HC Deb 26 November 1987 vol 123 cc381-93 3.32 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 3o NOVEMBER — Second Reading of the Housing Bill.

TUESDAY I DECEMBER — Second Reading of the Education Reform Bill.

Motion on the Appropriation (No. 3) (Northern Ireland) Order.

WEDNESDAY 2 DECEMBER — Opposition Day (6th Allotted Day). Until about seven o'clock there will be a debate entitled "The Burden Imposed on the Real Economy by Government Policies". Afterwards there will be a debate entitled "Protecting Lives at Work and in the Community". Both debates will arise on Opposition motions.

Debate on motions in the name of the Chairman of the Committee of Selection relating to the membership of departmental Select Committees. Details are in the Official Report.

THURSDAY 3 DECEMBER—Debate on a motion to take note of the outstanding reports of the Public Accounts Committee to which the Government have replied.

FRIDAY 4 DECEMBER—Private Members' motions.

MONDAY 7 DECEMBER — Second Reading of the Health and Medicines Bill.

Mr. Kinnock

The Housing Bill that is set down for debate on Monday is, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, different in important respects from the Bill that received its First Reading on 19 November. The new Bill became available only last Tuesday, 24 November. Since the required time between the publication of the Bill and Second Reading will not have elapsed by next Monday — the day that is scheduled for the debate — will the right hon. Gentleman change the business for Monday, remove the Housing Bill and not bring it back again until the appropriate time has elapsed?

Will the Leader of the House give me an assurance that if the rate support grant statements are made in the House on the same day that major Government Bills are debated the sitting will be extended so that the Second Reading of any such major Bill may be adequately debated?

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the Education Reform Bill will be sent to a Special Standing Committee after its Second Reading next week?

Will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for an early statement by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on the implications for Britain of the INF agreement between the United States of America and the USSR?

I understand that the White Paper on the Warnock report on human embryology will be published later this afternoon. Will the Leader of the House arrange for an early debate on this subject, which is of concern to hon. Members on both sides of the House?

The Germans and French cut their interest rates this week; our real interest rates are, therefore, relatively even higher than they were before. Given the serious contradictions between the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the management of the pound, will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for a statement to be made by the Chancellor next week on the Government's current interest and exchange rate policies, whatever they happen to be?

Mr. Wakeham

The Leader of the Opposition has asked me six questions and I shall answer them in the order that he asked them.

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the Housing Bill. It is a convention of the House, not a Standing Order, that two weekends should elapse between the introduction of a Bill and its Second Reading. I recognise that that is for the general convenience of the House, but there are many examples of Bills that were introduced by the last Labour Government when less notice was given. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that there was nothing in the part of the schedule that was omitted except subordinate and detailed matters more appropriate to Committee than Second Reading. I regret that this occurred, but I cannot accept his contention that there is anything to prevent the House from proceeding to appropriate Second Reading consideration of the Bill on Monday.

The second point that the right hon. Gentleman raised concerned rate support grant. I recognise the force of his argument, and when the statement is made it may be appropriate to extend the debate later in the evening, which can be discussed through the usual channels.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about the Special Standing Committee procedure with regard to the Education Reform Bill. This is a matter for the House and not for me, but I should point out to the right hon. Gentleman that when the Committee procedure was introduced it was specifically considered that it was more appropriate for Bills that were not of party political controversy. I doubt whether the Education Reform Bill falls within that description.

As to the INF agreement and whether the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs should make a statement, I shall certainly refer the matter to him and ask about an appropriate time to make one.

I confirm that the White Paper on the Warnock proposals has been published today. This is an important matter and I give an undertaking that we shall have a debate on it as soon as is convenient.

I cannot accept what the right hon. Gentleman says about interest rates and his allegation that there is a disagreement between my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but I shall refer the matter to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

The Leader of the House may recall that on Monday some Labour Members suggested that they should have the opportunity to vote on an amendment that they tabled with regard to the future of Scotland. It highlighted the difficulties of being unable to debate or vote on second amendments, except in the debate on the Loyal Address. Will the right hon. Gentleman say when the Select Committee on Procedure will be set up so that such matters and other matters of interest to hon. Members can be properly examined?

Mr. Wakeham

At the moment, I cannot say when that Select Committee will be set up. We shall bear the matter in mind. I thought that the best thing to do was to have discussions with the previous Chairman of the Select Committee on Procedure and to look at some of the outstanding points arising from the last Parliament and see how best to dispose of them. We shall then get down to setting up the Select Committee again.

Mr. Edward Heath (Old Bexley and Sidcup)

As my right hon. Friend has always shown himself to be aware of the needs of the House, whether in his capacity as Chief Whip or, briefly so far, as Leader of the House, will he reconsider his decision to offer only one day's debate on the Education Reform Bill? The Government rightly claim that the Bill will bring about a radical transformation of the education system. It consists of 145 clauses and 11 schedules, and many right hon. and hon. Members will wish to express their views on it. I am astonished that the Leader of the Opposition has not asked for further time on it. [HON. MEMBERS: "He has".] The right hon. Gentleman did not mention it. If the right hon. Gentleman wants an additional day, he is only supporting my request.

In time of war, when there were far fewer Members to discuss it, the Education Act 1944—the Butler Bill—had two full days' discussion, it was then remitted to the Floor of the House, where it had 14 full days' discussion. The Leader of the House will do the Government and the House a service if he offers two full days for the Second Reading debate, on the Education Reform Bill.

Mr. Wakeham

I certainly recognise the force of my right hon. Friend's argument and the generous and persuasive way in which he put it. We shall look at the matter through the usual channels. I doubt whether we can find two days in which to debate the Bill.

Mr. Robert Sheldon (Ashton-under-Lyne)

Although I welcome next Thursday's debate on the Public Accounts Committee's report, will the Leader of the House confirm that the Order Paper will highlight four or five of the reports to which we are drawing special attention? I refer to vehicle excise duty and the level of evasion of it, the Metropolitan police force and the need for accountability on its part, the prison building programme—unsanitary conditions will remain well into the next decade—and motorway problems, such as coning, and the inadequacies of the road repair programme.

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the document that the Public Accounts Committee has prepared will be available in the Vote Office to all hon. Members who wish to make use of it during next Thursday's debate?

The three Opposition members of the Public Accounts Committee have been elevated to the Opposition Front Bench. We hope that, by next week's debate, there will be three new Members whom the Public Accounts Committee will welcome.

Mr. Wakeham

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman is glad that reinforcements are at hand. I am pleased to hear that. I did not follow absolutely everything that the right hon. Gentleman said, but I believe that the general thrust is correct. We shall certainly make sure that we do our best to meet his requirements.

Mr. Terence L. Higgins (Worthing)

Will my right hon. Friend accept that ex-athletes in particular are always grateful if they get a flying start and will seek to take every advantage of it? None the less, regrettably it does not now seem feasible for the Treasury Select Committee to take evidence and produce a report ahead of the deadline that my right hon. Friend envisaged some while ago. Will he therefore consult through the usual channels to see whether it would be better to have the debate immediately after Christmas rather than the week after next?

Mr. Wakeham

As my right hon. Friend knows, I stated to the House that I hoped that the debate on the Autumn Statement would take place before Christmas. In view of what my right hon. Friend has said about the Treasury Select Committee — his remarks have a great deal of force — I shall certainly have discussions through the usual channels to find out what is the most convenient date. It may well be after Christmas.

Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)

When will the Leader of the House get some reinforcements from Scottish Conservative Members so that the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs can be set up? With reference to the issue that was raised by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, will he persuade the Foreign Secretary to lay before the House details of the exchange of notes between the Government and the Soviet Union with regard to the inspection of United States missile bases in this country?

Mr. Wakeham

The setting up of the Scottish Select Committee is a matter for the Committee of Selection. I am sure that it will continue to do its best to nominate a Committee and find a solution to the problem. However, if the matter comes to me, I shall obviously be prepared to make time available for it to be debated on the Floor of the House. I shall refer the hon. Gentleman's second question to my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary.

Mr. Jacques Arnold (Gravesham)

Has my right hon. Friend taken note of early-day motion 275?

[This House believes that the National Dock Labour Scheme is an anachronism which both endangers the viability of jobs in the scheme areas and acts as a deterrent to job creation by new ventures; and calls on Her Majesty's Government to abolish the scheme, and open negotiations immediately with employers and unions to bring that about.]

The motion stands in the name of myself and 118 colleagues, and calls for the abolition of the national dock labour scheme — a scheme that is bringing a lingering death to far too many of our ports, and stifling opportunities for growth in those areas. Will he hold discussions with the Secretaries of State for Employment and for Transport to find out whether early action can be taken?

Mr. Wakeham

I am aware of my hon. Friend's concern about the matter, and I shall certainly convey his remarks to my colleagues who are directly concerned. The Government made it clear in the last Parliament that they have no plans to change the operation of the scheme, and that remains the position.

Ms. Joyce Quin (Gateshead, East)

I wonder whether the Leader of the House has seen early-day motion 328.

[That this House expresses its deep concern at the high incidence of child leukaemia on Tyneside, as highlighted in Granada's 'World in Action' programme; calls on Her Majesty's Government to set up an inquiry into this matter; and further calls on Her Majesty's Government to give its full commitment and financial support towards assisting the statistical research which has brought this problem to light and towards the research which is needed to prevent further child deaths from this disease in the future.]

Will he arrange either for an early debate on the subject, or for a statement from the relevant Minister? Does he share the view expressed by several of my hon. Friends, and by the leader of Gateshead council, that the House should give urgent attention to increasing the funding for the nationwide research that is needed to tackle the problem effectively?

Mr. Wakeham

I have seen the early-day motion, and I recognise the concern of the hon. Lady and of many other hon. Members. The Government funded the study from which the statistics in the television programme derived. When the full report is received, it will be considered with our expert advisers. We have already made provision for further statistical research into the causes of cancer clusters.

Mr. Kenneth Warren (Hastings and Rye)

Will my right hon. Friend consider the recent acceptance by Her Majesty's Government of the report by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission on the proposed merger between British Airways and British Caledonian? Will he ask his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport and his right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to make early statements to the House on what review action would be required by Her Majesty's Government if the proposal were dropped and British Caledonian merged with a nationalised foreign airline?

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise my hon. Friend's continuing concern. The question that he poses is hypothetical, but I shall nevertheless refer the matter to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Allen McKay (Barnsley, West and Penistone)

Does not the Leader of the House consider that the conventions of the House come about for specific purposes, very wisely, and after long deliberations by many right hon. and hon. Members? The Housing Bill is a major Bill, and neither the conventions of the House nor the Bill itself should be treated as lightly as the Leader of the House has treated them. But if he would accede to the request of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, we could have two days debate on the Education Bill.

Mr. Wakeham

I do not treat those matters lightly. I understand that some minor errors were discovered in the Bill, as well as the omission of schedule 1(3), which contained technical details relating to resident landlords in the context of assured tenancy. The omission would have been apparent from a detailed examination of the Bill. However, as far as I am aware, no hon. Member complained about it until after the mistakes had been rectified, which suggests that it was not a general cause of inconvenience.

Mr. Peter Thurnham (Bolton, North-East)

The publication of the Warnock White Paper is a welcome indication of the Government's intention to legislate on the subject. Will my right hon. Friend tell us how soon it will be convenient to have the debate? An early debate would be most welcome.

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise the desire for an early debate. However, I feel that the report should be studied. I shall wish to have discussions through the usual channels to find the most convenient time.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Who will pay the £50,000 incurred as a result of the Housing Bill not being properly printed? Why should we not have two money resolutions when the Housing Bill is debated—one a call upon the purse, and the other a call upon the Secretary of State for the Environment? He is a dab hand at calling for the surcharge of Labour councillors up and down the country. Why should he not be made to foot the bill? He is a walking disaster area.

Mr. Wakeham

The error, which was a printing error, not a drafting error, was very much regretted, and I do not believe that the hon. Gentleman's remarks are in any way appropriate in the circumstances.

Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne)

In order to afford my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) the maximum opportunity to support the excellent provisions in the Education Reform Bill, will my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House consider that he might serve on the Standing Committee that considers the Bill?

Mr. Wakeham

That is not a matter for me.

Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East)

Is it not correct that the printing errors in the Housing Bill were so minor that an erratum page or slip could have been inserted? Whether the cost of reprinting was £50,000 or the £24,000 that I have seen quoted, is the Leader of the House aware that, according to the private hospital that offered to operate on David Barber, the cost of that operation would have been £15,000? According to The Birmingham Post this morning, two children have died because facilities were not available at that hospital. Why the hell was that £50,000—[Interruption.] Why on earth was that £50,000 not sent to Birmingham so that the lives of those two bairns could have been saved? Perhaps the Leader of the House could send a message to their families and the other 30 families still waiting for some money.

Mr. Wakeham

I do not believe that the hon. Gentleman does his case any good by attempting to put it in that way. The errors in the Housing Bill could have been put right by issuing a correction sheet or by reprinting. It was thought that it would be for the convenience of the House to reprint the Bill, and I should have though that the House would be pleased about that.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)

Will my right hon. Friend tell us when the Bill to reform the rates will be published and whether he expects the Second Reading to take place before Christmas? Will my right hon. Friend guarantee that there will be two days on which to debate that major measure?

Mr. Wakeham

I cannot answer those questions directly except to say that progress is going well. We hope to publish the Bill in the fairly near future, and I will bear my hon. Friend's request in mind.

Mr. Alistair Darling (Edinburgh, Central)

The Government have expressed concern in the past about local councils which seek to put their views forward in newsletters and so on. I understand that the Conservatives refer to the practice as propaganda on the rates. Will the Leader of the House find time to debate the Scottish Office proposal to spend £100,000 on disseminating Conservative party propaganda on the poll tax in Scotland so that we can discuss the undesirability of Conservative propaganda being funded by higher taxes?

Mr. Wakeham

I do not accept for one minute what the hon. Gentleman has said. If he looks into the matter, he will see that the conventions that appertain to expenditure on such matters by central Government have been observed meticulously by the Government. The Government do not use taxpayers' money to propagate their policies, but they do use taxpayers' money to explain Acts of Parliament to the public.

Mr. Eric Forth (Mid-Worcestershire)

On the matter of next Wednesday's debate on Select Committees, will my right hon. Friend undertake to give the House the fullest information on the cost of running the Select Committees and, more importantly, on the saving to the taxpayer from the fact that the Committees have not been operating over the past few weeks so that we may fully assess the worth and value of Select Committees and whether they should be set up at all.

Mr. Wakeham

It may be for the convenience of the House if I provide that information in the form of a written answer to a question tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth) rather than attempt to bring it into next week's debate, because I suspect that would be out of order.

Mr. Andrew Welsh (Angus, East)

The Leader of the House said that the usual channels would look at the setting up of the Scottish Grand Committee. Given the mess that the usual channels are making of the Scottish Select Committee, does he accept that that does not inspire confidence? By next week the Leader of the House will have organised a meeting of the Welsh Grand Committee. Will he explain why the Scottish Grand Committee is not meeting?

Mr. Wakeham

I cannot explain that, but the hon. Gentleman ought not to be too discouraged about the usual channels. He and his party have some part in that. We have to keep struggling on as best we can and we usually come up with satisfactory answers in the end.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

Will my right hon. Friend arrange for an early debate on transport and traffic in London and word the motion so that, among other things, we can consider the speed of traffic and clamping? The number of vehicles clamped has risen four fold in one year, from 26,000 to 107,000. May we consider the question of indiscriminate clamping and the severe effect that it has on people coming into London?

Mr. Wakeham

We have had a debate on transport recently and I do not see an early opportunity for another. However, perhaps my hon. Friend will catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, and be able to ask a question on Monday when the Secretary of State for Transport will be able to answer him.

Mr. Michael J. Martin (Glasgow, Springburn)

As many parents encourage their children, especially those who are nearing their twenties, to visit the dentist and the optician to ensure that they have healthy teeth and eyes, if the number of people visiting dentists and opticians drops after the charges have been introduced, will the Leader of the House undertake to reconsider the matter to ensure that we have prevention rather than cure?

Mr. Wakeham

I shall certainly refer that point to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services. My task is to organise the business of the House, but it seems to me that the hon. Gentleman would be perfectly in order, if he caught your eye, Mr. Speaker, to seek to make his point in either today's debate or in the debate on the Bill that I announced a few moments ago.

Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)

Will my right hon. Friend confirm the recent report that it is the Government's intention to amend the Local Government Bill to allow local authorities to impose social clauses in their contracts with outside bodies? Will he undertake to ensure that that matter will be debated on the Floor of the House because many of his right hon. and hon. Friends will wonder why a Conservative Government should wish to promote and extend the activities of the Equal Opportunities Commission and the race relations industry? I advise my right hon. Friend that some people outside the House will feel that the Government are showing dangerous arrogance because, with the encouragement of a Government of a different political complexion, that clause could be used to impose great costs on industry.

Mr. Wakeham

I cannot confirm what my hon. Friend has said. However, I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will find acceptable any amendments that may be tabled to any Bill. I assure my hon. Friend that he will have a chance to express his views at the right time.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)

Does the Leader of the House share my astonishment that, while the Chancellor has spent 40 minutes today telling us that profits are up and that everything in the garden is rosy, more and more employers are refusing to give their staff an hour off work to give blood? Does he note that, following the King's Cross disaster, a crisis in blood supplies was only narrowly averted? Will he take urgent action with his right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Employment and for Social Services to ensure that employers are pressed to allow their staff to give blood to ensure that there are adequate supplies?

Mr. Wakeham

Obviously the Government wish employers and employees to give blood generously. Many of us have reasons to be grateful to the people who are prepared to do that. If there are any difficulties, I shall ensure that my right hon. Friends are aware of them.

Sir John Farr (Harborough)

Will my right hon. Friend advise us as to when he thinks that the firearms Bill will be published? Will be assure the House that the White Paper will be published at least a week or 10 days before the Bill is published so that we can have a chance to study the first document?

Mr. Wakeham

I take note of my hon. Friend's point. I can advise him that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department hopes to make a statement on firearms next week.

Mr. Eddie McGrady (South Down)

Is the Leader of the House aware that the Belfast Telegraph reported a massive deficit in the budget of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive for the coming year? Is he also aware that that will lead to 3,000 people becoming unemployed in the building industry? Is he further aware that the leak suggested that rent increases in Northern Ireland next year would be 9.2 per cent., which is almost double the inflation rate? As that leak has been confirmed by the chairman of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive this morning, does he not deplore the method that was used to give information about such a vital sector and will he allow time for the matter to be debated in the House?

Mr. Wakeham

By definition, leaks are unauthorised and, therefore, I deplore them. However, I shall refer the matter to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Mr. Bowen Wells (Hertford and Stortford)

When my right hon. Friend is preparing his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth) on the cost of establishing the Select Committees, will he also make to the House a statement on the waste of money that has occurred while the Select Committee staffs have been waiting, without any work to do, for the five months since Parliament first met?

Mr. Wakeham

I do not accept that the authorities who run the House did not find useful jobs for all those expert people. I deplore the length of time that it takes to set up Select Committees, but we have done our best. Necessarily, a lot of discussions must take place, and the sooner we get on with them the better.

Mr. Jim Callaghan (Heywood and Middleton)

Is the Leader of the House aware that, on 23 July, I wrote to the Secretary of State for Social Services about the tragic death in my constituency of a five-year-old girl under dental anaesthetic? Despite contacting the DHSS on numerous occasions and phoning the Minister's private office several times, I have still yet to receive a reply—17 weeks after I sent my first letter to the Minister. Will the Leader of the House investigate that Department to discover whether inefficiency or obstruction or any other reason has led to the fact that I have had no reply to my letter?

Mr. Wakeham

I can think of no reason why the hon. Gentleman has not received a reply to his letter. If the facts are as he has put them to me — I have no reason to believe that they are not — this is obviously an unsatisfactory state of affairs. If the hon. Gentleman will give me the details this afternoon, I shall take up the matter.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

Will my right hon. Friend accept my gratitude for finding time next week for a debate on the reappointment of the Select Committees? Will he make a statement now to the House that the Government honour the independence and integrity of those Committees? If he believes that, does he believe that those factors are essential for the Committees to carry out their job?

Will my right hon. Friend also arrange for the Secretary of State for the Environment to come to the House and explain why there is such a short time for consultation between local authorities and the Department of the Environment regarding the allocation of the rate support grant?

Mr. Wakeham

Of course I value the independence of the Select Committees and I shall certainly seek to say so in the debate next week. The matter of settling the Select Committees is for the House; the House alone settles such issues. I shall refer the second matter to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West)

Is the Leader of the House aware of the extraordinary revelation in a written answer given to me by the Minister for the Civil Service that not one person from the black or Asian communities has been on the Government's top management programme — that is, no one from the private or the public sector? As all top people in the public sector go on that programme, is it not clear that there is vast discrimination in employment that is preventing people from the ethnic minorities from rising up the employment ladder? May we have a statement from the Secretary of State for Employment and a debate on this matter?

Mr. Wakeham

I do not believe that the second part of the hon. and learned Gentleman's question necessarily follows from the first part. Certainly, the Government would not seek in any way, to allow the promotion prospects for members of the Civil Service to be organised on the basis alleged by the hon. and learned Gentleman. I shall ask my hon. Friend the Minister for the Civil Service to write to the hon. and learned Gentleman on that matter.

Mr. Tony Favell (Stockport)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House are concerned to reduce the length of hospital waiting lists? May I draw his attention to the National Audit Office report, published on Monday of this week, on the use of operating theatres? It showed that, with improved admission planning and greater co-operation between specialists, management and the nursing profession, there could be a dramatic reduction in waiting lists. May we have an early debate on the report?

Mr. Wakeham

My hon. Friend makes his point well. I hope that he has the chance in either today's debate or next week to elaborate further on that matter.

Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)

Is the Leader of the House aware that, in my area, there is a day of action, affecting every local authority department, against the Government's rate-capping cuts? It has widespread support and is sponsored by nine local trade unions. Those workers are protesting against the Government's rate-capping robbery that will devastate jobs and harm education, social services, the voluntary organisations, the libraries and other public provisions. Those workers have my full support. When may we have a debate in this House specifically on the rate-capped authorities?

Mr. Wakeham

I cannot offer the hon. Gentleman an early prospect of a debate on that subject. Perhaps he ought to have a word with his right hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench. However, if the hon. Gentleman thinks that the Government's proposals to try to control the excess spending of some local authorities is the cause of unemployment, he has a great deal to learn.

Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)

Is my right hon. Friend now able to inform the House as to what arrangements Her Majesty's Government will make next year so that we can all celebrate the defeat of the Spanish Armada 400 years ago?

Mr. Wakeham

I am unable to give my hon. Friend the information that he requires. When I have attended to the question of the late letter from the DHSS, I shall then consider that matter.

Mr. Ron Brown (Edinburgh, Leith)

Bearing in mind our concern about terrorism, will the Leader of the House allow time next week to discuss the visit of Mr. Mojadidi, a well-known Afghan terrorist? That gentleman is scheduled to visit this place on 3 December. Will the right hon. Gentleman allow time for a debate, bearing in mind the serious nature of the matter?

Mr. Wakeham

I am unable to find time for a debate on that subject next week.

Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)

May we have next week a statement from the Home Secretary to deny press reports that the Government intend to introduce changes to our criminal law at the behest of the so-called "war crimes lobby"? Does my right hon. Friend agree that such changes, coming more than 40 years after the end of the war, would be contrary to the best instincts of the British people? They serve only the motive of revenge and set aside the established rules of evidence that are the hallmark of British justice.

Mr. Wakeham

My hon. Friend has got some extremely strong views on this, as have other hon. Members. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary met hon. Members on 17 November to discuss this grave issue. I understand that, following legal analysis of material submitted to him, the policy and legal implications are receiving urgent consideration. My right hon. Friend hopes to be able to inform the House of his decision in the near future.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Will the Leader of the House recognise that it would show total disrespect to the honour of all those who were the victims of Nazi extermination if it was taken as Government policy that those who have been accused, with substantial documentary evidence, of having been involved in Nazi mass murder should be allowed to get away scot-free with such crimes simply because they happened to come to the United Kingdom and take United Kingdom citizenship?

Does the Leader of the House recall the wartime pledge of the British Government that once the war came to an end all those held responsible for Nazi crimes against humanity would be brought to justice? There was no question of any time limit of 40 years or anything else.

Mr. Wakeham

These are difficult legal matters, and I am not prepared to add anything to what I just said to my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook).

Mr. Andrew MacKay (Berkshire, East)

In the interests of cross-party co-operation and good will, would it be helpful if my right hon. Friend found Government time to introduce a debate on the coal industry so that those Labour Members who were unable to be present to support the hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron) in the Division Lobby last Friday would have the opportunity to do so?

Mr. Wakeham

When anyone asks me to find time for a debate on the basis of cross-party good will I always wonder what will come next. I do not believe that another debate on the coal industry would be helpful to either the Government or the Opposition. We exhausted that subject the other day.

Ms. Hilary Armstrong (Durham, North-West)

Has the Leader of the House noticed that, on the Order Paper today, my hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) has a Bill that will address the economic problems in the north and what we can do about them? Will he ask the Secretary for Trade and Industry and the Chancellor to come to the House to tell us what they will do to address the economic inequalities which the people of the north continue to suffer and which those of us who represent the north will continue to bring to the attention of the House?

Mr. Wakeham

I do not accept the analysis that the hon. Lady makes, but I will watch the progress of the Bill of the hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice).

Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North)

The Leader of the House will be aware that earlier today the Prime Minister promised that in the right hon. Gentleman's statement would be some interesting and good news about the number of days to be spent on the reports of the Public Accounts Committee. In case there was a "misprint", will he accept the congratulations of many Labour Members on seeing the former Chairman of the Select Committee on Procedure concerning the outstanding business? Does he agree that that does not preclude the Select Committee on Procedure from now being set up, so that it can look at things such as a proper number of days to consider PAC reports so that the Government can be held to account to this House for their spending?

Mr. Wakeham

All those things move necessarily at a pace that may seem surprising to the hon. Gentleman, but they have to move with the general agreement of both sides of the House. We shall proceed to make progress as fast as we can. I am anxious to clear up what is left over from the last Parliament before we start on the new one.

Mr. Dennis Turner (Wolverhampton, South-East)

Will the Leader of the House invite the Home Secretary either to make a statement or, better still, to initiate a debate on the difficulties that we are experiencing in the west midlands, including Wolverhampton, with the levels of community policing? Representation has constantly been made to the Home Secretary by the police authority and I have continually written to him and invited him to consider that serious matter. The Chancellor, in his Autumn Statement, said that substantial new resources would be available to the police. Therefore, it would be helpful if the situation could be clarified to alleviate the great difficulties that people are experiencing in those areas.

Mr. Wakeham

The Government have provided substantial increased resources for the police. It is an important matter. I cannot promise a debate next week but the hon. Gentleman might find an opportunity to ask the Home Secretary a question during Home Office questions on Thursday.

Mr. Allan Rogers (Rhondda)

I am sure that the Leader of the House has noted on the Order Paper the names of a number of his hon. Friends under the amendment to the motion on financial assistance to Opposition parties. I am sure that he has noted that almost all of those hon. Members hold extensive directorships, shareholdings and consultancies and practise either as accountants or barristers outside the House. In effect, they are part-time Members. Will the Leader of the House—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I think that this matter can arise in the debate tonight.

Mr. Rogers

Will the Leader of the House arrange time for a debate about the need for Members of Parliament to be full-time Members and about hon. Members who cheat the House, this country and their constituents?

Mr. Wakeham

I do not accept for a moment the hon. Gentleman's allegations, [Interruption.] I wonder if the hon. Gentleman, after making disgraceful allegations about my hon. Friends, would do me the courtesy of listening to the reply. It is quite intolerable behaviour, and I suggest that he attends the debate this evening to see how he gets on.

Mr. Bruce Grocott (The Wrekin)

Will the Leader of the House show the same strength of feeling on the subject of the Health Service as he has just shown on the matter relating to his hon. Friends? Does he accept that there has been tremendous pressure for the debate on the Health Service that is to take place later today in Opposition time and that there will not be sufficient time to hear all those hon. Members who wish to refer to health crises in their constituencies? The David Barber case has highlighted the crisis in the west midlands. Young children in my constituency are waiting for admission to the children's unit at Birmingham. If, as I suspect will be the case, all those hon. Members who want to raise issues about the Health Service are unable to do so today, will the Leader of the House make Government time available because the Health Service crisis must be responded to by Parliament.

Mr. Wakeham

Nobody would pretend that the Health Service could not manage to spend more resources if more resources were available. Opposition Members would carry more conviction in their complaints about the Health Service if they recognised the substantial increase in funding that has gone into it since the Government came to power.

Mr. Frank Haynes (Ashfield)

Is the Leader of the House aware of the drawn-out saga of the sale of NCB houses? Is he aware of speculation that some people have bought those houses cheaply and have later sold them at a fabulous profit? The properties that are left are, in the main, occupied by people who have given a lifetime of service to the industry and are looking for a fair deal. Since I shaped up to the Secretary of State last week, I cannot get anywhere near him. Therefore, will the Leader of the House ask the Secretary of State to tell us from the Dispatch Box how he will help those elderly people?

Mr. Wakeham

The hon. Gentleman, who I look upon as one of my friends, has perhaps overstated his pugilistic prowess if he thinks that my right hon. Friend is concerned about that. It seems to be a matter primarily for British Coal, but, if the hon. Gentleman thinks that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has a role to play, perhaps he should write to him.