HC Deb 05 November 1987 vol 121 cc1069-80 3.31 pm
Mr. Neil Kinnock (Islwyn)

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

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

The business for next week will be as follows:

  • MONDAY 9 NOVEMBER — Second Reading of the Licensing Bill.
  • Motion to take note of EC document relating to the EC free food scheme. Details will be given in the Official Report.
  • TUESDAY 10 NOVEMBER—Debate on a motion relating to the 2nd report of the House of Commons (Services) Committee in Session 1984–85 (HC 195).
  • The Chairman of Ways and Means has named opposed private business for consideration at 7 o'clock.
  • WEDNESDAY 11 NOVEMBER — Opposition Day (3rd Allotted Day). There will be a debate on an opposition motion entitled "The Failure of the Government to Provide Adequately for the Transport Needs of the Nation."
  • Debate on a motion on the Supplementary Estimate on the purchase and sale of shares in BP.
  • THURSDAY 12 NOVEMBER— Proceedings on the Consolidated Fund Bill.
  • Motions on Social Security orders and regulations. Details will be given in the Official Report.
  • FRIDAY 13 NOVEMBER—Private Members' motions.
  • MONDAY 16 NOVEMBER — Second Reading of the Immigration Bill.

[Debate on Monday 9 November

Relevant European document:

9138/87 Intervention Food for Poor

Relevant report of European Legislation Committee

HC 43-iv (1987–88) para 6.

Thursday 12 November:

Mr. Kinnock

Will the Conservative party, in common with the Labour party, have a free vote on Monday's Second Reading of the Licensing Bill? If not, perhaps he would like to tell us precisely why.

When will we have the opportunity to debate the Government's Autumn Statement? As it is becoming clearer that the public spending increases are, in many cases, fictitious and that the Government are dictating unnecessary and unjustified increases in electricity prices, water charges and rail fares, the sooner we get the chance to consider fully the statement the better.

Will the Leader of the House ensure that the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry makes a statement to the House when he has made his decision about the possible merger between British Airways and British Caledonian?

It is now becoming clear that the Government are trying to make a profit out of the scheme that was alleged to give aid to those areas of the country that were hit by the effects of the hurricane last month. As my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) pointed out yesterday during questions on the environment, Conservative and Labour councils will face bills for damage that. are far greater than the amount that the Department of the Environment is prepared to give them. The necessary expenditure that they incur to make proper repairs means that they will be penalised and lose Government grant money. Will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for a debate on the parsimony and duplicity of a Government who are trying to foster the impression that they will provide 75 per cent. of the funds needed to help to meet the storm damage repair bills?

The Government survey of school buildings was published this week, after being suppressed since before the election. It showed that a large proportion of our schools are in a derelict and dangerous condition. As the £60 million for school repairs allocated in the Autumn Statement is grossly inadequate to meet the £2 billion estimated repair hills, will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science on how he will ensure that the necessary repairs are carried out with the necessary speed?

As it is clear that the deputy leader of the Conservative party, Lord Whitelaw, believes that the Education Bill will be beaten in the House of Lords, will the Leader of the House now advise his right hon. Friends in the Cabinet to drop the Bill and save themselves from defeat, and, more importantly, save schoolchildren from the division and disruption that the Government's proposals would cause?

Mr. Wakeham

The right hon. Gentleman asked me a number of questions, and I shall seek to answer them in the order in which they were asked.

The right hon. Gentleman asked me about the Licensing Bill. He knows perfectly well that the days when I had responsibility for the whipping of the party have, mercifully, passed away. He knows, too, that these are riot matters that we discuss on the Floor of the House, and I remind him, in case he has forgotten, that we covered the matter in our election manifesto and won the election by rather a large amount.

Mr. Kinnock

Just like the Shops Bill.

Mr. Wakeham

We shall do better this time than we did on the Shops Bill

There will be a debate on the Autumn Statement, but I cannot promise to announce its date yet because a number of things must be dealt with before that. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman would be well advised to give his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) a bit of a rest — he has had a bit of a clobbering in recent days.

The right hon. Gentleman asked me about the Monopolies and Mergers Commission report on British Airways. It is being considered by my right hon. Friend, and an announcement will be made in the normal and appropriate way.

With regard to the right hon. Gentleman's remarks about storm damage, the arrangements that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State brought before the House were basically the same system, in financial terms, that had been used under the Labour Government, put forward in a much clearer and fairer way to local authorities. However, I shall refer the right hon. Gentleman's point to my right hon. Friend.

School buildings are a subject that could be debated when we have education debates, which I expect we shall be having before long; but I have nothing further to say at this stage about that.

With regard to the alleged remarks of my right hon. and noble Friend in another place about the House of Lords, it seems to me that over the years many hopes have been raised on the Opposition Benches about the fate of the Government's legislation in the House of Lords. I believe that my right hon. and noble Friends, Lord Whitelaw and the Chief Whip, do extremely well in the House of Lords, and any remarks were interpreted in a rather mischievous vein.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. As the House knows, I am always reluctant to curtail business questions, but there is an important Opposition Day debate to follow. May I ask hon. Members to put their questions succinctly and not to repeat what may already have been said?

Mr. Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)

Could the Leader of the House allow a short debate next week to give the Government a chance to explain why they have decided not to publish the undertaking given by British Rail to Messrs Eurotunnel? Surely the taxpayers and the travelling public are entitled to know how much of their cash is being committed to this shaky venture.

Mr. Wakeham

This is a private venture undertaking, but I shall refer the matter to my right hon. Friend to see whether any Government statement is required.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

It has been suggested that the Prime Minister and the Government may try to emasculate another place if it proves rebellious by introducing legislation that very much depends on subsequent secondary legislation. Does the Leader of the House accept that that could also emasculate this House, and will he undertake that substantive parts of the forthcoming legislation on education, housing and the poll tax will be primary legislation, and will not be left to loads of orders coming up subsequently?

Mr. Wakeham

I cannot anticipate the contents of any Bills that may be brought before the House by my right hon. Friends. I know of no proposals by any of my right hon. Friends that could possibly meet the description that the hon. Gentleman has given.

Sir Hector Monro (Dumfries)

Is it true that yesterday the Labour party declined to play its part in setting up the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Questions must relate to the responsibilities of the Leader of the House.

Sir Hector Monro

I am anxious to know from my right hon. Friend whether the Committee will be set up next week, because some of us on the Government side are anxious to get on with it.

Mr. Wakeham

I see from the Order Paper that the Committee of Selection has nominated hon. Members to all but one of the departmental Select Committees. I am not privy to what takes place in the Committee, nor would it be appropriate for me to comment. I can only say that I have heard the same rumours as my hon. Friend.

Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)

Will the Leader of the House be mindful of his responsibilities to the House by recognising that, while it may be difficult for Conservative Members, because of their paucity and lack of quality in terms of membership, to man the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs, Opposition Members are very willing to man it and to seek a majority and a Labour Chairman of that Committee?

Mr. Wakeham

If the hon. Gentleman believes that, he will believe anything. My hon. Friends are happy to take on the Opposition at any time.

Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)

When can we expect an opportunity to debate the proposed membership of the Select Committee on Defence and the effect that that might have on the work of that Committee?

Mr. Wakeham

I cannot give my hon. Friend the exact date, but we shall do it as soon as possible because I know that the Select Committees want to get on with their important work. Before they can do that, the membership has to be approved by the House.

Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)

Can the Leader of the House give us an assurance that in the debate on Tuesday on the report of the Services Committee the House will be given an opportunity to reach a decision on a question that has agitated some hon. Members, the withdrawal of the pass from the research assistant of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn)?

Mr. Wakeham

I hope that the debate on Tuesday will be wide enough to enable the House properly to deal with these matters. However, they are matters for you, Mr. Speaker, as well as for me. I shall be tabling the Government motion later today.

Sir Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)

As more than 100 people have died on our roads since last week's tragedy on the motorway, may we have an early debate on the Department of Transport report called "Road Safety—the Next Steps" so that we can learn what the Government intend to do about motorway speed limits?

Mr. Wakeham

I cannot promise a debate in the immediate future, but my hon. Friend may well find that he can make some of the points that he wants to make during Wednesday's debate.

Mr. Ken Maginnis (Fermanagh and South Tyrone)

Is the Leader of the House aware that a Sinn Fein councillor was moving round the House all morning as part of a delegation from Strabane district council? While his presence is unacceptable, it is no reflection on the other members of the delegation who are here to campaign on behalf of people who have been flooded out of their homes in Strabane. In the light of your action, Mr. Speaker, in relation to Mr. Bennett, is it not time that the House dealt with the obscenity of entertaining a councillor who has literally threatened fellow councillors with death by assassination? Cannot that matter be dealt with?

Mr. Wakeham

I sincerely hope that any visitor to the House has been here under the rules that are laid down by the House. That is not a matter for me directly.

Dr. John G. Blackburn (Dudley, West)

Will my right hon. Friend give serious consideration to an early debate on the arts, particularly in respect of the announcement at 2 o'clock today that expenditure will increase by record levels of 17 per cent. for the next three years, and does he agree that that is something that the House should applaud?

Mr. Wakeham

I am glad that my hon. Friend has mentioned the important announcement that was made earlier today. However, I cannot promise an early debate on the subject.

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

Because the occurrence of death and injury in the construction industry is increasing, because lump labour is increasing in that industry and because more and more people need homes, is it not time that the Government allowed time for a full debate on the future of the construction industry in view of the important role that that industry plays in our economy?

Mr. Wakeham

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has noted the increase in funding that was promised by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor in his Autumn Statement. The Government are to bring forward proposals for the housing industry, which will present an opportunity for the hon. Gentleman to make his comments.

Sir Ian Lloyd (Havant)

When may we expect a full debate on science policy and finance?

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise my hon. Friend's concern about that, and it is one subject that I have well in mind. However, I cannot promise him a date at the moment.

Mr. Eddie Loyden (Liverpool, Garston)

As the enthusiasm of the Prime Minister for inner cities in the post-election period has diminished, will the right hon. Member arrange for an early debate about the inadequate provisions that are being made to solve the tremendous problems of inner cities? The enthusiasm of the Tory party in the early post-election period appears to have vanished virtually overnight.

Mr. Wakeham

My right hon. Friend's concern for the inner cities has not in any way diminished. The Government will continue to give further assistance to the inner cities. The education Bill, the community charge Bill and the housing Bill are to be debated this Session and are all directed in part to increasing benefits to the inner cities.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)

I once again draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the plight of haemophiliac AIDS victims. Has he seen motion 219 on the Order Paper?

[That this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government to recognise the unique and tragic problem of the 1,200 haemophiliac AIDS victims and their families.]

Does he remember that last week the Prime Minister was kind enough to say that she would discuss the matter with the Secretary of State? Can we expect an early statement, next week if possible, on what the Government propose to do to assist those victims?

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise the concern of my hon. Friend, and indeed of many hon. Members. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services and my hon. Friend the Minister for Health met representatives of the Haemophiliac Society on Tuesday 3 November and their representations are being carefully considered.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

May we have a statement next week about progress on the Register of Members' Interests? There is a rumour that Conservative Members are attempting to defer its publication until January of next year. It is customary for a new Parliament to have a new register within a short time of commencement. Many Labour Members are concerned that there seem to be very few declarations of financial interests and that hon. Members on the Tory Benches are busy lining their pockets out of directorships and adviserships and following the former chairman of the Tory party into various board rooms. In the public interest, the register should be published as a matter of urgency. Will the Leader of the House make a statement?

Mr. Wakeham

I will not make a statement. The Register of Members' Interests will be maintained in the proper way in accordance with the rules of the House.

Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many Conservative Members would strongly support the request made by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, West (Dr. Blackburn) for a debate on the arts, as the Minister for the Arts, in his announcement today of the three-year settlement, confounded all those who make out the Conservative party does not care about the arts?

Mr. Wakeham

Absolutely. I recognise the strong interest in the subject among Conservative Members. I will see what I can do about my hon. Friend's request. However, I cannot promise anything for the immediate future.

Mr. David Young (Bolton, South-East)

When will the Government give time to discuss discipline in the armed forces? Hon. Members on both sides of the House are concerned about the effect on morale of the confining to barracks of a regiment of the Guards. Will the Minister look closely at the thuggery—spelt with a "t" not a "b"—which seems to be happening within the armed forces and which is undermining discipline?

Mr. Wakeham

The action taken by the commanding officer this week demonstrates how seriously the Government and the military authorities view bullying. Bullying will not be tolerated in the Army. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman might like to pursue the matter in Defence questions next Tuesday.

Mr. Michael Latham (Rutland and Melton)

Will my right hon. Friend immediately push right up his list of priorities the need for a debate or an early statement on agricultural policy, particularly on set aside and how and when that is to be implemented?

Mr. Wakeham

That is a very important subject, and I will refer the request to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Important meetings are still going on in Brussels and they will be highly relevant to the outcome of that matter.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Has the Leader of the House noticed early-day motion 253?

[That this House notes that the Member for Aldershot 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.]

It draws attention to the revealing and well written book of the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley). In particular, the book refers to the Leader of the House's role as saying that now is the time to come to the aid of the party. In order to save time next week, will the Leader of the House tell us right now when he knew about the role of the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry? Was it before the inquiry reported?

Mr. Wakeham

I have nothing to add to what has been said on this subject by my right hon. Friends, except to say that it is the duty of any Chief Whip to call all good men to come to the aid of the party. Sometimes, however, that is more important than on other occasions.

Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, North)

On the day when the English cricket team has had a magnificent victory, may I remind my right hon. Friend that we have not had a debate in Government time on sport since January 1980? In view of the excellent initiatives put forward by my hon. Friend the Minister for sport, will my right hon. Friend make time before Christmas for a debate on this important subject?

Mr. Wakeham

I am in favour of a debate on sport as soon as one can be arranged. However, if the English cricketers are doing well without our assistance, perhaps we should keep quiet a little longer.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

Will the Leader of the House assure us that in next Tuesday's debate on the House of Commons (Services) Committee report he will ensure that the House is able to take a decision on the way in which unelected and unaccountable security services are smearing the employees of people who work in this place, with the consequent withdrawal of their passes? Will ensure that the transgression of natural justice which is happening in this Parliament will be ended forthwith and that no longer will there be any security service interference in the work of members of Parliament or their research assistants?

Mr. Wakeham

No, Sir, I will not do that. I will table a motion which will be amendable by any hon. Member who wishes to table an amendment which is in order. Mr. Speaker will decide how the debate will be conducted.

Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch)

Is not the House right to guard jealously the freedom with which hon. Members on both sides of the House carry out their duties without coercion? Does my right hon. Friend agree that if anyone in the City, industry or the unions was to seek to place duress on hon. Members as to the way they behave, that would be unacceptable? In the light of the parliamentary Labour party's decision to place what is called a compulsory levy on their members with what is, after all, public money—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I find it difficult to understand the responsibility of the Leader of the House in that matter.

Mr. Adley

May we have an early debate on that aspect of the matter?

Mr. Wakeham

That is not a matter for me, and I cannot promise my hon. Friend an early debate. It had crossed my mind that the Opposition might seek to be treated as either a charity or an historic monument to obtain tax relief from the Chancellor.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Will the Leader of the House deal with the matter of the Register of Members' Interests in the way described by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer)? A problem has reared its ugly head within the Tory party. On the one hand, the ex-chairman of the party complains about the—

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is as bad as the earlier question.

Mr. Skinner

The ex-chairman of the Tory party has complained about the possibility of Lord Young becoming chairman of the party because of a conflict of interests. At the same time, the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) is not bothered about a conflict of interest when he is lining his own pockets. If it is wrong—

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is a reflection upon the honour of an hon. Member.

Mr. Skinner

Yes, it is.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman may not do that. Will he please withdraw that comment?

Mr. Skinner

No, I cannot.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman may not reflect upon the honour of another hon. Member. Will he please withdraw that comment?

Mr. Skinner

No. It is absolutely true.

Mr. Speaker

In that case, will the hon. Gentleman please leave the Chamber? We have an important debate in front of us today, and it will take time if I have to take any further action. I now ask the hon. Gentleman if he will leave the Chamber for having disregarded the request of the Chair.

The hon. Member then withdrew from the Chamber.

Mr. Joseph Ashton (Bassetlaw)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I shall take the point of order afterwards.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

May I support the call of my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) for a debate on sport? Could that debate be wide enough to cover sport in schools, bearing in mind the great success of Mike Gatting and his team in the World Cup series, and also bearing in mind that, if he were at school in London today, Mr. Gatting would be taught no cricket at all?

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise the strength of feeling among my hon. Friends, and we must see what we can do. However, I cannot promise such a debate in the immediate future.

Mr. Harry Ewing (Falkirk, East)

Is the Leader of the House aware that the vast majority of opinion in the House is in favour not of defeating or even obstructing the Licensing Bill, but of improving it? May I, as the then Minister who took what is now the Licensing (Scotland) Act 1976 through the House, remind the right hon. Gentleman that the Labour Government of the day took the Bill through the House without whipping a single vote during the whole procedure? Will he give serious consideration to free votes at every stage of the Licensing Bill, with my assurance that it will ultimately produce a much better Bill?

Mr. Wakeham

I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary has heard the hon. Gentleman's advice. However, I have nothing to say to the hon. Gentleman that I have not said to the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson (Newbury)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many months have elapsed since there has been a whole day's debate, in either Government or Opposition time, on the National Health Service? May I suggest that such a debate is now long overdue?

Mr. Wakeham

Yes, I recognise that a number of hon. Members would like a debate on the Health Service. It would enable us to explain, particularly to the Labour party, just how much in additional resources has been put into the NHS in recent times.

Mr. Andrew Welsh (Angus, East)

Is the Leader of the House aware of the great concern inside the House and among the general public about nuclear waste disposal, storage and dumping? As a NIREX report will be issued next week, may we have an early debate on the subject?

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise the concern about that issue, but we had better wait to see the report before we decide what to do.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

May we have a debate if next week the Church sacrifices its principles on the altar of its own internal political expediency by embracing sodomy against the teachings of the Bible, thereby moving further down the road of believing in nothing but permitting everything? Would it then be appropriate, even right, for there to be a bench of bishops in the other place?

Mr. Wakeham

I cannot promise my hon. Friend a debate next week, but I do not think that that will stop him from finding an opportunity to express his point of view.

Mr. Robert Litherland (Manchester, Central)

May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day motions 210, 128 and 223, signed by hon. Members on both sides of the House, expressing concern at the proposed imposition of VAT on printing matters?

[That this House expresses its deep concern that Her Majesty's Government is seriously considering imposing value added tax up to a possible level of 15 per cent. on printed matter, recognising that such a change in value added tax would constitute a tax on knowledge through the inevitable increase in the price of books, magazines, periodicals and newspapers and would reduce the number of books available for schools and libraries; further deplores the effect which 15 per cent. value added tax would have on the printing industry and small firms in particular, leading to closures and further redundancies estimated to be in the region of 13,000 job losses; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to acknowledge the concern of the unions and employers in the printing industry to retain zero rating on all printed and published material.]

[That this House urge Her Majesty's Government to extend to newspapers, books and magazines the welcome commitment that value added tax will not be imposed on foodstuffs and other essentials.]

[That this House requests Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer not to impose value added tax on books and learned journals.]

There are many and varied arguments, but my concern is the effect of that imposition on redundancies in the printing trade and that it is a tax on knowledge. May we have a statement or a debate?

Mr. Wakeham

That is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor and the Budget. It would be wrong of me to promise a statement or to say anything more.

Mr. Barry Porter (Wirral, South)

Will My right hon. Friend will be aware that we are rapidly approaching the second anniversary of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. Will he arrange for a debate in the next week or so to enable us objectively to examine the success or otherwise of that agreement?

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise that there are those who would like a debate on that matter, but there are many calls on my time and I cannot fit it in in the immediate future. However, there will be Northern Ireland questions next Thursday.

Mr. Ashton

Is it not now more important than ever to have a debate on privatisation and vested interests? Is the Leader of the House aware that three years ago the directors of British Telecom had their salaries doubled by the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit), to make them welcome privatisation, and that they have now asked that same hon. Member to join them on the board at one of those increased salaries? Is not that worthy of debate in the House, because it is morally wrong, if not corrupt?

Mr. Wakeham

There will be many debates on the economy when, subject to your view, Mr. Speaker, it will be in order to discuss privatisation. All that I can say about my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) is that any company that invites him on to the board will receive good value for money.

Mr. Eric Forth (Mid-Worcestershire)

Will my right hon. Friend arrange an early debate on the position and independence of hon. Members? Is he aware of widespread concern at reports of secret votes in parties of the House, levies on their members and the possible extraction of money from hon. Members—

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is not the responsibility of the Leader of the House. Will the hon. Member plea se rephrase his question?

Mr. Forth

I requested a debate in view of my right hon. Friend's responsibility for the position of hon. Members, and it is correct that the House should satisfy—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would wish to be helpful. Will he please rephrase his question?

Mr. Forth

Will my right hon. Friend arrange for a debate on the conduct of political parties within the House and the independence of members of those parties in the light of reported recent events?

Mr. Speaker

That was just about as bad. [Interruption.] Order. Such questions do not help the serious business of the House and it would be helpful if the hon. Member were to withdraw that allegation.

Mr. Forth

I happily withdraw anything that I have said that offends the House.

Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

The Leader of the House mentioned a debate next week relating to an EEC document and free food. If there is to be another distribution of food for which the British people have already paid, may we have an assurance from the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food that it will be organised and not left to ad hoc arrangements by charities? With the best will in the world, many thousands of people were upset about the last distribution because they thought that it was unfair.

Mr. Wakeham

The hon. Gentleman makes a point which will be relevant to the debate should he catch your eye, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. William Powell (Corby)

My right hon. Friend will be aware of the Corby phenomenon whereby a town which was sentenced to death in March 1979 has bounced back in quite sensational style. Will my right hon. Friend arrange a debate in Government time at an early opportunity so that the Government may have the advantage of being able to deploy to the House and the country the way in which the lessons of Corby can be applied to other areas which suffer from high unemployment?

Mr. Wakeham

That would be a good subject for debate. I well remember being shown around Corby by my hon. Friend not so very long ago and seeing the progress that had been made. However, I am sorry not to be able to accommodate him with a debate next week.

Mr. Bruce Grocott (The Wrekin)

Does the Leader of the House remember a fortnight ago, and again today, recognising the tremendous demand from Members on both sides of the House for a debate on the crisis in the NHS? Bearing in mind that matters have become even worse in the west midlands, particularly in Shropshire where a real cash crisis is facing the Health Service, will he bow to those requests by arranging an early debate?

Mr. Wakeham

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in his Autumn Statement a record increase in funding for the NHS. Therefore, that would be a perfectly right subject for the debate on the Autumn Statement which I have promised the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Derek Conway (Shrewsbury and Atcham)

On the request of the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) to expand the debate on Tuesday to cover security passes, will my right hon. Friend assure the House that there will be available in the Library copies of the Official Report for 25 July 1974, 7 August 1975 and 29 March 1976 so that it can be made clear to the House that a system was introduced under a Labour Government by the Leader of the House, then Ted Short, and a Cabinet of which the right hon. Member for Chesterfield was a member? Was the right hon. Member for Chesterfield completely in the dark throughout his ministerial career?

Mr. Wakeham

Those are matters which, subject to whatever you, Mr. Speaker, may say, can be raised during the debate next week. I am sure that the relevant documents will be available in the Library.

Mr. Tom Clarke (Monklands, West)

Has the Leader of the House had time to consider the newly published report by the Comptroller and Auditor General, Sir Gordon Downey, on community care? If he has, does not it concern him that here we have independent criticisms of lack of funding, under-resourcing and failure to co-ordinate between health boards and local authorities? Does it not concern him that there is evidence in the document of mentally handicapped people being discharged from hospital only to be bussed back because no community facilities were available? If the economy is as buoyant as the Chancellor has been telling us all week, cannot we have a debate on why the under-privileged in our society are being treated in such a mean-minded way?

Mr. Wakeham

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman, who is a fair man most of the time, will recognise that, despite vast increases in funding for the NHS since 1979, decisions about priorities will always have to be made and they will always involve difficult choices.

Mr. Tim Yeo (Suffolk, South)

In view of the widespread concern about the importance of preserving healthy competition in the airline industry on domestic and international routes, can my right hon. Friend assure the House that when the Government's decision on the proposed takeover of British Caledonian by British Airways is announced adequate time will be given to explore whether that element of competition has been sufficiently preserved?

Mr. Wakeham

I cannot say anything more than I said to the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)

Will the Leader of the House withdraw his serious suggestion that the Labour party is obstructing the establishment of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs? Since we understand that the minority Tory administration in the Scottish Office intends to publish a White Paper next week on housing which will affect hundreds of thousands of householders and tenants in Scotland, will the right hon. Gentleman give us an assurance that there will be a statement in the House from the Secretary of State for Scotland at that time?

Mr. Wakeham

I shall refer that to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. The hon. Gentleman seems to be a little sensitive about what went on in the Committee of Selection. I was not there and I do not know what went on. I do not know whether he was there either.