§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
§ That this House, at its rising on Thursday 26th July, do adjourn until Monday 15th October.—[Mr. Fallon.]6.29 pm
§ Mr. John Biffen (Shropshire, North)
I am happy to support the motion in the name of my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House. I am glad to have this opportunity to take the Chamber from the turbulence and controversy of the community charge in Wales to a more measured topic—the future of Fenns, Whixall and Bettisfield mosses. They are lowland raised bogs which many people, particularly the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), will know are ecological treasure stores and very much part of our environmental heritage.
The Nature Conservancy Council estimates that 84 per cent. of lowland raised bogs have disappeared since 1850 on account of either afforestation, agricultural reclamation or peat cutting. That underlines the importance of the mosses at Fenns, Whixall and Bettisfield which lie predominantly in the constituency of the hon. Member for Wrexham (Dr. Marek), although the Whixall moss area falls entirely within my constituency.
The hon. Member for Wrexham told me that he, like me, takes a great interest in the future management of the mosses. He hopes that a public purchase can be arranged and has written to the Welsh Office about it. He takes that view because, although the mosses are already sites of special scientific interest, covering almost 1,700 acres, by long tradition they have been subject to peat extraction in the context of established, unconditional planning permission. Against that background, anxiety about future developments has spread much further than the immediate locality.
Croxdens Horticulture Ltd., a subsiduary of the Lands Improvement group, has purchased the freehold of Whixall moss and the lease for Fenns moss. It is said that it has plans to expand peat extraction from 15,000 to 60,000 tonnes per annum, and many conservation organisations have made representations. I see that the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Grocott) is in his place on the Opposition Front Bench. I know that he, like me, has received letters on the subject, particularly from the Shropshire Wildlife Trust.
There is a case to be made for the continued working of the mosses. The question at issue is whether that can be done in a way that will secure and protect the environmental heritage. During the weekend I was visited by Mr. R. K. Davies of Whixall, who works on the mosses and is involved with, and an authority on, peat cutting. He assures me that, according to someone who is employed in the area, the present rate of extraction is not detrimental and is less than it was a generation ago. I recognise the integrity of those comments, but there is considerable anxiety about how the present working of the mosses can proceed.
Both Clwyd and Shropshire county councils feel that there should be a conservation management contract so that whoever works the mosses does so in a way that will preserve what is becoming a unique area of raised bog marshland. It is hardly surprising that the Nature Conservancy Council has become the focal point of environmental interest in the subject. It is currently talking 67 to Croxdens with a view to securing an agreement to enable the management of work on the mosses to be consistent with preserving the ecology.
I raise the subject on the Adjournment debate because it lends itself to a short but comprehensive presentation. There are clearly financial implications in any deal that might be done by the Nature Conservancy Council and the Department of the Environment. It is important that whatever deal is in prospect can be concluded during the Nature Conservancy Council's current financial year. I shall not press for more details. I merely ask my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House to convey to the Secretary of State for the Environment my anxiety, which is widely shared in the House, that adequate funds should be available to the Nature Conservancy Council so that the future of the mosses can be secured, not only for the ecological treasure that they represent, but to ensure realistic peat working that will provide continuing livelihood for a community which, for centuries, has lived off the mosses.
§ Mr. Merlyn Rees (Morley and Leeds, South)
Of course the House should adjourn, but I should like to raise a constituency matter that reached the newspaper headlines today and yesterday about an acid house party in my constituency at which 836 people were arrested. The basic responsibility for policing rests with the West Yorkshire police authority. I wish to raise the subject because during the recess there is every chance that there may be another such party in my constituency—or so I hear. There are other such parties in different parts of the country, and they pose a growing problem of law and order. I hope that in the next two or three months the Home Office will keep an eye on the problem and report back to the House on a number of questions that I shall put in my brief speech.
I shall describe the scale of what happened on Saturday night. About 836 people were arrested, making it about the third largest mass arrest since the 1960s, not just among acid house parties, but other street demonstrations that have taken place in the past 30 years. According to the "Guinness Book of Records", the greatest number of mass arrests was in 1961 when 1,314 demonstrators supporting unilateral nuclear disarmament were arrested in London for obstructing highways leading to Parliament square.
Saturday's incident involved £2,000 worth of drugs, including LSD, amphetamines and cannabis. I was told —we shall have to see what charges are eventually brought —that crack was also being used. The development of the use of crack at such parties is dangerous because we seem to be moving towards what is happening in the United States. Several police officers were injured, and three needed hospital treatment.
The police were good enough to keep me informed yesterday. They were alerted by a security guard at premises near Gelderd road, Gildersome. The warehouse where the party took place was only 200 yards from the M62. Everyone is talking about the value of the M62 in allowing free movement between Hull and Liverpool on the M6 and M1. What is happening—I should like to know more about this by the time we return from the recess—is that the M62 is being used by the parties' 68 organisers to move people swiftly from one part of the country to another. There were people in Gildersome on Saturday night from as far afield as Glasgow.
The police were alerted and prevented up to 1,000 other youngsters from attending the event, for which tickets were priced at £6. The building was raided after 5 am and arrests were made for conduct liable to cause a breach of the peace and suspicion of causing criminal damage. I have been advised that I should see the scale of the damage wrought that night. People were also charged with drugs offences. Those arrested were detained in about 30 police stations throughout west Yorkshire. There have been complaints by people who were arrested and those who were prevented from coming in that the police mishandled them. If so, there is a procedure to deal with that.
People living in College road in Gildersome were awake all night from 1.30 am to well after 6 am. It is a surburban area which you, Madam Deputy Speaker, know well because you were born and bred nearby. It is a good area, yet suddenly people arrived, there was noise all night, with car doors banging, and I imagine that local people were among those who contacted the police and caused the first investigations. We need to know more, because these parties will be held not only in Morley and Leeds, South —the fact that such a party was held in Morley could not be a bigger surprise—but in other places.
I have gone no deeper than researching newspapers, but we must find out who is behind the organisation of these parties. Who is clever enough to arrange a meeting at a service station on the M62? Who makes the announcements beforehand?
§ Mr. Rees
An article in, I think, The Independent says:It's an underground club network. The organisers tip off a couple of DJs on a Saturday night. There's no flyers"—in other words, no notices—
one car sounds its horn and sets off, and a huge convoy follows.I gather that these are held throughout the north of England. A pay party intelligence unit—I hope that the Leader of the House will contact the Home Office on this important point—based in Kent pools police information on illegal parties around the country and is aware of the scale of the problem. When Manchester police cracked down on the problem in Blackburn, parties sprang up in Merseyside and West Yorkshire. I am glad that West Yorkshire police are taking steps to deal with the problem, but when parties are squeezed out they go elsewhere. This problem must be dealt with nationally.
Where do the drugs come from? If crack is involved, what do the police know about it? I have no illusions: I strongly believe that soft drugs lead to hard drugs and when I was Home Secretary I made that abundantly clear. 69 There is a group of people who say that soft drugs like nicotine and so on are okay. In a sense, I understand that, but experience of the United States shows that soft drugs lead to hard drugs, and there are the first signs of crack being used here. Are the police fully aware of the new legislation that came into force on 13 July as a result of a private Member's Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Luton, South (Mr. Bright) and supported by the Government?
What about fire precautions? Fire precautions are taken in places of entertainment, but the places where these parties are held are broken into. How on earth they know where the electric points are, I do not know. These parties pose great hazards and it is my responsibility to use this debate to say on behalf of my constituents in Morley that they do not want this to happen again. We also want to know more about them, because they will be held in other parts of the country. It is a nasty development.
One sees in the newspapers comments such as "We were only setting out to enjoy ourselves." I say to them, "Enjoy yourself, and in ways that I would find difficult to accept," but these parties, which are occurring throughout the north of England, must be stopped. On behalf of my constituents, I want to ensure that it does not happen again in Morley and Leeds, South.
§ Sir Fergus Montgomery (Altrincham and Sale)
I initiated a debate on 23 May which highlighted the importance of the channel tunnel to north-west England. My hon. Friend the Minister for Public Transport made a helpful and useful speech. He promised to come up to the north-west and speak to interested parties about the importance of the channel tunnel to the north-west. I am glad to say that his offer was received with alacrity and that on 5 September he will be meeting members of the north-west channel tunnel group and other interested parties. We in the north-west are grateful for his interest, but I should like to take this opportunity to underline some of our concerns about the channel tunnel.
My right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House need not be told that the north-west is a great industrial area and that 70 per cent. of our overseas trade is with mainland Europe, which explains why we believe that the tunnel is of such importance to our region. We already know that the single market will come into effect in 1992 and that the channel tunnel will open in 1993. Hon. Members who represent north-west constituencies are anxious to ensure that the north-west is in the best possible position to take advantage of the enormous opportunities that will open up in the 1990s.
We desperately need improvements to our transport infrastructure. I have drawn attention to the overcrowded motorways and the time that it takes to get from London to the north-west. Those delays are caused not so much by accidents and roadworks, although there always seem to be roadworks on the M1 and M6, but by the sheer number of vehicles on the roads. Therefore, I should have thought that it makes much sense to move more traffic from the roads on to railways. The more freight that we can move from road to railways the less traffic we shall have on our roads; and the better the railway system, the more likely it is that freight will use it.
We in the north-west feel that we are the poor relations of the north-east in terms of rail links. I was born in the 70 north-east and lived on Tyneside for more than 30 years. In those days, I thought that it was a long journey by train from Newcastle to London and that the north-west did much better in getting its share of benefits, but times seem to have changed. Perhaps it is a jinx that as I have moved to the north-west the north-east is in the same position. The hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) is in the same position. We were both born in the north-east, but represent north-west constituencies. Perhaps he is as much of a jinx as I am.
Today, it takes the same time to travel by train from Preston to London as from Newcastle to London, yet the distance from Newcastle to London is considerably more. Therefore, is it any wonder that we feel that our rail links have been neglected and that we are anxious for that to be corrected? With better railway links to the north-west, we could look forward to greater prosperity.
As I am dealing with transport and the north-west, I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House would be disappointed if I did not mention Manchester airport. Since he became Leader of the House, whenever we have had one of these debates and he has heard my name called he has immediately put "Manchester airport" on the top of his writing pad. I keep mentioning it because it is the largest single employer in my constituency.
I am delighted to say that, on Friday 29 June, the bilateral agreement was signed providing two new route opportunities for United States airlines to serve Manchester airport. I am told that there are three other strong contenders—United airlines, which wants to fly from Washington to Manchester, Northwest Orient Airlines, which wants to fly from Detroit to Manchester, and Delta Airlines which wants to fly from Atlanta to Manchester. Interest has been shown by Continental Airlines, which would like to fly from Los Angeles to Manchester and Pan Am and American Airlines are interested in the New York to Manchester route. We must wait for the United States Department of Transport to decide which of the airlines should be given the necessary licence, and we hope that we shall have a start date next spring.
The other good news was that the temporary licence held by American Airlines has now been confirmed as a permanent fixture, covering flights between Chicago and Manchester. For years, I have advocated more transatlantic flights from Manchester airport. I could never understand why passengers from the north had to take the shuttle to Heathrow and get on an aeroplane at Heathrow to fly to various cities in the United States. This decision will mean that thousands of travellers from the north will be able to fly direct to the United States, which is a good thing. I am particularly delighted at this decision because, as the chairman of Manchester airport said at the time, it will bring more industry and jobs into the region and will help the growth of the airport as a business.
Amid all this euphoria, praise must be given to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport—[Interruption.] Hon. Gentlemen may cackle, but it is the truth. Authorities at Manchester airport, which is not controlled by the Conservative party, have said how grateful they are to my right hon. Friend for the part that he played in negotiations. He intervened directly and the fact that the negotiations were brought to a successful 71 conclusion was due in no small measure to his work. Ministers seem to get a lot of brickbats; it is rather nice if occasionally one can get a bouquet.
The other issue that I wish to raise is a very human one. At a recent advice bureau, I had visits from three constituents, all of whom were epileptics and were finding difficulty in getting employment. Epilepsy affects at least one in 200 people, and the majority of people with it are successfully employed in many different types of work. To have three people, each with a different case, come to see me independently, without collusion, on the same day, made me wonder whether enough is being done to help.
The main legislation for the employment of disabled people consists of the Disabled Persons (Employment) Acts 1944 and 1958. The aim was to assist people whose disabilities prevented them from obtaining employment suited to their skills. The Acts provided for the registration of disabled people and imposed a quota on employers with 20 or more workers to give employment to registered people up to a quota—a proportion of their total staff. I am told that in this country the quota is 3 per cent. In Germany, it is 6 per cent., in France it will be 6 per cent. and Italy is reorganising its 15 per cent. quota which has been found to be counter-productive, as firms know that it cannot be fulfilled. In other words, we are lagging behind our Community partners.
Our present system does not seem to be working properly, because the number on the disabled register has dropped so low. I am told that there are three reasons: first, the lack of apparent benefits in joining the register; secondly, the stigma that is often associated with being on the register; and, thirdly, the negative effects that it can have on a job application. For people with epilepsy, whose difficulty is in the main hidden, registering for this employment register through the disablement resettlement officer based at the local jobcentre has always been difficult.
The type, severity and number of epileptic attacks experienced by each individual can vary from no seizures at all—being fully controlled by anti-epileptic drugs—through to a number of seizures each day, with sudden loss of consciousness. It is not surprising that the former category would not wish to be registered as disabled while the latter, even if registered, would have a poor chance of getting employment. I am told that about 20,000 disabled people in the United Kingdom were found employment within the sheltered placement schemes, sheltered workshops and Remploy during 1989. All these employees are expected to produce work output of at least one third of that expected from a non-disabled worker in an equivalent job. All these worthy schemes were subsidised and paid for by the Treasury.
Are we doing enough to assist? It is distressing to see young people who desperately want to work and who, because they are epileptics, cannot get it. If it is distressing for people like me to witness, what must it be like for epileptics and their families? I hope that before the House rises for the summer recess, my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House will talk to the responsible Minister in the hope that we can get positive action to help in such cases.
§ Mrs. Ray Michie (Argyle and Bute)
I support the motion that the House should adjourn until 15 October, not just because I look forward to returning to Scotland, for obvious reasons, but because before the House rises we should pay attention to an important matter. It is a Scottish matter, and hon. Members may be surprised that I should raise it here when there are no other Scottish Members in the Chamber. That does not worry me, because I wish to persuade Members who represent constituencies south of the border.
During the coming months, members of the Scottish Constitutional Convention will continue to meet to conclude the first part of their work—to produce a scheme for establishing a Scottish Parliament and for establishing how Scotland should be governed. I hope that the final package will be presented to the full convention, which meets on 27 September.
The convention was set up in response to the "Claim of Right for Scotland" and at its first meeting agreed:We do hereby acknowledge the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of government best suited to their needs".Members of the convention comprise 58 of the 72 Scottish Members of Parliament; the rest come from all walks of life in Scotland. It is unfortunate that the Scottish National party and the Conservative party refuse to join this debate, although there are members from both parties in the convention who are not officially representing their parties.
There is no dispute about the fact that Scotland is a nation, although I am aware that some people in the House regard it as a region. Until 1707, Scotland was both a nation and a state. The state was wound up by a treaty; the nation was not conquered, but it did not freely agree to the Union of Parliaments, which took place without the consent of the Scottish people. All hon. Members know that Scotland has a strong sense of cultural identity. It has its own Church, legal system and education system, but no legislature and no Government. There was never any mechanism for enforcing respect for the terms of the treaty of Union and no method of veto on legislation contrary to the interests of its people. From that day to this, Scotland has sought to re-establish its right to govern itself.
As a Liberal Democrat whose party has a long-held commitment to home rule, I say that our demand is not based on expediency or an intermittent response to bad government from Westminster by any particular party at any particular time; rather, it is securely based on the key principle that it is the sovereign right of the Scottish people to self-determination—a right which is given to all countries and which is enshrined in the United Nations charter and in the international covenant on civil and political rights.
As a new Scottish Member of Parliament, I have been shocked at the way in which Scottish legislation has been dealt with in the House. Let me give a few examples. There is no Scottish Select Committee, and the Government refuse to set one up; yet the Scottish Office is a large spending Department which gets away with exercising no kind of scrutiny. There is the sham of the Scottish Grand Committee; the humiliation of debating the old Royal high school in Edinburgh and then being sent down to London to be outvoted by Members of Parliament here; the inability of all Scottish Members to be called at Scottish Question Time; the disgraceful shambles of the 73 Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Bill; the statement on Britoil made by the Minister of State, Department of Energy last Friday—obviously to avoid questioning by Scottish Members, most of whom had returned to their constituencies; and, of course the imposition of the poll tax a year earlier than in the rest of the United Kingdom, in direct and blatant contravention of the Act of Union.
We in Scotland do not believe in the doctrine of the sovereignty of Parliament, but rather in the sovereignty of the people. It is on that basis that the constitutional convention operates. So much double-talk emanates from the Government. They congratulate and support the eastern European countries as they seek freedom and self-determination; and, in a speech in the House on 5 July, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland—referring to the future government of that area—said:
It seems to me and my ministerial colleagues that we have a moral duty to seek to find ways of returning substantial responsibilities to politicains who are elected by the people of Northern Ireland and who will be accountable to them for their stewardship of Northern Ireland affairs."—[Official Report, 5 July 1990; Vol. 175, c. 1141–42.]Would that the Leader of the House and the Government considered it their moral duty to acknowledge the rights of the Scottish people to the re-establishment of their own Parliament, instead of sniping from the sidelines, both here and in Scotland—ably led, I am sad to say, by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth). Their threats imply, "You will be cut off without a penny if you dare to assert your rights," and we hear the nonsense that a Scottish Parliament would mean an increase in tax of 25p in the pound. Of course, the Government are careful never to reveal the contribution to the Exchequer made by Scotland.
Only the politics of a childlike mind would attempt the pathetic argument that a Scottish Parliament would tax its business community out of existence. Does that happen in similar countries such as Switzerland, Eire, Norway and Denmark—to name just a few? The Tory party should remember what it promised in the late 1960s and early 1970s and so coolly betrayed in 1979: that will not be forgotten.
The problems will not go away. I ask the Leader of the House not to be dismissive, but to listen to members of his own party. If he listened to his own Back Benchers—not the Scottish ones, but those from south of the border—I believe that he would be surprised to learn how many would like to see Scotland looking after its own affairs in a Parliament in Edinburgh. Some would want that for good democratic reasons; others, I admit, would like to see the back of us, regarding us as an irritation and a nuisance.
We are caught in a trap. Let me quote from "Claim of Right for Scotland", which puts it very clearly:
There is a profound hypocrisy in saying that the Scots should stand on their own feet while simultaneously denying them management of their own political affairs, and that denial is a clear deprivation of choice for Scots. Scots can stand on their own feet only by refusing to accept the constitution which denies them the power to do so.The constitutional convention seeks not to sever our political links with this place, but rather to challenge its legitimacy, bring about change and give Scotland hope for the future.
§ 7.4 pm
§ Mr. Terence Higgins (Worthing)
I am glad to have this traditional opportunity of raising a matter of constituency interest on the motion that the House should adjourn for the summer recess. If—as appears likely—my right hon. Friend's motion is passed, I hope that Ministers and officials will investigate closely the matters that I shall bring to the attention of the House.
A matter that has been of major controversy in Worthing for many years is whether there should be a Worthing bypass. Some 10 years ago, a preferred route was announced—it was in no sense a bypass, because it went through a substantial part of the town. Although some houses on the route were bought up, I am glad to say that, in the light of representations the scheme was dropped and the houses were sold. Subsequently, the proposal has reared its ugly head again and a similar route has been announced—despite the Government's declared objective that traffic should avoid towns, and despite the fact that every other town of any size along the south coast will have a bypass.
My constituents—rightly, I believe—have protested violently about the proposal.
§ Mr. Higgins
Only in the sense that people normally protest violently in Worthing: a petition with more than 24,000 signatures constitutes violence there. Indeed, a petition of 24,000 signatures would be seen anywhere as a weighty document. There have been many public meetings, some attended by more than 850 people, saying that the town should have a bypass and not a throughpass, which is what the preferred route is.
In the light of that—and the fact that the Government went ahead and announced a preferred route—strong representations were made, not only by me but by the borough council and my constituents. I welcome the fact that, as a result, Ministers agreed that a full traffic, environmental and economic assessment should be carried out of both the preferred route and a real bypass. None the less, I must express concern at the way in which the assessment are being carried out in practice.
I believe that public confidence in the impartiality of the inquiry is being seriously undermined. A study was originally carried out by Howard Humphreys, consultants to the Department, who recommended the preferred route through the town. The borough council, being strongly opposed to that route, employed its own consultants—W. S. Atkins—who drew attention to serious deficiencies in the analysis carried out by Howard Humphreys. Despite that, the preferred route was confirmed; but, in the light of representations, the Government established a further inquiry, under the management of Acer Consultants, to appraise both routes.
The county council and the regional office of the Department have never been in favour of a bypass, despite the Government policy that I have mentioned. It was therefore with astonishment that I discovered that the official who had apparently been much involved in the Department of Transport as the project manager—and who had therefore been instrumental in recommending the preferred route—had accepted the post of technical director with Acer Consultants, which is supposed to be carrying out the impartial survey. That is extraordinary.
75 One of the problems that I have experienced is the fact that Ministers keep changing. I have now made representations to no fewer than 15—perhaps even more—Ministers over 10 or 12 years. I understand that my hon. Friend the Member for South Ribble (Mr. Atkins) with whom I have recently been raising this matter, is now about to be removed from the Department of Transport to become Minister with responsibility for sport. Therefore, I will have to go over the whole story again. That is why it is appropriate to raise it now.
I raised this point with my hon. Friend the Member for South Ribble, who wrote back a carefully worded letter which said that the individual concerned, a Mr. Rix,has attended the initial meetings with local authorities in relation to the assessments. I can however confirm that he will not be Technical Director for this scheme and that he will have no further involvement in it.None the less, as I understand it, he is still employed by the consultants. The Minister does not deny the fact that he moved from the Department to the consultants in the roles that I have described.
This raises some serious questions for the Department of Transport and the Minister for the Civil Service. Did the Department know that the individual concerned was going to work for the consultants on the same issues? Did it know that when the consultants were appointed as the impartial advisers? What are the civil service rules on such matters and at which level was the decision taken to employ the consultants, either with or without this individual?
It is understandable that my constituents are concerned. One of the several action groups said:The knowledge of this information destroys any confidence this Committee has in believing that the new Consultants would be able to provide an unbiased assessment of the relative merits of alternative proposals.The Government must do something to reassure public opinion.
The related point that I wish to raise is that of compensation for blight of houses on the "preferred" route. I welcome the statements made by my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Transport and the Prime Minister that they are considering carefully what additional compensation arrangements can be made for people who are affected in this way. There are essentially two groups—those just off the preferred route and those on it.
For those who may be as little as 100 yards off the route, this is appalling. It is impossible for them to sell their houses at a reasonable price because of the uncertainty surrounding the scheme, which may eventually not go along the preferred route at all but may, as I hope, be a real bypass. Many of my constituents are frozen in that position. There is clearly a case for dealing with this. It may be that because of the present arrangements for compensation they will not even be able to put in a claim until 1997, and will therefore suffer tremendous hardship. There is no doubt that under the present arrangements for road schemes one's constituents, through no fault of their own, may be heavily penalised.
The other group are those actually on the preferred route. They may apply for purchase of the property under the blight provisions. Having said that, in a large number of cases the valuation placed on the property has not been satisfactory. I have taken them up with the Department of 76 Transport and my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary. There are serious problems. There are also problems for those who are on the preferred route, who could apply for a blight notice but have decided that they do not want to move because nothing may happen for several years. The problem that they face is only just emerging.
When the A27 issue first arose 10 years ago there was no great problem about this. Some houses were purchased and were rented out to people in the interim. The same is happening again. However, in contrast to the position 10 years ago, I am receiving serious complaints from people who have decided to stay put. They say that the tenants who are now arriving in the rented accommodation are, in many cases, harassing them and creating disturbances of one sort or another. Some of my constituents are convinced—I do not believe it, but it is possible—that there is a deliberate policy to do that. Reports in the local press say that the Department is saying, "You will have to move in the end anyway." That is not necessarily true. There may be a bypass which goes nowhere near the preferred route.
The way in which the property is being allocated gives cause for concern not only for the reasons that I have mentioned but for the financial implications. I do not have the latest figure, but a while ago I was told that already £6.5 million of taxpayers' money had been spent buying up the houses along the route. They are being rented out at rents way below what would normally be expected for such accommodation. Many of the houses are in the £120,000 or £150,000 range and they are being rented out at what appears to be an uneconomic rent. The Public Accounts Committee and the Government should be concerned about that. Apparently, some of the houses have been allocated to a North British housing association, but on what criteria it is not made clear. That association has, in turn, allocated some of them to the local authority. The overall picture gives real cause for concern.
Similarly, the traffic survey is being carried out by the consultants, Acer, and I understand on an agency basis by the West Sussex county council. That is not something about which my constituents are happy because West Sussex county council's view against the bypass has been clear at official level for many years. The survey seems to be deficient in a number of respects.
This is a serious matter affecting my constituents, and reassurance is very much needed. The alternative routes must be appraised on a sensible basis. The Department should look seriously at the problem. If affects not only the Department of Transport but the Civil Service Department and the Treasury. If we adjourn at the end of the week, as seems likely, I hope that the Minister now responsible will look into this matter and make rapid progress sorting out the problems I have mentioned.
§ Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, Small Heath)
I want to raise the case of the 240 English citizens who were disgracefully deported from Italy during the latter stages of the world cup. Most of them were perfectly innocent and many have written to me saying that they are lifelong Conservatives with unblemished records. I place much of the blame with the former Minister of Sport, who has now disappeared. I regret that he has gone, because he created such a mess and brought about such an abuse of civil liberties and, as the story unfolds, human rights, that he 77 should continue in office to clear it up. I regret that that is not the case. However, that does not stop me from saying a word of welcome to the new Minister for Sport, the hon. Member for South Ribble (Mr. Atkins). I hope that he enjoys his new post.
I am not sure what the new Minister's level is to be. I hope that he will be a Minister of State. I know that we have a new Minister for the Arts and it has been the Prime Minister and the Government's practice to make the Minister for the Arts senior to the Minister of Sport. That is reflected in the subventions that arts and sport receive.
I have received a letter from a Mrs. Hitchman who was on holiday in Italy. She said:Dear Mr. Howell,We have just spent the last few weeks being prodded by truncheons, continually buffeted, had property confiscated, ordered by police carrying machine guns on to buses (already packed) to destinations we didn't want. We witnessed a young man being kicked and punched by police for daring to ask the directions to a station ticket office. We watched a Swedish photographer shouting 'I'm not English,' but still getting hit by truncheons.In three sentences that illustrates the terrible abuse that occurred mainly as a result of the vainglorious rompings of the former Minister for Sport who went around Italy apparently urging the Italian authorities to believe that anyone from this country should be regarded as a potential criminal and a hooligan. That was a disgraceful abuse of his position. He did that because his Football Spectators Act 1989 has been a complete and utter failure.
In part II of that Act, which had the support of all sides of the House, the Minister promised that people with criminal records for hooliganism would not be allowed to go to Italy. We were also told that people who committed offences in Italy would be taken before the courts there, tried and banned from any future overseas activities. Neither of those things has happened and that is the cause of the former Minister for Sport's panic. His policy has totally failed.
What has happened is quite disgraceful. In Rimini on the night of 25 July there were racialist attacks by the Italian police on people simply because they were English. I could give many examples of what happened and I have details of 108 cases involving people who are going to appeal against their deportations. Hon. Members will be pleased to learn that I do not intend to quote from all the 108 appeals, but I could do so because they are graphic accounts of what happened.
I will give a brief summary of what happened. The Italy versus Uruguay match began at 9 pm on 25 July. Many English people were in Rimini and most of them were peacefully eating meals miles away from trouble. At 9 pm the manager of the Rose and Crown pub received a call from the police telling him that there would be trouble at his restaurant after the match. He did not convey that information to the people in the restaurant. He did not close his restaurant and his customers continued to eat or drink cheerfully and innocently.
Two hours later, at 11 pm, 300 or 400 Italian spectators arrived outside the pub celebrating Italy's victory. They bombarded the people inside the pub with missiles and stopped them from getting out. The Italian police arrived, but they did not arrest a single Italian supporter. Instead they fired tear gas at the English people in the restaurant. They then went on a mad round-up of anyone who was English.
78 In one of the letters to me I have details of five people who were having a meal in a restaurant five miles away from the trouble. The Italian police arrived and asked whether anyone present was English. Not knowing what was happening, those diners said that they were English and they were taken into custody for their own protection. They were made to sit on the floor for 18 hours, 12 hours of which were spent under the heat of the Italian sun, and they were offered only one cup of water and one stale bun. They were then deported. They were put on a plane and were not allowed to stand up while on board. They could not go to the toilet unless they were accompanied by one of the 30 Italian police who were on the plane. They were hit on the head with truncheons and were made to use the toilet with the door open in the full view of the other passengers. That is a degradation of human rights which it is the duty of this Government to tackle. However, the Government have done nothing about it.
I have spent some time analysing where the 230 people concerned were. As I have said, 108 of them have written to me. I have found that 11 of my correspondents were in the Rose and Crown where there was some trouble, although everybody has told me that it was not started by English people. Nine people were in the Talk of the Town three miles from Rimini where they were arrested. Eight were in the Lord Nelson pub two miles away and 10 were in other restaurants. Two of the people involved were in their own hotel and having supper when they were taken by the police. One was walking along the sea front and two others were three miles from Rimini. Six people have told me that they were walking alone. Two people were taken off a tram which was stopped by police who were looking for English people and two were taken off a bus. I must bring those cases to the attention of the House. That is an absolute scandal and we need to know what is going to happen as a result of that outrage.
The 230 people involved were refused access to the British consul. They were hit on the head when they tried to stand up. After sitting for 18 hours they wanted to stand to stretch their legs, but they were forbidden to do so. That is an appalling story.
It is extraordinary that all those 230 people have been served with the same deportation order which states about all those people, whether they were on buses or trams or three miles away in another restaurant or elsewhere:after consuming alcoholic drinks in some pubs along the seaside in Rimini, went out in the streets vandalising the town centre, clearly behaving in a way totally incompatible with the situation of the Adriatic Riviera already crowded with numerous groups of Tourists.For the overwhelming majority of those who were deported, that deportation order is an absolute lie.
As other hon. Members want to speak, I will be as brief as I can. I have invited those 108 people to come to the House tomorrow and there will be a meeting at 4 pm in the Grand Committee Room to which I invite Ministers. Ministers have written to me and have refused to believe what those innocent people have said. However, they have not met one of them, they have not written to one of them, interviewed one of them or answered letters from them. The 108 people concerned have written to their hon. Members, including many Conservative Members and to Ministers, but Ministers have abdicated their responsibilities.
We were first told that the people concerned could not return to Italy until after the world cup. We now find that 79 the situation is much more serious. Those people are banned for life from returning to Italy. Italian lawyers have now told us that unless they appeal by Wednesday, 30 days after they were deported, criminal charges will follow. The appeal procedure will cost them at least £150 each. I am grateful to our solicitors, and in particular to Mr. Peter Jackson of Hill, Dickinson, Davis and Cambell of Liverpool, who is co-ordinating the activities of a large number of solicitors to help all those people who want to appeal.
If those people appeal, they must by Wednesday have their appeal forms, which can only be issued in Italy, endorsed by a notary in public, who is difficult to find although we will have one available tomorrow in the Grand Committee Room. They must then go to the Foreign Office which must, under some procedure for which it is charging those people £8 each—which is a scandal into which I hope the new Minister for Sport will look—endorse the forms before submitting them to Italy, and after that the solicitor must rush the forms around on Wednesday morning and lodge them with the Italian embassy. That is the appeals procedure which those people who are completely innocent of the charges must endure.
In the face of all that, what has been the attitude of Ministers? When the former Minister for Sport was in Italy—and I was there as well—he did not meet a single football fan. He did not go to the headquarters of the Football Supporters Association, although it was trying to provide helpful advice. He did not go to the Football Association office. That was a disgraceful dereliction of duty.
Many of the people who were deported had paid £10 to join the England Football Association's supporters club. They could have used their membership cards, which the Minister said would be regarded as tokens of good order. They were totally disregarded. The Minister did nothing about ensuring that the arrangements, which he himself set up with the Football Association, were honoured in Italy. On their return, that wretched Minister promptly proceeded to libel those people. He said that they were criminally motivated.
§ Mr. Howell
I shall refer to that matter in a minute. As the Minister said that outside the House, it is actionable. One of the reasons I am sorry that he is not still in office is that I should like to see him, as the Minister with responsibility for sport, receiving a record number of writs for libel, which I hope will be the case when many of those people consult their libel lawyers. In the House, after the event, he praised the Italian police without finding out anything about the way in which the operation had been conducted, and he described those British citizens as the effluent tendency. That was a contemptible comment by somebody who made no effort whatever to talk to any of those people.
What about the attitude of the Home Office? On arrival at Gatwick, all those people were photographed. I want hon. Members, in particular my right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees), a former Home Secretary, to note that that is a new development. Those people were not photographed in an ordinary way. They were asked, for example, "Are you 80 Jack Jones?" They said, "Yes." A door was then opened, a photograph was taken, and the door was then closed. Some did not even know that they had been photographed.
Who authorised photographs of those innocent people who had not been charged with a single offence and were deported without charge? The answer is that they were photographed at the request of the national football intelligence police unit. That is a development. We now have a national football intelligence police unit, which apparently authorises photography. When I have asked what the protection is, I have been told that it is contained in the Data Protection Act 1988. That is quite disgraceful.
The football intelligence unit did some good work. A very small number of people were causing trouble. As I said, they should never have been there in the first place, and should have been got rid of. Opposition Members do not support for one minute people who behave like hooligans or who are violent. They should be dealt with, not least for the protection of innocent people on whose behalf I speak today.
On transport, who can control the unlawful, non-humanitarian attitude of the Italian police on planes in British airspace? I am told that, under the Tokyo convention, the carrier has the duty to take action. After serious breaches of human rights? Are we to say that the Italian police who breached human rights will not receive any protest from the Home Office or from the Foreign Office and that there is no protection for a British citizen in such circumstances? That is an absolute scandal. I hope that the Minister will tell his colleagues—I know that he is not responsible—that we expect better than that.
Trying to keep my speech within manageable proportions, I now refer to the Foreign Office. I went to see the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. I did not get a good reception. Frankly, I think that he was overwhelmed by my story, and he did what Ministers often do, which, in the circumstances, is to back up their friends in total ignorance. I expected better from him. His reply stated:There was extensive fighting in the town and risk to life and property was great.That is not so, although there was some fighting. He went on:In the circumstances I accept they had no option"—the Italian police, that is—but to act quickly to restore order.Does the Minister say that a foreign Government should take action against British citizens and not against Italian citizens? That is not the standard that we expect from the Foreign Office.
The Minister went on to make the incredible statement thatit was perhaps inevitable that the conditions of detention in which the England football supporters were held should have been uncomfortable.Uncomfortable? They were not allowed to stand up for 18 hours, were given one glass of water and were hit on the head with truncheons when they stretched their legs or wanted to go to the toilet. That is disgraceful and it totally undermines the rights of innocent citizens.
The Minister went on:consular access is only granted after criminal charges have been brought".In that incident in Rimini no such charges were brought. Hundreds of British citizens were degraded. If they are not to be charged with anything, they get no right of access, 81 contrary to the Minister's specific promise. The British ambassador and the consul did a good job. I do not criticise them. I met them, and they were working hard in Italy, but they did not see any of those people. Did they know what was going on? If so, why did they take no action? Why did they allow innocent citizens to be treated in that way?
It is a degrading and disgraceful story, and no British Minister comes out with any credit. It is my duty to raise the matter on behalf of those citizens who come from all over the country—from Colwyn Bay to Kent and from Bristol to the north-east. Those 108 letters come from every part of the country. I hope that I have effectively lodged their protest, but, more important, I hope that the Government, the new Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Home Secretary will read my remarks and the 108 accounts, which are available if they want to conduct a proper inquiry and if they want to interview those concerned or send officials to interview those concerned tomorrow.
I hope that a major protest will be made by the Foreign Secretary to the Italian Government about the considerable abuse they made of their powers simply because people were English. I hope that hon. Members, whatever their views about football, the World cup or hooliganism, will agree that every Englishman has the right to be declared innocent until proven guilty in court and that he has the right to speak in his own defence. That was denied in these incidents.
§ Sir Geoffrey Finsberg (Hampstead and Highgate)
When I went on the bench about 30 years ago, I was told that one should hear both sides of a case before jumping to a conclusion. Hon. Members have heard about 108 letters. Many defendants appeared in front of me and protested their innocence. When we found the cases proved and discovered that there were previous convictions, it made us realise that we should not jump to conclusions too quickly. The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) made his case, but one should not condemn anybody until one has heard both sides of the case. In the absence of my hon. Friend who is now Under-Secretary of State for Energy, it is right that I should make that point. I do not deny anything that the right hon. Gentleman said; I merely say that we have so far heard only one side of the story.
§ Mr. Denis Howell
As someone who respects conventions, I naturally took the opportunity early today to inform the Foreign Office, the Home Office and the Minister with responsibility for sport that I would be making my speech. I hoped that the appropriate Ministers would be present. Like the hon. Gentleman, I regret that they are not here today to say anything in their defence.
§ Sir Geoffrey Finsberg
Of course, I would not expect the right hon. Gentleman to do otherwise. He is a great observer of conventions.
I wish briefly to raise three points. I shall get the controversial one over with first. I am sick and tired of Labour councils that use ratepayers' money to fight the Government in the courts. Community charge capping is the latest and, according to the media, the most expensive of such cases. It is easy for people such as Margaret Hodge 82 to fight the Government in the courts and posture on television, but I doubt whether she and her associates would be so willing to use their own money.
Before the House rises, I hope that the Government will take action on what I regard as a scandal. My suggestion is quite simple: if a council wants to fight Government legislation in the courts it should be bound to refer the issue to the Bar Council or to a special section of the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for an opinion. If the view is that the issue is purely political or stands little chance of success, and if that council still goes ahead with that case and loses, the cost should fall on the councillors who voted to go to court. If the opinion is that there is a case and the case still fails, the cost will fall on the council's budget.
I spent 25 years in local government and at that time it was a great rarity for councils, whether Labour or Conservative, to go to the courts. It is now all too common and it is monstrous for the innocent ratepayer or community charge payer to finance such actions. I hope that the Government will take some action.
§ Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland)
I know that the hon. Gentleman thinks a lot about local government, as I do, but it is interesting that the frequency with which the courts are asked to adjudicate on Government policy has increased in the past decade. Successive Secretaries of State for the Environment in particular have regarded their Acts of Parliament as justiciable and provided within them the opportunities for councils to challenge their decisions in the courts. As councils have their own law officers, solicitors and legal advisers, who do not give advice on party political grounds, it is preposterous to suggest that some external body should have the right to determine whether a council should go to law to protect the interests of its ratepayers.
§ Dr. Cunningham
I note that the hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but when the Department of the Environment was under the stewardship of the former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), on several occasions the courts found that he had acted unlawfully.
§ Sir Geoffrey Finsberg
If independent legal opinion told a council that it should go to court, that would be all right. However, the hon. Gentleman must not live in a false world. When he and his father, for whom I had great respect, were in local government, the officials appointed by councils were appointed on ability, not because they were supporters of a particular political party. The hon. Gentleman is well aware that the overwhelming proportion of appointments made today are based on the understanding that many of those officers are parti pris. I object to that and for that reason I do not withdraw anything I said. I believe that my proposal is the fair way in which to proceed and I believe that the ratepayers and community charge payers would welcome it.
Leaving aside such controversial issues, I welcome what the Government and members of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe have done in saying that there needs to be a democratic parliamentary input in the affairs of CSCE. In a firm communiqu? they said that it should be based on the Council of Europe. I shall not 83 develop that argument further because at some unearthly hour tomorrow morning my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Atkinson), who is a member of the delegation I have the honour to lead, will raise the specific issue of the Council of Europe. Does my right hon. and learned Friend believe that there is a way in which that political input could be extended to the first basket of CSCE—the defence basket?
My right hon. and learned Friend will be aware that the only organisation empowered by treaty in Europe to deal with defence is the Western European Union. The Council of Europe and the European Parliament are not so permitted. However, the growing interest of the Soviet Union in the WEU means that the element lacking in WEU and CSCE—parliamentary oversight—could be fulfilled by finding a way in which to associate the non-WEU/CSCE countries with WEU at a special assembly. After all, that is what is being suggested for the Council of Europe and I merely put to my right hon. and learned Friend that that is something worth considering.
The final topic I want to raise is a House of Commons matter. The House has changed enormously in the 20 years in which I have been a Member. More and more hon. Members work here full time and do not regard the summer recess as an opportunity to get away to their constituencies to do no work. Those of us who must be in London and in this building are surely entitled not to receive second-rate services while the House is in recess. I tabled a written question to my right hon. and learned Friend to ask him what reductions would be made to the services and facilities available to hon. Members during the summer recess in the various buildings of the House.
I received a partial answer today about the cafeterias and the dining rooms, which I accept. The answer concluded, however, by saying:Certain other minor services and facilities, usually available to hon. Members when the House is in session, will not be available for practical or economic reasons.That is not good enough. I have tabled a further question to my right hon. and learned Friend to discover what are those practical and economic reasons and the minor services and facilities. Those of us who work here want those "minor services and facilities" if we have to do a proper job of work.
For a Minister it is easy, as all the services remain and one has the advantage of one's office—matters proceed whether the House is in recess or not. For other hon. Members, however, it is not good enough to find that the tape machine is suddenly turned off at midday with the effect that one does not know the balance of payments or the trade figures. One is also entitled to expect to go into the toilets and to find face towels, but all those disappear the moment the House goes into recess.
Those of us who are in the outbuildings suddenly find that the Evening Standard disappears. I should inform my right hon. and learned Friend that I have got that newspaper back by getting seven colleagues in Norman Shaw to co-sign a letter to say that we wanted that service. It should not have been necessary to write that letter.
I know that my right hon. and learned Friend has an open mind on this, as he has done an enormous amount for the House since he became Leader. There is only one other person who performed even greater services—the late Sir Robin Cooke, without whom much would never 84 have happened in this place. My right hon. and learned Friend has an opportunity to see that those of us who have to be here to work are not deprived of any services.
I do not want to say any more because there are many hon. Members who wish to participate. I appeal to my hon. and learned Friend to take some action. I hope that he will not say "Well, we have never had those services before. They are always reduced in the recess." Times have changed and until the new buildings are complete and new facilities are offered, the House should not reduce the services normally available to hon. Members.
§ Mr. John P. Smith (Vale of Glamorgan)
I am grateful for this opportunity to draw to the attention of the House an urgent matter that must be considered before we adjourn—the future of the Lome protocol after the creation of the single European market in 1992. Any discontinuation of that protocol will have a serious effect on British trade in general, but especially on the fruit trade, which greatly concerns my constituency.
I am sure that the House will be aware that the British eat 300,000 tonnes of bananas every year. Everybody is familiar with that figure. Hon. Members may not be so familiar with the fact that more than 70 per cent. of the bananas imported into this country come through the port of Barry in my constituency and that they come from former British colonies in the Windward islands—St. Lucia, Dominica, Grenada and St. Vincent. If the trading relationship that we currently enjoy with those countries, which automatically receive licences to import their primary product—the banana—into Britain, is discontinued, that will have a devasting effect on those former colonies. It will certainly have a devastating effect on the port of Barry, which depends on the banana as its largest single source of trade, and on major British companies —in particular, Geest, which has a long-standing relationship with my constituency and the port of Barry.
With the advent of the single European market, we shall be faced with the prospect of a single tariff for imports across all the member countries. That means that the 40,000 banana growers in the Windward islands will have to compete on a one-to-one basis with the dollar fruit producers in central and southern America. That is out of the question, because the banana plantations in central and southern America are on gigantic flat plains and not on hillsides and because they are controlled by large corporations, which pay what are virtually slave wages to their producers.
Those central and southern American countries already account for 50 per cent. of banana imports into the EEC, with 30 per cent. of imported bananas being domestically grown and just 20 per cent. coming from the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. I am deeply concerned about that 20 per cent. The House should share my concern. We should find time to discuss the matter seriously and consider the effect that our going along with such a change will have on our own industry and trade and on the economies and future of our former colonies in the Windward islands.
At present, Geest has an arrangement with the islands —the Windban agreement—it is a very democratic procedure allowing all the growers to come together and negotiate a price for their produce. The price is a realistic price, although I must say that it is also a protected price 85 because they are negotiating for a protected market. Geest agrees not only to accept the countries' produce but to provide a service to the islands in terms of exports from Britain, which also go from Barry docks, and trade between the islands. The Geest company provides not only an economic link but a vital social and communications link between the islands which could be lost if the banana protocol is discontinued after 1992.
In 1987, the Prime Minister promised that she would fight hard—I think that those were her exact words—to maintain our long and historic trading relationship with our colonies. I am concerned about the murmurings that are coming from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to the effect that licences will be available for banana imports only at an unrealistically low level. That would scupper the chances of growers in the Windward islands and the rest of the Caribbean competing with the big dollar fruit producers in central and south America. There is no question about it: if we lose that trading relationship, the European and British markets will be swamped by dollar bananas and that will have a devastating effect on some of our major companies and on the port of Barry.
It is interesting to note that other countries have already taken steps. The French and Portuguese, for example, have moved to ensure that their existing trading relationships are protected after 1992. We should act now, before it is too late. We should take similar steps to ensure that our trading relationship is protected.
I do not believe that we can allow the present arrangements to continue indefinitely, but we certainly cannot allow them to change over night because of the dramatic effect that that would have. The economies of the Windward islands would be devastated. St. Vincent, for example, exports 70 per cent. of its bananas to Britain and the banana is that country's largest single source of wealth. If it loses the British market, its future will look bleak indeed.
Since the abolition of the dock labour scheme last year, the Barry dockers have formed a successful co-operative—Barry Stevedores Ltd. They, too, depend entirely on the banana trade for their livelihood and futures. I am sure that right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House could cite ports in their constituencies which depend on trade with ACP countries. It is incumbent upon us to ensure that we do whatever we can. It is not simply a question of a moral obligation to our former colonies. Let us be clear about this: Britain and the EEC have encouraged the Windward and other Caribbean islands to invest in their infrastructure to support the growing of a single primary product—in this case banana. We have encouraged that activity, and we have neither encouraged nor allowed diversification into other products.
What do I think the long-term solution is? I support the principle of an open market in which we can compete freely, as long as that open market works and as long as it serves those who live in its area and those to whom we have an obligation. It would be outrageous if we ended the agreement overnight. The House should be considering a staged withdrawal from the agreement in the medium term, to allow those countries to diversify so that they do not depend wholly on one product and also to allow ports such as the port of Barry to find alternative sources of trade.
This is an important matter which has general overseas development implications. I hope that the House will consider carefully what I have said. We should take every 86 opportunity to raise the matter before it is too late. We should do what our European counterparts are doing, which is to protect their industry and society as well as meeting the historic and moral obligations that they have to their former colonies, on which they depended for so much wealth for so long.
§ Mr. Michael Jopling (Westmorland and Lonsdale)
I shall not follow the hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Mr. Smith), except to say that his speech brought back memories of responsibilities that I held some years ago.
I wish to draw to the attention of the House a matter that is causing considerable difficulties in my constituency and in the county of Cumbria. I am glad to see that my friend—although not in the parliamentary sense—the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) is in the House; my heart nearly stopped when he went out a few moments ago, since I would prefer to have him here to listen to what I am going to say.
There are growing difficulties with education in Cumbria. When the House resumes on 15 October, the schools will be back and more time will have passed, and we shall not have had the opportunity to debate problems which cause much anxiety to me and to others. I hope that we shall have a ministerial statement before we go away about the serious problems that many school governors in Cumbria are facing with their budgets under the introduction of local management of schools.
Many governors have extreme difficulty making their budgets balance, and the difficulties are caused almost entirely by the arrangements made by Cumbria county council for the allocation of total education budgets to schools under the LMS formula. Total spending on LMS in Cumbria for next year is intended to be a little more than £148.5 million. Of that, it is proposed that slightly over £93 million should go to schools for LMS. On the face of it, that might seem a great deal of money, but the percentage of the total education budget to be distributed to schools has recently been lifted from a little over 61 per cent. to 62.6 per cent. So, with great difficulty, we have forced Cumbria county council to increase the allocation by a little more than 1.3 per cent. My efforts and those of some Conservative councillors have been crucial in increasing the proportion of the distribution, but it is still woefully inadequate.
The percentage allocation—62.6 per cent.—is significantly the meanest distribution of any English shire county. It is disgraceful that Cumbria should be in that position. On figures provided by the Department of Education and Science back in February, it is clear that the crude average distribution in English shire counties amounts to almost 69 per cent., which means that Cumbria's shortfall is a little more than six percentage points. That is where the difficulty arises.
These same Government figures show that 12 English shire counties have been able to distribute more than 70 per cent. of their education budgets to schools for local management of schools. East Sussex, for instance, can allocate almost 75 per cent. of its budget for that purpose. So Cumbria is far and away the meanest county when measured by this distribution. It is even far below the second meanest, Cambridgeshire, which has a distribution of 64.13 per cent.
§ Mr. Jopling
Perhaps my figures are a little out of date; if my hon. Friend has another one I should be grateful to hear it.
§ Mr. Jopling
That surprises me, but it means that our positions at the bottom of the table have been reversed. It seems that my statement that Cumbria is the meanest of all the shire counties is out of date: it is the second meanest. However, it is still about 6 percentage points below the crude average for the country.
My previous figures for Cambridgeshire's distribution clearly show what the problem means in practical terms. Representatives of a school in my constituency wrote to me some time ago explaining the problems that it is having in balancing its budget. The letter said that the school was £29,000 short, and I discovered, using Cambridgeshire's old figure of 64.13 per cent., that even if Cumbria had brought itself up to that miserable level—to share first place as the meanest county in the country—the school in question, Kirkbie Kendal, would have had another £36,000, which would have gone a long way to solving its difficulty and which would certainly have covered the immediate deficit of £29,000.
I am very worried about this as, I am sure, is my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Paice). No doubt his school governors face the same problems as do mine—in our case because of the behaviour of the Labour and Liberal councillors who control the county council.
The principal reason for the problem was discovered recently by the Audit Commission. At my request, it examined Cumbria's expenditure for education administration and inspection. A letter dated 26 April from the Audit Commission gave me the figures for comparing Cumbria county council and a family of similar authorities in rural constituencies such as mine:Thus Cumbria spends some £2 million more on these activities than it would if it spent the same as other counties in its family group, per head of population.Actually, the figure should have been £2.1 million. The letter goes on to make the point that Cumbria has 8 per cent. more school pupils per head of population than the average and that its total education budget is also higher than average.
The letter ends thus:So if we look at these same costs as a percentage of the total education budget, the difference does not appear quite so marked.The cost using that other method is just under £1.2 million. The conclusion is clear. Compared with the average for similar counties throughout England, Cumbria's education, administration and inspection costs between £1.2 million and £2 million more. That is a manifestation of the ineptitude of the administration and the councillors who control Cumbria county council. That is one of the reasons for there being no money for the schools.
If Cumbria could bring itself to spend the same as the average of similar counties on administration and inspection, a huge amount of extra money could be spent on schools that are finding great difficulty meeting their 88 budgets. This is a serious matter. The schools will be back when the House reconvenes and it is important to air the issue now before the House rises on Thursday. I am not opposed to our rising on Thursday, but before we do I hope that the Minister will be able to say whether he can take some steps to ensure that school governors in Cumbria get a fair deal. They are certainly not getting one now.
§ Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)
The issue that I am about to raise should be debated before the recess. It is about the plan for hospitals in Birmingham. This debate is timely because tomorrow West Midlands regional health authority will meet to approve a plan called "Building a Healthy Birmingham" and that plan will be sent to Ministers. The document was drawn up after much local argument and two attempts at consultation. The result of the regional health authority's operation is a fiasco. It has ignored all opposition to its proposals, although that is not to say that all its proposals were opposed.
The right hon. Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) spoke about a petition of 24,000 signatures and said that ignoring it amounted to violence. West Midlands regional health authority has ignored a petition opposing the plan to close the city centre Birmingham general hospital and that petition contains the signatures of no fewer than 250,000 people. That flies in the face of the wishes of Birmingham people. All those signatures are almost meaningless to the regional health authority.
There is no change in the health authority's plan that people will have to wait until 2002 for the new children's hospital. There has been a massive demand to bring forward that new hospital at the expense of other changes. People have said that the closure and demolition of the general hospital and the building of its proposed replacement should be set aside until the children's hospital has been built. However, the health authority has said no and pursues its plan willy-nilly.
All the community health councils have been ignored and are asking why the regional health authority even bothered to consult because consultation has proved meaningless. The much-loved Sorrento maternity hospital, which delivers 200 babies a month, is doomed and that is against the wishes of local people who wish to use that fairly small local maternity hospital. However, the desire is for massive hospitals, baby factories, which do not have locally based community services such as those in Sorrento hospital.
§ Mr. Rooker
I shall make one other point and then gladly give way to my right hon. Friend.
The regional health authority has ignored the most genuine local newspaper campaign that I can recall during my service in the House. The Birmingham Evening Mail, which is not a supporter of the Labour party, saw the flaws in the regional health authority's plans from day one. The people of Birmingham responded massively to support the campaign run by that newspaper which cut right across the health authority's plans. Those plans mean that the centre of Birmingham, Britain's second city, which has massive infrastructure and new development, will be devoid of major hospital facilities. The Birmingham Evening Mail 89 saw that and the people responded, but again the unprecedented response was ignored. The free Daily News, which supports the regional health authority, was the vehicle in May for an eight-page regional health authority supplement—and it was not even stated that it was an advertisement.
Most Birmingham Members oppose the planned package. The proposal that will go to the Secretary of State after tomorrow's meeting of the health authority hardly mentions the scale of the opposition from community health councils, Members of Parliament, the newspapers, the city council, and the social services committee or the 250,000-signature petition. Those things are not even referred to. For those reasons the issue should be debated. Right at the beginning of the recess the Secretary of State will get that document on his desk. Now that I have concluded that point I shall gladly give way to my right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Denis Howell
My hon. Friend concluded his point most emphatically. I support what he said about Sorrento hospital, of which I have personal experience. Within the last three weeks a grandson of mine was born in that hospital. Immediately following the birth and before the afterbirth could be dealt with, procedures had to be interrupted because an emergency case was brought from another major hospital which did not have the room to carry out a caesarean section. That had an unfortunate result for my daughter-in-law, and it proves conclusively that Birmingham is still ill-equipped with wards and facilities to deal with the present case load, never mind closing maternity hospitals.
§ Mr. Rooker
My right hon. Friend's telling point reinforces what I said about Sorrento hospital.
Birmingham does not want overdeveloped mega-site hospitals with difficulty of access. It is ludicrous for the chairman of the regional health authority to say that no one will be more than five miles away from the hospital. He is looking at straight line distances and should realise that people do not have personal helicopters. The plan takes no account of the difficulties of access for public transport and the road network. That is especially true of the overdevelopment of the site of the Queen Elizabeth hospital.
As I have said, the city council opposes the plan, and the social services department, which some years ago reorganised its structure so that it was based upon the health authority structure, thus enabling them to work conterminously, has never been consulted about any of these proposals. The health authority is barmy in the way it has gone ahead. The plan has been described as dictatorial and manipulative and the community health councils are demanding apologies. The plans have been headlined as a kick in the teeth and the way that the matter has been handled from start to finish is appalling.
I shall conclude with two issues, one of which is slightly contentious from a party political point of view. However, it shows the state of affairs in the conduct of public administration. On, I think, Friday, the West Midlands regional health authority put out a four-page press release naming the new regional health authority members in the reconstituted system. It stated:The Secretary of State for Health has announced the names of the five non-executive directors of the reconstituted West Midlands Regional Health Authority.90 The press release named the five and gave biographical details and some record of their public life. They, along with the re-appointed chairman, Sir James Ackers, would appoint the five executive directors. Why is it thought necessary after 11 years of Conservative government with overwhelming majorities to point out that one of the five executive directors is a member of the Labour party? There is no mention whatever of the political affiliation of the other four. I conclude that Sonia Beesley, Tim Morris, Professor Michael Thompson and Michael Worley must be members of the Conservative party. One can draw no other conclusion.
It is a thundering disgrace that one member was singled out. I do not criticise the background and record of any of the other four, but what is the relevance of the fact that one director is a member of the Labour party? It is offensive to me that such things are said. The way in which the matter was handled was an absolute disgrace from start to finish.
I say to the Leader of the House and through him to the Government and the Secretary of State that if the Secretary of State accepts the plan that is due to be rubber-stamped tomorrow, almost in the last days of the regional health authority, the closure of the general hospital and the delay until the next century in building the new children's hospital will become a key ingredient in the general election in Birmingham. We shall make it so. Some Conservatives will make it so.
There is enormous opposition to the closure of the general hospital and the delay in building the new children's hospital. We should much rather have the new children's hospital in advance of the closure of the general hospital. If the money runs out, fine: we can keep the general hospital in the centre of the city of Birmingham.
The regional health authority made up its mind what it wanted to do from day one, the best part of 18 months ago. I say that from memory, but it must be that long. It has changed almost nothing in its plans. It has changed only minor aspects such as shifting a boundary or transferring one aspect of health from one lead district health authority to another. None of the basic framework has been changed. We shall be left with mega-hospitals to which people will find it difficult to travel. The mega-hospitals will be highly vulnerable in times of emergency. We shall be left with no major general hospital in Birmingham city centre. That is not on.
I warn the Secretary of State through the Leader of the House that the people of Birmingham will not put up with it. On general election day they will be given an opportunity to vote for a real alternative that will meet the needs of the people of Birmingham, not the bureaucrats in West Midlands regional health authority. The bureaucrats take a pile of statistics and say, "A general hospital cannot serve a population of less than a certain size. That is what the text books and planners tell us we should have." We do not want it. That is not the basis on which health care should be organised in the second city of this country. The people of Birmingham will not wear it.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)
Order. The Leader of the House and Shadow Leader of the House intend to seek to catch my eye at five to nine. There are still six hon. Members who wish to speak in the debate, so I appeal for brief speeches.
§ Mr. Douglas French (Gloucester)
I have a selection of fairly diverse points to make. They come together in one speech because they are all matters to which I should like attention to be given before the House rises for the summer Adjournment.
My first two points are on transport safety. The first is car telephones, which I have raised in the House on several occasions. I continue to believe that the use of car telephones by drivers while the vehicle is in motion is dangerous. It needs to be curbed. I have raised the subject in debates, in questions, in correspondence with the Minister and in a private Member's Bill. I have had letters on the subject from people throughout the country. Each one has agreed that car telephones are a danger to road safety and need some legislative attention.
I was slightly encouraged by a parliamentary answer that I received this week from the previous Minister for Roads and Traffic, who has moved on to other things. He said:I deplore the use of hand-held telephones by drivers whilst their vehicle is moving."—[Official Report, 18 July 1990; Vol. 176, c. 585.]That represented some progress on replies that I had received previously. He went on to say that he considered that existing legislation took care of the problem which was covered by the provisions for driving without due care and attention and the obligation to have proper control of one's vehicle at all times.
It is a pity that that Minister has moved on. It puts me in the position that my right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) described, when he said that he had to start again with the new Minister.
The points that I have endeavoured to promote are simple. The first is, that the use of such telephones would be much safer if they were all equipped with remote microphones and speakers, so that they could be used by the driver without his taking his hands off the wheel of the car. The second requirement is that the dialling mechanism should be pre-programmed with a short-call facility or operated by a voice activated system. That is now commercially available at a reasonable price. The third requirement is that the dialling mechanism for such equipment should be at the fascia level and not somewhere down near the gear lever, away from the line of vision of the driver.
My proposals are all preventive. The current legislation is a way of tackling people who drive carelessly because their attention has been distracted by making or receiving a telephone call. I propose steps to ensure that the danger will be averted before it arises. They would help to enhance road safety and would undoubtedly save lives as result.
My second point on transport safety is very much in mind at a time when a holiday period is approaching, and an increasing number of private planes will be in use. It is extraordinary that so often tragic accidents take place at holiday times, but it is even more extraordinary that there is no requirement for private pilots to have third party insurance. That fact seems to have been neglected for many years. We place great importance on the need for motorists always to be equipped with third party insurance, but there is no such requirement for private pilots. There should be such a requirement, and I hope that the Minister responsible will turn his attention to it as soon as possible.
92 My next point is on housing. I applaud the efforts made by the Government to encourage private sector provision of rented accommodation. One respect in which landlords are badly served is the arrangements for payment of housing benefit directly to the landlord on behalf of a tenant. If it is discovered later that the tenant's eligibility for housing benefit ceased during the period of his tenancy, the landlord is asked to repay the housing benefit that he has received as rent. He will be asked to do that even though he provided the accommodation in good faith, he could have provided the accommodation to another tenant if rent had not been forthcoming and he may have had no means whatever of knowing that the tenant's eligibility for housing benefit had terminated during the period of the tenancy.
It seems extremely unfair that there should be a clawback on housing benefit paid as rental in this way. It is likely to discourage people from providing private rented accommodation at a time when other Government measures are designed to enhance that possibility to help to ease housing pressures.
My next point relates to the activities of commercial estate agents. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Industry and Consumer Affairs, the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth), recently published draft orders and regulations under section 3 of the Estate Agents Act 1979, which set out specific offences and undesirable practices in which some unscrupulous estate agents engage. The most obvious among them are misdescriptions of property, failure to observe the requirement not to tie together property and financial services, and the bidding up of prices.
My hon. Friend the Minister is also involved in proposals to extend the Trade Descriptions Act 1968 to cover misdescriptions of property, and I applaud his efforts in that respect. My hon. Friend is building on the excellent work of the Director General of Fair Trading, who in March published a booklet on estate agency practice, which contains many excellent recommendations, and makes proposals for what he calls "cleaning up" the profession.
However, the director general's report and the two regulations emanating from my hon. Friend the Minister are heavily influenced by the residential estate agency sector. Paragraph 2(4) of the report of the Director General of Fair Trading says that "surprisingly little comment" was received during the preparation of the report on the application of the proposed measures to the commercial property market.
The circulation list for the draft regulations does not include any of the leading commercial estate agency practices, yet that sector is guilty of abuses which may be hidden but which are just as serious as those in the residential sector.
One such abuse is the way in which comparisons are drawn between the rental levels achieved in one property and those achieved in others. There is much evidence to suggest that certain agents find it a little too easy to confuse a rental level that they hope to achieve with one that they have achieved. That has the consequence of misleading a prospective tenant. Another is the way in which a particular property is measured. That is not a matter for the Trade Descriptions Act 1968 but concerns the formula that may be used in measuring a property and what constitutes net usable space. That is important if one is endeavouring to make a fair calculation of total rental 93 value, and of the total capital value that is a direct consequence of it. Those points are both important and ought to receive early attention. They relate specifically to the commercial sector, not to residential estate agents.
My final point relates to the Finanical Sercices Act 1986, which I continue to believe is an unhappy piece of legislation, especially as it relates to the activities of self-regulatory organisations. I am prompted to raise that matter by the constituency case of C. J. How and C. J. How International, investment companies in which constituents of mine invested considerable sums of money. At the time that those investments were made, the compensation provisions of the Financial Services Act 1986 had not come into force, so those investments were not covered. By the time that those provisions had been implemented, C. J. How and its associated companies had had their FIMBRA membership withdrawn.
In those circumstances, FIMBRA could not take responsibility for the company's actions, including, it seems, if it continued to accept investments. At that point, the company became the responsibility of the Securities and Investments Board, but it seems that the SIB does not have a procedure for ensuring that all investors know that such a change has taken place. As a consequence, the public may continue to invest, in the belief that the company is still a member of a self-regulatory organisation, when that membership has been lost. The end result has been for my constituents the loss of a considerable amount of money that they have no means of recovering. It is a serious matter that demands early attention.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)
I understand that there is great excitement on the Government Benches over some of the ministerial changes that have occurred today. I will only say that the Government are as unpopular as ever as we go into the summer recess.
§ Mr. Greg Knight (Derby, North)
The hon. Gentleman will never know what it is like to serve in a Government.
§ Mr. Winnick
I did not hear the remark made by the Government Whip, but if he wants to intervene, I will give way.
I suppose that the Leader of the House and deputy Prime Minister can at least congratulate himself on surviving. Perhaps he should thank us on the Labour Benches, because the very fact that we have raised the question of his future in the Government has made it far more difficult for the Prime Minister to take any action against him.
During the recess, there will be taking place in my borough, as elsewhere, a formal period of consultation over whether certain national health hospitals will become so-called self-governing. I question whether the consultation process will have any meaning and whether the Secretary of State for Health has not already made the decision to approve the changeover, regardless of the strength of opposition in a given locality.
The district general hospital in my borough, Walsall, usually referred to as the Manor, is on the list for self-governing status. A genuine consultation exercise was undertaken by the local authority, in which questionnaires were sent to every household in the borough. It included all the arguments for and against, and no one suggested 94 that they were in any way unfair. Even the local health authority accepted that the arguments for self-governing status were fairly put.
There could be no doubt either about the response. A total of 27,639 people were against the hospital achieving self-governing status, and only 6,004 were in favour—more than 78 per cent. of respondents were not in favour of the Manor becoming self-governing, and more than 94 per cent. believed that local people should be consulted about such a change. Some 68 per cent. held the view that a change would lead to a poorer service.
If the regional health authority will not allow a vote on the matter—clearly there will be no such vote in my borough or elsewhere, even though there should be, because that is how the democratic process works in our country—what criteria will it use in the consultation exercise? Who will be consulted?
The district general manager for the Walsall health authority is extremely enthusiastic about opting out, but whether a full-time administrator should be involved in what are undoubtedly highly sensitive and controversial political issues is very much open to question. I have made my views clear on that locally on a number of occasions.
It is plain that the national medical organisations, such as the British Medical Association's joint consultants committee and the Royal College of Nursing, are all strenuously opposed to self-governing status.
When, in a parliamentary question, I asked the Secretary of State for Health to name one national medical organisation in favour of the change, he could not do so. That was understandable, because no such body is in favour, and that is reflected locally.
The public want more funding for the national health service, better services and facilities. In every opinion poll which touches upon the national health service, again and again the point is made that the Government are not providing sufficient funding—no matter what figures are given by the Secretary of State or by the Prime Minister at Question Time.
The local community health council in Walsall fears that a change will cause difficulties at Manor hospital. Present services may no longer be provided, and the elderly and the chronically sick may have to go to a hospital outside the borough.
The internal market puts the emphasis on profitable services. Hospitals will become more fragmented as a result of opting out. That is why it is absolutely essential that there should be a meaningful consultation exercise, and, above all, that there should be a proper vote.
The second matter I want to mention is far removed from my borough—the remarks made last week by the President of Zambia about the execution of the journalist Farzad Bazoft. Obviously, like all hon. Members, I welcome the release of Daphne Parish, and I praise the efforts that the President of Zambia made to secure her release from prison. However, it is dangerous nonsense to suggest that the reason journalist was hanged was pressure from this country on the Iraqi regime.
If there is any criticism to be made of the British Government in this, and in related matters, it is 'quite the opposite—that the Government have not protested enough about the appalling abuses of human rights in Iraq, and the numerous killings by the regime there. Very few regimes that the have such a murderous record as that of the Government that rule Iraq.
95 Mr. Bazoft was arrested on 15 September last year and brought before the court on 8 March. He was sentenced to death two days later, and five days later, on 15 March, he was hanged. The matter was first raised in another place on 14 November in a written question. The reply stated that the British authorities were seeking access to him and to Daphne Parish on humanitarian grounds. The matter was only raised in this Chamber orally on 12 March, after sentence was passed on 10 March. There was a private notice question on 12 March, when hon. Members on both sides of the House understandably expressed strong concern that he had been sentenced to death. Three days later, on 15 March, the Foreign Secretary made a statement, as Mr. Bazoft had been hanged that morning.
If it is argued that pressure from this country caused his death—as I have already said, that is dangerous nonsense—if it was a valid criticism to say that pressure from the Government, from the House or from the media resulted in the hanging, I ask hon. Members to bear in mind the fact that, on 11 July, a citizen of Sweden was executed as a spy by the Iraqi regime. There was no campaign in Sweden. As far as I can tell—I have received information from the Library—the matter had not been raised in the Swedish Parliament. The Swedish Government made some representations, but a low profile was maintained. That did not have any effect upon the Iraqi regime, and the person was executed.
It is quite clear that it was not undue pressure or criticism of the Iraqi regime that led to the execution on 15 March of someone who travelled on a British travel document, and had protection in law from the United Kingdom. He would have been executed anyway, because the Iraqi regime were determined that he should be.
From what Daphne Parish has said—many hon. Members will have seen her comments in The Observer yesterday—Mr. Bazoft was clearly not a spy, and neither was she. Any confession that he made—as we now know and as we strongly suspected at the time—was made under threat of torture. It is important to set the record straight. It was unfortunate that the President of Zambia—whatever he has done to secure the release of Daphne Parish—I praise his efforts—should have made such comments. They are not valid, there is no truth in them and the record should be clear about where responsibility for the execution on 15 March lies.
§ Mr. John Ward (Poole)
I wish to raise two points—one that is parochial and one that is of wider significance.
The port of Poole has been busily expanding, and has roll on/roll off ferries serving Cherbourg and the Channel Islands. Additional roads have been constructed by the local authority on reclaimed land across the harbour. However there is a bottleneck—a lifting bridge across the harbour.
The bridge has to be opened about 20 times a day in the summer to allow commercial and yachting traffic to pass through and the consequential traffic jams back up through the town. It is intolerable that, in such a thriving port and commercial area, the replacement of the bridge may be delayed, because the Department of Transport has agreed to take over responsibility for it under the trunk road scheme. We are delighted that the Department will 96 meet the cost of that and attached works, which amounts to £40 million, but we are less pleased that, instead of a start date in early 1990s, as envisaged by the county council, a decision, even on the type of bridge, will not be made until 1993, and we may well have to tolerate serious road congestion, with all the attendant frustration for locals and holidaymakers, until the late 1990s.
I hope that the new Minister for Roads and Traffic can be persuaded to come to see Poole for himself and to witness the problems caused by such delay.
The other matter I must mention is perhaps of importance to the House—the developing situation in eastern and central Europe, and especially the relationship of the emerging democracies with present European institutions.
I am worried that the EEC is developing into a close-knit organisation, and is making it more difficult, and not easier, for countries to join with either associate or full status.
Events at the recent summit in Houston show that there is little willingness to reduce the cost and the lack of competitiveness of the common agricultural policy, and so we are making it difficult for eastern and central European countries to associate with us. We raise trade barriers, but Conservative Members would much prefer free and fair access to all European markets.
I hope that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will continue to try to bring a degree of sanity to the world of agricultural pricing, and that she will also remember that the British farmer can compete. There is no reason why we should subsidise hobby farmers in other countries. I welcome the co-operation of the Council of Europe which, at its autumn session will invite parliamentary delegations from non-member states that are signatories of the Helsinki Final Act. Such countries will be able to participate in the debate on an equal footing with assembly members, including the right to vote. I support all that my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Sir G. Finsberg) said about that.
We all want the integration of eastern, central and western Europe into one free, democratic society. That will be more easily achieved through a loose-knit organisation like the Council of Europe, where every country can proceed at its own pace, than by erecting barriers, which will make it difficult for integration to take place.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Hungary showed the path that I believe we should follow, when he told a Western European Union meeting in Paris last month:We envisage the future of a united Europe not as a great monolithic bloc but as the sum of regionalism, preserving the diversity of national identities.He described a Europe from the Urals to the Atlantic, a Europe with a common purpose and a common home but, above all, a Europe that was allowed to keep its individual identities. That is what I should like to see.
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)
In the few minutes that remain, I follow what has been said about east-west relations by saying that they have radically changed. That is why the House should debate the United Nations nuclear non-proliferation treaty before we rise on Thursday. It is an important treaty. It is committed to multilateral nuclear disarmament, the maintenance of peace and the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. There are 142 signatories to the treaty.
97 By the time that we resume on 15 October, a review conference will have been held between 20 August and 14 September. We ought to know the Government's attitude towards that conference. The subject is extremely important, particularly as the Government are breaking clause 6 of the treaty, which says:
Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective control.What is the United Kingdom doing about that? It is embarking on a £10 billion programme to introduce Trident nuclear weapons that will be between four and 10 times more powerful than Polaris nuclear missiles. Each Polaris submarine that goes out on patrol carries more explosive power than was used by both sides in the 1939–45 war. However, the Government propose to increase that firepower by up to 10 times, depending on the number of nuclear missiles that are deployed in each submarine. The Government are therefore in breach of their treaty obligations.
One of the underlying provisions of the treaty is that the 139 non-nuclear signatories have agreed to abide by its terms, provided that the three nuclear signatories carry out clause 6 and do something about getting rid of nuclear weapons. Only two of the signatories, the United States and the Soviet Union, have carried out clause 6, though not fully, through the intermediate nuclear arms treaty that has got rid of cruise missiles from our shores. So much the better. However, they represent only 4 per cent. of the world's stockpile of nuclear weapons. Our world is still in danger. The changes in east-west relations should not hide the fact that there are too many nuclear weapons, that the United Kingdom Government want, more nuclear weapons and that they have no facilities at the moment that would lead to the reduction, removal or destruction of those weapons.
While the House is in recess, nations will be meeting and saying to the United Kingdom Government, "We signed the United Nations nuclear non-proliferation treaty and said that we would not manufacture or deploy nuclear weapons, on the basis that under clause 6 you would start to get rid of your nuclear weapons." The United Kingdom has been a signatory of the treaty for many years, but has done nothing to implement the terms of the treaty. Inevitably, a non-nuclear state will point its finger at the United Kingdom and say, "We shall do what the United Kingdom has done. We shall deploy and manufacture nuclear weapons because the United Kingdom has shown not the slightest interest or willingness to get rid of them and begin the process of nuclear disarmament."
By cancelling the Trident nuclear weapons programme, we should be saying to the 139 non-nuclear signatories to the United Nations non-proliferation treaty, "We agree with you. We shall support the vast majority of the world's nations that do not manufacture or deploy nuclear weapons." That is the only way that our planet can survive. That is why the treaty is so important. Therefore, it is lamentable that the Government have not provided time for a debate.
Another initiative that the Government could take would be to announce that they intend to ban all tests of our nuclear weapons and to join in talks on a comprehensive test ban treaty. That would lead to no 98 further development of nuclear weapons. It would complement the United Nations nuclear non-proliferation treaty and would be an important step forward.
It is shameful and lamentable that the Government have not provided time to debate that important treaty to which they pay lip service. Recently Ministers have said, "It's a pity that it's a failure." The only failure that one can attribute to the United Nations nuclear non-proliferation treaty is the United Kingdom Government's failure to honour it. Whatever political party is in power, there is no moral or economic justification for the manufacture and deployment of nuclear weapons. Moreover, a very strong and important treaty provides that we shouild not manufacture and deploy nuclear weapons. By honouring it, the next Labour Government will be able to strengthen world peace and will join the majority of nations that say no to nuclear weapons.
§ Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland)
Adjournment debates are usually good-natured affairs and address a number of serious issues. That has happened this evening. I am pleased that we are coming to the end of this Session. During it, three close friends, Allan Roberts, Sean Hughes and Mike Carr, all met untimely deaths. This place is the poorer without them.
Several points have been made during the evening on both sides of the House which I agree with and support. Again, there is nothing unusual about that. However, it will be difficult in the relatively short time that is left to me to reply to 14 or 15 individual speeches. Everyone agreed with the point made by the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) that more effort should be made to conserve ancient mosslands, wetlands and peatlands, especially when sites of special scientific interest are involved. He said that proper conservation management should apply to peat extraction and to any other kind of industrial activity that takes place upon them. Many people would go further and say that no such activity should be allowed on the more sensitive sites.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) referred to the much-publicised acid house party in Morley. He is right to draw our attention to a growing problem that causes disturbance, distress and often damage to people's property and to the need for more concerted Government action to control what is becoming a national problem. I share his view that the people of Morley—no doubt my constituents would feel the same—would not like what they experienced recently to be repeated.
I listened with a wry smile to the speech of the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Sir F. Montgomery) who originates from the north-east of England, as I do. I agreed with him about the importance of the channel tunnel, and improved rail links and road infrastructure for the north-west of England. I certainly support him if he was including Cumbria in the north-west and in his pleas for greater investment.
The wry smile arises because the hon. Member, and many other Conservative Members, call specifically for increased public investment in their constituencies, while almost universally voting against it for the nation as a whole when they support the Government in the Division Lobby. That is a variation on the NIMBY phrase—not in my back yard. In this case it is OIMBY, only in my back 99 yard. They want investment in their constituencies, but seek to deny it to other parts of the country. I shared his views when he made a special plea for greater help for people suffering from epilepsy.
The hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mrs. Michie) spoke of the Scottish convention and the important work it does. Like her, I regret that, at least formally, the Conservative party and the Scottish National party are not represented in its work. Like her, I continue to be dismayed by the failure of the Leader of the House to discharge his duty to the House under Standing Orders to set up a Scottish Select Committee. It is, if not unprecedented, extremely rare for a Leader of the House to fail to meet his obligations in the way that the right hon. and learned Gentleman continues to do.
We in the Labour party also share the criticisms of the Government's Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Bill, which we believe should be withdrawn.
The right hon. Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) spoke about the endless saga of the Worthing bypass—
§ Dr. Cunningham
I have considerable sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman because the tale that he described was almost word for word my description of the continuing failure of the Department of Transport to provide a bypass for the ancient market town of Egremont in my constituency. Having failed to notify people properly of the public inquiry, it now seems to have further failed and caused more incompetent delay by making a mess of the compulsory purchase orders. It is still unclear, after more than a decade, when and whether work on the Egremont bypass will be allowed to begin.
I also share the right hon. Gentleman's view that the road to which he referred—like the one that we are likely to get—is not a bypass, but a relief road. In Egremont, that will ensure that any development takes place to the east of the town, on the only available land, so the "bypass" runs right through the middle of the enlarged town.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) spoke about the disgraceful treatment of British, mainly English, people in Rimini and elsewhere following a World cup football match. I hope that Ministers will respond positively and speedily to his call for a thorough investigation into the treatment of our fellow citizens.
I disagreed with the proposition of the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Sir G. Finsberg) that the Bar Council and the Director of Public Prosecutions should have overriding powers over democratically elected local authorities that seek redress through the courts against arbitrary Government action. He seemed to suggest that Conservative councils such as Wandsworth and Westminster could quite properly hire lobbyists to get their grants changed under the poll tax system, working covertly and behind the scenes, while Labour councils working in the open were to be denied the due processes of law. I simply cannot accept that as a proposition, as I said to the hon. Gentleman in a brief intervention.
§ Sir Geoffrey Finsberg
I did not say that those councils should be denied the right, but that if they took the decision against advice, councillors, not charge payers, should pay.
§ Dr. Cunningham
I think that that idea is even worse because a number of cases involving Government mismanagement have been exposed over the past few years. When there are huge losses to the taxpayer as a result of Government incompetence and mismanagement, no one suggests that Ministers should be held personally responsible. The personal surcharge, as it affects councillors, is an anachronism that should be abolished, not extended.
I share the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Mr. Smith) about the importance to the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries of the banana industry, and the importance of that industry and British imports to the workers in Barry docks in his constituency.
The right hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling) rightly described me as a parliamentary friend and constituency neighbour. That is as far as our agreement goes. The right hon. Gentleman failed to say that in a letter signed by the education spokesmen and women of all political parties in Cumbria—Conservative, Labour and Liberal—the all-party approach to the Government was to seek more money for the education budget of Cumbria county council. The Conservative party on Cumbria county council, which has no majority, played a willing and open part in saying that the Government's allocation was inadequate to meet the proper needs of Cumbria's children.
The Government provided more taxpayers' money—£7.6 million—for one city technology college in Nottingham than for the capital budget for education in Cumbria. That is not an example of a shortage of resources but of political decisions being taken by Conservative Ministers—former colleagues of the right hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale in Government. The right hon. Gentleman was corrected by the hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Paice), who pointed out that under LMS Cambridgeshire was being allocated less money than Cumbria. I share the right hon. Gentleman's view on the problems of small schools, particularly in rural areas, because I have many in my constituency, but I do not share his partial and, in at least one particular, inaccurate description of the state of affairs in Cumbria.
§ Mr. Jopling
Will the hon. Gentleman attempt to justify why Cumbria is so very far below the national level for English shire counties in its distribution for LMS? So far as I can see, there is no justification for that niggardly distribution.
§ Dr. Cunningham
I, too, have urged Cumbria county council to be as generous as possible in the circumstances that prevail because I regard the education of our children as the most important investment that we can make. The right hon. Gentleman was a Cabinet Minister for many years, particularly when the Government systematically, deliberately and persistently cut rate support grant for Cumbria—the county he represents—so it is rather late in the day for him to protest about the inadequacy of education investment in the county.
§ Dr. Cunningham
It is the point.
I share the views expressed by my hon. Friends the Members for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) and for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) about the proposed changes in the national health service, especially the development of so-called self-governing hospitals. I believe that they will be against the public interest and the interests of a better, more effective and more responsive health service, but I do not believe for a moment that proper notice will be taken of public attitudes and interest. From what we have seen so far, whatever the consultation process and however the public are given the opportunity to express a view, the likelihood is that they will be ignored and that people will go their own way regardless.
I smiled when I listened to the hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Ward) because I recognised his description of the problems of Poole harbour bridge—a location that I know well from my many happy days in Poole and its environs as a student. I hope that he gets his wish, but he is another Conservative Member who has consistently voted for cuts in public expenditure and would like to see more expenditure in his constituency. This facing both ways simply cannot be reconciled.
I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) had only a few minutes—I regret that a couple of Conservative Members were not called—to speak about the important issue of nuclear disarmament, which we all want to proceed as quickly and effectively as possible.
However Governments feel, they usually utter a sigh of content when they see the end of parliamentary Sessions and the House of Commons being dispersed for the summer recess. This week, we have heard a collective, highly audible gasp of relief from the Government, who are in desperate trouble. In the past few months, four major Cabinet Ministers have resigned—the right hon. Members for Blaby (Mr. Lawson), for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler), for Worcester (Mr. Walker) and, most recently and in the most disgraceful circumstances, for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley).
The Government have not recovered from their disastrous policy of introducing the poll tax. They are presiding over the highest inflation rate since March 1982 —9.8 per cent.—and the highest of all our competitor countries. The Government presided over a current account deficit of £19.1 billion in 1989, with the most recent trade figures showing a £1.36 billion deficit. The Government are in deep trouble because of the hypocrisy of their about-faces. In the autumn statement, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said:in a society that is experiencing real growth in wealth, the disadvantaged and the elderly should benefit too."—[Official Report, 23 January 1990, Vol. 165, c. 750.]That was the Minister in the Government who, last week, cynically decided to cast aside their commitments on community care.
I emphasise the fact that the Government are in deep trouble, not only with their policies and with the public but with their campaigns. A few weeks ago, the chairman of the Tory party, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, lauched his "Summer Heat on Labour". It had all the sparkle of a wet Woodbine. It spluttered and went out. Now we have seen a Government reshuffle, irrelevant to the problems faced by the people. It is the policies that should change because, like us, the British people feel that 102 Britain is heading in the wrong direction. Happily, they will not have long to wait for a general election and a change.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Sir Geoffrey Howe)
The hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) was able to bring his properly discursive remarks to what must pass for a rousing conclusion which did not command much support in the House—it certainly commanded no support among Conservative Members. The hon. Gentleman talked about the "sigh of content" that normally accompanies these debates. I noticed overwhelming enthusiasm on both sides of the House for the idea that the House should rise on the advertised day. I am certain that the Labour party will want to spend much of the recess re-examining its recently revealed commitment to replace the community charge with the rates, which the Labour party repudiated over many years. The Government, who have presided over a long period of economic growth—there has been a larger growth in employment in this country than in any other—will devote themselves during the vacation to preparing our plans for the Session ahead with confidence and authority.
I can at least join the hon. Member for Copeland in expressing sadness at the number of our colleagues who have passed away during the Session—one of whom we mourn today; the Conservative Member, John Heddle, whom we particularly remember; and a former colleague who moved on to another place and who was well loved by both sides of the House, Jock Bruce-Gardyne, who showed remarkable courage in the face of adversity.
It is a feature of these debates that I must start by responding to a point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen), who told us that he could not be here for the debate's conclusion. I was struck by the way in which he raised questions about the mosses on the Clwyd-Shropshire border, less than 10 miles from the house that we shared many years ago. He was right to do so. The Government recognise the nature conservation importance of the peatlands. We are aware of the worries expressed about the effects of peat extraction and of the need to balance two needs and to ensure that the Nature Conservancy Council has the resources with which to respond. Those resources were increased from £7.9 million at the beginning of this Government's term to £44 million in the current year—a substantial increase, which I am sure will help.
Like the hon. Member for Copeland, I was struck by the point raised by the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees). He was right to draw attention to the serious implications of the acid house party at Gildersome. The police are still investigating all the aspects. The incident certainly justifies the substantial increase in penalties recently enacted in the Entertainments (Increased Penalties) Act 1990, which was introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, South (Mr. Bright). Let me join the right hon. Gentleman by expressing concern about similar activities in my own county of Surrey, some of which have been prevented, while others are the subject of criminal prosecutions. I am certain that the Government will continue to take seriously the concern that he has expressed.
103 My hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Sir F. Montgomery) is another regular participant in these debates: there is a regularity not only about his participation, but about his contributions. He again referred to the position of Manchester airport, although this time in a more optimistic style, which I was glad to welcome. When I was there within the past couple of weeks, I was impressed by the large volume of traffic that the airport now handles. During a subsequent visit to the Flint enterprise zone, I met an American entrepreneur who had been able to travel from Manchester airport to the Flint enterprise zone via the massively improved road system, having flown in to Manchester that morning.
My hon. Friend was also right to emphasise the importance of good rail links with the channel tunnel. British Rail plans to invest more than £1 billion to ensure that there is an effective international passenger and freight service from the tunnel. Its record investment programmes for the country as a whole—amounting to an increase of 75 per cent. in real terms over the previous three years—are, to some extent, relevant to the points raised by my hon. Friend.
I think that we would all endorse what my hon. Friend for Altrincham and Sale said about the position of the disabled in employment. He will be aware that the Secretary of State for Employment issued a consultative document on 29 June, inviting comments on the merits and demerits of various legislative approaches to securing good practice in the employment of disabled people, and will be taking account of representations received in that respect.
The hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mrs. Michie) referred to the Scottish Constitutional Convention. On her own admission, the convention is—at least to some extent —a self-selected group of people whose sole objective is the establishment of some form of Scottish Assembly. As she knows, the Government do not think that that would be to Scotland's advantage, and that is why we have declined to participate. We are fully committed not just to the Union between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom—which we believe delivers great benefit to our citizens—but to the current arrangements for the representation of Scotland, which we believe provide for the effective representation of Scotland's interests and acknowledge its distinct nationhood.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins) raised several points. He is concerned about the proposition for a throughpass, rather than a bypass, in his constituency. I cannot comment on the merits of that, but I have no doubt that the "violent" representations that he has reported will be taken into account by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport. He knows that the Secretary of State for the Environment is considering possible improvements to the provisions for compensation, and I shall draw my right hon. Friend's points to his attention. As for the appointment of consultants, they were apparently appointed by the Department in accordance with normal open competition, and the consultancy went to the best offer. I do not know how far my right hon. Friend's point was taken into account, but I shall draw it to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport. I cannot do more than that.
§ Mr. Higgins
I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend; I realise that he is not very familiar with the position. Let me stress that I am in favour of a bypass, not a throughpass. The question is not whether the consultants were appointed in open competition, but whether the Government were aware that the person from the Department had taken a job with the consultants who were supposed to be giving an impartial opinion. That should really be dealt with by the civil service Minister, as well as the Minister for Roads and Traffic.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
I appreciate that; that is why I said that I would refer the matter to my right hon. Friends. There is no need for me to repeat myself.
The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell) spoke at length about his anxieties regarding the treatment of British subjects in Italy during the recent football matches. I have no doubt that he made that presentation in good faith. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Sir G. Finsberg) pointed out, it was a presentation of only one side of the case. He did not acknowledge the extent to which his demand for effective action against, as he put it, the small group of troublemakers, involved difficult judgments being made by the authorities on both sides.
We appreciate the Italian determination to avoid violent incidents. They were within their rights under Community law to remove people they considered to be a threat to public order. However, we are prepared to take up with the Italian authorities, as we should do, allegations of ill treatment. The consular staff present in Rimini tried to assist at the time but were unable to gain access because it was not open to them to do so until charges had been brought. All that I can say is that I shall bring his long intervention to the attention of the newly appointed Minister for Sport. I am sure that he will investigate it as far as he can.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate raised one point which aroused controversy between him and the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman. I shall not intervene on that. My hon. Friend referred to the need to extend parliamentary representation in the CSCE context beyond that available in the Western European Union. His points were echoed to some extent by my hon. Friend the Member for Poole (Mr. Ward) who was also seeking greater involvement of parliamentarians in the process of engaging east Europeans in our west European discussions. He will find that that topic will be dealt with a little more fully in an Adjournment debate to be opened by my hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Atkinson) later tonight.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate also raised some detailed points about parliamentary conditions. I hope that he will forgive me if I do not deal with the towels at this stage in the debate. I shall look into the points he raised because it is important that this place should not, further than is necessary, close down to the extent that it does during the recess. He knows—I am grateful for his kind words—that I am aware of the extent of dissatisfaction felt by hon. Members on both sides about facilities here, despite the best efforts of officers and staff, who deserve our thanks. It is for that reason that the Commission hopes that the work by Sir Robin Ibbs and his team will help clarify and improve decision-making processes here. I look forward to bringing the results to the House before Christmas.
105 Hon. Members will have noticed motions on the Order Paper today to implement changes recommended by the Procedure Committee about the tabling of oral questions. That will be a small but significant streamlining of procedures which should lead to considerable savings in costs. I expect that the House will have no difficulty in accepting them so that I may have an early opportunity of putting them to the House.
The hon. Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Mr. Smith) knows my response to his question, which he put to me some time ago. I have an emotional attachment to the banana boats from Barry, as they were features of my childhood. As he described, they have a greater relevance to the Windward Islands, which are no longer colonies. They are self-governing states within the Commonwealth but are none the less important for that. I have another concern because Geest has a depot in Lingfield in my constituency. Therefore, we join together in this respect.
The points that the hon. Gentleman raised about the status of those countries under the ACP-Lome agreement are still under active consideration in Brussels. No decisions have yet been reached. The Community is fully aware of its commitments to the traditional suppliers under the Lome convention. We strongly consider that these should be taken fully into account, together with other factors, in drawing up future arrangements for banana imports after 1992. I am sure that he appreciates the importance we attach to that.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling) raised the question of the proportion of expenditure being devoted to educational facilities under the local management of schools proposals in his county. It is right to say that one feature of the LMS changes has been to focus much more attention on the distribution of resources between education and administration. The suggested formula enables resources to be allocated more openly to bring those matters into public debate.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science has made it clear that he is concerned about the amount of money that local education authorities are retaining for central management. He spoke to the Council of Local Education Authorities on 18 July and announced that he was considering reviewing the percentage limit on items exempted from delegation and on the categories of expenditure that are subject to those limits. In our different ways we are all paying attention to that important matter and I hope that the county council will respond to the observations made by hon. Members on both sides of the House.
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) focused particularly on the plans for hospitals being put forward by the Birmingham regional health authority. I cannot comment in detail on those structures. However, I will ensure that the hon. Gentleman's observations are drawn to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Health and to the attention of the health authority.
I was not altogether impressed by the immoderation of the language with which the hon. Member for Perry Barr presented his case. He assumed certain things and then proceeded to condemn them as a disgrace. He was also less than generous about the extent to which resources for the national health service have been massively increased under this Government.
§ Sir Geoffrey Howe
No, but it is a point worth making and one which should be made.
For every £1 spent on the national health service in 1979, £3 is being spent today. There has been a real increase of 40 per cent. in the total resources. That relates to the point made by the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick). I am glad that the hon. Members for Walsall, North and for Copeland now use the correct nomenclature and do not any longer talk about hospitals opting out of the health service. They recognise that they are achieving self-governing status. Those hospital trusts will remain firmly within the health service. Regional health authorities will be required to consult locally on trust applications. They will seek the views of community health councils and others with interests, including health authorities, the staff concerned and GPs in the local community. The pattern of services in national health service trusts will broadly reflect the current service pattern. There will be no sudden changes.
The hon. Member for Walsall, North also referred to Iraq. No one is under any illusions about the quality of the Government in that country. We should express our thanks to President Kaunda for his part in securing the release of Mrs. Parish, although we reject his accusation that Britain is responsible for Mr. Bazoft's death and the imprisonment of Mrs. Parish.
I hope that Iraq's new attitude will also pave the way for the early release of the imprisoned British businesss man Mr. Ian Richter. I am sure that that hope is shared by all hon. Members.
My hon. Friend the Member for Poole (Mr. 'Ward) raised a point about the lifting bridge in his constituency. I cannot comment on that in detail. He also endorsed what I said about the importance of the Community membership being open to east European countries in the years ahead. I agree with him about that.
The hon. Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Cryer) raised questions about the non-proliferation treaty. For the foreseeable future, as he knows, United Kingdom and NATO defence will depend in part on nuclear deterrence. There will, therefore, remain a need to conduct underground nuclear tests to ensure that our weapons remain up to date. However, a comprehensive test ban remains our long-term goal. Our commitment to the nuclear disarmament process has been reflected in our support for the INF treaty and START. As a depository power of the NPT, we fully support its aims. I think that—
§ It being three hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, MR. SPEAKER put the Question, pursuant to Standing Order No. 22 (Periodic Adjournments).
§ Question agreed to.
That this House, at its rising on Thursday 26th July, do adjourn until Monday 15th October.
§ Mr. Cryer
On a brief point of order, Mr. Speaker. I made a brief contribution to the previous debate, so I emphasise that I am not grumbling on my own behalf, but several hon. Members were not able to speak. As you know, Mr. Speaker, it used to be an open-ended debate I hope that you could perhaps use your good offices—I know that it is up to all of us, but you have more power and influence than most in this place—and bring your 107 influence to bear on the Procedure Committee to look at this matter. The debate is important for Back-Bench Members. For many years it has been much inferior to what it was when it was an open-ended debate. More hon. Members could speak and the debate was not rapidly curtailed.
§ Mr. Speaker
That matter has been sent to the Procedure Committee; that is why the procedure was changed. The hon. Gentleman might again bring it to the Committee's attention. I understand that several hon. Members were not able to be called today. That is partly due to the length of some of the speeches, which meant that not all hon. Members could speak.