HC Deb 24 January 1991 vol 184 cc457-69 3.32 pm
Mr. Bruce Grocott (The Wrekin)

May I ask the Leader of the House to 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 28 JANUARY—Second Reading of the Ports Bill.

Motion on the Financial Services Act 1986 (Delegation) Order.

TUESDAY 29 JANUARY—Motions on the English revenue support grant reports followed by motions on the Welsh revenue support grant reports. Details will be given in the Official Report.

WEDNESDAY 30 JANUARY—Opposition day (4th Allotted Day). Until about seven o'clock there will be a debate entitled "The Recession in Industry". Afterwards there will be a debate entitled "Famine in Sub-Saharan Africa". Both debates arise on Opposition motions.

Motions on the Health and Personal Social Services (Northern Ireland) Order and the Health and Personal Social Services (Northern Ireland) (Consequential Amendments) Order.

THURSDAY 31 JANUARY—Second Reading of the Ministerial and Other Pensions and Salaries Bill.

Motion on Members' pensions.

The Chairman of Ways and Means will name opposed private business for consideration at seven o'clock.

FRIDAY I FEBRUARY—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY 4 FEBRUARY—Until seven o'clock, private Members' motions.

Second Reading of the Coal Mining Subsidence Bill.

Mr. Speaker, the House will also wish to know that European Standing Committee B will meet at 10.30 am on Tuesday 29 January to consider EC Document No. 6459/90 relating to obstacles to takeovers and other general bids; and European Standing Committee A will meet on Wednesday 30 January at 10.30 am to consider EC Document No. 6701/90 relating to emissions of gaseous pollutants from diesel engines.

[Tuesday 29 January 1991

  1. 1. (i) Revenue Support Grant Report ( England) 1991–92 (HC 93)
  2. (ii) The Population Report ( England) (No. 2) ( HC 94)
  3. (iii) Revenue Support Grant Distribution (Amendment) Report (England) (HC 95)
  4. (iv) Special Grant Report (No. 2) (HC 96)
  5. (v) Rate Support Grant Supplementary Report (England) 1989–90 (HC 12)

  1. 2. (i) Welsh Revenue Support Grant Report 1991–92 (HC 78)
  2. (ii) Welsh Revenue Support Grant Distribution Report (No. 2) (HC 79)
  3. (iii) Distribution of non-domestic rates (Relevant Population) Report for Wales (No. 2) ( HC 80).

European Standing Committee B

Tuesday 29 January 1991

Relevant European Community Documents

  1. (a) 6459/90 Barriers to Takeovers
  2. (b) Unnumbered Company Law

Relevant Reports of European Legislation Committee

  1. (a) HC 11-xxvii (1989–90)
  2. (b) HC 11-xiv (1989–90) and HC 11-xxvii (1989–90)

European Standing Committee A

Wednesday 30 January 1991

Relevant European Community Document

6701/90 Emissions by diesel engined vehicles

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

Mr. Grocott

Can the Leader of the House give us an absolute assurance that any developments in the Gulf will be reported immediately, swiftly and in full to the House, and that, however inconvenient the time, he will ensure that the relevant Minister comes to the House to tell us as much as possible about what is happening?

We are still waiting for a debate on the autumn statement. We need to debate the economy urgently. All our constituents are being affected by the recession, by the record bankruptcies and by rising unemployment, and we need to debate that.

When shall we get the long-promised debate on the Cullen report on the Piper Alpha disaster? It is long overdue.

We shall have only one and a half hours to debate the Welsh revenue support grant. That is inadequate. When will the Leader of the House allocate more time for vital debates on poll tax-related issues?

On Thursday, we shall have debates on pensions and related matters, and on resettlement grants. When will the orders be put before the House? Can the Leader of the House assure us that he has taken careful note of the massively supported early-day motion 299?

[That, in the opinion of this House, paragraph ( 2) of the third Resolution of this House of 19th July 1983, which provides that resettlement grants for former Members should not be payable to a person who has attained the age of 65 years before the dissolution of the present or any future Parliament should no longer have effect, and that the following new provision should be made: (a) That the resettlement grant should not be payable, on the dissolution of the present or any future Parliament, to any person who had attained the age of 65 years at the dissolution of the preceding Parliament; but That (b) regardless of age, a person who has completed a total of 20 years' service as a Member of this House becomes eligible for the grant when it becomes payable under the first paragraph of the third Resolution of 19th July 1983, irrespective of whether that service was continuous, subject to paragraph (3) of the said Resolution.]

Mr. MacGregor

On developments in the Gulf, I made our position clear the other evening in response to some points of order; for the convenience of the House, I shall say it again. Clearly we have every desire to report any major incidents to the House. To apply that to "any developments in the Gulf" would be overstating the case, because it is important that we confine such reports to major changes in the Gulf. We have made it clear from all that we have done so far that we are extremely keen to keep the House fully informed. The hon. Gentleman used the word "immediately". I am sure that he recognises that it is important that we have knowledge of the facts before statements are made and that we do not rely only on unconfirmed media reports.

I hope that we shall be able to have the debate on the autumn statement in the very near future. As the hon. Gentleman knows, there are other opportunities to debate economic issues, and we are happy to have such debates. We shall have such a debate this afternoon, and there is to be another next week in Opposition time.

I hope to find time for the Cullen report before too long. The House will recognise that there is quite a lot of pressure on business in the House at the moment and that has, of course, been intensified by the need for debates and statements on the Gulf. There are also a number of Second Readings to come forward. However, I am well aware of the House's anxiety for a debate on the report before long, and I recognise the importance of the issue.

The arrangements that I have announced for the Welsh revenue support grant are as normal and, I hope, for the general convenience of the House.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me the opportunity to say that I am anxious that the House should have before it all the information on which to have the debates on pensions and related matters. I have arranged for the draft regulations, which are part of the motion, to be placed in the Vote Office this afternoon, and I will also answer a question this afternoon in response to the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris), as chairman of the trustees of the pension fund, in relation to a possible reference of some matters to the Top Salaries Review Body. That will be recorded in Hansard so that all colleagues will have the opportunity to look at it before the debate.

The hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Grocott) referred to early-day motion 299. I am aware of the great interest in the matter because there are many signatories to the motion. Representations on this point have already been made through the usual channels. The hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members will have an opportunity to raise the issue in the debates next Thursday. It will be appropriate for me to comment on the early-day motion at that time.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I remind hon. Members that the object of business questions is to ask about business next week. I shall be grateful if hon. Members will confine themselves to that and ask one question, because we have a very long list of hon. Members who wish to take part in the subsequent debate in which, I am afraid, I shall have to put a limit on speeches anyway. So I ask hon. Members for brief questions, please, to the point and about business next week.

Sir Anthony Grant (Cambridgeshire, South-West)

I appreciate what my right hon. Friend said about the possibility of raising the question of the early-day motion on resettlement grants of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris), but in view of all the other matters to be debated at that time, which are rather different, and in view of the quite unprecedented support for the early-day motion on both sides of the House, would it not be a good idea to have a separate debate on this issue so that the House might concentrate on it and give its views very strongly, which I believe the Top Salaries Review Body wants to hear?

Mr. MacGregor

I do not think that I can do that in advance of next Thursday's debate because I have already announced the business. We ought to see how that debate goes before we consider whether any further time should be given to that subject. But I certainly hope that we make sure that we give enough time for all the issues to be debated next Thursday and certainly for this one to be aired as well.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

I am sure that the Leader of the House will agree that, but for the very serious events in the Gulf, the developments in the Baltic states would be attracting world attention, including the attention of the House. Does he hold out any prospect of an early debate on that subject?

The question of the European Community decision to limit fisheries and for people engaged in fishing to tie up for eight consecutive days a month must be dealt with by secondary legislation. The Government are seeking power to stop people prosecuting their means of livelihood. Will that matter be debated on the Floor of the House?

Mr. MacGregor

On the first point about the Baltic states, of course I understand the concern in the House, and we have already had some statements and opportunities for discussion. I am fully aware of the hon. Gentleman's point, and I think that he put it in the right context. We must keep a watchful eye on the situation and see whether more time for discussing it in the House is required. Obviously I can do that, and I give him that assurance.

On the second point, I cannot give an assurance that the matter will be dealt with on the Floor of the House. It is something that we shall have to look at in due course.

Sir Fergus Montgomery (Altrincham and Sale)

With reference to the debate on Tuesday on the revenue support grant, can my right hon. Friend say whether there will be a time limit? Many of us are unhappy about the settlement for our areas and would desperately like to speak in the debate. Therefore, may we also have an extension of the debate so that those of us who feel strongly about the settlement can have our say?

Mr. MacGregor

I will consider my hon. Friend's point. Exactly the same point arose on the old rate support grant orders, and there was similar anxiety among hon. Members to speak. On this occasion, we are following the practice that we have followed in the past.

Mr. Robert Parry (Liverpool, Riverside)

Has the Leader of the House read the reports about innocent people having been killed in Iraq, Israel and Saudi Arabia? There have been reports of 40 people in Iraq having been killed. The ambassador told me this week that more than 200 people had been killed and that churches, mosques and schools had been blitzed. Does the Leader of the House agree that the killing of people on both sides will only escalate the war?

Mr. MacGregor

I do not think that that question arises on the business of the House. There are plenty of opportunities for the issue to be discussed, and the hen. Gentleman will have heard what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said this afternoon.

Mr. Kenneth Hind (Lancashire, West)

As the Gulf war is probably one of the best covered by the media in our experience, will my right hon. Friend restrain his ministerial colleagues from coming to the House to make statements on every small incident? Will he restrict statements in the House to major events that affect the British forces, in particular, during the course of the Gulf war?

Mr. MacGregor

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend. I believe that the whole House recognises that at present my right hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Defence have very heavy responsibilities and work loads. It would be a mistake to ask them to make statements in the House on each and every incident reported in the media, particularly since some are corrected immediately afterwards. I agree with my hon. Friend that it is important, therefore, to concentrate statements on major events that affect the Gulf as a whole. However, these are matters that can be discussed through the usual channels on any occasion.

Mr. Jack Ashley (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

On the question of telephone communications from forces in the Gulf to their families at home, may we take the matter much further next week than the Prime Minister was able to take it today? It now costs more than £1 a minute to telephone home, and many squaddies simply cannot afford that. British Telecom is helping financially, but the Ministry of Defence should make a significant contribution and help still further. May we please have a statement from the Ministry of Defence next week?

Mr. MacGregor

I am not sure whether an oral statement would be an appropriate method of dealing with that point, but I shall ensure that the right hon. Gentleman's comment is conveyed to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence.

Mr. Rupert Allason (Torbay)

My right hon. Friend will be aware of the grave concern in the House and elsewhere about the treatment of British prisoners in Iraq. Notwithstanding what he said a moment ago about the usefulness of statements by Ministers, is he aware of calls for a war crimes investigation unit at the Ministry of Defence? Has he read articles in today's papers stating that such a unit has now been set up at the Ministry? Would this not be an appropriate issue on which to have a ministerial statement as soon as possible at the beginning of next week?

Mr. MacGregor

Clearly the whole House shares the concern about our prisoners of war. I shall ensure that his request is put to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence. Again, I am not sure whether that is an appropriate issue for an oral statement, but I shall put the point to him.

Mr. Alexander Eadie (Midlothian)

I refer to the question of Thursday's business regarding pensions and redundant Ministers. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be properly seized of the point that was made about early-day motion 299, which carries a substantial number of signatures—more than 340. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be a little more positive than he was previously about what he proposes to do. There is strong feeling in the House.

Surely the right hon. Gentleman agrees that it would be monstrous if we were to make a decision on ministerial pensions for Ministers who become redundant and left the matter in abeyance when there is such strong feeling in the House about the motion.

Mr. MacGregor

I do not want to go into the substance of that point today because I do not think that it is appropriate to do so at business questions. I hoped that it was clear from the indication that I gave at the outset, in response to the question of the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Grocott), that I have already been discussing the matter and that it will be possible for it to be discussed and raised next Thursday. There is an early opportunity for that early-day motion to be aired on the Floor of the House. Of course, I have noted the number of signatories to it.

Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

My right hon. Friend will be aware of concern in the House about what could only be described as the lukewarm or half-hearted support that our European partners have given us and the United States in our efforts in the Gulf. May we look forward to the Government considering some mechanism within Europe that will make those who use Gulf oil pay for it so that they can contribute towards the cost of our forces in the Gulf?

Mr. MacGregor

I shall take that point a little more generally and talk about it in terms of contributions to efforts in the Gulf by member states of the European Community and beyond. My hon. Friend knows that my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, and in particular the Defence Secretary and the Chancellor, are actively pursuing that point at the moment.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)

I appreciate the seriousness with which the Leader of the House views events in the Baltic states. However, is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the deep desire in the House for an early debate or statement on the matter, not only because of the loss of 19 lives in Latvia and Lithuania, the political and international implications of events there and the threat to the sovereignty of free states, but because decisions will have to be reached about how the European Community views the extending of aid to the Soviet Union against that background?

Mr. MacGregor

I understand the gravity of the matter and the anxiety of the House about it. I have already made that clear. I shall convey to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, and discuss with him, the points made not only by the hon. Lady but by several other hon. Members. The hon. Lady will be aware that my right hon. Friend has argued that, if repression in the Baltic states continues, the programme of aid to the Soviet Union proposed by the European Council should not be implemented. That was endorsed by the meeting of Foreign Ministers in Brussels this Tuesday. It was agreed that only humanitarian aid should be continued. Therefore, there is no prospect of early agreement within the Council on the Community's proposals before the House. A new proposal on food aid for Bulgaria and Romania is expected shortly. In view of that, a debate next week or in the near future on the precise question of aid would be premature.

Sir Alan Glyn (Windsor and Maidenhead)

My right hon. Friend has already given an answer about our prisoners of war, about whom we are all worried. Will he make sure that, at the end of the Gulf war, atrocities and ill treatment of other prisoners of war and civilians are brought to trial and brought to the notice of the public?

Mr. MacGregor

That matter does not relate to the business of the House, but I shall ensure that my hon. Friend's views are conveyed to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Frank Haynes (Ashfield)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that next week a Standing Committee will sit on Tuesday and Thursday to consider the Atomic Weapons Establishments Bill? The Committee began its proceedings this morning. Is he aware that the Government are denying members of that Committee access to certain reports which they need to do their job? We hear about human rights; I am talking about hon. Members' rights. I want the right hon. Gentleman to do something about it. Let us hear from that Dispatch Box that he will do something about it.

Mr. MacGregor

The first thing that I shall have to do about it is look into it. I am not aware of it at present.

Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne)

Notwithstanding the urgent business announced for next week, will my right hon. Friend find time next week—I stress, next week—to allow the House to discuss the Civil Aviation Authority advice on the traffic distribution rules for the south-east of England? I am sure that my right hon. Friend is aware that there is enormous pressure on my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Transport to take a decision on that advice before the end of the month. It is far from merely a constituency interest. If there were a free-for-all at Heathrow airport among airlines, it would affect a huge number of people in the Heathrow area and have a knock-on effect for every hon. Member who has any aviation interest whatever. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is vital that the House gives its views to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Transport before he makes that urgent decision?

Mr. MacGregor

My right hon. and learned Friend has received and is studying carefully the CAA advice on London air traffic distribution. I understand that he intends to reach a decision as soon as possible. I am sure that my hon. Friend and others who have an interest in the matter will convey their views to him.

Mr. James Lamond (Oldham, Central and Royton)

What about having a debate on the multi-fibre agreement? Does the Leader of the House remember that we were due to have a debate on it in November and lost it? There was a debate on the GATT negotiations, but most of that was taken up with agricultural matters. It is high time that hon. Members from textiles areas had an opportunity to air their views on the MFA.

Mr. MacGregor

As the hon. Gentleman said, the matter could have been raised in the debate on the Uruguay round and GATT just before Christmas. There will be an opportunity for the hon. Gentleman to raise it in the debate next week, if he so wishes. In view of the pressures on the timetable, I doubt that it will be possible to have a debate on that specific issue in the near future.

Mr. David Nicholson (Taunton)

May we have an early debate on the co-ordination of agricultural and environmental policies in the light of widespread support in both the farming and environmentalist communities for a single national comprehensive scheme to encourage green farming? Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a proposal to give the region of the Blackdown hills, in my constituency, area of outstanding natural beauty status? In the light of the Government's disappointment when they asked the European Commission to give that district less favoured area status, my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop), myself and other hon. Members will support the extension of environmentally sensitive area status in that region.

Mr. MacGregor

I shall have to be careful not to engage in a long reply to my hon. Friend—he will be aware that I was much involved in those matters. He will also know that the Government have taken the lead, both in the United Kingdom and in the European Community, in bringing together many agricultural and environmental policies that are in the interests of the countryside as a whole. There are many opportunities to raise general matters, but I cannot promise an early debate in Government time on the specific issues concerning my hon. Friend's county. He will have to seek other ways of pressing the point.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

The Leader of the House announced that on Wednesday we shall debate two Orders in Council for Northern Ireland. One of them might be minor and consequential, but the other one is major, dealing with the reorganisation of the health service in Northern Ireland. Can the right hon. Gentleman assure us that we shall have ample time to discuss that order and that the debate will not be curtailed to an hour and a half? This seems to be a further example of Northern Ireland, a s part of the nation, being governed worse than a colony.

Mr. MacGregor

I note the hon. Member's request. 1 t would be for the general convenience of the House to debate the orders together. I shall consider the point that the hon. Gentleman has raised.

Mr. John Marshall: (Hendon, South)

When does my right hon. Friend expect to be able to announce the Second Reading of the War Crimes Bill? Does he agree that, if we are not going to prosecute Iraqi war criminals, we should be willing to prosecute those war criminals who are resident in the United Kingdom?

Mr. MacGregor

I cannot say at this stage, but it will not be next week.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Will the Leader of the House have a look at the early-day motions dealing with democracy in Kuwait, bearing in mind the fact that the Crown Prince and the royal family of Kuwait are gallivanting round the casino dens and racecourses in Europe—one of them has a private plane that sends him food from Harrods several times a week—while British soldiers look like being slaughtered in the desert? Is that not—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Did not the hon. Gentleman hear me say that business questions should be confined to what is happening next week and should not relate to general matters?

Mr. Skinner

We ask business questions about what is happening next week and what we want to happen next week.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member must ask for a debate.

Mr. Skinner

Absolutely. There are three early-day motions on the Order Paper dealing with the need for a debate about the lack of democracy in Kuwait and the fact that the Crown Princes are running the country without any democracy. One of those princes has a private plane sending food from Harrods several times a week while British troops are being slaughtered. Many other members of the royal family are at gambling dens, casinos and racecourses, and will not even put on a uniform to fight for their own country.

Mr. MacGregor

The aims for which the British forces are currently engaged, as part of the allied forces in the Gulf and in enforcing a United Nations resolution, have been debated in the House on numerous occasions. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and others have made clear what those aims are.

Mr. Ron Leighton (Newham, North-East)

Will the Leader of the House arrange for an early debate on London? In previous Parliaments, we had an annual debate on London. We have the only capital city without an elected government, with an unsatisfactory cat's cradle of unaccountable quangos and Government Departments to run the city, and there is no proper democratic oversight of our affairs. This should be debated in the House. Could the Leader of the House arrange for an early debate?

Mr. MacGregor

I cannot now promise an opportunity for debating the subject in Government time, but the hon. Member will know that there is a considerable number of other opportunities available to him and his hon. Friends to raise the matter in the House if they wish to do so.

Mr. Harry Ewing (Falkirk, East)

The Leader of the House heard the reply that the Prime Minister gave to the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell), who asked whether service men serving in the Gulf, especially from RAF Leuchars, would be relieved of the poll tax. The Prime Minister said that there was already provision for this. I know that the right hon. Gentleman would not deliberately mislead the House, but, regrettably, I must tell the Leader of the House that that reply was not accurate.

Mr. Speaker

Order. It might not be, but could the hon. Member ask for a debate next week?

Mr. Ewing

Against that background, will the Leader of the House arrange for the Secretary of State for Scotland to come to the House next week and explain where in the legislation implementing the poll tax for Scotland there is provision to relieve service men of paying poll tax? As that is so important, I would even settle for a reply to a planted question.

Mr. MacGregor

I shall discuss the matter with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon)

In view of the debate that the Leader of the House has announced for next Tuesday night, on the revenue support grant formulas for England and for Wales, will he confirm that they will be relatively narrow debates and will not take in the broad purview of what the Secretary of State for the Environment intends to do with the community charge? That is of considerable importance, because the tax is enormously unpopular. If that is the case, can the Leader of the House arrange for an early debate on the broad direction of Government thinking about the future of this charge, so that other ideas can be taken on board at an early stage before conclusions are reached?

Mr. MacGregor

My righ hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has already made it clear that he is prepared to take on other ideas, and he is engaged in discussion on this with minority parties and others. It is not necessary to have a debate to achieve that purpose. I confirm that the hon. Gentleman is right to say that the debate next week will be confined to the revenue support grant orders. Nevertheless, it is a major issue and one on which many hon. Members would wish to speak. Therefore, it is right to give a whole day to the debate.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

What arrangements have been made for the Home Secretary to make a statement next week so that we can make to him the point that, while every effort must be made to protect the country from terrorism, certainly by those acting at the behest of the criminals in Baghdad, every effort should also be made to protect the innocent? Is the Leader of the House aware that some of us are worried, recognising as we do the matters involving national security, that long-standing opponents of Saddam Hussein, some of whom have fled from his terror, could be in danger of being deported? This matter requires a statement from the Home Secretary.

Mr. MacGregor

The hon. Gentleman has made his point. He will know that there is a procedure for allowing three visitors to examine individual cases if there is an appeal to them, and that allows all aspects to be examined. I know that hon. Members are taking up some cases directly with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. I do not know whether this is necessarily a matter for a general statement next week, but I shall draw to the attention of my right hon. Friend the points made by the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Keith Vaz (Leicester, East)

Will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement next week about the question of compensation for nuclear test veterans? He will know that I have raised the case of my constituent John Hall who is dying of leukaemia and who, on Thursday of this week, had a blood transfusion. If the Government take a long time to sort out the question, some of the veterans who are claiming compensation may not be alive to hear the news.

Mr. MacGregor

I know that this matter has been raised in the House on a number of occasions. I see no possibility of a debate next week.

Mr. Doug Hoyle (Warrington, North)

Will the Leader of the House ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science to make a statement next week on the proposed closure of the SERC nuclear structure facility at the Daresbury laboratories in Warrington? Does he realise that it is the leader in this field and closure of it will affect research not only at Daresbury but at many universities? It will also affect the Eurogam programme, in which we are engaged in conjunction with the French. Does he realise that this facility is closing despite—or because of—a visit earlier this year by the former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher)? The right hon. Lady had assured many other plants that they were leaders in their field and had a future.

Mr. MacGregor

I shall draw the hon. Gentleman's point to the attention of my right hon. Friend. I do not think, however, that it merits a full statement next week.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

May we have a statement next week on the breaches of the embargo on the supply of arms to Iraq? I am thinking particularly of German firms and of weapons for use in chemical and biological warfare. This is a very serious matter. Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that arms manufacturers are licking their lips in anticipation of pumping into various countries yet more billions of weapons that carry the tag "Gulf tested"? Would not that be an odious affront to the troops who are risking their lives in the field? Is it not time for the Government to provide some procedures to stop the odious arms trade after this conflict so that such a thing is unlikely to happen again?

Mr. MacGregor

There are many opportunities to raise issues of that sort. Indeed, one such issue was raised this afternoon. I do not think that there is a case for a specific statement next week.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

May we have next week a debate on the conduct of the press? I hope that the Leader of the House has had an opportunity to read the Official Report of last night's Adjournment debate, in which my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) raised the question of the obscene campaign against her by the News of the World and, in the past, by The Sun. Those of us who, whilst dedicating ourselves to the welfare of British troops in the Gulf, have called for peace initiatives have been branded by one of the gutter newspapers as "treacherous swine". May we have an early debate so that it may be made quite clear to newspaper editors, especially at this time, that in a democracy those who take a contrary stand do not deserve to have their private lives crawled over by nasty journalists or to be branded as traitors when they stand as squarely as anybody else in support of our troops in the Gulf?

Mr. MacGregor

As the hon. Gentleman has said, there was a debate last night on certain aspects of this matter. As for his second point, although I totally disagree with his general views on the Gulf, I happily reaffirm that it is essential to our parliamentary democracy that hon. Members are able to express their views freely.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)

May we have next week a statement about procurement policy in relation to British forces serving in the Gulf? I put this question on behalf of a constituent of mine who has two sons serving there with the British Army. He was greatly distressed when he received from one of his sons a letter saying: The boots we have been issued with are useless. They are too short, and the sand gets in the top of them, giving us foot problems. Could you buy me a pair and send them over? At the weekend that father spent £60 on boots to send to his two sons.

I have been in contact with the Ministry of Defence and have spoken to a senior Minister twice this week. The Minister confirmed that there is a problem. Proper desert boots are now being sent to the Gulf. This House and those who are related to people serving in the Gulf have a right to ask why is it that desert boots were not available from day one. Why is it necessary for our boys in the Gulf to buy proper boots privately? Are all those who need proper desert boots now in possession of them?

Mr. MacGregor

Obviously I cannot comment on the individual issue to which the hon. Gentleman has referred, as I do not know the details or the background. Members of Parliament have other means of pursuing these matters, as, indeed, the hon. Gentleman did. This is just the sort of subject on which it would not be appropriate to make a statement every day. Indeed, it is the kind of case that I had in mind when I said that it would not be right to debate daily particular aspects of the Gulf. If the hon. Gentleman feels so strongly, I hope he will reconsider the decision he took when he voted earlier this week.

Mr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East)

Why are the Government so severely curtailing opportunities to debate the Gulf war? Is it not disgraceful that since the war broke out we have had only a single day's debate on it? Is the Leader of the House seriously proposing to the House this afternoon that not one day of Government business next week will be allocated to a debate on the Gulf war?

Mr. MacGregor

I utterly reject the view that we have been depriving the House of the opportunity to discuss these matters. We have had two debates within a short period, we have had a number of statements and private notice questions, and we have had Question Time. I have made it clear that we are happy to keep the House fully informed and will make statements as appropriate, and that may well be the case next week. But I do not think that it is the mood of the House at the moment that we should have a debate on the issue every week. We must judge as and when the need arises, but I stress again that, as I think most hon. Members recognise, we are making every effort to keep the House fully informed and to debate the issues.

Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West)

I welcome the prospect of food aid to Romania and Bulgaria, but surely we should have a full-scale debate on the effect that the Gulf war has had on countries such as those? I refer in particular to the wretched winter which is being suffered now by Bulgaria's people, who are without adequate fuel, heating and other essentials of life. It is about time that the United Kingdom provided help to those countries, particularly as Bulgaria's miseries have been brought about entirely because of its robust support of the embargo that we asked it to join us in imposing.

Mr. MacGregor

Clearly we cannot have debates every week on a number of major issues that concern all of us. That just is not possible. But I recognise the hon. and learned Gentleman's anxiety about the matter and, as I said earlier, a new proposal on food aid for Bulgaria and Romania is expected shortly.

Mr. Ken Livingstone (Brent, East)

May we have a debate next week, or at the very least a statement, so that the Home Secretary can explain to the House on what grounds he has authorised the deportation of my constituent, Mr. Abbas Cheblak, a respected campaigner for human rights in Iraq and throughout the middle east, a known pacifist, who has lived here for 16 years and who has two children of British nationality? The Home Secretary has refused to speak to me by telephone and has refused a meeting with me on the subject.

Mr. MacGregor

I shall draw the hon. Gentleman's point to my right hon. Friend's attention.

Mr. Andrew Welsh (Angus, East)

Is the Leader of the House aware that farm incomes in the livestock sector have now reached the lowest level since the second world war which, allied to rising costs, will lead to a brutal restructuring of the industry through bankruptcy? Will the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food at least make a statement to the House; or at best, given the troubles which affect every sector of agriculture, may we have a full-scale and urgent debate on the future of British agriculture?

Mr. MacGregor

We had agriculture questions this afternoon, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend made the point then that he is about to embark on discussions on possible Community proposals in relation to agriculture. I understand that no specific proposals have been put forward yet, only some tentative ideas about what they might be, and the Council of Ministers will be meeting again shortly—I think the week after next—to discuss those matters. We need to keep in mind when would be an appropriate time for a statement or a debate.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

Will the Leader of the House speak urgently to the Home Secretary on the matters raised by my hon. Friends the Members for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) and for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone)? The situation is extremely serious. A large number of people of Palestinian or Iraqi background have been taken into custody, held for up to 19 hours a day in cells, denied proper recreational or visiting facilities and now, we hear yesterday, have been denied the right of legal appeal other than through an internal tribunal.

Will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Home Secretary to make a statement to the House on the number of people who have been taken into custody and why, and also why he is refusing to meet hon. Members who wish to represent their constituents in this serious matter at a serious time? Civil liberties are at stake.

Mr. MacGregor

I have already made it clear that there are clear procedures for dealing with such matters, and the majority of people would feel that it was right for the Home Secretary to be taking the action that he is taking. I have already said that I will draw the points raised to my right hon. Friend's attention.