HC Deb 22 October 1987 vol 120 cc931-43 4.13 pm
The Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Wakeham)

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

MONDAY 26 OCTOBER—Opposition Day (1st Allotted Day). Until about seven o'clock there will be a debate entitled "The need for increased control over the possession and use of firearms". Afterwards there will be a debate entitled "The inadequacy of consultation on the Government's education proposals". Both debates will arise on Opposition motions.

Motions on financial assistance and grant schemes for fishing vessels and fish farming. Details will be given in the Official Report.

TUESDAY 27 OCTOBER and WEDNESDAY 28 OCTOBER—Debate on a motion to approve the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1987 (Cm. 101).

At the end of Wednesday, motion on EC document relating to radioactivity levels in food and water. Details will be given in the Official Report.

THURSDAY 29 OCTOBER—Resumption of the adjourned debate on Second Reading of the Scottish Development Agency Bill.

FRIDAY 30 OCTOBER—Debate on renewable sources of energy, on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

MONDAY 2 November—Second Reading of the Social Security Bill.

[Debate on Monday 26 October 1987

Debate on Wednesday 28 October

Relevant European documents:
7183/87 Radioactive contamination of food, feeding stuffs and drinking water

Relevant Report of European Legislation Committee HC 43-ii (1987–88) para 1]

Mr. Neil Kinnock (Islwyn)

I am grateful to the Leader of the House for that statement. However, the House has been led to expect that the Government will arrange a full-scale debate on Scottish economic affairs in the near future. Will he now inform us when that debate will be held because delay in arranging it will encourage the belief in some quarters that the Government's interest in Scotland and in its people is proportionate to their low representation in that country?

In the wake of the recent severe storms in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and as the Government's response to the immediate and long-term needs of those areas has so far been grossly inadequate, will the Leader of the House arrange for further statements next week from the relevant Secretaries of State? Will he ask them especially to specify the arrangements for providing longer-term revenue and practical support to those stricken areas as the full cost of the damage to communications, hospitals, schools and private property becomes known?

Will the Leader of the House say when we may expect the Chancellor's autumn statement?

Will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for a statement to be made about the Government's attitude to space research? There is deep and justified concern in the scientific and technical community about the Government's lack of foresight in the matter of space research and related issues. Before any final decision is taken in November about our contribution to the European space programme, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that the House has a chance to register its views?

As the Government's own Social Security Advisory Committee last week urged the Government not to proceed with the social fund as planned, and in view of the huge loss of income that will be inflicted on people such as those who care for the chronically sick at home or on pensioner couples who are disabled, will the Leader of the House arrange for an immediate debate on those proposals so that the Government may further consider whether they really want to inflict greater poverty and insecurity on those in need?

In the light of exchanges in the House yesterday about security in the Commons, and the difficult position in which you, Mr. Speaker, can be placed under the present informal arrangements, will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate so that the House can consider how the security of this palace could be improved by establishing a security clearance procedure for all who work in it, other than those who are elected?

In view of the serious constitutional implications that would arise if the same person were to be appointed Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and chairman of the Conservative party, will the Leader of the House, who, I understand, has some reservations about that, ensure that that issue can be debated in the House in the near future?

Mr. Wakeham

In answer to the last question, the Leader of the Opposition should not believe everything that he reads in the newspapers. I can give him the clear undertaking that I shall not arrange a debate on matters concerning the Prime Minister's position as leader of the Conservative party.

On the other matters that the right hon. Gentleman raised, the right course of action is to complete the Second Reading of the Scottish Development Agency Bill next Thursday. That is an important measure which is designed to enable further assistance to be given to Scotland, but which seemed to meet with some opposition yesterday from Members opposite. We shall see how we get on with that and consider the other matters through the usual channels.

I cannot promise a further statement on the storms, but when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has further information on the extent of the damage and on the cost to the local authorities, he will have to consider how best to proceed.

On the autumn statement, the Leader of the Opposition is quite right that this is the season of the year in which autumn statements normally come. However, I can give him no more information other than that it is on its way.

On space research, the Government have already decided not to increase our civil space expenditure above the current level of over £100 million a year. They are considering further draft proposals from the European Space Agency. I shall refer the right hon. Gentleman's point to my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster who will no doubt find an opportunity to report to the House as soon as possible.

I cannot promise a debate on the social fund, but I imagine that with a little ingenuity some of the points that hon. Gentlemen wish to make can be dealt with in the Social Security Bill debate on Monday.

I am sure that the House will want an opportunity to deal with matters relating to the security of the House and the issuing of passes. I shall have discussions through the usual channels to find the best way to proceed on that important matter.

Mr. Eric Forth (Mid-Worcestershire)

Will my right hon. Friend consider having a debate on the way in which the House operates, its programme and the management of its business? Is he worried that the usual channels can work only if there is a genuine two-way process? If one party to usual-channel agreements fails to meet its commitments, the workings of the House will inevitably break down and there will be little future for the usual-channels. Will my right hon. Friend give an undertaking that if other parties cannot hold to commitments made, we might withdraw all privileges and agreements and take our gloves off?

Mr. Wakeham

I have had a little experience of dealing with matters through the usual channels and I believe that matters are best left discussed through the usual channels. But that is not to say that I do not recognise my hon. Friend's point and the concern that he and some of my hon. Friends feel on the matter. I think that it is best to proceed through the usual channels and see how we get on.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)

Has the Leader of the House read paragraph 57 of the second report of the Select Committee on Procedure on the use of time on the Floor of the House and the time given by the House for private Members' Bills? Has he noted our recommendations which would provide for an increase in the time allotted for private Members' Bills, and that we are to debate at least three important private Members' Bills this Session, including one on official secrets reform? Will he give an assurance that a debate will take place on the report so that our resolutions can be approved by the House, the changes instituted and those who are moving these Bills benefit, as, indeed, will the country?

Mr. Wakeham

I cannot comment on any of the private Members' Bills this Session because I have not read any of them. Indeed, I believe that they have not yet been published. However, I can certainly have discussions through the usual channels about the report to which the hon. Gentleman refers.

Mr. Jonathan Aitken (Thanet, South)

Will my right hon. Friend secure from my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, an early statement on one aspect of the hurricane damage not covered by yesterday's statements—the plight of the east Kent fruit farmers? Does my right hon. Friend understand that many small farmers have lost complete orchards of trees uprooted in the storm and that the losses they have suffered from that and from other damage to buildings, cold stores, crops and so on mean that many families are on the edge of bankruptcy? Will he consider what special assistance might be available and, in particular, will he bear in mind the precedent set by the east coast flood disasters in 1953 when acreage payments were made to help farmers?

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise the strength of the matter raised by my hon. Friend and I shall certainly refer it immediately to my right hon. Friend the Minister.

Mr. Allan Roberts (Bootle)

Before the debate on security in the House will the Leader of the House prepare a report for the House on the gun club and the shooting range in the Palace of Westminster? Will he tell us who the members are, what type of guns are used, how the guns are brought in and out of the Palace of Westminster, and whether or not research assistants are allowed to have guns and to be members of that club? In the light of the Government's concern about firearms in the community, will he state categorically that the use of the Palace of Westminster for firearms, shooting and rifles is an abuse and that the club should be closed down?

Mr. Wakeham

I cannot accept that at all. I have looked at this to ensure that adequate security precautions are taken in this activity, which has been going on for many years in the House. Obviously, one would be extremely worried if there were any abuses and I shall certainly look at the matter again to see whether anything needs to be done.

Mr. Anthony Nelson (Chichester)

Has my right hon.. Friend seen early-day motion 15, calling for an experiment in the televising of our proceedings in this House?

[That this House approves in principle the holding of an experiment in the public broadcasting of its proceedings by television; and believes that a select committee should be appointed to consider the implementation of such an experiment and to make recommendations.]

Is he aware that the call for a Select Committee to be set up on this subject has now received considerable support from hon. Members on both sides? Now that the House has returned, will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that the House will have an early opportunity to debate and vote on this matter?

Mr. Wakeham

My hon. Friend asked me a similar question before the summer recess and I gave him an. undertaking then that there would be an early opportunity to debate the matter. I am considering how best to proceed.

Mr. Merlyn Rees (Morley and Leeds, South)

Will the Leader of the House look at the report of the Select committee on Home Affairs produced before the general election on the workings of the Boundary Commission? In particular, it dealt with the point that under the present rules, whatever else is wrong with the procedures, at every redistribution a further 28 to 30 new Members of Parliament will be created outside the control of the House. Is it not time that we debated that, particularly as, for example, Yorkshire is beginning the procedures for local government boundary changes which are the foundations of the parliamentary changes which will arise in seven to nine years' time? Unless we act quickly that process will begin and, again, it will be too late to do anything about it.

Mr. Wakeham

The right hon. Gentleman raises an important point. Speaking from memory, I believe that the Government have not yet replied to the Select Committee report. I am sure that they will do so shortly and when that reply has been given, we shall consider how best to proceed.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the serious danger of great public disorder in Northolt where Ealing council has, without proper consultation with the local community, granted planning permission for a mosque on an industrial site which has always provided jobs. In view of the serious threat of disorder, may I ask for an early statement on the procedures that should be followed by public bodies to ensure proper consultations with local communities before embarking on such a plan?

Mr. Wakeham

Certainly I shall refer that to my right hon. Friend with responsibility for these matters to ensure that any appropriate steps are taken.

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

Is the Leader of the House aware that conductive education can transform the lives of severely disabled children and others, as has been proved at the Peto Institute in Hungary where hundreds of British children are being sent? In view of the fact that next Thursday about 1,000 families are to lobby Parliament for adequate Government funding for conductive education in Britain, may we have a statement next Thursday or a debate, please?

Mr. Wakeham

I shall refer the matter to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)

When are the Select Committees likely to be established in this Parliament, because many hon. Members attach great importance to them?

Mr. Wakeham

My hon. Friend is right, and I am one of those who attach considerable importance to Select Committees. Work is under way and we shall get on just as quickly as we can.

Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire)

Will the Leader of the House give urgent consideration to the position in and conditions of Scottish prisons? It would be to the advantage of all if there were an early debate on that subject. To return to the lost debate on the Scottish economy, we were confidently led to expect such a debate, and I think that the loss of the debate was in large measure due to the incompetence of the official Opposition. Does the Leader of the House accept that this impasse in Scottish business will continue until we have a proper Scottish Parliament?

Mr. Wakeham

I do not believe that the way to get a proper Scottish Parliament is by conducting business in a disorderly fashion. The best we can do is to proceed with the debate next Thursday, as I said to the Leader of the Opposition. It is unfortunate that a debate that some people had expected will not now take place.

Mr. Anthony Beaumont-Dark (Birmingham, Selly Oak)

May we expect a statement soon on the funds available to our hospital services? It may well be true, as a junior Minister said, that there is no crisis or problem whatever and that the hospitals in Birmingham are untrue to say that people are being turned away from dialysis and cancer care. If the lie could be given to that, it could be given only by a Minister saying where the money is being wasted, where it has gone and why the hospitals should or should not have any more. The time has come for an early statement so that the people of Birmingham may be assured on whether there is or is not sufficient money.

Mr. Wakeham

I well understand the point that my hon. Friend raises. When the autumn statement is published he will have more information as to the Government's proposals in this direction.

Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough)

Following on the question by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark), there is a serious under-funding in the Northern regional health authority of £5 million. That comes to £1.15 million for the South Tees health district, caused by an under-funding of price and pay inflation, and leads to a threat of closure of the Carter Bequest hospital in Middlesbrough. Does the Leader of the House not feel that an early debate on under-funding would be in the interests of the House and the nation?

Mr. Wakeham

An early debate would be helpful, but I cannot promise one immediately, certainly with the autumn statement in mind. This was the subject of many exchanges at the Dispatch Box where the substantial increases in funding that have occurred under the Government have been put forward by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services, and others. No doubt the debate will continue in much the same way in the forthcoming months.

Sir Peter Emery (Honiton)

Might I, in a kindly fashion, nudge the memory of my right hon. Friend about his assurance to give prime time for debate of the number of outstanding Procedure Committee reports—not just one, but a number of them? I believe that those reports contain recommendations that the Government would like adopted. If that is to be the case, could they be adopted early, rather than late, in the Parliament? As for the appointment of Select Committees, the Procedure Committee is dissimilar to some of those that deal with Departments. It could be appointed by the Government quite early and quickly, and might also be of assistance to you, Mr. Speaker. Could that be done as soon as possible?

Mr. Wakeham

I will do everything I can to enable my hon. Friend to continue to address me in such a courteous way.

Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North)

In view of the onerous burden that we have heard is placed upon the usual channels, not least in respect to Select Committees, will the Leader of the House consider making time available next week for a debate that will allow the House to determine a different method for appointing its Select Committees other than through the usual channels?

Mr. Wakeham

I have a feeling that that intervention may have been well meant, but that it may not assist us in the matter.

Sir Geoffrey Pattie (Chertsey and Walton)

Will my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House arrange for a statement when a final decision has been taken on the British National Space Centre plan?

Mr. Wakeham

I will certainly refer that matter to my right hon. Friend the Minister concerned.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

In answer to the Leader of the Opposition on the question of space, the Leader of the House said quite clearly that the Government have decided against extra funding. In the light of the recommendation in the Report of the Advisory Committee on Science and Technology under Sir Francis Toombs that we either double funding or that we get out altogether, it should not just be referred to other Ministers before the House has any input. The Minister with responsibility for the subject seems to be nodding. Surely the House should have an input into space decisions before they are taken rather than being told after the event when it can do nothing about them.

Mr. Wakeham

Those are matters that I obviously must refer to the Minister concerned. It is for him to consider when is the right moment to come to the House to report.

Mr. David Madel (Bedfordshire, South-West)

Will my right hon. Friend ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science to make an early statement on two matters? First, where a local education authority is trying to close a secondary school, what will be the Department's attitude if parents and Governors take a consultative vote as to whether they want to opt out of the system? Secondly, a number of school pupils have to make field trips as part of the new GCSE courses. Is it unlawful, as I think it is, to charge for those trips? May we have a more general statement as to what schools may or may not charge for, because there is quite a bit of confusion?

Mr. Wakeham

I shall certainly refer the matter to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. However, it seems to me that those are matters that are directly relevant to the debate on Monday. If my hon. Friend was to catch your eye on Monday, Mr. Speaker, he could elaborate further on those points.

Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)

Will the Leader of the House reflect on the tradition of debates on the Scottish economy? While the debate on the Second Reading of the Scottish Development Agency Bill was interesting, there is a need to debate the Scottish economy as a whole, particularly in relation to industries such as shipbuilding. In the answers to a debate on the Scottish economy, may we have a clear statement of why the Secretary of State for Defence has departed from his previous commitment to order three type 23 frigates per annum when he comes to debate the Defence Estimates next week? May we have a clear undertaking that a Select Committee on Scottish Affairs will be set up as soon as possible?

Mr. Wakeham

The Select Committee on Scottish Affairs will be set up as soon as I can arrange it, along with all the other Committees. With regard to the other points, I will refer the defence point to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence. I do not think I can add anything to what I have already told the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Michael Latham (Rutland and Melton)

Since Foreign Office Ministers were talking cryptically and glumly yesterday about further difficult decisions on Common Market spending, can we have an early debate on agriculture and, in particular, can we be told when we shall have details of the set-aside scheme?

Mr. Wakeham

There are some parts of the business next week that might enable some aspects of this to be discussed, but certainly I will refer the matter to my right hon. Friend.

Dr. Jeremy Bray (Motherwell, South)

The Leader of the House is aware that 5 million people in Hong Kong have only a few years left under British rule. Those people are currently being consulted as to whether they wish to have direct elections in 1988. Will he arrange for the House, which has a responsibility in the matter under the Anglo-Chinese agreement, to debate the report of the Legislative Assessment Committee before the Governments of the United Kingdom and Hong Kong make up their minds on the matter?

Mr. Wakeham

I will have to give some consideration to that, but I cannot promise it in the next week.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

Will my right hon. Friend be much more forthcoming and specific to me, as an enduring Back Bencher, as to when the Select Committees will be reconstituted? I am sure that he is aware that some of the matters raised in the House this afternoon about some of the under-funding problems of the Health Service, resulting from its great success and the dedication of staff and nurses, is a matter that the Select Committee on Social Services would be keen to examine at an early date. Will he tell us specifically when the Select Committees will be re-established?

Mr. Wakeham

I wish that I could give my hon. Friend the information that he is perfectly entitled to have, but as it is not available to me I cannot tell him. All I can say:is that I am working as hard as I can, along with many others in the House, through the usual channels to get them going as quickly as possible.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)

Also on the issue of Select Committees, and in view of the reply of the Leader of the House to the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas), can he give the House an assurance that the refusal of a few of his very limited Scottish Back Benchers to serve on the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs will not delay the establishment of that Committee?

Mr. Wakeham

Committees of the House arc set up after selection by the Committee of Selection. That is the way we proceed and I do not anticipate that it will be done any differently this time to before.

Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South)

Will my right hon. Friend arrange an early debate on the return of capital punishment, about which many people feel strongly not only in the House but outside it?

Mr. Wakeham

I have a feeling that that subject will be debated in the House before long, if in no other way than because the Criminal Justice Bill is presently going through the other place and eventually will be corning here.

Mr. Robert N. Waring (Liverpool, West Derby)

Is the Leader of the House aware of the great anxiety that exists about what the Social Security Bill will contain., particularly in respect of pensioners and the disabled? Therefore, will he give an assurance that that Bill will be available in the Vote Office by 9.30 tomorrow morning or that he will postpone the Second Reading?

Mr. Wakeham

I shall certainly see that the Bill is available as early as possible tomorrow morning. It will certainly be published tomorrow.

Mr. Michael Fallon (Darlington)

Did the Leader of the House hear the Bishop of Durham on lunch-time radio whining on again about the declining industries in the north-east, and further damaging the image and self-confidence of our region? Is it not high time that either——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I did not quite hear what the hon. Gentleman was saying, but I hope that he was not criticising a Member of the other place.

Mr. Fallon

If you ask me to withdraw, Mr. Speaker, I shall do so, of course.

Is it not time that we had a debate on the north-east so that, rather than hear its critics whining on again about the region's problems, its elected representatives could draw attention to the strong economic recovery that is being promoted within it by the Government?

Mr. Wakeham

I did not hear the Bishop of Durham on the radio at lunchtime. I was busy thinking about what I would say in response to questions directed to the setting up of Select Committees. A debate on the north-east is important and I shall ascertain what can be done about that, but not next week.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

Will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement to be made next week on the Settle-Carlisle line? The Leader of the House will be aware that there is an outstanding decision on the retention of the line, which this year is certainly breaking even, even if it is not profitable. It is one of the most successful of British Rail's provincial services and people use it in their many thousands. Surely the 22,000 objectors to closure deserve more than this lingering period during which the Government seem unable to produce a decision. They are looking to the Government to say clearly that the service will be retained, and we could do with such a statement next week.

Mr. Wakeham

I know that the hon. Gentleman is concerned about this issue, he having raised it before, as have some of my hon. Friends. I shall refer the matter to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport to see whether an appropriate statement can be made.

Mr. Tony Favell (Stockport)

May we have an early debate on the proposed BCal-British Airways merger? The introduction of competition into road transport has brought enormous benefits. A near-monopoly of British skies by Lord King, who may be a merry old soul, will not bring cheaper fares to passengers.

Mr. Wakeham

I think that it would be quite improper for the House to debate the issue until the report of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission is received.

Mr. Bruce Grocott (The Wrekin)

Given the comments of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark) about the problems of the Health Service in the west midlands, and bearing in mind that the chairman of the health authority for that area, a Government appointee, has made a statement that the Telford hospital, which is due to open next year, may have to be mothballed in part through lack of funds, is it not high time that we had a debate on the Health Service and the cash crisis that it faces?

Mr. Wakeham

I fully accept that a debate on the Health Service is something which many hon. Members would like, but I cannot promise it for next week.

Mr. James Couchman (Gillingham)

Will my right hon. Friend make time to have a debate on the spectrum of the issues that relate to emergencies such as last week's hurricane? Kent suffered the worst of the snow in January and the worst of the winds in October, and it is now said with some cynicism that all we need to complete 1987 is a plague of frogs. If that plague of frogs arrives, doubtless my right hon. Friends will still be talking about the product of a penny rate before a move is made. It seems that the time has come for these issues to be debated. In January I had to ask for a state of emergency to be declared because of the snow. These are serious matters in the south-east, which has been afflicted severely on two occasions and beyond expectations this year.

Mr. Wakeham

My hon. Friend raises a good point. There are lessons to be learnt and experiences to be shared between local authorities in the event of these emergencies, and I think that this would make a good subject for debate at the appropriate time.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

In a week that has seen the biggest crash on the British stock market—22 per cent.—without a statement being made in the House by any spokesperson of the party of popular capitalism, why can the Chancellor of the Exchequer be allowed to flit between BBC and ITV studios throughout two entire days to try to explain that there is plenty of confidence, without being called upon to defend the argument at the Dispatch Box? Not too long ago a Chancellor of the Exchequer, faced with such a collapse, would have been expected to answer questions on the subject. Yet the Leader of the House told my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition that he does not even know when the Chancellor of the Exchequer will present the autumn statement. What is happening? Has everyone on the Government Benches gone shy about popular capitalism?

Mr. Wakeham

I told the Leader of the Opposition that I was not in a position to tell him on what date the autumn statement would be made. I did not say that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not know when it would be made. I do not know whether he knows or does not know. I do not believe that it would be helpful or necessary for the House to have a debate on the goings on on the Stock Exchange. As I understand it, the price of shares is about what it was last April.

Mr. Spencer Batiste (Elmet)

My right hon. Friend will recall that before the summer recess he was asked on a number of occasions whether there could be a debate on the space industry. Since then there have been speeches that have suggested that policy in this important area is under review. Given the considerable anxiety in the House on the future of this vital industry and the concern that it should not be jeopardised, can my right hon. Friend offer an early debate on the matter, certainly before the important meeting of Ministers in November at the European Space Agency?

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise the importance of the matter, but I do not think that I can add anything to the answers that I have already given.

Mr. John Fraser (Norwood)

In view of the answer given by the Prime Minister earlier today, are we to have a statement next week from the Attorney-General about the extraordinary events at the Old Bailey when the Crown case against the ANC kidnappers was withdrawn? Although a statement will be made by the Attorney-General, will it deal with whether the alleged criminals were working for the Crown? Secondly, will it assure us that if they were working for the Crown the sort of "Spycatcher" veil of secrecy will not be drawn over the operation?

Mr. Wakeham

I was sitting nearer to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister than the hon. Gentleman and I did not hear her say quite what he alleges. I heard her say that she would refer the matter to my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General, and that it was up to him, as he was the prosecuting authority, to decide whether it would be appropriate for him to make a statement, it being a matter entirely for him. That is what will be done.

Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley)

As someone who was present throughout the discussions on the Second Reading of the Scottish Development Agency Bill last night, may I assure the Leader of the House that the chaos resulted from a combination of the incompetence of the Government Whips and the fact that Scots Tory Members are reduced to a rump of 10? This brings us to the setting up of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs. Did the Leader of the House say earlier that it will be set up at exactly the same time as all the other Select Committees? Will he confirm that? Secondly, as three of the five Scots Tory Back Benchers have said that they will refuse to serve on that Select Committee, the only options before the Government and the House are to give the Committee a Labour majority, which would reflect the balance of parties in Scotland, to reduce the membership of the Committee to three members, or to import English Tory Members to sit on it, which would be as unacceptable to them as to us. May we have an absolute assurance from the Leader of the House that neither of the second two options would be accepted and put before the House?

Mr. Wakeham

I must tell the hon. Gentleman with all charity that the day that I accept his views on the way on which the House is run is the day that the usual channels will have gone for ever. I listened to him and I do not think that I have anything further to add.

    1. c942
    2. EMPLOYMENT BILL 196 words
      1. c942
      2. (FINANCIAL LIMITS) BILL 117 words
    4. SOCIAL SECURITY BILL 121 words
  2. STATUTORY INSTRUMENTS, &c. 73 words