HC Deb 15 November 1990 vol 180 cc709-20 3.34 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 (Mr. John MacGregor)

Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY 19 NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Bill.

TUESDAY 20 NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Criminal Justice Bill.

Motion to take note of EC document on aid to shipbuilding. Details will be given in the Official Report.

WEDNESDAY 21 NOVEMBER—Opposition day (1st Allotted Day). Until about seven o'clock there win be a debate entitled "The Scottish Economy". Afterwards there will be a debate entitled "The Textile Industry". Both debates arise on Opposition motions.

Motion on the Statistics of Trade Act 1947 (Amendment of Schedule) Order 1990.

THURSDAY 22 NOVEMBER—Until about seven o'clock Second Reading of the Disability Living Allowance and Disability Working Allowance Bill, followed by Second Reading of the Armed Forces Bill.

FRIDAY 23 NOVEMBER—There will be a debate on the GATT round of trade negotiations on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

MONDAY 26 NovEMBER—Second Reading of the Statutory Sick Pay Bill.

[Tuesday 20 November

Relevant European Community documents:
8097/90 Aid to ship-building
9416/90 Report on shipbuilding industry in Community 1989

Relevant Report of European Legislation Committee HC 11-xxxii (1989–90)

Friday 23 November

Relevant European Community documents:
(a) Un-numbered General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade: Uruguay Round
(b) Un-numbered General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade: negotiations on Agriculture

Relevant Reports of European Legislation Committee

  1. (a) HC 29-i (1990–91)
  2. (b) HC 43-v ( 1987–88 ), HC 43-xxxv ( 1987–88) and HC 15-i (1988–89)]

Dr. Cunningham

Why has not the Secretary of State for Wales made an oral statement on the revenue support grant for Wales? Should not hon. Members representing constituencies in the Principality have an opportunity to question the Secretary of State about the implications of that settlement for poll tax payers in Wales?

Does the Leader of the House intend to arrange a debate on European Community affairs before the intergovernmental conference on economic, monetary and political union takes place on 13 and 14 December? Given the widely acknowledged importance of the intergovernmental conference, and in recognition of the large divisions of opinion within the Government and the Conservative party, should not the House have the opportunity to listen to such a debate so that Opposition Members at least may know which side will prevail before Britain's case is argued at that conference?

The Leader of the House will be aware that today we have had the announcement of the largest increase in unemployment for four and a half years. This is the seventh consecutive month in which unemployment has increased and it now stands at 1.7 million. Is not that yet another indication of the deepening economic and industrial recession that is the inevitable consequence of the policies being pursued by the Chancellor of the Exchequer? Will the Leader of the House arrange an early debate on the Government's economic and industrial policies—particularly as they apply to unemployment?

Mr. MacGregor

The hon. Gentleman's first question was about the revenue support grant for Wales. He will recognise that I shall have to look into that matter as, clearly, there are normally other times when that is discussed.

The hon. Gentleman asked about European Community affairs. It has been clear from our recent debates, in which economic and monetary issues and wider European issues have been discussed—most recently, yesterday—that there is substantial agreement on the Conservative Benches. I suspect that the divisions are really among Opposition Members.

The hon. Gentleman asked for time for a debate. As he will know, it is normally for the convenience of the House to hold traditional debates on the EC six-monthly White Paper. I understand that it has now been agreed that in those debates we should look forward as well as dealing with the previous six months. The timing of such a debate is best left for consideration through the usual channels, but if we can look forward in the debate, we can cover points to be discussed at the intergovernmental meeting. I agree that it is important that the House should have a debate on these matters before then.

The hon. Gentleman asked about unemployment. We have been debating industrial and economic matters extensively for the past two days, and the votes last night proved resoundingly that there is support for the Government's economic policies. I cannot hold out the prospect of another debate immediately. The hon. Gentleman will know that employment, which is the key factor, is at an all-time high. As I said in my speech last night, the number of the work force in employment has been rising for the past seven years. It has increased by 3.6 million in that time, and the United Kingdom still has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the whole Community.

Sir Peter Emery (Honiton)

I am sure that the House would want to thank my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House for and congratulate him on his announcement yesterday which met part of our recommendation about the parliamentary calendar. We now know the dates for the Christmas and Easter recesses.

Is my right hon. Friend progressing with the appointment of members to the special European Standing Committees to deal with European matters which are not to be considered on the Floor of the House? I hope that the members will be appointed to those Committees so that they can begin operating perhaps by the end of the month.

Mr. MacGregor

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his opening comments. I hope that the announcement that I made yesterday evening, which of course must be subject to the satisfactory progress of business, will be for the convenience of all hon. Members. My hon. Friend's second point is a matter for the Committee of Selection to move ahead and select the members for those Committees. It is not a matter for me.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

Although we had useful exchanges after the statement on the Cullen report by the Secretary of State for Energy on Monday, does the Leader of the House accept that that report is vast and, given that report and the issues of industrial relations in the offshore industry, do we not need a more substantive debate on the matter?

I am sure that the Leader of the House is doing his best to set up a Select Committee on Scottish Affairs, but may I suggest that he gets in touch with the Royal Bank of Scotland to discover whether the leave extended to the right hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) to run the Prime Minister's election campaign can be extended further to allow him to serve on a Scottish Select Committee?

Mr. MacGregor

I have nothing to add to what I said yesterday evening about the Scottish Select Committee. My right hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) has many talents and he can carry out many functions at the same time, but I am not sure that he could do them all. I have said that I will look into the matter, but I think that it is very unlikely that progress can be made on it.

The House had a full exchange on the Piper Alpha report on Monday. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Government have accepted the recommendations in the Cullen report. I cannot promise an early or immediate debate on the matter, because we have a very full programme in the weeks ahead.

Mr. Bob Dunn (Dartford)

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the House should have an opportunity kr examine not only Government policies but those of the Opposition as well? If he accepts that, will he arrange for at least one day of Government time to allow us to debate and examine the Labour party's education policies which are both deceitful and dishonest in as much as they exist and will contribute nothing to the raising of standards, but will rather lead to the destruction of the grammar schools, city technology colleges and grant-maintained schools and will hinder the education opportunities of thousands of children?

Mr. MacGregor

I cannot promise a precise all-day debate on the Labour party's policies. However, there will be many opportunities to raise those issues. My hon. Friend will be aware that last night I made precisely the same points that he has just made about some aspects of the Labour party's education policies.

Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge)

Is the Leader of the House aware of the increasing incidence of stolen vehicles speeding through residential areas, one of which last night ended in the tragic death of a 10-month-old baby in my constituency? Can he promise an early statement on that problem which will include an examination of the inadequacies of the law relating to car theft and the resourcing of the police and which will also include the provision of adequate and proper resources to local authorities to allow them to provide traffic calming devices in residential areas without the fear of poll tax capping or having to cut other essential services?

Mr. MacGregor

I am sure that the whole House will be sorry to hear of yesterday's tragic accident. There will be a debate on road safety tomorrow in which the hon. Gentleman can raise such matters.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to early-day motion 4 which deals with compensation for haemophiliac AIDS victims?

[That this House calls upon the Secretary of State for Health urgently to conclude an out-of-court settlement with people with haemophilia who were infected with the AIDS virus in the course of National Health Service treatment and with their families in cases where they have already died.]

Is he aware that there is continuing and growing concern about the plight of people who are suffering through no fault of their own? If the Government would change their mind on the subject, that would meet with universal approval.

Mr. MacGregor

This matter was raised last week in business questions, and I said then that, as my hon. Friend knows, the Government have always accepted the strong moral argument in favour of the haemophiliacs, and that is why we have made £34 million available for ex gratia payments and have promised to keep that figure under review. However, the Government do not accept liability and will resist any settlement that implies admission of negligence. This matter has been discussed on a number of occasions, so I cannot promise an early debate in the normal way.

Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South)

Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on energy policy as it affects certain manufacturing industries such as the glass industry? He may be aware that the French are alleged to subsidise their energy costs. As the Government are about to sell off the electricity industry, would it not be fair if the House were to discuss the subject, because glass is more expensive to make here than in France, which is costing us British jobs?

Mr. MacGregor

There was the opportunity during the debate on the Queen's Speech to raise a large number of industrial issues, and I am sure that there will be other opportunities for the hon. Member to raise that issue if he so wishes. I cannot promise a debate on it in the near future.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

I thank my right hon. Friend for announcing today that there will be a debate next week on the textile industry, albeit that that short debate will be in Opposition time and that there will be a debate on the general agreement on tariffs and trade. Will he give the House an assurance that in both debates a Minister of the highest level will be present and will take on board the views of the House so that, when the Government negotiate the future of the multi-fibre arrangement under the GATT renegotiations and the new treaty, the interests of an industry that employs more than half a million people will be taken fully into account, and that the views in other European countries that there should be a phasing out period of a minimum of 10 years, preferably 15 years, will be adopted by the British Government?

Mr. MacGregor

I shall not comment on the substance of the matters because, as my hon. Friend says, there will be two opportunities next week to debate them, which is more than we have in any one week. One will be in Opposition time and the other will be a full day's debate on the GATT Uruguay round. I put this subject into next week's business in response to the many requests that I received last week. An appropriate Minister will respond on both occasions.

Mr. Bill Michie (Sheffield, Heeley)

I congratulate the three British women who, through their bravery, delayed the testing of the United Kingdom bomb in the Nevada desert the other day. Yesterday I suggested, on a point of order, that as there had been no debate on nuclear testing, even though discussions are taking place to ensure that there is no spread of nuclear weapons, there should be one. Quite rightly, Mr. Speaker, you advised me to raise the matter with the Leader of the House.

As this is such an important issue—the cold war is over and there is concern about the spread of nuclear weapons and technology—should not the House debate these issues? May we have Government time for such a debate?

Mr. MacGregor

We had a full day's debate on foreign and defence matters last week and there will be other opportunities, such as at Question Time, to raise the matter. I cannot promise a full day's debate soon.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

Notwithstanding the fact that we are to have a debate on the Armed Forces Bill next week—a purely disciplinary measure—and that recently we had a debate during the Queen's Speech debate on foreign affairs and defence, could my right hon. Friend bring forward at the earliest possible debate, preferably before the Christmas recess, the three single service debates, as there is a prolonged deployment of our armed forces in the Gulf and an imminent threat of war in that theatre?

Mr. MacGregor

I have heard what my hon. Friend said, but I cannot say how we shall be spending our time between now and the Christmas recess. I shall bear his point in mind.

Mr. Andrew Welsh (Angus, East)

Is it not pathetic for Tory Members of Parliament to criticise the Common Market on the basis that European manufactured exports to the United Kingdom are vastly greater than United Kingdom manufactured exports to Europe, especially given the Government's policy, which has destroyed vast swathes of manufacturing industry, and high interest rates, which are hampering and hindering that industry? Given the threat to Scotland's steel industry, and manufacturing firms such as Howdens, may we have an urgent debate on Scotland's steel industry and other manufacturing industries?

Mr. MacGregor

Manufacturing investment is at an all-time high. The hon. Gentleman cannot have heard me say that there will be a debate on the Scottish economy next week.

Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South)

May I ask my right hon. Friend to read early-day motion 30?

[That this House, on the occasion of the 700th anniversary of the expulsion of Jews from Britain, expresses its deep concern at the increase in the dissemination of antisemitic and racist materials in the United Kingdom; notes that none of the 21 antisemitic publications referred to the Attorney-General by the Board of Deputies of British Jews since 1986 have resulted in prosecutions; believes that firm, swift and effective action must be taken to cure neo-Nazi activity; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to take such action against those responsible for these odious publications.]

My right hon. Friend will be aware that there is widespread concern at the growth of anti-semitism in the United Kingdom. Will he bring the law into line so that individuals who practise it can be prosecuted, which they are not now?

Mr. MacGregor

As I have said to my hon. Friend, I am aware of the concern to which he has referred. I have read early-day motion 30. My hon. Friend will know that there have been 11 prosecutions since 1986 for the incitement of racial hatred, which have included allegations involving antisemitic material. A further case is outstanding. Of the cases drawn to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, nine—the most recent—are still under investigation or consideration.

Mr. Ted Leadbitter (Hartlepool)

The Leader of the House was helpful when he referred to the Piper Alpha disaster, and the House is grateful to him for that. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will take into account the fact that a debate in the House is urgent. In addition to the recommendations set out in the Cullen report, which are excellent, there are outstanding matters. I ask the rig ht hon. Gentleman to reflect on the deep concern, and sometimes anger, that is felt by the work force. Many safety-related matters need to be reviewed by the House, not least the role of the Department of Energy, the management and its attitude and the need for a role to be played by the trade union movement. The House would like to discuss these matters.

Mr. MacGregor

I understand the hon. Gentleman 's concernabout the work force. I think that that was made plain on Monday, when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy made clear the role of the Department and the acceptance of the report's recommendations in that respect. I shall draw the hon. Gentleman's comments to the attention of my right hon. Friend. There are difficulties about having an early debate on the specific subjects that the hon. Gentleman has raised.

Mr. Chris Butler (Warrington, South)

Will my right hon. Friend find time soon to discuss the developing structure within the brewing industry? With the possible closure of the Greenall Whitley brewery, the largest regional brewer in the United Kingdom, and the closure of Matthew Brown and other developments, it seems that we are achieving a less diversified and competitive brewing industry. Now might be the time for a review of the industry.

Mr. Macgregor

I know of my hon. Friend's concern about these matters, and especially his constituency concern. I know also that he has raised them on several occasions both in the House and directly with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. He will know that the measures adopted by the Government following the report of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission on beer have been extensively debated in the House on several occasions in the past year. The aim of the Government's measures is to promote a more competitive market for beer and other drinks. It is for individual companies to decide how best to respond to greater competition. I shall draw my hon. Friend's remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry once again.

Ms. Mildred Gordon (Bow and Poplar)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that some weeks ago I asked the right hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe), when he was Leader of the House, to consider providing a stairlift for easy access to wheelchair users to the Grand Committee Room and the Jubilee Room, and a loop for hearing aid users? The right hon., and learned Gentleman replied that he would give the matter the attention that it deserved. I fear that since then he has been occupied with other matters. I believe, however, that the matter which I raised deserves urgent attention, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to see what he can do to provide the facilities.

Mr. MacGregor

I am tempted to say to the hon. Lady, so have I. I shall look into the matter. It is not one that has yet been drawn to my attention. I think that it would be a matter for the House of Commons Commission, and I shall look into it in that context.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to early-day motions 2 and 3, signed by both Conservative and Opposition Members?

[That this House abhors the prospect of a resumption in the export of horses and ponies to continental abattoirs after 1992; urges the European Community ( the European Commission, European Parliament and all member states) to recognise that the ending of British export controls linked to minimum values would mean the rounding up of Dartmoor and other wild ponies for degrading and wholly unfamiliar transport to and across Europe; and calls for changes to proposed European Community measures on the protection of animals during transport, in order to maintain restrictions which avoid cruel treatment to British horses and ponies during long journeys and at continental slaughterhouses.]

The matter causes great anxiety to people throughout the country. The motions deal with the export of live equines after 1992. There is huge anxiety that after that date, unless suitable alternatives to the minimum values controls are put in place, there will be brutal slaughter of our equines. That will be unacceptable to the people of Britain. May we have a debate on the entirely unacceptable policies of the European Commission on the matter?

Mr. MacGregor

I understand and share my hon. Friend's anxiety. Many of us have had many representations from our constituents on the matter. I am sure that my hon. Friend, who takes such a close interest in matters relating to horses and ponies, will be aware that the Government are fully committed to retaining controls to ensure that horses and ponies are not exported from Britain for slaughter abroad. The matter is being debated in the European Community. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is well aware of the views of the House, but I shall again draw his attention to my hon. Friend's point.

Mr. Roy Beggs (Antrim, East)

Is the Leader of the House aware that today is the fifth anniversary of the imposition of the infamous Anglo-Irish diktat and that Ulster Unionists and British citizens in Northern Ireland remain totally opposed to it? It has been rejected. Our opposition is no less than it was when a quarter of a million people protested peacefully at the city hall in Belfast. Does the Leader of the House recognise that the territorial claim in articles 2 and 3 of the Irish Republic's constitution is offensive? Will he undertake as soon as possible to provide a proper debate in the House so that hon. Members' views on those two major issues can be expressed and constructive suggestions can be made to the Irish Government?

Mr. MacGregor

I am aware that today is the fifth anniversary. The hon. Gentleman will know that there will be an opportunity for a debate on Monday next when the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Bill comes before the House. No doubt that will be an opportunity for some hon. Members to express their views again about the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

Mr. Barry Field (Isle of Wight)

My right hon. Friend will be aware that the House has set an excellent example in saving trees by introducing the new slimline Order Paper. The change seems to have the agreement of hon. Members on both sides of the House. However, my right hon. Friend may not be aware that Departments still send copies of replies to questions even when the hon. Member has had an answer in oral questions. Will my right hon. Friend use his considerable influence to make Departments stop that time-wasting exercise and save even more trees?

Mr. MacGregor

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising the matter and for saying that the change has had such a favourable response from hon. Members on both sides of the House. It saves not only trees but substantial sums of money in publishing costs. Therefore, it is a sensible measure. I shall look into the point that my hon. Friend has raised.

Mr. Dennis Canavan (Falkirk, West)

May we expect a statement next week announcing the promotion of the hon. Member for Wiltshire, North (Mr. Needham) from the Northern Ireland Office to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, in view of his expertise on the diagnosis of mad cow disease?

Mr. MacGregor

I myself have had to deal with BSE in the past. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman's question has much to do with business questions and I cannot see any opportunity for the matter to be raised next week.

Mr. John Butcher (Coventry, South-West)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that yesterday Coventry cathedral and Coventry city council arranged a magnificent and moving commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the blitz of Coventry? Will he, together with you, Mr. Speaker, consider sending the bishop and the leader of the city council an appropriate appreciation of the way in which the event was put together? Will he also advise Members of the House on protocol and a sense of responsibility on such occasions? The President of the German Republic was present and the Queen Mother was present; three Labour Members of Parliament were absent. Surely that discloses a pretty awful lack of responsibility——

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is not an appropriate matter to raise with the Leader of the House at business questions. The hon. Member must ask for a debate.

Mr. Butcher

Surely that displays a lack of responsibility and a lack of courtesy whether——

Mr. Speaker

No. It is not the object of business questions to make attacks across the Chamber. The hon. Gentleman must ask a business question, and I think that he has done so.

Dr. Cunningham

May I invite you, Mr. Speaker, to ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw his attack on my colleagues?

Mr. Speaker

It was an inappropriate matter to raise at business questions, and I shall be grateful if the hon. Member for Coventry, South-West (Mr. Butcher) will rephrase what he said.

Mr. Butcher

In due course, there should be some discussion of these events, which are important, and, in due course, there should be a debate. I have been challenged about whether those hon. Members were invited—[Interruption.] My point is—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. In terms of good order in the Chamber and between both sides of the House, the hon. Gentleman should withdraw any aspersions that he has made against Opposition Members, because he has already said that he has no knowledge of whether they were invited.

Mr. Butcher

I am perfectly willing to withdraw any allegations about whether or not hon. Members responded to an invitation. I am simply saying that we in the House should have a sense of priorities about attending such events in any capacity—even as members of the general public.

Mr. MacGregor

I am sure that the whole House will agree with what my hon. Friend said about the importance of yesterday's event. I heard some reference to it on the radio and therefore share his views about it. My hon. Friend made some reference to you, Mr. Speaker, and to myself, which I shall happily discuss with you.

Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon)

May I add my voice to those who have pleaded for the Secretary of State for Wales to make a statement to the House about the Welsh revenue support settlement because, as a result of the way in which the poll tax is working—and especially the way in which the community charge is working in Wales—there is a desperate need for an early statement, next week if possible?

Will the Leader of the House clarify whether the debate on the GATT round on Friday of next week will be broad enough to encompass all the serious issues hitting agriculture at the moment because they raise some further topics?

Mr. MacGregor

On the first point, I cannot add to what I have said already, but obviously I shall look into the matter. On the second point, yes, next Friday's debate will cover all the GATT issues, of which agriculture is clearly a prominent, if not the main, issue.

Mr. Harry Ewing (Falkirk, East)

May I ask the Leader of the House a simple and uncontroversial question on a House of Commons matter that might need urgent attention next Wednesday? In the event of a change in the personage of the principal occupant of the Treasury Bench, would the Leader of the House ensure that the Mace is firmly secured in its place when the House meets next Wednesday?

Mr. MacGregor

I expected a comment like that when the hon. Gentleman began his question. I have every confidence that my right hon. Friend will be Prime Minister—[Interruption.]—that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will be Prime Minister then—[HON. MEMBERS: "Which right hon. Friend?"] My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. I have already made that clear.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish)

The Leader of the House will be well aware that private Bills have caused the House considerable trouble and have taken up a great deal of time in recent years; that a joint Select Committee of this House and the other place was set up to study the future of such procedures, that the Government produced a consultation document in the summer and that the consultation responses had to be in by the end of September. Is it not now time that we legislated to reform the private Bill procedure? Will the Government bring forward some proposals at an early opportunity?

Mr. MacGregor

I know that my predecessor, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe), was looking actively at this matter, and he has already discussed it with me. I hope to give some attention to it myself fairly shortly.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)

May I thank the Leader of the House for responding favourably to early-day motion 6, which has been signed by more than 100 hon. Members of all parties and which asks for a debate on GATT?

[That this House, recognising the importance of the textile and clothing industries to the economy of the United Kingdom, urges Her Majesty's Government to arrange an early debate to discuss the present and future trading prospects of these industries; and believes the Multi-Fibre Arrangement should be retained unless adequate transitional arrangements are agreed and proper safeguards for the British industries are incorporated into the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.]

I echo the earlier comments of the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton). I understand that Ministers will be occupied with other matters over the weekend, relating to leadership elections, but could the Leader of the House telephone the hapless Ministers who will speak in the debate on textiles on Wednesday and on GATT on Friday and tell them that they can expect considerable trouble unless they can give the House firm assurances that the multi-fibre arrangement will not be phased out unless and until firm safeguards are incorporated into GATT, and that even then we will tolerate the MFA being phased out only over a minimum of 10 years? Anything less than that and there will be considerable trouble. Will the Leader of the House warn those Ministers in advance?

Mr. MacGregor

I am sure that my right hon. Friends will be well able to make their cases in both debates.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Now that the Lord President has been in office for a few days, and now that we have an alternative Cabinet in waiting—or at least canvassing—may we have a little more fairness in the answering of questions, for which the Lord President has some responsibility? Is it fair in the run-up to the election for the Prime Minister for only one answer to be given to every question, when there are two key contestants for the job? In the interests of balance and political impartiality, it would make sense for the House to hear the views of Ministers representing the Prime Minister and——

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman's question is in the same category as that of the hon. Member for Coventry, South-West (Mr. Butcher). Questions should be about next week's business.

Mr. Skinner

I want a statement as early as possible next week, before Tuesday's election, or afterwards if it runs on, so that, instead of the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) telling people in the Tea Room about his policies on education, the poll tax, housing, cardboard city, and taxation, they can be explained in this Chamber. Will the Leader of the House arrange that for next week? We are all waiting.

Mr. MacGregor

As always, the hon. Gentleman has raised many points, but I shall respond to only one. The shadow Cabinet seated on the Front Bench opposite me will be waiting for a very long time.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

May we have a statement on the proposed Nevada desert test explosion, which was stopped by four gallent and courageous people yesterday? Will a Minister explain how the Government pick and choose their support for the United Nations? They support the United Nations when it comes to the Gulf, but sling out its nuclear non-proliferation treaty when it comes to spending £10 billion on Trident nuclear weapons and the testing of nuclear weapons to keep them in potential operational use. Clause 6 of that treaty places an obligation on the Government to get rid of nuclear weapons. When will the Government do something about that, realise that the cold war is over and that the warmonger who has been leading the Conservative party for 11 years is under severe criticism and may be sacked in any case, and get rid of nuclear weapons and testing?

Mr. MacGregor

I said in response to an earlier request that I do not see an opportunity for a debate on that subject next week. However, in relation to disarmament generally, the hon. Gentleman will be aware that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will be signing the important CSCE treaty next week, and will report to the House on that matter. That is a clear indication of the effectiveness of the Government's action.

Mr. James Hill (Southampton, Test)

My right hon. Friend will be aware that this is merchant navy shipping year. He will also be aware of the concern of the General Council of British Shipping that that service may not be able in future to provide ancillary vessels to support any military operation. Will it be possible to debate next week that very serious matter?

Mr. MacGregor

I do not think that it will be possible next week. However, the House will be debating a European Community document on aid to shipbuilding. Although it may be narrowly focused, it may give my hon. Friend an opportunity to make one or two points.

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