HC Deb 09 July 1987 vol 119 cc515-27 3.32 pm
The Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Wakeham)

The business for next week will be as follows:

  • MONDAY 13 JULY — Motion for the Summer Adjournment.
  • Proceedings on the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill.
  • TUESDAY 14 JULY—Consideration in Committee of the Finance Bill.
  • Motion on the Licensing (Northern Ireland) Order, followed by Motion on the Registration of Clubs (Northern Ireland) Order.
  • WEDNESDAY 15 JULY—Consideration in Committee of the Finance Bill.
  • Motion on the Rate Support Grant Supplementary Report (England) (No. 2) 1986–87 (HC No. 35), followed by Motion on the Welsh Rate Support Grant Supplementary (No. 2) Report 1986–87 (HC No. 23).
  • Motion on the Urban Development Corporations (Financial Limits) Order.
  • THURSDAY I6 JULY—Consideration in Committee of the Finance Bill.
  • Remaining stages of the British Shipbuilders (Borrowing Powers) Bill.
  • Motion on the Redundant Mineworkers and Concessionary Coal (Payments and Schemes) (Amendment) Order.
  • FRIDAY 17 JULY—Private Members' motions.
  • MONDAY 20 JULY—Remaining stages of the Finance Bill.
  • Motion on the Rate Support Grant (Scotland) (No. 2) Order.

Mr. Kinnock

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. Will he ensure that time is provided next week for a procedural debate on the circumstances in which it is essential to raise, for instance, points of order when all the people who might have been associated with the matter that gave rise to them are likely to remain in the House? I ask that in view of the representations made on that point by the Leader of the Opposition when the ruling was initially considered in the House. Will the right hon. Gentleman also find time next week to have a procedural debate on the appropriateness of the form of the questions to the Prime Minister which, by their very definition, are taking the office of Speaker, making assumptions about the rules of order and raising questions which, whatever else they may imply, are not within the Prime Minister's general business? Perhaps we could have the right hon. Gentleman's response on that.

Early in the Consolidated Fund Bill debate next Monday, there will be a debate on the financing of local government, initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Central (Mr. Caborn). Will the Leader of the House ensure that the Secretary of State for the Environment will be present to answer that debate so that he can give his views on the poll tax, in the same way as he is reported to have done to Conservative Members on Monday?

Before the House rises for the recess, will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate on the arts, in view of the difficulties that are currently experienced by the Royal Shakespeare Company and others, and of the statement made this week by the Minister for the Arts to the Council of Regional Arts Associations that those who are concerned about the future of the arts in Britain must simply make the best of the political and economic climate, whatever their private views. In view of the fact that British Telecom has been criticised by Oftel and consumers as the "worst public service" in Britain, will the right hon. Gentleman shortly arrange for a full debate on the quality, accountability and charges of British Telecom since the corporation's privatisation?

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the statement made this week by his hon. Friend the Minister for Health that 10,000 people in Britain could develop AIDS during the next five years is a further reminder of the serious threat that the syndrome poses? Will the right hon. Gentleman therefore, ensure that the Government's response to the report of the Social Services Select Committee on that subject will be speedy and will reflect the Select Committee's concern about the levels of resources for research, health education, and treatment in relation to that disease?

Finally, could the House have an assurance that the reports of Her Majesty's inspectors of schools on the effects of local authority expenditure policies in education provision in England and Wales will be published before the recess as those reports are now already months later than usual?

Mr. Wakeham

Questions on Prime Minister's questions, whether they are in order, are a matter for you, Mr. Speaker, and not for me. However, in view of the right hon. Gentleman's request for a debate on such matters, the best way might be a discussion through the usual channels to decide on the appropriate way of dealing with that matter.

Sir Anthony Grant (Cambridgeshire, South-West)

Where are they?

Mr. Wakeham

On the question referring to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, I shall refer that matter to him and consider how to deal with it.

The right hon. Gentleman raised a question about the arts and the Royal Shakespeare Company. The Arts Council, and not the Government, determines the level of support for individual arts bodies. The Arts Council and the Royal Shakespeare company are discussing the company's deficit and hope to reach a conclusion that will ensure the future of that centre of excellence. My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts awaits the outcome of those discussions.

I take note of the point about British Telecom. Perhaps tomorrow's debate on the quality of industry might be the appropriate place for hon. Members who wish to raise such matters.

With reference to a debate on AIDS, I shall certainly refer that matter to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services, as I will the question of the education report, which the right hon. Gentleman also raised, to see whether that can be dealt with before the summer recess.

Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)

Will my right hon. Friend consider that the conventions relating to maiden speeches might also usefully be discussed through the usual channels when there are some? When shall we have an opportunity to discuss and settle the question of Members' pay? What form is the motion tabled by the Government likely to take on that occasion and shall we have a chance to discuss the secretarial allowance at the same time?

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

We want a six-day week as well.

Mr. Wakeham

I certainly accept my hon. Friend's point about maiden speeches and that is something that we can discuss through the usual channels.

On Members' pay, I intend to table a motion reflecting the resolution that was passed by the House in June 1983. The linkage with the Civil Service grade will come into effect on 1 January 1988 and will determine subsequent annual adjustments. It is for the House to decide whether to confirm that arrangement. As I said last week, I intend to bring the matter to the House before the summer recess, and I hope that at the same time we can deal with the report of the Top Salaries Review Body on the secretarial allowance. Following discussions, I propose to accept the recommendations about the level of allowance and to take account of the TSRB's view on the tightening of arrangements for accountability.

Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill)

Has the right hon. Gentleman had a chance to study my early-day motion 79?

[That this House notes the recommendation of the 2nd Report of the Select Committee on Procedure, HC350, that in some cases amendments should be permitted to motions to approve statutory instruments; and believes that this would he a desirable first step in reforming the procedure for Northern Ireland business.]

Coupled with that is the desirability of debating the second report of the Select Committee on Procedure, especially giving the House the ability to amend statutory instruments. Does he agree that an issue such as the Northern Ireland orders on Tuesday, concerning the opening of public houses on Sunday, will be decided without giving the House a chance to amend them and would he far better dealt with in the normal way which would apply in England, Scotland and Wales?

Mr. Wakeham

These are very complex issues which I cannot answer on the Floor of the House, but I hope that we can have discussions through the usual channels.

Sir Peter Emery (Honiton)

Does my right hon. Friend recall that at least four reports of the Select Committee on Procedure in the previous Parliament have been before the House, some for as long as two years, and that the previous Leader of the House said that he thought the House would want to debate these matters early in the new Parliament? Does my right hon. Friend also recall that, for many weeks, there was a Government order on the Paper to carry out one of the resolutions which might have assisted the Chair? Will he ensure that prime time is found to debate these matters, with the possibility of a resolution of the House, as soon as we get back after the summer recess, if it cannot be held next week? If senior Members of the House give a large amount of time to considering matters which the House has asked them to consider, they are unlikely to want to continue doing that if their reports are entirely ignored.

Mr. Wakeham

First of all, I pay tribute to the work of my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery), as Chairman of the Select Committee on Procedure, and to the members of that Committee. We shall have to consider these matters, and we shall see what can he done as soon as possible after the summer recess.

Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)

Will the Leader of the House give further consideration to setting up the Select Committees, especially the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs? Although the Opposition appreciate the Government's difficulty in getting Members to serve on that Select Committee, does the right hon. Gentleman acknowledge that we have a superfluity of willing Members to serve on that Select Committee? The work of the House should not be delayed because of the paucity of Conservative Members in Scotland.

Mr. Wakeham

As the hon. Gentleman will see from today's Order Paper, some progress is being made. These matters take a little time, but it is my intention to make progress as quickly as possible.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (Derbyshire, West)

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the disappointment of my constituents that the House could debate for three hours on Monday the business of the Today newspaper, in which no individual lost any money, yet the House has been unable to debate the fact that some councils have sunk hundreds of thousands of pounds of ratepayers' money into the News on Sunday? Would it not have been more appropriate for us to debate the use of ratepayers' money rather than the use of an individual's money?

Mr. Wakeham

The business of the House is arranged through the usual channels. We try to arrange debates which meet the requirements of all the parties in the House. I am sorry that my hon. Friend did not think that that was an appropriate subject for debate. However, the important issues that he raises would be appropriate to one of the debates on the Consolidated Fund Bill on Monday night.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)

The Leader of the House told the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) that he hoped to make progress as soon as possible on the issue of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs. Will there be a statement before the summer recess? Is he aware of the widespread rumours circulating in this place and reported in the Scottish press, that that Committee may disappear altogether? Does he accept that that is not a solution to the predicament of the Conservative Government in Scotland which would be acceptable to the Scottish people or to Opposition Members?

Mr. Wakeman

I do not want to add anything to what I said to the hon. Member for Dumfermline, West (Mr. Douglas), except that I would not believe everything I read in the Scottish press.

Mr. Michael Latham (Rutland and Melton)

Can my right hon. Friend say whether he proposes to test the opinion of the House before the summer recess on the question of televising our proceedings? As one who, in the past has always voted against it, I am beginning to think that I was wrong, in view of the behaviour in the past few days.

Mr. Wakeham

I cannot add anything more to what I said last week on that. I recognise that this is a subject that we shall have to deal with in the fairly near future, but I do not foresee time before the summer recess.

Dr. John Reid (Motherwell, North)

Does the Leader of the House accept the points made earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) that there is great concern on the Opposition side of the House that the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs should be established as soon as possible and an announcement made? Will he also note that, if there is a reluctance in certain quarters on the Government Benches to fill those places, there are plenty of Members on the Opposition Benches who are ready and willing to fill them?

Mr. Wakeham

I cannot add anything more, except That plenty of my hon. Friends are also most anxious for the Select Committees to be set up.

Mr. Geoffrey Dickens (Littleborough and Saddleworth)

Will the Leader of the House please make time available for a discussion of the ancient procedures and customs of the House? To explain my call for this debate, may I just say that maiden speeches in the past were always observed with great indulgence by the House, the reason being that an hon. Member could be heard, perhaps for the only time, in silence and without interruption to give the new hon. Member a chance to break the ice in this great Chamber. It is disgraceful when hon. Members who believe that they know it all disregard the conventions but when they attack the British Army it is despicable.

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise that my hon. Friend feels very strongly about this. I have undertaken to have discussions through the usual channels, and that I will do.

Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North)

Will the Leader of the House accept from one of the new Members who knows it all that people at home get an impression of this place through Prime Minister's Question Time and that the planted question and the open question bring our Parliament and our democracy into disrepute? Therefore, will he make time for a debate on the procedures of the House at the earliest possible moment?

Mr. Wakeham

If I may modestly say to the hon. Gentleman, I am unlikely to be more forthcoming to him than I was to the Leader of the Opposition. I do not think I can say anything more than I said to the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Eric Forth (Mid-Worcestershire)

Is my right hon. Friend yet in a position to assess the progress of the legislation in the Queen's Speech in terms of the programme for Parliament? Is he satisfied that time will be found for all the measures in the Queen's Speech, particularly the major items such as the community charge and rent decontrol?

Mr. Wakeham

I can confirm to my hon. Friend that we are making very good progress and that we shall have a lively Session when we come back after the summer recess.

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

Is the Leader of the House aware that, his modesty apart, he should have been far more forthcoming when the Leader of the Opposition asked about Prime Minister's Question Time, because there is evidence of abuse by the Prime Minister? I suggest to him that it is the job of the Leader of the House to listen to hon. Members on both sides when they raise matters that are of interest to the House and are not simply party political issues. Therefore, why does he not recommend a debate on Prime Minister's Questions as soon as possible?

Mr. Wakeham

I assure the right hon. Gentleman that for me, with my background, to say that we have discussions through the usual channels could not make the matter more important.

Mr. James Hill (Southampton, Test)

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the way that anomalies in the Shops Act 1950 are affecting many hundreds of thousands of retailers? My own Southampton city council is having a purge of prosecutions, but the magistrates are taking a very lenient view. One of the great crimes in Ocean village in Southampton was selling a pair of boxer shorts on a Sunday. Is it not time for those anomalies to be cleared away and is he not aware of the vast amounts of ratepayers' money that are being wasted on those quite absurd prosecutions?

Mr. Wakeham

I am unlikely to forget that in the previous Parliament the Government sought to deal with some of the anomalies, but the House felt otherwise. The problem still remains and I shall refer my hon. Friend's remarks to the Home Secretary.

Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South)

Does not the Leader of the House agree that on many occasions I have raised the subject of overcrowding in the prison system? Does he further agree that the current evidence is that the overcrowding is now reaching almost crisis level? Should that not be a subject for an early debate so that some solution can be found before we find that the summer of discontent comes upon us once again and the riots of last year spread from Scotland to England?

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise that that is an important matter as does my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, to whom I shall refer the hon. Gentleman's remarks.

Sir Brandon Rhys Williams (Kensington)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this week the Department of Health and Social Security tabled no fewer than 20 statutory instruments that are important for the management of occupational pension schemes? Will he consider my suggestion that the appropriate way for the House to deal with them before we rise, since some of them are due to come into effect this month, would be to refer them for consideration by a Standing Committee?

Mr. Wakeham

I will look at my hon. Friend's suggestion and be in touch with him later.

Mr. Harold McCusker (Upper Bann)

The Leader of the House will be aware that no two people could be more diametrically opposed in their views on the future of Northern Ireland or terrorism than myself and the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone). However, will he remember that there are more people involved in the current controversy than the hon. Member for Brent, East and those who seek to defend the honour of Captain Nairac and Airey Neave? Will he remember that Captain Nairac operated in my constituency and that John Francis Green, whom it is alleged he killed, was a constituent of mine? Will he remember that a member of the Miami Showband was a relative of someone in my constituency party and that two men constituents of mine are currently serving life imprisonment for the murder of the Miami Showband?

Central to the issue for myself and my constituents is the allegation that the gun used in the killing of John Francis Green was used in the Miami Showband killings. Believe it or not, that allegation has never been made to me by either of the two men——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must ask a question, not make a statement.

Mr. McCusker

—or their families and it is important. If there is evidence available to prove or disprove the allegation, will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement to be made as soon as possible, to clear the air once and for all?

Mr. Wakeham

I have nothing to add to what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said. However, I will refer the hon. Gentleman's remarks to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

When will the Government be able to introduce measures to assist the millions of pensioners, whom we all met during the election campaign, who have limited occupational pensions and limited savings but who get no support from supplementary benefit and the state and who find themselves no better off than their neighbours who blued the lot when they were in work?

Mr. Wakeham

There is nothing in that question to affect next week's business. However, I will refer my hon. Friend's comments to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services.

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

The right hon. Gentleman well knows that a Speaker's Conference on political devolution was appointed in October 1919 and reported in April 1920. He will recall that recommendations were made concerning the powers to be devolved to domestic legislatures. Why should that precedent not be repeated? May I ask for support in a request to the Procedure Committee that such a Speaker's Conference be set up once again?

Mr. Wakeham

We gave not yet set up a Procedure Committee, but if there is a general demand for one, of course we shall set one up. The hon. Gentleman does not necessarily require my support to refer a matter to it.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

Will my right hon. Friend accept, rather more readily, one of the requests of the Leader of the Opposition that we should have a debate on AIDS at an early date, preferably before we rise for the summer recess, not only in the light of the report of the Select Committee on Social Services, which was published just before the dissolution of the last Parliament, but because one of the more offensive new Opposition Members appears to go around the country promoting active homosexuality, which is one of the major causes of the spread of the disease?

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

Give us a kiss!

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise that AIDS is a very important matter, but I am afraid I do not see time for a debate next week.

Mr. Allan Roberts (Bootle)

In the light of statements made by Ministers during the general election denying that the Government were going to increase the rents of tenants, will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for a statement by the Secretary of State for the Environment on the speech of the chairman of the Housing Corporation, reported today? In that speech, he said that the housing association movement will have to charge profit or market rents rather than fair rents and that the Housing Corporation will implement that policy in advance of the Government's proposals. Is it the Government's proposal to switch from fair rents to profit rents?

Mr. Wakeham

I do not accept for one minute the hon. Gentleman's interpretation of what was said during the election. However, I will refer the matter to my hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment

Mr. Michael Brown (Brigg and Cleethorpes)

Referring to the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth), and the assurances given by my right hon. Friend that good progress is being made on the legislative programme, can my right hon. Friend specifically assure us that, at an early stage, we will have a Second Reading debate on the Bill to decontrol new lettings of accommodation?

Mr. Wakeham

I told my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth) that we are making good progress, but I am not prepared to state any dates or times when debates will take place.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish)

Does the Leader of the House recall that, when the House agreed to a time limit on the Consolidated Fund Bill, assurances were given that the House would be given a full day for the Consolidated Fund Bill and that it would not lose time to motions such as that on the summer Adjournment? Since that undertaking will be broken again on Monday, will the Leader of the House make sure that, for the rest of his tenure, we get a full day for the Consolidated Fund Bill and extra time for such things as the summer or Christmas Adjournment debate? Otherwise, Back Benchers will yet again be robbed of time by the Government.

Mr. Wakeham

I will certainly look at the matter that the hon. Gentleman has raised.

Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)

My right hon. Friend was present when the Prime Minister referred to the possibility of an hon. Member bringing forward a Private Member's Bill on the subject of experimentation on human embryos. If such a Bill is produced and receives overwhelming support on Second Reading, such as that which was given to Enoch Powell's Bill, will the Government offer their facilities?

Mr. Wakeham

That has the ring of a hypothetical question and I do not believe that I can answer it.

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax)

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that some time needs to be set aside to discuss some of the effects of the disastrous privatisation policies? My district health authority faces chaos because the laundry service was put out to private tender. The authority was forced to take the tender of private contractors rather than the cheapest tender. The authority now faces chaos because the private contractor has put up its charges by 50 per cent. We do not know what to do about the laundry service in Halifax.

Mr. Wakeham

I suggest to the hon. Lady that there are one or two occasions next week when I believe that she may be able to raise the matters that concern her.

Mr. Andrew MacKay (Berkshire, East)

Bearing in mind the recent appeals that have been allowed by the Secretary of State in Berkshire and elsewhere, which have resulted in the excessive development of housing in those areas, will my right hon. Friend arrange time for a debate on planning and development? That should not be during the debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill, as that would not give enough time. However, there should be a debate because this policy appears to conflict totally with the Government's aim of rejuvenating the inner cities.

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise that this is a very important matter, but I do not see there will be time for it next week.

Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West)

When can the House debate the plight of the outer cities—the estates such as Braunstone, in my constituency? The people on that estate resent the help that is being given, quite rightly, to the inner cities. They feel that nothing is being done about the deep disadvantage, unemployment and need that they suffer because they are not in the centre of a city.

Mr. Wakeham

Of course, these are important matters, but there is no time for them next week.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

Will my right hon. Friend give us an idea about the motion on rates which is to come before the House next Wednesday? Will he bear in mind the deep suffering of individuals in Ealing who are facing a 65 per cent. rates increase from the Ealing Labour council? Many pensioners are going without meals to try to pay this increase. There are also great difficulties for industries that are having to find a 57.3 per cent. industrial rate increase, also set by the Ealing Labour council. Consequently, that increase will have a bad effect on jobs. Will the business on Wednesday include measures for rate-capping authorities such as Ealing?

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise my hon. Friend's concern about the ratepayers of Ealing. I shall see that the motion is tabled as soon as possible.

Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)

Before the House proceeds to debate the televising of its proceedings, would the right hon. Gentleman carefully consider my suggestion of last week that he should produce a Green Paper with audio illustrations of how the media misrepresent and misreport what really goes on in this place, and avoid the hours of serious exchange and serious debate? Would he make an additional consideration; if the proceedings of the House are to be televised, what protection does the House have from the Prime Minister abusing set planted questions, however out of order, so that she can make her views known on any topic she wishes to do so?

Mr. Wakeham

I do not accept for a minute the hon. Gentleman's suggestion that my right hon. Friend abused Question Time. She answered the question, and she answered it forcibly. I shall certainly look at the suggestion made by the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke)

Will my right hon. Friend find time to debate early-day motion No. 2 standing in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) on abortion, especially in view of the answer given to me that, in 1986, two abortions out of 147,000 were carried out because the mother's life was in danger?

[That this House notes that since the enactment of the Abortion Act 1967 some two and a half million unborn children have been destroyed through legal abortion; notes that a large proportion of these abortions have taken place on demand, which was never the intention of Parliament; notes that since 1975 all Bills to amend the Abortion Act have had a substantial majority, but have been frustrated by a minority determined to thwart the will of Parliament; believes that the time has come for this House to beenabled to decide how the Act should be amended to bring to an end the tragic consequences of legal abortion; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to give the new Parliament time for such a debate at the earliest possible opportunity.]

Will he further give time from the Government's allocation in view of the fact that the original Bill was given Government support?

Mr. Wakeham

Certainly, those are important matters. The Government intend to issue a White Paper later this year. I cannot promise a debate next week.

Mr. Tony Banks

Will the Leader of the House arrange for an early debate on the length of the summer recess? Some hon. Members on both sides of the House believe a recess from 24 July to 21 October is far too long. It is misunderstood by people outside. It plays into the hands of the Government by making it impossible for hon. Members to hold Ministers to account. As we are to have discussions on Members' pay, why can we not have a debate on the length of the recess?

Mr. Wakeham

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his question. I am pleased to be able to say that there will be a debate on Monday night on just that point—and not only that, but he will have a chance to vote against it if he does not like the Government's proposal.

Sir Bernard Braine (Castle Point)

Earlier, my right hon. Friend answered a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook), who was concerned about possible legislation on the subject of embryo experimentation, saying it was not a matter for him. Will he take note here and now that not only in the House but in the country as a whole there is a deep feeling of unease and repugnance at the possibility of the Government fudging the issue? There must be an early debate—if not now, soon after our return—so that the Government's intentions on the matter should be made plain to the House and to the country.

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise the strong feelings that many hon. Members have on such an important issue. The Government will publish a White Paper setting out their views. After that White Paper is published is the right time for the Government to arrange a debate.

Mr. Sam Galbraith (Strathkelvin and Bearsden)

Because of the continuing cuts in the Health Service in Scotland and the deleterious effects that they are having on the health of the nation, particularly in my constituency, will the Leader of the House arrange a debate on the matter before the House prorogues for the summer recess?

Mr. Wakeham

I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's analysis, but I shall refer his point to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough and Horncastle)

As the Prime Minister said on Tuesday that it would be appropriate for a private Member to move a Bill on late abortions, if a private Member were to use his allocation in the ballot so to do, would the Government consider giving Government time to such a Bill? If they did not do so, it would be all too easy for a small minority in the House to use time-wasting tactics to defeat it.

Mr. Wakeham

In all these matters, it is better to proceed slowly and see how we get along. Certainly, at the Dispatch Box now, I cannot say that the time-honoured conventions regarding private Members' Bills can be altered immediately.

Mr. Dennis Canavan (Falkirk, West)

May we have a statement next week about the implementation of the Tory manifesto commitment to consider changes to improve the Government of Scotland? Now that the Tory Government have been even more resoundingly rejected by the people of Scotland, and senior Tory Members, such as the last Leader of the House, the former Prime Minister and the present Father of the House, have said that more recognition should be given to the Scottish political dimension, when will the present Leader of the House show some real leadership and arrange for a statement to bemade at the Dispatch Box that the Government intend to set up a devolved Scottish assembly with legislative and economic powers, in accordance with the wishes of the majority of Scottish people?

Mr. Wakeham

There may be doubts about whether the hon. Gentleman's views on Scotland are those of the majority of Scottish hon. Members. Certainly, I do not anticipate my right hon. Friend making a statement next week.

Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

Since a White Paper is a declaration of policy, should not a debate on foetus experimentation occur before the declaration of policy rather than after it? If it occurs after it, it will occur too late. Will my right hon. Friend revise the decision that he gave in reply to the question asked by the Father of the House and arrange the debate before the White Paper is published rather than after it?

Mr. Wakeham

Certainly, if there is a strong view I shall discuss it with all those who are interested to find out the most acceptable way to proceed.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I shall call the hon. Gentlemen who have been standing, but I ask them to be brief, please.

Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

May we have a debate next week on the specific criteria that are used by inner-city task forces in giving grant aid? A registered charity in the inner-city part of my constituency runs day-care facilities for pre-school children and enables their parents to stay in jobs. It runs the only latchkey project for children of school age up to the age of eight in the Handsworth area of Birmingham. When it asked for help to expand its vital project, it was told by the inner-city task force that it met all the criteria but was not politically visible enough. That smacks of a Conservative party pork barrel in inner cities. That is totally unacceptable, and it should be debated in the House.

Mr. Wakeham

I shall certainly refer the hon. Gentleman's point to my right hon. Friend, but I certainly do not accept the strictures that he put on the Government.

Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde)

My right hon. Friend will be aware of the recent television coverage of accidents and fatalities that have occurred in children's playgrounds. The issue focuses on safety outside the workplace. Since there are about 3 million accidents a year and about 500,000 admissions to hospital, will my right hon. Friend give thought to a debate on the subject so that the House may contribute some initiatives to tackling the serious problem and perhaps relieve our pressured accident and emergency hospital departments?

Mr. Wakeham

My hon. Friend raised an important subject. I shall see what can be done. I am afraid it will not be before the recess.

Mr. Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie)

Will the Leader of the House give a simple assurance that a Select Committee on Scottish affairs will be set up?

Mr. Wakeham

I have every intention that we should set up a Select Committee on Scottish affairs if that is the general wish of the House.

Mr. Michael Fallon (Darlington)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that those hon. Members with northern constituencies would welcome an early opportunity to debate proposals on local government finance and to underline the advantages for business on Tyneside and Teesside of a national non-domestic rate?

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise that my hon. Friend would like to have a debate on this important issue. However, I cannot promise one next week.

Mr. Skinner

When will the Leader of the House ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to have a proper debate on the way in which the big four banks are offloading their debts onto the backs of the taxpayers? Is he aware that the negotiations with the Inland Revenue in respect of the National Westminster and Midland banks, with Barclays and Lloyds to follow, could result, according to information today, in the taxpayer having to find £875 million to pay for the entrepreneurial so-called risk that the banks took several years ago? If it is right for the Government to withdraw rate support grant from hard-pressed inner cities, to hammer the unemployed and the sick and to give only 80p a week to the pensioners, why are we not having a debate about the transfer of nearly £1 billion to the banks?

Mr. Wakeham

I do not accept for one minute the hon. Gentleman's analysis of the situation. I am not in a position to refer to the individual tax affairs of any bank. I will refer the matter to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Mr. Neil Hamilton (Tatton)

My right hon. Friend will appreciate the importance of combating homelessness, and the fact that there would not be so much homelessness were it not for the Rent Acts, which have dried up supplies of accommodation that would otherwise be available for rent. I appreciate that my right hon. Friend is not able to say when we shall have the Second Reading debate on the Bill promised in the Queen's Speech, but will he confirm that there will be such a Second Reading debate during the course of this Session?

Mr. Wakeham

I can confirm it absolutely.

Mr. John Maxton (Glasgow, Cathcart)

Is the Leader of the House aware that some alarm is felt by Labour Members because of his response to the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell, North (Dr. Reid), with the implication that Government members of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs might not be Members representing Scottish constituencies? Can we have assurances that that will not be the case, that the number on the Committee will not be less than nine and that it will be set up fairly soon?

Mr. Wakeham

Membership of departmental Select Committees is not a matter for me.

Mr. Speaker

Statement, Mr. Newton.

Mr. Faulds

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Eddie Loyden (Liverpool, Garston)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

We will take the statement first.