HC Deb 03 December 1987 vol 123 cc1123-34 4.40 pm
The Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Wakeham)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement about the business for next week.

MONDAY 7 DECEMBER—Second Reading of the Health and Medicines Bill. Motion on the British Film Fund Agency (Dissolution) Order.

At ten o'clock the House will be asked to agree the Civil and Defence Votes on Account and the Winter Supplementary Estimates.

TUESDAY 8 DECEMBER — Motion for the Christmas Adjournment.

Proceedings on the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill.

WEDNESDAY 9 DECEMBER—Motion on the Rate Support Grant Report (England) 1988–89 (HC No. 163)

Afterwards a debate on EC documents relating to fisheries arrangements for 1988. Details will be given in the Official Report.

THURSDAY 10 DECEMBER — Remaining stages of the Arms Control and Disarmament (Privileges and Immunities) Bill.

Motions on the Parliamentary Constituencies (England) (Miscellaneous Changes) (No. 3) and (No. 4) Orders.

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

FRIDAY 11 DECEMBER—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY 14 DECEMBER—Until Seven o'clock, Private Members' motions, followed by progress on remaining stages of the Local Government Bill.

The House will wish to know that it is proposed that, subject to the progress of business, the House should rise for the Christmas Adjournment on Friday 18 December, until Monday 11 January.

Debate on Wednesday 9 December:

Relevant European Community Documents:
(a) 6388/87 Market in fishery products
(b) 9585/87 Fish guide prices
(c) Unnumbered Fisheries: Total allowable catches and quotas 1988
(d) Unnumbered Reciprocal fisheries agreement with Norway 1988

Relevant Reports of European Legislation Committee

  1. (a) HC 43-i (1987–88), para 5
  2. (b)HC 43-vi (1987–88), para 2
  3. (c)HC 43-viii (1987–88), para 5
  4. (d)HC 43-viii (1987–88), para 6.

Mr. Neil Kinnock (Islwyn)

Arising from the statement on the British steel industry, the announcement of results was clearly a tribute to the efforts and sacrifices of workers and management, past and present, but the announcement of future privatisation was an insult to those people and the general public without whom we would not have a steel industry of any description in Britain. Before the legislation comes forward, will the Leader of the House ensure that we have a full debate on the strategy of the British steel industry, so that the House, the general public and steel communities can get a much clearer idea of what BSC and the Government propose for the industry in Scotland, Wales and England? It was not evident from the statement that we have just heard.

After the exchanges in the House last night on the future of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs, I am sure that the Leader of the House will agree that it will be highly unsatisfactory if the issue is not debated on the Floor of the House before the House goes into recess for Christmas. Will he assure us that there will be such a debate?

Will the Leader of the House arrange for an early and comprehensive statement to the House on severe weather payments? There is a great need to take early action, for pensioners and others will be at risk as the weather gets much colder over the next six weeks or so.

A month ago, I pointed out to the Leader of the House that, through the operation of their mean and clumsy local government finance policies, the Government are trying to make a profit out of the aid provided to regions that have to meet the large and unavoidable costs that arose from the storm damage in October. The right hon. Gentleman will have now seen the letter to the Secretary of State for the Environment from the chief executive of the London borough of Barnet, which includes the Prime Minister's constituency. That letter shows that the Treasury has profited to the extent of £70,000 on every £100,000 that has been spent by the council on repairing storm damage and that ratepayers will have to find £170,000 for every £100,000 that is actually used for repairs. The chief executive said: It is quite wrong that the Treasury should profit from a public catastrophe. Does the Leader of the House accept that principle? Will he now arrange for a debate to examine what must have been just about the most barefaced con trick in the lifetime of a Government who have made a speciality of sharp practice?

Will the Leader of the House confirm that, despite their stubborn and undemocratic refusal to provide proper time to debate the Education Reform Bill this week, the Government will change their ways and allow at least two full days for the Second Reading debate on the poll tax Bill?

Also on the poll tax Bill, when will the regulations setting out the income levels for the operation of any poll tax rebate be published? Clearly, it is essential — [Interruption.] Shut up! [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow), who is sitting below the Gangway, is one of the biggest ignoramuses in the House.

Mr. Marlow

Get on with it, red-headed windbag.

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Kinnock

He constantly disrupts the business of the House.

Mr. Marlow

Get on with the question, you twerp.

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is unseemly to shout from a sedentary position like that. I call the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Kinnock

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

On the subject of the poll tax, can the right hon. Gentleman tell the House when we will have the regulations setting out the income levels for the operation of any rebate system that is to be operated under the poll tax Act? It is a matter of considerable importance. Clearly, rates and abatements will be of considerable importance to all hon. Members when they consider whether to support the Bill.

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House when the Welsh rate support grant will be announced to the House?

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

No. I shall take points of order afterwards.

Mr. Wakeham

The Leader of the Opposition asked me six questions. I cannot promise him an additional debate on British Steel, but my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said that legislation would be introduced after Christmas. I have no doubt that such matters will be debated considerably in the House in the months to come.

The right hon. Gentleman asked me about the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs. I am pleased that the majority of Select Committees were established at a late hour last night. The Committee of Selection hopes to reach a conclusion on the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs at its meeting on Wednesday. When the Committee of Selection has reached a conclusion, I shall arrange for a debate to take place before Christmas, if that is the wish of the House.

With regard to severe weather payments, I cannot offer the right hon. Gentleman a debate or a statement. Of course, this Government established the first properly based scheme of cash help during exceptionally cold weather. In 1985–86 expenditure on heating additions alone was about £430 million, £140 million more in real terms than was spent in 1978–79.

With regard to storm damage, the right hon. Gentleman could not have read or heard what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment said yesterday. He did not accept the allegations that were made by the gentleman to whom the right hon. Gentleman referred.

The Local Government Finance Bill will be published tomorrow. I shall certainly consider the right hon. Gentleman's request for a two-day Second Reading debate, and will arrange for that matter to be further discussed through the usual channels, I hope with a positive result.

I recognise the importance of rebates. I shall refer the matter to the Secretary of State to see whether the regulations can be published as soon as possible.

I shall arrange for the Welsh statement to be made next week.

Mr. Timothy Raison (Aylesbury)

My right hon. Friend gave a fairly encouraging response to the request for a two-day debate on the Local Government Finance Bill. It is not only on the Opposition side but on the Government side of the House that there is a strong feeling that we need two days to debate such an important measure.

Mr. Wakeham

I certainly accept my right hon. Friend's point.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

There is anxiety on this Bench that the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs should be set up. We would welcome a debate on the matter before the House goes into recess for Christmas.

Surely the Leader of the House is aware of all hon. Members' concern about the developing tragedy in Ethiopia. When the crisis arose two years ago, Her Majesty's Government responded in terms of support from the Royal Air Force and by making intervention food available. Is it possible to have a statement next week on what steps Her Majesty's Government are taking to relieve the crisis in Ethiopia?

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise the importance of the matter and the concern felt on both sides of the House. I shall certainly refer the matter to my right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development, and he will have to decide when it is appropriate to make any statement, if it should be helpful to do so.

Mr. Malcolm Thornton (Crosby)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the vast majority of hon. Members of all parties who wished to speak on the Education Reform Bill on Tuesday were disappointed? Will he give urgent consideration not only to giving an extra day for debates of that magnitude, but to having an early debate on giving the Chair the power to limit speeches to 10 minutes in such debates? That would give hon. Members of all parties an opportunity to participate.

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise the force of what my hon. Friend has said and we shall see what we can do about it.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Mr. Andrew Faulds.

Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)

Undeserved, Sir.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the incompetence of British Telecom percolates into even these premises? Does he realise that we spent some millions of pounds on a new telephone system two or three years ago but that I am having frequent experience of malfunctioning—[Laughter.] — the telephone system is malfunctioning when I attempt to ring in to this building. The other day, having waited five minutes for a call into the building, I got a recorded message saying that nobody was available to answer it. Does he further understand that, when I raised this with the telephone supervisor, she claimed no knowledge of the existence of such a recording? I have written to the Serjeant at Arms to seek his advice on this matter but I think that the Leader of the House has some responsibility to inquire into why this extremely expensive, newly installed equipment is so extremely unsatisfactory.

Mr. Wakeham

I shall certainly do my best to help the hon. Gentleman with the malfunctioning of the telephone system, but other things are beyond me. I shall have a word with the Serjeant at Arms about the reply that will go to the hon. Gentleman. If there is anything further that I can do, I shall assist him, because I recognise the inconvenience.

Mr. Michael Marshall (Arundel)

Does my right hon. Friend think that there will be an opportunity to discuss British investment in Japan before we rise for Christmas? Does he accept that that is a timely question, given the welcome announcement earlier this week of the Japanese Government's agreement to accept Cable and Wireless's investment in an international telecommunications development as a result of representations made not only by Ministers but by many hon. Members of all parties?

Mr. Wakeham

I should have thought that that would be an excellent subject for the Christmas Adjournment debate or for the proceedings after the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill on Tuesday.

Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)

Will the Leader of the House reflect a little on his answer to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition about the setting-up of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs? We accept in good faith his statement about a debate, but he is not unaware that there is no great veil of secrecy concerning the usual channels. If we accept the strictures made last night by the hon. Member for Shipley (Sir M. Fox), the Chairman of the Committee of Selection, that the Government must have a majority on the Committee, that means that five Government Members must serve on it. We have already had statements from one who will not serve and another whose responsibility for serving will be undermined by the statement that he will destroy the Select Committee.

It is all very well for the Leader of the House to promise a debate on that, but what assurances will he give us that he will use his good offices through the Government Chief Whip to ensure that the Committee is set up, because its malfunction and non-existence is an affront to the people of Scotland who require the Select Committee to examine the functions of the Executive and Administration in Scotland?

Mr. Wakeham

The usual channels are not unaware of the problems, and have sometimes, but not always, achieved solutions to them. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman accepts that we shall do our best to find a solution. We can certainly have a debate on it, and the House must make the ultimate decision.

Mr. Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross)

In view of the anxieties about education, will my right hon. Friend arrange a one-hour debate, preferably in Opposition time, on the concept of brevity in the use of language, which would undoubtedly assist the Leader of the Opposition to assist the House?

Mr. Wakeham

If it would not inconvenience my hon. and learned Friend, the Christmas Adjournment or the proceedings after the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill might accommodate a speech from him on that point.

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

Is the Leader of the House aware that I have heard reports that a settlement of the dispute about Opren, the drug that caused so much damage to so many people, is imminent? However, the settlement will be for only £2.75 million for 1,500 severely disabled people. If the settlement goes through, it will be scandalous, because on average the money received will be £2,000 for each person. Indeed, the whole sum is less than one person got in America and is less than the lawyers will receive for conducting the case. Could we please have a statement next week, and could the Minister for Health intervene to press the company to give a fair, just and proper settlement rather than this niggardly and despicable imposition on gravely disabled people?

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise the right hon. Gentleman's continuing concern about such matters. Obviously, I cannot say anything about that issue, but I shall ensure that the right hon. Gentleman's concern is conveyed to my hon. Friend the Minister for Health.

Mr. Michael Fallon (Darlington)

Will my right hon. Friend reconsider last week's call for a debate on the workings of the usual channels, following the seventh resignation of an Opposition Whip in six months? Will he recommend to his right hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary either the secondment of a Government Whip to help sort out the Opposition office or the recruitment of a special adviser such as Lord Cairns?

Mr. Wakeham

That applies to hon. Members of all parties. I hope that we shall be able to continue the usual channels. I do not believe that it is best to deal with this in public.

Mr. Dennis Canavan (Falkirk, West)

May we have a statement next week about the composition of the Cabinet, in view of today's press reports that the Secretary of State for Scotland may be shifted to the job of Secretary of State for Social Services and that a member of the House of Lords may take over as governor-general of Scotland? Will the Leader of the House tell the Prime Minister that such an appointment from the other place would treat with absolute contempt the vast majority of people in Scotland who rejected the Government at the ballot box and who want a devolved Parliament instead of being ruled by the dispirited remnants of the Scottish Tory aristocracy?

Mr. Wakeham

Cutting out the flowery part of that question, I advise the hon. Gentleman that I shall not arrange a statement next week about the composition of the Cabinet. If any of the rumours that I have heard are in any way connected with the health of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services, I can advise the House that he is considerably better. He is now at home, is making good progress and hopes to be back here soon.

Mr. Andrew Mac-Kay (Berkshire, East)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, for some considerable time, many of us have received representations from companies and individuals in our constituencies who are frustrated by the postal service? Bearing in mind the present threatened dispute at Christmas, is it not time that we had a debate so that we can make it clear that we do not want just to suspend the monopoly of the Post Office, but to break it once and for all?

Mr. Harry Ewing (Falkirk, East)

I hope that your postman reads that.

Mr. Wakeham

My hon. Friend raises an important point, but at present I do not believe that a debate on that subject would be helpful. The two sides are still talking. We hope that good sense will prevail and that a sensible settlement is reached so that the threat of disruption to the Christmas mail is lifted.

Mr. Alistair Darling (Edinburgh, Central)

Has the Leader of the House seen early-day motion 404 about the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh which I and 33 of my right hon. and hon. Friends have signed?

[That this House expresses extreme concern at the findings of the Medical Executive Committee of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, which illustrate the consequences of failing to provide sufficient funding of vital upgrading work at the hospital; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to ensure that Lothian Health Board is provided with the necessary funding to avoid the dire consequences of failing to take action on the projects detailed in the report.]

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider a new style of debate, in which I will readily concede that the health board has made available £400,000 of new money, provided that the Minister will admit that £7 million to £8 million is needed to make that world-famous teaching hospital fit for the 1980s, and provided that the Minister will also accept that the crisis that is predicted in that hospital has been predicted not by politicians but by the medical staff who work there and know what is going on in the hospital?

Mr. Wakeham

I have seen the early-day motion to which the hon. Gentleman has referred. The Lothian health board is spending £18.5 million this financial year on the priorities that it has identified for improving or rebuilding its hospitals. That represents about 20 per cent, of the capital resources that are available to health boards in Scotland. The board is examining further new developments, including the replacement of the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, and is working closely with the medical executive committee and the local management to identify short to medium-term expenditure priorities at the Royal Infirmary.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

Would my right hon. Friend find time for a debate to enable me to raise points coming to me from many constituents and, I know, to colleagues with constituents in a similar position on the subject of Labour councils which have contributed money from their pension funds to News on Sunday which has totally collapsed, with the consequent loss of their money? Since these Labour councils, certainly in the case of Ealing, were advised that it was illegal to make such payments — £250,000 in this case — ought not this matter to be debated by the House as a means of looking after those people, many of them very poor, whose money has been taken from them by this means?

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise that this is an important matter. I hope that my hon. Friend will find an opportunity to raise it in one of the debates on Tuesday, either on the Christmas Adjournment motion or in the proceedings after the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill.

Mr. Brian Wilson (Cunninghame, North)

Will the Leader of the House consult early-day motion 319?

[That a Select Committee of an agreed number of honourable Members be established to examine the current state of sport in Britain, the adequacy and deployment of its resources, its competitiveness at home and abroad, the facilities which it provides for both participants and spectators, its investment requirements, Government support, sponsorship, and promotion as well as any current or requested legislative change; and that the Committee be empowered to take evidence and report to the House from time to time.]

Will he consider the possibility of setting up a Select Committee on sport? In the meantime, would he make available an opportunity for a major debate on the state of British sport, including such topical matters as the increasing tendency towards sponsorship of sport by breweries? Would he agree that this is a matter of considerable public concern which extends beyond sport into wider aspects of society?

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise that sport is an important subject and that it is right from time to time to have debates on it in the House. As I have already indicated to one of my hon. Friends, I am looking for a time which might be available for such a debate.

As regards Select Committees, it is, of course, the Select Committee on the Environment that covers sport, in so far as it is one of the departmental Select Committees. It would be quite a major change, which the House would have to consider very carefully, if we were to change from the departmental Select Committees that were set up to cover all Departments and start increasing the number of specialist Select Committees, as the hon. Gentleman suggests. I would be interested in other views on that, but it would need a lot of consideration before we did it.

Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent)

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the increasing anger in parts of the country like my own, where parliamentary representation is, and has been for a considerable time, 100 per cent. Conservative, at the extraordinary antics of members of the Labour party who purport to believe that they have some kind of special mandate in Scotland, which not only allows them to take up a great deal of the time of the House in political posturing, but, if persisted in, will merely confirm the fact that the party of which they are such a vociferous part has no chance whatever of forming the Government of the United Kingdom?

Mr. Wakeham

The essentially bogus nature of the so-called Scottish mandate has been exposed many limes in the House in recent weeks.

Mr. Alan Meale (Mansfield)

Will the Leader of the House find time before the recess to discuss the topic of British Coal housing? In Nottinghamshire, over 3,000 people are currently facing the privatisation of their homes. Contrary to what is being said in statements by British Coal, it is not always the case that the sitting tenant is allowed to buy in these circumstances. British Coal is currently refusing to accept an offer of over £7 million, put together by a consortium of housing associations. It is vital that this matter is discussed in an attempt to offer these people security in their old age, particularly before Christmas and before the cold winter sets in.

Mr. Wakeham

I have a feeling that the main responsibility for the matters with which the hon. Gentleman is concerned lies, with British Coal, but if he were to seek to raise it on the Christmas Adjournment motion or in the proceedings after the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill I have no doubt that he would get an answer.

Mr. Michael Latham (Rutland and Melton)

Will my right hon. Friend look at early-day motion 331 in my name and that of hon. Members on all sides about the deplorable publication Holocaust News?

[That this House views with repugnance the publication, Holocaust News, the aim of which is to deny the events of the Holocaust as "lies, exaggeration and preposterous tales," which have been "perpetrated by Zionist-Jewry's stunning propaganda machine"; considers its nation-wide distribution to schools, local councils, private addresses, honourable Members and many others as a clear attempt to stir up racial hatred contrary to the Public Order Act 1986; and urgently calls upon the Government to take appropriate action.]

Will he accept from me that I have now sent to the Solicitor-General counsel's opinion which suggests that there is a very strong case for the prosecution of this document? Will he arrange for the Attorney-General to make a statement to the House next week?

Mr. Wakeham

The Government regard this type of publication, which attempts to distort history, as wholly repugnant. The decision on whether a prosecution could be brought under section 19 of the Public Order Act 1986 is one for the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Law Officers, not the Government. I understand that the prosecuting authorities have considered this publication and have decided that there is no basis for prosecution under section 19. I will, however, refer my hon. Friend's comments to my right hon. and learned Friend.

Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North)

Will the Leader of the House remain in his place after business questions and listen to the debate on the Public Accounts Committee's reports and any recommendations arising there from which relate to keeping Government expenditure under scrutiny?

Will he also consider the Procedure Committee report relating to the dates of recesses and allow Members to know well in advance, particularly for the summer recess, when the House will rise and resume?

When will the right hon. Gentleman be able to set up the Select Committee on Procedure?

Mr. Wakeham

I shall listen to as much of the debate as I am able to, but I know that my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury will be here, and I shall have an opportunity of talking to him afterwards.

With regard to the Procedure Committee reports, I am at the moment considering those that arose in the last Parliament and I will report to the House as soon as I can.

As to the dates of recesses, that is one of the recommendations that we are considering.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke)

My right hon. Friend will be aware that since 1975 there have been 11 Bills on the reform of the abortion law, all of which have had substantial support in the House but have been obstructed during their passage. As the Abortion Act 1976 had tacit Government support in its progress through the House, will my right hon. Friend seriously consider, if the Bill of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) receives its Second Reading on 22 January, whether the Government can give support to allowing the Bill to come to fruition, if that is the will of the House?

Mr. Wakeham

I will continue to consider these things, but the policy of the Government has been to be rather generous in the amount of time that they allocate to private Members' Bills but not, in the interests of fairness to all sides of the House and all points of view, to give specific additional time. That is basically the policy that I think we should adopt in this case.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

In the light of early-day motions 238, 253, 272, 273 and 286, and in the light of the failure of the Prime Minister to make any attempt to answer uncomplicated questions from myself and, more important, from my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) who is a QC, does the Leader of the House not think that the way out of this problem is to announce next week the setting up of a tribunal, as he is empowered to do under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921, to examine under oath Mr. T. P. Abraham, Sir Robert Armstrong, Miss Collette Bowe, Sir Brian Hayes, Mr. Richard Mottram, Mr. John Mogg, Mr. John Michel, Mr. Bernard Ingham, Mr. Charles Powell and Sir Clive Whitmore to clear up this issue?

[That this House notes in the book, Campaign, by Rodney Tyler, the Selling of the Prime Minister: from behind the doors of Downing Street and Conservative Central Office—A unique inside account of the Battle for Power that the author on page 1, chapter 1, paragraph 1, sentence 1, states 'It was an extraordinary turnaround in fortunes from the moment on 27 January 1986 when Mrs. Thatcher secretly confided to a close associate that she might have to resign. …' and on page 3 that 'On the eve of the crucial Westland debate she herself felt shaky enough to doubt her future' though some around her later sought to dismiss this as late evening anxieties of the sort that had disappeared the following morning. It is certainly true that if Leon Brittan had chosen to, he could have brought her to the brink of downfall, by naming the real culprits inside Number 10. Instead, he chose to remain silent', and calls on the Prime Minister to give a full account of what transpired between 3 January and 27 January 1986, at Number 10 Downing Street, in relation to the selectively leaked Law Officer's letter concerning the Westland Affair.]

[That this House notes that the Member for Alder shot on page 136 of his book Heseltine: the unauthorised Biography, states in relation to the Westland Affair that 'John Wakeham issued an order of the day which contained the trite, if effective message, that it was time for all good men to come to the aid of the party. We did and calls on the Leader of the House, the Right honourable Member for South Colchester and Maldon, to explain when he first knew the role of the then Trade and Industry Secretary, the Right honourable Member for Richmond, Yorks, in the matter of the disclosure of a selectively leaked Law Officer's letter.]

[That this House notes that in his book Mrs. Thatcher's Revolution, published this week by Jonathan Cape and Co., Mr. Peter Jenkins writes, on page 200 'Brittan himself refused to enlighten the Select Committee on any point of substance. However, he is reputed to have told close friends subsequently that not only has she known perfectly well what had happened but that, on the day following the leak, had expressed her satisfaction to him at the way things had been handled. However, at that time, the downfall of Heseltine had not been achieved. …He (Mr. Brittan) might point the finger at her (Mrs. Thatcher). Potentially he now had the power to destroy her'; and calls on the Prime Minister to give the House a full account of her conversations with the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, the Right honourable Member for Richmond, Yorks, over the period from 3 January and 27 January 1986, in relation to the selectively leaked Law Officer's letter concerning the Westland Affair.]

[That this House notes that in The Thatcher Years— A decade of Revolution in British Politics, published by BBC Books, Mr. John Cole, on page 170 considering the selectively leaked Law Officer's letter in the Westland Affair, writes 'why did he (Sir Robert Armstrong) not give her a quick interim report when he discovered that the leak was an inside job, authorised by her office? Why did Leon Brittan not tell her? Or the private secretary concerned? Or his chief, who sits in the same room? Or her press secretary? And why did she never ask?'; and calls on the Prime Minister to inform the House of the answers to these questions.]

[That this House notes that, in the book 'Not with Honour—The Inside Story of the Westland Scandal', on page 142, Magnus Linklater and David Leigh write that 'Instead, following Havers's complaint, she spoke privately to Brittan about the leak. Although this is something the Prime Minister has failed to disclose, to widespread disbelief, the evidence comes from an authoritative source who told us: "The Prime Minister knew about the leak. She was pleased it had been done. There was a meeting between Brittan and her after the complaint from Mayhew. Only the two of them were present. …Brittan assumed she knew of [the leak 's] origins. You must draw your own conclusions." ' One of Brittan's friends adds, "Nobody thought it was a problem. The complaints were out of the public domain and any inquiry was expected to be a formality. Leon wasn't worried at all about it."; and calls on the Prime Minister to give a full account to the House of the meeting between herself and the Right honourable Member for Richmond, Yorks, referred to therein.]

Mr. Wakeham

I have nothing further to say on this matter.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

I wonder if my right hon. Friend—and I am asking for a debate— can tell those who are supposed to be in authority over the Church but who, according to today's issue of Crockford's, have lost their authority in ecclesiastical and theological matters, that they will be constitutionally extremely ill advised to dabble in secular affairs to the extent of threatening the Government's democratic mandate in the other place.

Mr. Wakeham

My hon. Friend makes his point as he frequently does, but I do not think that I have anything to add that relates to the business for next week.

Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)

May I draw the attention of the House to item No. 30 on the remaining Orders of the Day, standing in the name of the Government Chief Whip, which should have enabled the Scottish Grand Committee and the Labour majority on it to deal with the Government's plans to dismantle the education system in Scotland, without disturbing the slumbers of people like the hon. Member for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) who complained earlier about Scottish activities?

Is the Leader of the House aware that the leader of the Liberal party made it impossible for the Scottish Grand Committee to consider that important subject, apparently because Liberal Members think it more important to do their Christmas shopping next Monday than to deal with the subject of education in Scotland? Is it the intention of the Secretary of State for Scotland to hide behind the apron strings of the leader of the Liberal party, or will the Government take steps to ensure that the Scottish Grand Committee can consider important subjects of that kind?

Mr. Wakeham

I understood that the matter in dispute was where the Committee should meet, rather than the subject that was to be discussed. The Government have behaved in a perfectly proper and constitutional manner. An objection has been taken to the proposal, and that is perfectly understandable.

Mr. John Maxton (Glasgow, Cathcart)

Is the Leader of the House aware that there is a growing despair among the assessors in Scotland who have the job of drafting the register for the so-called community charge or poll tax? There is a growing despair among the officials who will have to deal with the collection of the poll tax and a growing despair among the officials who will have to draft the plans for the rebate scheme. Is he aware that that despair stems from the fact that the orders that have given the officials the power to do any of the things I have mentioned have not come before this House, and that therefore those officials have no power to perform their tasks? Is the Leader of the House aware that many of the officials believe that the poll tax is at least six months behind schedule for implementation in Scotland and that, unless the orders are placed before the House within the next few weeks, implementation on 1 April 1989 is impossible?

Mr. Wakeham

I have no doubt that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland is discharging all his obligations in an exemplary fashion. Of course I will draw to his attention the advice tendered to me by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr.Maxton).—

Mr. Maxton

Not me, but by the officials.

Mr. Wakeham

My right hon. and learned Friend will consider what the hon. Member for Cathcart has said eind place what due weight he should upon those remarks.