HC Deb 03 July 1986 vol 100 cc1169-79 3.31 pm
Mr. Neil Kinnock (Islwyn)

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he will 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 7 JULY — Until seven o'clock, private Members' motions.

Debate on the tin industry on a Government motion.

Remaining stages of the Latent Damage Bill [Lords] and the Education (No. 2) Bill.

TUESDAY 8 JULY—Progress on remaining stages of the Finance Bill.

Remaining stages of the Patents, Designs and Marks Bill [Lords].

There will be a debate on a motion on EC documents relating to agricultural structures. Details will be given in the Official Report.

WEDNESDAY 9 JULY—Completion of remaining stages of the Finance Bill.

Motions on the Housing (Northern Ireland) Order and the Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Order.

THURSDAY 10 JULY—Until seven o'clock, Estimates Day (1 st Allotted Day, 2nd part). The Estimates due to be debated relate to the budget of the European Communities. Details will he given in the Official Report.

Remaining stages of the European Communities (Amendment) Bill.

FRIDAY II JULY—There will be a debate on policing the metropolis on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

MONDAY 14 JULY — Until seven o'clock, private Members' motions.

It is expected that the Chairman of Ways and Means will name opposed private business for consideration at seven o'clock.

Debate on Tuesday 8 July:

Relevant European documents

  1. (a) 6466/86 Socio-structural reforms in agriculture
  2. (b) 7126186 Agricultural structures in Spain

Relevant Reports of European Legislation Committee

  1. (a) 11C-21-xx (1985–86) paragraph 2
  2. (b) 11C 21-xx (1985–86) paragraph 3]

[Estimates due to be debated Thursday 10 July 1986 Supplementary Estimate 1986–87

Class III, Vote 1 (Budget of the European Communities)]

Mr. Kinnock

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. It is obvious from next week's business that the Government have got themselves into a hopeless muddle over the remaining stages of the European Communities (Amendment) Bill. The short time allotted next Thursday for this major constitutional issue means that there will he hardly any time for debates between votes on amendments. The Government have made a fool of themselves over the way in which they have dealt with the legislation and now they are trying to treat the House with further contempt. Even at this late stage, will the right hon. Gentleman, out of respect for his office, the House of Commons and his previous record, ensure that there is time for a proper debate on this vital issue of major constitutional significance?

Will there be statements on the rate support grants for different parts of Britain before the summer recess? Later this afternoon we are to have a statement on the Peacock report. Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that the House can debate the report as soon as possible and preferably before we rise for the recess?

On Tuesday I asked the Prime Minister whether she would accept the defeats inflicted on her Social Security Bill in the other place. She said in her reply: Events in the other place are matters for consideration later."—[Official Report, 1 July 1986; Vol. 100, c. 815.] Does that mean that the Government are going to do the decent thing and not make changes that will disadvantage the poor and the elderly, or does the right hon. Gentleman have plans to bring back the measure to the House of Commons and use his majority to prevail in place of the reason and right that prevailed in the House of Lords?

Can the right hon. Gentleman ensure that the Foreign Secretary, who we understand will leave for southern Africa next week, will make statements to the House before and after his visit so that, first, he can outline purposes and, secondly, on his return report progress, if any, to the House of Commons?

The return to London today of Mr. Richard Branson reminds us of reports a few weeks ago of the anti-litter crusade that he was said to be going to lead. Can the Leader of the House now respond to my earlier request, for a statement on the matter, or was the whole affair just a spasm of enthusiasm of the Prime Minister on her return from Israel that now turns out to be a load of rubbish?

Mr. Biffen

May I take the points in the sequence in which they were presented by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition? Of course I recognise the general interest in the House about debating the European Communities (Amendment) Bill, but he will recognise that the business for Thursday is governed by a motion that the House passed a few days ago, and I hope that that will ensure a reasonable balance of time.

Secondly, the right hon. Gentleman asked about the possibility of statements upon the rate support grant in the component parts of Great Britain. I am happy to tell him that we hope that statements will be made before the House goes into recess.

The right hon. Gentleman also asked whether there would be a debate on the Peacock report. I am sure that the House will wish to have such a debate after there has been an appropriate period for reflection following the statement that will be made later this afternoon by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. I do not think that it would be helpful at this stage to speculate exactly when such a debate would take place. Certainly I would not wish to impede a reasonable recess by making a commitment to hold such a debate before we go away for the summer.

I take note of what the right hon. Gentleman says about the Social Security Bill. My right hon. Friend will be following the normal conventions and will be making his own recommendations to the House on how the Lords amendments should be considered.

As to the question about my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary making statements to the House in relation to his proposed visit to South Africa, I am sure that the House will wish to take a very constructive stance in these matters and assist in what is undoubtedly a matter of considerable delicacy. It is perhaps something that we can discuss through the usual channels.

Finally, of course, I take account of the Prime Minister's statement on the anti-litter crusade, and will be happy again to discuss that with the right hon. Gentleman through the usual channels.

Sir Fergus Montgomery (Altrincham and Sale)

Is there any prospect of our having next week a debate or a statement on the plight of my constituent, Mr. John Stalker, the deputy chief constable of Greater Manchester? As I am sure my right hon. Friend is aware, since the end of May this man has been the subject of innuendo and rumour. Now he has been suspended by the police authority, a decision that was endorsed by the Police Complaints Authority—and a decision, incidentally, that was made public before it had the courtesy to tell Mr. Stalker. Does not my right hon. Friend not think that it is about time that the agony of his family should be brought to an end and could he please talk to the relevant Ministers to see whether the matter could be easily disposed of?

Mr. Biffen

My hon. Friend understandably and very effectively puts the problem that concerns his distinguished constituent. He will understand, I am sure, that there are problems that arise when there are matters still under investigation and consideration, but I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will have heard what has been said.

Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill)

The points raised by my hon. Friends yesterday call for an inquiry into the abuse of the housing benefits system. Given the widespread concern on both sides of the House that much of the £4.6 billion paid out in housing benefits last year found its way illicitly into the pockets of private landlords who are racketeering, will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for a statement to be made in the House next week? Can he say also when he expects to be able to make a statement about when the House will rise for the summer recess?

Mr. Biffen

The hon. Gentleman will realise that although those two points may seem to be quite far apart, they are not entirely unrelated, in that the more business that I am requested to undertake, the further away becomes the mirage of buckets and spades. However, I heard the hon. Gentleman's first point, and I shall draw his remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services.

Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the General Synod of the Church of England meets tomorrow? Is he further aware that one of the motions before it recommends effective economic sanctions against the South African Government and the disengagement of all British companies operating there? Are we to have an opportunity next week to debate that motion, or at least to hear what the Government's opinion of it is?

Mr. Biffen

As a very distinguished member of the Church Assembly, my hon. Friend will be able to make his views known perfectly well either within that body or by using all the other avenues of publicity available to a Member of Parliament. I appreciate that there is a proper and legitimate concern in the House to be involved in the political situation relating to this country and South Africa, but we must also be a little sparing in our insistence on debates and statements on the matter.

Mr. Merlyn Rees (Morley and Leeds, South)

The Leader of the House has announced a debate next week on the Metropolitan police, because the Home Secretary is directly responsible for policing in London and there are problems. But is he aware that we also have problems in west Yorkshire? Following the disbandment of West Yorkshire county council, there has been a court case involving the Department of the Environment, and the chief constable, whom we all respect, is talking about 1,000 policemen having to go. Can the Home Secretary, who is responsible for the efficiency of the police in the provinces, make a statement next week? Law and order is a great issue in west Yorkshire and we should like to know what is going on.

Mr. Biffen

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is literally at my left elbow, and he will have heard the right hon. Gentleman's point.

Mr. Michael Latham (Rutland and Melton)

Has my right hon. Friend noticed early-day motion 1039 which stands in my name and that of other hon. Members, and which calls for the bank holiday weekend to be designated "cone free" throughout our motorway system?

[That this House urges the Secretaries of State for Transport and for Wales to declare Friday 22nd to Monday 25th August, inclusive, to be a cone free weekend, by ordering that all road works be suspended on every motorway in England and Wales, and all cones removed, thus having one weekend for the first time in a generation when motorists could take their families to and from their holidays without fuming helplessly for hours in hot and immobile queues of traffic.]

In the interest of the perhaps millions of motorists and their families who will be driving over the bank holiday, will my right hon. Friend ask the Secretary of State to take this issue seriously and do his very best to ensure the free flow of traffic during that weekend?

Mr. Biffen

In view of the difficulties faced by the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud) the other day, I must congratulate my hon. Friend on having got an early-day motion bearing that designation past the Table Office. I understand that it is already Government policy to minimise the amount of coning on bank holidays, but that is just one more example of where the good work of the Government has not yet been fully recognised.

Mr. Jack Dormand (Essington)

Does the Leader of the House intend to make a statement or to arrange for a debate on hon. Members' salaries and allowances next week, or at least before the summer recess?

Mr. Biffen

No, I have no plans for a debate on that subject.

Mr. Michael Shersby (Uxbridge)

When does my right hon. Friend think that there will be a debate on the conclusions and recommendations made following the review of legal aid? Should not early steps be taken to limit that non-cash-limited, demand-led vote?

Mr. Biffen

My hon. Friend has raised a valid point that is of growing public concern. However, the more I am pressed to give time for debates during the next few weeks, the less likely it is that we shall be able to rise for the recess at a civilised time.

Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)

The right hon. Gentleman will know how much we in Britain welcome distinguished visitors to this country, and their public display along the streets of London, but will he get the House authorities to approach both the Metropolitan police and the local authority to see whether the roads can be cleared more quickly for public transport, the coming and going of Londoners in general, and of Members of Parliament in particular, because there was considerable delay last Tuesday in reopening the streets? Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the hon. Member for Warley, East was half an hour late for a luncheon with Czechoslovak parliamentarians and suffered from severe dyspeptic indigestion for the rest of the day?

Mr. Biffen

I am sure that gastronomy has played its part in international ill will, and I shall take full account of what the hon. Gentleman has said.

Sir John Farr (Harborough)

In view of the serious collapse in exports of textiles and clothing in the first quarter of the year, for which the figures were announced a couple of days ago, and the rapid surge in imports of textiles and clothing at the same time, will my right hon. Friend arrange, before the recess, another debate on the MFA so that hon. Members can express the concern of constituents for their jobs and have action taken?

Mr. Biffen

I very much understand the anxieties of my hon. Friend and his concern that he should be able to inform the House of his constituency difficulty. Perhaps he would like to consider applying for an Adjournment debate as one way of doing that.

Mr. Stuart Holland (Vauxhall)

Was it not wrong for the Home Secretary not to make a statement on the Metropolitan police review on the disorders in Brixton and Tottenham before giving his consent yesterday to the measures that it contains? Does he also agree that it is scandalous that the hon. Members most directly affected by those disorders received copies of the review only after Sir Kenneth Newman had given a press release with his version of the events? Will he ensure that in the debate on the police next Friday the Home Secretary is able to give commitments from other members of the Government that resources will be put into inner city areas to offset the deprivation that underlies such disorders?

Mr. Biffen

I cannot accept the strictures directed at my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, but I am sure that the points of substantial policy that the hon. Gentleman has made will be included in the debate on Friday.

Mr. Roger Sims (Chislehurst)

My right hon. Friend will be aware that many individuals and organisations are interested in the Government's consultation paper on family courts. Submissions on it are invited by 31 October, and, as the House will be sitting on only a limited number of days between now and then, can my right hon. Friend earmark one of those days for a debate on those proposals so that the House can play its part in the consultation process?

Mr. Biffen

I hope that we shall be sitting for only a limited number of days between now and the date that my hon. Friend mentioned. Clearly I shall have to take account of his representation and all others when judging when it will be appropriate for the House to go into recess.

Mr. James Hamilton (Motherwell, North)

Bearing in mind the disquiet and worry in Scotland, and in Lanarkshire in particular, about the lack of investment in the steel industry in Scotland, will the right hon. Gentleman get the Secretary of State for Scotland, who met the chairman of the British Steel Corporation on Tuesday, to make a statement to allay the fears that prevail in Lanarkshire?

Mr. Biffen

I shall draw the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland to those anxieties.

Mr. Nigel Forman (Carshalton and Wallington)

in view of recent press reports that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment intends to proceed rather more rapidly than hitherto has been envisaged on the reform of local government finance, can my right hon. Friend ensure that the House gets an early opportunity, if not before the summer recess then early in the autumn, to have a full debate on this important matter because of its implications for wider aspects of Government policies?

Mr. Biffen

I am sure that my hon. Friend, who is a most sophisticated politician, will not be seduced by every newspaper article that he reads.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

The right hon. Gentleman is being patronising.

Mr. Biffen

No, I am not. I am being adroit and accurate. I take account of the interest in such a debate, and I am grateful for the fact that my hon. Friend does not think that it will happen any earlier than the autumn.

Mr. Terry Davis (Birmingham, Hodge Hill)

Why have the Government insisted on taking the Report stage of the Finance Bill next week, although they have not yet tabled all their new clauses and amendments to this important Bill, and in spite of representations that they have received on this matter through the usual channels?

Mr. Biffen

This state of housekeeping is not entirely unknown on Finance Bills throughout the decades. I understand the hon. Gentleman's point, and I shall look into it.

Mr. Neil Thorne (Ilford, South)

I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to early-day motion 974 on the proposed takeover of Plessey that has been signed by no fewer than 117 hon. Members from all parts of the House and by one other hon. Member who has tabled an amendment, which I believe he intends to be helpful.

[That this House believes the GEC's proposed takeover of the Plessey Company would be against the public interest in view of: (a) the resulting damage to competition in the domestic market in the fields of private telecommunications, defence electronic equipment and other sectors including traffic signal systems, (b) the serious implications for employment prospects in Plessey and within their small firm suppliers, (c) the erosion of the country's technological base following the inevitable reduction in the variety of approaches to British research and development in a number of highly specialised applications and (d) the danger of increased opportunities for foreign suppliers as a result of the Government's policy of competitive tendering in the defence field; and calls upon the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to give due weight to these factors when he considers the report of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission on this matter in due course.]

In view of the large measure of concern about this matter, will my right hon. Friend consider the possibility of holding a debate in the near future on the important implications, both to defence and employment, of the predatory nature of some firms that have far too much money standing idle and that seem to want to benefit from other extremely efficient companies that have put up a very creditable performance?

Mr. Biffen

My hon. Friend makes a point which will have touched on a quite widely held anxiety. However, he will appreciate that it will be much more appropriate if the House were to wait until the findings of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission are reported, which I understand will not be until, at the earliest, later this month.

Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West)

In view of the continued erosion of the rights of employees who are fortunate enough to have jobs and the Government's apparent belief that the way to create more jobs is to remove the rights of those who are in work, may we have a debate soon on the proposals that are contained in the Government's consultative document that are designed to promote the further reduction of employees' rights, particularly of part-timers?

Mr. Biffen

That is a most tendentious interpretation of some extremely progressive proposals that have been mooted by this Government. But, leaving that aside, and curbing all that I would otherwise wish to say, I must observe that very little time is at the Government's disposal which would allow such a debate to take place this month.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

As it has now been disclosed that the Leader of the House could not bear to put his name on the European Communities (Amendment) Bill, despite the fact that the names on that Bill are headed by that of the Prime Minister and various other biased members of the Cabinet, including Dumpling—[HON. MEMBERS: "Who is he?"] Agriculture.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I think that we should refer to the constituencies of hon. Members rather than to nicknames, however friendly.

Mr. Skinner

I was only taking the micky. Think about it! Why does the Leader of the House not do the decent thing? Why does he not do as he did a decade ago and back those of us who realise that the Common Market has now blown its full course, that it is bankrupt and that, if it were a coal mine, the Prime Minister would shut it? Why will he not decide to take the Bill off next Thurday's business and instead let us have a debate about the six months' old industrial dispute at Wapping? Is it not a scandal that, although a major industrial dispute in Britain has already lasted for more than six months, it has never been properly debated in this House? There's a challenge for the Leader of the House!

Mr. Biffen

I am always flattered and touched to receive the fraternal interest and good will of the hon. Gentleman; but, as he said, he was taking the micky.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

Although we have only recently had a very interesting and important debate on defence, I wonder whether it would be possible to have a specific debate on the very interesting proposal of the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) on the European deterrent—particularly as the French take the view that any nuclear deterrent involving France should have only one finger on the button, and that that finger should be a French one. It would give the right hon. Gentleman a very good opportunity to explain that he is not actually in favour of fudge and mudge.

Mr. Biffen

And, of course, there would be the related interest as to only one finger being on the alliance button. However, we have just concluded a two-day debate on the Defence Estimates and I am afraid that there is no immediate prospect of returning to that topic in parliamentary time.

Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)

Bearing in mind his expressed understanding of the impending chaos in the cereals market last week, is the Leader of the House able to say why he has not made arrangements for a debate to be held on the introduction of the co-responsibility levy before the scheme becomes operative?

Mr. Biffen

As the hon. Gentleman has said, there is no provision for a debate. However, I am sure that he would not expect a great use of parliamentary time on those topics at this stage of the year if, at the same time, he had any regard for his Scottish colleagues who would like to recess earlier rather than later in July.

I understand that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will be laying a statutory instrument before the House shortly, which should provide an opportunity for debate.

Mr. Peter Bruinvels (Leicester, East)

When will the House debate the Widdicombe report so that I may have the opportunity to reveal further Left-wing excesses by the Labour-controlled city council in giving money to Nelson Mandela, Nicaragua and the inner-area programme? Does not my right hon. Friend agree that local authorities should be debating local matters, not the privatisation of water authorities, social security reviews and anything to do with South Africa? They should not interfere in national affairs.

Mr. Biffen

It is an interesting proposition—[Interruption.] Well, it is an interesting proposition for the purpose of this answer. I hope that my hon. Friend will reflect seriously before suggesting that by statute we should limit the subjects to be without legitimate discussion by local authorities.

Mr. Tom Clarke (Monklands, West)

Leaving aside the need for a debate on South Africa before the recess, will the Leader of the House give an assurance that if the threat to Commonwealth unity worsens, especially after the events of 2 August, he will not hesitate to recommend that the House be recalled?

An Hon. Member

It is the first cuckoo.

Mr Biffen

That is an ominous contribution to these exchanges. I have no wish to exacerbate feelings between Opposition Members.

The hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) made a very proper observation, but I suggest that we wait for that difficulty to arise.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

Will my right hon. Friend note that the pupil-teacher ratio announced two days ago is the highest ever? Will he also note that the Government are paying teachers 15 per cent. more than the last Labour Government, and that before the current ACAS discussions are concluded?

Will my right hon. Friend ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science to consider the problem of the shortage of teachers in specialist subjects such as maths and science, and perhaps to introduce in-service training or retraining schemes for some of the large number of teachers in this country?

Mr. Biffen

I think that my hon. Friend will have been encouraged by the exchanges during Prime Minister's Question Time this afternoon. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science will be top for questions on Tuesday, and I hope that my hon. Friend will have the opportunity to make his point then.

Mr. Ray Powell (Ogmore)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, although Opposition Members are concerned about teachers' pay, we would also like to have a debate on the decline of competitive sport in schools and the loss of school playing fields as a result of the cuts in local authority finance? May we also have a debate on the sale of open spaces by local authorities? Those are pressing problems in some areas, and it is high time that the House debated them.

Mr. Biffen

There are times when I think that English cricket is an example of mixed ability sport. The hon. Gentleman raised a fair point, but I am sure that he realises that there will be a number of private Member opportunities for debate before we recess, and I hope that he will consider using those occasions to pursue the matter further.

Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Scottish Grand Committee debate in Scotland on Monday on the subject of devolution was notable for the poor attendance of Labour Members and for the extravagant claims about what would happen in any separate assembly with regard to tax-raising and other powers?

As later next week we will debate the Single European Act, which my right hon. Friend has acknowledged has serious constitutional implications for the United Kingdom Parliament, may we have an early debate on the implications of those two matters together with the problem of rolling devolution in Ireland, their impact on our unitary Parliament and the effect on this House?

Mr. Biffen

That is an interesting point. I think that the House more generally may wish to return to the subject of devolution as we approach a general election. I am looking for a topic to hand to the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) so that he can take up anew what he once championed with such success after his current and passing interests have evaporated.

Mr. Tony Lloyd (Stretford)

Is the Leader of the House aware of the decision last week in the International Court of Justice which condemned the United States both for mining the ports of Nicaragua and aiding the Contras? As the Prime Minister has been robust this year in condemning state-supported terrorism, may we have a debate on American action in Nicaragua so that the Prime Minister can express her views on this particular state-supported terrorism?

Mr. Biffen

I must say in all candour to the hon. Gentleman that. I do not think there is the prospect of the sort of debate that he seeks. As a good alternative, perhaps he will consider that on Wednesday next week my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary is top of the list for questions.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

Is the Leader of the House aware of the great concern felt by the staff of the Palace of Westminster about the date of the summer recess? Can he tell the House whether we shall go into recess on 18 or 25 July?

Mr. Biffen

I have nothing to add to the opaque words I have just spoken. I have already noted, however, that one hon. Member thinks that we should be around in early August to see what is happening at the Commonwealth Conference.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

I noted the concern for Scottish Members which the Leader of the House showed in his response to my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan). I hope that his concern will be translated into action. Bearing in mind that we shall be sitting next week, and the decision of the House of Lords Appellate Committee in dismissing the appeal of depositors of the Trustee Savings Bank, can he arrange next week for a Treasury Minister to make a statement on the Government's future proposals, and to give an undertaking that the bank will not go ahead with flotation until such time as their Lordships' detailed judgment on the ownership of the bank has been considered?

Secondly, in anticipation of the statement that is to be made by the Home Secretary, may I ask whether the Government intend that there should be a full-day debate on the Peacock report in good time?

Mr. Biffen

One thing is certain: if we have a debate on the Peacock report in good time, which would be during this month, it will make it more difficult — [Interruption.] I am glad that the hon. Gentleman is being corrected by his hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Freud). There will be a debate on the Peacock report after there has been proper time for the House to consider these matters some weeks hence. I shall most certainly look into the House of Lords decision and draw the attention of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the hon. Gentleman's anxieties.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

Has the Leader of the House seen early-day motions Nos. 1040, 1044 and 1049?

[That this House believes that the decision of the United States Congress to vote money to the Contra for their attack against Nicaragua constitutes a further act of aggression; believes that the Government of Nicaragua is democratically elected and has suffered continued destabilisation by the United States of America; lends its full support to President Ortega and the people of Nicaragua in their legitimate defence of their country; and calls upon the British Government to denounce the United States policy at the United Nations to support the World Court decision and to offer aid to the Government of Nicaragua.]

[That this House notes the judgment of the International Court of Justice concerning military and paramilitary activities against Nicaragua; notes further that the Court found against the United States of America on various charges, including the mining of Nicaraguan ports and the financing of terrorism through aid to the Contra forces; is conscious that the Court found no merit in the United States counter-claim of self-defence; supports the decision of the Court in ordering reparations to Nicaragua; and looks forward to Her Majesty's Government condemning this state-supported terrorism and insisting that the United States of America recognises and acts on the Court's decision.]

[That this House supports the objectives of the National Civil Assembly of Chile, which is calling for a return to democracy and an end to military dictatorship in that country; and deplores the repression of political opposition and dissent being carried out by the military rulers of Chile.]

Does the Leader of the House agree that there should be an expression of opinion in the House concerning the differences in Government policy when they allow the United States to destroy a democractically elected Government in Nicaragua by sponsoring state terrorism against that country while at the same time they are prepared to sell arms to and provide military equipment for Chile and use Chilean military bases as a means of supporting the most vile fascist dictatorship seen anywhere in Latin America? Do not these matters merit urgent debate in the House?

Mr. Biffen

I am sure that the House would not expect me to endorse the hon. Gentleman's terminology. The point that he is making is not dissimilar to the one made by his hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Lloyd). I have to say to him that my answer must be substantially the same.

Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith)

Will the Leader of the House expand on his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Dormand)? Was he really saying that there is not to be a debate on Member's secretarial allowances, or was he trying to tell the House that the allowances are not to be increased? Alternatively, was he trying to tell us that he is going to try to reduce the allowances?

Mr. Biffen

As I said to the hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Dormand), there is as I judge it no Government time available to debate Members' pay. The hon. Gentleman is right to draw specific attention to secretarial allowances. I said some weeks ago that the matter would be remitted for the four-yearly consideration. That is exactly what will happen, and before we go into recess.