HC Deb 05 June 1986 vol 98 cc1087-98 3.31 pm
Mr. Neil Kinnock (Islwyn)

May I ask the Leader of the House to state the business for next week?

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

Yes, Sir. The business of the House will be as follows:

MONDAY 9 JUNE—Remaining stages of the National Health Service (Amendment) Bill.

Resolutions relating to the Finance Bill

TUESDAY 10 JUNE—Second Reading of the Education Bill [Lords].

Motion on the Appropriation (No. 2) (Northern Ireland) Order.

WEDNESDAY 11 JUNE—Until about seven o'clock motions on orders and regulations relating to the uprating of social security benefits and other related matters. Details will be given in the Official Report.

Progress on remaining stages of the Financial Services Bill.

Second Reading of the Latent Damage Bill [Lords].

Remaining stages of the Crown Agents (Amendments) Bill.

THURSDAY 12 JUNE—Completion of remaining stages of the Financial Services Bill.

Motion on the Patronage (Benefices) Measure.

FRIDAY 13 JUNE—There will be a debate on enterprise and deregulation on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

MONDAY I6 JUNE—Opposition Day (15th Allotted Day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion, the subject for debate to be announced.

Wednesday 11 June:

Social Security Orders and Regulations

Motions on:

Social Security Benefits Uprating Order 1986

Supplementary Benefit Uprating Regulations 1986

Family Income Supplements (Computation) Regulations 1986

Child Benefit (Uprating) Regulations 1986

Pensioners' Lump Sum Payments Order 1986 Motion relating to:

Housing Benefits Amendment (No. 2) Regulations 1986]

Mr. Kinnock

Can the Leader of the House assure us that the Education Bill, when it comes before the House, will be subject to the Special Standing Committee procedure?

When there have been so many justified demands from all parts of the House for a debate on the crisis in the tin mining industry and the effect of closures on the mining communities in Cornwall, why has not the right hon. Gentleman been able to find time for a debate? Can he give me an undertaking that he will arrange for such a debate in Government time in the near future in view of the widespread concern about the matter?

Can we look forward to having in the near future the frequently requested debate on foreign affairs and will the Government give two days for such a debate in view of the very wide range of subjects that now need consideration in the House? Meanwhile, in view of Mr. Le Grange's new banning orders in South Africa and the draconian legislation now before the so-called tricameral Parliament, can we look forward to a statement next week from the Government that will commit them to direct support for comprehensive sanctions by the Commonwealth?

Will the right hon. Gentleman approach the Foreign Secretary to make a statement next week about what the Government will be doing to put pressure on the United States Government to prevent the abandonment of the SALT II agreement?

Why are the Government apparently coy about making a formal announcement of the Prime Minister's appointment of Mr. Richard Branson as litter supremo? Will the Leader of the House ensure that the Secretary of State for the Environment makes an early statement about what is clearly a major Government initiative on garbage?

Mr. Biffen

To respond to the points that the Leader of the Opposition has just raised in the order in which they were put, I must confess that the Education Bill has had considerable treatment in the other place. None the less, I shall take account of the request for the Special Standing Committee procedure which perhaps can be examined through the usual channels.

As for the tin industry, of course I join with the right hon. Gentleman in acknowledging the seriousness of the matter, particularly in the context of Cornwall. The Government have now been able to comment upon the observations of the Select Committee and I agree that it would be appropriate to have a debate in the reasonably near future. Again, we can consider that through the usual channels.

I very much hope that in my next business statement I shall be able to announce a foreign affairs debate, although perhaps the duration might be considered. Meanwhile, I note that the right hon. Gentleman would like a statement from my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary on the possibility of sanctions against South Africa. I shall certainly refer that point to my right hon. and learned Friend, as well as the interest that the right hon. Gentleman has shown in the SALT II agreement. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will acknowledge that fairly soon we should have a debate upon the defence White Paper when the matter will be relevant.

I note the right hon. Gentleman's interest in the question of Mr. Branson's appointment. I shall see that his remarks are faithfully conveyed to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.

Mr. Terence Higgins (Worthing)

Is it not important that the House should have an early opportunity to debate public expenditure priorities and to express a view on matters such as overseas aid, the rate support grant, the Health Service and so on in advance of decisions being taken rather than waiting until next March when it will be able to comment only on what has effectively become a fait accompli?

Mr. Biffen

My right hon. Friend makes a pertinent point. Certainly it is a highly topical issue and one that is central to the conduct of economic policy. It is perhaps something that we could look at through the usual channels.

Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Ealing, Southall)

When are we likely to debate the EEC orders affecting drivers' hours? I understand that the Opposition will pray against them. They are out today. Can the right hon. Gentleman say when they are likely to come before the House?

Mr. Biffen

No, I cannot, but I shall look into the matter and be in touch with the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Jim Spicer (Dorset, West)

May I ask the advice of my right hon. Friend? There has always been in my experience an established code of conduct for hon. Members when they are abroad. Would this be an appropriate moment for my right hon. Friend to draw the attention of all hon. Members to that code of conduct and to ask that they comply with it? We cannot do it retrospectively, but perhaps it can apply to the recess.

Mr. Biffen

I think that I am being invited to tread in somewhat dangerous territory. These are matters essentially for self-regulation. The standards of the past would be a good guide for future conduct.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

I note that the Leader of the House has said that there is likely to be a foreign affairs debate in the near future. Allowing for the fact that that would probably be a wide-ranging debate, does he not think that there is a need for a specific debate on East-West relations, particularly in the light of the visit to the Soviet Union recently by a parliamentary delegation and of the possible breakdown of the SALT II agreement? Further, is there a possibility of a debate on the recent decision of NATO Ministers on the manufacture and deployment of chemical weapons?

Mr. Biffen

No; I have to disappoint the hon. Gentleman. Our foreign affairs debates are normally drawn in such a way as to enable a wide-ranging debate because inevitably various topics are legitimately at issue on those occasions. As the hon. Gentleman will have heard, I have suggested that the forthcoming debate upon the defence White Paper will be an occasion when the SALT II issue can be further considered.

Sir Kenneth Lewis (Stamford and Spalding)

As the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has suggested that the Northern Ireland Assembly might be done away with in the near future, will my right hon. Friend arrange a debate prior to that in the hope that it will encourage some Northern Ireland Members to come to the House, contribute to the debate and listen to what is said?

Mr. Biffen

In no way would it be proper for me to interpret what the Chair would judge to be in order. However, the second item of business for next Tuesday—the Appropriation (No. 2) (Northern Ireland) Order—might provide an opportunity for my hon. Friend to make a speech.

Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley)

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is a great tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) that Government Members will tonight filibuster on the Channel Tunnel Bill to block his debate tomorrow? Does not that prove conclusively that the Prime Minister has a great deal to hide on the issues that my hon. Friend wishes to raise?

Mr. Biffen

I have every confidence and every reason to believe that this evening's debate will be conducted fully within order.

Mr. Derek Conway (Shrewsbury and Atcham)

Will the House have the opportunity next week to consider early-day motion 899 in the name of the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown)?

[That this House recognises the severe hardship and financial distress, which can amount to personal bankruptcy, suffered by individual, frequently small farmers in the South West upon whose land the Peace Convoy has chosen to encamp; believes that individual rights and livelihoods are being threatened, the public peace jeopardised and the police placed in an impossible position by the inadequacy of the present law of trespass, which can take seven days or more and cost individuals £3,000 in legal fees to enforce; recognises that the Department of the Environment has consistently fudged its responsibilities and refused to help county councils to define theirs towards the peace convoys, leaving individual land owners to cope with problems they will not shoulder; and calls on the Government to seek to amend the prespass law immediately to ensure that it can be enacted quickly and effectively in a way which protects property and preserves the peace; and asks the Department of the Environment to undertake an urgent study into the Peace Convoy phenomenon with a view to providing adequate facilities which allows those on the Convoy to pursue their life style in a way which does not impinge on the rights of others and assists county councils and the police to cope with this problem.]

If we have the opportunity to discuss the motion, which calls for the establishment of official hippy sites, does my right hon. Friend anticipate that something unique in this House will happen—that the Liberal party will come off the fence and tell us in which constituencies it expects to have such sites established and whether any of them will be in the county of Shropshire?

Mr. Biffen

I fear that such is the pressure of constructive Government business that there is no time available for what I am sure would be a highly instructive debate on the topic referred to by my hon. Friend. However, that does not prevent the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) from finding his own way of enlightening us all—whether we live in rural Shropshire or the west country—about which treasured areas may be chosen for the sites.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Does the Leader of the House recollect that some weeks ago, with his normal courtesy, he said that he would try to find time for a debate on the report of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs on the events of 1 and 2 May? Does he anticipate being able to fulfil that?

Mr. Biffen

I am not in a position to make any further statements this afternoon, but I shall further consider the hon. Gentleman's point.

Mr. John Heddle (Mid-Staffordshire)

Can my right hon. Friend find time, at the earliest opportunity, to debate job prospects in Staffordshire, and especially those of employees in my constituency who work in the old-established and British firm of Wedgwood, which plays such a part in the affairs of this House and the other place?

Will my right hon. Friend direct his attention to early-day motion 901 standing in my name and those of other hon. Members?

[That this House views with great concern the hostile takeover bid for Wedgwood by the London International Group plc; fears that this could have serious implications for Wedgwood' s 8,000 employees, predominantly in North Staffordshire, and many thousands more whose livelihood depends on the company in a part of the country already suffering badly from high unemployment; is concerned that Wedgwood' s worldwide reputation as the leading United Kingdom manufacturer of ceramic products synonymous with quality will be at risk if it is absorbed into a conglomerate whose management and marketing expertise has been based on contraceptives, rubber gloves, toiletries, photographic processing and medicine before their acquisition of Wedgwood Spode only eighteen months ago; believes that the combination of Wedgwood and Worcester Spode would produce a share of the total market which should be examined; and strongly urges the Secretary of State to refer the bid to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission.]

Will he find time to debate whether the bid that has been made for that old-established British company, which has an international order book and an international reputation, should be referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission?

Mr. Biffen

May I dare to offer a few words of friendly advice to my hon. Friend? I would argue that Wedgwood is sufficiently a national institution that its fortunes in employment and other economic activities fall well within the terms of the motion set down for Friday.

Mr. Michael J. Martin (Glasgow, Springburn)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I was fortunate enough to secure the Adjournment debate last night on the rundown or closure of British Rail Engineering Limited workshops in Springburn? Is he further aware of the reply by the Minister of State, Department of Transport, about the exclusion of members of the press from those works—although they were allowed into other works facing the same difficulties? The Minister said that they were denied access on Thursday 29 May because 40 journalists wanted a tour of the factory.

I was at the works that day with the secretary and deputy chairman of the Scottish TUC. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that only four journalists were seeking access to the premises. Is it not a fact, therefore, that those in the nationalised industries are telling lies to Ministers and misleading the House? Can steps be taken to ensure that those responsible for our nationalised industries keep Ministers properly informed?

Mr. Biffen

I have a feeling that this is something like an extension of the Adjournment debate. I can best help the hon. Gentleman by referring his remarks to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that people throughout Staffordshire are outraged at the thought that the tradition of Wedgwood should be rudely interrupted by the makers of contraceptive sheaths? Will he please ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to make a statement on Government policy on the reference to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission next week in the debate to which he referred?

Mr. Biffen

I understand that the matter is with the Office of Fair Trading. I will try to help my hon. Friend by saying that a motion on enterprise and deregulation might cover the activities of Wedgwood and its present position. Meanwhile, I will certainly refer my hon. Friend's remarks to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.

Mr. Peter Shore (Bethnal Green and Stepney)

In view of the organised conspiracy to wipe out tomorrow's debate in which the Prime Minister's conduct on many matters would be subject to the full scrutiny of the House, does not the right hon. Gentleman think that he has an obligation to come to the House today with a revised statement on the business for the rest of the week?

Mr. Biffen

No, I do not. We will simply have to see how matters proceed this evening.

Mr. Nigel Forman (Carshalton and Wallington)

Following the question of my right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins), is my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House aware that many Conservative Members would appreciate a full-scale debate, broadly drawn, on the subject of public expenditure so that we could examine the priorities within public spending and the relationship between inputs and outputs and the balance between public expenditure and tax cuts? Will he give that matter serious consideration?

Mr. Biffen

I understand my hon. Friend's point and I accept that it is legitimate. However, at this time of the year we must assess what time is available for general debates.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

Is the Leader of the House aware that many hon. Members wish to take part in the debate on foreign affairs which he hinted at a few moments ago? In those circumstances, does he agree that it would be appropriate for it to be a two-day debate so that all recent world events could be fully debated?

Mr. Biffen

The Leader of the Opposition has already put that point to me. It would probably be a courtesy if I were to confine my remarks to what I have already said to him.

Mr. Derek Spencer (Leicester, South)

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the anxiety expressed recently by the judiciary and others about the impact of parole on short sentences? It means that, when a defendant is sentenced to between 10 and 18 months, he serves only a period of six months irrespective of the sentence involved. May we have an early statement from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department to allay suspicion that parole is not working adequately to protect the public and is undermining the independence of the judiciary?

Mr. Biffen

I will certainly refer that point to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.

Mr. Michael Foot (Blaenau Gwent)

As the Leader of the House apparently washes his hands of the charge that there is any possibility that he or the Government Front Bench is implicated in the attempt to destroy tomorrow's private Members' business, will he give us an absolute undertaking that, if it appears tonight that tomorrow's business may be destroyed, he will introduce a simple motion reinstating that business, as it is open to him to do? A day could be chosen next week for that business. If the right hon. Gentleman is not prepared to give that undertaking, are we not entitled to draw the deduction that he is party to the conspiracy?

Mr. Biffen

I can only tell the right hon. Gentleman that his affectation of innocence is most charming in these circumstances. It is extraordinary to suggest that the Government should find time for a motion drawn in such offensive terms against my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

Mr. Richard Holt (Langbaurgh)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, despite having two Cabinet Ministers with responsibility for employment, the Government recently made changes in the employment transfer scheme which are detrimental to the people in the north of England as opposed to those in the south? That is yet another of the matters which bring about the divide. Will he find time to allow someone in the Government to bring the matter to the House rather than issuing the news through a press release as that is not the way to run the country?

Mr. Biffen

I take careful account of what my hon. Friend says and I shall certainly refer his remarks to my right hon. and learned Friend the Paymaster General.

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

Has the Leader of the House had time to read the comprehensive report of the Public Accounts Committee on defence matters which deals with Aish and Company Ltd. of Poole and Mr. Jim Smith, the man who laid his job on the line to whistle-blow and report excess profits by that company to the Ministry of Defence? Will he ensure that a Minister comes to the Dispatch Box to deal with the question of compensation which the Public Accounts Committee has indentified as important in so far as it believes that Mr. Smith should be compensated for the stand which he took?

Mr. Biffen

I have not undertaken the reading referred to by the hon. Gentleman, but I have probably done even better; I have read the article in The Guardian today containing a commentary on it and a photograph of himself. As he will appreciate, the matter will now go for consideration by the Government and our next best bet is to await the Government's response to the report of the Public Accounts Committee.

Mr. John Browne (Winchester)

Will my right hon. Friend accept that one of the key elements in the maintenance of law and order is that the public should not be tempted to take the law into their own hands? Does he agree that the present civil law on trespass is proving woefully inadequate against modern abuse, particularly in respect of the removal of offenders from property and the inability of people who have been wronged and lost their livelihoods to obtain compensation? Surely the issue must be the subject of an urgent debate.

Mr. Biffen

My hon. Friend makes a point which faithfully echoes the deep anxiety and sense of resentment which the hippy train has aroused in the rural parts of our country, but I remind him that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister commented in particular upon that point earlier this afternoon and there is nothing that I want to add to her statement.

Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West)

In view of the Government's refusal to permit access to a series of documents in the Public Record Office which have been there for some 40 years and which refer to the death of British prisoners and, presumably, to Kurt Waldheim's connection therewith, may we have a debate on the practices and procedures by which this or any other Government are entitled to withhold documents from the public? I and the House understand why documents of current military, intelligence or security interest have to be kept away from the public, but documents that are 40 years old cannot have that interest. In those circumstances who was responsible for taking that decision and to whom is he or she accountable for it?

Mr. Biffen

As the hon. and learned Gentleman knows, we have been in correspondence on this matter and I do not accept the general tenor of his comments. There is no prospect of a debate in Government time on this matter, but I suggest that he might like to consider this as being a legitimate matter for an Adjournment debate. Meanwhile, I shall refer his remarks to my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary.

Mr. Gerald Howarth (Cannock and Burntwood)

May I seek the advice of my right hon. Friend? Is he aware of the rumour that at 9.30 tomorrow morning, in a Committee Room, a Member of the House will deliver a turgid 50-page indictment against the most honourable Prime Minister that we have had, certainly since Winston Churchill? Will that turgid rubbish enjoy the same privilege as any statement made on the Floor of the House?

Mr. Biffen

I am not aware of any such arrangements and I have not been consulted about them, but I can say to my hon. Friend that the question of what determines privilege is more appropriate for Mr. Speaker than for myself.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Will the Leader of the House make arrangements with the Home Secretary to consider the workings of the Representation of the People Act 1981 as it applies to recent by-elections, particularly that in West Derbyshire? For instance, is he aware that during the course of that election the leader of the Liberal party was flying about in a helicopter which cost a considerable amount of money and would almost certainly have violated the total amount that could have been spent in a by-election? Such a practice in a general election is regarded as sound because party leaders have to travel all over the country and cannot attribute those expenses to one constituency party, but in a by-election the consideration must be entirely different. Although suggestions have been made that use of the helicopter was free, does not the Leader of the House consider that its use could not be permitted under the Representation of the People Act, given the transport costs that it allows?

Mr. Biffen

I am not sure that I have any competence to answer that question. Therefore, I would rather say that I have noted what has been said and I shall refer it to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.

Mr. Tim Yeo (Suffolk, South)

In the light of the understandable and reasonable requests made by right hon. and hon. Friends for a debate in which public expenditure priorities can be examined, will my right hon. Friend undertake that if such a debate takes place the motion will be couched in terms broad enough to examine taxation policy? That will allow a demonstration of the clear statistical fact that the 18 million workers on average or below average earnings, with whom the Prime Minister is properly concerned, would benefit substantially more by an increase in tax thresholds than by a cut in the basic rate of income tax.

Mr. Biffen

I note what my hon. Friend says. Any chance of the debate requested by my right hon. Friend the member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) still remains a twinkle in the eye. However, if the debate took place, I should have thought that my hon. Friend's point would be argued, irrespective of the terms of the motion.

Mr. Frank Cook (Stockton, North)

Notwithstanding the Leader of the House's inability to respond positively to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), I am sure that he would agree that the management of the business of the House is a task which requires great experience, even greater skill and guile, some might almost say cunning, and that other hon. Members have seen it practised in this Chamber with an unfailing degree of humour of late. Will the Leader of the House tell us who he has in mind to shoulder such an onerous burden when, in the run-up to a general election, he is required by his party to replace the Prime Minister?

Mr. Biffen

I have not the cunning, guile or humour to answer that question.

Mr. Tony Fayell (Stockport)

Is my right hon. Friend able to say whether the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will be making a statement to the House on the future of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the attitude of the Northern Ireland political parties towards the Assembly, especially the Social Democratic and Labour party? Is he aware that many people who support the Anglo-Irish agreement are totally bewildered, indeed, angry, as to why members of the SDLP have not yet taken their seats in the Assembly?

Mr. Biffen

I understand my hon. Friend's point. I shall refer it to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland so that if he does have any plans on the topic of the Assembly he will know of the interest that they should be reported to the House.

Mr. Peter Bruinvels (Leicester, East)

Although the postal workers in the Yorkshire area may have settled their differences with the Post Office, does my right hon. Friend think that it is time that we had a debate on the operation of an unfair monopoly by the Post Office in order to allow in private enterprise to speed up the postal service and deliveries and give businesses some true encouragement?

Secondly, does my right hon. Friend think that it is time we looked again at the Church of England, especially the House of Bishops' pronouncement on "The Nature of Christian Belief', in which some doubtful ideas on doctrine and on the virgin birth are put forward?

Mr. Biffen

I would not in any sense wish to anticipate the ruling of the Chair, but why not try the Patronage (Benefices) Measure, which I do not think will be the most over-subscribed item of business next week? The question of deregulation of the Post Office is a topical matter of great general concern. My hon. Friend might like to consider whether that could be part of a speech he might wish to make during the debate on deregulation next Friday.

Mr. Eric Forth (Mid-Worcestershire)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Channel tunnel is a matter of widespread and understandable concern to many hon. Members? Therefore, will he accept that any debate on matters relating to the Channel tunnel must necessarily be detailed and lengthy? Therefore, does he agree that, if Opposition Members are unhappy about the conduct of tonight's business and any effect it may have on tomorrow's business, they should be here in strength throughout the night in order to move closure motions and express their disgust by their physical presence as well as verbally this afternoon?

Mr. Biffen

I am sure that hon. Friend is right to argue that the Channel Tunnel Bill is major legislation, and the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) made that point most graphically on Tuesday when we were having a late, as usual, debate on that topic. I do not think that I can comment beyond that. The conduct of the debate and the rules of order are matters for the Chair.

Mr. Jerry Hayes (Harlow)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the time is ripe for a full-blooded debate on Britain's independent nuclear deterrent so that the Liberal party and the SDP can sit down quietly and ponder the debate? In the end, they may have one or two ideas for the embarrassing policy that they are now presenting.

Mr. Biffen

I agree that there is a desire in the country that there should be a debate in the House so that all those who are seeking a mandate at the next general election can make clear where they stand on membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the nuclear dimension of that organisation and what is meant by it. My only regret is that, compelling though the reasons for such a debate are, I cannot find Government time for it soon. I suggest that my hon. Friend reserves his fire for the debate that we shall be having on the defence White Paper.

Mr. Kinnock

I put it to the right hon. Gentleman, following the question from the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth), that it is not the conduct of tonight's debate that concerns us but the possible misconduct against a private Member in tomorrow's business. The Leader of the House said earlier that he was confident that tonight's business would be within order. I share his confidence. but does he have the same view about tomorrow's business?

Mr. Biffen

We shall have to wait and see how we go.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In the exchanges on business a point has emerged on which I hope that you can give us some help and protection. It concerns tomorrow's business and the motion for debate to be introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell). The Leader of the House said that he found the motion offensive. That is his opinion. However, it would be offensive to the House as a whole, and certainly to the Labour party, if my hon. Friend, who won a place in the ballot, had no opportunity to move his motion because of an organised plot by the Conservative party to deny him his right.

It is often said—it is almost a cliché—that you, Mr. Speaker, are the defender of the rights of Back Benchers. The chances of a Back Bencher winning a ballot for a motion are not high. My hon. Friend has been very fortunate. Should his opportunity be destroyed because the terms of his motion are disapproved of — obviously strongly — by the Government, is there any way in which the interests of my hon. Friend can be protected, because he has as much right to move his motion, having won the ballot, as has any other Member? Why should his right be taken away because the Leader of the House, the Prime Minister and the rest of the Cabinet do not want the motion?

Sir Kenneth Lewis (Stamford and Spalding)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. According to the press, the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), instead of having a debate in the House, is considering having a press conference. Would it not help the House, you and everyone else if the hon. Member carried on with his press conference and withdrew the motion, and then we could all get on without any problem?

Mr. Gerald Howarth

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker——

Mr. Speaker

Order. Is this a genuine point of order?

Mr. Howarth

It is a genuine point of order Mr. Speaker, otherwise I would not raise it. Is it not an abuse of the House that a private Member's motion is used effectively as a confidence motion against the Prime Minister? More importantly, you will have heard during business questions that I raised with my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House the question whether a speech delivered in a Committee, purporting to make accusations against an individual, enjoys the same privilege as it enjoys on the Floor of the House. The hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick I knows more about such intimidation than anybody else.

Mr. Foot

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. would it not be perfectly possible for provision to be made so that the rights of my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), who won a place in the ballot, can be protected? Members who win in the ballot have the right to choose the subject that they bring before the House. The rest of the House has an interest in protecting that right.

Is it not the case that, if it appeared that the House was being delayed by discussions continuing at considerable length tonight and tomorrow morning, it would be open to the Leader of the House to take an action that would protect both that business and the rights of the hon. Member who had won the ballot? When it appeared that the debate would continue and destroy Friday's business, could not the right hon. Gentleman move a motion that the House should have leave to sit again to debate this important matter, which the House wishes to discuss in considerable detail? Therefore, if the Leader of the House does not take such action, it will be by his decision that the rights of a private Member are destroyed.

Mr. Biffen

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will you also confirm that it is equally open either to the right hon. Gentleman or to any other Member to move a motion for leave to sit again?

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is the absolute right of any Member who wins a place in the ballot to put down a subject for debate, provided that it is in order, as this motion was, and for him to move it. Whether the debate takes place is in the hands of the House, and hon. Members will have noticed that at 10 o'clock there is the Business of the House motion. If that is not passed, the proceedings will not go on until any hour. It is entirely a matter for the House and not for me.

Mr. Winnick

In the exchanges that have occurred since I raised my point of order, I understood—if I am wrong I shall not pursue the matter—that the hon. Member for Cannock and Burntwood (Mr. Howarth) said that I knew more about intimidation than anybod) else. If he made such a remark, it should be withdrawn.

Mr. Speaker

I did not hear that.

Mr. Gerald Howarth

I clearly said that. The hon. Member for Walsall, North, is well known in the House for his verbal intimidation of hon. Members.

Mr. Speaker

Order. In the interests of good order, will the hon. Gentleman please withdraw the allegation?

Mr. Howarth

As I recognise that you are a gentleman of honour and expect high standards in the House, Mr. Speaker, I shall withdraw the allegation. However, will you answer my earlier question about whether remarks made in a Committee Room enjoy the privilege of remarks made in the Chamber?

Mr. Speaker

I make it clear that remarks made at a private meeting, and not in the Chamber, are not protected by privilege. The only remarks that are protected are those made outside the Chamber in Committees of the House as part of the proceedings of Parliament.