HC Deb 20 November 1986 vol 105 cc693-704 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 24 NOVEMBER—Until about seven o'clock Second Reading of the Petroleum Bill.

Afterwards there will be a debate on a Government motion to take note of European documents in relation to Draft budgets of the European Communities for 1986 and 1987. Details of the documents concerned will be given in the Official Report.

TUESDAY 25 NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Coal Industry Bill.

Motion on Parliamentary Constituencies (Wales) (Miscellaneous Changes) Order 1986.

WEDNESDAY 26 NOVEMBER—Opposition day (1st Allotted Day). Until about seven o'clock there will be a debate entitled "The Effects of Bus Deregulation".

Afterwards there will be a debate entitled "The dispute at J E Hanger & Company Ltd". Both debates will arise on Opposition motions.

Motion on Suppression of Terrorism Act 1978 (Application of Provisions) (United States of America) Order.

There will be a debate on EC Document 4761/86 relating to Community action in the field of tourism.

THURSDAY 27 NOVEMBER — Second Reading of the Criminal Justice Bill.

FRIDAY 28 NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Banking Bill.

MONDAY 1 DECEMBER — Until about seven o'clock Second Reading of the Advanced Petroleum Revenue Tax Bill followed by Second Reading of the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads Bill.

[Debate on Monday 24 November (EC Budget)

Relevant European documents:

(a) 5484/86 Key figures for the 1987 Budget
(b) 7113/86 Preliminary Draft Supplementary and Amending Budget No. 1 1986
(c) 7068/86 Revised key figures for the 1987 Budget
(d) 7927/86 Preliminary Draft General Budget 1987
(e) 9192/86 Draft General Budget of European Communities for 1987
(f) 8877/86 Letter of Amendment to Preliminary Draft Budget al European Communities 1987
(g) Com(86)360 Letter of Amendment to the 1986 Budget
(h) 8876/86 Preliminary Draft Amending Budget No. 1 1986
(i) 8883/86 & ADD 1 Commission Communication on recent developments affecting 1986 Budget and 1987 Preliminary Draft Budget.

Relevant Reports of European Legislation Committee:

  1. (a) HC 21-xvi (1985–86) para 2
  2. 694
  3. (b)HC 21-xxiii (1985–86) para 2
  4. (c) HC 21-xxiv (1985–86 para 3
  5. (d) HC 21-xxvi (1985–86) para 1 & HC 272-ii (1985–85)
  6. (e) HC 21-xxvii (1985–86) para 7
  7. (f) HC 21-xxvii (1985–86) para 7
  8. (g) HC 21-xxvi (1985–86) para 4
  9. (h) HC 21-xxvii (1985–86) para 6
  10. (i) HC 21-xxvii (1985–86) para 6

Debate on Wednesday 26 November (Tourism)

Relevant European document:

(j) 4761/86 Tourism in the Community

Relevant Report of European Legislation Committee:

(j) HC 21-xxii (1985–86) para 2

Mr. Kinnock

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman.

The Secretary of State for Education and Science made a further intervention yesterday in his efforts to wreck the settlement agreed between the teachers and the employers in the course of last week. That intervention has led to a serious anxiety that the Government will try to impose a settlement with all the awful consequences for education. Will the Leader of the House ensure that the Secretary of State for Education and Science makes a statement as quickly as possible giving an undertaking not to make such a destructive imposition?

As the House will not have an opportunity to debate the outcome of the Government's review of student support for some months, will the right hon. Gentleman now make time available for a debate on the urgent needs of all students in higher education?

When are we likely to have the rate support grant statement?

There is considerable anger about the substantial cut that has been made in Arts Council funding. When will the House have an opportunity to debate that matter which affects so many parts of Britain?

In the light of the Prime Minister's confused statement yesterday in the Financial Times interview, in which she implied support for a merger between the Ford Motor Company and the Rover Group and, therefore, a virtual end to British-owned car production, will the Leader of the House ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to make an early statement in order to confirm or deny what the Prime Minister seemed to be saying yesterday?

Finally, I ask the Leader of the House, as a man of rectitude, how many more cases of insider trading we must have to convince the Government that self-regulation in the City is absolutely no answer? Will he accept that he will have our full co-operation if the Government, even at this late stage, bring forward legislation to set up a proper statutory agency to restore law and order in the dealings in the City? Will he make Government time available for a debate on an issue which truly shows the ugly and unacceptable face of the system?

Mr. Biffen

I shall take those six points in the order in which the right hon. Gentleman presented them.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not mind my describing as wholly tendentious his description of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science in seeking to secure a reasonable taxpayers' presence in what is being debated in the educational world. My right hon. Friend has said from the outset that he would make a statement at the most appropriate moment, and I stand by his remarks.

As to the second point, it might be helpful if we tried, through the usual channels, to secure a debate on student support.

The timing of the rate support grant statement will be broadly similar to what happens normally in these matters, but I take account of what the right hon. Gentleman has said.

I realise that Arts Council funding is a matter of public interest, although I suspect that our economic and social fabric will withstand some of the things that now seem to terrorise the council. My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts will be answering questions on Monday, so perhaps that will provide an early opportunity for this matter to be raised.

A statement is not necessary to dispose of the self-induced misunderstanding of what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said about the relationship between British Leyland and Ford, but as ever, in generosity, I shall refer the right hon. Gentleman's anxieties to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.

The House has just enacted wide-ranging and profound legislation, the Financial Services Act, and the system is a combination of both statute and self-regulation. This matter will quite properly be monitored by the House. I take account of what the right hon. Gentleman says, but I can see no prospect of a debate next week.

Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne)

In the absence of devolved government in Northern Ireland, does my right hon. Friend consider that it is satisfactory that we should legislate for Great Britain by the conventional Bill procedure but that we should legislate for Northern Ireland by Order in Council, unamendable and frequently late at night?

Mr. Biffen

That has been the practice in the fairly recent past and, in all candour, I can see no likelihood of its being altered in the balance of this Parliament.

Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill)

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with the provision in the new Criminal Justice Bill whereby social security claimants will have their fines deducted at source? Is this provision to be made available to the rest of the community? Will there be a statement on the reduction of £4 million in the budget of the Public Health Laboratory Service, which conflicts with the Secretary of State's avowed claim that the Government will do all that they can to combat AIDS?

Mr. Biffen

I shall refer both points to those of my right hon. Friends who are responsible for the legislation.

Sir Ian Percival (Southport)

I ask my right hon. Friend about early-day motion 35.

[That this House congratulates and thanks all those whose efforts contributed to the prevention of the hideous crime planned, executed and so nearly effected by Nezar Hindawi, and to his conviction; recognises the existence of international gangs who are prepared to commit mass murder in pursuit of their objectives and that the maximum penalty permitted by law of life imprisonment does not appear to be a sufficient deterrent; believes that fresh consideration should be given to extending the death penalty, now limited to crimes of treason and piracy; and asks the Leader of the House to give time for these matters to be debated.]

I know that he will wish to see how many Members support it before making a decision, and he may know that the number has already reached 150, although not all the names are on the Order Paper. I know that my right hon. Friend will not try to fob us off by suggesting that we raise these matters on the Criminal Justice Bill. Will he keep in mind the fact that hon. Members have signed the motion not to go over matters that the House has often debated, but to discuss capital punishment in the context of the hideous villainy of international gangs and the increased risks to which our people are subjected as disclosed by the Hindawi case?

Mr. Biffen

It was my right hon. and learned Friend who referred to the Criminal Justice Bill. I hope, therefore, that he will not be too distasteful about the possibility of using that Bill as a means of ventilating the very subject that concerns him — always, obviously, subject to the judgment of the Chair. I cannot encourage my right hon. and learned Friend to think that the Government will make specific time available for a debate on this topic when there are other possibilities.

Mr. Jack Ashley (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

Is the Leader of the House aware that last week hundreds of parents of very severely disabled children lobbied Parliament because they want conductive education for their children? The system of conductive education has been proved in Hungary to enable some children to walk who have never walked before. As we do not have conductive education in Britain, many of these parents are going to Hungary in a desperate attempt to get help for their children. May we have a debate on that subject next week, please?

Mr. Biffen

Of course I shall bear in mind the right hon. Gentleman's request, but I cannot offer a debate next week.

Sir John Biggs-Davison (Epping Forest)

Quite apart from the somewhat acrimonious exchanges at Question Time on the Birmingham bombings, about which I am not fully informed, has my right hon. Friend studied early-day motion 67, which has been newly tabled with all-party sponsorship?

[That this House notes the doubt felt in both Houses of Parliament by two former Home Secretaries, by Lords Devlin and Scarman, by the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, by the Editor of The Times newspaper, by other respected observers and by members of the public who have viewed various television programmes on the matter, as to whether those accused in the Guildford and Maguire explosive cases were justly convicted, despite confirmation of their conviction by the Court of Appeal; urges the Secretary of State for the Home Department, in the interests of the highest standards of British justice, of which this country needs to feel rightly proud, to move forthwith for the appointment of a public inquiry presided over by an independent figure of legal standing, to be assisted by one or more lay assessors of relevant qualifications; and would deplore any further delay, since several of those convicted are still in prison.]

In view of the widespread all-party concern, may we have an interim statement—perhaps next week?

Mr. Biffen

I admire my hon. Friend's courteous persistence in these matters. Of course I shall draw the attention of my right hon. Friend to his request.

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

In the light of the unsuitability of the two vessels that have been chosen to police the Falkland islands fisheries zone, would it not make good sense to hold an early debate on the management of the Falkland islands fisheries zone and the larger questions concerned?

Mr. Biffen

I cannot accept the premise of that request. However, the hon. Gentleman might like to raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Sir Ian Lloyd (Havant)

My right hon. Friend will doubtless be aware of the growing and widespread interest, both inside and outside the House, in the question of scientific and technical advice to Parliament. Is there any possibility of the House having a debate on the subject before the end of the year?

Mr. Biffen

I shall bear in mind my hon. Friend's point. However, there are many pressures on Government time in this phase of the parliamentary year, as he will understand from the business that I have just announced, when we are trying to secure the Second Reading of as many Bills as possible.

Dr. Jeremy Bray (Motherwell, South)

Will the Leader of the House say what progress he is making in his inquiries into the case for an office of technology assessment? Tomorrow the House is to debate a very important issue, AIDS, upon which the House and the public have the greatest need for the most balanced and up-to-date scientific and technological advice.

Mr. Biffen

The hon. Gentleman is perfectly right when he says that that is a requirement for tomorrow's debate. I believe that those agencies that are advising the House are doing so in good faith and on a comprehensive basis. They do not necessarily need the facility that the hon. Gentleman is championing.

Sir Trevor Skeet (Bedfordshire, North)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, so far as an office of technology assessment is concerned, we are in a unique position in the United Kingdom, in that still no advice is provided for Members of Parliament? Will he bear in mind that an Adjournment debate would be quite unsatisfactory? Therefore, will he give Government time for a proper discussion of this matter?

Mr. Biffen

I must say in all charity to my hon. Friend that I do not think he enhances his case by suggesting that this is, on the whole, an uninformed House of Commons. In my view, the debates in this place are conducted on the necessary information that is available, linked to the passion and the enthusiasm that must go with it. The debates will lose if they are drowned in a mass of technical gobbledegook.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)


Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)


Mr. Speaker

Mr. Andrew Faulds.

Mr. Banks

You always choose my hon. Friend, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Faulds

I am so glad that you have some sense of priorities, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Banks

It is agism.

Mr. Faulds

Well, it may be agism, but I am an elder statesman and I deserve it. In view of the appalling and declining standards of British Rail performance in some of the regions of Britain, and particularly between Paddington and Birmingham, are the Government prepared to give time to my impending ten-minute Bill which will require British Rail management at all levels to travel to work on whatever British Rail services are available?

Mr. Biffen

It sounds like a fascinating prospective piece of legislation, but superficially I would judge it to be hybrid.

Mr. Michael Latham (Rutland and Melton)

In view of Monday's debate on what is laughingly called the Community budget, and in view of the possibility of further cuts in milk quotas, will my right hon. Friend impress upon the Minister of Agriculture the need to come to the House and say that this is not an opportune time to ask milk producers to pay £90 for basic inspections?

Mr. Biffen

I shall certainly pass that message to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture.

Mr. Tony Banks

May I draw to the attention of the Leader of the House my early-day motion 76?

[That this House calls upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Governor of the Bank of England to alter the guidelines in respect of the depiction of currency which are being used against artists; demands that the 18 works by six artists seized by the police in a raid on the Young Unknowns Gallery on 31st October be returned to the artists; and believes that, in the interest of artistic freedom, the threat of legal action by the Bank of England against the artist Stephen Boggs for infringement of the guidelines be dropped forthwith.]

The Leader of the House will see from the motion that 18 works by six artists were seized by the police because they depicted currency and offended the guidelines issued by the Bank of England. Will he arrange for an early debate of the arts as requested by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition so that we can discuss this new threat to artistic freedom?

Mr. Biffen

I have speedily acquainted myself with the terms of the motion. I realise it will be of widespread interest to the House, hut, given the difficulties of time at this phase of the year, I refer the hon. Gentleman to arts questions on Monday.

Mr. Jonathan Aitken (Thanet, South)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many hon. Members have long held the view that some form of parliamentary oversight is desirable on the activities of past and present members of the security services? Is he further aware that support for this view must have increased as a result of the evidence given by Sir Robert Armstrong in the Australian courts? Will he ensure that at the appropriate time there is a debate on the relationship between Parliament and the security services?

Mr. Biffen

My hon. Friend constructively adds the condition, "at the appropriate time". Of course, there may be a time when this matter can be further considered.

Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)

Will the Leader of the House be prepared to meet a deputation from the Opposition parties to consider the Government's legislative proposals for the financing of local government in Scotland which appear to be designed to take control over local authorities in Scotland away from Scotland?

Mr. Biffen

The hon. Gentleman, perhaps because of a little inexperience, is suggesting that a sort of demarche operates through the usual channels. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like to test the temperature of the usual channels. If he does, I shall see how things turn out.

Mr. Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)

As the Lawnmowers (Harmonisation of Noise Emission Standards) Regulations which were laid before the House on 28 October create an entirely new offence with a penalty of £1,000, as they will create a lot of new public servants whose job will be to test lawnmowers, and as it gives the Board of Trade the power to break into people's property to check the noise of their lawnmowers, does my right hon. Friend agree that the least we should have is a debate on this matter, even after 10 o'clock, as requested in a prayer signed by several hon. Members?

Mr. Biffen

I am sure that my hon. Friend has touched upon one of those developing measures which underline the enthusiasm, the zeal and the eternal unity of the European Community. There are well established procedures for debating these various documents, and I hope that my hon. Friend will try to secure a debate through those procedures.

Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East)

Is the Leader of the House aware that high-ranking British Army officers, including the commanding officer of 2 Para, Lieutenant-Colonel David Parker, were invited to address the conference organised by a CIA sponsored commercial organisation in London at the beginning of this month? That was revealed in this week's Militant newspaper. Will the Leader of the House explain how, at the Dispatch Box, the Prime Minister can denounce terrorism, when this conference was organised two weeks ago to discuss supporting terrorist operations against the Governments of Nicaragua, Mozambique and Angola'? Will the Secretary of State for Defence make a statement to explain the Government's hypocrisy?

Mr. Biffen

I was unaware of all of those things, which I fear reflects the fact that I would make rather pedestrian company.

Mr. Patrick Nicholls (Teignbridge)

Will my right hon. Friend consider initiating a debate on the legal implications of people who resign their elective offices prematurely? Is he aware that, of five Liberal councillors who were elected to the district council in Teignbridge at the last district council election, two have resigned completely, two have joined the Conservative party, and the one who remains has been suspended by the Liberal party organisation for putting the interests of his constituents before those of his party'? Will my right hon. Friend find it in his heart to refuse a debate on the implications of that, bearing in mind that there are local council by-elections pending in which people will want to consider the advisability or otherwise of electing Liberal councillors?

Mr. Biffen

Clearly, a most powerful subject is emerging. It should command the attention of the House. I regret to say that this has happened with such speed and so recently that we have been unable to accommodate it in the business for next week, but I shall certainly bear in mind what my hon. Friend has said.

Mr. Willie W. Hamilton (Fife, Central)

The Leader of the House may know that the Secretary of State for Social Services said that he will supply information to Opposition Members or to any other Members who are interested in tomorrow's debate on AIDS. I have been to our Whips' Office. There is no information whatever from the DHSS, and no information is forthcoming from the Scottish Office on this matter. Will the right hon. Gentleman contact those two Departments and ensure that the information is available to hon. Members who are interested in this matter?

Mr. Biffen

I shall most certainly look into that matter.

Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)

I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the question by the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) on early-day motion 76 about the problem of artists' depiction of currency. I also refer to the fact that the House and the public are concerned about the receipt of currency by artists. I was the only person to raise the matter of the arts during the debate on the Loyal Address. More than a Question Time involving the Minister for the Arts is required. The country would value a debate in the near future on funding of the arts.

Mr. Biffen

I note what my hon. Friend has said. I shall bear in mind his request, which I am certain will be echoed by many others as the weeks go by. At this stage of the Session, a large number of Bills have to be launched on their legislative process.

Mr. Ted Leadbitter (Hartlepool)

Will the Leader of the House bear in mind that, without exemption, hon. Members are concerned about the problems that pensioners face during the winter months? We are deeply concerned about the manner in which fuel allowances are dealt with and administered. Without being critical of either the Government or the Department, may I ask whether it is possible for the Minister to make a statement so that the House might determine how best to direct our attention to this problem so that speedy efforts can be applied, money benefits can be placed in pensioners' hands at the right time, and some dangers avoided?

Mr. Biffen

The range of subjects covered by the hon. Gentleman's question go much wider than a mere statement. As we have just concluded a debate on the Queen's Speech, obviously I cannot hold out much hope of another debate upon the topic, but I take account of what he says.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

Following the important question of my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken), will my right hon. Friend seriously consider the possibility of a very select committee on intelligence, constituted by senior Privy Councillors, since Government spokesmen of successive Governments seem in these matters to be, if not deliberately misleading, economical of the truth? Will my right hon. Friend give this matter the attention it deserves. If the House does not, quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Mr. Biffen

Even if we cannot have the arts, we can have confidence in my hon. Friend. His point has been considered by the House from time to time. The appointment of a Select Committee will be a matter for the House. I cannot go beyond the answer I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken).

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

In view of the suggestions by two Conservative Members today, perhaps the long-running farce in Australia will have served some purpose if, at the end of it all, there is some parliamentary scrutiny of the security services, which was demanded when certain matters were debated earlier in the year. When the case in Australia is finished, will there be a statement by the Home Secretary or the Attorney-General?

Mr. Biffen

I totally repudiate the hon. Gentleman's description of the court proceedings in Australia. As to his second question, I shall bear in mind his request.

Mr. Jerry Hayes (Harlow)

No doubt, my right hon. friend has carefully scrutinised early-day motion 56, which has been signed by hon. Members of all parties.

[That this House deplores the clearly stated policy of the holiday company Owners Abroad of refusing to correspond with honourable Members about constituents complaints regarding holidays taken with the company.]

I am sure that my right hon. Friend appreciates that in a few weeks many of our constituents will be taking and booking holidays. Will he take every opportunity to consider initiating a debate on this subject so that we can protect our constituents who will be ripped off by disreputable and perhaps arrogant and incompetent companies such as Owners Abroad?

Mr. Biffen

Whatever one may feel about the practice, clearly few hon. Members would applaud what the company is doing, but the Government have no responsibility for its actions.

Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West)

Is there any prospect of a debate on the allegation that 17 people now living in this country are guilty of major war crimes? In particular, will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Home Secretary and the Attorney-General whether they propose to make statements about the allegations against Mr. Antanas Gaykas of Edinburgh, which were carried in the Scottish press and which, so far as I know, were absolutely correct, that he was commander of a unit of Lithuanian battalions directly involved in the annihilation and mass murder of thousands of civilians in Lithuania and Byelorussia?

Mr. Biffen

I can offer no prospect of a debate on that topic but, of course, I shall mention that point to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. Indeed, he has been in his place and will have heard the allegation.

Mr. Tony Baldry (Banbury)

When considering the allocation of days to debating private Members' motions, will my right hon. Friend consider the fact that, if one studies the Order Paper, looks at the early-day motions and listens to a number of points of order raised by the Opposition, it is clear—

Dr. Godman

The hon. Gentleman has his hands in his pockets.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member may put his hands in his pockets if he likes.

Mr. Baldry

I am always grateful for your protection, Mr. Speaker. Is it not therefore clear that many Opposition Members live in the total fantasy world of a conspiracy theory and that life to them is one whole conspiracy theory? May we have some days to debate private Members' motions which are devoted to the Opposition to argue their conspiracy theories at will among themselves and allow the rest of us to get on with living in the real world? Perhaps special days could be allocated to them, such as saints' days—for example, St. Jude the Obscure?

Mr. Biffen

I think that the slightly fragile nature of life within the parliamentary Labour party accounts for some of the anxiety that borders on conspiracy. I agree that there is not much that parliamentary debate can do to resolve that. However, I should have thought that the more open the argument was, the better it would be for the rest of us.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

Will the Leader of the House arrange for a special debate to be held next week, or as early as possible, on the operation of the new visa requirements for visitors to Britain from the subcontinent, and from Nigeria and Ghana? Will he also arrange for some consideration of the cases of those who have been held in this country for more than one month since they tried to come to Britain as visitors on 10, 11 and 12 October? I refer to Mr. Kadir Mia, who is being held in West Lavington detention centre, Mr. Sultan Mia, and Mr. Mohammed Masuk Mia. They all came to Britain as honest visitors, yet they have been treated as criminals and are now apparently to be deported.

Will the Leader of the House also ensure that those who were wrongly removed from Britain after Members of Parliament had made interventions will have their fares paid so that they can enjoy the visit that they had anticipated and can be treated properly?

Mr. Biffen

I understand that the new visa arrangements are proceeding broadly satisfactorily, and that 95 per cent. of visas are processed within 24 hours.

Mr. Corbyn

They have been in prison.

Mr. Biffen

It is all very well for the hon. Gentleman to shout at me, but that will not alter my mind. I am trying to point out that I do not believe that there is any prospect of a debate on the matter. However, the hon. Gentleman has raised several points involving individuals, and I suggest that he should try his luck with an Adjournment debate.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I shall call the four hon. Members who have been rising in their places.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

Will my right hon. Friend arrange for an early debate on the situation in which my constituent, Miss Maureen McGoldrick, finds herself? I visited her last night and she is under more stress than she should be. Once again, she finds herself facing a disciplinary investigation by the Labour-controlled Brent council after being exonerated by her board of governors from charges of racism. That decision was upheld twice in the courts. Is it not a total disgrace that she should continue to be hounded by that Left-wing Labour authority, and that no Opposition Member should denounce it for so doing?

Mr. Biffen

My hon. Friend has raised an issue that has received wide publicity, and I am sure that there is general concern in the House, at least among Conservative Members, about what seems to be the present state of affairs. I cannot hold out the prospect of a debate in Government time, but I very much hope that my hon. Friend will be able to raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Mr. Rob Hayward (Kingswood)

Further to the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway), may we have a full debate on extremism in local government? In my constituency, an avowed Marxist represents the Labour party on Bristol city council, and his wife is now standing as a Labour party candidate for the neighbouring ward. Presumably she is also a Marxist.

Mr. Biffen

Important though the topic is, it is simply not feasible to offer Government time for such a debate. However, there are many other opportunities to raise the matter, and I wish my hon. Friend success in that regard.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough and Horncastle)

Following the Leader of the Opposition's remarks, may we have an early debate that will reassure the House that there are no zealots lurking deep within the Conservative Government who want to increase public spending by £28 billion a year resulting in the largest ever tax increase in our history, no zealots who want to indulge in one-sided disarmament tactics, and no zealots who want to prevent the largest ever number of ordinary people from buying shares? Alternatively, does my right hon. Friend think that the Leader of the Opposition should look for zealots on his own Front Bench before looking at the loony Left councils that his party controls?

Mr. Biffen

The reference to zealots within the Conservative Government has me confused. I am hoping that my hon. Friend will, therefore, correct the Official Report so that I can then make my response. But on Conservative Benches there is a sense of balance and a desire to judge all these matters in a practical and unideological way, thus striking a natural chord with the British public in total contrast to the zealots that the Leader of the Opposition sees rising up in the city halls and urban centres, and which will eventually swamp the Labour party.

Mr. Peter Bruinvels (Leicester, East)

Does my right hon. Friend share my concern at the continuing misuse by Labour councils of ratepayers' money, which is spent on political and partisan propaganda? Should not something be done quickly, particularly as Leicester city council is now advertising in the Labour Party Weekly for jobs with the chief executive? When will the local government Bill come before the House? Will it contain provisions affecting such propaganda? Will it give more effective control over the allocation of inner area programme funds? Much of that money is deliberately sent to Labour party organisations within councils such as Leicester.

Mr. Biffen

As I listened to my hon. Friend's abominable indictment and reflected on the inevitably rather measured processes of government, I realised that my hon. Friend, who is a man of speedy decisions, was outlining a subject that was suitable for someone who had come third in the ballot.