HC Deb 29 June 1989 vol 155 cc1125-36 4.33 pm
The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Wakeham)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement about the business for next week.

MONDAY 3 JULY—Supplemental timetable motion on and progress on consideration of Lords amendments to the Water Bill.

TUESDAY 4 JULY—Until seven o'clock, completion of consideration of Lords amendments to the Water Bill.

Second Reading of the Antarctic Minerals Bill [Lords].

Completion of remaining stages of the Road Traffic (Driver Licensing and Information Systems) Bill [Lords].

WEDNESDAY 5 JULY—Opposition Day (17th Allotted Day). Until about seven o'clock there will be a debate entitled "The Crisis in Training". Afterwards there will be a debate entitled "The Immigration Rules and DNA Testing." Both debates will arise on Opposition motions.

Committee and remaining stages of the Representation of the People Bill.

THURSDAY 6 JULY—Estimates Day (2nd Allotted Day). There will be debates on common police services and expenditure on information technology. Details of the Estimates concerned and the relevant Select Committee reports will be given in the Official Report.

Remaining stages of the Human Organ Transplants Bill.

FRIDAY 7 JULY—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY 10 JULY—Estimates Day (3rd Allotted Day). There will be debates on Department of Energy administration and civil aviation services. Details of the Estimates concerned and the relevant Select Committee reports will be given in the Official Report.

[Thursday 6 July


Class XI, Vote 3 (Home Office administration, immigration and police support services, England and Wales), so far as it relates to common police services.

Relevant Select Committee Reports:

Home Affairs Committee 1st Report, Session 1988–89 on the Forensic Science Service ( HC 26) and the Government's response (CM 699).

Home Affairs Committee 3rd Report, Session 1988–89 on Higher Police Training and the Police Staff College (HC 110).

Home Affairs Committee 4th Report, Session 1988–89 on Home Office Expenditure (HC 314).


Class V, Vote 2 (Department of Trade and Industry: support for industry), so far as it relates to expenditure on information technology.

Relevant Select Committee Reports:

Trade and Industry Committee 1st Report, Session 1988–89 on Information Technology (HC 25), and the Oral Evidence given on 26 April (HC 338 ).]

Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras)

I thank the Leader of the House for his statement. I start by thanking the Government for accepting the Opposition's arguments that the Antarctic Minerals Bill is of such significance, not just to us but to the future of the planet, that it is sensible to debate it at a reasonable hour.

Having expressed my thanks, I must express my concern at the proposal to dispose of the Water Bill in a further day and a half. The Bill is currently 416 pages long and there are 55 pages of Lords amendments to be considered. I understand that the Government have put down a further 300 amendments, though they are not yet available in the Vote Office for anyone who wants to know what they are about. That means that, at best, each amendment will receive less than one minute's scrutiny.

In view of the importance that the Prime Minister said today she attaches to parliamentary scrutiny and sovereignty, does the Leader of the House agree that it would be better to devote a little more time to the Water Bill, particularly as to do so might relieve his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment of future appearances in the courts? Even his short measures usually end up with him losing cases in the High Court. We believe that it is right and proper that more than one and a half days should be devoted to that very important legislation.

I hope there is support from right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House for a debate before the recess on the situation in China and in Hong Kong, in the light of recent events and of the recent visits by the Foreign Secretary and by my right hon. Friend the shadow Foreign Secretary to Hong Kong.

Finally, I return to my two old chestnuts. When is there likely to be a statement by the Government on the Griffiths report "Care in the Community", and shall we have an opportunity to debate their response before the recess? When may we expect the long-promised debate on the proposal to substitute student grants by student loans? Will there be one before the recess, or will the right hon. Gentleman wait until the students return to their studies in the autumn?

Mr. Wakeham

The hon. Gentleman asked five questions in relation to next week's business. I thank him for his remark about the Antarctic Minerals Bill. That is an important measure, and I believe that the time we have found is satisfactory to all concerned.

The time we have allocated to the Water Bill is more than adequate for dealing with the amendments, as the majority of them are technical. As to the hon. Gentleman's reference to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, I seem to remember him winning court cases rather than losing them.

Mr. Dobson

He loses more than he wins.

Mr. Wakeham

My right hon. Friend has had a winning streak recently, which is more than can be said for the hon. Gentleman.

As to the important question of China and Hong Kong, I recognise the need for at least a foreign affairs debate shortly. I hope to find time for one in the relatively near future, and that matter will be discussed through the usual channels.

The Government intend to make a statement about the Griffiths proposals before the summer recess, and there will be a debate in Government time at a suitable opportunity thereafter. I cannot promise exactly when that will be.

Although the hon. Gentleman asks me about student top-up loans every week, it seems that he still does not understand our proposals—which is a very good reason for a debate. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science and I have both made it clear already that we would welcome such a debate, but its timing is best discussed through the usual channels.

Sir Fergus Montgomery (Altrincham and Sale)

I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to early-day motion 1038.

[That this House deplores the remarks of the honourable Member for Brent, East during the adjournment debate on Tuesday 27th June in which he alleged that the late Airey Neave was involved in treason; notes that Airey Neave had been decorated for gallantry on four occasions, and had served his country with honour in war and peace; and calls on the honourable Member for Brent, East to apologise to the House and to withdraw his disgraceful remarks.] That early-day motion concerns the Adjournment debate on 27 June and the remarks of the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone), who said that the late Airey Neave was involved in terrorism. [HON. MEMBERS: "Treason."] Rather, that the late Airey Neave was involved in treason. If those remarks had been made about any existing right hon. or hon. Member, the hon. Member for Brent, East would have had to withdraw them immediately. Will my right hon. Friend consider whether there is any way to prevent such a thing happening again? Airey Neave had a war record of great bravery, gave great service to this House, and was killed by cowards. Surely there is some way of protecting his reputation from political pygmies.

Mr. Wakeham

The question of order is one for you, Mr. Speaker, not me—though I may say that I very much agree with your remarks last night. I agree also with the comments of my hon. Friend. I totally deprecate the remarks of the hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) and believe that he should withdraw them.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

Does the Leader of the House intend to have a debate on the Procedure Committee's report on the ten-minute Bill procedure? We welcome the fact that there is to be an early debate on foreign affairs, but does not the Leader of the House accept that on both sides of the House there is considerable concern about the position in China, in particular about the plight of British passport holders in Hong Kong? Those matters should not be relegated to a general debate on foreign affairs. Could the Leader of the House not think again about holding a debate that relates specifically to Hong Kong and China?

Mr. Wakeham

I cannot promise an early debate on the ten-minute Bill procedure. Some of our new arrangements are working better than the previous arrangements, but we shall have to look into the matter again and I shall be in touch with the hon. Gentleman.

I agree that Hong Kong is a particularly important matter. The Foreign Affairs Select Committee report on Hong Kong is expected to be published tomorrow. I hope to be able to arrange a debate in due course after its publication, but we must await the report.

Mr. Michael Marshall (Arundel)

On the day that marks the centenary of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and following the unveiling earlier today by you, Mr. Speaker, of the bust of the Back Bencher who founded the Inter-Parliamentary Union, may I ask my right hon. Friend, in view of what he said a moment or two ago, whether the foreign affairs debate that he has in mind might encompass—perhaps in terms of the motion that is tabled—recognition and appraisal of the work of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, embodying, as it does, important contributions from both sides of the House?

Mr. Wakeham

I shall consider carefully my hon. Friend's suggestion which, if it could be incorporated, would be appropriate. I am sure that in its debate on foreign affairs the House would want to pay tribute to the work of the IPU.

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

May we have a two-day debate on foreign affairs? Apart from the question of China and Hong Kong, there is also the confused situation in Europe. I have been a Member of this House for a long time and I have heard many of my hon. Friends talk about Europe. For example, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) argued quite strongly when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer that we ought not to join the European monetary system, or rush into it. I have also heard my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) who now speaks on economic matters say recently on radio that we ought not to rush into the EMS. I am a little confused. We ought, therefore, to have a serious debate about Europe, when we could discuss the implications of a wider Europe rather than just the Common Market.

Increasingly, the nation state is being discussed, even in the Soviet Union where it was not discussed before. There are so many serious issues of great importance—not yah-boo politics—that need to be properly debated here. The future of Europe and our position in Europe are among the matters that ought to be debated. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to take on board what I have said and to consider holding a two-day debate so that on one of those days we may discuss Europe seriously, not on the basis of yah-booism.

Mr. Wakeham

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that there are some serious issues to be discussed, but I hope that he recognises the difficulties I am in. I have already had requests for debates on foreign affairs and Hong Kong, and now I have had a request for a debate on Europe. With the best will in the world, it will be impossible to meet all those demands in the immediate future. May I ask the hon. Gentleman, who I know raises the matter seriously, to have a word with his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and see whether he can help me to find one of the three days.

Mr. Rupert Allason (Torbay)

Having had an involuntary swim in the River Thames yesterday during the course of the annual dinghy race between this House and another place, I can bear witness to the cleanliness of the water in the Thames. However, the same cannot be said of the state of cleanliness of the waters off our coastline, in particular off south Devon. Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that he will give full time for a debate that will cover not just the technical points in the Lords amendments to the Water Bill but the very important issue of pumping raw sewage into the English Channel?

Mr. Wakeham

I agree that these are important matters, and that we must make time to debate them and get across the message that, whatever shortcomings there may be, our record is considerably better than that of a great many other parts of Europe. Although I am responsible for finding the bulk of the time for the Lords amendments to the Water Bill, others will have a say in how best to allocate that time. No doubt, however, my hon. Friend's point will be borne in mind.

Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day motion 1003 about the crisis in Sylvan high school in Croydon.

[That this House deplores the proposal of Croydon Council to close Sylvan High School, an 11–16 years mixed comprehensive, and establish a city technology college in its place against the wishes of parents, school governors and staff; notes that parents voted 97 per cent. against the proposal, on a 57 per cent. turnout, despite Croydon Council circulating 13,907 copies of a consultation document and refused the Save Sylvan Campaign facilities to circulate a one-page response; believes Sir Phillip Harris, who heads the sponsors, is misguided in his desire to change the school and deeply regrets that the proposal has led to uncertainty which has gravely damaged the school, leading to the loss of staff which according to the Times Educational Supplement will mean that in September the school has the prospect of no drama, music or full-time commitment to humanities, and two-thirds of the craft design technology staff missing; reminds the Secretary of State of his visit to Sylvan High School in 1986, following which he wrote to the school saying he found the dedication of the Head and staff to be impressive, was delighted to see so much enthusiasm by the pupils and was reassured to know of such worthwhile and rewarding work; and therefore calls upon the Right honourable and honourable Members who constituencies are affected to make vigorous representations to the Secretary of State for Education and Science to take account of the vote of parents expressing parental choice, which should be paramount.]

Could we have an early debate before the Secretary of State reaches a decision on the application of that school to become a city technology college, bearing in mind that 97 per cent. of the parents, in a 57 per cent. turnout, voted against? In September, because of the massive loss of staff, it is likely that the children will be unable to take a whole range of courses. All Croydon Members have been asked to make representations. I know that parents of all political persuasions are extremely grateful for the action that you have taken, Mr. Speaker—the school is in your constituency, although it serves the borough—and they have asked me to say how grateful they are to you and to do so at as early an opportunity as possible. I met them, together with my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw). However, the parents are not so keen on what the other three right hon. and hon. Members for Croydon have been doing. Before the school is damaged beyond recall, so that parents take their children away from it, it is crucial that we have an early debate so that the Secretary of State for Education and Science can get the real feelings of parents in Croydon, which he is unable to get in the House at present.

Mr. Wakeham

Let me put the record straight. Croydon council's proposal to close Sylvan high school is now before my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science. He will reach a decision on the proposal, strictly on its merits, and will take into account the views of those who have an interest in the matter. I do not believe that I should say anything in advance of his decision.

Sir Peter Hordern (Horsham)

May I ask my right hon. Friend to hold a two-day debate on foreign affairs? I support what was said by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heller). One of the days should be devoted to European affairs, perhaps with the co-operation of the Opposition. Is my right hon. Friend able to say what has happened to the debate which was to take place on parliamentary pensions?

Mr. Wakeham

It seemed to me that the time at which the debate on parliamentary pensions would have taken place the other night was sufficiently late to have made it difficult for hon. Members to grasp some of the complexities, and that the speeches might be better if we managed to hold the debate a little earlier in the evening.

As for my hon. Friend's request for a two-day debate on foreign affairs, I know that he will have some sympathy for me at this time of the year. Seeking to find one day, let alone two days, for a foreign affairs debate is difficult enough. I shall do my best, but I really cannot give any firm undertaking.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

I support the appeal of many hon. Members for sufficient time to be devoted to a foreign affairs debate so that some of us can express our very strong support for the Transport and General Workers Union in passing a resolution that Britain should get rid of nuclear weapons. We could then invite support for the United Nations nuclear non-proliferation treaty which is supported by 133 nations that have refused either to manufacture or deploy nuclear weapons. Then we could adopt a morally superior attitude which I hope would be more acceptable to my hon. Friends. It would be useful to have time to debate that matter.

Mr. Wakeham

I do not often get upset with the hon. Gentleman but he seems to have dished my ploy of trying to persuade the Leader of the Oppositon to find a day, if that is the basis on which he wants to have a debate. I shall have to struggle on as best I can.

Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)

Now that the importance of Europe is beginning to dawn on Membcrs of Parliament, even though it has not dawned upon the two out of three electors who stayed at home during the Euro-elections, and as it is becoming more and more obvious that this place will have to exercise a bit more parliamentary control over what the Government are doing in that connection, is it not time to consider the totally deplorable way in which the House considers European measures and to institute a review that leads to an improvement of the way in which we consider what goes on in Europe?

Mr. Wakeham

As my hon. and learned Friend knows, the Select Committee on Procedure is considering that matter. A number of people, including myself, have given evidence to it. We are still considering some of the issues. I hope that some further constructive proposals may be put to the Select Committee in the not-too-distant future so that we can find a better way of dealing with these important issues, which I fully agree with my hon. Friend are not dealt with adequately at present.

Mr. Jack Ashley (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

Is the Leader of the House aware that a number of people, including me, have been infuriated by the refusal of an orange badge parking permit to a woman suffering from thalidomide who has no arms although she can walk? That decision is insensitive, stupid, unjustified and bureaucratic. Will he tell the Minister for the disabled that a deputation of Opposition Members wishes to see him next week to complain about that individual case and, because there is evidence that the Minister is now considering decisions which would rob thousands of disabled people of their orange badges, we want to talk to him before any decision is made? May we also have a debate next week?

Mr. Wakeham

The answer to the last part of the question is that I am sorry but I cannot find time for a debate next week. However, the answer to the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's question is that these are matters for my hon. Friend the Minister for Roads and Traffic and I shall refer them to him. As I understand it, the difficulty has been that there has been a very great increase in the number of parking permits given to people who have difficulty in walking. The parking concessions are primarily for those disabled people who have difficulty in walking. Other concessions and help may be more appropriate to people with other disabilities. I know that my hon. Friend is considering these matters and I have no doubt that he will find the best possible solution.

Mr. Michael Latham (Rutland and Melton)

As my right hon. Friend is shortly to bring the clergy ordination measure before the House, as it has been narrowly approved by the ecclesiastical committee, will he consider bringing before the House proposals to get rid of that committee altogether? Is he aware that some of us who have served on that committee for 15 years believe that that type of parliamentary control is completely out of date?

Mr. Wakeham

The measure to which my hon. Friend refers is now before another place. I shall await its passage there before bringing it forward here. I do not want to answer the wider question off the cuff. I have no views on the matter or on any changes, but if my hon. Friend would like to write to me or talk to me, I should be happy to discuss the matter further.

Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West)

May we please have an early debate on the anxieties of teachers in my constituency in Leicester, and I am sure throughout the country, at the growing shortage of resources which is making life more difficult in all schools, but especially in schools in disadvantaged areas, and the shortage of speech therapists and other experts to help people not to suffer from unnecessary disablement? As our schools go into their holidays tomorrow, can they please have some hope of returning to better news?

Mr. Wakeham

I am sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman will recognise first that the teacher-pupil ratio at present is substantially better than it was under the Government that he supported. I recognise that it is not perfect and that there are shortages, particularly in certain areas. He will also agree that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science has taken steps to improve the position, particularly in certain specialised subjects. I cannot promise an early debate, although I note that my right hon. Friend is answering questions on Tuesday, so perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman will make his points then.

Sir John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)

While we all enjoy hard work, will my right hon. Friend soon be in a position to announce the date of the summer recess, which might possibly be earlier this year, so that we can give our full attention to important matters like cricket and eschew politics for a while?

Mr. Wakeham

I promise my hon. Friend that I shall announce the date of the summer recess as early as I can manage. I promise my hon. Friend that it will be for as long as I can manage, but I am afraid I cannot tell him the date yet.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

In view of what the Prime Minister had to say about the Common Market, and her attitude to current issues such as the EMS, perhaps we could get rid of the Water Bill next week and have a debate on the Common Market. Then the Prime Minister could explain whether it is true that she said to the other leaders in Madrid when she was explaining Britain's social charter that she had introduced a new measure—£7,000 for sacked Ministers. She could also explain whether the holding position on the Common Market will last only until she leaves the stage, let us say during the next 12 months, and hands over to another Tory leader. Perhaps we can then finish off with a Bill— the Single European Bill mark 2—so that some of us can vote it down. If that is what the Prime Minister wants, we shall give her a chuck on.

Mr. Wakeham

I had better delay before having such a debate. In that delaying time, I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman might have a word with his hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore) who seems to have become a Euro-fanatic in recent weeks to see whether he can sort him out. Then we would have a consistent line from the Opposition who seem to have changed their tune.

Mr. Roger King (Birmingham, Northfield)

I am aware of the replies from my right hon. Friend about the lack of time for debates, but will he bring pressure to bear on my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport to make a statement to the House on the rail strike? It is causing widespread dismay among people in all parts of the kingdom. We could look for some answers and some solutions to the future problems of the rail industry, and ascertain the views of Opposition Members who have remained absolutely silent on this highly difficult situation.

Mr. Wakeham

I agree with my hon. Friend that the situation requires us to consider policies, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said at Prime Minister's Question Time. However, I do not believe that it is the right moment for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport to make a statement to the House about the strike. It is a matter for those who are on strike and the management to resolve. I should have thought that many of the strikers would think carefully about whether they want to continue to inflict unnecessary suffering on so many commuters.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)

As the Government refused to make a statement or provide a Government debate on the DNA centrally organised testing scheme, and as the Labour party is now providing a three-hour debate on the subject next week, will the Leader of the House consider adding some Government time so that many unanswered questions can be resolved?

Secondly, before the right hon. Gentleman decides the date of the summer recess, will he arrange for a debate on the plight of British pensioners, particularly those who have to live on the basic pension? That would enable the Government to consider introducing a summer bonus to help pensioners cope with the increasing prices in the shops and water, electricity and gas charges and announcing that the Christmas bonus will be increased in line with the inflation that has occurred since it was first introduced. It is a scandal that British pensioners are living at the lowest standards of any pensioners in Europe. When will the Government provide time for us to discuss their plight and do something about it?

Mr. Wakeham

It is neither a scandal nor accurate. The hon. Gentleman does not understand what is going on. No pensioner in Britain is expected to live on the basic pension alone. Of course, 80 per cent. of all pensioners have income from private sources and the Government provide help for those on low incomes through income support and housing benefit. In October, 2.5 million pensioners will gain from the £200 million poorer pensioners' package. Therefore, what the hon. Gentleman says is just not correct. Perhaps he should do his homework before we have any such debate.

With regard to the debate on immigration rules and DNA testing on the day next week that I have allocated as an Opposition day, I find it rather strange that any important subject that the Opposition choose to debate on an Opposition day should be considered unreasonable. Opposition days are for debating matters that the Opposition want to debate. We provide the day and they provide the subject for debate. That is perfectly proper.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke)

To return to the subject raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King), has my right hon. Friend seen early-day motion No. 1023, which is headed: Industrial Action on British Rail"?

[That this House deplores the continuing misery and disruption to British Rail customers, notes that during last week's bus strike in London those bus services which have been put out to tender by L.R.T. and which are now run by private operators continued to run; and therefore calls upon the Government to bring forward early proposals to denationalise British Rail and to consider also introducing legislation to ban strikes in essential public services.]

Does my right hon. Friend not agree that there is a need for an early debate on the subject because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Northfield said, there has been a deafening silence from the Opposition and we want to know whether the Leader of the Opposition is the strikers' friend on this issue as well?

Mr. Wakeham

I appreciate my hon. Friend's understandable curiosity on these matters. Yesterday's rail strike was quite unnecessary and caused disruption for millions, especially in London. Such industrial action is pointless and, once again, I urge the rail unions to accept British Rail's offer of talks.

Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley)

Does the Leader of the House recall that he has often promised that we would have a debate on the report of the Select Committee on the Environment on toxic waste and the Government's response to it? As the Government are intending to introduce legislation later this year and there is increasing concern within county councils, will he give an assurance that he will hold the debate before the summer recess? In recognising the problems on that and to save him having to answer the same question every week, will he give a firm promise that a debate will be provided before the Government introduce legislation affecting waste disposal?

Mr. Wakeham

No, I will not give any such undertaking. The Committee reported on 8 March and the Government published a full response as a Command Paper on 27 April. The response described in detail the measures already in hand to meet most of the Committee's recommendations and firmly rebuffed the remaining recommendations. We have discussed many environmental issues in recent weeks. At this stage in the year, it is difficult to find additional time, so I cannot promise the hon. Gentleman a further debate in the immediate future.

Mr. Ian Bruce (Dorset, South)

Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate and the opportunity to vote on the procedures of the House and on the facilities available to hon. Members to do their job in representing their constituents? I am sure that my right hon. Friend knows that when new Members arrive in this place and declare it a silly way to run a country and Parliament, we are told that after a couple of years we shall get used to it and like it. I have now been here a couple of years and I would not run a country in the way in which we do now. May we have the opportunity to change our procedures?

Mr. Wakeham

My hon. Friend is doing a great job in running the country and I congratulate him on his efforts. I am not sure that additional debates on improving the facilities of this place would get us very far. There are many steps being taken and we are doing our best to improve the facilities. I do not want to sound like an old hand, but the facilities are far better than they were when I came into the House and many hon. Members have been here far longer than I have. We are making some progress.

We had a debate the other day on procedure matters. It was not very well attended and only a few hon. Members were anxious to contribute. Those who did were mostly members of the Select Committee on Procedure, with a few others. However, it was a good debate and we shall come back to procedure debates later on for sure. There are several reports on procedure, but I cannot promise an early debate on them at present.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

I want to take the Leader of the House back to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) about ministerial hand-outs. Will the Leader of the House tell us whether it is true that Ministers will receive redundancy payments? If so, will that money go to Ministers who jump as well as those who are pushed? If that is so, and something nasty happens to the right hon. Gentleman, will he opt to take the money or to go with dignity?

Mr. Wakeham

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is quite as innocent as he would like us to believe sometimes. I shall do my best to explain the position to him. The Top Salaries Review Body considered the question of ministerial severance pay carefully, following support for its introduction from hon. Members of all parties. I told the House in May 1988 that the Government proposed to implement the TSRB recommendations when parliamentary time allowed.

I suppose that the hon. Gentleman might be singing a different song if he thought that he had a chance of ever becoming a Minister, so his comments are understandable. The position has not changed one iota since May 1988.

Mr. James Cran (Beverley)

Will my right hon. Friend find some time for us to discuss the important ramifications of the report into the brewing industry by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, especially against the background of the extravagant campaign being conducted, I believe, by the Brewers Society and some of the major brewers and also against the background that some people are trying to turn logic on its head by suggesting that it is not monopolistic for six large brewers to control 75 per cent. of beer production, 74 per cent. of brewers' tied houses and 86 per cent. of loan ties? Does my right hon. Friend agree that there are some important ramifications for monopoly policy in that area and that the House should discuss them?

Mr. Wakeham

My noble Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry is continuing to discuss the issues with the national brewers and we should await the outcome of those discussions before we think about having a debate.

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

Is the Leader of the House aware that I am having great difficulty in winning the ballot for private Members' motions so that I can raise the question of the proprietorial control of The Observer newspaper by Tiny Rowland? Has the right hon. Gentleman had a chance to read the report of the independent directors of The Observer who were critical of The Observer's coverage of the takeover of House of Fraser, but equally whitewashed the activities of Mr. Donald Trelford, Mr. Adam Raphael, Mr. Rowland and his colleagues on the publication in The Observer of articles relating to Tornado? Is he aware that when the independent directors went in they did not interview the journalists? If they had done so, the report might have been very different. Should not Parliament be allowed the right to debate these matters, which are important to the freedom of the press?

Mr. Wakeham

I am not sure that I can help the hon. Gentleman very much. He may not be lucky in winning the private Members' ballot. If I were able to enter it and I won it, I should let him have my ticket, but unfortunately I am not allowed to do so, so I cannot help him this week.

Mr. Greg Knight (Derby, North)

My right hon. Friend is a reasonable man. May I ask him, therefore, to think again about providing time for a debate on the rail strike, in view of the strength of feeling among Conservative Members? Is it not important that Conservative Members are able to place on record their views on the troglodyte behaviour of Mr. Jimmy Knapp? Is it not equally important that the House and the country have the opportunity to learn the views of the Leader of the Opposition on this matter? As a result of his silence, if he is not the strikers' friend on this issue, he is certainly the invisible man.

Mr. Wakeham

My hon. Friend makes his point well. If I were able to find time, the subject would make an interesting debate.