HC Deb 28 July 1988 vol 138 cc545-55 3.30 pm
Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras)

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he will state the business for the half week when we return?

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

Yes, Sir. The business for the first week after the summer Adjournment will be as follows: WEDNESDAY 19 October—There will be a debate on a motion to approve the Defence Estimates 1988 (Cm. 344).

THURSDAY 20 October—There will be a debate on a motion to approve the Defence Estimates 1988 (Cm. 344).

FRIDAY 21 October—There will be a debate on the educational needs of industry on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Mr. Dobson

How long is the spillover session before the Queen's Speech likely to last? An enormous queue of Government business seems to be developing. Can the right hon. Gentleman put an end to the rumour that the spillover period is likely to last so long that Her Majesty may be tempted to combine the Queen's Speech with her Christmas day broadcast?

When does the right hon. Gentleman propose to have health questions and social security questions, now that his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has bifurcated the old Department, so that we can question the two Secretaries of State separately? Will he also be arranging during the spillover period for the Chancellor to come to the House to give us the Treasury's latest estimate of the likely annual trade deficit, currently believed privately to be about £10 billion?

Will the Leader of the House take note of the serious criticisms made by the Select Committee on Energy of the Government's plans to sell off the electricity supply industry? Will he assure the House that no legislation will be brought before it before that report has been fully debated here and before the consultations proposed by the Select Committee have been completed?

To return to the subject of strip searching of women at Greenham common, will the Leader of the House recognise that the parliamentary answer given by the right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Mr. Stanley), and the two subsequent letters from Defence Ministers to my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) are plainly and flatly contradicted by the sworn evidence of a police witness? Therefore, will he arrange in the spillover period for a Minister to come before the House to put the record straight?

Mr. Wakeham

I cannot at this stage tell the hon. Gentleman exactly how long the spillover session will be, but it will be a sufficient time to deal with the outstanding matters. Judging by the Session so far, that will not be unduly long.

I can confirm that arrangements have been made for the Department of Social Security and the Department of Health to have separate slots for oral questions. The Department of Health will be top for questions on Tuesday 1 November, and if the House is still sitting the Department of Social Security will be top for questions on Monday 14 November.

On the question about the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I am sure that my right hon. Friend would come to the House if he had anything important to say. I do not believe that he will necessarily accept any instructions or guidance from the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson), whose judgment in these matters is somewhat faulty.

The report of the Select Committee on Energy which has just been received deals with an important subject to which I am sure the House will wish to return, but perhaps we should wait until there has been a chance to study the report rather than the press reports about it, which do not seem to present the full picture.

With regard to strip searching at Greenham common, my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces gave a very full reply to a parliamentary question by my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Shaw) yesterday confirming that his predecessor's answer was correct. I have nothing further to add to that answer.

Mr. Michael Latham (Rutland and Melton)

Will my right hon. Friend arrange for a statement to be made in the recess and repeated during the first week we come back on the report of the inspector on the Barlow Clowes scandal that is likely to be produced during the recess? Will he ensure that if, in the recess, the inspector holds the Department of Trade and Industry even vaguely liable, immediate and full compensation will be paid to the distraught savers?

Mr. Wakeham

The House is aware that inspectors have been appointed under the Companies Act 1985 to investigate the affairs and membership of James Ferguson Holdings plc, the parent company of Barlow Clowes. In addition, Sir Godfray Le Quesne expects to complete his report on the DTI's handling of the case before the end of the recess, provided that there is no legal impediment. The report will be published as soon as is practicable. Any statement should await the outcome of those investigations.

Mr. Tom Pendry (Stalybridge and Hyde)

Notwithstanding an apology of sorts to Stella Mann-Cairns from the current Minister of State for the Armed Forces yesterday, in which he said: I should like to take this opportunity of offering your former constituent an apology for the treatment to which she was subjected and the distress which the circumstances of her arrest must have caused her", following her successful court action against the Ministry earlier this month when strip searching at Greenham common was proved, is the Leader of the House aware that to date no statement of apology either to me or to the House has been given following the denial by the Minister at the time, the right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Mr. Stanley), that strip searching had taken place? At least he had the decency to resign from the Government this week, no doubt over this issue.

Is the Leader of the House aware that there is an early-day motion signed by 113 right hon. and hon. Members demanding an apology from the Secretary of State for Defence and from him for the disgraceful, despicable and degrading practices which are taking place at Greenham common? Will he either apologise or resign at the earliest possible moment?

Mr. Wakeham

I have nothing to add to what I said to the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson), except that, first, my right hon. Friend did not resign from the Government on this issue and it is quite wrong of the hon. Gentleman, who knows that it is wrong, to say that that is the case; and, secondly, if he is quoting from letters or answers, he should quote in a more balanced way.

The judgment of the Newbury county court did not imply that the lady had been strip searched. In the case of other personal searches conducted at Greenham common at the time, to the best of our knowledge, the practice of the Ministry of Defence police conducting the searches did not include a requirement to remove all clothing.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I remind the House that business questions are about business for the week that we come back. Any wider issues can possibly be raised in the summer Adjournment debate.

Mr. John Hannam (Exeter)

May we have a debate as soon as we get back on the Select Committee report on electricity privatisation? Is my right hon. Friend aware that the press reports were a grave distortion of the conclusions of the Select Committee, which were generally supportive of privatisation? Is he further aware that most of us fully support the proposals of our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy, which will create greater diversity of supply and therefore downward pressure on prices?

Mr. Wakeham

My hon. Friend is right. I remember the warm welcome given to the announcement by my right hon. Friend of his proposals on 25 February, including that by a number of members of the Select Committee.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

Will the right hon. Gentleman allow time when we return to debate the other report released yesterday by the Select Committee on Energy, which described the costs of relocating the Department of Energy to Buckingham Gate as unjustified and excessive and which suggested that the Department and staff be relocated outside London? In particular, it suggested that the oil division staff should be relocated to Aberdeen, where there are only 21 employees of the Department at present.

Mr. Wakeham

It would be more helpful to the House to rely on our usual practice of the Government first responding to the Select Committee report. Then we can consider any debates that might arise.

Sir Anthony Grant (Cambridgeshire, South-West)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that before the House reassembles in October it is likely that the Secretary of State for the Environment will make a number of decisions on county structure plans which are of immense importance to various localities? As there will not be an opportunity to question him in the House, will my right hon. Friend urge the Secretary of State to let hon. Members who are concerned know of his decision at least at the same time as he informs the press and media and not afterwards?

Mr. Wakeham

That sounds like a reasonable request. I shall certainly refer it to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate on the Common Market when we come back, so that the Prime Minister can take part in it? On the Jimmy Young programme yesterday she tried to give the impression to the nation that she had suddenly become an anti-marketeer. Perhaps a debate would give her a chance to explain why, in spite of all the cosmetics that were used yesterday, since 1984 the Prime Minister has presided over the handing over of more than £5 billion net of taxpayers' money to the Common Market, has gone along with the single European market theme, and has allowed and cajoled Britain into becoming embedded in Common Market bureaucracy—even more, some would say, than did the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), who is supposed to be her right hon. Friend.

Mr. Wakeham

My right hon. Friend's leadership in dealing with Common Market matters in recent years has been an example to a great many other people of how these things should be done. I can promise the hon. Gentleman this: we shall return to these issues because we have a matter of unfinished business to deal with. It will be dealt with in the overspill, and when it is the hon. Gentleman can contribute to the debate.

Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockton, South)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that during the recess Cleveland county council will be considering its response to the Butler-Sloss report on the child abuse controversy in that county? Will he therefore arrange for a statement on that response to be made to the House when we reconvene, so that Cleveland, which is a Socialist local authority in the hands of the town hall unions, will not be tempted to tackle this matter by means of a media-relations whitewash?

Mr. Wakeham

Certainly we shall refer to these matters and discuss them again in the House. I hope that my hon. Friend will let me wait until after the recess to decide on the form in which it would be most appropriate for those discussions to take place.

Mr. Frank Cook (Stockton, North)

When considering the petition just made by the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin), will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the fact that much of the damage that surrounded the Cleveland child abuse inquiry came as a result of the same sort of irresponsible accusations as those that have just been made by the hon. Gentleman? Remembering that we are talking about child abuse and the damage that can be done to families, will the Leader of the House give an undertaking that inquiries will be allowed to get on with their work of inquiry and to come up with responsible clinical results and recommendations without interference from busybodies like the hon. Member for Stockton, South?

Mr. Wakeham

I do not think that I disagree with the hon. Gentleman that inquiries should be allowed to get on with their work and that their reports should be considered at the conclusion of the inquiry, but the hon. Gentleman did not put his point in the constructive way that he usually does.

Mr. Richard Holt (Langbaurgh)

Will my right hon. Friend take it from me that there is no need whatsoever to introduce this unconstructive attitude into the Cleveland child abuse case? If my right hon. Friend had listened to me several weeks ago when I asked for a debate on the matter, these exchanges would not have happened and we would not have had to wait for the whitewash by Cleveland county council. The House is superior to that body and should have had an opportunity to express its opinion.

Mr. Wakeham

I certainly listened to my hon. Friend's advice, and I am sorry that I was unable to accept it. My hon. Friend is being optimistic if he thinks that another debate in the House would resolve many of the substantial issues arising from the case; more substantial remedies are required.

Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire)

Will the Leader of the House confirm that there are a number of outstanding matter days yet to be allocated to the Scottish Grand Committee? Is this not an unsatisfactory state of affairs, and will he correct it early in the overspill period? What provision is he making in the overspill period for a debate on the non-formation of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs?

Mr. Wakeham

Both matters must be dealt with and are best discussed through the usual channels.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (Derbyshire, West)

Will my right hon. Friend arrange for an early debate on questions? Some of us will have learnt with some sorrow of the decision to take social security questions on Mondays. In the past, an average of 300 questions have been tabled for health and social security matters, but only 50 for Scottish Question Time. Some 55 minutes is allowed for Scottish Question Time, yet we will be allowed only 35 minutes for questions to the Department of Social Security. Will my right hon. Friend reconsider the matter?

Mr. Wakeham

My hon. Friend makes a good point, but Question Time is ordered for the convenience of the House in a way that we think most likely to receive general support. I shall bear in mind my hon. Friend's suggestion, but I do not believe that I can make an early change.

Mr. Bill Michie (Sheffield, Heeley)

Bearing in mind the questions and concern expressed about the balance of payments, will the Leader of the House find time for, and guarantee, a debate on the manufacturing base of this country, which at present is in disarray? We cannot cope with the expansion that the Government claim is happening and therefore cannot control the economy. After 10 years of warnings about what would happen, we need to have a discussion about the manufacturing base of this country so that we can run it properly.

Mr. Wakeham

If the hon. Gentleman has not recognised that the economy is being run substantially better than when his party was in government, he has much to learn. We shall return to issues of the economy in the autumn, when no doubt the hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity to put his views.

Sir John Farr (Harborough)

Will my right hon. Friend take careful note of what my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Latham) said about Barlow Clowes? My hon. Friend's view is supported by many hon. Members. When does my right hon. Friend expect the Firearms (Amendment) Bill to return from the Lords, and are the Government contemplating adding an amendment to deal with the possession and sale of crossbows?

Mr. Wakeham

I cannot say at this stage what will be dealt with when the Bill returns to the House. We shall deal with Lords amendments when it returns, at which stage there is limited scope for changing a Bill. I recognise the anxiety that has been expressed about Barlow Clowes, but it would not be right for me to add to what I have already said.

Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West)

May we have an early debate on the problems of young first-time house buyers that have been created by the constant series of increases in mortgage rates? Young people have been encouraged to buy their own homes, but they have no control over what they must pay because interest rates are being increased to cope with the balance of payments deficit. Is it not time that the Government and the House had some regard to the miseries that these increases are creating for young people who are fortunate enough to be in work?

Mr. Wakeham

I am sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman will agree that under the Government home ownership has increased throughout all sections of the community. I hope that that is welcomed by the hon. and learned Gentleman and every other hon. Member. These matters are debated in the House from time to time, but I cannot promise an early debate.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance to the House that, if the report on Barlow Clowes is published about the time that the House reassembles, there will be an immediate statement from the Department of Trade and Industry and an early debate?

Will my right hon. Friend say whether, in the light of the separation of the Departments of Health and Social Security, time will be made available to the House to debate whether there should be a separate Select Committee? The present Select Committee would be happy to continue to monitor both Departments.

Mr. Wakeham

On my hon. Friend's second point, I have no plans at present for any change in the basis of Select Committees. However, it is early days yet and I want to take soundings from all parts of the House before any final decision is made.

On the matter of Barlow Clowes, I do not believe that it would be right for me to add anything further. However, I recognise the strong concern in the House and I will ensure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry is aware of it.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)

Will the Leader of the House ask his colleague with responsibility for social security to come to the House before we rise tomorrow and make a statement about the changes in the consultation paper on bed and board lodging for women's refuges? The paper contains no suggestion that any change has been considered which would protect women who are the subject of violence and who need urgent support. If the proposed changes are made, the refuges will close.

Mr. Wakeham

I cannot promise the hon. Lady that there will be a statement in the House, but I will certainly refer her comments to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and ask him to write to her, if that would be appropriate.

Mr. James Hill (Southampton, Test)

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the most serious problem I have outlined in my early-day motion on cricket in schools?

[That this House recognises the value of cricket as a contribution to the health of school children and to this country's prospects of future success in international cricket; and calls on the Government to establish a national committee to develop criteria for the teaching and assessment of this sport and to issue guidelines to local education authorities to provide adequate funding for both indoor and outdoor cricket pitches, so that in the future more youngsters will take up cricket as a profession.]

In England, we have suffered a series of humiliating defeats and we have also seen behaviour by members of the English cricket team which cannot be approved. Most schools now eompletely ignore cricket. There is a need for the Government and local education authorities to turn sports sections towards our national game.

Mr. Wakeham

The answer I have before me is probably not adequate for the immensity of the problem facing us, but the Education Reform Bill includes provision for physical education to be a foundation subject within the national curriculum. Guidelines will be produced in due course on attainment targets, programmes of study and assessment arrangements for physical education. I am not sure whether my hon. Friend thinks that that is a comfort, and I am not sure that I do.

Mr. Allen McKay (Barnsley, West and Penistone)

May I return the Leader of the House to the recent report by the Select Committee on Energy? I agree that we should look in depth at the report and the Government's response to it. Does he agree with me that it would be wrong, given the conclusions of the report—they do not take a lot of reading—to introduce a Bill to privatise the electricity industry before the House has debated the report and the Government's response to it?

Mr. Wakeham

I do not accept that. I have said that we will be returning to that matter. I think that the hon. Gentleman will agree that a substantial number of the recommendations in the report refer to regulatory requirements that will happen post privatisation and on which the Government have not yet made their proposals known. To that extent, the Select Committee's report will be valuable to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy.

Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne)

Can my right hon. Friend say when the House will have an opportunity to enable those of us who believe in the fundamental importance of family life to register our total opposition to the proposal to reduce the age at which children can get married without their parents' consent?

Mr. Wakeham

I cannot promise my hon. Friend an opportunity in the business in the first week after the summer recess, but it is an important matter and there are a number of ways in which my hon. Friend could bring it before the House. I suggest that he takes up one of the opportunities available to him.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

There is great disappointment on both sides of the House at the failure of the Select Committee on the televising of proceedings of the House to publish a report before the summer recess, which all of us were led to believe would be the case. When may we expect a report? Will the Leader of the House give an assurance that he is not dragging his feet—in conjunction with hon. Members on both sides who are still smarting from the decision of the House to allow the experiment to go ahead—to delay the production of a report? When does he expect the cameras to be in the Chamber? To what parliamentary event can we look forward? It will not now be the State opening, but will it be next year's Budget?

Mr. Wakeham

The hon. Gentleman is taking advantage of the opportunity afforded by the absence of the big fellow who usually sits beside him—the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds)—to express his views more freely than he sometimes does. I reject entirely his comments about the progress of the Select Committee. What is more, every member of the Select Committee, of whichever party, will agree that it has made good progress. It will report as soon as it can. It has not delayed consideration of the complex issues, but is considering them properly. I cannot give a date, because that depends on the rest of the Committee agreeing to the report, but we shall announce it as soon as possible.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is bound to be anxiety about the Prime Minister's statement this afternoon which appeared to rule out legislation on gazumping? Will he arrange for the Minister responsible to make a full statement on the negotiations that will take place with estate agents between now and October, and at that stage will the Minister make it plain that if no effective code of practice is in prospect the Government will consiider introducing legislation?

Mr. Wakeham

I can go no further than my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister went, but I did not hear her comments in the same way as my hon. Friend did. She said that she thought a substantial amount could be achieved by voluntary means. My hon. Friend and I will agree that, if the voluntary approach is possible, it would be the best way of proceeding at this stage.

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

Now that there is clear evidence that people in Harvard Securities have been manipulating the price of over-the-counter stock, and it is clear that many investors will lose more money in the coming months—people who invest in OTC stocks sold by Harvard Securities—is it not about time that the Department of Trade and Industry or someone moved in to close that company? Does not the investor protection legislation that has been introduced by the Government during the past few years extend as far as protecting those who, because of bad judgment, persist in wasting their money and throwing it down the drain of the over-the-counter market?

Mr. Wakeham

The Government are as committed as any to stamping out fraud and abuse wherever it occurs, and have taken practical steps to make the job more effective. The hon. Gentleman would be better advised to pass any evidence in support of his allegations to the appropriate authority, but I shall refer his comments to my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.

Mr. Andrew Mitchell (Gedling)

Has my right hon. Friend had a chance to read the excellent report published on Monday by the Services Committee on access to the precincts of the House? Is he aware of the considerable anxiety on both sides of the House about the use and abuse of our facilities by lobbyists and researchers? Will he find time for a debate on the matter either during the overspill or early in the new Session?

Mr. Wakeham

It is an excellent report on a very important subject in which many hon. Members take a close interest. The report proposes that its recommenda-tions on photo-identity passes should be implemented at the beginning of the financial year 1989–90. I hope that it will be possible to arrange a debate in time to allow that to happen, should the recommendations be approved by the House.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

Will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement to be made when the House returns after the summer recess about the anti-dumping application by the textile industry against the imports of Turkish acrylic yarn? Is he aware that this problem has caused the loss of nearly 600 jobs in the Bradford textile industry which the area and the economy can ill afford? The anti-dumping application should be pursued with vigour by the relevant Ministers at the Department of Trade and Industry to encourage the EEC commissioners—about whom there has been so much fuss, but who are still in office—to do something about the anti-dumping application instead of the EEC trampling all over us, as it usually does.

Mr. Wakeham

I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman says, except to agree that this is an important subject. I will see my right hon. Friend and, if a statement is appropriate, one will be made.

Mr. Nicholas Baker (Dorset, North)

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the widespread interest and concern on both sides of the House about the provisions of the Democratic Oaths Bill introduced by the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) and supported by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) and a substantial number of Labour Members, which seeks to abolish oaths of allegiance to the Crown and to substitute democratic oaths? Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on this Bill in the next Session? It is quite possible that after the Labour party elections we will have a Labour Opposition who are no longer loyal but are opposed and antagonistic to the Crown.

Mr. Wakeham

In all friendliness to my hon. Friend, I must say that I have a list of Bills for which I am not prepared to find time for debate and the Bill to which my hon. Friend refers is pretty near the top of the list. If my hon. Friend believes that this is an important matter—as it is—and he wishes to bring it to the attention of the House, may I respectfully suggest that he finds another way of doing it.

Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

Has the Leader of the House observed the outbreak of a new illness among Members of Parliament, one of the symptoms of which we saw demonstrated by the hon. Member for Dorset, North (Mr. Baker)—increased noisiness and yobbishness? Although the disease has yet to be classified by medical science, it goes under the name of PRT—pre-recess tension. Will the right hon. Gentleman guarantee that in the next Session we will work towards a more rational division of the parliamentary year for briefer Sessions and briefer recesses?

Mr. Wakeham

With regard to the question of absence through illness, it is a fine judgment for others to make about who seems to be suffering most at the present time. However, I realise that the parliamentary year is a serious matter. I like the recesses to be long and the Sessions to be short. I work very hard for that as best I can. If the hon. Gentleman will promise to help me, we may make better progress next year.

Mr. John Bowis (Battersea)

My right hon. Friend may be aware of the acute anxiety felt in the training world, particularly among those dealing with the disadvantaged and the disabled, at the allocation of training places and training supplements for the scheme coming into effect in September. Will he talk to his colleagues at the Department of Employment to ensure that that anxiety is resolved as soon as possible so that when we return in October a satisfactory statement to that effect may be made.?

Mr. Wakeham

That is an important matter. I understand that talks are going on, and I have no reason to believe that they will not be resolved satisfactorily.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

May we have a very short debate on the valuable facility provided by Her Majesty's Foreign Office to right hon. and hon. Members about to travel overseas whereby they are briefed on the local circumstances and, particularly where these circumstances could be adverse, are advised how to react in a dignified way? Would it be possible during that debate to discover, although there might be security implications, whether that advice extends to every hon. Member, including even the Leader of the Opposition?

Mr. Wakeham

Advice to every hon. Member travelling abroad is available from the Foreign Office which, I know from personal experience, is as helpful as it can be in the circumstances. The fact that advice is issued does not mean that it is read or understood. Each hon. Member must decide how best to use the advice.

Mr. James Couchman (Gillingham)

In the light of the review of the Anglo-Irish Agreement which is to take place in the autumn, will my right hon. Friend arrange for an early full day debate, perhaps on the Adjournment of the House, on the subject of Northern Ireland? Such a debate would give us the opportunity to discuss the grotesque irresponsibility of Opposition Members, including the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman, who has called for troops out. In the light of what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland told us this afternoon, a more inappropriate call cannot be imagined.

Mr. Wakeham

That is a very important subject and I should like to be able to organise a debate on it, but I do not immediately see the prospect of that in the near future.

Mr. Tony Favell (Stockport)

My right hon. Friend will be aware of the current interest in the possible introduction of a British photo-identity card. Eighty-four per cent. of the people taking part in a television poll voted in favour for such cards. As the Home Secretary is now taking soundings among the police, may we expect a statement within the first few weeks of our return after the recess?

Mr. Wakeham

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said last week that they were not persuaded that a case had been made for a national identity card, but that the matter would obviously be kept under review. In my work as chairman of the committee on the misuse of alcohol, I can tell my hon. Friend that the committee believes that there is a case for a voluntary identity card to try to curb some of the worst excesses of under-age drinking, which is a problem that is causing us much concern.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

I support the call of my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Hill) for assistance to improve the game of cricket in this country, bearing in mind the serious decline affecting children and their attitude to games and our present lack of success in international cricket. Will my right hon. Friend accept that what is not covered in the Education Reform Bill—for all that he said—is the real need to enshrine in the Bill the fact that cricket should be referred to by name in the Bill and that there should be proper cricket coaching for boys and perhaps girls? Does he believe that the Marylebone Cricket Club needs some assistance in choosing its team to represent the country? Could not the Government do something to assist Graeme Hick to be selected for England?

Mr. Wakeham

My hon. Friend tempts me into areas into which I should not stray, particularly as I was at school with Peter May. I had better not deal with his job as I have quite enough to cope with in my own. I agree with my hon. Friend to the extent that competitive sport is an important part of a child's upbringing whether he is particularly good, only average or below average—as I was as a cricketer. I was rather better as a scorer than a batsman.