HC Deb 02 March 1989 vol 148 cc397-408 3.31 pm
Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras)

Will the Leader of the House tell us 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 6 MARCH—Second Reading of the Self-Governing Schools Etc. (Scotland) Bill.

Motions relating to Scottish community charge regulations. Details will be given in the Official Report.

Motion on the Access to Personal Files (Housing) Regulations.

TUESDAY 7 MARCH—Estimates day (1st Allotted Day). Debate on class IV, vote 3, so far as it relates to assistance to the egg industry. Details of the relevant Agriculture Committee report will be given in the Official Report.

Debate on funding of overseas students on a motion for the Adjournment of the House. Details of the relevant Foreign Affairs Committee report and the Government's observations will be given in the Official Report.

At Ten o'clock the Question will be put on all outstanding Supplementary Estimates and votes.

WEDNESDAY 8 MARCH—Motions on the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Acts 1978 and 1987 (Continuance) Order and the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) (Amendment) Regulations.

Motion on the Appropriation (Northern Ireland) Order.

Debate on a motion to take note of EC document relating to derogations in respect of weights and dimensions of heavy lorries. Details will be given in the Official Report.

THURSDAY 9 MARCH—Debate on the Royal Air Force on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

FRIDAY 10 MARCH—Private Members' motions.

MONDAY 13 MARCH—Motion for the Easter Adjournment.

Proceedings on the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill.

The House will wish to know, Mr. Speaker, that subject to the progress of business it will be proposed that the House should rise for the Easter Adjournment on Thursday 23 March until Tuesday 4 April.

Relevant documents.

[Monday 6 March

Personal Community Charge (Students) (Scotland)

Regulations (SI 1989 No. 32)

Personal Community Charge (Exemptions) (Scotland)

Regulations (SI 1989 No. 63)

Abolition of Domestic Rates (Domestic and Part Residential Subjects) (Scotland) Regulations (SI 1989 No. 241)

Tuesday 7 March

Estimates Day, class IV, vote 3 (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food: agricultural support, animal health, arterial drainage, flood and coast protection) so far as it relates to assistance to the egg industry.

First Report of the Agriculture Committee Session 1988–89

"Salmonella in Eggs" (HC 108)

Overseas Student Grants:

Fourth Report of the Foreign Affairs Committee Session 1987–88 FCO/ODA Expenditure 1988–89

Observations by the Secretary of State for Foreign and

Commonwealth affairs on the fourth report from the Foreign Affairs Committee Session 1987–88 on FCO/ODA Expenditure 1988–89 (Cm. 518)

Minutes of Evidence taken on 1 March 1989 on the Funding of Overseas Students (HC 242)

Wednesday 8 March

Relevant European Community Document
4311/89 Weights and dimensions of commercial vehicles

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

Mr. Dobson

I thank the Leader of the House for his statement.

Who will be replying to Tuesday's debate on eggs? Will it be a Minister from the Ministry of Health, or will it be a Minister from the Ministry of Agriculture—or will we be getting one of each?

Will the Secretary of State for Transport himself be introducing or replying to Wednesday's debate on heavy lorries?

When are we to get the long-promised debate on the Fennell report into the King's Cross fire? The report was published in November and, in view of the business that we have had this week and the business that he has announced for next week, it is getting a little bit difficult for the Leader of the House to argue that he cannot find time for that promised debate.

When will the Leader of the House be able to find time for the promised debate on the substitution of student loans for student grants? If he can get the Secretary of State for Education and Science into the House, rather than for a few photo-opportunities outside, could he get him to take part in a debate on Her Majesty's chief inspector of schools' report on the current state of our schools and, in particular, a debate on the shocking and growing shortage of teachers of mathematics and science?

When are we to have the promised debate on what the Government say is an all-important review of the National Health Service?

Mr. Wakeham

The hon. Gentleman asked me five questions about next week's business. In particular, he asked me which Ministers were to reply to certain debates. It is not usual for the names of Ministers responding to debates to be announced at this time, but I shall try to be helpful to the hon. Gentleman. Tuesday's debate on assistance to the egg industry will be answered by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. The hon. Gentleman will know that the Government have only just received the report of the Select Committee and will be responding to the report in due course, in accordance with normal practice. The question of any other debate will have to wait until the response arrives.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport has some very strong views on the subject of heavy lorries. As I said, it is not usual to announce who will speak in a debate, but I shall be extremely surprised if he does not take part in the debate next week.

I regret to tell the hon. Gentleman that I have nothing more to add to what I have said before about the Fennell report. There is to be a debate, but I cannot announce the date for it at the moment.

Again, I have nothing further to add to what I have said previously about student loans. The White Paper asked for a response to a number of points and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science is considering them. I know that he would delight in taking part in a debate, but I cannot arrange one at the moment.

I agree that the National Health Service is a subject for debate, but I am not at present in a position to announce a date.

Mr. Bob Dunn (Dartford)

Will my right hon. Friend take steps today to ensure that the Government and British Rail have brought to their attention the proposals by a group of individuals who support a scheme called TALIS, which seeks to replace the four options proposed by British Rail for a high-speed rail link through the county of Kent? Is he aware of the total opposition in Kent and south London to British Rail's current proposals? Will he tell the House why he thinks that the Garden of England should be destroyed by British Rail for the sake of saving quarter of an hour on the journey time from Paris to London?

Mr. Wakeham

My hon. Friend tempts me to answer questions which go rather wider than the business for next week. The right procedure is for British Rail to consider all the options and to make its proposals known. Those proposals will require, as I understand it, legislation and the matter will, therefore, come before the House.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

Is there to be any opportunity for a debate on remand prisoners and the proposals that the Home Secretary announced yesterday?

Given that the Secretary of State for the Environment yesterday ruled out legislation banning chemicals that damage the ozone layer, and as it is widely reported that the Prime Minister will tonight announce such legislation, will the Leader of the House clarify the position?

Mr. Wakeham

This is neither the time nor the occasion for me to announce legislative proposals of the Government. There is a proper procedure for that, and it is not for me to do so at the Dispatch Box today.

As for the statement of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department, he indicated the further work that was being considered, and I have no proposals for a debate on this subject.

Sir Michael McNair-Wilson (Newbury)

Can my right hon. Friend say when there will be a debate on the Anglo-Irish Agreement, in view of the fact that the period for the review which is taking place at present is not open-ended?

Mr. Wakeham

I realise that a number of my right hon. and hon. Friends would like a debate on this subject, and I recognise the need for one, but there are no immediate plans for a debate. It is a question of judgment as to what is the right time. On Wednesday there will be debates on a number of Northern Ireland matters, and it seems to me that, with a bit of ingenuity, my hon. Friend might then be able to make some of the points that he wants to make.

Mrs. Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley)

May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day motion 498 concerning the report produced by three London boroughs on airline food safety?

[That this House is appalled that nearly a quarter of all airline meals tested at Heathrow Airport contained excessive levels of potentially dangerous bacteria; notes that the survey was conducted by Hillingdon, Hounslow and Spelthorne Boroughs which cover the airport; further notes that most of the foods were prepared by the cook-chill method which has been implicated in many of the cases of listeria food poisoning, but notes that the foods were not tested for listeria and therefore calls for a further test by environmental health officers; is further concerned that an excessive level of E.coli, the bacteria associated with, faecal contamination, was found in 209 separate dishes; and calls on the Government to take urgent action to ensure the safety of food eaten by airline passengers and to consult with all national and international agencies involved in food hygiene in air transport.]

One quarter of all meals tested at Heathrow were found to contain potentially dangerous bacteria. Should not the Government initiate their own debate on food safety in the light of this report? Does the right hon. Gentleman advise airline passengers to take their own sandwiches?

Mr. Wakeham

As the hon. Lady will know, the report of the survey of airline meals undertaken between June 1984 and December 1986 is a useful document and is being drawn to the attention of national and international agencies involved in food hygiene in relation to air transport. When the survey was being conducted listeria was not regarded as a problem. In any case, there have been no reports of such problems with airline meals. The overall standard of airline catering is well controlled, and reported instances of food poisoning are relatively rare. However, the House may well discuss these matters whether or not I initiate a debate.

Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith (Wealden)

My right hon. Friend will be aware that it is some time since the White Paper on planning and structure plans was published. In view of the deep interest that has been shown in this important matter—on both sides of the House, but especially amongst my hon. Friends representing constituencies in the south-east—can my right hon. Friend say that there will be an early debate on it?

Mr. Wakeham

I agree that it is an important matter, but since, at the moment, many other matters demand time, I cannot promise that there will be an early debate. However, I will certainly bear in mind my hon. Friend's point.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Does the Leader of the House recall that a few weeks ago I called for a public inquiry into the methane explosion in Arkwright Town, in my constituency? Is he aware that Ministers are still at sixes and sevens over this proposal, that 40 families had to be evacuated, that these people lost substantial sums of money, that their houses have been devalued as a result of the explosion, and that there is continuing worry concerning the village? Will the right hon. Gentleman call upon the heads of the two Departments concerned—Energy and Employment—to try to ensure that there will be a public inquiry into the explosion so that my constituents may be assured that something is being done?

Mr. Wakeham

I will certainly refer the matter to my right hon. Friends. I cannot accept the premise of the hon. Gentleman's question, though it is perfectly proper that he should put it on behalf of his constituents. He deserves an answer, and I shall get him one.

Mr. Peter Thurnham (Bolton, North-East)

It is nearly 12 months since the Griffiths report was published. I wonder whether my right hon. Friend could find time for a debate on the recommendations in that report and on care in the community generally.

Mr. Wakeham

I cannot add anything to what I said last week. Active consideration is being given to the Griffiths report, and we hope to be in a position in the near future to bring forward our own proposals.

Mr. James Lamond (Oldham, Central and Royton)

Can the Leader of the House tell us whether any consideration has been given to the possibility of inviting President Gorbachev, during his visit this country next month, to address both Houses of Parliament, perhaps from the Royal Gallery?

Mr. Wakeham

I know of no proposal to do so, though the suggestion certainly has its attractions.

Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

Now that January 1989 has passed, can my right hon. Friend tell the House whether it will have an opportunity to take decisions on the crucially important report of the Joint Committee on Private Bill Procedure in time for its decisions to be implemented before the next tranche of private Bills is introduced in November?

Mr. Wakeham

I agree with the first part of my hon. Friend's question, but I can add nothing more to the second part other than to repeat the answer that I gave a week ago—that I recognise the need for a debate. Much consideration had to be given to that very important report, and I have undertaken to have a debate shortly after Easter.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

The Leader of the House will remember that I have asked before about the possibility of clarification of press speculation concerning the British-Irish parliamentary tier. The right hon. Gentleman was not able to help me on that occasion. Since then announcements have been made. Is the right hon. Gentleman in a position to give the House some data about the matter? Will it be in a position, for example, to summon Ministers before it?

Mr. Wakeham

There have been some discussions, and some progress has been made, on the setting up of a parliamentary body that would seek to encourage contacts between the Westminster Parliament and the Parliament in Dublin, and I welcome closer contacts on it. There is considerable work still to be done before final arrangements are achieved. Of course I will see to it that discussions take place through the usual channels with all parties in the House before any announcement is made.

Mr. Roger Moate (Faversham)

With regard to next week's debate on the proposal by the Community to impose heavier lorries on this country, can my right hon. Friend confirm that, in the Government's view, that matter is subject to the unanimity rule, and therefore is subject to a British veto? Does he agree that it is unsatisfactory that the House will be allowed simply to take note of that matter rather than express a view?

Mr. Wakeham

I agree that it is an important matter. I do not feel that it is appropriate at this time for me to go into the substance of the subject that the House will debate later next week, but my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport will take part in it, and no doubt he will be able to give my hon. Friend satisfactory answers to his questions.

Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse (Pontefract and Castleford)

Is the Leader of the House aware of the statement by Sir Robert Haslam on "Newsnight" last night, confirming a forecast made by myself and other hon. Members some time ago, that, arising out of the privatisation of electricity, he may find it necessary to close profitable pits? Is he also aware that, during this week, the closure of another two Yorkshire pits has been announced? Given that the average age of a miner is only 34, a man who will receive no weekly protection payments, and who is at present having great difficulty because of high mortgage interest rates, lives in fear of what may happen if he is thrown out of work. Will the Leader of the House arrange for an early debate to enable the Government to tell the House and miners what policies they have to provide alternative employment in mining communities which have already been savaged?

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise the hon. Gentleman's interest and concern in matters relating to mining. I suspect that many of the questions that he put to me are matters for the management of British Coal. Nevertheless, I shall refer his points to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy. I do not see an early opportunity for a debate on the coal industry, but we have debates from time to time, and I shall certainly bear in mind the hon. Gentleman's suggestions.

Sir Richard Body (Holland and Boston)

Further to the question concerning next week's debate on heavier lorries, is it not the case that the House will not be able to take a decision on that matter? Therefore, if the matter is out of our hands what is the point of having a debate?

Mr. Wakeham

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport wishes to hear the views of the House, and he will be reporting to the House. If I were to try not to have a debate, more of my right hon. and and hon. Friends might complain than the number of those who are welcoming the debate. On balance, I have probably done the right thing. If my hon. Friend does not wish to take part, I do not think that he need worry.

Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

Will the Leader of the House arrange for the appropriate Minister to make a statement next week on the way in which the Government have operated in the past decade the Croham directive of 1977 on the provision of Government background factual and analytical material in arriving at decisions? To assist the House, does the Leader of the House consider it appropriate for all background factual and analytical material and the briefings relating to the British Antarctic Survey, and the alleged discovery by the Prime Minister of the gap in the ozone layer, to be placed in the Library? Without that information, she will not be believed.

Mr. Wakeham

The last part of the hon. Gentleman's question is not worthy of him. On the more general point, this Government have been very forthcoming in giving background information on many matters that are for the House to decide. They have been rather better in doing so than their predecessors. I know that there are difficulties, and that a number of Select Committees seem to be pressing the Government to make available the advice that officials give to Ministers. The Government are right to say that such information should not be made public.

Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne)

Did my right hon. Friend really tell the House a few moments ago that we are to have a debate next Tuesday on the report of the Select Committee on Agriculture? Has he read that report? If he has, does he not think that, instead of having a debate next Tuesday, it would be better for the Select Committee to take its report away, rewrite it and get rid of all the muddled thinking and for us to have a debate on it after the revised report has been laid before the House?

Mr. Wakeham

The question whether we have a debate on the report is not primarily a matter for me. The Liaison Committee believed that the report should be discussed in relation to the Estimates day and I was happy to oblige. I have not read every word of the report, but I have read a number of parts of it. Perhaps my hon. Friend was referring to paragraph 101. If he was, I have some sympathy with his view.

Mr. Eric S. Hefter (Liverpool, Walton)

In view of the fact that I have asked the Leader of the House for many weeks about safety in the construction industry—I think that I gave him a rest in the past two weeks—and that he will have noted that the early-day motion tabled by myself and other hon. Members had more than 220 signatures from hon. Members of all parties, will he assure me that we shall have a debate on that subject before the Easter recess? We may not be able to do anything about heavy lorries, as was mentioned by the hon. Member for Holland with Boston (Sir R. Body), but we can do something about safety in the construction industry. Is it not time that we had a proper debate and took some action to improve safety for workers in that industry?

Mr. Wakeham

I share the hon. Gentleman's concern about safety, as do the Government. The Government have a record that stands up to good inspection, while the industry itself has a record that, although it is improving, is not as good as it should be. I wish that I could meet his request for a debate in Government time, but I cannot do so. However, the Consolidated Fund debate and the Easter Adjournment debate would present opportunities for him to raise matters of concern, and it would be proper for him to do so.

Mr. David Evans (Welwyn Hatfield)

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to early-day motion 494?

[That this House notes the statement of the honourable Member for Lewisham East, published in the Birmingham Evening Mail on Friday 17th February 1989, to the effect that he was present at the football match Millwall versus Newcastle when, he is reported as saying 'I was at the Millwall versus Newcastle game when the club rooms, the directors and their guests were attacked'; further notes that the Chairman of Millwall Football Club, supported by senior officers of the police who were present, has repeatedly made it clear that this was- a minor incident when two windows were cracked by visiting supporters who were under police escort at the time and that at no time were any directors of either club or their guests attacked or threatened, and that the Minister for Sport was unaware of this incident until his attention was drawn to it some time later; and, in these circumstances, has no hesitation in accepting the account of the Chairman of Millwall Football Club.]

It is headed: Comments of the Minister for Sport and is thoroughly misleading. The motion states that my hon. Friend said: I was at the Millwall versus Newcastle game when the club rooms, the directors and their guests were attacked. My hon. Friend actually said: In November, I was at the Millwall versus Newcastle game where the club rooms the directors and their guests were in were attacked. Those who tabled the early-day motion should be brought to the House and made to withdraw it or resign from the Opposition Front Bench.

Mr. Wakeham

I have many responsibilities but, thank goodness, having to vouch for the accuracy of early-day motions is not among them. My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I have copies of both the Birmingham Evening Mail and of early-day motion 494. Either the hon. Members who tabled the motion were incompetent in their copying of the newspaper article, or they were misleading. I leave it to my hon. Friend to judge which it was.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)

Is it not astonishing that the House has not been given an opportunity—and is apparently not to have the opportunity next week—to discuss issues arising from the publication of the book "The Satanic Verses"? As a committee of national British Muslim organisations first warned the Prime Minister last October of the grave offence caused by the book and the threat to public order posed by its publication, will the Leader of the House urge the Prime Minister to call upon the Foreign Secretary and the Home Secretary to see what fresh initiatives can be taken to defuse this dangerous and difficult situation? Will he also draw her attention to early-day motion 510, which some believe may offer the key to peace in this very difficult matter?

[That this House urges Salman Rushdie to instruct his publishers in the United Kingdom and overseas to stop producing more or new editions of The Satanic Verses; and believes such action would persuade Muslims in Britain and overseas to end their protests against the book thereby stopping more death, injury and disorder, compel Ayatollah Khomeini to withdraw his odious death threat against Mr. Rushdie and enable Mr. Rushdie to live in peace and safety.]

Mr. Wakeham

The hon. Gentleman is being grossly unfair. My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary came to the House and explained the position on all the events of the past weeks. We made it abundantly clear that death threats against our citizens are totally unacceptable and quite incompatible with any kind of normal relations. Britain has the fullest respect for Islam and for Moslem communities here and abroad, and we fully understand the deep offence that the content of the book has given to Moslems, but that does not justify the statements that were made, which we think are totally unacceptable. The Government have made themselves very clear on this matter, and I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman phrased his question as he did.

Mr. Robert McCrindle (Brentwood and Ongar)

Should we not have an early debate on the worrying and growing problem of personal debt? Among other things, we might focus on the seeming ease with which some people can gain access to credit cards and other forms of credit. Any citizens advice bureau will tell my right hon. Friend that the problem is growing throughout the country.

Mr. Wakeham

My hon. Friend, like me, represents part of the county of Essex, and I do not hear many of my constituents talking about the ease with which they get credit. Instead, I hear a number of complaints about the difficulty that they have in meeting interest charges on their existing borrowing. They all recognise, however, that this is a fundamental part of the process of controlling inflation. As my hon. Friend knows, there will be an opportunity after 14 March, extending to several days, to discuss such matters. It seems to me that his point would be highly relevant to the Budget debate.

Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West)

In view of the characteristically offensive response given to me by a junior Home Office Minister at Question Time in reply to my question about inadequate policing in Leicestershire, and as the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Latham) fairly said that this is not a matter of controversy between hon. Members on either side of the House who represent that county, may we please have a debate on the matter? The Minister of State, Home Office could then be called to account and would have to show some understanding of the concern of people who cannot go out at night without fear because there are not enough police men on the beat and because violent crime in our county has doubled since the Government came to power.

Mr. Wakeham

I was not present at Question Time and I therefore cannot accept the hon. and learned Gentleman's description of my hon. Friend's reply. I find my hon. Friend to be a most courteous and gentle person who usually gives good and clear answers. There is a solution available to the hon. and learned Gentleman. He could put in for a debate during our proceedings on the Consolidated Fund Bill. If it fell in the middle of the night, both the hon. and learned Gentleman and my hon. Friend would get their just deserts.

Mr. Michael Latham (Rutland and Melton)

Will my right hon. Friend arrange next week, or certainly before the beginning of April, for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science to explain to the House how the abolition of charging for expeditions during school hours will work? Is he aware that there is considerable concern in rural schools about those proposals which I have raised with Ministers, but I cannot pretend that I have received satisfactory replies?

Mr. Wakeham

I recall that my hon. Friend raised the matter with me during a recent Adjournment debate. As the Easter Adjournment debate is coming up fairly soon, I shall get in touch with my hon. Friend before then so that I do not have to answer him again on that subject, but I regret that I cannot promise him an early debate.

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

May I have a frank reply? Is the Leader of the House ever consulted by, or does he consult, members of the security services on matters relating to security? Before he replies, will he remember what happened during the Ronan Bennett affair? May I refer him to his reply to me last week? I am not prepared to answer questions on security."—[Official Report, 23 February 1989; Vol. 147, c. 1159.] May I have a frank reply?

Mr. Wakeham

I have a very frank reply. I have nothing to add to the answer that I gave last week, except to say that I have not the remotest idea how the hon. Gentleman's question relates to next week's business.

Mr. Kenneth Hind (Lancashire, West)

My right hon. Friend will be aware of the disinformation currently being circulated by the hon. Member for Peckham (Ms. Harman) about the White Paper, "Working for Patients". Will he give an undertaking that the House will have an early opportunity to debate the matter so that we can underline the fact that the Health Service will continue to be free, funded by taxation, and that my constituents will not have their hospital removed into the private sector, as the Opposition seem to suggest?

Mr. Wakeham

In regard to a debate, I have nothing to add to what I have said already. I do not know whether my hon. Friend refers to misinformation supplied by the hon. Lady before or after the White Paper was published.

Ms. Joyce Quin (Gateshead, East)

Has the Leader of the House seen early-day motion 256?

[That this House welcomes the opportunity to consider the Public Safety Information Bill, which comes up for its Second Reading on 24th February, and joins with the all-party group of honourable Members as well as such organisations as the British Safety Council, the Consumers' Association and the Scottish Consumers' Council, and also such local authorities as Slough Borough Council, Middlesbrough Borough Council, Harrogate District Council, Shrewsbury and Atcham Borough Council, Wansbeck District Council and Bedfordshire County Council, in supporting the Bill; and further calls upon the Government to support the Bill and assist it in its passage through the House, thus ensuring that the Bill becomes law.] It relates to public safety information and it has been signed by more than half the number of right hon. and hon. Members. Does he accept that such widespread support fully justifies an early debate on the subject? Does he further agree that the Government should respond to the majority wishes of hon. Members and support the proposed legislation as soon as possible?

Mr. Wakeham

The Government have seen the proposals in the Bill and Ministers have asked the Health and Safety Commission to examine the Bill and let us have its views on the ideas behind it. The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 provides a comprehensive framework for public safety and should not be altered without proper consideration.

Mr. Richard Holt (Langbaurgh)

My right hon. Friend will be aware of the rally taking place in the House today of war widows and hon. Members from both sides of the House who support them in their quest for proper and equable treatment by the Government. Is it not time that we had a full debate on the matter? If there is difficulty in finding speakers to occupy all the time allocated to the RAF debate next week, perhaps we could use the time to debate the situation of the war widows who, after 40 years or more in many cases, do not receive the same treatment as the widows and wives of those who were our enemies and are now our partners in Europe.

Mr. Wakeham

I cannot add to what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said on the substance of the matter. Whether my hon. Friend's views would be in order in the debate on the Royal Air Force next week is a matter not for me but for Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East)

The Leader of the House will be aware that within five days of the storm damage to the south of England on 16 October 1987, the Secretary of State for the Environment rushed to the Dispatch Box, at the first available opportunity after the recess, to say that the Bellwin scheme would assist local authorities. The Bellwin scheme allows county councils, after spending the penny rate, to get 75 per cent. grant assistance. It is 17 days since there was storm damage in Scotland. In an answer to me yesterday, the Secretary of State for Scotland said that it is too soon to decide whether the Bellwin scheme should be used for Scotland.

What is the difference between Scotland and the south of England? Has it anything to do with the coming poll tax legislation? There is to be a debate on Monday on the poll tax regulations. Is it right to say that the Bellwin scheme has not been worked out in terms of the poll tax?

Mr. Wakeham

I have no idea of the answer to that question, but I can find it out. However, the hon. Gentleman's suggestions do not sound plausible. It seems to me that it was fairly clear whether the Bellwin scheme applied. I have no reason to believe that the proper procedures have not been followed in this case as in the previous case.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

Will my right hon. Friend arrange a debate next week on the environment so that we may take note of the Government's latest views and examine the suggestions of the Opposition and their alleged keenness to preserve the environment? That is what they claim in their report, but in practice the Labour council in Ealing is determined to destroy 17 beautiful acres of children's playing fields at Cayton road, Greenford, surrounded by very fine trees, and to build on allotments and other nice, environmentally clean areas. Once more the House must take account of the Labour party's actions, which belie its words.

Mr. Wakeham

My hon. Friend raises an important matter which it is right that the House should discuss. My hon. Friend's best chance of discussing the matter is in the Easter Adjournment debate or in the debate on the Consolidated Fund.

Ms. Marjorie Mowlam (Redcar)

Will the Leader of the House find time in the near future to ask the Secretary of State for Social Services to explain to the House why there is many months' delay in the printing and delivery of leaflets explaining mobility and disability allowances? I am sure that he is aware that those leaflets have not been available in libraries in Cleveland for many weeks. I hope that the Secretary of State for Social services does not tell the House about the lack of take-up. If people do not know about those allowances, the Secretary of State's figures must be questionable.

Mr. Wakeham

I do not have at my fingertips details of why leaflets are not available in Cleveland. However, I shall certainly refer the matter to my right hon. Friend and get the hon. Lady an answer to her question.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

May I again draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day motion 498 on airline food and ask for an early debate on the matter? Is he aware that about 209 separate dishes were identified as having been contaminated with faecal remains and that eight Members of Parliament, of whom I am one, will be going to the United States next week? I am sure that he would not want eight by-elections on his hands. I am a very nervous passenger. It is bad enough having the thought that one 'will be hitting the ground without realising that one will be having the galloping runs at the same time.

Mr. Wakeham

This place would be poorer without the hon. Gentleman. I hope that he has a safe journey.

Sir Peter Emery (Honiton)

Although this may be the last question, I do not think that it is the least important. Will my right hon. Friend raise with the Secretary of State for Defence a problem faced by many people who served in the forces in Crete? An award granted by the Greek Government which was promised during the battle to the men who fought in it is being blocked by the British Government? Those men are extremely concerned, and it seems awfully petty that our Government should be willing to block the award. Will my right hon. Friend arrange for that matter to be dealt with next week and properly cleared up?

Mr. Wakeham

I cannot promise my hon. Friend a debate on the matter, and I cannot confirm the analysis that he gave it, but I will certainly see that my right hon. Friend knows of his concern and writes to him.

Mr. Ray Powell (Ogmore)

The Children Bill has now had its Third Reading in the other place. When can this House expect it?

Mr. Wakeham

I am pleased to hear the news from the hon. Gentleman. The Bill will come to this House fairly soon, and I will be arranging a debate. Obviously, I have to discuss the date through the usual channels. I have no fixed date in mind at the moment, but it will be fairly soon.