HC Deb 21 July 1988 vol 137 cc1287-300 3.31 pm
Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras)

Will the Leader of the House tell us the business for the 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 25 JULY—Remaining stages of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Bill [Lords]
  • TUESDAY 26 JuLY—Opposition Day (19th Allotted Day). Until about Seven o'clock there will be a debate entitled "The Inadequacy of the Government's Transitional Scheme on Housing Benefit". Afterwards there will be a debate entitled "The Safety of and Service to the Travelling Public". Both debates will arise on Opposition motions.
  • Motions relating to social security regulations. Details will be given in the Official Report.
  • WEDNESDAY 27 JULY—Motion relating to the statement of changes in the Immigration Rules.
  • Motion on the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (Codes of Practice) Order.
  • Motion relating to the Education (School Teachers' Pay and Conditions) Order.
  • Motion relating to the Building Societies (Transfer of Business) Regulations.
  • Motion to take note of EC document on social legislation relating to road transport. Details will be given in the Official Report.
  • THURSDAY 28 JULY—Motion for the Summer Adjournment.
  • Proceedings on the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill.
  • FRIDAY 29 JULY—Debates on the motion for the Adjournment.

The House may also be asked to consider any Lords Amendments and Messages which may be received.

[Relevant documents:

Monday 25 July 1988: 6048/88: Social regulations for road transport.

Relevant Report of European Legislation Committee: HC 43-xxix (1987–88) para 2.

Tuesday 26 July: Child Benefit (General) Amendment Regulations 1988 (S.I., 1988, No. 1227)

Income Support (General) Amendment No. 3 Regulations 1988 (S.I., 1988, No. 1228)

Income Support (Transitional) Regulations 1988 (S. I., 1988, No. 1229)

Social Security (Credits) Amendment (No. 2) Regulations 1988 (S.I., 1988, No. 1230)]

Mr. Dobson

I thank the Leader of the House for his statement. It is an improvement on last week's statement in that, at least so far, no guillotines are proposed for the forthcoming week.

To save the Government legislative time, will the Leader of the House tell us whether the Government propose to accept the Lords amendments to the Health and Medicines Bill and abandon proposals to charge for dental and eye examinations?

Will the House have an opportunity before the end of the Session to debate the proposals for phase 2 of the new parliamentary building in Bridge street? Will that be a substantive motion so that work can go ahead?

In view of the Leader's wider duties to protect the interests of this elected House as a whole and Back Benchers in particular, is it not shameful that he has failed to establish a Select Committee on Scottish Affairs? If Scottish Tories are too idle to serve on their own Select Committee, surely the legendary discipline of Tory Whips could be used to get some English volunteers. Will he either set up the Committee or arrange for a debate so that he can explain to the people of Scotland why they are being treated with such contempt?

Does the Leader of the House recall promising on Thursday 7 July that a Defence Minister would write to my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry), who unfortunately cannot be here this afternoon, and explain how it was that, in May 1984, the right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Mailing (Mr. Stanley), then a Defence Minister, told the House: No such strip searches have been carried out at RAF Greenham common."—[Official Report, 24 May 1984; Vol. 60, c. 552.] when the Government agreed to pay compensation to a woman because she was strip-searched at Greenham common at that time?

Having received a copy of the letter which seeks to explain away all this, may I ask the Leader of the House to arrange for the Member concerned to come to the House to face the music because the letter contains contradictory claims about what happened which would not come well from a petty criminal in a magistrates' court? Surely the Leader of the House cannot expect my hon. Friend to accept the explanation that the Minister did not understand that for the police to force a woman to take off her clothes—[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Order. We are discussing the business for next week. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will confine his questions to that.

Mr. Dobson

This issue should have been on the business for this week. All that I am asking is that the Leader of the House makes sure that the right hon. Gentleman who gave that misleading answer comes to the House to explain how it came about.

Mr. Wakeham

The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) has asked me four questions that are nearly about next week's business. First, he asked me about the Health and Medicines Bill. As he knows, the Bill is still before another place and it would not be appropriate for me to discuss in any detail matters which are being dealt with by another place. However, the discussions in another place did not produce any new arguments in relation to the introduction of optical and dental examination charges. We remain of the view that it is right to introduce such charges. Our proposals rightly exempt those whose circumstance are such that they cannot afford to pay. We do not accept that those who are not exempt will be deterred from seeking treatment because of the charges. The charges are part of a package which will make a significant contribution to the improvement of primary health care.

On the hon. Gentleman's question about the new building Sub-Committtee report, I confirm that it is my intention to arrange a debate on the report in the spillover. The terms of the motion are, perhaps, best left for discussion through the usual channels.

I am sorry that, in spite of having said this to the hon. Gentleman a great many times, he still does not understand the position with regard to the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs. I have made proposals to the Opposition which were unacceptable to them, and that is why the Select Committee has not been set up. I have stated my willingness to hold a debate on this matter. The timing of the debate is best left for discussion through the usual channels.

The hon. Gentleman's remarks about my right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Mailing (Mr. Stanley) were absolutely disgraceful. I shall see to it that the letter of explanation that my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces sent to the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) is published so that people can see the explanation that he gave. My right hon. Friend stands by the answer that he gave on 21 May 1984, which was based on a Ministry of Defence police investigation which found no evidence to support the allegations of strip searches at Greenham common. The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras has totally misunderstood the proceedings that took place in the Newbury court.

Sir Anthony Grant (Cambridgeshire, South-West)

Will it be possible some time in the future to have a debate on the issue of sanctions against South Africa so that we can examine carefully the precedents set by the previous Governments who, when apartheid was even more oppressive than it is now, far from opposing sanctions spent vast sums of taxpayers' money to encourage trade with South Africa, and so that we can probe carefully the humbug of the Opposition?

Mr. Wakeham

I cannot promise my hon. Friend a debate on that next week. However, I should point out to him, in case he has not already spotted it, that with a little ingenuity on his part there are a number of occasions when he could raise the issue.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

Will the Leader of the House accept that the proposal that was put to the Opposition parties with regard to the setting up of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs would have entailed a change in the Standing Orders of this House which would not have meant "business as usual" which is what his right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland said would happen after the last election and that therefore it is not surprising that the Opposition parties found the proposal unacceptable?

Secondly, is the fact that we have not yet had the debate on the defence estimates—although the defence White Paper was published a considerable time ago, and we have received the report of the Select Committee on Defence—a reflection of the fact that the Government are finding it increasingly difficult to meet our defence commitments with the resources available? Can we expect a debate early in the spillover?

Mr. Wakeham

I am sure that the debate on the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs will be interesting because, obviously, different points of view will be put, but I stand by what I said a moment ago to the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson).

The Select Committee on Defence has now reported on the defence White Paper and I hope that it will be possible for me to say something about a debate on that in my next business statement.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross)


Hon. Members

Welcome back.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn

May I assure my right hon. Friend that there is no one in Scotland who knows what a Select Committee on Scottish Affairs is, does, or what it has ever done and they do not want to?

When can we have a debate on foreign affairs so that we can advise the Foreign Office that there is no doubt as to what happened at Katyn, and who executed 10,000 members of the Polish officer corps? There is a memorial in London that bears the word "Katyn 1940". I f the Foreign Office imagines that that massacre occurred at the hands of the Germans, perhaps it can explain how that could be since there were no German soldiers at Katyn for another year.

Mr. Wakeham

I must say that I am delighted to see my hon. and learned Friend in his place and he makes his points with his usual clarity. We had a debate on foreign affairs recently, but I recognise that there is pressure for another one. Unfortunately, I cannot promise my hon. and learned Friend such a debate in the immediate future.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Rather than leave it to deepest August, could there be an announcement next week about the future commissioners from our country to Brussels? Has the Leader of the House noticed Peterborough in The Daily Telegraph, which suggests that the paramount consideration is the need to clear the Prime Minister's conscience: Of the 'need to do something for Leon What could possibly be on her conscience that needs clearing, and should we not have a statement about it next week?

Mr. Wakeham

The present commissioners will hold their posts until the end of the year. No decisions have been taken about possible successors and the early press speculation has embraced more than one name.

Sir John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)

Since a ceasefire has been announced in the Iran-Iraq war, may we have a statement next week from Her Majesty's Government about the future of the Armilla patrol?

Mr. Wakeham

The Government welcome Resolution 598, as well as the Secretary-General's announcement about the Iran-Iraq war. Whether that requires a statement from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence is a matter that I must refer to him for guidance.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)

Returning to the vexed issue of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs, does the Leader of the House accept that his statement today seems to be a strange reversal of his earlier commitment that there should be a debate about this matter before the House rises? Will he not accept that the Government's failure to address this matter next week shows a continuing contempt for Scotland, and that that contempt will be seen against the background of the Government's failure to offer a real debate on the future of Ravenscraig, given that the Prime Minister seems to be unable to interpret exactly the words of Sir Robert Scholey and given the prevarication of the Secretary of State for Scotland about this matter this week in the Scottish Grand Committee? Does he not accept that there should be a full-scale debate on Scottish affairs, and particularly Ravenscraig, before the House rises?

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise the case for a debate on Scottish affairs and I recognise that there would be plenty of hon. Members who would want to take part, but I do not accept for one moment what the hon. Lady has said. The fact that I seek to get agreement through the usual channels as to when is the most convenient time to have such a debate is not evidence of contempt for the House; it shows that I take some trouble and care about such matters.

Mr. Michael Latham (Rutland and Melton)

With a view to action next week in a statement, will my right hon. Friend please reread the Hansard for Monday's Question Time, which I believe he attended, where my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Sir P. Hordern) made a statement about the disgraceful situation regarding the salary of the Comptroller and Auditor General for Northern Ireland? That must receive the Government's immediate attention and should be sorted out next week.

Mr. Wakeham

It is better that the matter be sorted out properly, rather than in a hurry. The Government will, of course, consider carefully the report of the Public Accounts Commission and will give their response in the normal way.

Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)

Is the Leader of the House familiar with the exchange I had with the Under-Secretary of State for Corporate Affairs on 13 July, reported in column 352 of Hansard, when the hon. Gentleman implied that the ombudsman's letter to me, widely reported in the press, about the Barlow Clowes scandal and the case of my constituent Mr. Mullard was confidential? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is not true that the letter bore any such inscription and that it reached the public domain after it was sent to my constituent? Will the right hon. Gentleman now confirm that it was entirely proper for the ombudsman's letter to be made public and will there be a statement from the Under-Secretary of State by next week, in reply to my letter to him, to put the record straight in this House?

Mr. Wakeham

I am happy to put the record straight here and now. I understand that my hon. Friend is writing today to the right hon. Gentleman. My understanding of the position is that, when the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration writes to a Member, he treats the letter as being in confidence, but what is done with it thereafter is entirely a matter for the recipient. I am sure that my hon. Friend was in no way intending to suggest in his comments that the right hon. Gentleman had behaved improperly.

Mr. Tom Sackville (Bolton, West)

Will my right hon. Friend find time to debate the protection of our national monuments from unsympathetic nearby development? Is he aware that St. Paul's cathedral, surely one of the best-known and loved buildings in the world, is currently at risk from yet another series of utilitarian and soulless structures being built around it? Does he agree that the matter is too important to be decided by local planners and developers, that the application should be called in and the matter decided by the House and the nation?

Mr. Wakeham

I have heard from time to time criticisms of some of our modern architecture and of some proposals for buildings in the area of St. Paul's. That is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment and I shall see to it that my hon. Friend's concern is drawn to his attention.

Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West)

May we please have a debate on the intolerable growth of crimes of violence and of vandalism, especially in the county of Leicestershire and especially because the Home Secretary has seen fit to ignore the Adjournment debate, initiated by the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Latham), in which Members of Parliament for Leicestershire of all parties demanded that the request of the chief constable of Leicestershire for more police constables on the beat should be honoured? In view of the fact that not one further constable has been allowed, in spite of a doubling in crimes of violence, may we now have a full debate on the matter?

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise the concern of the hon. and learned Gentleman and of my hon. Friend, but it would be wrong to say that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary ignored their representations. He took them seriously and considered them. The Government's record in improving the pay, conditions and numbers of the police is a good record and I hope that it will continue to improve.

Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay)

Will my right hon. Friend take time next week to dig out the explanation for the building works that are taking place in Norman Shaw North? They include the installation of the most horrendous iron bars at second-floor level, at least 40 ft above the ground, which not only prevent the windows opening and anyone caught in a fire jumping out that way, but are apparently designed to stop a passing burglar with a 40-foot ladder erecting it there, in full sight of a policeman sitting in his box for 24 hours a day and three or four men on the back door. The works appear to have started and, unless something is done, will go right through the building, whereupon we shall all suffer from a lack of ventilation.

Mr. Wakeham

Decisions of that sort are taken by the appropriate Sub-Committee of the Services Committee after receiving expert advice. I shall ensure that my hon. Friend's advice is given to that Committee to see whether it has got it right.

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax)

Will the Leader of the House reconsider his decision not to hold a debate on the letter received by my hon. Friend the shadow Leader of the House about strip-searching at Greenham common? Does he appreciate that many Opposition Members are horrified at what happened there? That intimidating procedure is used increasingly as a method of control. It is a violation of people's rights. Will the Leader of the House reconsider and hold a debate on that serious error—I use that word selectively?

Mr. Wakeham

I have nothing to add to what I have already said on the subject. The hon. Lady knows that if she wishes, she has the opportunity to raise the matter.

Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, North)

Does my right hon. Friend recall that last week I asked him for a debate on the increasing practice of hon. Members visiting the constituencies of other hon. Members without first telling them? In particular, does he recall that 40 Labour Members of Parliament were due to attend the Mandela march in my constituency? Is he aware that only 13 of those hon. Members actually turned up, and in consequence the hon. Member for Sheffield, Central (Mr. Caborn) has sent the absentees a letter asking them for a donation of £5 to help offset the deficit on the cost of the coach? Therefore, can we have an urgent debate on the funding of the Opposition and the management of their affairs? If Labour Members had not poured down the drain my gift of South African wine, they could have sold it to help offset the cost.

Mr. Wakeham

If, as my hon. Friend suggests, there are certain financial difficulties in some parts of the Opposition, I am quite sure that they will not want to use the Short money to sort it out.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Does not the Leader of the House think that it is about time we had another debate about the breaches of safety that are being committed by P and O Ferries and its owner Jeffrey Sterling? Is he aware that on Saturday a fire broke out on the European Clearway? John Ball, who was working at the time and has since rejoined the strike, listed a horrifying catalogue of breaches of safety which had been unrecognised by the so-called Government inspector, including an oil leak that had been reported five weeks previously. P and O Ferries had hung a bucket underneath it and had done nothing else. It is about time that P and O Ferries instead of the National Union of Seamen was dragged before the courts.

Mr. Wakeham

I do not accept anything that the hon. Gentleman says. I am bound to tell him that I would prefer to rely on Government reports by qualified inspectors rather than the hon. Gentleman's testimony. If he had been listening to the business that I announced rather than trying to work out his question, he would have noticed that he might well be able to make his point in the debate next Tuesday.

Mr. Peter Thurnham (Bolton, North-East:)

A few moments ago my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister called for more debate before legislation could be introduced on the Warnock report issues. Will my right hon. Friend bear that in mind as I am sure that such a debate would be welcome?

Mr. Wakeham

I shall certainly bear that in mind, but I do not promise an early debate on the subject.

Mr. Harry Ewing (Falkirk, East)

The Leader of the House was in his place and heard the exchange between the Prime Minister and the hon. Member for Batley and Spen (Mrs. Peacock) about the recommendations in the Widdicombe report in relation to councillors. With regard to the publication of that report next week, before the Government start their usual anti-councillor campaign, will there also be a White Paper and recommendations dealing with the position of former Ministers, who in their roles as Ministers were responsible for the privatisation of an industry, and then, when they left office, became directors in that industry? To compound that felony, they are now party to a decision to give £50,000 a year to Tory party funds. Who does the Leader of the House consider is most corrupt?

Mr. Wakeham

I am not alleging, and I do not think that the hon. Gentleman is alleging, that anybody is corrupt. If he is, it is not his normal courtesy and style to do it by way of a business question. There are better ways of alleging corruption than that sort of allegation, which I do not accept for one minute. The Government are to publish a White Paper dealing with some very important questions arising from the Widdicombe report. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman and I should read it before we comment.

Mr. John Heddle (Mid-Staffordshire)

Will my right hon. Friend find time for the House to debate the report of the Public Accounts Committee on Her Majesty's Land Registry? Does he acknowledge that this matter was raised in an Adjournment debate on 30 November last? Will he confirm that house purchasers, particularly first time buyers, are frustrated, that they have been put to inconvenience and expense by the Land Registry delays and that there should perhaps be a restructuring of the whole system?

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise that it is an important report, but the Public Accounts Committee's reports are debated regularly in the House. The subjects for debate are chosen after discussion with the appropriate Committee and through the usual channels. I think that this case should be dealt with in the same way as the others.

Mr. Roy Beggs (Antrim, East)

I am sure that the Leader of the House is aware of the breadth of support on all sides of the House for national sports centres in England, Scotland and Wales. I know that he would be anxious that we in Northern Ireland should also have a national sports centre, a centre of excellence. Will he look carefully at early-day motion 1402?

[That this House applauds the efforts of Billy Bingham, the Northern Ireland soccer team manager, to raise private funding to purchase Stranmillis Playing Fields, Belfast, to develop a Northern Ireland National Sports Centre such as already exists in England, Scotland and Wales; deplores the decision to designate part of This attractive parkland/playing field site for development in order to attract greater interest and higher offers from developers; and calls upon the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to protect the interests of the whole community by freezing the sale of Stranmillis Playing Fields with development approval and to provide reasonable time to enable Billy Bingham to complete his fund raising in order to purchase the complete site and develop a National Sports Centre for Northern Ireland at Stranmillis, Belfast.]

Will he consider providing a n opportunity at an early date for the House thoroughly to discuss the action that has been taken in Northern Ireland to thwart Billy Bingham's efforts to acquire this beautiful parkland playing field site for a sports centre for all the people, including young people, of Northern Ireland?

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise the hon. Gentleman's concern. The playing fields were declared surplus to requirements and they are being disposed of under the normal rules for the disposal of surplus land. They were first put on the market in September 1987 and they were readvertised, under revised terms, in May 1988. There is a statutory requirement to sell them at the best price. The Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland is negotiating with a prospective purchaser, but other parties may bid for the land until such time as a contract is signed.

Mr. Neil Thorne (Ilford, South)

Has my right hon. Friend noticed that my early-day motion 1172 "Emergency Aid in Schools" has now attracted over 200 signatures from Members on both sides of the House? The scheme is promoted by St. John Ambulance and supported by the Red Cross.

[That this House recognises the value of teaching first or emergency aid in schools and applauds the initiative of the St. John Ambulance in issuing their publication Emergency Aid in Schools, which, accompanied by a video, shows how children can be taught a basic course between the ages of six and 12 years so that they are competent in: assessing emergency situations, restarting breathing and circulation, dealing with bleeding, shock, unconsciousness—especially resulting from drug or solvent abuse and burns and scalds, and so qualifying for the St. John Ambulance Three Cross Emergency Aid Award.]

Will my right hon. Friend write to our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science and ask him either to have a debate on the matter or to write to all local education authorities and urge them to undertake this course? It seems to be an excellent scheme. It is particularly pertinent to the comments of the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) who is concerned about hooliganism and thuggery. If more young people learnt about first aid at school, I am sure that they would be dissuaded from participating in violent activities in their teens.

Mr. Wakeham

The Government commend the work undertaken by St. John Ambulance to promote the teaching of emergency aid in schools, in particular the materials provided for the three cross emergency aid award scheme. Consideration will be given in due course to the place of first and emergency aid within and alongside the national curriculum.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr Harold Walker)

Order. I shall try to to call all those Members who are now on their feet, but it would be helpful to have short speeches—[Laughter.] I mean short questions.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

May we have a debate on catering in the House of Commons so that if work needs to be done during the summer recess it can be carried out, particularly in view of the lavish amounts of money that were spent yesterday on the junket in Westminster Hall? Bearing in mind that the thousands of people who come here every year are provided with paltry facilities, does the Leader of the House not think that we ought to improve our catering for the general mass of the public? [HON. MEMBERS: "Privatise it."] In so doing we could compare the two standards under which Tory Members of Parliament book the private dining rooms secretly—because the bookings are not published—for the lobbying organisations that pay them. Is it not a disgrace that ordinary people cannot get a cup of tea but that Tory Members of Parliament can book the private dining rooms for lavish meals at any time that they choose?

Mr. Wakeham

I do not know what sort of world it is in which the hon. Gentleman lives, but I would have thought that the Westminster Hall ceremony gave great pleasure and satisfaction to hon. Members from both sides of the House and to the nation as a whole. It was a very important and successful occasion, and I do not believe that the hon. Gentleman's remarks add anything to it.

Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale)

I am sure that my right hon. Friend noticed the publication this week of the excellent Green Paper on community service orders, and will have noted also the reply that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary gave during Home Office questions today, when he said that a Green Paper on the future of private sector involvement in remand centres may be imminent. Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that those excellent Green Papers will be thoroughly debated when we return at the end of the recess, because their provisions will make a major step towards the fight against crime in this country?

Mr. Wakeham

They are very important Green Papers and they deserve to be debated. No doubt an opportunity will arise, but I cannot make a specific promise at the moment.

Mr. Barry Jones (Alyn and Deeside)

Will the Leader of the House arrange a debate on the important subject of the shortage of speech therapists and physiotherapists and its effect on the service given to young children at school? Will he study early-day motion 1383 standing in my name on the Order Paper?

[That this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government to set up an urgent inquiry into the provision of speech therapy; deplores the uneven provision of speech therapy in London education authorities which blights the progress of children at school in the much welcomed language units; regrets the evident distress of parents of children at school with speech defects who know that academic progress and personal development are gravely hindered because of the injurious consequences of qualified staff shortages; urges the Right honourable Gentleman the Secretary of State for Education and Science and the Secretary of State for Wales to improve the salaries and status of speech therapists so as to improve recruitment to a profession that suffers recruitment difficulties; acknowledges the dedicated and professional work of speech therapists and their ancillaries; regrets the shortage of speech therapists in the County of Clwyd; acknowledges the important need for speech therapy by stroke victims of all ages; and expects Her Majesty's Government to make available sufficient money to enable health authorities and London education authorities to make adequate provision of speech therapists.]

Does he understand the deep distress and worry of many parents in England and Wales, knowing that if they have youngsters at school with speech defects they are not receiving sufficient attention? What will the right hon. Gentleman do about that situation?

Mr. Wakeham

This is a matter of priorities within local education authorities and other bodies. However, there will be occasions next week when the hon. Gentleman could raise the matter, and that is his best way forward.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

As my right hon. Friend knows, Jacques Delors is quite right—we are going to get dragged kicking and screaming into the United States of Europe. The reason for this, as my right hon. Friend knows, is that the institutions of the European Court of Justice, the Commission and the European Parliament are heavily biased in that direction. Fortunately, we have an institution in this House—the European Select Committee, though unfortunately it is crammed full with unreconstructed Eurofanatics who are tribunes of the Commission and a praetorian guard for a United States of Europe—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I thought that the hon. Gentleman wished to ask a question about next week's business.

Mr. Marlow

Will my right hon. Friend make a statement next week so that the House can be reassured that that Select Committee will actually represent the constituency of this House?

Mr. Wakeham

I must say to my hon. Friend, for the second time in two weeks, that he underestimates himself. If he imagines that a Select Committee that is chaired by the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) and on which my hon. Friend also sits is crammed full of Eurofanatics, he has a very crazy idea of what is a Eurofanatic.

Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)

May I assure the right hon. Gentleman, in view of his continuing interest, that I am in the most robust and ruddy good health, and that I shall continue to oppose the introduction of the televising of the proceedings of this House? In connection with that, what progress has he made with his plans to demonstrate to all the Members of the House, and not just to the members of the Select Committee, the appalling inconvenience and discomfort that the introduction of cameras, sound equipment and lighting equipment will do to the proceedings of this House?

Mr. Wakeham

I am glad to see that the hon. Gentleman is in good health but he is being a little unfair. We invited everybody from the House to witness the lighting demonstration that we organised, and the hon. Gentleman who—I nearly said, I regret to say—is not a member of the Select Committee—

Mr. Faulds

I should be.

Mr. Wakeham

—was there and took a prominent if not terribly constructive part in the proceedings. The Select Committee is getting on extremely well. All points of view—including tinges of the hon. Gentleman's own point of view—seem to emerge from time to time in our discussions.

Mr. Ian Bruce (Dorset, South)

Has my right hon. Friend had time to note that my early-day motion 1119 on Japanese reparations to prisoners of war has nearly 200 signatories?

[That this House, in welcoming the growing friendship between Japan and the United Kingdom, believes that this friendship will not fully blossom until the wrongs done during the Second World War to Allied prisoners are fully accepted by the Japanese Government and due reparation made.]

It seems rather strange that hon. Members who have written directly to the Government asking for their help in this matter have been told that little can be done because, effectively, the rights of the people concerned were signed away by the Government at the end of the war. Could we have a debate to decide who should be paying those people reparations?

Mr. Wakeham

As my hon. Friend knows, this matter was dealt with in the 1951 treaty of peace with Japan, as was made clear by my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary in a written answer on 18 May. I cannot promise an early debate but my hon. Friend will know of the ways in which he can raise the matter if he thinks that that is the right thing to do.

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

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen early-day motion 1397 entitled "Absence of helicopter assistance after Piper Alpha disaster"?

[That this House, whilst deeply appreciative of the heroic efforts of the emergency services to save the lives of the men involved in the Piper Alpha oil-rig disaster, is greatly concerned that an offer of the assistance of the helicopter aboad the emergency support vessel "Iolair' was ignored; believes that there is reason to assume that at least some of the lives might have been saved had this helicopter been used; and calls upon the Secretary of State for Energy to furnish any evidence he may have on this subject to the official inquiry into the disaster.]

That EDM, which acknowledges with deep appreciation the magnificent efforts of the emergency rescue services to save the lives of the poor men involved in that accident, goes on to express deep concern that those in charge of the emergency services failed to use the helicopter—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. It is not appropriate in business questions to make a speech that the hon. Gentleman might make if the Leader of the House sets down the matter for debate.

Dr. Godman

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it will be helpful if the Secretary of State for Transport makes an early statement dealing with the serious allegations made by men on board the Iolair, that there was a failure to use a helicopter that was just 15 minutes' flying time from the Piper Alpha?

Mr. Wakeham

Of course I recognise the hon. Gentleman's concern. The search and rescue operation for survivors from the Piper Alpha disaster was initiated and co-ordinated by HM coastguard Aberdeen. The first helicopter was on the scene within 10 minutes, but, because of the intense heat, helicopters were unable at any time to operate close enough to Piper Alpha to assist with the recovery of survivors from the sea or from the platform. Many offers of helicopter assistance made after the initiation of SAR operations had to be declined because of airspace congestion. So far as is known, no specific offer of the Iolair helicopter was made to Aberdeen coastguard. It would be inappropriate for the conduct of the search and rescue operations to be debated or discussed in advance of the judicial inquiry into the disaster.

Mr. Roger Knapman (Stroud)

Will my right hon. Friend find time during the course of the next week for a debate on the role of the trade unions in a modern society and on whether they should seek to dominate British political parties? Does my right hon. Friend agree that such a debate would give some of us a chance to advise the Transport and General Workers' Union whether to back the dream ticket in the forthcoming Labour leadership elections?

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise that that would make a good and interesting debate, but I cannot promise one next week.

Ms. Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford)

The Leader of the House in an earlier response agreed to publish a letter concerning strip searches at Greenham common. I wish to tell him that that will not satisfy women Members. The Minister's case seems to rest on the phrase A requirement to remove all clothing other than underclothing would not have been taken to constitute a 'strip-search'. I can tell the House that if I—

Mr. Deputy Speaker


Ms. Ruddock

I am going to ask the question. A woman who is searched in her underclothes believes that she has been strip-searched. In the light of that very serious matter, I ask the Leader of the House to reconsider and to bring to the House the right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Mailing (Mr. Stanley).

Mr. Wakeham

No, I will not. My right hon. Friend stands by his answer. His answer was given after a Ministry of Defence police investigation, which found no evidence to support the allegations to which the hon. Lady refers.

Mr. Kenneth Hind (Lancashire, West)

In the light of the concern about the takeover bid for Rank Hovis McDougall, and given that at this moment the European Parliament is putting together a directive on monopolies and takeovers policy that will have far-reaching effects upon competition policy throughout the Community, will my right hon. Friend grant time for a debate on that subject?

Mr. Wakeham

The full bid for Rank Hovis McDougall by Goodman Fielder Wattie is being considered in the normal way by the Director General of Fair Trading, who, under the Fair Trading Act 1973, is responsible for advising my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on the question of reference to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. In those circumstances, it would not be correct for us to debate the issue or for me to make any further comments.

Mr. Richard Livsey (Brecon and Radnor)

Will the Leader of the House consider urgently holding a debate next week on the impact of the purchase of Rover Group by British Aerospace, and in particular its impact on the town of Llanelli, where 900 workers are likely to lose their jobs? The first that they heard of it was through the media, and I regard that as an act of deceit.

Mr. Wakeham

The hon. Gentleman may find the opportunity to raise the matter on the motion for the Adjournment, if that is what he thinks he ought to do.

Mr. David Shaw (Dover)

Will my right hon. Friend, in relation to next week's debate on transport safety, consider the problems faced by seamen and the residents of Dover onshore, rather than when the ships are sailing? Over 100 attacks have been made on working seamen by members of the National Union of Seamen, many of whom have now been found guilty. Moreover, people living around the port every morning at 7 o'clock have whistles, klaxons and other noise-making equipment bellowing into their homes. It seems impossible in the circumstances for the police to get to grips with the demonstrators, because the union does not seem to be helping out at all.

Mr. Wakeham

That is a matter not for me but for the Chair. I should have thought, however, that some of the points that my hon. Friend wishes to make would be very suitable for next week's debate.

Mr. Nigel Griffiths (Edinburgh, South)

Is the Leader of the House aware that many dental patients are now waiting for up to 10 weeks, in pain, for clearance by the DHSS, and that many dentists are waiting for payment as a result of new regulations introduced in April? Will he ensure that next week we have a chance to debate the matter? Is he aware that we are receiving many letters from patients and dentists and that the problem is highlighted in papers such as the Sunday Post in Scotland? Is it not a disgrace?

Mr. Wakeham

The hon. Gentleman will know that he will have an opportunity to raise those matters on more than one occasion next week, if that is what he wants to do.

Mr. Rhodri Morgan (Cardiff, West)

Will the Leader of the House find some parliamentary time next week—or perhaps better still during the long summer recess—to give some additional coaching and instruction to those Tory Members who this week have displayed a new-found interest in humour, attempting to make jokes about Zimbabwe and aviation matters and disrupting Welsh Question Time? I believe that those Tory Members are now called the League of Glasgow Empire Loyalists.

Despite the excellent attempts at coaching by the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones), as assistant Government Chief Whip in charge of alleged jokes, will the Leader of the House find out whether it will be possible on our return from the recess for canned laughter machines to be brought in so that hon. Members know exactly when and when not to laugh? Will he be able to tell us all how he is to manage our parliamentary time so that we find time to encourage this new-found tendency among Tristan and his soldiers?

Mr. Wakeham

My impression is that the hon. Gentleman's question arises more from his embarrassment about his performance and that of his hon. Friends than from an attempt to get a constructive reply out of me.

Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall not take more than a few seconds. I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow), who has unfortunately left the Chamber, perpetrated—unwittingly and accidentally, I am sure—a major inaccuracy in referring to the composition of the Select Committee on European Legislation. As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will know, the Committee consists of six members who are broadly in favour of Community membership, six who are broadly sceptical and two who are neutral.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The political views of hon. Members have nowt to do with the Chair.