HC Deb 14 July 1988 vol 137 cc562-79 3.46 pm
Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras)

Will the Leader of the House state the business for next week?

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Wakeham)

The business for next week will be as follows:

  • MONDAY 18 JULY—Supplemental timetable motion on the Education Reform Bill.
  • Consideration of Lords amendments to the Education Reform Bill (1st Allotted Day).
  • TUESDAY 19 JULY—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Education Reform Bill (2nd Allotted Day).
  • Motions relating to the Housing Benefit, The Family Credit and the Income Support (General) No. 2 Amendment Regulations.
  • WEDNESDAY 20 JULY—Supplemental timetable motion on the Local Government Finance Bill.
  • Consideration of Lords amendments to the Local Government Finance Bill.
  • Motion on the code of recommended practice on local authority publicity.
  • THURSDAY 21 JULY—Estimates Day (3rd Allotted Day). There will be debates on hospital and community health and other services, England (class XIV, vote 1) and on the Training Commission (class VII, vote 5) so far as it relates to adult employment and youth training.
  • Motion on the British Shipbuilders Borrowing Powers (Increase of Limit) Order.
  • Motion on the Church of England (Pensions) Measure.
  • At Ten o'clock the Question will be put on all outstanding estimates.
  • FRIDAY 22 JULY—There will be a debate on the White paper "Reform of Section 2 of the Official Secrets Act 1911" (Cm. 408) on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.
  • MONDAY 25 JULY—Remaining stages of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Bill [Lords].
The House may be asked to consider any Lords amendments which may be received. The House will also wish to know that, subject to the progress of business, it will be proposed that the House should rise for the summer Adjournment on Friday 29 July until Wednesday 19 October.

Mr. Dobson

It is customary to thank the Leader of the House for his business statement, but I would be a hypocrite if I thanked him for what he has told us today.

Before I deal with the business set down for next week, may I ask the Leader of the House to tell us when we are likely to get the next statement on the Rover fiasco? The work force at least is entitled to find out as soon as possible what its future is to be.

From the proposed business for next week, it is clear that we have now reached the ridiculous stage where the Government's legislative business is being organised and master minded by the same people who are organising flight departures at Gatwick airport. It is proposed that on Monday and Tuesday we are to have guillotined debates on the Lords amendments to the Education Reform Bill. The Lords have made, in case the yobboes on the Government Benches have not noticed——

Mr. Speaker

Order. Moderation in language is the rule here.

Mr. Dobson

They are honourable yobboes.

The Lords have made more than 569 amendments to the Education Reform Bill. The amendments cover no fewer than 97 pages and a wide variety of important issues, including parents' ballots, academic freedom, the funding of universities, including those in Scotland, and, particularly, the vexed and delicate topic of religious education and religious services in schools.

The proposed time to be made available to debate all those issues works out at about 80 seconds per amendment —not enough time to read them out, let alone debate and consider them. The Government proclaimed tht the Education Reform Bill was a matter of the utmost importance, but the timetable proposed for next week shows that they intend to treat the Bill, the House of Commons and the nation's children with contempt. I remind Conservative Members that, if the Bill is as important to the future of our children's education as Ministers claim, there are no action replays of childhood. The House must get things right, but there is no chance of getting them right as things stand at present.

On Wednesday, we are expected to debate the Lords amendments to the poll tax Bill. The Lords have made at least 482 amendments—that was the latest count—to that flagship of the Government's legislative programme. The time proposed to be made available to debate the amendments is equivalent to about 60 seconds per amendment.

Both those Bills have been changed almost beyond recognition by the Lords, yet scarcely any time is provided for this elected House to scrutinise the Bills. I say to the Leader of the House, Ministers and Conservative Members that, if they do not make more time available to debate those measures, these will not be Acts of Parliament; they will be little more than ministerial directives, unconsidered by the elected part of this Parliament.

Will the Leader of the House reconsider his proposals? Will he give those people affected by the changes in the Lords the opportunity to advise hon. Members about what they think of the changes that have been made and then bring the Bills back and provide time to debate them properly? We hear a lot of cant from time to time about the need to sustain parliamentary democracy, and Conservative members should remember that, on all occasions, Opposition Members have sustained that position.

The biggest threat to parliamentary democracy is when Governments treat democracy with contempt. That is what we face now, and we call upon the Leader of the House to reconsider the proposals and come back with something sensible that can be sustained.

Mr. Wakeham

The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) asked me first about the Rover company. I do not think that there is anything useful that I can say at the moment, but the Government certainly intend to keep the House informed in the appropriate way. We can discuss the matter through the usual channels.

The hon. Gentleman raised the question of the Education Reform Bill and, in particular, four issues that he said were extremely important. The amendments to the Bill are available in the Vote Office. I intend to table the timetable motion later today. I believe that the time allocated for consideration of the Lords amendments will prove to be adequate. In view of what the hon. Gentleman has said, I am prepared to have the matter examined again through the usual channels.

I believe that a full day's debate on the Lords amendments to the Local Government Finance Bill will prove to be adequate. I listened to what the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras said and I am prepared to examine the matter again through the usual channels.

Some of the more general remarks of the hon. Member were a bit rich. I reject his criticisms. We shall complete our consideration of the Finance Bill this evening, and I have announced the concluding stages of three major Bills and the proposal that we rise for the summer recess before the end of July. If the hon. Gentleman thinks that that points to disarray in the Government's business programme, he must be thankful that he was not here to see the legislative programme of the last Labour Government.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)

To take up my right hon. Friend's welcome response to the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson), will he bear in mind that Conservative Members would like to debate the Education Reform Bill and the Local Government Finance Bill in some detail and with some seriousness? Will he consider devoting all of next week to the Education Reform Bill, leaving the Local Government Finance Bill until we return in October? Many of us would be perfectly happy to consider the Bills in August as well. I know that my right hon. Friend accepts that these are matters that deserve the most careful and earnest consideration. I hope, therefore, that he will think again.

Mr. Wakeham

I have said to the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras that I shall consider these matters again. I have not yet given an undertaking that I can make any changes. I accept that there are a great many amendments to both Bills, but most of them are technical and drafting. A further significant number arise from concessions and commitments which were made during the Bill's passage.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

Does the Leader of the House agree that much time could be saved in debating the Lords amendments to both the Education Reform Bill and the Local Government Finance Bill if the Government were prepared to accept many of the sensible amendments that were won in another place, not least those relating to academic freedom and exemption for student nurses, which were tabled and moved by my noble Friends? Can the right hon. Gentleman give any hope that these amendments will be accepted? Various concessions have led to some amendments to the Local Government Finance Bill. They do not make it a good Bill, but if they are accepted it will be less bad. What arrangements are being made to extend the concessions to Scottish legislation?

Mr. Wakeham

The substance of the Bill will have to await the debate. The Government have examined carefully all the issues raised in debate and have accepted a number of suggestions from Opposition parties and from their own supporters. We recognise that in some respects the Bills have been improved. We are grateful to all concerned for their contributions. We are criticised, however, for making concessions when it comes to bringing legislation forward from another place.

Mr. Michael Fallon (Darlington)

Will my right hon. Friend confirm the rule that those who are paid under the Ministerial and Other Salaries Act should not normally absent themselves abroad while the House is sitting? Does he expect next week's business to be attended by the Leader of the Opposition? Does the accept that his safari is strictly necessary?

Mr. Wakeham

I have enough problems on my hands without worrying about the Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

Is the Leader of the House aware that he does his reputation no good when he boasts that he has announced the final consideration of two Bills and that the Government are managing the business properly, when he could not do that if he had not announced that the Bills were to be guillotined in the first place?

We and the country understand that the Cabinet consists of Members of Parliament and Members of the other place, but it is clear from the right hon. Gentleman's statement that there is not one parliamentarian among them. Why does he seek to undermine Members of Parliament, which is the effect of his statement? We are expected to say to our constituents, "Obey the laws that have been passed in a freely elected Parliament," when those laws have not been discussed? I cannot say to my constituents, "You must obey this law because it was debated. We lost the vote but it was debated."

It is unacceptable that we should be asked to deal with 500 amendments in one day on the poll tax Bill. It does not matter that all bar two of the amendments were tabled by the Government. We are entitled to discuss Government amendments. We know that—[Interruption.]—every one of those Government amendments in the other place was requested in the House of Commons in Committee and on Report and we are entitled to a proper and full explanation of why the Government have now amended the Bill in the other place—a Bill that they said could not be amended in the other place because it was a taxation matter.

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise that the hon. Gentleman's comments are not entirely connected with the business for next week.

Mr. Rooker

Yes they are.

Mr. Wakeham

However, I appreciate that a great deal of business is set down for next week and I have said that I am ready to have discussions through the usual channels. But the hon. Gentleman will recall that on previous occasions the House has considered a large number of Lords amendments on a reasonable time scale. For example, in 1986, just over 580 Lords amendments to the Financial Services Bill were dealt with in just under eight hours.

Mr. John Wheeler (Westminster, North)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, if the House is to have any regard to the statements made this afternoon by the hon. Members for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) and for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker), the absence of the well-paid Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition is an outrage? Will he make arrangements to bring him back from looking at the one-party state of Zambia and the failed Marxist economy of Mozambique in order to participate in the importanit work of next week?

Mr. Wakeham

As I have said, I am not responsible for the Leader of the Opposition's travel arrangements. I have announced what I believe to be reasonable business for next week, and I have said that I shall look at it again in view of the request of the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras. However, I must point out that, while both Bills came under a guillotine motion, passed by the House, both allowed a considerable amount of time for discussion.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

Will the Leader of the House bear in mind that on several occasions we have asked when legislation would be brought forward to restore democracy in Northern Ireland and on several occasions he has told us that discussions are going on? In the light of the impending end of term and the pressure of next week's business, and the reported comments of the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic that it is impossible to maintain a proper and civilised relationship with the United Kingdom, may we have a statement in the near future on when Northern Ireland, as part of the United Kingdom, will obtain proper democracy?

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise the anxiety about that matter. However, any changes in that system would best be considered against the background of the wider progress of Northern Ireland affairs. I intend to invite the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) to see me for a chat about those matters before the House rises. I cannot promise early progress, but I should very much like to hear his views.

Mr. Dudley Smith (Warwick and Leamington)

As my right hon. Friend has announced the dates for the summer recess, will he update us on the televising of Parliament? What progress is being made by the Committee that is considering the matter? Will its report be debated in the House? Without giving actual dates, can he give us some idea of when the experiment will start?

Mr. Wakeham

The Select Committee is making good progress and is working hard. I cannot give my hon. Friend any guidance on the date that its report will be published except to say that it will not be before the House rises for the summer. The House will have an opportunity to debate and make a decision on the report before the experiment is approved and takes place.

Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East)

May I press the Leader of the House further on the question of a debate on the future of Rover, particularly in view of yesterday's statement from the European Commission referring to the Rover Group's move from mass car production to specialist car production, a move that has never been debated in the House, which has enormous implications—even the buffoons on the Conservative Benches should listen to this—for the west midlands car components industry? Are those matters to be left solely to the decisions of Mr. Peter Sutherland and Lord Young, neither of whom is answerable to the House?

Mr. Wakeham

The hon. Gentleman, as a fair man, will recognise that we have had several debates on Rover and the substance of what was said in them is a matter not for me but for those taking part. I have said that I recognise that this is an important matter. The Government wish to keep the House informed of any developments, and I shall arrange for that to be done through the usual channels. That is the best way to proceed.

Mr. Jonathan Aitken (Thanet, South)

If my right hon. Friend, as a result of his discussions through the usual channels on next week's crowded business, needs to find a little more parliamentary time, may I suggest that he considers postponing Friday's debate on the reform of the Official Secrets Act until the spill-over period? Is he aware that it seems a little over-secretive to be debating the reform of official secrecy in the dog watches of a July Friday when there is much interest in the matter which would benefit from further consideration of the recently published White Paper in prime parliamentary time?

Mr. Wakeham

Many of us find that we are in the House on Fridays and we are talking about a normal Friday. I recognise that for some people Friday is not the most convenient day, but I arranged the debate because the Government undertook to do so. Obviously, if there was a general wish to change it, I would consider that, but I believe that it is best to proceed as I announced.

Ms. Dawn Primarolo (Bristol, South)

Will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement to be made to the House on the current situation in Nicaragua—[Interruption.] Conservative Members may find this funny, but people are dying in Nicaragua and it is not a funny subject—particularly in the light of the actions of the Americans in the last few weeks, and bearing in mind that the American Senate is considering an amendment to reinstitute lethal aid to the Contra terrorists to institute violence, destabilisation and attacks on a young democracy. We as a democracy should be stating clearly our revulsion towards those activities and pressurising the Americans, through the House, to back off and leave Nicaragua alone.

Mr. Wakeham

I cannot promise the hon. Lady a debate on that subject next week, but there are ways in which she may be able to raise it. I have seen the early-day motion on the subject in her name, but I have to tell her that the Government deplore that motion, which seeks to justify actions by the Sandinista Government which are in clear contravention of their commitment to the democratisation embodied in the Guatemala peace agreement.

Mr. James Kilfedder (North Down)

Last Monday evening, when the Foreign Secretary appeared on television on "Wogan", the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland also appeared on television when he said that, in effect, it was vital that he should stay on an extra year in that office in order to bring his political initiatives to a successful conclusion. The people of Northern Ireland are mystified because they are not aware of any political initiative that would require the Secretary of State to stay on for another year to bring it to a conclusion. Therefore, may we have an urgent debate next week so that the Secretary of State can reveal to the elected representatives of Northern Ireland and to its people, who have been treated like a second-rate colony, this mystical so-called political initiative? The democracy that is so essential for Northern Ireland's progress might then be restored.

Mr. Wakeham

I regret that I cannot find time for a debate on Northern Ireland next week. I also regret that I do not have time to watch the television programme, whose name I have forgotten, that the hon. Gentleman saw last week. However, I wonder whether he has paraphrased exactly what my right hon. Friend said. My right hon. Friend is an excellent Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and the longer he stays the better. However, if my right hon. Friend thinks that he can complete the task of solving the problems of Northern Ireland in one year, he is more of an optimist than I suspect he really is.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I appeal to hon. Members to ask questions about next week's business and not to make general comments.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

Has the Leader of the House had an opportunity to study the "A Claim of Right for Scotland" document produced yesterday by the campaign for the Scottish Assembly? Do the Government intend to make a statement on that document and explain for how long they will continue to ignore the overwhelming majority opinion in Scotland in favour of constitutional change?

Mr. Wakeham

The hon. Gentleman makes claims for his authority to speak for opinion in Scotland which I do not recognise in election results. I have not studied the document that he referred to, but if he sends me a copy I will look at it.

Mr. Neil Hamilton (Tatton)

I hope that my right hon. Friend will join me in deploring some of the mischief-making by Conservative Members about the absence of the Leader of the Opposition while he is visiting black dictators in South Africa when he should be in the House.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member should ask about the business for next week.

Mr. Hamilton

Would it be in order for my right hon. Friend to authorise a debate next week on the value to this country of the Leader of the Opposition being abroad as often as possible, because confidence in Britain will inevitably grow the more he demonstrates to foreigners why the Labour party is unelectable?

Mr. Wakeham

I am quite sure that I could get such a motion in order, but I have no intention of trying.

Several Hon. Members

rose ——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I repeat that business questions are supposed to be about business next week, not about scoring political points.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

As it is Nelson Mandela's 70th birthday on Monday—Opposition Members honour his memory and would wish for a Government statement on the subject—is the Leader of the House aware that we are especially pleased that the Leader of the Opposition has been in southern Africa and making the sort of remarks about the criminal apartheid regime that the Government refuse to make? My right hon. Friend has been representing the majority British point of view about what is happening in South Africa.

Mr. Wakeham

I have nothing further to add. If the right hon. Gentleman has to explain himself to his colleagues, that is up to him.

Mr. Richard Holt (Langbaurgh)

Will my right hon. Friend reconsider my request last week for an urgent debate on the Cleveland child sex abuse case? He courteously wrote to me and said that that was not possible, but since then Dr. Higgs has repeated her assertion that all her diagnoses were correct and Michael Bishop has repeated his assertion that his department was right to take children away from their parents when they were manifestly not sexually abused. One has only to read the judgment of both Judge Myrella Cohen and Lord Justice Butler-Sloss to come to that conclusion. It would be a manifest injustice to people in my constituency and the area if the House were to rise for the summer recess before we had a debate on this subject.

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise that this is an important subject and how strongly my hon. Friend and his constituents feel about it. I cannot promise him Government time, but there are ways in which he could raise the matter in the House before the summer recess. I invite him to do that.

Ms. Hilary Armstrong (Durham, North-West)

Is the Leader of the House aware that the amendments to the Education Reform Bill constitute a document that is larger than the Education Act 1944? Does he believe that it is reasonable and fair, or that it has anything to do with improving the education opportunities of all our children, to consider such a lengthy document with so many amendments in two days? Will he give a commitment that we will have more time to debate this issue, which is vital for the nation and its children?

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise that this is an important measure and also that it is substantially longer than the 1944 Act. A substantial number of the amendments are technical and constitute concessions, and I believe that the time that I have allocated is adequate and will prove to be so. I have said that I will consider the matter again, but I do not think. I can add anything further.

Mr. Michael Latham (Rutland and Melton)

Will my right hon. Friend talk today to the Lord Chancellor and Lord Denham with a view to some action—not a statement—next week to prevent the very large number of our constituents who visit the Houses of Parliament having to queue in the rain before they come in? If we can put up an awning for the State opening of Parliament, we can put one up for the people who want to visit their Parliament day after day.

Mr. Wakeham

That matter has been looked at in the past and, of course, can be looked at again, but with all the powers I have, I do not think I could organise that for next week.

Mr. James Lamond (Oldham, Central and Royton)

Will the Leader of the House give permission to the Prime Minister to tell us next week about the angry exchanges that she no doubt had with the President of Turkey about the lack of human rights and the lack of respect for the Helsinki Final Act in Turkey, and the angry demands which she no doubt made for the removal of his troops of occupation from the northern part of Cyprus? They have been occupying part of a fellow Commonwealth country since 1974.

Mr. Wakeham

I can only repeat what I said last week. Turkey is a dependable ally with which we enjoy a close relationship, and President Evren is a welcome guest here.

Mr. Eric Forth (Mid-Worcestershire)

Will my right hon. Friend arrange an urgent debate on the role of the Leader of the Opposition, especially with reference to the tradition of the House—which seems now to be cast aside—that senior politicians, such as the Leader of the Opposition, do not criticise the Government when abroad? Will my right hon. Friend also arrange for a debate on the encouragement of South African exports by the Leader of the Opposition in drinking South African wine? Also, will he arrange for a debate on the role of the Leader of the Opposition in by-elections? Perhaps he could suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should at least be in this country during by-elections.

Mr. Wakeham

As I have said to several of my hon. Friends, I have no responsibility—for which I am greatly relieved—for what the Leader of the Opposition decides to do or not to do. I have outlined some very important business for the House to deal with next week, and that will be the most profitable way for the House to spend its time. I have enough difficulties dealing with that business.

Mr. Nicholas Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne, East)

The Leader of the House will no doubt be aware that, last Wednesday, the Public Accounts Committee published its 31st report on "Naval Warship and Weapons Procurement". I should like him to arrange a debate on that important report next week, but if he cannot do so will he draw the following controversial point to the Prime Minister's attention? The Ministry of Defence told the Public Accounts Committee that they sought to avoid getting into a situation where one contractor won all the business in warship procurement, which might give short-term but not long-term value for money. That is what the Ministry of Defence told the Public Accounts Committee, yet the Leader of the House will recall that last Monday the junior Minister for Defence Procurement came to the Dispatch Box and announced that the whole frigate programme was being placed with one yard. That was precisely the opposite of what the PAC had been told. The House is entitled to know whether the MOD has changed its mind or whether the PAC has been substantially misled.

Mr. Wakeham

A third explanation is that the hon. Gentleman has got it a bit muddled. The Government respond to reports from the PAC at the proper time, when they have given them proper consideration, and that is what they will do on this occasion. I am not prepared to arrange a debate in advance of a response from the Government to the PAC's report.

Sir John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that British Telecom is still giving franchises to allow the transmission of pornographic material on the telephones? Will he arrange for the Home Secretary to come to the House next week and put a stop to that vile practice which is corrupting our youth?

Mr. Wakeham

I do not know that I can get my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to come to the House to make a statement, but I am sure that those responsible for such matters and those responsible when there are any breaches of the law will have heard what my hon. Friend said and will take the appropriate action.

Mr. Allen McKay (Barnsley, West and Penistone)

May I revert to the answer that the right hon. Gentleman gave my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker), calling in aid the Financial Services Bill? That was not subject to a guillotine, whereas the Bill that we are to debate on Wednesday will be subject to a guillotine. When there is a guillotine on a Bill with 500 amendments time is needed to discuss it properly. While some of the amendments are technical, other amendments from the Lords concern matters which have not been discussed either in Committee or on Report in this House and there is need for time to do that. Does he realise that, although announcing the rising of the House on 29 July and the return on 19 October, he seems to be rushing a Bill which will affect every person and every family in this country, and that the country will not forgive a Government who rush through such a Bill or an Opposition that allow them to do so?

Mr. Wakeham

I did not pretend that I was quoting an exact parallel. I recognise that there is a difference between a Bill under a guillotine and a Bill not under a guillotine. But the House dealt with 580 amendments to the Financial Services Bill, which shows that inherently the number of amendments is not the only factor to take into account. The Education Reform Bill has already had more than 200 hours of discussion in the House of Commons and some 150 hours in the House of Lords. I believe that the time that I have allocated is adequate, but, as I have said, I am prepared to have discussions through the usual channels.

Mr. Andrew McKay (Berkshire, East)

As I gather that next week the Leader of the Opposition will he coming back from his safari, would it not be a placatory end-of-term gesture for my right hon. Friend to change the business next week and arrange for a debate on one-party states in southern Africa to give the Leader of the Opposition an opportunity to speak on something of which he has first-hand experience?

Mr. Wakeham

My hon. Friend tempts me, but I shall not fall for the temptation.

Mr. Harry Ewing (Falkirk, East)

Is there anything in the Education Reform Bill next week which will ensure that in future the Conservative party will be able to recruit much better qualified Back Benchers, rather than the bunch that we have had today asking illiterate questions based on an illiterate document and brief issued by Bernard Ingham? Surely for £22,500 their constituents are entitled to expect a much higher standard than primary 5 or 6.

Mr. Wakeham

The hon. Gentleman usually makes a better fist of it than that; he is usually a good performer on these occasions. I did not notice him here at 3 o'clock this morning to discuss the motion on short speeches, so that is not the excuse. I think that he must have welcomed my suggestion of a holiday beginning at the end of July.

Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, North)

Will my right hon. Friend arrange an early debate on manners, conventions and the behaviour of Members of this place outside the Chamber? Is he not particularly disturbed at the denigration of this country by the Leader of the Opposition during his recent visit to Africa and his very unpatriotic remarks about the conventions of this House? Is not my right hon. Friend also disturbed by the fact that today some 40 Labour Members left the Kensington by-election to visit my constituency, without letting me know, on a fruitless exercise to celebrate the terrorist Nelson Mandela's birthday?

Mr. Wakeham

I have some sympathy with my hon. Friend, but conventions and good manners are primarily a matter of self-discipline. Right hon. and hon. Members must decide how they feel they should behave, and conduct themselves accordingly.

Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)

Hopefully, Sir, business for next week. As the West German courts have found that there was no Libyan involvement whatsoever in the bombing of the Berlin disco, and as the Prime Minister listened to and acted on the lying misrepresentations of General Vernon Walters about the involvement of Libya and allowed British bases to be used outside NATO arrangements for the bombing of Tripoli, when can the House have an opportunity to debate the necessary compensation that should be paid both to the Libyan Government and to the Libyan people?

Mr. Wakeham

I do not accept all the points in the hon. Gentleman's question, but it is not for me to comment in detail on what he said. I will see that the matter which he raises is referred to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

As one who spends more time than some other hon. Members in this House, and as one who is used, particularly in important debates, to the sea-green purity, the ininterrupted purity, of those on the Opposition Benches, particularly in debates on education reform and the community charge, may I say how pleased I and, I am sure, many of my colleagues would be to stay here for the first week of August, or even the whole of August, to get that important, vital, popular and progressive business through the House? Will my right hon. Friend, when he is having discussions through the usual channels, ask the hon. Gentleman the shadow Leader of the House how many of his hon. Friends would actually be here in August to debate this business, because I think that when he gets the answer to that question he will find out the true meaning of the word "cant"?

Mr. Wakeham

My hon. Friend is far too modest. I know from my time as Patronage Secretary, and my right hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary knows, that there are no limits to the support that my hon. Friend will give the Government on all occasions. If we asked him to stay for the whole of August and September, I know that he would do so very willingly, and I am very grateful to him for his support.

Ms. Joyce Quin (Gateshead, East)

Is the Leader of the House aware of the proposed closure of Marconi Radar in my constituency and the decision by Marconi to concentrate production in the south-east? Does he not agree that this decision, which has caused dismay on Tyneside, raises important regional and management considerations which should be given early examination by the House?

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise the hon. Lady's concern. I know that any closures are distressing to the people concerned, but some of them are inevitable and cannot be avoided. I recognise that this raises important issues. I have a lot of Marconi workers in my own constituency, and very high-quality, skilled workers they are, but I cannot promise an early debate on the subject.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough and Horncastle)

Will my right hon. Friend resist demands for extra time to be given for the Local Government Finance Bill on the ground that, contrary to what we have heard today, given the number of concessions and the way in which the Government have won virtually every vote in the other place, there are only one or two matters of substantial difference between the two Houses? One night will be quite sufficient for the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) to make his reputation in the Labour party by explaining what Labour party policy is. How many seconds were available to discuss each amendment on the various Bills when the last Labour Government introduced four—or was it five?—guillotine motions in one day?

Mr. Wakeham

It was five guillotine motions in one day, but that was not something for which I had any responsibility. My hon. Friend makes a very fair point. The Local Government Finance Bill had two days' debate in this House on Second Reading. 147 hours in Committee and five days on Report and Third Reading. It has had one day in the Lords on Second Reading, over 54 hours in Committee, 24 hours on Report and one day on Third Reading. The matters that are outstanding are important, but, I believe, relatively simple for the House to resolve.

Mr. Ron Brown (Edinburgh, Leith)

Should there not be a special debate next week on the role of the Tory media, remembering the slogan, "Make it simple, make it short and make it up"? I say that specifically about a rape case involving a young person who had her name mentioned in The Sun, causing great distress to her family. Is it not time that there were controls? Government Ministers speak about decency and good manners. Is it not time that we saw decency and good manners in the British media, particularly in the so-called popular press?

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise when an injustice is done to somebody in the newspapers, but I have no comment to make on an individual case. There are ways of seeking redress, and I do not believe that a debate next week would be the way forward, although I recognise that this is an important matter.

Mr. Spencer Batiste (Elmet)

When my right hon. Friend is discussing through the usual channels the timetable for the Education Reform Bill, will he bear in mind that all the contentious issues raised today by the Opposition were fully explored in Committee and on the Floor of the House and that the concessions made arising from those discussions were widely welcomed on both sides of the House and outside? Will he also bear in mind that there are relatively few points of contention remaining between this House and the House of Lords and that, above all, those in schools, universities and polytechnics who are responsible for implementing the provisions of the Bill require certainty as soon as possible so that they can undertake the necessary planning?

Mr. Wakeham

Absolutely. My hon. Friend puts his points extremely clearly. I am sure that everybody accepts the validity of his argument.

Mr. Dennis Turner (Wolverhampton, South-East)

One of the great scandals in our midst is that of mass unemployment. From today's figures we can see that there are still large parts of the country with high unemployment. Wolverhampton is today marked as the black spot for unemployment in the west midlands. Lying behind those statistics is the human tragedy of people languishing on the dole when they want to make a contribution to society. I want to ask the Leader of the House if he will advise his Government that they should not be euphoric——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman should ask for a debate.

Mr. Turner

I am asking the Leader of the House a question. Will he make a statement of hope to all those people whom I have mentioned? Will he, before the summer recess, give them some hope that the Government will provide an opportunity for them to find a job and security at an early date?

Mr. Wakeham

I know that the hon. Gentleman speaks for his constituents, and that is perfectly right. He must recognise that, although unemployment is a tragedy for anyone, the Government have to continue with the policies they believe will bring unemployment down, as it has been coming down month after month for many months now. A welcome from him for what has been achieved over the past two years or so in falling unemployment would be appreciated, particularly as one of the areas in which unemployment is falling fastest is the west midlands.

Mr. Michael Brown (Brigg and Cleethorpes)

Will my right hon. Friend ask the Foreign Secretary to make a statement to the House about British-Zimbabwean relationships because a gross insult was paid to the Leader of the Opposition when he landed in Zimbabwe yesterday? There was no VIP to meet him and he was treated in a disgraceful way because he was not regarded as a very important person. Also, the Zimbabwean press has treated a senior Member of the House in a disgraceful way. He was not even recognised because journalists were asking, "Which one is Kinnock?"

Mr. Wakeham

That matter has been raised with me once or twice before. If I provided time for all the debates for which hon. Members are asking, it would not be a question of our rising on 29 July but we would hardly rise in time to come back on 19 October.

Mr. Doug Henderson (Newcastle upon Tyne, North)

The Leader of the House will be aware of the publication by British Rail this morning of possible options on rail links with the Channel tunnel. He will be aware that many people believe the report to be unambitious and inappropriate. Will he arrange for a statement on rail transport to be made next week?

Mr. Wakeham

The Government welcome the publication of the report, which gives British Rail's most recent analysis of the capacity of the existing network and the options for improving speed and capacity between London and the tunnel if, as seems likely, it becomes necessary at some time in the future. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that much more work needs to be done before British Rail is ready to offer firm conclusions and recommendations. It is for British Rail to pursue its studies in consultation with local authorities and other interested parties in the affected areas.

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax)

Will the Leader of the House reconsider his reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South (Ms. Primarolo) and arrange an urgent debate on Nicaragua next week? Will he accept that people who have been there perhaps know a little more about what is going on? Will he further accept that after a recent conversation with the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, who came out with what I would consider to be non-factual information about the country, perhaps there is an urgent need for the House to have a debate, not least to educate some Conservative Members in what is happening there? That country, which is smaller than England and has a population of fewer than 3 million, is fighting a war against the most powerful nation on earth. Congress at this moment is being asked to reconsider funding lethal aid to a hostile army of 9 million. It is an urgent matter, and I urge the Leader of the House to reconsider his remarks.

Mr. Wakeham

I told the hon. Member for Bristol, South (Ms. Primarolo) that I cannot find time for a debate next week. I have to stick to that view.

Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley)

May I make a helpful suggestion to the Leader of the House for when he returns to the usual channels to discuss next week's business? Would it not help if he were to propose that Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday should be spent on the Education Reform Bill, that the poll tax Bill should have three days' debate when we return in October and that the Housing Bill, which is in a shambles, should be dropped and we should have a new Bill in the next Session that really deals with the housing problems facing Britain? If the right hon. Gentleman has confidence in the legislative programme of the Government and believes in democracy, I am sure that he will recognise and be confident of the fact that the issues will be properly debated in the House.

Mr. Wakeham

I have confidence not only in the Government's legislative programme but in the fact that the House will approve it. I recognise that the hon. Gentleman made his suggestions in a spirit of helpfulness to the Government, but I regret that I must reject them.

Mr. William O'Brien (Normanton)

The reply given by the Leader of the House to my hon. Friends the Members for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) and for Barnsley, West and Penistone (Mr. McKay) is not good enough when we are talking about the poll tax. The Leader of the House accepted that the examples given in the reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Perry Barr were not identical. Therefore, there is room for the Leader of the House to reconsider the time allowed—I am not talking about minutes—to discuss the massive number of amendments from the House of Lords.

The reference to the hours that have been spent on the Bill in the House has no significance when we consider that 500 amendments have been submitted for consideration by the other place. In all fairness to the House and the people outside, there should be sufficient time—not minutes, but days—to discuss the poll tax Bill amendments so that we can ensure that there is a full and honest debate on that important issue. May we have an assurance that there will be sufficient time, not seconds, to discuss that important Bill?

Mr. Wakeham

I should not have proposed what I have unless I thought that it allowed sufficient time. I stand by that view. It is no good me pretending that one can look back to a past Bill and draw a correct and complete analogy. I have to justify the time for this Bill and the Lords amendments. I believe that the time I have proposed is adequate. It will be for the House to decide, but I have told the hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends that there will be discussions through the usual channels. I do not believe that I can be more reasonable than that.

Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East)

Given the answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. O'Brien), which makes it look as if there will not be an extension of the debate on the poll tax, and given the fact that the Bill will be in operation in Scotland, may we have a debate to discuss the serious constitutional and democratic crisis that has arisen as a result of the production of that legislation, which will cut the franchise, destroy civil liberties and bring about the end of local government as we have known it in the past? We should have a debate that covers the wide range of constitutional problems facing us now.

Mr. Wakeham

That sounds like a repeat of a speech which the hon. Gentleman may have made in the many hours during which we discussed the legislation, or perhaps a trailer for the speech which he hopes to make in the debate on the Lords amendments, if he is called. I do not believe that it requires any comment from me during business questions.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

On Friday 22 July the White Paper on official secrets is to be discussed. Will the Attorney-General respond to the debate? After all, he has spent over £1 million of taxpayers' money trying to suppress "Spycatcher". If he is in the House to answer the debate, as one hopes, we will be able to raise the issue of why he has allowed Tory sympathisers in MI5 to organise a seditious conspiracy against the 1974 Labour Government on evidence provided and never refuted by any member of the Government. Yet there has been no prosecution. Not even a little finger has been lifted by the Attorney-General to seek out the malefactors. Instead, he has thrown away £1 million of taxpayers' money on trying to suppress the truth.

Mr. Wakeham

It is not normal, in announcing the business, to announce who the speakers will be in any debate, but I should be surprised if the Attorney-General were to take part in the debate, which is in essence a Home Office matter. I should have thought that it was appropriate for the Home Secretary to take part. If the hon. Gentleman hopes to be called in the debate, may I suggest that he does a little homework before he comes to the House? He should recognise that the White Paper is about the reform of criminal law and that the matter to which he has referred was dealt with under the civil law.

Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge)

In all seriousness, will the Leader of the House reconsider the answer that he gave a few moments ago to my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East (Ms. Quin)? Will he arrange for an early statement on what the Government intend to do to prevent the closure of Marconi in Gateshead, with the loss of 450 jobs? Will he repudiate the answer given by the Minister of Trade and Industry yesterday, who implied that this was not a matter for the Government? Given the fact that not only will social and economic issues face the locality, but that there will be a loss of Government revenue and an increase in Government expenditure consequent on the closure, will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for a statement to be made? Will he reject the view that this is not a matter for the Government? If it is the view of Ministers that the closure is not a matter for the Government, is it not time that that view was changed?

Mr. Wakeham

Individual decisions by management as to how it organises itself are not a matter for the Government, and I see no case for the Government making a statement on the matter. That does not mean that we are not concerned about individual cases of unemployment. We will seek to do what can be done. The whole thrust of the Government's economic policy has been to produce lasting and worthwhile jobs. Surely the announcement of the unemployment figures today is adequate confirmation that that policy is working.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)

May I raise two matters with the Leader of the House? First, I hope that he remembers that recently on business questions I raised with him the difficulties that would arise for local authorities, including Bradford, if they were forced to make refunds to water authorities of sewerage charges. Will he ask officials in the Department of the Environment to write to me suggesting how I can raise the matter in the avalanche of amendments to the Local Government Finance Bill, so that I may have some warning as to when I need to be in the Chamber?

Secondly, may I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day motion 1246, which is an attempt to secure a debate on the substantial increase in visa fees, which means that children are being charged £60 each to join their families in this country?

[That the Consular Fees (Amendment) Order 1988 (S.I., 1988, No. 925), dated 25th May 1988, be revoked.]

Will the Leader of the House arrange a debate before 29 July so that Government Ministers can seek to justify why they are erecting financial obstacles to families being united in this country?

Mr. Wakeham

I do not know what I can do to help the hon. Gentleman on the first point.

Mr. Madden

Just try.

Mr. Wakeham

Absolutely; I will try. If we can indicate to the hon. Gentleman in any way when he should be in the Chamber to make his contribution to the debate, without having to sit around, we will do so. I shall ask the Minister who is on duty to do his best for the hon. Gentleman, but I cannot guarantee 100 per cent. success.

The other matter is one for discussion through the usual channels.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Why does the Leader of the House not stop trying to flannel hon. Members about the guillotine next week on the poll tax legislation? Why does he refer constantly to the fact that he will have discussions through the usual channels, when he knows full well that he has no intention of changing his mind? He is just waiting for the end of questions on the business statement so that he can heave a sigh of relief and say, "I have got away with all that." The truth is that the poll tax guillotine is set against a background of hostile opposition, not only from everyone on the Opposition Benches, but from 37 Tory Members who were against certain aspects of it and in the House of Lords they had to bring in the greatest number of peers—some from as far away as Canada—since the introduction of the Common Market legislation. If the Government had any ring of democracy about them, they would put that legislation on one side. As for the taunts about turning up in August, some of us would come here long before the grouse season begins to fight against the poll tax legislation.

Mr. Wakeham

It sounds to me as though the grouse season has already begun. I do not know what the hon. Gentleman is asking me to do. Is he asking me not to have discussions through the usual channels? I have indicated what I propose to do. Whether the hon. Gentleman likes it or not, I shall do as I have said. I remind the hon. Gentleman that the Local Government Finance Bill has had a substantial amount of discussion, both in this-House and in the Lords, and that I moved a timetable motion early on to make sure that it had proper discussion.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

May I thank the Leader of the House for his courteous response at 3 am this morning on the subject, among other matters, of the appointment of the European Commissioner? From his study of early-day motion 228 and the 10 other early-day motions, which Mr. Speaker has asked me not to mention by number so that they do not have to be printed in Hansard, does he not think it proper that the announcement of the appointment of the right hon. and learned Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Brittan) as a European Commissioner should be made in the House of Commons, so that hon. Members can ask questions about whether it is proper to appoint one of our colleagues who supposedly—repeat, supposedly—for 14 days deceived not only his senior Cabinet colleagues but his senior civil servants and his Prime Minister?

If the right hon. and learned Member for Richmond, Yorks really did that in January 1986 and really deserved to be ousted from his position by, among others, the then Chief Whip—the Leader of the House will remember that in a previous incarnation he was Chief Whip—who, if we believe the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley) in his book "Heseltine", told him that he could not stay, is it proper that the right hon. and learned Member should be appointed this country's European Commissioner without at least a debate next week in the House?

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

Mr. Wakeham

In order to comply with Mr. Speaker's request I will not mention the early-day motions that the hon. Gentleman has tabled. The hon. Gentleman must have been a little near to sleep at 3 am this morning if he thought that my response to the debate mentioned my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks. (Mr. Brittan) in any shape or form. I did not mention him. The hon. Gentleman has a wild and fervent imagination. I am amazed at some of the things that he says in the House.

Mr. Harry Ewing

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I apologise for raising a point of order, but during my question to the Leader of the House I referred to Government Members asking illiterate questions based on an illiterate document issued by Bernard Ingham. In my question I compared Government Members to five and six-year-olds. On reflection, that is an insult to our five and six-year-olds. I unreservedly withdraw any aspersion that I cast on five and six-year-olds.

Mr. Speaker

I think that we should get on with the Finance Bill.

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