HC Deb 12 May 1988 vol 133 cc469-84 3.31 pm
Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras)

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

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

The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY 16 MAY—Until seven o'clock, private Members' motions.

Second Reading of the Civil Evidence (Scotland) Bill [Lords].

TUESDAY 17 MAY AND WEDNESDAY 18 MAY—Remaining stages of the British Steel Bill.

At the end on Tuesday, motion to take note of EC documents on the joint research centre, and on Eureka and Community science and technology. Details will be given in the Official Report.

Followed by remaining stages of the Matrimonial Proceedings (Transfers) Bill [Lords].

At the end on Wednesday, motion relating to the Personal Community Charge (Students) (Scotland) Regulations.

THURSDAY 19 MAY—Opposition Day (12th Allotted Day) (1st part). Until seven o'clock there will be a debate on an Opposition motion entitled "The Future of British Shipbuilding".

Motion to take note of EC Documents on own resources and future financing, and the 1987 and 1988 Community Budgets. Details will be given in the Official Report.

FRIDAY 20 MAY—There will be a debate on the arts on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

MONDAY 23 MAY—Opposition Day (12th Allotted Day) (2nd part). Until seven o'clock there will be a debate on an Opposition motion, subject for debate to be announced.

Remaining stages of the Firearms (Amendment) Bill.

The House will wish to know, Mr. Speaker, that subject to the progress of business it will be proposed that the House should rise for the spring Adjournment on Friday 27 May until Tuesday 7 June.

[Debate on Tuesday 17 May 1988

Relevant European Community documents

(a) 9454/87


Joint Research Center
(b) 10845/86 Eureka and the European Community

Relevant report of European Legislation Committee

  1. (a) HC 43-xii (1987–88) para 1 (9484/87)
  2. (b) HC 22-vii (1986–87) para 3

Debate on Thursday 19 May 1988

Relevant European Community documents

(a) 10552/86

(b) Unnumbered

1987 Community budget
(c) Unnumbered Carry-over of appropriations 1986–87
(d) 6037/87

(e) 6822/87

(f) 7552/87

1987 budget situation:

supplementary and amending

budget No. 1/87

(g) 6048/87

(h) 7211/87

(i) COM(87)240

(j) COM(87)677

(k) COM(88)81

1988 preliminary draft budget
(l) 4766/88 1988 draft budget
(m) 4051/87 Financial engineering
(n) 5266/88 Own resources
(o) 5282/88 Amendments to financial regulation
(p) Unnumbered Budgetary discipline

Relevant report of European Legislation Committee

  1. (a) HC 22-iv (1986–87) para 4
  2. (b) HC 22-xv (1986–87) para 3
  3. (c) HC 22-xvi (1986–87) para 2
  4. (d) HC 43-ii (1987–88) para 3
  5. (e) HC 43-ii (1987–88) para 3
  6. (f) HC 43-ii (1987–88) para 3
  7. (g) HC 43-ii (1987–88) para 4
  8. (h) HC 43-ii (1987–88) para 4
  9. (i) HC 43-ii (1987–88) para 4
  10. (j) HC 43-xiv (1987–88) para 3
  11. (k) HC 43-xx (1987–88) para 4
  12. (I) HC 43-xxi (1987–88) para 4
  13. (m) HC 22-xiii (1986–87) para 3
  14. (n) HC 43-xxiii (1987–88) para 1
  15. (o) HC 43-xxiv (1987–88)
  16. (p) HC 43-xxiv (1987–88)]

Mr. Dobson

I thank the Leader of the House for his statement and for providing Government time for a debate on the arts. We hope that it is not a case of "Debate now while stocks last".

When may we expect a statement from the Secretary of State for Social Services on the U-turn unit set up to sort out the confusion that has occurred since the Government agreed not to cut housing benefit by as much as they originally intended? Hon. Members on both sides of the House still do not know the answers to the many questions that they are being asked by constituents who have been affected and they need an opportunity to obtain some answers from the Secretary of State.

Secondly, when can we expect the wide-ranging debate on foreign affairs that the Leader of the House promised some months ago?

Thirdly, may we expect an early Government statement on the reasonable and entirely justified desire of ex-Japanese prisoners of war to obtain compensation for their suffering?

Fourthly, in view of the outbreak of salmonella poisoning in the House of Lords, will the right hon. Gentleman, in the interests of all of us, even including those in the Press Gallery, bring forward a Bill to lift Crown immunity from the Palace of Westminster or give a fair wind to the Bill sponsored by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Ms. Walley) to do so?

Mr. Wakeham

First, the hon. Gentleman referred to the debate on the arts and I am grateful to him for his appreciation of the fact that we have found time for a debate on that important subject.

Secondly, the hon. Gentleman referred to the social security arrangements announced by my right hon. Friend. I believe that the statement and the letter sent by my hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security and the Disabled adequately set out the way to proceed, and, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said, those who want further information should follow the procedures. Nevertheless, I shall refer the matter to my right hon. Friend to see whether anything else needs to be done.

I know that there is considerable interest in having a debate on foreign affairs, and, although I cannot see the possibility of a debate in the immediate future, I shall certainly be looking for an opportunity before long.

I recognise that recent court judgments are of concern to ex-Japanese prisoners of war. Clearly those responsible will have to study the matter before we can make an announcement on it.

With regard to the unfortunate events in the House of Lords, I am not sure that bringing more legislation before the House will do much good for those who may be in difficulties at present. Most hon. Members will know about the strain of salmonella poisoning from which some people in the House of Lords are suffering. I shall ensure that the House is kept informed of any developments.

Sir Bernard Braine (Castle Point)

In regard to the conduct of business, is my right hon. Friend aware of the anger and frustration, both in the House and the country, at the way in which the Abortion (Amendment) Bill, having secured its Second Reading by a substantial majority, having gone through its Committee stage successfully and having completed its Report stage save for the vital final votes, was talked out? As the Government will not give time for the completion of this private Member's Bill, seeking to amend a major Act, which is on the statute book only because a previous Government gave it additional time, does it not follow that they are morally bound to take up the issue themselves and to promote legislation to end the scandal of late abortions? When may we expect a statement from my right hon. Friend?

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise the very strong concerns expressed by my right hon. Friend and by many others in the House and the country. As I said to the House on Friday, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton), who is in charge of the Bill, has nominated tomorrow as the day for further discussion, so there may be an opportunity for the House to decide these matters if that is what it wishes to do. The Government's position is already clear. It is not our practice to provide extra time for the consideration of individual private Members' Bills, and I do not want to anticipate tomorrow's proceedings. My right hon. Friend knows that if his assessment of them is correct, I am ready to discuss the matter with him.

Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill)

Without anticipating tomorrow's proceedings, may I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day motion 1086, signed by 107 hon. Members and urging that compensatory time be provided?

[That this House noting the great public interest in the Abortion (Amendment) Bill and the concern that this House should reach a decision on this important matter, calls upon the Government to find the means by which time can be provided to compensate for that which was lost on Friday 6th May in order to enable such a decision to be reached.]

The Bill achieved a majority of 45 on Second Reading; we completed the debate on Report and were in the midst of the votes on Report. The early-day motion seeks to resolve that constitutionally awkward position. Will the Leader of the House at least consider other ways in which the Government can provide for hon. Members to arrive at a proper decision on the question?

Mr. Wakeham

I hear and understand what the hon. Gentleman says but do not want to anticipate what happens tomorrow. The Government believe that it is a very grave step for them to intervene in the process of private Members' Bills. I repeat that it is not the Government's practice to provide extra time.

Sir Fergus Montgomery (Altrincham and Sale)

I add my pleas to the two that have already been made to my right hon. Friend. I have to say in fairness that, on Friday, the debate had finished and the arguments had all been put but, because of the tactics used by the Bill's opponents, the votes were not allowed to be taken. As the debates have been completed and the arguments put, I do not understand why the Bill's opponents are not prepared to allow the House to make a democratic decision. Although I understand the Government's difficulties in allowing extra time for private Members' Bills, surely we can at least have time to take the votes after hearing the arguments.

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise what my hon. Friend says and I wish that I could be more forthcoming. As my hon. Friend knows perfectly well, this is a controversial matter. The Government's position is clear, and I do not think that I can add to what has been said.

Mr. Merlyn Rees (Morley and Leeds, South)

I thank the Leader of the House for passing on to the Home Office my constantly raised question about reform of the Boundary Commission procedures. Now that the Home Office has turned down the report by the Select Committee on Home Affairs, would it not be a good idea to have a debate? When the Boundary Commission starts work, many hon. Members will find that the same mistakes will be made next time as were made last time.

Mr. Wakeham

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his comments. I recognise his experience in these matters and take what he says very seriously. I do not know whether there is a general desire for a debate, but I shall consider the matter and ascertain what can be done, if necessary.

Dr. Charles Goodson-Wickes (Wimbledon)

I am aware of my right hon. Friend's attitude to the Government giving time for debates on private Members' Bills, but will he say whether or when time can be provided for the Abortion (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, now under consideration in another place? The Bill, after long consideration, recommends the 24-weeks limit, which it appears may command a majority of support in this House. I make this plea in the belief that there is a degree of frustration, both in the House and in the country, about the inconclusive attitude adopted towards the Abortion (Amendment) Bill in this House. I suggest that this would be a constructive way forward.

Mr. Wakeham

I say in all friendliness to my hon. Friend that I have enough difficulty in sorting out the Bills that are presently before the House without anticipating what I shall do about the Bills that have not yet arrived.

Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)

Has the Leader of the House seen my early-day motion 543 on New Zealand and the EEC?

[That this House affirms the right of British consumers to continue to buy butter from New Zealand in the same quantities as now; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to ensure that there will be no diminution in New Zealand's butter exports to the United Kingdom.]

It now has more than 200 signatures of hon. Members on both sides of the House. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that a motion with support on that scale should be debated soon by the House, especially since it is on a matter of so much importance to New Zealand and the British consumer?

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise the force of what the right hon. Gentleman says. The Community will have to take into account a range of factors, including budgetary costs, consumers' views, its stance on trade policy issues in general and the pressures on the dairy industry resulting from quotas. It would be premature to discuss the Government's approach before the Commission has made proposals.

I am sure that the whole House would wish to express to the very distinguished New Zealand high commissioner and his family our sympathy following the dreadful physical attack made upon them and to wish them a full and speedy recovery.

Sir Anthony Grant (Cambridgeshire, South-West)

My right hon. Friend will recall that yesterday the private Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown)—the Associated British Ports (No. 2) Bill—failed to make progress because of the rather deplorable disruptive tactics in which the shadow Leader of the House, the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson), took part. My right hon. Friend will recall also that the shadow Leader of the House suggested that there was an urgent need to reform the private Bill procedure. Has the hon. Gentleman made any submission or given evidence to the Select Committee that is considering this matter?

Mr. Wakeham

I have many responsibilities in the House, but I am not responsible for what the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) has to say. I am sure that any hon. Member who believes that the private Bill procedure is antiquated or in need of reform will take the advice of the Chairman of Ways and Means, who is responsible for these matters, and give evidence to the Select Committee, which is ably chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest (Mr. McNair-Wilson), and thus put forward their points of view.

Mr. Frank Cook (Stockton, North)

May I refer the Leader of the House to early-day motion 1031 on the subject of the disregarding of the disabled employment quota and the scandalous way in which companies are ignoring the statutory requirement?

[That this House recalls that under the Disabled Persons Employment Acts of 1944 and 1958 it is unlawful for a major employer to engage a person who is not disabled if less than 3 per cent. of the workforce is made up of registered disabled people; notes that 32,922 employers qualify to meet this quota but that only 8,329 have satisfied these obligations; notes also that 18,577 exemption permits have been issued to allow avoidance of these statutes but that 18 per cent. of companies whom the Department of Employment consider should have applied for an exemption have not yet done so; notes further that since 1944 only five companies have been prosecuted for non-compliance with this statutory requirement, the largest fine imposed being £100; deplores the flagrant disregard for law displayed by management and the spineless abdication of responsibility on the part of the authorities; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to take steps at the earliest date to introduce measures to rectify such wilful neglect.]

May I also draw to the right hon. Gentleman's attention, if he has not seen it already, the answer given to me by the hon. Member for Berwick-upon Tweed (Mr. Beith), representing the House of Commons Commission, which reveals that since 1979 the Commission has never managed to do better than drawing 1 per cent. of its employees from among the disabled? As we cannot get the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed to answer on behalf of the Commission, will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement so that the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed can answer questions about why the House is in dereliction of its statutory duty?

Mr. Wakeham

If the hon. Gentleman is having difficulty in obtaining answers to questions that are in order from the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith), I shall do what I can to facilitate answers to him.

With regard to early-day motion 1031, the quota is within the scope of the internal review of services for the disabled announced in March by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment and which he has put in hand. I cannot guarantee to find time for an early debate on this matter.

Mr. Michael Brown (Brigg and Cleethorpes)

May I ask my right hon. Friend a question that relates to last night's adjourned business? Will it not become clear that, if we are to make progress on the Associated British Ports (No. 2) Bill and on the North Killingholme Cargo Terminal Bill. the only way in which it could possibly be done so that the House may have the opportunity to take a decision on these Bills is if additional time is given and, perhaps, if a suspension of the ten o'clock rule is contemplated by those who have power in these matters?

Mr. Wakeham

As the Chairman of Ways and Means made clear yesterday, he is responsible for setting down private business. Standing Order No. 16 provides that business set down by the Chairman of Ways and Means "shall be distributed as nearly as may be proportionately" between Government time and Opposition time. To date. six Bills have been taken in Government time and only two in Opposition time.

My hon. Friend's request to suspend the ten o'clock rule should be a request to me from the Chairman of Ways and Means, but I am sure that I would sympathetically consider any request made by him.

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

I have asked the right hon. Gentleman about this before, but, in view of the Prime Minister's statement this afternoon about the housing being built in yuppie land in London, will the right hon. Gentleman give time for a debate on safety in the construction industry? Is he aware that last year 152 workers in the construction industry lost their lives and 2,300 were seriously injured? Now, in London, we are faced with another extension of self-employment in the construction industry. Is it not time that we had a proper debate on the important issue of health and safety in that industry?

Mr. Wakeham

I am not as expert as the hon. Gentleman on the construction industry. I agree that it has not had the best record on safety over the years, but I should have thought that the record shows that it has been improving in recent years. However, I shall refer what the hon. Gentleman said to my right hon. Friend, and, although I cannot promise him anything, I recognise that this is an important matter, and I shall see what we can do.

Sir Ian Lloyd (Havant)

My right hon. Friend will be aware that within the past couple of days Members on both sides of the House have received the latest issue of The Parliamentarian, the journal of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, which contains a fascinating pair of articles on the development of information technology, first in the Canadian Parliament, and, secondly, in the Australian Parliament. In the Canadian Parliament it is now possible for a Member of that House not only to see what is going on in the Chamber but, if he wishes, to see what is going on simultaneously in any provincial legislature and in either House of the United States Congress. Does not that illustrate that we are rapidly falling behind in these matters? Will he bring back that central issue from the rather moribund Committee, where such matters now rest, to the Floor of the House so that we can discuss it and decide what should be done?

Mr. Wakeham

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving me notice that he would raise this subject. I have obtained a copy of the article to which he has referred, but I have not yet had an opportunity to read it. I know of my hon. Friend's considerable interest in this matter. He will know that computerised facilities in the Library have recently been considerably expanded, but information technology for hon. Members' own use must be a matter for individual hon. Members. I shall read the article, consider what it says and perhaps have a discusssion with my hon. Friend.

Mr. William Ross (Londonderry, East)

Has the Leader of the House seen the large number of Government amendments to the Firearms (Amendment) Bill? Is he aware that they amount to a rewriting of large parts of the Bill. Has he taken particular notice of the fact that, on Report, large slabs of the Bill are now to be extended to Northern Ireland, which means that those parts of the Bill will now be discussed in a new light because of the different approach to firearms in Northern Ireland? Surely, in the light of that, putting the Bill on at 7 o'clock on a Monday evening will not provide sufficient time. Will he make further time available?

Mr. Wakeham

I have listened to the hon. Gentleman. My advice is that putting it down for that time was for the general convenience of the House. We shall have to see how we get on.

Mr. James Kilfedder (North Down)

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland's arrogant refusal to make a statement to the House about the Anglo-Eire Conference is a denial of the democratic and parliamentary process. The Secretary of State seems to be prepared to brief the press on and off the record, but he is not prepared to brief hon. Members. Is it not time for time to be provided for a debate on the progress of the Anglo-Eire Conference so that people in Northern Ireland, through their representatives, can make their comments on it?

Mr. Wakeham

I do not accept for a minute my hon. Friend's comments about my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. As I said last week, notwithstanding the terms of the motion that some hon. Members have put down, a full statement on the subjects discussed at the conference has been placed in the Library. As is usually the case in international discussions, the proceedings of that conference must remain confidential. However, my right hon. Friend and his Ministers are ready to talk with hon. Members about the issues raised and I recommend that my hon. Friend has a talk with my right hon. Friend about that. I cannot promise an early debate, but we shall obviously have to bear the matter in mind.

Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Cromarty and Skye)

Will the Leader of the House try to arrange for the Secretary of State for the Environment to make a statement before the close of play in the Nirex consultative process on its document "The Way Forward" on the disposal of nuclear waste, particularly since there is growing evidence throughout the country that Nirex's failure to consult on the option of on-site disposal of nuclear material at existing nuclear installations is a source of concern, not least in my constituency, which today has announced a mini-referendum result of a 96 per cent. rejection on a 76 per cent. turnout of those balloted by the Electoral Reform Society?

Mr. Wakeham

The hon. Gentleman does not have to tell me about the controversy that some of the proposals engender, but I am not sure whether a statement in the middle of the consultation process is the best way forward. I shall have a word with my right hon. Friend to see whether he has any proposals to make.

Miss Ann Widdecombe (Maidstone)

May I ask my right hon. Friend about his answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine)? If the Government are not prepared to find extra time for the Abortion (Amendment) Bill, and if they are not prepared to allow compensatory time which would at least get us through the series of votes to be taken and the Third Reading, have the Government any intention of bringing forward proposals of their own on this subject, or is my right hon. Friend saying to the country and to the House—I want to be clear about this—that, despite 109 hon. Members already having signed the motion asking for extra time on the first day that it was down, despite the majority on Second Reading, and despite the widespread anxiety in the country over this matter, the Government and my right hon. Friend are giving this issue no priority?

Mr. Wakeham

I am sure that, if my hon. Friend thinks about it in a wider context than the Abortion (Amendment) Bill—about which I know she is very concerned—she will recognise that the Government's position on not giving additional time for private Members' Bills is based on very careful and detailed thought, and should not lightly be put aside. I have said that there will be a further chance tomorrow for the House to reach a decision, and I think that that is the best way to proceed today.

Ms. Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North)

Will the Leader of the House reconsider the reply that he gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson), and give some thought to ways in which the removal of Crown immunity can apply to the Palace of Westminster? Some 10,000 meals are served here every day. This is a place of work for many hundreds of people. No criticism is implied of the staff of the Refreshment Department, but I believe that this place should have the same legislative protection as public premises and food premises elsewhere. There is no substitute for proper inspections, monitoring and enforcement of legislation.

Mr. Wakeham

I believe that the staff and officers of the House conduct their duties to the highest standards, and they certainly have my full support. I would not accept any implied criticism, and I know that the hon. Lady did not intend such a criticism. I cannot give an answer immediately on whether legislation should be introduced. The hon. Lady has asked for a request to be made, and I will consider the matter, but I do not promise anything much.

Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)

Is it the case that under the present Government no national controversial question can be settled by the private Members' Bill procedure, because the Government will in no circumstances allow Back Benchers to decide such matters, except when consenting to provide extra time? Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Government's predecessors never shirked their responsibility in this way? Have not the Government a moral duty at least to allow further discussion of the Abortion (Amendment) Bill so that this great question may be decided?

Mr. Wakeham

I hear and take note of what my hon. Friend has said, but I do not think that I can add anything more. It is not this Government's practice to provide additional time, but the House will have an opportunity on Friday to come to a conclusion on the matter if it wishes.

Mr. Frank Haynes (Ashfield)

Is my right hon. Friend aware—[Laughter.] What is wrong with that? He has been a friend for a long while. Hon. Members should keep quiet. Is he aware that we had a marvellous debate last night on the Associated British Ports (No. 2) Bill? The Government appeared to be supporting the Bill last night, and had a payroll vote ready in case it was needed. Bearing in mind what the Leader of the House said about the Abortion (Amendment) Bill, will the Government find time for this Bill to be further considered?

Mr. Wakeham

I do not know from where the hon. Gentleman obtains his information. He is usually very well informed, but I am not sure that he is as well informed on this issue as he is on confectionery and other matters that may be more in his line.

As I said, time for private Bills is a matter for the Chairman of Ways and Means and the Standing Orders of the House, and I have no doubt that those responsible will conduct their duties properly.

Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South)

In view of the problems in monopoly and merger policy caused by the fact that the Director General of Fair Trading has said that he may be unable to give a verdict on the bids for Rowntree for another fortnight, would my right hon. Friend be willing to have an early debate on the matter? Does he agree that the undertainty generated by that delay is unfortunate for the management and employees of Rowntree?

Mr. Wakeham

I accept that delay and uncertainty should not be perpetuated longer than is necessary. However, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said, we must also stick rigidly to the law, and I do not believe that a debate at this stage would be helpful.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

Will the Leader of the House make a statement on the introduction of legislation to ensure that when people cross the floor, either in this place or in local councils, from one party to another they seek to maintain their mandate by going to the electorate again? This is a matter of political integrity. That would prevent political cheating when people who have been elected on one set of values in a manifesto then tear up that manifesto, kick the electorate in the teeth and cross the floor. Is it not reasonable for the electorate to expect legislation to require people to seek re-election when they do not have the guts to do it themselves?

Mr. Wakeham

It sounds to me as if the hon. Gentleman is trying to plug some holes in a sinking ship. I do not have any plans for such legislation.

Mr. Greg Knight (Derby, North)

Further to the point raised by the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes), and in view of the large amount of time-wasting by Labour Members yesterday, including the raising of a large number of dubious points of order, does my right hon. Friend agree that, when the debate is resumed on the private Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown), there is a good case for allowing it to take place in Opposition time?

Mr. Wakeham

Standing Order No. 16 makes it clear how time should be apportioned between the Government and the Opposition. I have already said that, to date, six private Bills have been taken in Government time and only two in Opposition time. However, the questions that my hon. Friend has raised are for the Chairman of Ways and Means, and not for me.

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

In light of the public concern that is now being expressed in Kent about reductions in public services, in education and in expenditure in parts of the hospital service in every part of Kent, will the Leader of the House give hon. Members, especially Labour Members, time to debate these matters? Our mail bags are increasingly being filled with correspondence from people who are angry about the Government's activities in Kent.

Mr. Wakeham

I thought that the hon. Gentleman was a Member for another beautiful part of the country, but perhaps he is not as welcome there as he was. I entirely reject what he has said about Kent. I know Kent very well, and a number of my hon. Friends who represent Kent constituencies recognise the many great achievements of the Government for the benefit of the people of that area.

Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury)

I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to motion no. 14 on the Order Paper, which is in his name. If motion no. 14 had been debated and carried prior to last Friday, the sad events of that day would not have taken place because it would have prevented time wasting on petitions. I believe that it would be a good thing for the standing of the House in the country if that motion were debated at the earliest opportunity to prevent Friday's sad events from happening again.

Mr. Wakeham

I agree with my hon. Friend. The motion reflects the views of the all-party Procedure Committee. I believe that the motion is generally acceptable as being the way forward. As I have said on many occasions, I deprecate the use of petitions as a means of filibustering.

Mr. Harold McCusker (Upper Bann)

Will the Leader of the House reflect on the statement that he made last week—he repeated it today—that it would not be right for the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to come to the House to make a statement following meetings of the Anglo-Irish Conference? What is not right about the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland doing what Prime Ministers and Foreign Secretaries have done regularly in this House since I became a Member? Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that, instead of the House being given an opportunity to probe the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland about his relationship with the Government of the Irish Republic, Members representing Northern Ireland will, if they crawl to Stormont Castle, be given their own private briefing? Is that what passes for British parliamentary democracy today?

Mr. Wakeham

I believe that the hon. Gentleman is trying to turn the particular into the general. I was talking about the particular position as it was last week. Of course, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland makes statements in this House and he will continue to do so. The basis for making Government statements is that the Government believe it is right that they should be made. I can only repeat what I have said before. My right hon. Friend is always ready to talk to hon. Members if they believe that that would be helpful.

Rev. William McCrea (Mid-Ulster)

Will the right hon. Gentleman reflect on the answer that he has given to my hon. Friend the Member for Upper Bann (Mr. McCusker), bearing in mind that hon. Members from another party—the Social and Democratic Labour party—can run off to Dublin to see the Prime Minister of that country? He can tell them the full details of the matters that were raised and take them totally into his confidence. Yet the Members of this House who are Unionists cannot be trusted with the information, which I believe all hon. Members should be given. Will the right hon. Gentleman reflect upon his answer and give the House the courtesy that it deserves?

Mr. Wakeham

The duties of the Leader of the House do not extend as far as discussions that go on in Dublin. I will reflect upon what the hon. Gentleman has said if he undertakes to reflect upon what I have said: if he wishes to talk about such matters my right hon. Friend is ready and willing to see him.

Mr. Eddie McGrady (South Down)

Has the Leader of the House had time to read recent authoritative press statements about the fact that 10 major nuclear power stations are defective in construction and are unsafe? Is he aware of the grave public concern that that has caused? Is it the Government's intention to make a statement about those power stations, and are they prepared to give the House time to debate this serious matter?

Mr. Wakeham

I assure the hon. Gentleman that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy makes safety the highest priority in nuclear matters. If he thought that there was any cause for alarm or need to make a statement to the House, he would be the first to do so. I do not believe that there is any such necessity, but I shall certainly refer the hon. Gentleman's concern to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Ian Bruce (Dorset. South)

Will my right hon. Friend give time for a debate on our former prisoners of war in the far east? There has been a lobby on that matter today and when I took a small party to the Japanese embassy I was enormously surprised to discover the public concern that still exists because these people have not been properly looked after and compensated. May we have time for a debate on this subject?

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise that there is concern about this matter. I cannot promise an early debate, but I shall refer the matter to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence.

Mr. Ken Eastham (Manchester, Blackley)

I wish to raise with the Leader of the House a subject which has been discussed on a number of occasions, the Economic League. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that obvious blocking tactics are being employed in the Employment Select Committee to prohibit a proper investigation of that private espionage organisation, which has affected the livelihood of thousands of people? Is there some kind of cover-up, or does the Leader of the House intend to do something to bring about an end to this scandal?

Mr. Wakeham

The hon. Gentleman refers me to what is going on in the Employment Select Committee. What he said sounded to me as a slightly partial account of matters. I do not have responsibility for taking the Chair of the Employment Select Committee. It is not a matter for me.

Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay)

When my right hon. Friend considers the request from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) concerning the New Zealand dairy industry, will he also bear in mind the plight of the New Zealand apple industry? It has several shiploads of extremely good New Zealand apples on the sea and they are likely to be banned from landing because of the new quotas that are being slapped on by the European Community. That is happening at a time when there is a growing shortage of good apples. If the ban operates, we will be eating pappy, rotten, Golden Delicious apples instead of good New Zealand apples.

Mr. Wakeham

I agree with my hon. Friend about the quality of New Zealand apples. I do not think that I can arrange a debate on the subject next week, but I shall certainly refer the matter to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South)

Will the Leader of the House persuade his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport to make a statement to the House on the problem of cones and bollards on the M6 and the M 1? The right hon. Gentleman may not be aware that the number of contraflow systems on those two roads is increasing, and there are dangers from service stations, with vehicles pouring into two-lane contraflow systems. A considerable number of people are killed on the roads during the summer. It is a matter of great importance for those of us who represent constituencies in the north-west.

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise that when unfortunately one gets into a traffic jam one tends to take a partial view of these matters, but 1 would have thought that the increase in expenditure on roads, and particularly on motorways, in this country was one of the Government's great achievements. I will refer the matter to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Spencer Batiste (Elmet)

My right hon. Friend may recall that some weeks ago he made some sympathetic comments about the need for a debate on air traffic. Since then public concern about the number of air misses has increased and anxiety has been expressed over the difficulties of American airlines in running scheduled services to Manchester. There is a report under consideration about the extension of time for Leeds-Bradford airport. These are very important national and regional issues. When may we expect his expressions of sympathy to be translated into a debate?

Mr. Wakeham

The expressions of sympathy still apply, but I cannot foresee an early debate. However, it is important that all those factors are discussed when the opportunity presents itself, particularly as the substantial increase in air traffic and the far less substantial increase in risk is not fully appreciated by many people in this country.

Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley)

The Leader of the House will recall that before the general election last year the Environment Select Committee published a report on river and estuary pollution. As yet the Government have not published a response to that report, although it is way beyond the time limit allowed. Will he urge the Secretary of State to ensure that the report is published as soon as possible? Recognising the serious implications of the privatisation of water, if the Government press ahead with that legislation, will he seriously consider providing time for that report and the Government's response to it to be debated?

Mr. Wakeham

The hon. Gentleman is right in recognising that these are very important, serious matters and need properly to be considered. I am sorry if the Government's response has been delayed. I will refer the matter to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and see what can be done.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke)

Returning to early-day motion 1086 about the circumstances concerning the Abortion (Amendment) Bill last week, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) about the procedure of the House? Will he arrange for the Procedure Committee's motion to be brought before the House as soon as possible so that consideration may be given to the ways in which the procedure of the House can be changed to prevent a repetition of the time-wasting, filibustering disruption of the Bill last week so that we can come to a decision on this important matter?

Mr. Wakeham

My hon. Friend has noticed that the motion to re-establish the Select Committee on Procedure is on the Order Paper. I hope that it will be agreed within the next few days so that the Committee can start work.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

Will the Leader of the House accept that my colleagues on this Bench would like to vote on the Abortion (Amendment) Bill and decide once and for all where we stand?

I have raised before the question of having a debate in the House on the role of the media in reporting terrorist incidents, and, more importantly, in providing a platform for exponents of terror. Can the right hon. Gentleman find time for us to debate that matter in the near future?

Since apparently it is not possible for the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to make a statement on the recent Anglo-Eire Conference meeting, is it possible for a debate on Northern Ireland to be arranged in the comparatively near future? If that cannot be done through the usual channels, perhaps the unusual channels will bring more success. Perhaps we could debate the novel doctrine that is now being propounded of the immutability of international agreements lodged at the United Nations, especially in light of the recent one between New Zealand and France.

Mr. Wakeham

If we had such a debate, it seems that the hon. Gentleman would have plenty to say. I take Hs point. I cannot promise him an early debate, but I shall certainly bear in mind what he has said.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes (Harrow, West)

My right hon. Friend will be aware that on Bank Holiday Monday a lump of aircraft fell in a garden in my constituency, a matter that is being investigated by the Department of Transport and the Civil Aviation Authority thoroughly and, so far, to the satisfaction of my constituents. Is he aware that the response from the airline, Iceland Air, is entirely a matter for that airline under the Civil Aviation Act 1980 and that its response so far can be described only as mean-minded, ungenerous and, frankly, uncaring? Will my right hon. Friend arrange a debate on whether the airlines should have greater responsibility for what happens to gardens and the areas over which they fly?

Mr. Wakeham

Since my hon. Friend has been a Member of the House he has shown himself to be a very adept user of the procedures of the House. May I suggest that what he has said may be an appropriate subject for an Adjournment debate?

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

The Leader of the House has received a number of complaints from hon. Members about the Government giving more time for the Abortion (Amendment) Bill. Does he agree with me that in the time that we have been Members of the House many controversial Back-Bench Members' Bills have been introduced, and most of them have suffered the same fate? Bills about hare coursing and fox hunting and industrial relations Bills introduced by Opposition Members between 1976 and 1979 were defeated on the simple basis that if there is too much controversy about them it does not take too many people to stop them. I remember the Father of the House, the right hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine), speaking for three hours to stop a Bill. This happens on both sides of the House.

I think that it should he clearly understood that if last Friday the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) had been smart enough, as we suggested in the Lobby when we spoke about the matter, and voted in the opposite manner from the way he did, he might have had a forlorn hope of carrying it further, but he went into the wrong Lobby.

Mr. Wakeham

It is well worth the time of anybody seeking to understand properly the procedures of the House to have a private word with the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). He has a better knowledge of the proceedings of the House than he has about a great many other things outside the House on which he expresses strong views from time to time.

Mr. Alan Meale (Mansfield)

Is the Leader of the House aware that yet again hon. Members have had to put up with ministerial statements about the privatisation of public assets being made outside the House before they are discussed by the House, notably on the privatisation of the coal industry? Bearing in mind that most hon. Members do not agree with such action, will he find time very soon to debate coal mining subsidence, especially since the Select Committee report, the Government's response to that report and the consultation about the Government's response is imminent? It is vital that the issue is discussed in this Chamber.

Mr. Wakeham

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Energy, who spoke about the possible privatisation of the coal industry, was not in any sense making a specific announcement about it. It is no secret that the Government believe that in the long term that would be a sensible, profitable and efficient way forward for those in the industry, but we recognise that privatisation would be technically and administratively a very complex and lengthy process and it could not happen in this Parliament. From time to time we find time for debates on the coal industry, but I cannot promise a debate in the near future.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

Has the Leader of the House had time to examine early-day motion 1088 concerning the new political situation in Scotland since the district election results last week?

[That this House notes the results of the Scottish district elections, and in particular the performance of the Scottish National Party; notes that the Scottish National Party is now the second party in Scotland, having won 21.2 per cent. of the vote, compared with the Tories' 19.1 per cent.; notes that both Conservative and Labour parties suffered a fall in support despite both having increased their total number of candidates; notes that more Scots expressed ballot box support for a mass campaign of non-payment to resist the poll tax than voted to support the measure itself; further notes that the latest MORI opinion poll indicates levels of support for full Scottish independence running at a record high 35 per cent. among voters; and calls on Her Majesty's Government to provide Parliamentary time so that the new political situation and the Government's lack of legitimacy in Scotland can properly be discussed by honourable Members.]

Given that the Conservative party is the third party in Scotland in terms of popular support, and is behind the Labour party and the Scottish National party, is it not time for a debate on the legitimacy of the Government's position and the imposition on the Scottish people of extremist policies which are so clearly rejected and unwanted?

Mr. Wakeham

I have to say to the hon. Gentleman, even if he knows it already, that 69 out of the 72 Scottish Members at Westminster were elected last June to represent the Scottish people as Unionists in the United Kingdom Parliament. There is no new political situation in Scotland. The Scottish National party had a record number of candidates, but it failed dismally to replace the Scottish Conservative party as the second force in Scottish politics. The SNP's policy of independence has consistently been rejected by the Scottish people.

Mr. Matthew Taylor (Truro)

The Leader of the House will have probably seen the CEGB's announcement that it is going forward with plans for two new pressurised water reactor nuclear power stations. That is a matter of considerable concern to the House not only in terms of safety and viability but also because it pre-empts the decision of the House on the privatisation of the industry and the Government's intention to increase the input of independent suppliers and generators of electricity. Will he seek to make time available for the House to debate these moves by the CEGB?

Mr. Wakeham

Those are important matters and we shall no doubt debate them in one form or another. However, I should like to consider what is the best way forward, and I cannot promise an early debate.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

May we have a statement next week on who has ministerial or Cabinet responsibility for scolding, lecturing, hectoring and pontificating against the broadcasters—the BBC, the Independent Television Authority, Lord Thomson of Monifieth and the press? Is it the Home Secretary, who has preserved a discreet and genteel silence, is it the Foreign Secretary, or is it Mr. Ingham? May we have a statement on the precise role of Mr. Ingham? In particular, may we have an answer to the question whether his well-publicised statement last week about press hysteria was made on the authority of the Prime Minister? Was it done with her authority, or did he do it on his tod?

Mr. Wakeham

If there were any Minister with ministerial responsibility for scolding, I think that he would be tempted to scold rather nearer home than the media further away. When my right hon. Friends speak to the broadcasting authorities, they speak to them in a calm and responsible way. They put forward what they believe to be appropriate matters that should be considered. I do not recognise the language that the hon. Gentleman uses.