HC Deb 05 December 1991 vol 200 cc400-12 3.43 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)

The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY 9 DECEMBER—Proceedings on the Aggravated Vehicle-Taking Bill.

Motion on the Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act 1987 (Continuation) Order.

TUESDAY 10 DECEMBER—Estimates day (1st allotted day). Until about seven o'clock there will be a debate on the financing of private residential and nursing home fees, followed by a debate on the future of the coal industry. Details of the estimates concerned and the relevant Select Committee reports will be given in the Official Report.

Motion on the Ministerial and Other Salaries Order.

At Ten o'clock, the House will be asked to agree the civil and defence votes on account and the outstanding winter supplementary estimates.

WEDNESDAY 11 DECEMBER—Until about seven o'clock, motions on the social security benefits uprating and disability benefits affirmative orders and regulations and any related negative regulations. Details will be given in the Official Report.

Afterwards there will be a debate on fisheries on a Government motion.

THURSDAY 12 DECEMBER—MOtiOn for the Christmas Adjournment.

Proceedings on the Consolidated Fund Bill.

FRIDAY 13 DECEMBER—Private Members' motions.

MONDAY 16 DECEMBER—Progress on remaining stages of the Local Government Finance Bill.

The House will also wish to know that European Standing Committee A will meet at 10.30 am on Wednesday, 11 December, to consider European Community documents Nos. 7816/91 and 8046/91 relating to speed limitation devices.

[Tuesday, 10 December

Relevant Documents

Estimates Day: Class XIV, vote 1, central Government administered social security benefits and other payments, in so far as it relates to the financing of private residential and nursing home fees; fourth report from the Social Security Committee Session 1990–91 (HC 421); first report from the Health Committee Session 1991–92 (HC 28); class V, vote 9, privatisation of the coal industry, in so far as it relates to the future of the coal industry; fifth report from the Energy Committee Session 1990–91 (HC 208): "Clean coal technology and the coal market after 1993"; first special report. from the Energy Committee, Session 1991–92 (HC 67); Government observations on the fifth report of last Session (to be published on Friday, 6 December at 11 am).

Wednesday 11 December

Social Security Orders and Regulations

  1. 1. Social Security Benefits Up-rating (No. 2) Order 1991
  2. 2. Social Security (Contributions) (Re-rating) (No. 2) Order 1991
  3. 3. Guaranteed Minimum Pensions Increase (No. 2) Order 1991
  4. 4. Statutory Sick Pay (Rate of Payment) (No. 2) Order 1991
  5. 401
  6. 5. Social Security (Introduction of Disability Living Allowance) Regulations 1991
  7. 6. Social Security Disability Working Allowance (General) Regulations 1991
  8. 7. Social Security (Disability Living Allowance) Regulations 1991
  9. 8. Social Security (Adjudication) Amendment (No. 3) Regulations 1991.

European Standing Committee A

Relevant European Community Documents

7816/91 8046/91} Speed limiters

Relevant Report on European Legislation Committee HC 24-iii (1991–92).]

The House will also wish to know that, subject to the progress of business, it will be proposed that the House should rise for the Christmas Adjournment on Friday 20 December until Monday 13 January.

Dr. Cunningham

As someone whose motor car has just been stolen and used in a ram raid, may I give a personal welcome to the Bill which will come before the House next Monday? I am sorry that it has come a little late in my case, but I am sure that there will be a general welcome that the Government are at last taking action in that matter.

When the Home Secretary introduces that legislation next week, will the Leader of the House arrange for him to give the House a guarantee that it is not his intention, as reported in the newspapers, to stop publishing the quarterly crime statistics? Is that not yet another Government attempt to cover up their appalling record of the past 12 years and the explosion of crime which has taken place during their term of office?

Can we have a statement next week from the Government on regional industrial policy, especially on matters to do with assisted area status? May I sadly draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the announcement yesterday of several hundred more job losses in my constituency of Copeland? Is he not aware—and will he not make it clear to his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment—that yet another Government inquiry into industrial decline and the huge increases in unemployment in west Cumbria is not necessary? We know of the job losses: what we want to hear about is some Government action, especially the provision of assisted area status for west Cumbria, and for Copeland and Barrow-in-Furness.

Will the Leader of the House arrange next week for the Secretary of State for Education and Science to explain in an oral statement how it has been possible so to order his priorities that he can easily find £26 million of taxpayers' money for prestigious new offices for himself and other Ministers, while throughout the country the Government are failing to provide cash to invest in crumbling schools and in our children's education?

Mr. MacGregor

I sympathise with the hon. Gentleman in the loss of his stolen car, as I have already told him. I am sure that he will agree that there are many other reasons for wishing to introduce the Bill, and he will know that we have moved as fast as possible to frame it and bring it before the House. I believe that it is the will of the whole House that the Bill should proceed as quickly as possible so that we can strengthen considerably the penalties involved in what is wrongly known as joyriding.

As to the question about crime statistics, we would be happy to debate the Government's record on all law and order matters and to outline the many measures that we have taken to strengthen the police and to improve police pay, as well as other measures dealing with increases in penalties for crime. That is not appropriate for next Monday, but we should be happy to debate those matters on any occasion with the Labour party.

On his second point, the hon. Member will know that there will be an opportunity to debate economic policy this afternoon. We would happily engage in a debate about all the policies that we have carried through to realise the high growth which was achieved throughout most of the 1980s, and which will certainly be achieved through the 1990s.

I cannot promise Government time next week to discuss assisted area status, but the hon. Gentleman will be aware that there will be a number of opportunities next week when individual matters can be raised.

I do not think that it would be appropriate for my right hon. and learned Friend to make a statement on education next week, but we shall be pleased on every occasion possible to talk about the 35 per cent. increase in capital allocation that has gone into the school building programme in the last two years. Our record is very good.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. The House knows that I am always reluctant to curtail business questions, but today we have heavy pressure on debate, and I shall have to put a 10-minute limit on speeches. I therefore ask for questions to be related to the business for next week. I shall draw business questions to a close at 4.20, in the general interests of the House.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)

Is it my right hon. Friend's intention to arrange a debate on the outcome of the Maastricht meetings next week or before Christmas, or to leave it till after Christmas?

Mr. MacGregor

As I said last week, the Prime Minister will make a statement to the House as soon as possible after the summit has been completed. We must await the outcome of the summit before deciding what further consideration might be given in the House.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

Has the Leader of the House noted early-day motion 21 against the Control of Explosives Regulations 1991? [That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Control of Explosives Regulations 1991 (S.I., 1991, No. 1531), dated 5th July 1991, a copy of which was laid before this House on 15th July, in the last Session of Parliament, be annulled.] Has he further noted that it has been signed by 80 hon. Members in all parts of the House—perhaps an unusual number of signatures against a statutory instrument—because of their understandable concern about rights being given to the police to enter houses without warrant, and for that to be possible by way of a negative order?

Will the right hon. Gentleman make time available, preferably in the Chamber but otherwise in Committee, to debate that important matter?

Mr. MacGregor

I shall look into the matter. From recollection, and from what the hon. Gentleman said, I believe that it is one of the early motions and that the time may have passed.

Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South)

Following the visit of Mr. Le Pen, will my right hon. Friend arrange an early debate on racism so that many of us may take the opportunity to condemn his offensive and hateful doctrines?

Mr. MacGregor

There will be a number of opportunities next week for a whole range of matters to be raised in the House.

Mr. Ray Powell (Ogmore)

Can the right hon. Gentleman make time available next week for a debate on the emotional subject of Sunday trading? He will recall the debates in 1986, when the majority of hon. Members rejected the proposals of the Government to alter the Shops Act 1950 and to introduce new legislation permitting Sunday trading. Is he aware that we must debate the matter urgently, because people in the Country are illegally opening shops, and people are able to go into them and buy goods, all of which is illegal and could be the subject of prosecution?

Does the right hon. Gentleman also recall the debates in 1986 when the House rejected the idea of bringing back the rope? If the Government intend to flout the law on Sunday trading, perhaps their next step will be to bring back capital punishment without the permission of the House and without the law of the land being changed. We in Parliament, not people in Europe, make the laws of this country. We need a debate so that everybody in Britain may know where Members of the House stand.

Mr. MacGregor

As the hon. Gentleman knows, prosecution of those matters is for local authorities to consider: it is for them to prosecute if they wish to do so. I well recall the debates in 1986 on the Auld committee report and on the Bill that the Government introduced to try to make sense of the current laws on Sunday trading. He will recall that there were a wide range of views about the matter at that time. That is why the Minister of State, Home Office is continuing to have discussions with all those involved to see if an acceptable way forward can be achieved. I do not think that that would be achieved by a debate next week.

Mr. David Shaw (Dover)

Will my right hon. Friend arrange for an urgent debate next week on the plight of Mirror Group Newspapers pensioners? Will he also ensure that the debate is opened by the Attorney-General, who should deal with the question whether the Official Solicitor can step in, remove the trustees who have shown themselves to be totally useless, and obtain worldwide freezing orders on all the assets and money of the Maxwell family trust companies and Maxwell family companies? Will my right hon. Friend ensure that the debate is closed by the Foreign Secretary or the Chancellor, who can comment on the massive amount of income tax and capital gains tax of which the country has been defrauded by means of the Liechtenstein family trust, which has managed over the years to deal in other people's money free of tax, causing British taxpayers to lose millions of pounds?

Mr. MacGregor

I do not think that I can find Government time to debate that matter next week. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, the Serious Fraud Office is now conducting an inquiry into the Mirror Group Newspapers pension fund. IMRO, the investment fund regulator, is also conducting inquiries into Bishopsgate Investment Management Ltd. Those inquiries should be allowed to proceed on that aspect of the matter. As for who should participate, my hon. Friend would not be entirely right to ask that my right hon. Friends should participate in the debate.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Are arrangements being made next week for a report back to the House by the hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg), the Minister of State, Foreign Office, who has been to Algeria, Egypt and Tunisia? Is the Leader of the House aware that some of us wish to argue the case for this country acceding to the Libyan request to send British and American judges to Libya?

Mr. MacGregor

No, I do not think that it would be appropriate to debate the matter in Government time next week, but there are opportunities this week for a number of matters to he raised, as the hon. Gentleman knows.

Mr. Bernie Grant (Tottenham)

Has the Leader of the House had time to read a letter that I sent him regarding the treatment by the tabloid press of my appeal for information relating to the murder of PC Keith Blakelock? I appealed on television and elsewhere for anyone with information to come forward, and I offered to accompany them to the police. That has been distorted by the tabloid press, which has totally altered the position, thus creating difficulties in my constituency. An atmosphere has been created in which people will not co-operate with the police, as has happened in the past.

In view of the fact that right hon. and hon. Members have made comments in this House and in the papers about the situation, will the Leader of the House allow me time to make a full personal statement on the circumstances of the case, especially in view of the policy inquiry that has been launched today?

Mr. MacGregor

Personal statements, as the hon. Gentleman knows, are not a matter for me but for you, Mr. Speaker. Some of the statements made by the hon. Gentleman in the past have caused many people much concern.

Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)

Will the Leader of the House bear in mind the fact that part of his duty is to look after minorities in the House? When will we have a debate about accountability of Northern Ireland Office Ministers to Select Committees of the House? Yesterday in Dublin, the Prime Minister made it clear that he saw no reason why talks could not start immediately on stage 1. That is the conviction of the Unionist parties in this House—that talks should start before an election. Why cannot the Leader of the House get a Select Committee on Northern Ireland going so that, before the election, hon. Members will have an opportunity to question what is happening in Northern Ireland?

Mr. MacGregor

There are many opportunities to question what is happening in Northern Ireland—for example, in statements, at Question Time and in many of our debates. As for Select Committees, I have made it plain several times that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is willing to consider all those matters at the appropriate time but that we feel that the appropriate way to proceed is to get the talks going again.

Mr. John D. Taylor (Strangford)

Yesterday, our Prime Minister met the Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland and agreed that, from now on, he will meet the Dublin Prime Minister twice a year to discuss the affairs of Northern Ireland. As the Prime Minister does not extend the same facility to the Unionist parties of Northern Ireland, whose members live in Northern Ireland, and are elected by and speak for the people of Northern Ireland, will the Leader of the House arrange for at least two debates a year in the House so that all hon. Members have the same rights as are now given to the Republican Prime Minister in Dublin?

Mr. MacGregor

I am well aware that we have more than two debates on Northern Ireland matters every year.

Mr. Speaker

I think that I inadvertently called two Members on the Opposition side, so I shall now balance that.

Mr. Rupert Allason (Torbay)

Bearing in mind the fact that there has been a Department of Trade and Industry inquiry into all aspects of the allegations of serious financial misconduct since March of this year, will my right hon. Friend arrange for his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to make a statement to the House next week explaining exactly what the Government knew, and when, of the allegations made in March? Will he also arrange a full inquiry into "Mirrorgate", ranging from the allegations of the manipulation of the "Spot the Ball" competition, right through to the looting of £500 million from the Mirror Group Newspapers pension fund?

Mr. MacGregor

My right hon. Friend's Department is in close consultation with the Serious Fraud Office, which is now widening its investigation to include the Mirror Group Newspapers pension fund. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has made it clear that he will not hesitate to take immediate action if any issues emerge that justify an investigation by his Department, as long as doing so will not slow down the work of the SFO.

Sir Ian Lloyd (Havant)

My right hon. Friend will know that the Advisory Committee on Science and Technology last week published its first triennial report raising a number of fundamental and far-reaching issues affecting this country's prosperity and future well-being into the next century. As there obviously will not be time to discuss the report next week, will my right hon. Friend ensure that he places high in his list of priorities a proper debate on those important subjects?

Mr. MacGregor

I agree with my hon. Friend about the importance of the subjects. He will know well my previous involvement in them. One reason why I agree with him is that I am well aware of the importance of those reports. I cannot promise time early in the new year, as we have a full programme of work. However, there will be two opportunities to raise the matter next week: Thursday and Friday.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)

The Leader of the House knows that the Asylum Bill is being considered in Standing Committee, but he may not know that the deliberations of the Committee are being made extremely difficult by the legal uncertainties that shroud the Bill. Clause 3 is widely seen as a breach of the Race Relations Act 1976. Clauses 4 and 5 cause difficulties because of the legal uncertainty about the future of the legal aid scheme.

Will the Leader of the House arrange for Law Officers to attend the Committee so that its members can receive the benefit of their advice or arrange for the Attorney-General to make a statement next week explaining why Law Officers are unwilling to attend the Committee?

Mr. MacGregor

I am not aware of those matters, and I shall discuss them with my right hon. and learned Friends.

Mrs. Maureen Hicks (Wolverhampton, North-East)

In view of the disgraceful disturbances last night at Brinsford prison, near Wolverhampton, a spanking new £50 million prison in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack), will my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House arrange for a debate on the problem of young offenders? We are too often given too many excuses. We have been told that the disturbances in our prisons are due to overcrowding and other conditions. However, Brinsford is a brand new prison that has just opened, and we should take the opportunity to link the debate on young offenders with the subject of young offenders outside gaol who are too often involved in joyriding episodes and other incidents that disturb our constituents.

Mr. MacGregor

My hon. Friend is quite right to draw attention to the considerable prison building programme undertaken by the Government. I shall not be able to find time for such a debate next week, but it may be a suitable subject to raise on the Consolidated Fund Bill.

Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse (Pontefract and Castleford)

Is the Leader of the House aware that the Yorkshiree police authority, through its chairman and chief constable, has issued a press statement, followed up by a letter to West Yorkshire Members of Parliament, saying that the force is 200 policemen understaffed? Earlier this afternoon, during Home Office questions, a Home Office Minister and the hon. Member for Calder Valley (Mr. Thompson) suggested that that was not the case. Will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for an investigation to see who is telling the truth and for a statement to be made to the House next week?

Mr. MacGregor

That would not be an appropriate matter for a statement, but I shall ensure that the matter is brought to my right hon. Friend's attention and that he considers whether he should say something in some other form.

Mr. Jonathan Aitken (Thanet, South)

My right hon. Friend has given the impression from the Dispatch Box this afternoon that the involvement of the Serious Fraud Office in the affairs of the Daily Mirror somehow makes it impossible for the House to debate that subject. That view cannot be right in relation to one aspect of the affairs of the Daily Mirror—the uncertainties surrounding its future ownership. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the House will be given an opportunity to debate any possible future transfer of the title, as it is required to do if the Secretary of State had to give his consent under the Fair Trading Act 1973 for a transfer of this important title?

Mr. MacGregor

I agree that only certain aspects are covered by the two investigations to which I have referred. I shall have to consider the matter that my hon. Friend raises, but it is unlikely that we shall be able to deal with it next week. If my hon. Friend wishes to raise other aspects of the matter, there will be plenty of opportunity for individual issues to be raised on two days next week.

Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South)

As the Leader of the House is well aware, at 4 o'clock this afternoon the Government's latest proposals on the advertising of commercial and other credit facilities will be published. I fully appreciate that the matter can then be dealt with by way of statutory instruments in Committee, but, bearing in mind the seriousness of the matter and the importance of credit and credit display and warning, will the right hon. Gentleman give an undertaking that the matter will be dealt with on the Floor of the House at a later stage?

Mr. MacGregor

I have noted what the hon. Gentleman says. That will be a matter for us to discuss through the usual channels.

Mr. Kenneth Hind (Lancashire, West)

My right hon. Friend will remember a Department of Trade and Industry report on Pergamon Press which said that Robert Maxwell should never be allowed to run a public company. Surely, in the light of Conservative Members' concern—

Mr. Geoffrey Dickens (Littleborough and Saddleworth)

Only Conservative Members.

Mr. Hind

—about what has happened to the Mirror group of companies, particularly the £500 million that has been taken from the pension fund, will my right hon. Friend provide time next week so that the matter can be properly debated?

Mr. MacGregor

As my hon. Friend knows, it was this Government who strengthened the law relating to directors and their disqualification a few years ago, after the particular case to which my hon. Friend refers in relation to Pergamon Press. The Government have also strengthened the law and the regulations in relation to pension funds. Again, my hon. Friend's point can be raised next week.

Mr. Jimmy Wray (Glasgow, Provan)

Is the Leader of the House aware that the people of Scotland and England are living in fear of their lives as a result of the escalation of drug abuse and murder by firearms? A recent police report showed that there were 37 murders in the south-east of England and that parts of Scotland are becoming like Dodge City. When will the Home Office clean up the mess so that people can do their shopping and go out after dark in safety?

Mr. MacGregor

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Government take such matters extremely seriously. That is why we have taken a range of measures to address them, including changes in the law relating to penalties for drug abusers and in many other ways. The Government's record is clear. We share the hon. Gentleman's concern; that is why we are doing a lot about it.

Mr. Phillip Oppenheim (Amber Valley)

Can we find time next week to broaden the debate on pension funds into a general debate on corruption in public life? For some time, Conservative Members have had to listen to Opposition Members moralising about "greedy business men" and "City spivs", but during the past few months the former Labour deputy leader of Liverpool council, who was backed up to the hilt by the Labour party when he was deputy leader, has been arrested for his shady dealings. There have been several leading councillors in north-east Derbyshire—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am not personally aware, but is the hon. Gentleman sure that that case is not sub judice?

Mr. Oppenheim

I have checked on that, but I shall not pursue the matter.

We need a debate on the subject, particularly bearing in mind what has recently happened with regard to the Maxwell pension fund. Is it not the case that the real spivs are the Labour spivs who rip off pensioners and poll tax payers to line their own pockets?

Mr. MacGregor

I obviously cannot refer to the case that my hon. Friend has mentioned. He has made his point about the affiliations of some of the people about whom there is so much concern, but I cannot find Government time to debate it next week.

Mr. Andrew Welsh (Angus, East)

Is the Leader of the House aware of the content of early-day motion 256, on the subject of genetic patenting?

[That this House notes with concern the proposed EC Directive which will allow the patenting of genetically engineered animals and plants, and which is designed to foster research in this field; believes that such patenting implies an ethically unacceptable view of animals as instruments for human use and exploitation and will lead to an increase in animal suffering such as that of the American pigs with human growth gene, which were arthritic and impotent and had deformed skulls; further believes that such patenting will increase the control of large concerns over genetic resources, thus harming the interests of farmers and of the Third World; further believes that it will lead to higher prices and curtailment of consumer choice; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to reject this Directive and to advocate a moratorium on patenting of life forms to allow time for public debate.]

Is he aware also of public concern about the morality of creating and patenting life forms? Will he allow time to debate that important issue on the Floor of the House?

Mr. MacGregor

I am aware of early-day motion 256, but the Government consider that patent law is not the right vehicle for controlling genetic engineering activities. If an activity is not otherwise proscribed, then, in general, the benefit of the patent system should apply.

Mr. John Browne (Winchester)

Will my right hon. Friend accept that, in this day of the social charter, it must be wrong that members of the armed forces who are grievously injured in the course of duty should have to prove negligence by the mighty Ministry of Defence? When my right hon. Friend reads my new Bill, which sets out to reverse that unjust onus of proof, will he do so with a view to urging his Government colleagues not to kill my Bill?

Mr. MacGregor

I cannot comment on a Bill that I have not seen. However, I do not see how that relates to the social charter—which, as my hon. Friend knows, contains a number of measures that the Government feel could be deeply damaging to employment in this country, although not in the way that my hon. Friend describes. However, I have not yet read my hon. Friend's Bill.

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

Has the Leader of the House noticed the large number of questions that Ministers are receiving on the subjects of policing and law and order? Given the breakdown in law and order throughout the kingdom, and having noted that last week the Home Secretary appointed four extra police officers for the whole of the county of Cumbria—which embraces half a million people—is it not time for the Government to make a full statement at the Dispatch Box so that right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House can press the Home Secretary on the need for additional policing in their constituencies?

Mr. MacGregor

But there are substantially more police in place now than when this Government took office, and they are better paid. There are not the problems of recruitment and retention that there were when the last Labour Government were in office, and many more officers are also on the beat, because the number of civilian workers in the police service has greatly increased. Penalties have also been increased, and expenditure has substantially increased. This Government have taken many more measures than the last Labour Government, with the result that the position in respect of the police is very much better than it was then.

Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)

There will be widespread appreciation that what comes out of Maastricht will be of monumental importance to the future of Britain. Will my right hon. Friend make sure that when that matter comes to be debated in the House, that is not done over one or two days, but that a whole week is set aside so that all right hon. and hon. Members may have an opportunity to express ideas and thoughts that will be so important for the future of Britain?

Mr. MacGregor

I repeat what I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack)—we have not yet taken a view on how further consideration of the outcome of Maastricht should proceed following the statement of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister—which I made clear will be made as soon as possible. If we have a debate, I will endeavour to allow as much time for it as possible. However, in view of the amount of time that we have already given to those matters, and given the fact that we have a shortened Parliament—[HON. MEMBERS:"Oh? How shortened?"]—it is extremely unlikely that I will be able to allow a full week. However, if there is a debate, I will allow as much time as possible.

Mr. Ron Brown (Edinburgh, Leith)

The Government claim that the national health service is safe in their hands. However, the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh and the promised Leith hospital have been denied funding unless both are connected with the entrepreneurs—with the spiv society. Clearly that is a disgrace. Can the House debate that matter next week, because it is so important to my part of Scotland?

Mr. MacGregor

I do not know precisely to which individuals the hon. Gentleman refers in relation to those hospitals, but I should have thought that to describe them as entrepreneurs was entirely inappropriate. The hon. Gentleman will know of the considerable increases for the health service in Scotland in the coming year announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. As to any debate, I made it clear that there will be a considerable number of opportunities for right hon. and hon. Members individually to raise such issues next week.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross)

Will the Leader of the House, as a good Scot, make a new year's resolution, if he is not able to do this before the new year, to have a debate, not on law and order, but on law, and on the comparative law of Scotland and England? If the law of Scotland applied in England, we would not need to waste our time on the Prison Securities Bill or the Aggravated Vehicle-Taking Bill—the Criminal Law Act 1977 does not apply and the Shops Act 1950 part II does not apply—or the release of innumerable people convicted of terrible crimes. If the law of Scotland applied here, the business of the House would be a great deal shorter and a great deal better done.

Mr. MacGregor

I am not sure about the last point, because I know that there are always so many candidates for Bills that, if some important ones did not come forward, others would take their place. My hon. and learned Friend is clearly not talking about next week in relation to a resolution that I might make on Hogmanay. I have a good deal of sympathy with the point that he makes about the Shops Act.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

Will the Leader of the House undertake that, when the Prime Minister reports on Maastricht, he will include his talks leading up to Maastricht so as to allow hon. Members, particularly those from Northern Ireland, to probe about the meeting between him and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland yesterday? Bearing in mind the disingenuous reply that he gave my colleague the right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) earlier, will he not accept that the Ministers in the Northern Ireland Office and in Dublin castle are not actually elected by anybody from Northern Ireland?

Mr. MacGregor

That is not the point that I was making earlier. The point that I was making was that there are a considerable number of opportunities to debate Northern Ireland matters and to ask questions on them in the House. I will draw to my right hon. Gentleman's attention the point that the hon. Gentleman makes about the Prime Minister.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

In the context of business next week, there are other European matters of importance beyond the Community that merit early consideration. Will my right hon. Friend urge the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to come to the House next week and announce the official recognition by Her Majesty's Government of the newly eleted Government of Ukraine, which, in a referendum, by a majority of 9 to 1, has democratically endorsed the previous democratic decision of its democratically elected Parliament on its own sovereignty and independence? Her Majesty's Government ought to be seen to support these democratic movements.

Mr. MacGregor

Without making any commitment to a statement, I will draw the views of my hon. Friend to my right hon. Friend's attention.

Mr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East)

May I draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to early-day motion 249?

[That this House recognises with sadness the plight of those people infected with HIV as a result of contaminated National Health Service blood/ tissue transfers; recalls that the Government has given special financial assistance to haemophiliacs infected with HIV under National Health Service treatment by the blood product Factor VIII; notes that the Minister of State for Health has stated that haemophiliacs should be a special case; but believes that there is no logical or legal argument for the Government's refusal to extend aid to non-haemophiliacs infected by contaminated National Health Service blood/tissue transfers; regrets the Government's failure to recognise their obligations towards this small number of people; and calls upon the Government immediately to include non-haemophiliacs within the category of persons compensated for infection with HIV under National Health Service treatment.]

It has been signed by more than 170 hon. Members from all parties in the House, and calls on the Government to provide financial compensation to non-haemophiliacs who have become HIV-positive as a result of contaminated national health service blood transfusions or tissue transfers. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Government Whips Office organised last Friday to prevent a similar motion from being debated in the House? I appeal to him to draw the motion to the attention of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and to ask him to give it very careful consideration.

Mr. MacGregor

I think that the hon. Gentleman is quite wrong about the way in which debates are conducted in the House. He will know that many people often want to speak in individual debates. With regard to the early-day motion, I am sure that the whole House has every sympathy with the plight of those who have been infected with HIV as a result of blood transfusions, but the House decided only recently that it did not support the principle of no-fault compensation for medical negligence. If the NHS is proved negligent in a court, of course the Government accept their liability to pay damages.

Mr. Andrew MacKay (Berkshire, East)

By now, my right hon. Friend will be aware of the very great concern on this side of the House about the crimes of fraud committed by Robert Maxwell and his associates, not least in respect of the raiding of the pension funds of Mirror Group Newspapers. May I, in supporting the request for a debate next week, put it to my right hon. Friend that there are millions of pensioners and contributors to company pension funds throughout the land who are today worried sick about the future of their pensions? We need to allay their fears by a debate to prove that not every company is crooked and not every group of trustees is negligent, as were those in the case of Mirror Group Newspapers.

Mr. MacGregor

I share the concern of my hon. Friend and of other Conservative Members, and I understand the anxiety of pensioners, and future pensioners, in the company. There is no doubt about where our concern lies. I am sure that my hon. Friend agrees that, under trust law, trustees have a duty to act in the interests of all beneficiaries. Many trustees of pension funds do so. The Occupational Pensions Board considered trust law in 1988. It saw no need to change the legal framework but recommended additional safeguards, which the Government enacted in 1990. I am sure that my hon. Friend agrees that many trustees of occupational pension schemes carry out their responsibilities responsibly. The reassurance that my hon. Friend wants can be given to many pension holders all over the country.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I will carefully keep the list of hon. Members who have not been called and will give them priority next week. I have a short statement to make.

Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

No, I am on my feet.