HC Deb 05 May 1988 vol 132 cc1022-32 3.51 pm
Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras)

May I ask the Leader of the House to 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 9 MAY—Consideration in Committee of the Finance (No. 2) Bill.

TUESDAY Io MAY—At the end on Tuesday motion on the Control of Misleading Advertisements Regulations.

WEDNESDAY II MAY—Opposition Day (11th Allotted Day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion entitled "The Crisis in Housing".

Motion to take note of the European Commission's proposal on the approximation of indirect taxation. Details of the EC documents concerned will be given in the Official Report.

The Chairman of Ways and Means has named opposed private business for consideration at seven o'clock.

THURSDAY I2 MAY—There will be a debate on prisons on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Motion on the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Immunities and Privileges) Order.

The Chairman of Ways and Means has named opposed private business for consideration at seven o'clock.

FRIDAY I3 MAY—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY I6 MAY—Until seven o'clock, private Members' motions. Second Reading of the Civil Evidence (Scotland) Bill [Lords].

[Debate on Wednesday 11 May 1988

Relevant European Community Documents
8199/87 Indirect tax rates and structures
8200/87 Value added tax rates
8201/87 Removal of fiscal frontiers
8202/87 Value added tax clearing mechanism for intra-Community sales
8203/87 + COR 1 Convergence of rates of value added tax and excise duties
8204/87 Taxes on cigarettes and other manufactured tobacco
8206/87 Excise duty on mineral oils
8207/87 + COR 1 Excise duty on alcohol

Relevant Report of European Legislation Committee

HC 43-viii (1987–88). para 1

Relevant Reports of the Treasury and Civil Service Committee

Third Report (1987–88), (HC 248)

First Special Report (1987–88) (HC 438)]

Mr. Dobson

First, does the Leader of the House recall telling the House last Thursday that he would try to get the Secretary of State for Social Services to clarify when the special Department of Health and Social Security unit dealing with excessive cuts in housing benefit would be set up, where it would be located, and how people affected should make claims? Since then, there has been no such clarification about that U-turn unit, so will the Secretary of State for Social Services now come to the House to spell out exactly what is going on and to give answers to the questions that hon. Members on both sides of the House are being asked by their constituents?

Secondly, can we expect an early statement explaining the Government's attitude to the Kuwaiti holding in British Petroleum, which they welcomed when it bailed out the privatisation share issue but which is now feared to be a monopoly takeover hid?

Thirdly, we understand that one of the private Bills to be considered next week is the Associated British Ports (No. 2) Bill, which would give that private company planning permission that it might not be able to obtain from the relevant planning authorities. The right hon. Gentleman will recall that the last such Bill was the one which gave P and O planning permission for works at Felixstowe dock. On that occasion, Tory Members of Parliament, including the Prime Minister, were whipped to vote for the Bill and the Government sacrificed a day's business—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Dobson

—a whole day's business to help the company get its private Bill through. Will the Government take—[interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am trying to listen.

Mr. Dobson

I am trying to speak, Mr. Speaker.

Will the Government take the same attitude—[Interruption.]

Mr. Bowen Wells (Hertford and Stortford)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The shadow Leader of the House has made a damaging remark about Conservative Members. He has accused us of being whipped in support of the P and O Bill. That is a grave aspersion on our honour and he should withdraw it.

Mr. Speaker

With my background, I do not think that I can say that to be whipped for any Bill is necessarily out of order.

Mr. Dobson

It is an—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. We have to take the rough with the smooth in this place.

Mr. Bowen Wells

It is a lie.

Mr. Speaker

It may be a little wide of the truth, but it is not a lie.

Mr. Dobson

It is a fact. It is a fact that the Prime Minister stayed up most of the night to vote for P and O. It is a fact that, rather than lose P and O's business, the Government sacrificed a whole day of their business to help P and O get its private Bill through. Will the Government take the same attitude to the Associated British Ports Bill? If not, can we conclude that that company has not yet paid as much into Tory party funds as the £100,000 paid by P and O?

Finally, and not for the first time—but I hope for the last time—when will the Leader of the House discharge his duties to the people of Scotland and establish the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs?

Mr. Wakeham

The hon. Gentleman asked me four questions about the business for next week. First, he asked me about housing benefits. Later this afternoon, my hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security and the Disabled will provide the House with details of the changes in housing benefit which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced in the House last Wednesday, together with the arrangements to effect those changes. The hon. Gentleman will have to contain himself until that answer is given.

My right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry announced on 4 May that, in accordance with the advice of the Director General of Fair Trading, he would refer the Kuwaiti Investment Office's 22 per cent. shareholding in BP to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. It is now for the commission to report on whether the shareholding is against the public interest.

Private Bills are a matter not for me, but for the Chairman of Ways and Means. The hon. Gentleman's remarks confirm to many of us the wisdom of having matters connected with the usual channels conducted in private rather than in public, especially if one's facts are wrong.

I have discussed the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs with the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar), and I am considering the best way to proceed.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. No fewer than 35 hon. Gentlemen wish to take part in the agriculture debate. I remind hen. Members to ask single questions of the Leader of the House on the business for next week.

Sir Peter Emery (Honiton)

Does my right hon. Friend accept that many hon. Members will be pleased that, after 11 months of this Parliament, we have the names of the members of the Procedure Committee on the Order Paper? Does he recall that, before we rose for the summer recess, he told the House that he would try to initiate a debate on the previous reports of the Procedure Committee? I realise that there may be some difficulty in obtaining the agreement of the Opposition for this, but will he consider having such a debate on motions in the names of the members of the previous Committee rather than in the name of the Government? The House could then decide whether advice could be given to both sides of the House on how to proceed on those reports. A debate on that matter would be to the benefit of everybody.

Mr. Wakeham

I am glad that my hon. Friend is pleased that we have been able to table a motion on the re-establishment of the Select Committee on Procedure. I can also assure him that it is my intention to hold a debate on procedural matters as soon as it can conveniently be arranged. As I have said on many occasions, these things are best discussed with all the parties concerned so as to find the most practical and agreeable way forward.

Mr. James Molyneaux (Lagan Valley)

The Leader of the House was present yesterday when I inquired whether the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland intended to make a statement following yesterday's meeting of the Anglo-Irish Conference. Did he transmit that request, and, if so, what was the response?

Mr. Wakeham

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State had a private meeting yesterday with the Taoiseach, followed by a full session of the Inter-Governmental Conference. A full statement setting out in detail the subjects discussed at the conference is in the Library.

Mrs. Ann Winterton (Congleton)

My right hon. Friend will be aware that the remaining stages of a private Member's Bill to limit late abortions for social reasons will be debated tomorrow. Will he do all in his power to prevent any possible filibuster and enable right hon. and hon. Members to exercise their own judgment on this important matter?

Mr. Wakeham

I have a great deal of sympathy with my hon. Friend. Filibusters and rules of order are matters not for me, but for you, Mr. Speaker. I am sure that the whole House would deprecate the use of filibustering tactics to avoid discussion of this important issue.

Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)

In view of the reports, which have appeared this morning and been confirmed by a Government spokesman this afternoon, that the Government's chief scientific adviser has recommended the cancellation of the fast breeder reactor programme, and of the alarm and despondency that that report has caused, will the Leader of the House ensure that the Secretary of State for Energy makes a statement next week at the earliest opportunity?

Mr. Wakeham

I do not know where the hon. Gentleman gets all his information. The information that I have is that the Government review all their R and D programmes from time to time, which is good management, as the hon. Gentleman will agree. We are considering a range of options for the fast reactor programme, but no decisions have yet been taken. I shall certainly refer his question to my right hon. Friend, as I know of his constituency interest in the matter.

Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)

As there is obviously deep feeling in the country and among my colleagues in the House about the future of the British passport, would it not be appropriate for the mood of the House to be tested by having a debate on the subject at the earliest possible opportunity?

Mr. Wakeham

I shall certainly bear that suggestion in mind. The British passport is not being replaced by a European Community one, as is alleged in some quarters. Rather, a new version of the British passport, machine-readable and in a common format agreed in 1981 with other EEC countries, will start to appear from July when the Glasgow passport office is computerised.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the import of his announcement about next Wednesday's business is that there will be private business from 7 pm to 10 pm and then a debate on the important proposals of Lord Cockfield and his associates on VAT extensions to food, fuel, domestic building and water and sewerage? According to a written answer that I received on Tuesday, it will also be extended to charity sales from gift shops. Is not one and a half hours too short a time in which to debate this important extension of taxation for the British people? If the right hon. Gentleman persists in having the debate at that time of night, will he consider suspending the rule and making the debate a bit longer?

Mr. Wakeham

I appreciate that this is an important matter. I think that the arrangements I have made for the debate are adequate. I am certainly prepared to have discussions if there is a general wish to extend the time.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

My right hon. Friend will have seen early-day motion 1053, which has been tabled by various influential Opposition Members.

[That this House condemns the continued Government attempts to interfere with the Independent Broadcasting Authority and British Broadcasting Corporation in their efforts to report and comment on the Gibraltar assassinations; and considers that both the shoot to kill policy and suppression of comment are serious aspects of this extreme right-wing Conservative Government.]

He will notice that it seeks to brand British service men as assassins. I think he will agree with me that it is the most disgraceful and shameful EDM that we have seen. May we have an early opportunity to debate it so that we can point out the way in which certain members of the Labour party seek to twist the knife in the spine of the British services, and so that the public at large, although we are not allowed to say that that is intentional in this place, will make up their minds that it is? It is the Opposition's intention to do all that they can to undermine the success of our service men in the fight against the vile terrorists who, in cold blood, killed three innocent young men in Holland last weekend.

Mr. Wakeham

The Government's concern is about the interference with witnesses and the effect that that could have on the inquest that will take place in Gibraltar. Of course there is no question of the Government seeking to challenge the constitutional independence of the broadcasting authorities; it is the damage that is done that we find reprehensible, and it should not have taken place. That is why I had better restrain myself from making further comments now.

Mr. James Kilfedder (North Down)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for the early-day motion referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) to remain on the Order Paper, given the terms in which it is couched? It brands three soldiers as assassins, when no decision on that has yet been made in any court of law.

Mr. Speaker

The early-day motion is in order.

Mr. Peter Shore (Bethnal Green and Stepney)

May I press the Leader of the House further on the business announced for Wednesday? It really is not good enough to have a debate lasting one and a half hours after 10 pm on a matter as important as the harmonisation of value added taxes throughout the Community—and the harmonisation of excise duties, too. This is one of the most serious proposals to come out of the EEC. It will affect the sovereignty of the House in ways deeper than many of its other enactments. Surely the matter should have been given a proper debate in prime time.

Mr. Wakeham

I have heard what the right hon. Gentleman said. I repeat that I believe that what we have done is right and adequate, but I am certainly prepared to examine the matter again in view of what he has said.

Sir Ian Lloyd (Havant)

From a somewhat less localised standpoint than the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan), may I express my anxiety about the future of the fast breeder reactor programme? As Great Britain has spent an enormous sum developing this most important technology, and as her reputation stands high and it is at least arguable—I put it no stronger than that—that the future of energy in the next century could depend on the continuation of that technology, I hope that the Government will take no decision until we have had a chance to debate this thoroughly.

Mr. Wakeham

I cannot add anything to what I said to the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan). I can confirm that no decisions have been taken. The point that my hon. Friend makes has been taken on board, and I shall see that the Secretary of State for Energy knows of his concern.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)

Is the Leader of the House aware of the concern among those involved in the professional training of social workers that the DHSS has rejected proposals put forward by the Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work? Would it therefore be possible for the House to debate the priorities, or lack of priorities, of the Government in this vital area, in which we need adequately trained staff to deal with society's problems?

Mr. Wakeham

I agree with the hon. Lady that that is an important subject. I cannot find time for a debate in the near future, but I shall certainly refer the matter to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

May we have an early debate on local government finance so that the House can examine the deplorable decision of Lambeth City council to cancel, at two weeks' notice, a £50,000 grant to the excellent Caine Hall family centre, which looks after families and is run by the London City Mission, because of its refusal to employ homosexuals and lesbians? May we couple that debate with another on Ealing council's continued determination to spend £1,000 of hard-pressed ratepayers' money on an evening for lesbians?

Mr. Wakeham

I was hoping to have a bit of a rest from local government finance, but my hon. Friend raises an important subject. I wish I could promise him a debate on the matter that gives him concern, but I cannot promise one in the immediate future.

Mr. Frank Cook (Stockton, North)

In responding to the question of the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) about the Dounreay reports, the Leader of the House confessed his ignorance about the source of the information. I have copies of reports from The Guardian, the Financial Times and The Independent, and I shall let the right hon. Gentleman have them. If there is substance in these reports, there is no need for me to remind the right hon. Gentleman about the importance of jobs and the protection of jobs, or about the shift in long-term energy policy that such a move would bring about. Knowing how difficult it is to get a debate in Government time—it is like trying to find rocking horse droppings—will the Leader of the House prevail upon his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy to make a statement after energy questions on Monday?

Mr. Wakeham

When I expressed some surprise about where the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) had got his information, I thought that it was probably more reliable than the front page story in The Guardian which I, too, read. My information came direct from the Secretary of State, who said that no decision had been taken. I prefer to rely on his information than on anything that I read in The Guardian. The hon. Member asked about a statement. It is probably better for a statement to be made when there is something to say.

Mr. Kilfedder

May I refer again to the Anglo-Eire Conference meeting which took place yesterday and which the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has described as a meeting at which crucial and important decisions affecting the people of Northern Ireland were made? Despite what the Leader of the House has said, the communiqué issued after the meeting amounted to very little. It hides more than it reveals and the Unionist people of Northern Ireland—I emphasise Unionist—are being kept in the dark about decisions being made about their future and the future of their children, whereas the SDLP is a party indirectly to all decisions made by the Anglo-Eire Conference.

Is it not a disgrace that right hon. and hon. Members are being kept in the dark about decisions being made in Dublin? Is it not a disgrace that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has not had the decency to come here today to make a statement about the meeting? Will the Leader of the House make sure that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland comes to the House tomorrow, Friday, to tell us, the people of Northern Ireland and the people of the United Kingdom what decisions are being made with Dublin?

Mr. Wakeham

I cannot accept the hon. Gentleman's analysis. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State For Northern Ireland did the right thing in putting a full statement in the Library. It would not be right for him to make a statement in the House. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that decisions about the United Kingdom will be taken by the United Kingdom Government.

Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh)

The Leader of the House will no doubt be aware that a recent public opinion poll in the Republic of Ireland showed that the third most important foreign personage was the Prime Minister, who was second only to the Pope and Mother Teresa of Calcutta. The same opinion poll showed that the most important Irish person was the Irish Prime Minister. Should we not capitalise upon the mutual popularity of the two Prime Ministers by having a debate in which we can properly assess the very successful outcome to date of the Anglo-Irish Agreement?

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise that there will be need for a debate on these matters, but. I cannnot promise one next week.

Mr. Michael Fallon (Darlington)

Will my right hon. Friend arrange an early debate on the social implications of the Church of England's new urban fund and the Bishop of Durham's new opportunity fund, under which every parishioner on the church roll in my constituency will be asked for a flat rate contribution of £20, irrespective of income or ability to pay? Would not such a debate be an opportunity to persuade the bishop to introduce the same generosity, tapers and benefits that we are introducing in the Local Government Finance Bill?

Mr. Wakeham

If the bishop were to take part in the debate, it would have to be in another place. But I take my hon. Friend's point.

Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West)

As it is now nearly three months since the Government set up their inquiry into the alleged involvement of Waldheim in the death of British commandos, may we have a statement from the Home Secretary about how the inquiry is progressing, or can the Leader of the House give some indication? Meanwhile, may we have an assurance that there will be no contacts between the British ambassador in Austria and President Waldheim unless and until he is cleared of these allegations?

Mr. Wakeham

The review is being conducted by the Ministry of Defence and it is intended to be as thorough and comprehensive as possible. It is being pursued as quickly as is consistent with proper consideration of the evidence and the need for accuracy. Although good progress is being made, this is a complex and important matter and it would be premature to speculate on when the review might be completed. It would not be appropriate for me to comment on the findings before the review is completed.

Mr. Bowen Wells

On Wednesday the harmonisation of VAT and excise duties is to be debated for only one and a half hours. Is it not absurd that we will be considering for such a short time matters that are normally the subject of a Bill—for instance the Finance Bill, which occupies much time on the Floor of the House and in Committee? Does my right hon. Friend agree that the question of dealing with European legislation—a question that I have raised with him before—should be immediately considered by the Procedure Committee, which I am delighted to say he has been able to set up? Will he refer this matter to the Committee urgently because clearly he cannot find proper time for it in normal business hours?

Mr. Wakeham

My hon. Friend used the word "absurd". I suggest that he reads the Government motion before reaching such a conclusion. I think that what I have done is the sensible way forward, but, as I have said, I am prepared to have discussions to see whether we can find better arrangements.

Mr. Keith Vaz (Leicester, East)

Will the Leader of the House make time available for an urgent debate about the state of Britain's footwear industry? Is he aware that there are 11,000 footwear workers in Leicestershire and in other parts of the midlands? Is he also aware of the new figures published by the British Footwear Manufacturers Federation which show that the imports have increased dramatically over the past month? When may we have a chance to debate this important matter?

Mr. Wakeham

As I am sure the hon. Gentleman will accept, there are many important matters calling for the time of the House and it is impossible to fit them all in. Perhaps an Adjournment debate would enable him to put some of the points that he wishes the House to appreciate.

Mr. John Marshall (Hendon)

Will my right hon. Friend consider initiating a debate on the future of the confectionery industry which faces the threat of 80 per cent. of the industry being owned by companies in non-EC countries? Is my right hon. Friend aware that Rowntree is subject to a bid by two Swiss companies, both of which are immune to a counter bid from Rowntree?

Mr. Wakeham

Under the Fair Trading Act 1973 the Director General of Fair Trading has a duty to advise my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry about whether a merger or a prospective merger should be referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission for further investigation. The Director General takes into account all matters which may raise questions of public interest, including the points that my hon. Friend raised, and the likely and significant effect on employment and other matters. I think we had best leave it at that.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Why does not the Leader of the House arrange a debate next week about the seamen's dispute so that we can fully engage in an argument about the real facts? Will he tell his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment to have a more comprehensive list of the facts when he next appears at the Dispatch Box? Will he tell him, for example, that there is nothing wrong in Labour Members such as myself going to a picket line in Dover or anywhere else when the Prime Minister spends her time supping gin and tonic and whisky with Jeffrey Sterling in Downing street? He is employed as a special adviser to the Government and the Prime Minister and gives £100,000 for Tory party funds.

There is much talk about a ballot. The Leader of the House should tell his right hon. Friends that all the seamen in Britain wanted a ballot, but were stopped from having one by the Tories' friends in the courts. There is also an argument about safety. If the Leader of the House had watched the BBC programme the other night, he would know that many ships are in jeopardy and that Sterling wants to reduce even further the number of men and women who are employed. The Government are interested in seafarers only when they want them to fight their wars.

Mr. Wakeham

The one thing that is quite clear from that diatribe is that the hon. Gentleman does not want to resolve the dispute. I should have thought that he would be the first to understand that in all industrial disputes the resolution of the issues must be a matter for the parties operating within the law and taking cognisance of economic circumstances. I do not think that a debate would improve the situation one iota.

Mr. Ian Bruce (Dorset, South)

Is my right hon. Friend able to organise a debate on office accommodation in the Palace of Westminster? In view of the comments made in the press by the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone)—he said that the Labour Whips were not able to give him accommodation—is my right hon. Friend able to confirm that the Opposition Whips were given more than their fair share of accommodation? As all Conservative Members have offices, is it not strange that the Opposition Whips were unable to find the hon. Gentleman an office?

Mr. Wakeham

I cannot comment on the remarks of the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) about those matters. Office accommodation is not as satisfactory as some people would like, although both sides of the House do their best. The Opposition have their way of doing things and we have our way, and we had best leave it at that.

Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)

May we have a full-scale debate on the P and O attempt to break the National Union of Seamen? Some hon. Members wish to make the point that the P and O management appears to be above the law as it has not been brought before the law for its part in the Zeebrugge tragedy. It is attempting to smash the trade union and to worsen—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman should ask for a debate, rather than participating in one.

Mr. Cohen

Is not P and O endeavouring to worsen working conditions and passenger safety? Is it not the real enemy within in that dispute, supported by the Government's secondary action?

Mr. Wakeham

The hon. Gentleman has confirmed my earlier view that the object of having a debate would not be to try to resolve the matter, if we were to follow his course of action. I should like to see the matter resolved, but I do not believe that a debate involving the expression of such sentiments will help to resolve the dispute.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

Does the Leader of the House accept that his answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) concerning a statement by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland leaves us absolutely amazed? The description of the statement in the Library as a full statement would not be accepted as such by anyone in Northern Ireland or by anyone reading it intelligently in the United Kingdom.

I impress upon the right hon. Gentleman the need for an urgent statement so that we can cross-examine the Government, in the new light that has dawned, on the fact that the Government will now be concerned about border patrol. Is the impact on the finances of the Republic of Ireland making that demand or is there no real concern that people in Northern Ireland have perished because there has not been proper frontier control? We must address such questions arising for innocuous statements unless we want to leave the Northern Ireland Office in orbit over Maryfield or Phoenix Park.

Mr. Wakeham

I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that I am not concerned about the victims of terrorism, but I gave what I thought was a full answer to the question. A copy of the statement has been put in the Library, but the question whether it is a full statement is a matter of opinion and the hon. Gentleman is entitled to his opinion. I have nothing to add to what I have already said, but I shall refer his remarks to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

Why should we not have a debate on the P and O dispute? After all, the Government have interfered so much through legislation in industrial relations that they have now made it virtually impossible for any trade union legitimately to pursue its aims and objectives. Why do the Government persist in acting like industrial warmongers rather than trying to bring some peace and satisfaction to what is clearly a troublesome situation at Dover?

Mr. Wakeham

Unlike the Labour Government, which the hon. Gentleman presumably supported, this Government have produced a framework of law so that the parties in dispute can find an orderly, civilised and legal way of settling their disputes. That does not involve debates in the House in the middle of such a dispute, and that is why it would not be sensible to have such a debate.

Mr. Roy Beggs (Antrim, East)

If the Leader of the House has not already read the statement placed in the Library regarding the Anglo-Irish Conference meeting yesterday, will he look at it carefully? The first part of the statement relates to those people who were present and covers almost half a page. The remainder is totally unsatisfactory to those of us who represent the Unionist majority. Will the right hon. Gentleman take that into account and recognise that we should have liked to ask a Northern Ireland Minister, the Secretary of State, or the Prime Minister today whether the Secretary of State obtained the assurances from Mr. Haughey during yesterday's discussions that the Prime Minister demanded in this House? We have a right to know whether progress is being made and whether the nonsense of promising further steps to improve security is leading us anywhere.

Mr. Wakeham

I have nothing to add to what I have already said, but I shall refer the anxiety of the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

Mr. Tony Banks

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

In a minute.