HC Deb 20 July 1989 vol 157 cc519-35 3.30 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 24 JULY—Completion of Consideration of Lords amendments to the Electricity Bill.
  • Afterwards there will be a debate on parliamentary pensions on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.
  • TUESDAY 25 JULY—Opposition Day (18th Allotted Day). Until about seven o'clock, there will be a debate entitled "The Practical Implications of the Poll Tax for the People". Afterwards there will be a debate on a subject to be announced. Both debates will arise on Opposition motions.
  • Motion to take note of EC documents on road safety. Details will be given in the Official Report.
  • Motion to take note of EC document on freedom of movement for workers. Details will be given in the Official Report.
  • WEDNESDAY 26 JULY—Until about seven o'clock motions on Social Security regulations. Details will be given in the Official Report.
  • Consideration of Lords amendments to the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Bill
  • Proceedings on the Extradition Bill [Lords], which is a consolidation measure.
  • Remaining stages of the Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill [Lords].
  • Proceedings on the Continental Shelf Bill [Lords].
  • THURSDAY 27 JULY—Motion for the summer Adjournment.
  • Proceedings on the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill
  • FRIDAY 28 JULY—Debates on the motion for the Adjournment.

[Tuesday 25 July

  1. (1) Relevant European Community Documents

  1. (a) 4303/89 Road safety
  2. (b) 9228/88 Compulsory use of seat belts in road vehicles
  3. (c) 4252/89 Alcohol level for drivers
  4. (d) 4305/89 Vehicle speed limits
  5. (e) 4156/87 Road speed limits

Relevant Reports of European Legislation Committee

  1. (a) HC 15-xv ( 1988–89) para 4.
  2. (b) HC 15-vi ( 1988–89) para 2.
  3. (c) HC 15-xiv (1988–89) para 3.
  4. (d) HC 15-xiv (1988–89) para 4.
  5. (e) HC 22-xii ( 1986–87) para 2.

The Minutes of Evidence taken before the Sub-Committee of the Select Committee on European Legislation HC 507-i and HC 15-xxxi (1988–89).

(2) Relevant European Community Document
5786/89 Freedom of movement and rights of residence

Relevant Report of European Legislation Committee HC 15-xxi ( 1988–89 ) para 4.

Wednesday 26 July

Affirmative Regulations made under the Social Security Act 1989:

Mr. Dobson

I thank the Leader of the House for his statement.

Do the Government propose changing the business for next week to give the House the opportunity to debate the general practitioners' overwhelming rejection, in a ballot, of the contract that the Government wanted them to accept? When deciding what to do, will the right hon. Gentleman recall that, after the Secretary of State for Health thought that he had reached an agreement, he rushed to the House on Friday 5 May like a dog with two tails? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman come back to the House now that the doctors have docked the tail? He said that the agreement that he thought that he had reached was a very significant step in the development of the family doctor service".—[Official Report, 5 May 1989; Vol. 152, c. 480.] Clearly that step has been halted and the House is entitled to know what the right hon. and learned Gentleman intends doing next.

Moving from health generally to health in Wales, the Leader of the House will recall that my right hon. and hon. Friends from Wales have been pressing for a statement on the impact of the National Health Service review on Wales, or a debate in the House or the Welsh Grand Committee. Has any progress been made?

When are we likely to get the long-promised debate on the Government's proposal to substitute student loans for student grants?

Whether or not the Leader of the House is with us in this incarnation next Thursday, can he tell us whether he has made some progress towards establishing a Select Committee on Scottish Affairs, to which the people of Scotland are entitled both by right and by our Standing Orders? If the right hon. Gentleman will not be in that incarnation next Thursday, will he tell his successor that Scottish Members will not rest satisfied until they have such a Select Committee?

Mr. Wakeham

The hon. Gentleman asked me four questions about next week's business. First, he asked me whether my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Health would be making a statement about the general practitioner contract ballot result. The answer is no. My right hon. and learned Friend regrets the GPs' decision not to support their own negotiators and to reject the contract agreed with the BMA on 4 May. Those negotiations were hard fought and concessions were made by both sides to ensure a fair deal which could bring forward further improvements to patient care. My right hon. and learned Friend is consulting the BMA's general medical services committee leaders on detailed regulations to implement the contract agreed on 4 May and will lay those before Parliament in the autumn. Good GPs have nothing to fear from the new contract which will reward doctors who provide the service that patients want and need.

A number of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen have asked questions about the National Health Service in Wales. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales and officials in his Department have had extensive discussions with a wide range of interests on the White Paper "Working for Patients" and in particular on the Welsh chapter. My right hon. Friend will be writing soon to health interests in Wales reporting on the outcome of the discussions and the next steps. He will make that publicly available. That is the procedure adopted by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Health.

On top-up loans for students, we made it clear that we would be happy for the House to debate the Government's plans and the Opposition's pledge to deprive students of the opportunity to add to their resources. The timing of such a debate is a matter for discussion through the usual channels.

The hon. Gentleman knows that the question of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs is difficult. I have nothing further to add to what I said a little while ago.

Sir Bernard Braine (Castle Point)

Does my right hon. Friend recollect that it is some years since the Warnock committee reported in favour of embryo experimentation although, of course, a substantial minority reported against it? That experimentation is continuing without the proper protection of the law passed by the House. The Government have promised that there will be legislation in the next Session. Can my right hon. Friend confirm that, and, at the same time, ensure that such legislation comes first to this House?

Mr. Wakeham

I know that my right hon. Friend has taken a deep interest in these matters over many years. It was probably a slip of the tongue when he said that the Government have promised to legislate in the next Session. The Government promised to legislate in the course of this Parliament. I cannot, of course, discuss at the moment what is in next Session's legislative programme.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

Does the Leader of the House accept that people north of the border and Scottish Members have been incredulous about the squeals of protest coming from his right hon. and hon. Friends about the impact of the poll tax, as for the past two years, his hon. Friends have unthinkingly walked into the Lobbies to impose both primary and secondary poll tax legislation on the Scottish people? Given that such hon. Members are so out of touch with what the people want, can we expect a statement from the Secretary of State for Scotland next week announcing the Government's participation in the Scottish convention with a view to setting up a Scottish parliament within the United Kingdom?

Mr. Wakeham

No, the hon. Gentleman cannot expect that next week. I agree with him in part that some of us are a bit incredulous about some of the exclamations over the introduction of the community charge, because any reasonable person who examines the alternatives proposed by his party or the Labour party will recognise that the community charge, with all its transitional difficulties, is an infinitely better alternative than anything proposed by Opposition parties.

Sir Dudley Smith (Warwick and Leamington)

I ask my right hon. Friend to look at yesterday's Hansard, where he will see some interesting exchanges about the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. In view of the great deal of controversy about the efficacy of that organisation, does he not think that it is time we had a debate on the whole subject, especially bearing in mind the developments taking place in 1992?

Mr. Wakeham

I agree that this is an important subject. I cannot promise my hon. Friend a debate on it next week, but, as he will be aware, there are many opportunities for him to seek to raise the matter during next week. There are at least three separate occasions on which he might try his luck.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

Could we have a debate next week on community care, which has been the subject of recent statements allowing only limited opportunity for debate? A debate is important because of the need to retain hospitals for mentally handicapped people, such as the Westwood hospital in my constituency. As it is set in attractive surroundings, it is feared that moves could be made to sell the land to private development speculators. In such a debate we could emphasise the concept of a village community and how the facilities for mentally handicapped people can be retained and developed.

Mr. Wakeham

I do not accept the premise of the hon. Gentleman's question, although he raises an important issue. As I said last week, the Government will publish a White Paper early in the autumn, and it would be most appropriate to have a debate on the subject then.

Mr. Greg Knight (Derby, North)

Are we likely to have a debate in the foreseeable future on the working practices of the House? If so, has my right hon. Friend seen the Labour party's policy review report which recommends that the House sits for three days a week and has 15 weeks holiday a year? Does he agree that the document is nothing more than a slackers' charter and will he confirm that he has no intention of implementing its recommendations?

Mr. Wakeham

I thought that the document showed that the Labour party might have to work harder in future than it has in the past. I have no time for a debate on the subject next week.

Mr. Michael Foot (Blaenau Gwent)

Will the Leader of the House reconsider the announcement that he apparently made a few minutes ago that the Secretary of State for Health intends to impose the doctors' contract without the House having a chance to comment on it? As the doctors have voted by about three to one against accepting the contract, is that not an appalling way to treat a great profession? Will he seriously consider allowing the House to debate the matter before the Government proceed?

Mr. Wakeham

The negotiators have been rejected by their members. The Government have negotiated with the BMA on this and the right course of action is to get on with it.

Mr. Bob Dunn (Dartford)

Will my right hon. Friend give an undertaking that on our return in the autumn he will announce an early debate on the opportunities for private enterprise to take over transport activities? Is he aware that the strikes by British Rail employees have thrown into focus a tremendous weakness in the south-east in people's opportunities and options to gain access to their place of work in the capital city? Does he agree that we need an injection of cash from the private sector to provide alternative forms of transport into London?

Mr. Wakeham

My hon. Friend is right to raise those important issues. It would be helpful to have a debate, but it is difficult for me to promise one in the immediate future.

Mr. Merlyn Rees (Morley and Leeds, South)

The Leader of the House will remember that this time last week I complained that there were to be 15 statutory instruments before the House, all relating to development corporations, which remove powers from local authorities and make it difficult for people to raise locally issues which previously they could deal with at town halls. I am grateful to him for removing the Leeds orders which will be debated next Tuesday. Does he accept that we can raise issues relating to development corporations only in the House and that they cannot be dealt with locally? Should we not have a Committee of the House on the development corporations similar to the Committee on Northern Ireland legislation, following the removal of local authority powers there, so that we can raise issues with Ministers regularly? We cannot do so locally because local authority powers have been removed.

Mr. Wakeham

I am grateful for the right hon. Gentleman's comments about the changes that I made, after I had agreed with him that the arrangements that had been made were not satisfactory. With regard to his wider suggestion, of course I take seriously any suggestion from someone with the experience of the right hon. Gentleman. Perhaps the best plan is for us to have a discussion to see whether we can come up with any ideas to put to other people.

Mr. Alistair Burt (Bury, North)

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the rather desperate situation affecting local government in my constituency? Last night, a full scheduled meeting of the local council was cancelled on the mere say-so of the local NALGO representative, who asked the council leader to abandon it, which he agreed to do. Is it not important to have a debate so that hon. Members' views on such anti-democratic practices, which are damaging local authority services, can be tested in public?

Mr. Wakeham

I agree that it would be helpful to have such a debate, but I cannot promise one. It would be helpful if the unions involved could reach agreement with employers and cease putting the public to such inconvenience.

Mr. Pat Wall (Bradford, North)

No doubt the Leader of the House has seen reports in the press about the return of a Chinese dissident, Mr. Xu Hai Ning. He is a Chinese journalist with the New China Press Agency in Hong Kong. He came to Britain after making statements condemning the assassinations in Beijing and was granted leave to stay until 30 June 1990. According to statements, he returned to Hong Kong voluntarily. This case raises disturbing aspects: first, the appearance of threatening advertisements in the Chinese business newspaper that is published in Soho; secondly, the disclosure of escape routes of Hong Kong dissidents that will result from his return to Hong Kong; and thirdly, the fear that it will create among the Chinese community in Britain. I interviewed this gentleman last week, and he was nervous and distraught about his status in this country and his lack of a travel document. In those circumstances, does the Leader of the House agree that the Minister of State, Home Office should make a statement about his return and its consequences for the Chinese community in Britain and other dissidents?

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise that the hon. Gentleman raises an important matter. The gentleman concerned, who is a Chinese national, was granted leave to enter the United Kingdom on 30 June. On 17 July, he contacted his embassy in London and asked to return to China. On his departure from the United Kingdom he was interviewed in private by an immigration officer, when he confirmed that he was returning to China of his own free will. He appeared calm and well and expressed himself clearly. There was, therefore, neither power nor reason to prevent this gentleman's departure.

Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)

Will my right hon. Friend consider, together with the usual channels, the sending of an official British parliamentary team of observers to the independence elections in Namibia? The need to ensure that its elections are fair and free is just as great as when we similarly sent an official team of observers to represent Parliament in Rhodesia—Zimbabwe in 1980.

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise the importance of the issue that my hon. Friend raises. I am not in a position to give him a full answer, but I shall refer the matter to those who will be able to give him a better answer.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)

The Leader of the House will no doubt remember that in response to an earlier question he said that Scotland was experiencing transitional difficulties as a result of the implementation of the poll tax. While experimentation might be a better description of what is happening in Scotland, has he had an opportunity to study early-day motion 1177, in the name of the hon. Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Ewing)?

[That this House calls upon the Secretary of State for Scotland to introduce an amendment to the Abolition of Domestic Rates (Scotland) Act in order to ensure that the practice of the next of kin of a deceased person receiving an account for the outstanding amount of poll tax payable to the date of death is ended forthwith; and urges the Secretary of State to recognise that at a time of such family trauma the receipt of such an account causes great distress and to further recognise that this is not a matter for regional and islands councils but is a legislative matter for Her Majesty's Government.]

May we expect an early statement from the Secretary of State for Scotland about stopping the obscene practice of levying the poll tax on the relatives of the recently deceased?

Mr. Wakeham

The position on the transitional arrangements for the community charge is this. When the Government end a system that has for years been unfair in certain areas, and there is a transitional arrangement, there are always difficulties because those who have been unfairly treated for a long time do not feel that they are getting the benefits to which they are entitled as quickly as they should. That is the essence of the problem of the safety net.

Sir Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many thousands of my constituents are without piped water and face a weekend without piped water as a result of the incredible ineffeciency of Thames Water? As many hundreds of thousands of people in south London are faced with a serious water shortage this weekend, may we have an urgent ministerial statement, as a considerable health hazard is involved?

Mr. Wakeham

Thames Water very much regrets the considerable inconvenience caused to consumers and assures us that it is doing all that it can to restore normal supplies as quickly as possible. I understand that the reasons for the lack of mains water supply in my hon. Friend's constituency and in other parts of London are the exceptionally high demand for water resulting from the hot weather and a substantial reduction in capacity from the Hampton water treatment works. Consumers are being informed and alternative water supplies are being provided. Essential users such as hospitals are being given priority.

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

Is the Leader of the House aware that I am one of the two objectors to the accounts of Westminster city council, tabling as I did last year some 83 objections? Is he not outraged by the allegations last night on "Panorama" that personal files are being kept on councillors and their friends, wards are being gerrymandered for electoral benefit, and that officials of the council are being intimidated? What will the Government do about this? Is pressure being exerted on Lady Porter to resign, because what she is doing is nothing less than municipal fascism and the British people do not want it?

Mr. Wakeham

I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman should ask his question in such an intemperate fashion. There are proper ways to investigate any allegations of irregularities, and trial by television or accusations in the House by the hon. Gentleman under privilege are not a proper way to deal with them. Any allegations of misuse or improper use of ratepayers' money will be examined in the first instance by the auditor as part of his normal duties. That is the proper way to investigate this matter.

Mr. James Hill (Southampton, Test)

Has my right hon. Friend read the debate on foreign affairs last Friday? If he did so, he would see that there is terrific lack of knowledge of the workings not only of the international side of the Council of Europe, but of the Western European Union. Some unnecessary things were said in that debate, trying to denigrate the 23-nation Council of Europe, while at the same time casting doubt on the valuable work that that body does. I wish to bring to the attention of my right hon. Friend that it contains the Court of Human Rights and has brought documents——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman should be asking for a debate.

Mr. Hill

It contains much informative documentation. Now that Mr. Gorbachev has spoken to the Council of Europe, and that we have many guest advisers from the USSR, Hungary, Yugoslavia and Poland, should not the House, once and for all, have a debate of some international significance on these two important institutions?

Mr. Wakeham

In spite of the very busy time of year I arranged debates on China and Hong Kong last Thursday and on foreign affairs last Friday. I cannot be held responsible for everything that is said in such debates, although I am sorry if the very valuable work in which I know my hon. Friend has played a large part for a good many years was not properly recognised. I remind my hon. Friend that there are a number of occasions next week on which he might wish to raise the subject and put the record straight.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Further to what my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) said, does the Leader of the House realise that the serious malpractices of Westminster city council are scandalous and that Lady Porter has undoubtedly shown herself to be totally unfit to hold any kind of public office whatever?

Mr. Speaker

Order. The same rules must apply to the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick). These are business questions and we are dealing with the business for next week.

Mr. Winnick

I did ask for a debate, Mr. Speaker.

In case this is the last appearance by the present Leader of the House, may I thank him for the courteous way in which he has tried to answer our questions, but wonder why under this Government everyone who has held his position has ended up being sacked?

Mr. Wakeham

It was a member of the hon. Gentleman's own party who said that he was the stupidest man in the House. That was many years ago and the hon. Gentleman is even more stupid now than he was then. None the less, I thank him for his expressions of goodwill.

Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch)

I have a slight cold, so I may not have heard properly at Question Time today. I heard the Leader of the Opposition accuse my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister of not having been here for yesterday's statement, but I did not hear the Leader of the Opposition or the shadow Leader of the House mention the rail strike. Perhaps my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House can tell me whether my hearing is defective. Does my right hon. Friend agree that this is a matter of great concern and that if we had a statement next week, it might quietly enable leading members of the Labour party to seek to use their influence to get the National Union of Railwaymen to see sense? Will my right hon. Friend use his best offices somehow through the usual channels to provide a forum for an exchange at the Dispatch Box next week so that all of us can send a message to the NUR saying, "Please go back to work"?

Mr. Wakeham

I understand the Opposition's difficulty, because they do not know whether to support the unions that have accepted the agreement through the proper negotiating machinery or the union that has not. The sooner they make up their minds, the better it will be for all of us. The strike and the inconvenience to the travelling public must be brought to an end soon.

Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East)

May I back up the request made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Wall) for a debate, or preferably a statement, later today about the case of Mr. Xti Hai Ning, about which I, too, made several telephone calls to the Home Office and the Foreign Office on Tuesday? Should not the House and the people of Britain be concerned that the visit on July, which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned, was the fourth visit that Mr. Xu Hai Ning had made to the embassy? On three occasions he had changed his mind about returning to China. It was the pressure of advertisements in the Chinese business press and the harassment and threats to his family that finally forced him to return.

Should not the Home Office be concerned that the safe houses provided by the Chinese Solidarity Campaign—which I thought the Government would have contacted on this case—have not only been broken into, but have been visited by Chinese secret service personnel? What hope can people of Chinese extraction have that this country will act as a place of refuge if someone can be forced to return under duress by the tactics used on Mr. Xu Hai Ning? Should not we have a statement on this matter?

Mr. Wakeham

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that I came to the House with a prepared Home Office brief and, therefore, I think that I speak with some authority on the matter. The information given to me does not coincide with the information that the hon. Gentleman has given the House. This gentleman, a Chinese national, was interviewed in private by an immigration officer and he confirmed that he was returning to China of his own free will. As is reported, he appeared calm and well and expressed himself clearly. There was, therefore, no power or reason to prevent his departure.

Mr. Michael Marshall (Arundel)

My right hon. Friend knows my interest in this matter. When does he hope there may be time for a debate on the report on telecommunications of the Services Committee, which affects the provision of services in the House, particularly in view of the decision to extend for a further 12 months the opportunity for competitive services in telecommunications in Parliament, as opposed to Whitehall?

Mr. Wakeham

I agree that it is a suitable subject for debate, but, as my hon. Friend knows, the report has only just been published. It would probably be more valuable if we considered the report before having a debate.

Mr. Roy Hughes (Newport, East)

May we have a debate next week on the Government's proposal, which was announced some months ago, to double tolls on the Severn bridge? Does he appreciate that there were many objections to the proposal and that an inquiry was held? The commissioner's report has been in the hands of the Secretary of State for Transport for some weeks, but he is sitting on it. Presumably his intention is to announce his findings a day or so before Parliament adjourns for the summer recess. Does not the Leader of the House think that that is sharp practice?

Mr. Wakeham

I do not think that it is sharp practice. One man sitting on it is another man considering it. My right hon. Friend has the report and, as the hon. Gentleman said, he is considering the matter.

Mr. Andrews Rowe (Mid-Kent)

I believe that my right hon. Friend is aware that many people in Kent are interested in railways. Given that British Rail is trying hard to get a private Bill ready by mid-November and that the consultation period with the public will end during the summer recess, does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be appropriate to have a debate in October on that important subject before the Bill is brought to the House, because that would exclude a debate until about April?

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise the strength of feeling of my hon. Friend and a number of my hon. Friends from Kent and of their constituents. I understand, however, that British Rail is considering promoting a private Bill to seek to do what it needs to do. There will be plenty of opportunity for that matter to be debated when it comes before the House. I do not, therefore, feel able to offer my hon. Friend a special debate on the subject.

Mr. John Hughes (Coventry, North-East)

May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day 1172, motion which requests the Secretary of State for Health to make a statement on the Birmingham children's hospital?

[That this House is seriously concerned at the irresponsible statement which the Minister of State for Health made to the National Association of Health Authorities, that a 900,000 hospital waiting list could be attributed to surgeons not doing as much work as they should; considers that sweeping statement an affront to the young surgeons at the Birmingham Children's Hospital whose revolutionary techniques have reduced the time babies spend in intensive care from days to hours, giving the surgical team the capability of carrying out 380 operations annually; and in the light of the Minister's categorical assurance that, regardless of cost, patients would get the treatment they required, believes he should make a statement to the House countermanding the Central Health Authority's restriction, which is putting at risk the lives of 140 babies waiting for open heart surgery, thereby allowing the surgeons to work to their maximum capacity of 380 operations and disband the special committee set up illogically to investigate why a surgeon in the process of saving babies lives exceeded the Central Health Authority's restriction quota.]

I ask the right hon. Gentleman to include in that statement an investigation into the Central Birmingham health authority's threat to dismiss surgeons who exceed the restriction of 320 patients which has been placed on them by that authority.

Mr. Wakeham

On the position of the Birmingham children's hospital, my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State referred to a waiting list total of 691,000 in September 1988 and not 900,000. He referred to the findings of a study into 22 districts with problem waiting lists, which showed, among other factors, that some surgeons' workloads were below the level of most surgeons and those recommended by their professional bodies. My hon. and learned Friend drew attention to those other factors, too. The motion's criticism of his speech, which was well received and extensively reported, is entirely unfounded. The vast majority of surgeons work hard and conscientiously. For example, the planned level of 320 open heart operations at Birmingham children's hospital this year is more than double that of the year 1987–88.

Mr. David Sumberg (Bury, South)

I support the plea of my hon. Friend the Member for Bury, North (Mr. Burt) for an early debate on the abject surrender by the Labour leader of Bury council to the demand of the National Association of Local Government Officers that the council meeting last night be cancelled. Would a debate not show that it is an absolute sham for the Labour party to come here and talk about local government accountability, while at the same time denying local democracy to my constituents?

Mr. Wakeham

My hon. Friend is right. I suggest that, if he wants to raise the matter, he will have the opportunity next week.

Mr. Bob Clay (Sunderland, North)

Does the Leader of the House accept that there is a strong case for a debate next week on a major constitutional issue? The Prime Minister should come to the House and explain why, in spite of all the rhetoric of the Bruges speech and subsequent postures, she is allowing the European Commission to prevent the reopening of the most modern shipyards in Europe, which are situated in my constituency, which have buyers who require no public funds or ongoing subsidy and who have immediate ships to build there. Is the Prime Minister to continue to allow that massacre of jobs in a great British industry, and may we have an urgent debate next week?

Mr. Wakeham

I disagree with the premise of the hon. Gentleman's question. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has spoken and written to the hon. Gentleman about this and has discussed the matter in the House. I repeat that I do not accept the premise of the question.

Mr. Roger King (Birmingham, Northfield)

Can my right hon. Friend help me? During his enunciation of next week's business, I thought I heard that the Opposition had run out of things to debate for the second debate to be launched by them, yet we have had a torrent of suggestions from Opposition Members about what they should debate in Government time. Can my right hon. Friend help the Leader of the Opposition in arriving at a subject for debate next Tuesday? If the Opposition cannot come forward with ideas, should we not impose a subject for debate on them, such as the rail strike?

Mr. Wakeham

I have enough responsibilities without having to choose subjects for Opposition Supply days. My hon. Friend is not necessarily right in saying that the Opposition have not thought of a subject for debate. It is possible that they are having a little quarrel among themselves about which one to choose.

Mr. Doug Hoyle (Warrington, North)

May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day motion 1176?

[That this House condemns the extravagant and obscene pay increases awarded to the chairmen of former publicly owned assets since their privatisation by the present Government; notes that the percentage pay increases of the chairmen of the following companies since privatisation have been for British Aerospace 440.4 per cent. since 1980, British Airports Authority 111.7. per cent. since 1986, British Airways 631 per cent. since 1987, British Gas 91.8. per cent. since 1987, British Steel 28.7 per cent. since 1988, British Telecom 154 per cent. since 1985, Cable and Wireless 113.3 per cent. since 1985, and Rolls Royce 29.6 per cent. since 1987; and believes that these increases are an insult to the public and the low paid and show that privatisation results in private profit rather than public service.]

The motion relates to the pay rises of the chairmen of privatised companies and has been signed by 74 hon. Members. It describes the rises as "extravagant and obscene". Will the Leader of the House condemn those pay increases and arrange for a statement to be made next week on this important matter?

Mr. Wakeham

The Government do not support unjustified pay increases at any level. Pay is for the parties directly concerned to determine, taking into account performance and labour market conditions. It is not for me to comment on any individual case.

Mr. Spencer Batiste (Elmet)

My right hon. Friend will be aware that the publication yesterday of the White Paper on the reform of the legal profession has been greeted with fairly broadly based and widespread support on the basis of the balanced compromise that has been reached. Nevertheless, the House has not yet had an opportunity to debate the important issues involved. Is it my right lion. Friend's intention to give the House the chance for a debate before legislation is brought before us?

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise that it would have been much better if I had found time for a debate. I am still looking to see whether I can find the time for a debate. However, I assure my hon. Friend that we shall have plenty of opportunity to discuss these important issues.

Mr. Dennis Turner (Wolverhampton, South-East)

May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day motion 1187?

[That this House expresses concern that the answer given by the Prime Minister to the honourable Member for Wolverhampton South East on 18th July, Official Report, column 218, was in complete contradiction to the advice received by the honourable Member for Wolverhampton South East from a senior Training Agency Manager in Wolverhampton, which indicated that information on Employment Training filled places statistics should not be given to the Member of Parliament, and therefore demands that an investigation be made in order to ascertain on whose authority the instruction was given.]

The motion brings into question the answer that the Prime Minister gave to me on Tuesday at Prime Minister's Question Time about the availability of information on employment training. In the light of the answer that the Prime Minister gave me and the evidence that I was flatly refused that information at local level, will the Leader of the House ask his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment to come to the House to make a statement, because the rights and responsibilities of Members of Parliament are at stake? We need some clarification about whether that information can be made available to Members of Parliament.

Mr. Wakeham

I thought for one minute that the hon. Gentleman was about to announce the second subject for debate on the Opposition day next week, but apparently not.

On the subect of early-day motion 1187, it is very definitely not the Government's policy to withhold from Members of Parliament information about how ET is performing. Evidence for that is the enormous amount of information that is being given in answer to written questions. I am delighted to announce that there are now virtually 200,000 trainees on employment training. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will wish to join me in congratulating the programme on its outstanding success.

Mr. James Cran (Beverley)

Will my right hon. Friend find time for the House to discuss the vexed problem of child cancer clusters in the United Kingdom, which is a matter of concern not only to the parents and certainly to the children involved, but to every Member of the House of Commons? Such a debate would allow those of us who are interested to assess what the Government are doing—which is not inconsiderable—to assess what other agencies are doing and perhaps also to discuss the fact that there are far too many reports of child cancer clusters in this country, but not enough research into the epidemiology of leukaemia.

Mr Wakeham

I recognise the concern and interest that my hon. Friend has taken in that subject. I understand that Dr. Cartwright's report has been referred for independent medical assessment, the results of which are expected shortly. I cannot comment on Dr. Cartwright's report until I have seen the results. The Government are funding several other studies on the incidence of childhood leukaemia and the Department of Health will continue to monitor closely the results of those studies and of other national and international work.

Mr. Ray Powell (Ogmore)

Will the Leader of the House reconsider his reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) on the business for next week? Next week will be the last week of business before the summer recess. In the past consecutive four weeks we have made temperate requests for a debate in the Welsh Grand Committee on the Health Service in Wales. The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that some of us are becoming as intemperate as my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours), who asked a question earlier. We are sick and tired of asking the Secretary of State to come to the House or to the Welsh Grand Committee to debate the emotive subject of the Health Service in Wales. It is no good his having consultations with others in Wales if he is not prepared to answer questions from elected Members of Parliament. I am sure that you, Mr. Speaker, will agree that the Leader of the House—I have always thought of him as a temperate person and I do not share the views expressed by some of his colleagues, and even the Prime Minister, who might be getting the knife out—should give time for such a debate and put pressure on the Secretary of State for Wales, who is sitting round the corner, to come to the House before the end of the Session for that purpose.

Mr. Wakeham

I shall resist repeating that when there was an opportunity for a debate on the Health Service the Opposition did not want it and they did not have it.

Mr. Allan Rogers (Rhondda)

That is a lie.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw that. Yesterday that word was bandied about the Chamber. We have strict standards and we do not accuse each other of lying. Will the hon. Gentleman, who is a Front-Bench spokesman, withdraw that?

Mr. Rogers

I withdraw the fact that I called the Leader of the House a liar. When you, Mr. Speaker, chastised me some weeks ago on the same issue, I said that the Leader of the House was misleading the House in saying that the matter had not been brought before the Welsh Grand Committee because of the Opposition's objection to it, and you allowed that. It really is shabby for the Leader of the House to come here——

Mr. Speaker

Order. As the hon. Gentleman has said, this is an emotive subject, but we must keep up our standards in the House.

Mr. Wakeham

The subject for debate in the Welsh Grand Committee in June was chosen by the Government's supporters and they properly chose the valleys initiative, an important subject. I hope that the next meeting of the Welsh Grand Committee will take place in October when the Opposition will be able to choose the subject. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales would very much welcome a debate on the Health Service in Wales on that occasion.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Health Service in Wales has been considerably disrupted in the past few weeks by the rail strikes which have meant that our constituents have not been able to get to hospital, but there has not been one word of condemnation from Opposition Members to reflect the views that I have heard from the elderly and the infirm? Will my right hon. Friend use his offices to persuade the Opposition to use their second debate on Tuesday to consider the rail strike so that we can get them off the fence and on to the side of the public, not the strikers?

Mr. Wakeham

My hon. Friend must be fair. Some Opposition Members are looking tired and it is time that they were at the seaside with their buckets and spades.

Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West)

Will the Leader of the House arrange an early debate on the unsatisfactory nature of the law relating to the camping of itinerants in public parks and on public land? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I have a petition signed by more than 370 people living on the Braunstone estate in my constituency? Is he further aware that I have also received complaints from constituents in Western Park, Beaumont Leys and other areas about gipsy encampments in parks, which are a danger to the environment and to public health and order at any time, but especially during hot weather and school holidays?

Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that such a debate covers the question of how permanent sites might be provided so that those people can have the privacy to which they are entitled, well away from others who are also entitled to privacy and peace? In the meantime, will he please refer the matter to the Law Officers and the Home Secretary so that the law may be recognised and the police and local authorities given the powers necessary to deal with this growing and very serious problem?

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise the difficulty of the problem especially as, from time to time, my constituency suffers from it. The Department of the Environment also has an interest in the matter. I know of no proposals for changes in the law. However, it is a perfectly sensible subject for the hon. and learned Gentleman to raise and to which a Minister can respond. I shall refer his concern to the appropriate Ministers.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

Will my right hon. Friend think again about his answers to my many hon. Friends who asked for a debate or statement on the rail strike? Is he aware that it is causing enormous inconvenience throughout the country, but especially to commuter constituencies such as mine? Is not the National Union of Railwaymen, apparently supported by the Opposition, depriving many people of their living on strike days? They cannot get to work and so have to stay at home and get no pay. That is a very serious matter because individuals and families are suffering greatly. Is it not time that the House debated the matter and flushed out the whole question?

Mr. Wakeham

Refusing, or simply being unable, to provide time for a debate in the near future does not in any way lessen the concern that I share with my hon. Friend about this matter. Strikes are always damaging. They do harm to businesses and services and are bound to put jobs at risk, as well as causing great inconvenience to commuters. There is no need for a debate on this matter because the issue is quite clear. The NUR should take the same line as the other unions. accept the generous offer made to it and return to work.

Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East)

The Leader of the House said that he had nothing to add about the difficult question of the setting up of a Scottish Select Committee. Is he aware that the Scottish people have a great deal more to say, as was shown in the recent European elections when Scotland was made a Tory-free zone? If the right hon. Gentleman is genuinely concerned to tackle undemocratic practices, when will he change the Government's undemocratic stance and announce that Scotland is to have the Select Committee that it not only demands, but which is its right under the Standing Orders of this House?

Mr. Wakeham

The hon. Gentleman has a weird idea of democratic arrangements. The House determined that that Committee should not be set up and there was a majority for the line that I am taking. The hon. Gentleman is in the minority. Nevertheless, I am seeking a way to set up a Scottish Affairs Select Committee, and I shall continue to do so although, as the hon. Gentleman is well aware, certain difficulties are involved.

Mr. Alan W. Williams (Carmarthen)

Will the Leader of the House arrange a debate on the Welsh Development Agency, a matter raised by several Members during Welsh questions on Monday, and to which there was an unsatisfactory response from the Secretary of State for Wales?

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen early-day motion 1194, which draws attention to our concern about this matter?

[That this House expresses its deep concern on the future of the Welsh Development Agency; notes that legal, press and information services have already been contracted-out; seeks clarification as to whether the growth of private sector funding will infringe the statutory obligation of the Welsh Development Agency; expresses its deep concern that discussions have taken place between the Finance Director of the Welsh Development Agency and the privatised National Freight Corporation; calls on the Secretary of State to clarify the reasons for the week-long meeting which he did not when asked by honourable Members during Welsh Questions on 17th July; expresses serious concern at the detailed discussions between a leading merchant bank and officers of the Welsh Development Agency; can only conclude that the Government is undertaking a policy of privatisation by stealth; further, expresses its deep concern that the Secretary of State for Wales claims not to have known that such important and detailed discussions on the future of the Welsh Development Agency were taking place; asks why, if a number of Welsh Office officials knew of the proposals as the Secretary of State admitted during Welsh Questions, they did not come to the attention of the Secretary of State; and also asks how many other radical alterations to bodies under his reponsibility are being planned, which he currently does not know about.]

We are aware that the WDA is contracting out legal services, publicity and information. It has had talks with the National Freight Corporation about privatisation and about how that company was privatised. There have been long discussions with Barclays de Zoete Wedd, the merchant bank, and the WDA in Cardiff. During the past six months there have been many comings and goings that make us suspect that there is a policy of privatisation by stealth. May we please have a debate on these matters?

Mr. Wakeham

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales has already answered a large number of parliamentary questions on that subject, and I have nothing to add. There are no plans to privatise the Welsh Development Agency, but, as my right hon. Friend told the House, the agency is perfectly free to explore any ways of bringing more private sector funding into its activities. If it does so, the Government would expect the agency to hold whatever discussions are appropriate with outside interests and advisers.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Will the Leader of the House reconsider his decision on a debate about the activities of Lady Porter and Westminster city council.? Is he aware that as a result of last night's "Panorama" programme on BBC television, the public are demanding that the matter be raised in Parliament? If Parliament is not for debating matters of extreme public interest, what is it for? I have a special interest in the matter, because of the way in which the Government and the Tories of the time treated my brothers and their colleagues on Clay Cross council, who did nothing other than refuse to raise rents. The Government were also prepared to surcharge Lambeth and Liverpool councillors. Why is it that there is one law for Tory councillors and for friends of the Prime Minister such as Lady Porter, and another law for Labour councillors? The only redeeming feature is that there is a strike at Westminster city council and that the men and women on strike there are, thank God, stopping Lady Porter getting rid of more taxpayers' and ratepayers' money today.

Mr. Wakeham

The hon. Gentleman may wax indignant, but whatever may or may not have happened to his brothers and to others in the past, it was the result of the due process of law and not of trial by television, which the hon. Gentleman seems to support. If anything needs to be investigated, it will be investigated by the proper authorities—not in the manner that the hon. Gentleman seems to think is appropriate.

Mr. Frank Haynes (Ashfield)

I do not mind you, Mr. Speaker, leaving me until last. You know that I am the most patient of all right hon. and hon. Members.

Is the Leader of the House aware that 15 years ago troops from the Turkish mainland invaded the beautiful island of Cyprus? Is he further aware that my hon. Friends the Members for Jarrow (Mr. Dixon) and for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) have a particular interest in that event? Is he aware that in the past few hours there has been a serious incident in which more than 100 people were arrested by the Turkish authorities at the green line—females, on the Greek Cypriot side? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware also that I tried and tried, on behalf of my friends, to obtain information about the 1,600 people who disappeared during the 1974 invasion? Will the Leader of the House, in the last week before the recess, get a Foreign Office Minister to the Dispatch Box, to see whether he can help the Greek Cypriots, who are in desperate need?

Mr. Wakeham

I cannot promise that, but I can tell the hon. Gentleman—quite exceptionally, because such a matter is not usually noted from this Dispatch Box—that the all-party Cyprus group is currently meeting in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association room and that my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office is addressing it on that very subject. If the hon. Gentleman nips round there quickly, he might be in time to hear her.