HC Deb 10 July 1986 vol 101 cc447-59 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 14 JULY Until seven o'clock, private Members' motions.

Remaining stages of the Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill.

The Chairman of Ways and Means has named opposed private business for consideration at seven o'clock.

TUESDAY 15 JULY Opposition Day (18th Allotted Day, 1st Part). There will be a debate entitled "Defending British High Technology Industries". The debate will arise on a motion in the names of the leaders of the Liberal and Social Democratic parties.

Motions on orders and regulations relating to drivers' hours. Details will be given in the Official Report.

The Chairman of Ways and Means has named opposed private business for consideration at seven o'clock.

WEDNESDAY 16 JULY Opposition Day (19th Allotted Day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion, the subject for debate to be announced.

Motion on the Control of Pesticides Regulations.

Motion on secretarial allowances.

Remaining stages of the British Council and Commonwealth Institute Superannuation Bill.

THURSDAY 17 JULY Completion of remaining stages of the Finance Bill.

Motion relating to the Channel Tunnel Bill.

At ten o'clock the question will be put on all outstanding Estimates.

FRIDAY 18 JULY Consideration of any Lords amendments which may be received to the Dockyard Services Bill.

Proceedings on the Insolvency Bill [Lords] and the Company Directors Disqualification Bill [Lords] which are both consolidation measures.

Motion on the New Towns (Extinguishment of Liabilities) Order.

MONDAY 21 JULY Opposition Day (15th Allotted Day, 2nd part). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion, the subject for debate to be announced.

Consideration of any Lords Amendments which may be received to the Gas Bill.

The House will wish to know that, subject to the progress of business, it will be proposed that the House should rise for the summer Adjournment on Friday 25 July.

[Regulations and Orders to be debated on Tuesday 15 July: Drivers' Hours (Harmonisation with Community Rules) Regulations; Drivers' Hours (Goods Vehicles) (Modifications) Order; Community Drivers' Hours and Recording Equipment (Exemptions and Supplementary Provisions) Regulations; Community Drivers' Hours and Recording Equipment Regulations.]

Mr. Kinnock

I am grateful to the Leader of the House. The mess in which the Government have placed themselves is obvious in next week's business. That is why we have a continual late, late show with so much important business being taken after 10 o'clock, and the Dockyard Services Bill and the new towns order coming in on Friday. Does he really think that the Dockyard Services Bill, which vitally affects Plymouth and Rosyth, and the new towns order, which vitally affects many other places, is fitting business for Friday?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that major decisions are likely to be taken on the future of Leyland Bus and Truck in the next few days? Can he assure us that there will be a statement on the matter either tomorrow or on Monday? That is the time scale in which the Government should be operating. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to guarantee that there will be statements on the rate support grant for the different parts of Britain before the summer recess.

We are awaiting the Government's decision on how they will react to changes that have been made to the Social Security Bill in another place. A few hours for debate, especially if they are made available to the House on the day of the royal wedding, will not do justice to legislation affecting millions of elderly and poor people in Britain. Will the right hon. Gentleman reaffirm that, in response to my request, he will arrange for the Foreign Secretary to report to the House when he returns from his visit to southern Africa next week?

Finally will the right hon. Gentleman tell us when we are to hear the long-awaited statement on the Prime Minister's great anti-litter campaign? Will he take it from me that, on the basis of current calculations, the initiative seems as if it is to be as great a malfunction as Mr. Branson's earlier transatlantic odyssey.

Mr. Biffen

I shall take the Leader of the Opposition's questions in the sequence in which he presented them. It is a travesty to describe the business that I have announced as some sort of mess. He knows perfectly well that the House has to consider a good deal of business in the final two weeks before going into the summer recess. He knows that a well-judged programme of work has been presented for next week that will not detain the House unduly, unless there are those who are anxious to create mischief.

If the right hon. Gentleman wishes to make representations through the usual channels on the treatment of the Dockyard Services Bill, I shall take note of that. I hope, however, that he will recognise that, under successive Governments, Fridays have been properly treated as days for significant Government business as well as for other measures.

I shall refer to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry the right hon. Gentleman's remarks about Leyland Bus and Truck and the possibility of a statement. I reassure the right hon. Gentleman by repeating what I told him last week. It is our plan to have the rate support grant announcement for the component parts of Great Britain laid before the House before it goes into recess.

We shall be making clear the Government's position and recommendations on the Lords amendments to the Social Security Bill. I must tell the right hon. Gentleman that for many people throughout the country, royal wedding or not, Wednesday 23 July will be an ordinary working day. I would not like to think that the right hon. Gentleman thought that for the House of Commons there was somehow to be a "second division" of work on that occasion. [Interruption.] I am sorry that those homespun observations have caused such anxiety and embarrassment on Opposition Benches.

Finally, I take account of what the right hon. Gentleman says about the desirability of the House learning from my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary direct after he has concluded his present African journey, and I shall make that point known. Also, I hope that there will be a statement on United Kingdom 2000 next week.

Sir Ian Percival (Southport)

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the fact that early-day motion 991 on the death penalty for terrorists now has the support of 130 right hon. and hon. Members?

[That this House congratulates and thanks all those whose efforts played a part in securing the conviction of the Brighton bomber on charges of murdering five people and of those who so recently pleaded guilty in Belfast to murdering 17 people; extends its heartfelt sympathy to all who suffered loss or injury from their acts; asks itself whether there is available in such cases any penalty such as will in any sense meet the crime and whether in permitting the law as to penalties to remain as it is, it is doing sufficient to protect those who may be the next victims of such appalling evil; is of the opinion that it should give fresh consideration to extending the death penalty, now limited to treason and piracy, to criminal acts such as those done to terrorise; and asks the Leader of the House to arrange for it to have time to debate these matters.]

While I appreciate that my right hon. Friend cannot assist us before the recess, may I suggest that the horrific nature of the act referred to in the motion, and the fact that several people who have consistently voted against the death penalty support the motion show that this is not a closed subject? May I ask my right hon. Friend to give kindly consideration to allocating time to this subject, which is of great interest to the public, in the autumn programme?

Mr. Biffen

I take the point that my right hon. and learned Friend makes and I appreciate the terms in which he has put it to me. I shall consider it in the context of the overspill, but he will know that that is a fairly congested period of parliamentary existence. With the next session of Parliament, all sorts of additional opportunities may arise.

Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill)

Given the reply that the Prime Minister gave earlier this afternoon to my hon. Friend the Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) about laying the social security supplementary benefit regulations before the House, can the Leader of the House say when they will be laid? Will he also tell us the time scale for the review of secretarial allowances and whether that four-year review will look at fundamental questions as well as percentage increases?

Mr. Biffen

On the hon. Gentleman's first point, the order will be laid in good time and he need have no fear of being disappointed. On his second point, the four-yearly review is a fundamental review of the operation of the secretarial allowances and goes far beyond a consideration of mere percentages. No time limits have been suggested for reporting back, but I imagine that they will be reported back some time early next year.

Mr. Anthony Nelson (Chichester)

Will my right hon. Friend give consideration before the recess to finding time for a debate to draw attention to the significant increase in overseas aid which the British Government are giving to many Commonwealth, including African, countries? It would provide a welcome opportunity for many of us to say to those Commonwealth countries which are now threatening to boycott and impose sanctions on the United Kingdom that they should not be allowed with impunity to bite the hand that feeds them.

Mr. Biffen

I fully understand my hon. Friend's anxiety that there should be parliamentary time for a debate on this topic; his point will receive widespread recognition. He will understand that I can offer no Government time between now and Parliament going into recess, but certainly the topic will still have considerable currency when we return in the autumn.

Mr. Merlyn Rees (Morley and Leeds, South)

Is the Leader of the House aware of the major problems that face us in some inner cities of the deteriorating housing stock, particularly of houses built in the 1950s and 1960s? Is he further aware that, in the city of Leeds, the problem has come to a head with the balconies of high-rise blocks being in danger of falling off, and that the people living in them are genuinely worried that little can be done because there is no money? Can we expect a statement on that next week? It is all very well going into recess and I am glad that we are, but meantime, unless the Department of the Environment comes up with some money, some people are in a far worse position than they would be in the old slum dwellings.

Mr. Biffen

I am grateful for the right hon. Gentleman's word of appreciation about the proposal that we should rise for the summer Adjournment on Friday 25 July. I was beginning to wonder whether I had a single friend on this topic in the House. I am perfectly prepared to revise the date, if the House would so wish. I will refer the point about housing in Leeds and more generally to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.

Sir Anthony Grant (Cambridgeshire, South-West)

In addition to the statement by my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary on his South African visit, will there be an opportunity, perhaps, to debate South Africa before we rise? If we did, it would provide an opportunity, first, for those who believe that economic sanctions are nonsense nevertheless to express the view that the National Government are being particularly pigheaded about the release of Nelson Mandela; and, secondly, for the Opposition to explain why, at a time when the pass laws were in full brutal effect, a Labour President of the Board of Trade was encouraging trade with South Africa and was saying in the House that if we stopped trading with countries with which we disagreed, we would soon be bankrupt. Perhaps the Opposition would wish to use a Supply day to refute the charge of humbug.

Mr. Biffen

I will try to give my hon. Friend as straight a reply as I can to a subtle question. I have to tell him that as things stand, if we are to go into recess on the date I have suggested, there will be no opportunity for a debate in Government time. Of course, there will be a recess Adjournment motion and the debates that arise from that. That may well give my hon. Friend the opportunity that he seeks.

Mr. Nicholas Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne, East)

Will the Leader of the House ask his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence to make a statement next week answering points I raised in the Defence Estimates debate on Tuesday 1 July, on a Standing Order No. 10 application on Thursday 3 July and in questions to the Prime Minister on Tuesday 8 July about why the Harland and Wolff design drawings for the AOR1 were said to have been comprehensively costed in April and are still being reviewed at the Ministry of Defence now?

Mr. Biffen

As I have previously acknowledged, the hon. Gentleman is a persuasive advocate on that matter. I shall refer the points that he has raised to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence.

Mr. Michael Latham (Rutland and Melton)

Has my right hon. Friend seen early-day motion 1094 in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey) about cement imports from Greece, on which Conservative Members saw the Minister for Housing, Urban Affairs and Construction this morning?

[That this House is gravely concerned about the damage that will be caused to both the United Kingdom cement industry and to employment by state subsidised cement imports from Greece; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to make urgent and strenuous representations to the EEC Commissioners to amend the transitional arrangements to prevent this dumping taking place.]

Is he aware that it is an extremely urgent and important matter on which we expect a statement from the Minister for Trade next week?

Mr. Biffen

I was aware of the motion to which my hon. Friend refers and of the exchanges that took place on the topic involving my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. As my hon. Friend will appreciate, it is a matter in which we are beholden, to some extent, to European Community commitments and institutions. However, I shall certainly pass on to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry the anxiety that there should be a statement.

Mr. Peter Hardy (Wentworth)

Did the Leader of the House tell us that we were to deal with Lords amendments to the Gas Bill late at night a week on Monday? Is that not an example of gracelessness, since I understand that the House of Lords has not yet finished consideration of that Bill? Might it not be taken amiss by their Lordships and would it not be entirely reasonable if they did feel that anger?

Mr. Biffen

The advice, which I am sure was most thoughtfully considered, may be based on a misapprehension. I would judge that we are likely to get on to that business at about 7 o'clock in the evening.

Mr. Cecil Franks (Barrow and Furness)

I am sure that my right hon. Friend is well aware of the grave disquiet, not only in the House but throughout the country, concerning allegations against the deputy chief constable of Manchester and his subsequent removal from the inquiry into Northern Ireland. Will my right hon. Friend accept that hon. Members understand the difficulties of the Home Secretary, the Attorney-General and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in making any comment on the matter since they are the ultimate appellate authorities for matters within their responsibility? Will he convey to his right hon. Friend that, if the Police Complaints Authority ultimately decides that there is no substance or validity to the allegations made against Mr. Stalker, it would be most convenient for those who have been culpable in making those allegations, if such an announcement of innocence were to be delayed until after 25 July when hon. Members will not have the opportunity to raise the matter in the House?

Mr. Biffen

My hon. Friend has put those points to me previously. I am sure that he will appreciate that I cannot, very helpfully, go beyond what I said last week. I shall certainly put the point that he has raised to my right hon. Friends for whom it is relevant.

Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East)

Is the Leader of the House aware that if he is looking for someone to disagree with the 25 July recess date I will be the one? Apart from 4 million people on unintentional permanent holiday who are unemployed, most workers in this country get no more than four or five weeks holiday a year. If the arcane procedures of this place were brought into the latter half of the 20th century there would be a case for Members of Parliament having a similar length of holiday to workers in the rest of the country. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is not a holiday."] It is for Tory Members.

We should have that length of holiday if for no other reason than that, in this case, it would enable us to question the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary following the Commonwealth conference in August about why she is not prepared to implement economic sanctions against the apartheid regime in South Africa. We could then monitor the progress of those trade union organisations gearing themselves up in the next few weeks to implement such sanctions.

Mr. Biffen

The hon. Gentleman puts a lively point of view. I must most profoundly disagree with the proposition that the recess is analogous to a holiday. When I fought Coventry, East in the 1950s, that was a good apprenticeship. I lost nobly, I might say; Richard Crossman increased his majority. Let me tell the hon. Gentleman that I learnt many things. One was the hard work done by Maurice Edelman, Richard Crossman and Elaine Burton in that city during the recess. They would not have thought of that as a holiday. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not cast aspersions to the effect that he is surrounded in the House by a mob that is about to decamp to the south of France.

Sir Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)

As we are moving into the marching season in Northern Ireland, when the House of Commons will not be in session, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he has seen the call by one hon. Member of the House that the Royal Ulster Constabulary should do less than its duty in policing the march at Portadown next weekend, and the call of another hon. Member that a statutory body, the Police Federation for Northern Ireland, should actively fight against the Anglo-Irish agreement? Will my right hon. Friend make sure that, before the House rises, the Secretary of State has an opportunity to make it clear that it is a criminal offence for a Member of the House or any other citizen to seek to procure the disaffection of a police officer, that it is the duty of every police officer to uphold the law without malice or affection and with fear or favour to none, and that no hon. Member can get outside of those obligations?

Mr. Biffen

My hon. Friend raises a particularly effective point at this time in the affairs of the Province. I believe that there is a widespread if not universal desire in the House to applaud the bravery of the Royal Ulster Constabulary in carrying out one of the most invidious tasks that could befall any civilian police force. I understand that initially the points that my hon. Friend raised are matters for consideration by the police, but I shall certainly draw the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to them, so that he may consider them.

Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)

When can the House have the chance to debate the competence of the British Rail midland region management, where services and maintenance have disastrously declined over the past few years and which, on the motto "We're getting there," managed to produce the timetable for the Birmingham-Paddington services, due on 12 May, on 10 July?

Mr. Biffen

Last week it was the hon. Gentleman's gastronomy that was adversely affected—

Mr. Faulds

Only briefly.

Mr. Biffen

It has to be briefly; I rather treasure these exchanges. This week it is the hon. Gentleman's travel arrangements. I suggest that it could very well be a matter for consideration in the recess Adjournment debate, but in any case I shall refer the hon. Gentleman's point to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport.

Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith (Wealden)

Can my right hon. Friend tell us whether it would be wise of us to expect a debate on the Peacock report before the recess?

Mr. Biffen

It would be foolish virginity of the most remarkable condition.

Mr. Robert Parry (Liverpool, Riverside)

) I support the point raised by the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Latham) about the import of cement from Greece. I refer the Leader of the House to my early-day motion 1081.

[That this House, concerned at the increasing import of cement from Greece, the German Democratic Republic and Poland, which poses a threat to the United Kingdom cement industry and the stability of the home cement market, fears that over capacity, particularly in Greece, and further cheap imports will have a detrimental effect on jobs and investments; supports the Transport and General Workers' Union's special delegate conference on 21st July; and also calls upon Her Majesty's Government to take the necessary steps to protect the British cement industry and British working jobs.]

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that there is a special delegate meeting of the Transport and General Workers Union, which is concerned about the effects that those imports may have on the cement industry in Britain and British worker's jobs.

Mr. Biffen

I understand that the concern is not confined to just one side of the House. It goes across a wide spectrum. I cannot add to the reply that I have already given, but I shall see that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry knows of the interest.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Grantham)

The Leader of the House will be aware of the prolonged opposition that my constituents and I have levelled against a proposal to put low-level nuclear waste at Fulbeck airfield. I think that he will be aware that Fulbeck airfield was run by the Ministry of Defence, and that the original purpose for that has now ceased. Is the Leader of the House aware that many of my constituents believe that to use a former defence airfield for such a purpose is a breach of the principles enunciated by Sir Thomas Dugdale in the Crichel Down case at the time of his resignation? Will the Leader of the House take the opportunity to ensure that a senior Minister of the Crown tells the House whether the Crichel Down principle, as enunciated by Sir Thomas, still operates, or whether it has been abandoned?

Mr. Biffen

I shall pass on the request. I realise that my hon. Friend's constituency has a lively interest in the matter. I shall see what I can do to secure an answer for him.

Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West)

As the school holidays are approaching even faster than our own, and as schoolchildren will have even less to do than most hon. Members, will the right hon. Gentleman allow time for a debate on road safety in the absolute knowledge that a considerable number of children will be tragically killed on our roads during their holiday? Will he bear in mind tie carnage on the roads in constituencies, such as mine, that are being cut through the great estates, dividing the people who live on them, and causing a tremendous new danger to the children who play on them?

Mr. Biffen

The hon. and learned Gentleman will appreciate my difficulties about suggesting the availability of Government time. The hon. and learned Gentleman may have a chance to make the point on Monday of next week during transport questions.

Mr. Derek Spencer (Leicester, South)

My constituents who speculated in a vote for the alliance in the county council elections last year got their fingers badly burned when the rates were hoisted by 40 per cent. They are now horrified to learn that, apparently, the alliance stands for the dismantling of the multi-fibre arrangement, and that would cost thousands of jobs in my-constituency. Can we have an early debate, before the arrangement is renegotiated, so that those contemplating voting in the local government by-elections in my constituency in September know exactly what it will cost them to vote alliance this time?

Mr. Biffen

I shall gladly consider the question. A debate on the multi-fibre arrangement would demonstrate that not only was the alliance in favour of its dismantling, but that it carries its own seeds of discontent, because the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Smith) strongly agrees with the alliance policy.

Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse (Pontefract and Castleford)

I ask the Leader of the House whether he has had an opportunity to read early-day motion 1078.

[That this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government to provide time in Energy Efficiency Year for a debate in the House on energy efficiency; notes the Energy Committee's recommendation that such a debate would appropriately complement the extra-parliamentary activities being held during the year; and believes that the House is the appropriate forum for the Secretary of State for Energy to be held accountable for the level of success of the expensive 1986 campaign to promote energy efficiency by which he has set so much store.]

The early-day motion requests the Government to provide time for a debate on energy efficiency. Is the Leader of the House aware that the Select Committee on Energy recommended that such a debate would be complementary to the extra-parliamentary activities taking place? Does he think that the Secretary of State for Energy should be accountable to the House for activities during Energy Efficiency Year?

Mr. Biffen

I understand the point that the hon. Gentleman has made, especially in the context of it being Energy Efficiency Year. There is no prospect of a debate in Government time before we go into recess. Obviously, it could be considered in the overspill.

Mr. Jonathan Aitken (Thanet, South)

Can my right hon. Friend tell us more about the latest spot of bother on the Channel tunnel, and why it necessitates a surprise late-night debate during the coming week? Will he ensure that the motion that we debate on that occasion will be broad, so that we can discuss the latest disclosures in today's press reports that the Eurotunnel consortium has had to call an emergency board meeting, following advice it received from its financial advisers in the City of London that it is unable to raise even the first £200 million of equity for this amazingly successful £4 billion project?

Mr. Biffen

I am in no position to comment on the financial problems that my hon. Friend believes might exist. However, the motion will be tabled later today. It will invite the House to instruct the Select Committee on the Channel Tunnel Bill to consider suggestions by petitioners for alternative means of access and egress to the Folkestone terminal.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Will the Leader of the House revise his opinion about having a debate on South Africa, following his answer to the hon. Member for Cambridge, South-West (Sir A. Grant)? Such a debate could prove interesting. It would give us the opportunity to read out the names of all those 30-odd Tory Members of Parliament who are making money out of South Africa. It would enable the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Wrigglesworth) — a spokesman for the Social Democratic party—to explain that he is making money out of apartheid supported by Barclays bank. It would enable the Liberals and the Social Democrats to explain why they took £2,500 from General Accident, which is making money out of the alleyways in South Africa. Such a debate might lead those hon. Members, if they are concerned about the morality of apartheid, to say that they will give the money back. If the right hon. Gentleman has any problems in setting aside such a day, may I say that some of us are prepared to come here on the day of the wedding.

Mr. Biffen

Thank you very much. When the hon. Gentleman has stopped bending my ear, and as I have so little time available between now and the recess, may I discreetly and respectfully suggest that he bend the ears of his own Front Bench because there is a day and a half of Opposition time. I know the hon. Gentleman's difficulties—

Mr. Skinner

I am working on it.

Mr. Biffen

Good—keep working.

Mr. Peter Bruinvels (Leicester, East)

Following the suspicious circumstances surrounding the election of Mr. John Macreadie as general secretary of the Civil and Public Services Association and the allegation of vote rigging and intimidation, will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on employment and election for union office, as it is highly likely that a new election will be called by the Right wing, the moderates and the sensible members of the Civil Service? Is there not a need for a postal election, and therefore no intimidation, rather than a workplace election? Will my right hon. Friend provide time for such a debate?

Mr. Biffen

I think that my hon. Friend and the House generally will agree that the union is carrying out an inquiry. I should have thought that it would not necessarily be a bad thing to wait until the consequences are known.

Mr. D. E. Thomas (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales is still a member of the Government? Having confirmed that, will the right hon. Gentleman have a word with his colleague, if he sees him in Cabinet, and ask him whether he will make a statement to the House on the fundamental issue of the effect of radiation on sheepmeat in my constituency and in other parts of north and mid-Wales, as he is the only Minister with responsibility for agriculture who has not made a statement to the House on that subject?

Mr. Biffen

I am a little concerned that the hon. Gentleman is perhaps so caught up in the glorious countryside of Meirionnydd that he has not come to the House to realise that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales is a most effective Minister in Westminster and Whitehall and is fully in charge of affairs. I shall tell my right hon. Friend of the sad circumstances which seem to have overtaken the hon. Gentleman and ascertain whether there is any way in which he can remedy them.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough and Horncastle)

I notice that we are to have a debate on secretarial allowances. Perhaps alliance Members of Parliament need particular help in this respect in light of the remarkable amnesia recorded on the part of 2.5 million people. An opinion poll published this week shows that, although 26 per cent. of the population voted for the alliance last time, only 18.5 per cent. remember doing so.

Mr. Biffen

I would say with all my heart that we have enough on the agenda next week without introducing that topic.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

As one who has an abiding interest in safety at sea and related matters, I deplore the fact that there is not to be a debate on next week's boat race. After all, there is the important issue of the safety of participants in that race. I should like to declare a personal interest. With no consultation whatsoever, I have been placed in the same boat as the hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth (Mr. Dickens). With respect to the hon. Gentleman, I would suggest, on a fair amount of experience, that he constitutes a safety hazard on any vessel of less than 100 tonnes gross registered tonnage. I sincerely hope that an urgent constituency issue will take me away from the House next Wednesday.

Mr. Biffen

I understand the personal dilemma that confronts the hon. Gentleman. I can say only that he should use the usual channels with he utmost expedition to secure a clear undertaking on pairing. As to the wider issue—

Mr. Frank Cook (Stockton, North)

This is the silly season.

Mr. Biffen

I have no responsibility for what happens next Wednesday. The point raised by the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) is precisely one that could feature in the recess Adjournment debate.

Mr. John Browne (Winchester)

Does my right hon. Friend accept that there is a great problem in Winchester whereby central Government are calling for the building of 65,000 new homes in an area where there is insufficient local infrastructure to cope? The proposed buildings are far in excess of the number wished for by the local authorities. Does my right hon. Friend accept that this is a national problem in two respects? First, the decision grossly overrides locally expressed democracy. Secondly, it will divert valuable and much-needed resources from the north and midlands to an area where an excess number of these homes are being built. May we have a proper debate on that subject?

Mr. Biffen

I am afraid that I cannot offer a debate within the time scale that we are considering. I shall refer my hon. Friend's point to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, because it is the Department of the Environment which is capable of dealing with that problem.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of early-day motions 1043, 1049 and 1066 on the position in Chile?

[That this House, condemning the continuing oppression in Chile, expresses its full support for the working people of that unhappy country in their national strike on 2nd and 3rd July; and congratulates them on their courageous struggle for freedom and democracy.]

[That this House supports the objectives of the National Civic 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.]

[That this House is alarmed at the reports from Chile of police brutality, arrests and charges against the organisers of a national day's protest; and further calls on Her Majesty's Government to cease all military contact with Chile and to recall Her Majesty's Ambassador.]

Does not the right hon. Gentleman feel that it is essential that, before the end of this session, there is time for a full debate on Britain's relationships with Chile, on the use by the British military of Chilean bases as part of the Falklands enterprise and on the sale by British companies of arms to the Chilean Government, which are used to kill people on the streets of Santiago who are protesting against the military dictatorship which has overtaken that country?

Mr. Biffen

The hon. Gentleman thoughtfully sought a debate before the conclusion of this Session. Clearly, that subject could be considered when we come to the overspill, but it cannot feature in the business between now and the recess.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

I know how the Leader of the House felt when he lost in Coventry. In 1970, I lost by the odd 26,000 votes in East Grinstead. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the concern expressed by both sides of the House that, when next week we debate secretarial and clerical allowances, the House will he asked to break with the agreed formula? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that these additional resources are desperately needed by hon. Members on both sides of the House, especially those who represent inner-city constituencies where the problems can be weighed, there are so many of them? Is he aware also of the scurrilous allegations which have been made? Ian Aitken made one in the Guardian. If some hon. Members are not using their allowances as they should, why should not all the allowances be paid through the Fees Office? We desperately need that money. We need the resources to represent our constituents. When will we have the vote? On what shall we vote?

Mr. Biffen

Most of the hon. Gentleman's points relate to the general review of the secretarial allowance — [Interruption.] May I just answer this point? It must be well into July. The debate on the order will concern the uprating for the current year. The formula linkage has broken down because of restructuring.

Mr. Derek Fatchett (Leeds, Central)

Will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for the Secretary of State for Defence to make a statement so that vie can ascertain the progress of the Vickers bid for the royal ordnance factory in Leeds? Will the right hon. Gentleman ask his colleague to square any potential sale with previous statements which show the Government's commitment to privatise the ROF as a whole and not in part? In the same statement, will the Secretary of State for Defence guarantee that the sale will be in line with the Government's competition policy? That sale will result in there being only one tank producer in this country under private ownership, over which the Government would have no control. Is it not about time that the Government played the game squarely by the ROF employees in Leeds, not as they have done over the past month?

Mr. Biffen

I reject the remarks which surrounded the hon. Gentleman's central question. He asked me to request my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence to make a further statement on that matter. As the hon. Gentleman will appreciate, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence answered a private notice question on this matter only a short while ago. Of course, I will refer the hon. Gentleman's remarks to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

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

Can we have a debate on the regional reorganisation of the BBC? Is the Leader of the House aware that the BBC board has taken a most unpopular, unpalatable and unacceptable decision in the view of the northern region by moving Cumbria from the north of England into the north-west'? Is he aware that that decision has antagonised the whole of my electorate and the electorates of the hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean) and of my hon. Friends the Members for Carlisle (Mr. Lewis), for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) and others in the northern region? Even at this late stage, may we have a debate on this matter?

Mr. Biffen

I cannot comment upon the substance of the hon. Gentleman's remarks. However, if he is correct, it shows a remarkable lack of sensitivity on the part of the management of the BBC and that has been a matter of concern to many on the Conservative Benches for some time. I will examine the hon. Gentleman's points and see what time might be available later in the year.