HC Deb 30 January 1986 vol 90 cc1095-105 3.32 pm
Mr. Neil Kinnock (Islwyn)

Will the Leader of the House state the business for next week?

The Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Biffen)

Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY 3 FEBRUARY—Until about seven o'clock there will be a debate on a motion to approve the Special Supplementary Estimate 1985–86: budget of the European Communities, Class II, Vote 9. Details of relevant EC documents will be given in the Official Report.

Second Reading of the Australia Bill [Lords], followed by remaining stages of the Museum of London Bill.

TUESDAY 4 FEBRUARY—Second Reading of the Housing and Planning Bill. There will be a debate on a motion to take note of EC Document No. 8805/85, a proposal for a directive on the disposal of non-radioactive waste at sea.

WEDNESDAY 5 FEBRUARY — Opposition Day (6th Allotted Day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion entitled "The Conduct and Supervision of the City."

There will be a debate on a motion to take note of EC Document No. 9316/85 relating to new Community rules for state aids to the coal industry.

THURSDAY 6 FEBRUARY—There will be a debate on the Royal Navy on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

FRIDAY 7 FEBRUARY—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY I0 FEBRUARY—Until seven o'clock, private Members' motions.

Remaining stages of the Australia Bill [Lords].

Debate on Monday 3 February (Debate on Supplementary Estimate)

Relevant Documents:
(a) 10773/85 to 10778/85 Draft budget (1986) with amendments and proposed modifications

Relevant report of European Legislation Committee

(a) HC 2I-vii (1985–86) paragraph 9.

Debate on Tuesday 4 February

Relevant Documents:
(b) 8805/85 Draft directive on dumping of waste at sea

Relevant report of European Legislation Committee

(b) HC 5-xxx (1984–85) paragraph 14.

Debate on Wednesday 5 February

Relevant Documents:
(c) 9316/85 State aids to coal industry

Relevant report of European Legislation Committee

(c) HC 5-xxxi (1984–85) paragraph 3.

Mr. Kinnock

When will the House have a debate on the public expenditure White Paper? Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that a statement is made early next week on the current position of the teachers' pay dispute?

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that there is an urgent need for a full debate on the Green Paper on the poll tax. When is that likely to take place?

Will the right hon. Gentleman explain why Monday's debate on the White Paper on the Channel fixed link is to begin at 7 pm when that is clearly a matter of public interest and public controversy?

Mr. Biffen

It has changed.

Mr. Kinnock

I am sorry; I was not entirely attuned to what the right hon. Gentleman was saying. I hope that he has good news for me. I shall listen to him the second time round.

Today's unemployment figures, which are the highest on record, warrant a full debate in Government time well before the Budget. We know that the Secretary of State for Employment cannot speak in such a debate because he is in the other place. Will a debate take place, and, if so, will the Prime Minister speak in it?

Mr. Biffen

I shall take the points in reverse order. There is no prospect of a debate on unemployment being held in Government time. The right hon. Gentleman might like to consider that as a topic for an Opposition day debate.

I am anxious that there should be total mutual understanding on the Channel tunnel. I have announced for Monday 10 February business in respect of private Members' motions and the remaining stages of the Australia Bill. If this raises difficulties, perhaps we can consider the matter further through the usual channels.

The Green Paper on the range of proposals to replace our current rating system has only just been presented to the House and, clearly, it will have to be debated by the House. Doubtless this matter can be pursued in due course through the usual channels.

I take account of what the right hon. Gentleman has said about the desirability of a statement being made on the current dispute in education. I very much hope that that can be made early next week.

We shall again consider through the usual channels the question of having a debate on the public expenditure White paper.

Mr. Terence Higgins (Worthing)

The Select Committee on Treasury and Civil Service hopes to take evidence on the public expenditure White Paper and complete that next Monday at 4.15 pm with evidence from the Chief Secretary. My right hon. Friend has put down for business on Monday a matter that is also of great interest to the Select Committee—

Mr. Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)

And concern.

Mr. Higgins

—and concern. The Select Committee took evidence on that matter this morning. Because that debate is on Monday, it effectively means that the Select Committee has been told that it must approve by midnight an ex gratia payment to help towards financing an illegal EEC budget for which the Government themselves admit there is no underlying legislative justification. Will my right hon. Friend carefully consider the timing of this business, as members of the Select Committee will obviously wish to ensure that they are present during the debate and are also able to proceed with the White Paper inquiry?

Mr. Biffen

My right hon. Friend raised an important point of deep concern to himself and, I am sure, to all members of his Committee—

Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)

And the House.

Mr. Biffen

—and the House and many outside the House. That was merely going to be the preliminary to an emollient comment. Of course I shall ascertain whether anything can be done. Perhaps I could get in touch with my right hon. Friend. I do not want to encourage optimism on this matter.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that 10 minutes next week for the Attorney-General to answer questions is totally inadequate, bearing in mind that, to a large extent, his Department, together with 10 Downing street and the Department of Trade and Industry, is at the centre of what has happened over Westland? Will he accept that he has some responsibility to ensure that witnesses required by the Select Committee on Defence should be in a position to appear before that Committee? Therefore, will he give a promise that he will ensure that officials who have been called by the Select Committee will appear next week?

Mr. Biffen

The summoning of witnesses is a matter for the Select Committee concerned. The hon. Gentleman makes a somewhat contentious series of observations about the amount of time allotted for Attorney-General questions. The time allotted is determined by a roster agreed each Session through the usual channels, and I have received no official representations that it should be altered.

Mr. Budgen

Will my right hon. Friend undertake to ensure that before the House is required to make an illegal payment to the EEC a Government spokesman will explain to the House why it is not necessary to introduce primary legislation before the illegal payment is made?

Mr. Biffen

In general terms, I do not think that I can go beyond the answer which I gave to my right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins). I shall draw the specific point raised to the attention of the Minister who will be taking part in the debate.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

Will the Leader of the House have regard to early-day motion 208?

[That a Select Committee be appointed to give further consideration to the establishment of an Anglo-Irish Parliamentary body, Article 12 of the Anglo-Irish Agreement; That the Committee shall consist of 16 members; that no motion shall be made for the nomination of members of the Committee or their discharge unless: (a) notice of the motion has been given sat least two sitting days previously and (b) the motion is made on behalf of the Committee of Selection by the Chairman or another member of the Committee; that five be the quorum of the Committee; that the Committee have power: (a) to send for persons, papers and records; to sit notwithstanding any adjournment of the House; to adjourn from place to place; and to report from time to time; and (b) to appoint specialist advisers to supply information which is not readily available or to elucidate matters of complexity within the Committee's order of reference; and that this be a Standing Order of the House.]

It has received support from all parts of the House. It calls for a Select Committee to be appointed to consider the establishment of an Anglo-Irish parliamentary body in accordance with article 12 of the Anglo-Irish agreement. Is the right hon. Gentleman likely to take any initiative with regard to that?

While I am sure that this House echoes the deep regret and shock at what has happened to the American space shuttle, will the right hon. Gentleman accept that one of the lessons we are tragically learning from that is the difficulties which are involved in any strategic defence initiative? It is time that the House had a debate to discuss all the implications of that and the United Kingdom participation in it.

Mr. Biffen

On the subject of the early-day motion, I appreciate the pertinence of the question put by the hon. Gentleman, but I should like to refer him to the answer I gave to the same question on Monday. I have nothing to add to that.

I take account of what the hon. Gentleman said in his second point. I think that the debates we are now having on the various service Estimates would provide some accommodation for a speech he might like to make in that direction.

Sir William Clark (Croydon, South)

Many I press the Leader of the House, following the question of my right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins)? Surely there must be something wrong if an illegal budget means that the British taxpayer is asked to make an exgratia payment to the EEC and that, if the motion is not passed on Monday, interest is added to the amount by the EEC. There must be something wrong with our control of public expenditure if such things are allowed to happen.

Mr. Biffen

My hon. Friend has made a good and powerful trailer of the speech which I have no doubt he will make on Monday when it will be answered with customary authority by the Treasury spokesman.

Mr. Laurie Pavitt (Brent, South)

Has the Leader of the House noticed that, since the tabling of a motion last week in my name on Sadler's Wells theatre, yesterday my worst fears were realised? In view of the pressure on the right hon. Gentleman in arranging parliamentary time and priorities, and his own well-known concern about the cultural heritage of the nation, will he have conversations with the various Ministers concerned to ensure that that famous theatre is not closed?

Mr. Biffen

I truthfully believe that I am the most philistine Member ever to disfigure the Treasury Bench. Notwithstanding that, of course I will undertake the consultations the hon. Gentleman requests.

Mr. Michael Latham (Rutland and Melton)

Will my right hon. Friend think again and scrap Monday's debate on the illegal budget? Would it not be better if we sent in the district auditor and surcharged the European Parliament?

Mr. Biffen

That is the sort of robust contribution that can be made in the debate. I note what my hon. Friend says.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

Is the Leader of the House aware of the great disruption which took place at the end of the debate on Tuesday on the London Regional Transport (Levy) Order? We now have one and a half hours a year to discuss the affairs of London transport. When it was previously run by the Greater London council, it was under continual appraisal by democratically elected councillors. In view of the unhappy and unfortunate impending demise of the GLC on 31 March, will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for the House, London Members in particular, to have ample opportunity to discuss London affairs which have been taken away from a democratically elected GLC and handed over to a collection of unaccountable quangos?

Mr. Biffen

In no sense could I accept the premise of that question, but if the hon. Gentleman is seeking some reorganisation in government so that, in a parliamentary sense, there is a London presence, that is a campaign that he must pursue. At the moment, I am happy to say, I do not have to deal with that problem.

Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor and Maidenhead)

My right hon. Friend will be aware that yesterday the motion on short speeches was blocked by those who are more longwinded, and who have Privy Council status, giving them priority in debates. Will my right hon. Friend consider bringing the matter to a head so that Back-Bench Members have a chance of speaking in debates?

Mr. Biffen

I noted those who blocked the motion. I thought how happy it was that anonymity was cast by Hansard over their voices. I believe that there is a widespread desire that the matter should be resolved, and I hope that that can be done, perhaps in a debate a little later on.

Mr. Allan Roberts (Bootle)

Is the Leader of the House aware that everyone in the country will greet with disbelief his statement that it is not the duty of the Government to provide time for a debate on unemployment when it has reached the record figure of 14 per cent. nationally — and that figure masks regional and sub-regional differences which mean that in some areas, unemployment is as high as 50 or even 60 per cent. Does he not realise that the Government should provide time to debate the unemployment that they have created, especially in the light of the massive youth unemployment in areas such as Merseyside? Unemployment means that young teenagers are easy prey to drug pushers; and the number of young unemployed who are taking heroin has now reached epidemic proportions.

Mr. Biffen

I strongly contest the partisan way in which the hon. Gentleman is seeking to attribute unemployment to the Government and intimating that the Government are indifferent to it. There is no provision for a debate in Government time in the immediate future. That is hardly surprising as shortly we shall move into a period dominated by the debates on the Budget and the Finance Bill. However, if the matter is of such urgency, I should have thought that the Opposition might use some of their time.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

Will the Leader of the House find time on Monday for a debate on the apparent scandalous injustice of the Government's policies towards the Socialist councillors of Camden, in that when they pass an illegal budget they are surcharged, and threatened with bankruptcy and having their assets sold, but when the European Assembly passes an illegal budget the Government seek to rush through an emergency Supplementary Estimate?

Mr. Biffen

That compelling argument and analogy can be contained within the terms of the motion that is already set down for debate on Monday.

Mr. Hugh Brown (Glasgow, Provan)

The Leader of the House said that he would consider a debate on the Green Paper on rates. I know that the debate will not be next week, but will the right hon. Gentleman give some idea of the time scale or in which month he will be able to provide time for a debate? Will he make sure that any request to discuss the Scottish or Welsh aspects in the Grand Committees will not be used as an argument for cutting down the time in the House?

Mr. Biffen

I note the hon. Gentleman's point about the Grand Committee's consideration of the Green Paper. However, I think it would be fairest to the House if I left my answer general rather than specific when I am not sure whether I could deliver any promise that I might make.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

Last week, when I asked my right hon. Friend about the illegal European budget, he said that he was loth to bracket the European Community with Liverpool. Why are the Government now prepared to bracket themselves with Liverpool by not only condoning but facilitating the illegal budget? Could my right hon. Friend tell the House why he has changed his mind, whether he has consulted the Law Officers, in which case what advice he received, and what would happen if we did not pass the wretched budget on Monday?

Mr. Biffen

Clearly, Monday promises to be a connoisseur's day. In a more general consideration of Monday's debate, I cannot go beyond the answer I gave to my right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing.

Mr. Budgen

He has become communautaire.

Mr. Biffen

I so enjoy the interventions of my hon. Friend as they give me breathing space just when I need it.

Mr. Harry Ewing (Falkirk, East)

Can the Leader of the House say whether either of the two Cabinet Ministers who have recently resigned have been able to retain their ministerial cars and drivers? If that has happened, will the Leader of the House arrange for the Minister reponsible to make a statement to the House next week showing in what circumstances that is taking place and who is paying for it?

Mr. Biffen

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is implying in good faith that a certain situation exists. If he would like to write to me setting out the situation, I will have the matter investigated.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

Will my right hon. Friend arrange an early debate on the freedom of the press, particularly taking account of current threats to it from the Labour party and the TUC? Could the motion be drawn wide enough to embrace debates on the vicious efforts made by Labour and Lib-Lab Govermnents between 1974 and 1979 to gag the press by the imposition of a closed shop? It should be borne in mind that those efforts were pursued strenuously by that so-called great lover of freedom, the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot).

Mr. Biffen

My hon. Friend sets out an attractive proposition for the use of Government time, but, as I have explained to the House, the problem at the moment is that little Government time is available for these debates. I shall continue to bear in mind what my hon. Friend has said.

Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby)

In view of the financial crisis that threatens to close the Liverpool Philharmonic orchestra, Croxteth hall and the Empire theatre in Liverpool and many other arts facilities not only in Merseyside but in the other metropolitan counties and London which are victims of the Tory Government's political bigotry, may we have an urgent debate in the House before those places close?

Mr. Biffen

I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman has put forward the facts with complete dispassion, but I will, of course, draw the attention of my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts to the hon. Gentleman's argument so that my right hon. Friend can consider his request.

Mr. Willian Cash (Stafford)

Will my right hon. Friend confirm my recollection about the appearance or non-appearance of certain officials before the Select Committee on Defence? Can my right hon. Friend confirm that, irrespective of whether or not the officials appear, they cannot under the conventions and practice of the House, as established by the Liaison Committee and by other statements that have been made, be required to give evidence relating to advice that they gave to Ministers while acting in their official capacity?

Mr. Biffen

My hon. Friend makes a thoughtful contribution which does not, strictly speaking, come within the ambit of next week's business. I cannot reaonably add to what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said on that topic.

Mr. Frank Cook (Stockton, North)

The Leader of the House will already have heard my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and my other hon. Friends express their concern about unemployment and the need for an urgent debate. Is he aware that a job start scheme was put on trial at Billingham only a month ago? When that scheme was introduced, I asked the Minister responsible in another place to debate the matter publicly so that people might know how he thought the scheme would operate. The noble Lord refused to do that. The first month's operation of the scheme has resulted in only one inquiry. If we cannot have a debate in the House, will the right hon. Gentleman ask his noble Friend in another place at least to come to Billingham and explain the circumstances surrounding the scheme?

Mr. Biffen

It is always touching to have such responsibilities or would-be responsibilities thrust upon one. I do not think, however, that I am in the business of requiring anybody up the road to go anywhere. Of course, I will draw the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Paymaster General and Minister for Employment to the point the hon. Gentleman raised about the scheme. I cannot go beyond what I said to the Leader of the Opposition about a debate on unemployment.

Mr. Peter Lilley (St. Albans)

Earlier today, Mr. Speaker you properly reaffirmed the ruling that questions to Minister must relate to their responsibilities and not to those of the Opposition. Democracy and constitutional Government depend upon a reasoned choice between alternatives. Will my right hon. Friend open negotiations with the Opposition parties to see whether one day every so often could be made available for Opposition Question Time, because there is a great desire to know the consequences of their unrealistic policies? I extend that to the SDP and the Liberal parties, although they have as yet no policies, because that might afford the House a magical mystery tour.

Mr. Biffen

The question roster is the product of delicate balance and raw horse trading. I should not want to disturb that for the objective that my hon. Friend has in mind.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)

Does the Leader of the House appreciate that there are thousands of men and women working in the textile and clothing industries who are worried that they may be thrown on the record-long dole queues if the multi-fibre arrangement is not negotiated with Britian's best interests in mind? Has he seen early-day motion 332 which is supported by more than 70 members calling for an urgent debate on that subject?

[That this House, recognising the vital importance of the textile and clothing industry for the United Kingdom's balance of trade and as the employer of one in 10 of all those working in manufacturing industry, emphasises the damage that would be done to the industry by any failure to secure an effective renewal of the Multi Fibre Arrangement; views with alarm the terms of the European Economic Community's draft negotiating mandate which would inevitably permit an increase in imports, including a diversion of imports from better-protected markets to the United Kingdom; urges Her Majesty's Government to insist on a European Economic Community mandate which fully protects the interests of the British industry; and demands that no final decision is reached in Brussels until the matter has been further debated in the House.]

Will the Leader of the House have urgent discussions with the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry not just to ask for early agreement on a debate but for him to take an interest in the renegotiation of the MFA and not give the responsibility to a new Minister who possibly knows less about the industry than the Secretary of State?

Mr. Biffen

I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry will take a close interest in Britain's contribution to the MFA negotiations. I recognise that there is wide interest in the House that a debate should take place. I am considering that matter now to see when might be a convenient time.

Mr. Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet)

As it is a great convenience to hon. Members on both sides of the House to be told what the business for the Monday thereafter is when being given the business for next week, will my right hon. Friend make it his practice never to change the business planned for the Monday as we all have to plan busy schedules and make arrangements? Does he accept that some of us are extremely displeased to find that the Second Reading of the Housing and Planning Bill has been shifted from Monday to Tuesday? May we know why it has been shifted?

Mr. Biffen

I understand the interest that there is in the inviolate nature of Monday's business, although I seem to have spent half this afternoon listening to those who claim that next Monday's business should be altered. Of course, one tries to announce business that will be maintained as far as possible, but the more that one announces ahead, the more uncertain becomes the final day or so of business. I believe that there was a time when Monday week's business was not announced.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)

When will we have a debate on the Select Committee on Privilege's report about the confidentiality of information and material in the possession of Select Committees? Is the Leader of the House aware that a crisis is developing over the operation of Select Committees? Has he noted the dilemma faced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) and the problem of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton), and does he not think that if Select Committees produce reports the House is entitled to debate them? May we now have time for a debate—for the fourth time of asking over the past five months?

Mr. Biffen

It may be the fourth time of asking, but it is also the fourth time of replying, broadly in the same sense as on the three previous occasions. At the moment there is no immediate opportunity for a debate.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Why not?

Mr. Biffen

The hon. Gentleman may shout as though he were on the terraces of Workington football club—if I have pitched that rather low I apologise. I have to balance all the claims made upon the time of the House, and at the moment there is not exactly a clamour for this topic to be debated.

Mr. Lewis Stevens (Nuneaton)

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the great concern in my constituency at the proposed closure of an iron foundry at Sterling Metals, with the loss of 700 jobs? This is a major blow to the area when in the past 12 months the unemployment position had improved by about 12 per cent. Can my right hon. Friend provide an opportunity to discuss the matter in the House?

Mr. Biffen

May I suggest to my hon. Friend that he may wish to raise the matter on the Adjournment and underline his already considerable reputation as an active constituency Member? I will, of course, mention the point that he makes to my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Employment and for Trade and Industry.

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

In view of the request made by the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Stevens), will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider his answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) and to other of my hon. Friends who asked for an urgent debate, in Government time, on the question of unemployment? Will it not be amazing to the people of Britain to hear the Leader of the House say that it cannot be helped, not because of pressure of business next week, but because it is a matter for the Opposition and not for the Government? Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that unemployment is a matter for the Government? It is the Government's responsibility. Are they afraid of having such a debate because they have no suggestions for dealing with unemployment? Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider his reply so that we may hear what the Government propose to do to bring down unemployment —the highest level we have ever known in Britain?

Mr. Biffen

The hon. Gentleman makes a point that has already been made several times by the Opposition. I have nothing to add to my reply to the right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock).

Mr. Tony Baldry (Banbury)

Will my right hon. Friend consider giving time next week to the right hon. Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) to explain why the Labour party wishes to ban contact with The Times and The Sun? Does not this action suggest what life would be like under any future Labour Government, with the state as master and not as servant — a state of increasing restrictions, regulations and controls—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member is not as ingenious as his hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Mr. Lilley). The question must be related to business for which the Leader of the House is responsible.

Mr. Biffen

I quite understand my hon. Friend's interest in this topic. He has asked for time to be made available, but time is already available. There is an Opposition day next week and we will judge how they wish to use it.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement to be made on the collapse of the Tin Council and the 500 jobs that are at stake in the west country? If not, will the right hon. Gentleman arrange a debate? Is he aware that yesterday there was a great opportunity presented to the Liberals and Social Democrats to use half of their day's debate to discuss this important question. Five hundred miners came from the west country to lobby Parliament and wanted to get Members to listen to their plight. When I came into the Chamber, however, I found the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) rabbiting on in his usual fashion—

Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil)

Wabbiting on.

Mr. Skinner

Yes, wabbiting.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I do not think that this is a matter for the Leader of the House.

Mr. Skinner

I am coming round to it. The right hon. Gentleman was rabbiting on about our joining the European monetary system when he should have been debating the important matter of the dole queues. Therefore, will the right hon. Gentleman take the opportunity to get rid of next Monday's debate and arrange a debate on the tin Council and unemployment, thus killing three birds with one stone?

Mr. Biffen

It has often been my privilege to listen to the recondite, fastidious arguments of the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins). I have not hitherto thought of characterising them as rabbiting — and "rabbiting", as those from the west country know, is pronounced with a good, full-throated "r". It is a sad day when the spirit of Trelawny and all that Cornwall has stood for is taken over by social democracies from Glasgow.

Mr. John Browne (Winchester)

Will my right hon. Friend accept that the debate on Monday on the Special Supplementary Estimate is likely to highlight two points? The first is the deep feeling held by many of us in Great Britain who are genuinely pro-Europe but are increasingly concerned about the methods of financing, the lack of financial discipline in the Community and the system of European justice to which this country is subject. Secondly, it will also highlight the fact that sovereignty has been, and is being, taken from under the nose of this House, usually in the small hours of the morning. Before such important EEC legislation is introduced, will my right hon. Friend agree to give it much more prime debating time?

Mr. Biffen

I take note of what my hon. Friend says in his most intriguing contribution, which shows the significant movement of opinion in the general debate of these matters. My hon. Friend has as good prime time on Monday as he will ever get for these Community matters. However, I have promised my right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing to consider whether any alternative arrangements can be made.

Mr. Peter Bruinvels (Leicester, East)

When will my right hon. Friend find time for an urgent debate on the breakdown of law and order and the sickening attacks, both in London and in Leicester, on our defenceless old? Is not my right hon. Friend aware that many people have been mugged in their own homes or robbed on the streets? The public are not receiving adequate protection from the police. Will my right hon. Friend find time to discuss the need for appointing additional police, a review of the judicial system, the need for tougher and stiffer sentences in our courts and the need for protection of all citizens in Britain? The Leicester Mercury recently described the situation as "a real crisis".

Mr. Biffen

I know that my hon. Friend and the Leicester Mercury have been conducting a campaign for a greater police presence in Leicester, and I should like to think that it might be partnered by a full day's debate in the House of Commons. But time is at a great premium, and all I can offer is to refer his points to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary so that they may be noted.