HC Deb 13 July 1989 vol 156 cc1133-43 3.31 pm
Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras)

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

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

Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be as follows: MONDAY 17 JULY—Timetable motion on the Football Spectators Bill [Lords].

Remaining stages of the Antarctic Minerals Bill [Lords].

Motion on the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order.

Motion on the Clergy (Ordination) Measure.

TUESDAY 18 JULY—Opposition Day (17th Allotted Day). Until seven o'clock there will be a debate on an Opposition motion entitled "Teacher Shortages".

Motion to take note of EC documents on animal health aspects of intra-Community trade. Details will be given in the Official Report. The Chairman of Ways and Means has named opposed private business for consideration at seven o'clock.

WEDNESDAY 19 JULY—Until about seven o'clock motions on Water Act regulations. Details will be given in the Official Report. Consideration of Lords amendments to the Social Security Bill.

Consideration of Lords amendments to the Transport (Scotland) Bill.

THURSDAY 20 JuLY—Progress on consideration of Lords amendments to the Electricity Bill.

Motion on the Education (Assisted Places) Regulations.

FRIDAY 21 JULY—There will be a debate on school education against drug and alcohol abuse on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

MONDAY 24 JULY—Until seven o'clock completion of consideration of Lords amendments to the Electricity Bill.

There will be a debate on parliamentary pensions on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Mr. Speaker, the House will wish to know that, subject to the progress of business, it will be proposed that the House should rise for the summer Adjournment on Friday 28 July until Tuesday 17 October.

[Tuesday 18 July

Relevant European Community Documents

(a) 4183/89; 4839/89; 5057/89 Health rules: sheep and goats, bovine embryos and poultry.

Relevant Report of European Legislation Committee.

(a) HC 15-xxv ( 1988–89), para 2.

Wednesday 19 July:

Water Act Regulations

Control of Pollution (Revocations) Regulations 1989 (S.I., 1989, No. 1150),

Controlled Waters (Lakes and Ponds) Order 1989 (S.I., 1989, No. 1149),

Control of Pollution (Consents for Discharges etc.) (Secretary of State Functions) Regulations 1989 (S.I., 1989, No. 1151),

Control of Pollution (Discharges by the National Rivers Authority) Regulations 1989 (S.I., 1989, No. 1157),

Control of Pollution (Radioactive Waste) Regulations 1989 (S.I., 1989, No. 1158),

Control of Pollution (Registers) Regulations 1989 (S.I., 1989, No. 1160),

Director General of Water Services' Register ( Inspection and Charges) Regulations 1989 (S.I., 1989, No. 1154),

Surface Waters (Classification) Regulations 1989 (S.I., 1989, No. 1148),

Trade Effluents (Prescribed Processes and Substances) Regulations 1989 (S.I., 1989, No. 1156),

Water and Sewerage (Conservation, Access and Recreation) (Code of Practice) Order 1989 (S.I., 1989, No. 1152),

Water Reorganisation (Pensions etc.) Regulations 1989 (S.I., 1989, No. 1161)

Water Reorganisation (Pensions etc.) (Designated Persons) Order 1989 (S.I., 1989, No. 1155),

Water Supply and Sewerage Services (Customer Service Standard) Regulations 1989 (S.I., 1989, No. 1159),

Water Supply (Water Quality) Regulations 1989 (S.I., 1989, No. 1147),

Water Appointment (Monopolies and Mergers Commission) Regulations 1989 (S.I., 1989, No. 1162).]

Mr. Dobson

When the Leader of the House says that we are to have a guillotine motion on Monday curtailing debate on the Football Spectators Bill, is he seriously suggesting that the House should finish the Committee stage of the Bill before the summer recess and months before the Taylor judicial inquiry has been completed? If that is the case, will he once again reconsider and reflect on the offer that the Opposition have made—that if he and his colleagues come up with a sensible measure to deal with the problem of hooliganism and crowd safety, the Opposition will give it a fair wind. If he does not agree to that, we promise that we shall do our level best to stop the Government from successfully steering the Bill through Parliament.

I understand that later in the week it is proposed that no fewer than 13 sets of Water Act regulations should be dealt with in three hours. Those regulations have been produced as a result of the passage of the Water Act, which passed into law only 10 days ago. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that there cannot possibly be any reasonable scrutiny of this subsidiary legislation and that the lack of proper scrutiny is likely to bring the House into disrepute? Will he find more time in which to consider these important regulations?

On what day will the Prime Minister make her statement about the Paris summit—or, if I know the French, the Paris festivities this weekend?

We understand from the newspapers that the Government have already decided their response to their Green Paper on the legal profession. Everyone else in the country has had the opportunity to make their views known. Do the Government intend to announce their decision before the House has had the chance to debate the proposals? If so, will the right hon. Gentleman remind his Cabinet colleagues that every penny piece paid to every lawyer in this country comes from the pockets or handbags of the constituents of those in this House, and that we have as much right as the legal profession to a say in this matter?

Referring back to last week's business questions and the points of order raised this week by my right hon. and hon. Friends representing Wales, will the right hon. Gentleman say whether and when we shall have a debate on the impact of the National Health Service review on Wales, or will he drag his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to the Welsh Grand Committee and get him to produce the promised but as yet unavailable working papers on that impact?

Finally, we heard the Government's long-awaited response to the Griffiths report yesterday, but will the House have the opportunity to discuss the report and the Government's response to it before they come forward with a White Paper in the autumn?

Mr. Wakeham

The hon. Gentleman has asked me six questions about the business for next week.

I agree that there has been some progress in the Committee considering the Football Spectators Bill. These are important matters for consideration and tabling a motion, which I shall do later today, will give us a reasonable time in which to proceed and deal with those matters—

Mr. Dobson

Will the Committe stage finish before the recess?

Mr. Wakeham

I hope that the hon. Gentleman can wait until we table the motion later today.

As regards the important Taylor inquiry, we have made it clear that this is an enabling Bill—to enable the House to consider Lord Taylor's proposals before the Bill is put into operation.

Mr. Dobson

Thirteen regulations in three hours!

Mr. Wakeham

I propose to table a motion which will allow for a debate of three hours on the Water Act regulations. That would be for the general convenience of the House, but in view of what the hon. Gentleman has said I shall undertake to have more discussions through the usual channels.

To answer the hon. Gentleman's point about the legal Green Papers, my right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor proposes to publish a White Paper. I cannot promise a debate before the White Paper is published, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that there will be plenty of opportunity to discuss any proposals that may be made.

The Welsh Grand Committee debate is a cause of some difficulty and I very much regret that it has not proved possible to agree a date for a debate on the National Health Service in Wales. I believe that that matter is best discussed through the usual channels.

The House heard the Government's response to the Griffiths report yesterday and will need time to consider the proposals in it. A White Paper will be published early in the autumn, so it might be more appropriate to hold the debate then. I agree that its exact timing is perhaps best left to discussion through the usual channels.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I remind the House that apart from business questions today we have two statements and a debate in which no fewer than 36 right hon. and hon. Members wish to participate. Exceptionally, I shall have to limit business questions this afternoon. I am sure that all hon. Members' questions are very important, but I ask any hon. Member who might like to ask his question on another day to do so.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke)

Did my right hon. Friend see the reports in the weekend papers that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) was to demand a debate on the rail strike? As, yet again, the Opposition have chosen not to debate the subject when they have an opportunity to do so next Tuesday, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that many Conservative Members would like to discuss the attitude of the Opposition and the fact that they continue to be the strikers' friend and not the public's friend?

Mr. Wakeham

I have a certain amount of sympathy with any hon. Member who does not propose a debate on any subject, particularly in this fortnight, so for once I am afraid that my hon. Friend will not have me on his side. I will support the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott), who has not proposed that we should hold a debate.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

Will there be an opportunity for the Secretary of State for the Environment to make a statement on his proposed office of green information, so that we know whether this is a sign of freedom of information or just another attempt to massage the figures, as has happened over many months with unemployment?

Given that the Government were defeated in the Scottish Grand Committee this morning, when the Government Bench members split, will the Leader of the House provide time for a debate on the Floor of the House, for which many hon. Members in that debate called, so that many of the important issues facing the fishing industry can be discussed? In the meantime, perhaps the Government can come up with some answers to the pertinent questions raised in the debate.

Mr. Wakeham

I do not think that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has any plans to make a statement on the point that the hon. Gentleman raises—somewhat inaccurately, I think—and I have no plans for a debate on the fishing industry at the moment. There will have to be one, but it is better to wait until the 1990 proposals are available.

Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith (Wealden)

My right hon. Friend will be aware that the upper House is debating the defence White Paper this afternoon. Can we expect to hold a similar debate before the summer recess?

Mr. Wakeham

I am sorry to say that I do not think that I can manage that before the summer recess, but I can arrange it early in the spillover period.

Mr. Merlyn Rees (Morley and Leeds, South)

I should like to raise with the Leader of the House a serious problem that affects us in the city of Leeds. We now have a Leeds development corporation which cannot be questioned except on the Floor of the House. I have had complaints from at least 50 people in the Leeds development area who say that their land is to be taken away from them. On Tuesday that land is to be vested here by statutory instrument. There is a long list of these statutory instruments, affecting the black country, Leeds, Walsall, London, Newham and other places. Yet the debate is to last only an hour and a half.

The Government took those powers away from local government and chose to deal with these matters in this fashion. When my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle) was chairman of the industry committee in Leeds, and chairman of the urban development committee, we could go to him and the matter was raised in the local authority. That has all gone. This process is completely undemocratic. Whatever the virtues of the people who have been appointed, something must be done about that.

I am the only Member representing Leeds who is to serve on the Committee, and the whole bang shoot will be dealt with in an hour and a half. We shall have to raise most important issues. I will not use the word "flooded" because 50 letters is not a flood, but we have received many letters from people who have set up businesses and whose property is to be compulsorily purchased. They are small businesses and there are strong feelings in Leeds about this and we have just an hour and a half to debate the whole lot. It is not good enough. Will the right hon. Gentleman do something about the number of orders to be dealt with on Tuesday morning?

Mr. Wakeham

I cannot undertake to do that, but I shall have some discussions about the matter through the usual channels as the right hon. Gentleman has raised it. I cannot give him an undertaking, but I will look into the matter.

Mr. Michael Latham (Rutland and Melton)

Is it not disappointing that my right hon. Friend has put the Clergy (Ordination) Measure on as the last business on Monday? Does he remember me saying to him last week that many hon. Members are likely to want to speak in that debate? Does that not put a considerable strain on the Chair, and will it riot restrict the amount of time available for hon. Members to speak?

Mr. Wakeham

I regret that my hon. Friend feels that there is likely to be insufficient time, and I have some sympathy with his point of view, but this is a difficult time of year to fit everything in. I have done my best, and I am sorry if it does not meet with my hon. Friend's approval. I can look at the amount of time available to see whether any more can be found, but I cannot promise to find any more.

Mr. Alun Michael (Cardiff, South and Penarth)

Will the Leader of the House reflect on early-day motion 879?

[That this House calls on the Government to accept the verdict of the electors of the Vale of Glamorgan who rejected the Government's plans to undermine the National Health Service; calls on the Government to accept that most people want more money to be spent on the Health Service and now realise that Britain is spending a smaller proportion of national income on health than most other advanced countries; notes the widespread anger that has been caused by the introduction of eyesight and dental test charges and the proposition that doctors should be turned into accountants; and consequently calls on the Government to withdraw the Health Service White Paper and the nine consultative documents published for England.]

Does he recall that last Monday he promised the House that he would seek the documents on the National Health Service in Wales that had been promised by the Secretary of State for Wales? Has he found those documents? If so, will he let us have them now so that we can discuss them?

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that on 21 June he promised to try to persuade the Secretary of State for Wales to come to the Welsh Grand Committee and debate the National Health Service in Wales? In answer to my request that the debate be held before the recess, the Lord President said that he would do his best. Is his best not enough to persuade the Secretary of State for Wales to come to the Welsh Grand Committee to meet Welsh Members and debate the NHS? Are we not to have the necessary documents for that debate? Is the Secretary of State for Wales afraid to discuss the NHS in Wales?

Mr. Wakeham

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales would have welcomed such a debate, but it has not been possible to find a debate. I regret that I do not yet have the documents promised to the hon. Gentleman, and my inquiries on that matter are still proceeding. I have discussed the matter with my right lion. Friend and I have given the shadow Leader of the House an undertaking. I shall discuss the matter again through the usual channels. That is as much as I can promise.

Miss Ann Widdecombe (Maidstone)

My right hon. Friend said that on Monday we would debate the ordination of the clergy, which I take to be the ordination of the divorced clergy. He will be aware that that matter is the subject of a legal challenge. I accept that as the motion has been tabled it must be in order, but does my right hon. Friend think it proper for the House to discuss that matter, the propriety and whole basis of which is the subject of legal action?

Mr. Wakeham

There are strict rules about such matters and I am sure that the House is acting in accordance with proper procedures. As my hon. Friend recognised, I should not otherwise have proposed it. I shall consider her point, but I do not think that it will alter my proposal.

Mrs. Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley)

Does the Leader of the House agree that there should be an urgent debate on the use and misuse of patronage, given that the British representative to the Council of Europe Committee on Human Rights, which is discussing the degradation and torture of prisoners, is to be none other than the former Member for Cardiff West, Mr. Stefan Terlezki—a man not renowned in this House for his libertarian views? Does that not show the Government's disdain for the important subject of human rights?

Mr. Wakeham

I consider that to be a most regrettable remark. My former colleague, who we hope will return to the House before long, is a distinguished man with a long record of great difficulties and persecutions. He will make a distinguished member of that Committee.

Mr. Michael Marshall (Arundel)

Has my right hon. Friend taken note of early-day motion 1145, which appears on the Order Paper today and relates to the centenary of the Inter-Parliamentary Union?

[That this House recognises the centenary of the Inter-Parliamentary Union on 29th June and records its satisfaction on the placing of the bust of the late Sir William Randal Cremer, the British co-founder of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and the first backbencher so honoured in the Members' Lobby; further recognises that the occasion of the Centenary Conference to be held in London from 4th to 9th September will provide an opportunity for British parliamentarians to strengthen links with parliamentarians from 111 other elected countries; and looks to the Inter-Parliamentary Union to continue the work of parliamentary diplomacy in the peaceful resolution of conflict during its next century.]

In the light of earlier questions to my right hon. Friend, and recognising procedural difficulties, does he think it appropriate to cover the exercise of parliamentary diplomacy in the peaceful resolution of conflict under what I understand to be the broad terms of tomorrow's debate on a motion for the Adjournment?

Mr. Wakeham

What is or is not in order is a matter not for me, but for Mr. Speaker. I am reasonably confident, and I very much hope, that during tomorrow's debate time will be found to acknowledge the IPU's continuing excellent work in bringing together the world's parliamentarians and the significance of its centenary year. I am aware of the magnificent programme being arranged for the IPU's centenary conference in September, in which my hon. Friend has played a distinguished part.

Mr. William O'Brien (Normanton)

Will the Leader of the House find time next week to discuss an important matter which was omitted from the statement made yesterday by the Secretary of State for Health? Within the whole issue of community care, we must discuss the housing needs of those being rehabilitated into the community. Does not a great deal of money need to be spent on, for example, adaptations to houses, central heating, stairlifts, and so on? As the Secretary of State for Health refused to discuss that matter yesterday, will the Leader of the House repair his omission and arrange a debate on the important matter of community care?

Mr. Wakeham

There is a proper time for discussing financial matters. Negotiations are going on with the local authorities and the right time to discuss those in later in the year when the arrangements have been fully discussed with the local authorities. I have no doubt that there will be plenty of opportunities for discussing the matter.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough and Horncastle)

If my right hon. Friend talks by telephone to the Prime Minister in Paris today, will they reflect on the fact that it was rowdyism and ill-discipline in the original revolutionaries—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The question must be about the business for next week.

Mr. Leigh

It was rowdyism that destroyed the original National Assembly. Given my right hon. Friend's responsibility for Short money, has he read the internal Labour party review report which refers to "rowdyism and indiscipline" on the Opposition Benches and the Labour party not being an organised political party? Is not that a matter of concern for our political freedom and for taxpayers' money?

Mr. Wakeham

I had enough difficulty settling the Short money and persuading the House that it was fair and reasonable not to want a further discussion on that in the immediate future, but I hope that Opposition Members have listened to my hon. Friend's wise words.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I remind the House again that we are under great pressure today and questions should be about next week's business.

Mr. Ray Powell (Ogmore)

I listened to the reply that the Leader of the House gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) on the Welsh Grand Committee debate on the Health Service. Together with my colleagues from Wales, I am disgusted with the right hon. Gentleman's replies and promises over the past few weeks. If he wants to protect the back of the Secretary of State for Wales, he knows as well as the House knows that the Secretary of State for Wales has a responsibility to discuss matters of urgency with Welsh Members on occasions. The Health Service in Wales is a matter of urgency. It is no good sending the matter back to the usual channels because we are getting no response there. Will the Leader of the House make an exception and get the Secretary of State for Wales to come to the House next week or the week after so that we can debate the National Health Service in Wales?

May we also have an early debate—[HON. MEMBERS: "Briefly."]—on early-day motion 866, in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Poplar (Ms. Gordon), which deals with the 8 million obscene telephone calls made every year?

[That this House notes with concern the results of a gallup poll conducted by Channel 4 Television showing that every year over eight million obscene telephone calls are received by women in Britain and that every day more than two thousand of these calls also threaten violence, that a number of women terrorised by such repeated calls move house or have mental breakdowns, that nevertheless telephone companies and the police rarely give this matter priority or attempt to trace the offenders, that the penalty for sending obscene letters through the post, Malicious Communications Act 1988, is higher than for making obscene calls, Telecommunications Act 1984, that fifteen per cent. of the callers know the woman they call, though the woman may not know them, and that some rapists also make obscene calls which are themselves a form of violence and an invasion of privacy; and therefore asks the Home Secretary to set up an inquiry into the extent of this problem, to examine the work of the special department of Bell Telephone Incorporated of New Jersey, United States of America which helps victims trap offending callers, to take measures to improve the rate of detection and conviction of offenders and to take steps leading to the amendment of the said Telecommunications Act 1984 Section 43 increasing the penalty; and calls upon the Director General of Telecommunications to make a condition of granting licences to British Telecom and Mercury that they each set up a department at their own expense to trace obscene phone calls when requested to do so in writing by victims.]

Mr. Wakeham

I cannot add anything to what I have already said about the Welsh Grand Committee. I recognise that the hon. Gentleman feels strongly about that, but I have said what I have said and I have done the best that I can.

I understand the distress that may be caused by obscene telephone calls. British Telecom and Mercury are ready and willing to co-operate with any police inquiries. Complaints should be referred to the police. Parliament has already put in place a statutory protection in section 43 of the Telecommunications Act 1984. It is for the Director General of Telecommunications to consider whether any licence amendments are needed. However, I will refer the matter to my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.

Mr. James Kilfedder (North Down)

Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate next week to consider the need to review planning procedures and appeals in Northern Ireland? The matter is urgent because of the granting of outline planning permission for a large three-storey block of flats at Lyle road, Bangor in my constituency which, if allowed to proceed, will have an adverse effect on the environment and will greatly reduce the value of neighbouring houses.

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise that the hon. Gentleman speaks for his constituents, and I wish that I could give him a better response. I cannot promise a debate, but I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will be answering questions in the House next Thursday and the hon. Gentleman could pursue him then.

Mr. Eddie Loyden (Liverpool, Garston)

As the House will be rising for the long summer recess in 15 days' time, and in view of the strikes in two major industries that have been directly caused by the policies pursued by the Government since 1979, which force trade unions to go to the courts rather than to the negotiating table, will the Leader of the House provide time next week for a debate on those two important disputes?

Hon. Members

Yes, please.

Mr. Wakeham

The hon. Gentleman joins a number of my hon. Friends in wishing for a debate, but I must say the same to him as I have said to them. I cannot find time for a debate on those matters next week. It is for the management and trade unions in the industries concerned to resolve those matters.

Mr. Bowen Wells (Hertford and Stortford)

Did not my right hon. Friend forget one important item when he announced the business for next week? I refer to a debate on the Delors report and the Government's responses to the last week's discussions in Madrid.

Mr. Wakeham

No, I did not forget. My hon. Friend would have quickly reminded me if I had done so, as he politely tried to do just now. I recognise the desire for such a debate. I recognise also, as does my hon. Friend, that some European legislation is inadequately debated in this House. I hope very much to put proposals to improve matters to the Procedure Committee in the very near future.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. In view of the pressure of time, I shall allow questions to continue for a further five minutes —[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]

Mr. Douglas Hoyle (Warrington, North)

In view of the business that has been announced for next week, I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day motion 934, concerning the opting-out of Warrington district general hospital from the Health Service, signed by 71 hon. Members.

That this House supports the Medical Staff Committee of Warrington District General Hospital and the Warrington Trades Council in their opposition to the opting out of Warrington District General Hospital: and calls upon them to continue to oppose the pressure being put on them by regional and local administrators to opt out and agrees that if this hospital opts out it will be impossible to plan a health service to meet the ever expanding demands of an area which includes a new town.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the great concern in Warrington about that? Will he ask his right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Health to make a statement to the House next week and tell us who is to be consulted about that development, and whether there will be a ballot involving the people of Warrington and the hospital's general and medical staff, who oppose the change, or whether it be left to some anonymous administrator to decide the matter?

Mr. Wakeham

No, no—the hon. Gentleman is making much of the situation, and perhaps I should try to calm him down. One hundred and seventy-eight units throughout the country have expressed an interest, on a no-commitment basis, in the self-governing proposals. All those having an interest will be given an opportunity to express their views on individual proposals before any formal application is made. District health authorities will continue to have responsibility for the overall planning of health care in meeting the needs of their local populations. There will be plenty of time to discuss those matters, so there in no need for a debate on them next week.

Mr. Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)

May we have a statement early next week on the implications for Britain of the astonishing and worrying action of the European Court in instructing the British Government not to honour their extradition agreement with the United States and to retain in this country a person accused of two dreadful murders? We would like a statement on how a non-elected court in Strasbourg can instruct this country not to send a person for trial in a friendly, democratic country.

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise that my hon. Friend takes a keen interest in such matters. I shall certainly refer his point to the colleague most directly responsible for dealing with them, and I will write to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Could some indication be given next week of when the right hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Patten), the Minister for Overseas Development, will be able to report on his visit to Brazil and on his very important negotiations concerning the rain forests there? To set a good example, will the Lord President at least contact Downing street to see whether Mrs. Carla Powell or some other designer could be persuaded to buy oak rather than mahogany, as a symbol of our intent regarding rain forests?

Mr. Wakeham

I understand that the rain forest from which the mahogany to which the hon. Gentleman refers came has since been replanted. I shall certainly discuss with my right hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development the most appropriate way for him to inform the House of his very successful visit to Brazil.

Mr Andrew MacKay (Berkshire, East)

As my right hon. Friend clearly has considerable influence over the Opposition Front Bench, will he explain why he has failed to persuade it to devote next week's Supply day to a debate on the rail dispute—particularly as the Leader of the Opposition was so exercised about it during Prime Minister's Question Time today? Could it possibly be that the Opposition do not wish to be given a choice between not condemning the strike and falling out with their paymasters in the unions?

Mr. Wakeham

It is a bit mischievous of my hon. Friend to think that that might be the reason. The explanation may be that I have not quite so much influence over the Opposition Front Bench as my hon. Friend thinks.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)

Is the Leader of the House prepared to arrange an early debate on the conduct of local government, which would allow discussion of the latest antics of the Conservative-controlled Bradford city council? Is he aware that the council proposes next Tuesday to push through a social services committee and through the full council its plan to sell 12 old people's homes—with the old people—and that a management consultant has recommended that staff should be paid rates as low as £2 an hour?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this matter lies at the heart of legal challenges to the mayor's casting vote, and that an application is pending for leave to appeal to the House of Lords? Is it not disgraceful that the proposal should go ahead in the face of fierce local opposition, and despite the undemocratic way in which it has been presented? May we have a debate so that the matter can be exposed?

Mr. Wakeham

I have noticed over recent months that the hon. Gentleman is, shall we say, a little partial over matters concerning Bradford City council, so I usually come prepared with any information that I can find with which to put matters right when he makes his wild accusations.

It is, of course, for the council to decide how best to cater for the elderly. In the council's opinion, its proposals will lead to improved conditions for old people in the homes which would become privately owned, thus reducing the cost to the ratepayers of Bradford. On the face of it, that seems a very sensible policy.

Mr. Speaker

We now come to the statement by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

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

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I will take points of order after the statements.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Madden

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I will take the points of order after the statements.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

No. Mr. Speaker—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I will take the points of order after the statements. I ask the hon. Gentleman to resume his seat.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

It is a disgrace.