildly—the usual lines of argument by Labour-controlled local authorities, no doubt including Kent. As I understood the sedentary interruptions earlier, efforts have already been made to stage a Wednesday morning debate. I am sure that you, Madam Speaker, will bear in mind the obvious concern that is felt in Kent.

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

Will the Leader of the House reflect on the fact that all 16 Members of Parliament in Kent are Conservatives? Will he take on board the concerns of many of my colleagues on Kent county council who are very angry about the way in which their affairs are being grossly misrepresented in Parliament by Conservative Members? They, too, want to see a debate so that the full story about the financial position of Kent county council may be revealed, their words may be heard and justice may be served in allocating money to the precious services that they are trying so valiantly to protect.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

As you will realise, Madam Speaker, there is cross-party support for a debate on Kent. That will not necessarily influence the position, but I am sure that it will be noted.

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

As soon as I get to my office I shall look to see whether an application has been made for an Adjournment debate, as I also heard the comment from a sedentary position.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh , Gainsborough and Horncastle

May we have a debate on the interesting idea of expanding the cadet forces? If such a debate were to take place, would the Government articulate their view that it is quite appropriate for suitable and trained youngsters to acquire military and firearms skills? Would the Government argue also that, when those youngsters leave the cadet forces, they would be encouraged to join the many institutions in this country whose constitutions state specifically that they are set up to instruct young people about firearms skills—namely, the 2,000 registered gun clubs across Britain?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I echo the words of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister who said that participation in cadet forces gives young people the opportunity to develop qualities of leadership, responsibility, self-reliance and the like. I would want to continue to encourage such development.

Photo of Mr Norman Hogg Mr Norman Hogg , Cumbernauld and Kilsyth

May I strongly support what the Leader of the House has said. I was a national serviceman and I am very proud of the fact that I completed my two years' service—unlike a certain member of the Cabinet who ran away from his obligations to his country. We would therefore contribute to a debate with some authority, and I hope that it will take place soon.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

Should such a debate take place, I would look forward to the hon. Gentleman's contribution.

Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff , Worcester

May I press my right hon. Friend to hold a debate on the terms and conditions of employment of public sector employees in light of the shadow Chancellor's implausible pledges on public spending and public sector pay, and the trade unions' veiled threats of a new winter of discontent. Those threats are made all the more potent by the experience in my county of Hereford and Worcester where Unison is taking the county council Lib-Lab pact to court for the shocking mistreatment of its employees, which has prompted a leading Labour councillor, Adrian Gregson, to say that his members were better off under the Tories.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

My hon. Friend makes yet another plea for what I shall call a locally directed debate. I always bear in mind such requests, but I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the possibilities that exist for debate on Wednesday mornings.

Photo of Kevin Barron Kevin Barron Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

Will the Leader of the House allow time for a statement or debate about the operation of the cold weather payments scheme? The southern half of my constituency is served by the Nottingham weather station, which triggered one severe weather payment during the recent cold spell. The northern half of my constituency is served by the Leeds weather station, which did not trigger any such payments. Just over the border, the neighbouring constituency to the north is served by the Waddington weather station, which triggered two payments during the recent cold spell. People who live five miles apart cannot understand why some of them get one payment while others get two, and those in the middle cannot understand why they get none at all.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

As I think I said last week in response to one of my hon. Friends, the suitability of weather stations in respect of that scheme is reviewed annually, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's representations will be taken into account as part of that.

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

May I add my voice to the clamour for a debate on the cadet forces? Unlike the Prime Minister, I served my nation when at school by joining the Air Training Corps, where I became a sergeant, and I think the whole House can see the mess that it made of me. We do not need any lectures on the desirability of the cadet forces from a trio of white-feathered "jobbies" in the form of the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence. Would not it be better, if we have that debate, to encourage our children to join the woodcraft folk, so that they can learn to love their fellow creatures rather than how to shoot them?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I am left slightly open-mouthed by the hon. Gentleman's description of his youth, which appears to bear little relationship to his adulthood, except, perhaps, that he learnt the qualities of resourcefulness and endurance, which were among those on my list. There are many other excellent organisations, including the scouts and the guides and their associated groups, and many others as well, and none of us would wish to do anything other than encourage them. Before anybody asks me, I did not join the cadet force, because I went to a Quaker school that did not have one.

Photo of Mr Gerry Bermingham Mr Gerry Bermingham , St Helens South

May I return yet again to my non-political subject of last week? Bearing in mind the fact that the hon. Member for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale) is shortly to introduce the Bill of the late Lord Houghton, which twice went through the other place, I ask the Leader of the House to prevail on his colleagues to give that Bill some assistance through the House during the current Parliament, as it brings into effect many of the proposals contained in the Home Affairs Select Committee's report on dogs, and it would be both a tribute to the late Lord Houghton and a great service to the canine population of this country, which needs some protection.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary will take careful note of the hon. Gentleman's observations.

Photo of Paul Flynn Paul Flynn , Newport West

When can we debate the report of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology on nano-technology? This is the technology that will delight and provide jobs for our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren. Britain had a worldwide lead in this, yet the Government have cancelled research and broken up the nano-technology forum. Will not future generations look at this Parliament and say that we were mad, because we are spending £60 million on a symbol of the nation's pride in the last century and refusing to spend £4 million on what could be the nation's pride in the next century?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I have not had an opportunity to study the report to which the hon. Gentleman refers, but I shall ensure that I obtain a copy and look at it.

Photo of Gordon Prentice Gordon Prentice , Pendle

May we have an early debate on the crisis in further education? Is the Leader of the House aware that, in my constituency, Nelson and Colne college decided yesterday to make redundant no fewer than 37 teachers and lecturers? Is he further aware that, since incorporation in 1992, one post in every five in further education has been lost? The Governments's own chief inspector said in the annual report last year that the drift towards part-time work in colleges was seriously damaging standards. If we cannot have an early debate on that, what on earth can we have a debate on?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I cannot promise an early debate, again for reasons that I have touched on several times. The hon. Gentleman will no doubt have noted that the Education and Employment Secretary is due to answer questions next Wednesday, and I shall bring that possible debate to her attention.

Photo of Mr Stephen Day Mr Stephen Day , Cheadle

Can my right hon. Friend advise me whether, during the business that he announced to the House for next week, there will be an opportunity for me to raise in some detail the case of, Mrs. Sherratt, a constituent of mine who, regrettably, was shot and paralysed by an off-duty policeman while on holiday in Morocco? The Moroccan Government have refused to accept any responsibility for the actions of their police officer. I wish to raise this matter in some detail in the House.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

It is obviously the sort of matter that, under certain circumstances, could be raised on a Wednesday morning. There is a great deal of pressure for such debates. Indeed, Wednesday mornings have been a considerable success. Apart from that, I think that the right course would be for me to ensure that my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary has his attention drawn to my hon. Friend's concerns.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell , Linlithgow

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I hesitate to add your burdens, and I certainly make no complaint about being snuffed out during Question 4 to the Home Office, but could I ask that, over the weekend, you have brought to your attention what was said by Mohamed A1 Fayed that Thursday evening, 16 January? This is far beyond a party matter. It reflects on the good name or otherwise of the House of Commons. You, Madam Speaker, have a stake in that, to put it mildly. All I am asking is that you obtain the video and make a judgment for yourself. If you decide to make a statement, that is Madam Speaker's judgment. At least you should be formally alerted to the situation. More than a million people up and down the country saw what happened, and they were left open-mouthed.

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

I listened attentively to the hon. Gentleman's question to the Leader of the House a few moments ago on that matter. I am sensitive to the points that he makes, and I shall take every opportunity to defend the honour of the House. I shall reflect over the weekend on what he said. He may find that I shall come back to the House next week on those matters.