HC Deb 14 June 1990 vol 174 cc469-81 3.30 pm
Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland)

Will the Leader of the House tell us the business for next week?

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Sir Geoffrey Howe)

The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY 18 JUNE and TUESDAY 19 JUNE—There will be a debate on a Government motion to approve the Defence Estimates 1990 (Cm 1022).

At the end of Tuesday remaining stages of the Greenwich Hospital Bill [Lords].

Ways and Means resolution relating to the Caldey Island Bill.

WEDNESDAY 20 JUNE—Progress on remaining stages of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill [Lords].

Consideration of Lords amendments to the Aviation and Maritime Security Bill.

Resolutions relating to the Finance Bill.

THURSDAY 21 JUNE—Completion of remaining stages of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill [Lords].

FRIDAY 22 JUNE—Private Members' motions.

MONDAY 25 JUNE—Opposition Day (15th allotted day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion, subject for debate to be announced.

Dr. Cunningham

Will the Leader of the House reconsider the Government's proposals for the further consideration of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Bill, which is scheduled to go into Committee on 19 June, as that will leave perhaps only 10 sitting days for consideration of a Bill of 60 clauses and seven schedules? It contains a controversial series of proposals, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows, as it covers such issues as conveyancing, legal structures, licensing law, divorce law and the law on charities. Is not it clear that the Committee is unlikely to have sufficient time to give full and adequate consideration to all those important matters? Will the Leader of the House withdraw the Bill and reintroduce it in the next Session of Parliament, when the House will be more adequately able to consider all those important measures which affect so many aspects of life in Scotland?

Does it concern the Leader of the House that it is apparently becoming increasingly profitable for Ministers to fall out with the Prime Minister? Is not it time that the House had the opportunity to debate the increasing flow of former Cabinet Ministers into highly paid posts in recently privatised industries? That phenomenon is unlike anything that has ever happened before—[Interruption.]—for one thing, no other Government have privatised industry in the way that the Government have done. Secondly, no Ministers in previous Governments have been so closely involved with such a process as the Ministers in this Government have been. As there are rules governing the behaviour of civil servants, why should we not, in the public interest, have an opportunity to debate the matter in Governmen time? In the interests of the reputation of good government, I ask the Leader of the House to provide such an opportunity.

Has the Leader of the House seen the recently published study on urban prosperity in the European Community? It shows that the Government's policies for Britain's towns and cities are failing. Is he aware that only four British towns and cities are included among the top 50 positions in the study: Brighton—Labour—Norwich—Labour—London—mainly Labour—and Edinburgh—Labour? Does not that show that it is nonsense for the Government to claim that Labour is not managing efficiently the affairs of our towns and cities?

Does not it also put a big question mark over the Government's proposals—that we shall soon have to find time to debate—to rate-cap authorities that are trying to administer many important policies that affect those who live in the towns and cities of this country? Will the Leader of the House therefore ensure that when we come to consider the budgets of authorities that may be poll tax-capped we shall have ample opportunity to do so?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I understand that the hon. Gentleman does not intend to be in the House next week. That may explain the length of his interrogation this afternoon. As for the first matter that he raised, the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Bill is an important measure which is currently under consideration by the Standing Committee. I am advised that the Committee will so organise itself as to ensure that the Bill is properly scrutinised. However, I note the hon. Gentleman's point and I shall reflect on what he said

As for the appointment of former Ministers to the chairmanship of privatised companies, it ought to be clearly within the hon. Gentleman's recollection that it has never been the practice, under successive Governments of either party, to prevent former Ministers from accepting appointments in areas where they have expertise. It is difficult to see the distinction in principle between the appointments of which the hon. Gentleman has spoken and the appointments of, for example, Lord Robens as chairman of the National Coal Board, Lord Marsh as chairman of British Rail, Lord Beswick as chairman of the British Aerospace Corporation and Lord Glenamara as chairman of Cable and Wireless. The only distinction is that they were appointed to the chairmanship of industries in the public sector that were a great deal less efficient than the privatised industries that are now available to the country.

As for the hon. Gentleman's last point, it is notable that a number of the cities to which he referred—for example, Edinburgh and Brighton—have had long periods of Conservative rule, which no doubt contributed to their present good condition. It is also notable that a number of cities in this country—I note, for example, London docklands at one end and Glasgow, the European city of culture, at the other—have undergone a positive revitalisation during the last 10 years, of which this country can be proud.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I remind the House that this is an Estimates Day, the second of the rare occasions when we have an opportunity to debate Select Committee reports. Moreover, after business questions the Secretary of State for Transport is to make an important statement. Therefore I shall allow business questions to run until 4.15. Hon. Members who are anxious to question the Secretary of State for Transport about his statement will, I hope, impose upon themselves a self-denying ordinance during business questions.

Sir Bernard Braine (Castle Point)

My right hon. and learned Friend will recall that on 29 March he said that such were the issues raised by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill that the House should have the opportunity to arrive at its conclusions on a free vote. Can he now categorically tell us that that promise obtains for the rest of the Bill?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

The Bill was introduced as a measure dealing with embryology and not with abortion issues. When it was introduced it was made clear that the key clause on research or no research, on which we offered alternatives, would be the subject of a free vote. When the possibility of the Bill's being widened to include abortion arose in the House, it was made clear, and still remains the position, that matters relating to embryo research or abortion that are matters of conscience will be subject to a free vote.

One matter on which it makes sense to invite the House, with the help of my right hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary, to conclude the debate, is whether we give the Bill a Third Reading. It was introduced as a Government Bill and will be the result of intense deliberation by the House on the questions urged upon it by my right hon. Friend and others, so it would be foolish for us to neglect passing the Bill on to the statute book when we have completed our considerations.

Mr. James Molyneaux (Lagan Valley)

Regarding the proposed establishment of a Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs, has the Leader of the House had an opportunity to consult the Chairman of the Select Committee on Procedure, following his reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) last Thursday?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I have not yet taken that opportunity, but I shall bear in mind the point raised by the right hon. Gentleman.

Sir Peter Emery (Honiton)

Will my right hon. and learned Friend accept that the House is pleased that he has responded to the Procedure Committee's report on European legislation with a White Paper? I congratulate him on that, but it is not enough; we need a debate. We have been promised a debate. Can he tell the House when that will be, and will he consider whether the debate should be on an affirmative motion and not simply a take-note motion?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

As my hon. Friend is aware, I have had a number of discussions with right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House and I hope to announce a debate on the matter in the very near future. Of course, without commitment, I shall pay respect to his observations about the form of the debate.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

Like the rest of us who observed the exchanges at Prime Minister's Question Time, did the Leader of the House notice the Prime Minister's frustration that section 42 of the Channel Tunnel Act 1987 was tying her hands and undoubtedly preventing her from providing much-needed funds to the high-speed rail link? Given the fact that the Government have a large majority in the House and that such a measure would get a fair wind from the Opposition, will he set a day aside next week for a simple, one-clause Bill to repeal section 42 of the Channel Tunnel Act?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I did not get the impression that that was the ambition of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. If hon. Members wish to explore the matter in more detail, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport will answer their questions.

Mr. Timothy Raison (Aylesbury)

Does my right hon. and learned Friend expect the embryo research and abortion clauses of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill to be taken on the Wednesday or Thursday? Does he agree that, if there is any timetable problem about the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Bill, the divorce provision could well be dropped?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

The precise allocation of business will be for the Business Committee, but the hope is to divide the two topics between the two days.

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

Will the Leader of the House think again about his answer to the right hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine)? He is putting a three-line Whip on a Government Bill which deals with life issues. That has far wider implications than he has realised in terms of the Labour party's position on these matters. Will he please reconsider that decision and not proceed on that basis?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

Once again, I am glad to have the opportunity of disabusing the hon. Gentleman and the House of an entirely false impression about the way in which the Bill is being handled. First, it is not the function of the Leader of the House to prescribe whipping arrangements for either side of the House. Secondly, I understand that my right hon. Friend the Patronage Secretary made it clear that matters relating to embryo research or abortion, that are matters of conscience, will be subject to an entirely free vote, as indeed they were. The only question on which there can sensibly be whipping is whether the House of Commons, having spent a great deal of time in orderly debate on the matter, should carry through to the statute book the result of that work. The first part of the Bill, which deals with embryology, is a Government Bill; the second part of the Bill is, in effect, a House of Commons Bill and it is not unreasonable to expect that Bill to be carried through to the statute book.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

May we have an early debate on the important subject of religious education in schools, bearing in mind the serious shortage of religious education teachers and the importance of teaching children the difference between right and wrong? That would also enable the apparently illegal syllabus in religious education of the former Ealing Labour council to be discussed and ordered to be changed. It does not mention God, the Bible or Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity, which are required to be at the centre of this crucial subject.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

My hon. Friend always has the skill to make his business question almost a mini-debate in itself. He has ventilated the subject with some skill.

Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West)

May we have a debate before 29 June on crowd safety at pop concerts? On that date, there is to be the biggest concert of the year, with more than 100,000 young people expected to hear such aging figures as Paul McCartney and Elton John. We should at least be concerned to see that people are safe when they get there.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I am not sure whether the hon. and learned Gentleman will be among the audience there. He would be a man of comparable vintage to the stars he has named. I cannot promise a debate on that topic in the near future.

Mr. John Bowis (Battersea)

I do not wish to overburden our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport. However, will my right hon. and learned Friend fill the cup of London's happiness by bringing our right hon. Friend back shortly to make an announcement on the central London rail study, including the Hackney-Chelsea line, which we hope will come south of the river through Wandsworth, and on the public transport elements of the London assessment studies?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport has answered questions on both topics in the fairly recent past. He may or may not be in a position to answer such questions this afternoon. If not, I am sure that my hon. Friend will find another opportunity of pressing him on both points.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)

Will the Leader of the House arrange an early debate on the cash crisis facing the education service? Is he aware that many schools, including those in my constituency, are facing a cash crisis as a result of inadequate budgets under the local management scheme? Budgets are being returned, teachers are being threatened with the sack and there is a real danger of many schools literally running out of money before the end of the financial year. What are the Government doing to ensure that our children's education is not put in jeopardy in that way? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman arrange an early debate so that the Secretary of State for Education and Science can be told of the reality facing many constituencies?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

The hon. Gentleman will, no doubt, recall that the amount of money per head being spent on children's education is now higher than at any time in the past. He will also remember that the change in school management was intended to secure—and will secure—increasingly efficient use of those resources to achieve the exact objectives he has in mind. He will find the point more elaborately explained in the speech by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science to the National Association of Head Teachers a couple of weeks ago.

Mr. Allan Stewart (Eastwood)

May I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend on agreeing to reflect on what the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) said about the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Bill? I speak as a member of the Committee on that Bill and as a supporter of the great majority of its provisions. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that in light of the excellent speeches on Second Reading by my hon. Friends, the timetable for the Bill is unreasonable and that it would be far better if this important measure were considered next Session by reasonable people over a reasonable time and at reasonable hours?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I am still hopeful that my hon. Friend—some of whose remarks I appreciate—will play his part in helping the Committee so to organise itself that it can complete its business in the present Session.

Mr. Allen McKay (Barnsley, West and Penistone)

Will the Leader of the House consider my question last week on separating the poll tax orders that must be laid? I notice that they are not down for debate next week, so they could be put down for the week after. My understanding is that the orders may be brought together in two groups. That would be a negation of democracy, both centrally and locally. It would be a kick in the teeth for people such as those in my constituency, where the music centre has closed, 24 teachers have been sacked, two old people's homes have been closed and all the services have been cut. Is not it right for each order to be debated for an hour and a half in the House and for the House to make a decision on each?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I have not today announced any arrangements for debating charge capping. Any proposals on that matter are best left for discussions through the usual channels.

Sir John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that we have not had a debate for some time on the workings of the Foreign Office? Does he agree that the cost of the Foreign Office is very low, given the service that it performs? It has one: of the lowest votes of any Government Department. Its activities at home and abroad are vital to the country and I hope that they will not be curtailed in any way.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I am glad to endorse the tribute paid by my hon. Friend to the efficiency and importance of the Foreign Office. I am sure that, in due course, we shall have a debate on foreign affairs and that my hon. Friend will be able to repeat in more detail the glowing observations that he has made.

Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East)

What are the chances of a statement next week on the stalled Cabinet review of the poll tax? I am happy to leave it entirely up to the Leader of the House to sort out whether such a statement should come from the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for the Environment or from the Chancellor, but it would at least give 1.25 million people in Scotland and 10 million people in England and Wales the opportunity to discover precisely the sort of poll tax that we are not paying.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

There is no question of any stalling of any review. My right hon. Friends' consideration of the operation of the community charge is proceeding in the ordinary fashion and the outcome will be disclosed in clue course.

Sir Anthony Grant (Cambridgeshire, South-West)

Has my right hon. and learned Friend any news to give us about when we may have the reform of the private Bill procedure and when the excellent recommendations of the Joint Committee on Private Bill Procedure may be implemented?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I hope to be able to tell the House something more substantial about that next week.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Will the Leader of the House consider further the need for a statement on the position of former Cabinet Ministers who have taken posts in private companies? One former Minister had dealings with a company—recently, while he was a Minister—and has now become its chairman. Is the Leader of the House aware that many people regard that as scandalous? We need guidelines for former Cabinet Ministers along the same lines as those for senior civil servants who leave the service, which have not been the subject of any controversy.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I repeat that it has never been the practice, under Governments of either party, to prevent former Ministers from accepting appointments. I repeat that there is a list of distinguished ex-Labour Ministers who have moved on to preside over nationalised companies, while others have taken jobs in the private sector.

Mr. John Browne (Winchester)

Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that the Montreal protocol meetings, to be held in London and hosted by Her Majesty's Government, are likely to prove a crucial test of the true environmental policies of most major nations? Please may we have a debate on the subject before the meetings take place, so that the Government are aware of Back-Bench feelings?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I cannot promise a debate on that important subject at a particular time, but I shall bear my hon. Friend's question in mind.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)

Does the Leader of the House accept that his twice-repeated assertion that the Standing Committee appointed to deal with the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Bill should "so organise itself" represents a dereliction of duty by the Government? The Government are demanding one of two things of the members of the Standing Committee: either we shall be faced with all-night sittings during June and July or we shall have severely to curtail discussions not only of the provisions of the Bill but of other aspects of law reform in Scotland that we may wish to raise under the long title.

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman undertake not only to have discussions through the usual channels but to meet representatives of the Scottish National party and the Liberal Democrats to discuss the implications of the Bill and the possibility of taking it away and introducing separate legislation in the next Session so that we can deal with these issues as they deserve to be dealt with?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

It would not be normal for me to engage myself in managing the procedures of this, that or any other Standing Committee, however important its work may be. I have already undertaken to reflect on the point that has been raised, but I maintain my belief, on the basis of the advice that I have received, that it should be possible for the Committee so to organise itself as to ensure that the Bill is properly scrutinised.

Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne)

Is my right hon. and learned Friend able to tell the House how long it would take to describe those qualifications which Lord Glenamara possessed before his appointment as chairman of Cable and Wireless? Is it really the case that he was not able to distinguish one end of a cable from the other, either at the start or at the end of his term of office as chairman? Is not it a source of great satisfaction to my right hon. and learned Friend that the new chairman of Cable and Wireless has been appointed from the private sector and not by one of his right hon. Friends?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

My hon. Friend's observations are always entirely apt. It is a source of pleasure to Conservative Members, and more importantly it is a source of encouragement and benefit to the nation, that a competent chairman should be appointed to a privatised company of that kind. However, as we consider the proximity of experience, it is interesting to reflect that Lord Glenamara had been Postmaster-General before becoming chairman of Cable and Wireless.

Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East)

Has the Leader of the House seen early-day motion 982 about the poll tax and the franchise which shows that there is a shortfall on the electoral register of 600,000 people as a result of the operation of the poll tax?

[That this House notes that under a universal franchise there has correctly been a close correlation between the numbers of people on electoral registers within Great Britain and the estimated equivalent population of those who are 18 years of age and over; is therefore shocked to discover that since the introduction of the poll tax and the interconnections that subsequently exist between electoral and poll tax registration, on the above basis there are over 600,000 people missing from the current and recently used local government electoral registers in Great Britain; further notes that under-registration, is unevenly distributed and that there are certain alarming pockets of non-registration including the parliamentary constituency of Finchley where the electorate fell by 4.6 per cent. between 1988 and 1989 and has fallen by a further 3.9 per cent. in the past year; also notes that the overall decline in electoral registration has not occurred in Northern Ireland where the poll tax has not been introduced; and therefore concludes that the poll tax is incompatible with the operation of a universal franchise and should be abolished forthwith because any attempts to amend its operation cannot overcome its fundamental characteristic which is one of undermining a universal franchise by placing a de facto tax on electoral registration.]

May we have a debate about the state of the franchise, and can that debate include concerns about expatriate votes so that a fraud squad can be set up to stop electoral fraud in this country?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I am glad to take this opportunity to remind the hon. Gentleman that the arrangements for the registration of expatriate votes were introduced and carried through the House with the express approval of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley). If the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) wants to amplify further upon the virtues of that provision, it has been arranged for him to have an Adjournment debate on the subject next Friday.

Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

Will my right hon. and learned Friend reflect on the answer that he gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart)? This plea comes from the hon. Member of this House with more hours in Standing Committee than any other hon. Member. My right hon. and learned Friend will realise that the distances that we travel and the size of our constituencies place enormous demands on Scottish Members. Consequently, those of us who wish to debate that important measure properly, fully and adequately, believe that there is not enough time left to do so.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I am sure that the House will be able to judge how far to acknowledge and hail my hon. Friend as the Stakhanovite of the Scottish Standing Committee. I will continue to reflect, with his encouragement, as I have already undertaken to reflect after the encouragement of other hon. Members.

Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)

Will the Leader of the House reflect on the fact that we are to have a debate on defence on Monday and Tuesday? As things are moving very fast, particularly in Europe, and as the estimates White Paper is now really dated, and as we understand that the Minister of State for Defence Procurement has been devilling away in the Ministry of Defence and has produced his own defence review, would it not be in the interests of the House for that to be published and available to all hon. Members so that we can debate the subject adequately and anticipate the cuts to be made by the Government before the Opposition make their own cuts?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

The hon. Gentleman is a little impatient and is trying to make now the speech that he wants to make in next Monday's or Tuesday's debate. He will have an opportunity to hear my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence Procurement as well as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence in next week's debate.

Mr. Michael Shersby (Uxbridge)

In the business statement last week, my right hon. and learned Friend said that he hoped shortly to be able to announce a date for a debate on the Police (Amendment No. 2) Regulations. As he has not announced a date today, when does he expect to do so?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I can confirm that in my next business statement I will announce specific proposals for a debate on those regulations.

Mr. Thomas Graham (Renfrew, West and Inverclyde)

Will the Leader of the House make arrangements for the Secretary of State for Defence to make a statement regarding matters at Coulport and Faslane? More than 40 men have been denied security passes, and one of my constituents, who is completely innocent of any security breach, has been denied a job and been made unemployed for more than six weeks. That man is desperate to resume working not only for this country but for his family. Will the Secretary of State come to the House and make a statement on that appalling state of affairs?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I certainly cannot promise a statement on the matter. The Defence Secretary will be top for questions on Tuesday of next week as well as taking part in the defence debate on two days of next week.

Miss Ann Widdecombe (Maidstone)

I refer my right hon. and learned Friend to his answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine). He will be aware that the Government earned great respect for the arrangements that they made for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. My right hon. and learned Friend will be aware also that the Government earned great gratitude not only in the House but in the country. Whichever side wins, if there is not a free vote on a Bill that will contain provisions that may be deeply repugnant to the wishes of hon. Members, the respect that the Government have so justly won will be needlessly jeopardised.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her tribute to the way in which we have been able to organise that debate. That fortifies me in the conviction that, having been able to organise it with the support of hon. Members on both sides of the House, it is important that the conclusions of such a wide-ranging debate, which were clearly the outcome of very careful deliberation by a large number of hon. Members, should be placed on the statute book if possible.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

Is the Leader of the House aware that I share the deep concern that was expressed by his hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) about the Commitee proceedings on the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Bill? I ask that question because, if the Bill were passed with sensible amendments, we could provide for major developments in child care law in Scotland, especially the provision of treatment of victims of physical and sexual abuse. Although I want no delay in the enactment of such legislation, it requires deliberate and careful concern and scrutiny. I again ask the Leader of the House to take on board the concern that was expressed today.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I have nothing further to add to what I have already said on that topic.

Mr. Richard Alexander (Newark)

With further reference to the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Bill, has my right hon. and learned Friend had time to read clause 46? If he has, as a lawyer he will have seen that it proposes to give the police greater powers of entry to registered clubs than they already have for public houses. May I advise my right hon. and learned Friend that there is no evidence that that clause should have been introduced and that there is great concern that such a provision might subsequently be introduce in England?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I am not sure whether business questions is the best time to offer me advice on the contents of a Scottish Bill. In so far as my hon. Friend's observation was valid, I shall try to take note of it.

Mr. John P. Smith (Vale of Glamorgan)

Will the Leader of the House find time to review the legislation relating to the protection of historic monuments and our country's heritage? I am deeply concerned that the 12th-century St. Quentin castle at Llanblethian near Cowbridge, which is an area that is familiar to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the Leader of the House, is in danger of being lost for ever because the landowner is using current legislation to run rings around the Welsh Office. The latest proposals to protect that monument are the eighth since 1974. If we do not take action, we shall lose that monument and, I am sure, other historic monuments throughout the country.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I am sufficiently conscious of the value and importance of Llanblethian castle. I shall draw the hon. Gentleman's point to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales.

Mr. Hugo Summerson (Walthamstow)

Many hon. Members use St. Stephen's entrance to gain access to the Houses of Parliament. St. Stephen's Hall and Central Lobby are often crowded with visitors and, welcome though those visitors are, they none the less sometimes get in the way. In the past few months when coming in to attend Divisions I have collided twice with members of the public. Will my right hon. and learned Friend look at whatever arrangements there are to ensure that hon. Members have unhindered and unencumbered access to this place?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I find it difficult to judge imediately the relative importance of my hon. Friend's access to the House and his continued contact with the electorate.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

With reference to the question of the hon. Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) on the procedures to be adopted when debating the Government's response to Procedure Committee's report on EEC legislation, does the Leader of the House agree that a vote to approve such a response would not give him the opportunity to choose those aspects on which he will table amendments and would decide holus bolus on all its proposals? Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that many hon. Members will be grateful for the fact that no fewer than 10 motions on the Orders of the Day relate to EEC documents, some of which are due to be considered in Committee? Will the Leader of the House tell us which orders will be considered in Committee next week.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I take note of the advice offered by the hon. Gentleman and, in so far as it differs from the advice offered by my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery), I shall reflect all the more enthusiastically on both pieces of advice. I shall try to meet the hon. Gentleman's request in relation to his second point in one way or another, but I cannot undertake to do so precisely in the way that he asked.

Mr. Michael Latham (Rutland and Melton)

As the whole of tomorrow may be taken up with the second debate this week on the dreary subject of the Common Market, rather on the much more interesting subject of Church and state, will my right hon. and learned Friend arrange for a debate next week on the subject of the Church and its relations with the state?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I take note of the somewhat frustrated way in which my hon. Friend expresses himself, having drawn the debate that is likely to take second place tomorrow. He may find that his expectations are not entirely unrewarded, but I cannot give him any promise in that respect.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

May we have a debate next week on Lord Justice Salmon's report on the standard of conduct in public life, which was made to the House in 1978 and is still waiting for a debate? We could link that to the standard of conduct of Cabinet Ministers who take part in and vote on legislation but then line their pockets with lucrative jobs, leading companies that have been privatised. Many people regard that as outrageous and scandalous. The Government could then invoke any criticism that they might have and Opposition Members could invoke their criticisms of the way in which former members of the Tory Government have continuously abused their positions by gaining jobs for the boys which are lucrative beyond the dreams of most people in this country.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I come back precisely to the point that former Labour Ministers, of whom the hon. Gentleman was once one—[Interruption.]—incidentally, it is astonishing to look back on that—have all taken such jobs and there is no significant difference in principle.

Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)

Will my right hon. and learned Friend help the House by stating whether he is contemplating guillotining any part of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill next week?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

My hon. and learned Friend has omitted to recollect that the two days' proceedings next week are taking place under the terms of the timetable motion that was commended on most sides of the House some months ago.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Well, then, let us have a debate on outside earnings generally. Let us talk about pensioners, disabled people and others who are on means-tested benefits and who, if they earn any money from outside employment, lose those means-tested benefits in line with the extra money that they have made. If those pensioners and others have to lose money because they are making money through another form of employment, that rule should apply to those ex-Cabinet Ministers, of any Government, who are lining their pockets as a result of the job that they held. If ex-Cabinet Ministers cannot make ends meet on £26,000 per year, that is a poor lookout for the pensioners and others who have to struggle every week.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

In the hon. Gentleman's phraseology, let us have a debate, but not in the form of a speech at business questions. He might have the opportunity of raising the topic during the next Opposition Supply day.

Mr. James Kilfedder (North Down)

Great anger has been generated by the school transfer procedure chaos in my constituency and, indeed, elsewhere in Northern Ireland. Therefore, will my right hon. and learned Friend the deputy Prime Minister provide time next week to debate that vital issue so that justice can be done for many boys and girls who have been denied a grammar school place as a result of the new system?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

Justice in this matter is as important in North Down as in every other part of the kingdom. I cannot promise to offer an opportunity for a debate in the immediate future.

Mr. Alistair Darling (Edinburgh, Central)

The Leader of the House will be aware that the English law reform proposals were contained in a separate Bill whereas the Scottish proposals were lumped along with licensing, divorce and other matters. With his Back-Bench Members in revolt, does it not strike the right hon. and learned Gentleman as odd that in order to get the Bill through he might have to use Tory Members who sit for English seats to crush Labour Members who sit for Scottish seats?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

There will be no question of anyone crushing any hon. Members in any way on the matter. I hope that a reasoned and well-ordered debate will take the matter to its conclusion.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough and Horncastle)

Will my right hon. and learned Friend refer back to the exchanges that took place during Prime Minister's Question Time about the creation of a new Select Committee? Given that the number of spending commitments made by the Labour party appears to have declined from 140 before the last general election to 81, will my right hon. and learned Friend speculate on how many spending commitments there would be in the next Labour manifesto if they won the coming election and whether they would include a commitment not to staff the boards of nationalised industries with former Labour Ministers?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

I am not sure that I could speculate usefully on that question.

Mr. Ray Powell (Ogmore)

Will the Leader of the House give consideration to finding time for a debate next week on the implementation of the Shops Act 1950? Perhaps he would be good enough to read the extracts from Home Office Question Time to find out what the Home Secretary said about implementation and the difficulties that we face? I gathered—I have checked to find out whether it is true—that he was giving licence to B and Q and others who have threatened to continue to open on Sundays, despite a case that was resolved in Cwmbran magistrates court only on Monday of this week. It is necessary to ensure that Ministers, who are here to uphold the law, as we are here to make it, should not encourage B and Q to break the law. We are continually told by the Prime Minister that we should not blatantly break the law by striking or deciding not to pay the poll tax. Why is protection given to B and Q and others who blatantly break the Shops Act 1950?

Sir Geoffrey Howe

The hon. Gentleman referred to the case in Cwmbran magistrates court. He will be aware that there has been another case in the High Court. Taken together, those cases illustrate the problems associated with the present unsatisfactory state of the law on Sunday trading. He will also be aware that the Government invited the House to accept legislation that would have removed many of the difficulties. That was not acceptable to the House. The Government's position remains clear. We are prepared to consider alternative methods of reform which are likely to be acceptable to all who are interested and concerned The difficulty so far has been finding exactly that balance.