HC Deb 04 July 1991 vol 194 cc439-49 3.31 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 8 JULY—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Road Traffic Bill.

Debate on the fourth report from the Select Committee on House of Commons (Services) on computer services for Members on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

TUESDAY 9 JULY—Opposition day (17th allotted day). There will be a debate on an Opposition Motion entitled "Low Income and The Quality of Life".

Proceedings on the Arms Controls and Disarmament (Inspections) Bill [Lords].

Motion to establish a Select Committee on sittings of the House.

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

WEDNESDAY 10 JULY—Motion on the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Regulations.

Followed by motion on the Appropriation (No. 2) (Northern Ireland) Order.

THURSDAY 11 JuLY—Proceedings on the British Railways Board (Finance) Bill.

FRIDAY 12 JULY—Debate on the United Kingdom environment on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

MONDAY 15 JULY—Progress on remaining stages of the Finance Bill.

The House will also wish to know that European Standing Committees will meet on Wednesday 10 July at 10.30 am to consider European Community documents as follows:

  • Committee A—Document No. 4717/91 relating to environmental labelling scheme.
  • Committee B—Document No. 9791/90 relating to energy efficiency requirements for hot water boilers.

[Wednesday 10 July

European Standing Committee A

Relevant European Community Document

4717/91 Ecological Labelling

Relevant Reports of European Legislation Committee HC 29-xv (1990–91) and HC 29-xxv (1990–91)

European Standing Committee B

Relevant European Community Document 9791/90 Efficiency of Hot-Water Boilers

Relevant Reports of European Legislation Committee HC 29-xiii (1990–91) and HC 29-xxvi (1990–91).]

Dr. Cunningham

Since summer has apparently belatedly arrived, can the Leader of the House at least give us one popular answer today and tell us whether he has decided when the House will rise for the summer recess? [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I have instant popularity.

Can the Leader of the House confirm that, as a matter of policy, the Government have decided to stop publishing hospital waiting lists? Is not it strange that people can obtain all the information that they want about how hospitals can opt out of the national health service, but apparently they are to be denied information about the length of the waiting lists that they and their families will have to endure before they can obtain what is often quite urgent treatment? Is not that simply another device to hide the embarrassment of Ministers about ever-lengthening waiting lists for treatment under the NHS? May we have a statement on that from the Secretary of State for Health?

Can the Leader of the House arrange a debate in Government time on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report that was published today? Is not it sad for our country that that report shows Britain at the bottom of the league for growth, investment and job creation? In addition, and even worse, it shows Britain to be the only country in the European Community in the grip of such a bitter and damaging recession. Is not that an awful indictment of 12 years of the Government's failure in economic and industrial policy? Is it not incumbent on the Government to arrange for the House to debate those issues before we rise for the summer recess?

When they created large private water monopolies—some of which are providing captive consumers with a declining quality of service—did Ministers intend the chairmen and chief executives of those private monopolies not only to enhance their salaries hugely at public expense, but, effectively, to plan to make themselves millionaires within four or five years by giving themselves grotesque share options for which consumers will have to pay? May we have a clear statement from the Government—rather than the prevarications that we have had from the Prime Minister—about whether that was indeed their intention and whether they intend to allow such a state of affairs to continue?

Mr. MacGregor

In answer to the hon. Gentleman's first question, I cannot tell hon. Members today when the House will rise for the summer recess, much as I would like to. We still have a great deal of business to complete; we must also see how many amendments to Bills with which we have already dealt are introduced from the other place. I hope, however, to be able to give some indication of the date in next week's business statement.

As for hospital waiting lists, the hon. Gentleman will know that we are to hold a debate on that very subject later today. Given that it is being discussed today—earlier even than next week—it would surely be appropriate for hon. Members to make their points at that stage. The hon. Gentleman will also know, however, that in the past 10 years the number of both in-patients and out-patients treated in our hospitals has risen substantially.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the OECD report. A number of the matters to which he referred could have been raised yesterday evening, when the House debated employment.

Dr. Cunningham

We want a debate in Government time, not Opposition time.

Mr. MacGregor

Yesterday's debate was in estimates day time. The hon. Gentleman has got it wrong again.

I suspect that it will also be possible to raise a number of those matters when we debate some parts—certainly Third Reading—of the Finance Bill.

As my hon. Friend the Prime Minister said a moment ago, the 1980s record shows that in many of those years this country was at the top of the European Community growth league. Industrial investment has grown substantially in recent years. I am confident that, as our policies on inflation work through, we shall be able to achieve the same record in the 1990s.

As for the hon. Gentleman's last point, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister dealt with it very effectively just now. It is interesting to note, in this regard as in many others, the way in which the Opposition react the moment anything happens that they do not like. They have produced the same answer yet again: they want to introduce legislation to control, interfere and direct.

Dr. Cunningham

That is what Government legislation does.

Mr. MacGregor

If the hon. Gentleman is not talking about some form of interference, I do not understand the questions that he has been asking. The plain fact is that the Opposition's gut reaction is always to control, direct and interfere in industries that they do not really understand.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. The House faces the same difficulty as was experienced yesterday. Business questions are to be followed by an important statement, which will put considerable pressure on the debates on the steel industry and hospital waiting lists. I must therefore limit business questions; at 4.10, we shall move on to the statement on Hong Kong. I hope that we shall be able to spend half an hour on that before reaching the main debates. May I ask hon. Members who are not bursting to ask a business question to delay their questions until next week?

Sir Bernard Braine (Castle Point)

In view of the current tragic events in Yugoslavia—the position may worsen, although we all hope that it will not—and the disturbing developments in the Soviet Union, notably the tragedy of the Baltic states, is not there a strong case for a debate on foreign affairs to be held before the House rises for the summer recess? Will my right hon. Friend consider that request?

Mr. MacGregor

I entirely understand my right hon. Friend's point, especially in view of the seriousness of the situation in Yugoslavia.

In view of the extreme pressures on our timetable, and the clear wish of hon. Members for the House to rise at a reasonable time so that they can be with their families, I do not think that a full day's debate will be possible. I can, however, give my right hon. Friend a clear undertaking. As he knows, my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary made a statement on Yugoslavia in the House yesterday. I am sure that he will want to ensure that the House is kept fully informed of developments, as appropriate.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

As a former Minister of Agriculture, the Leader of the House will be well aware of the profound implications for British agriculture of the recent proposals of Commissioner MacSharry for reform of the common agricultural policy. Is there any way in which Members of the House could have details of those, and is there a proposal for a statement or debate on them before the recess?

Picking up on the point that the Leader of the House made on last night's debate on employment, the Official Report shows that the official Opposition spokesman, the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish), said that he would have liked to have told the House about the Labour party's policy but did not have time. Will the Leader of the House make time available? It would not take long.

Mr. MacGregor

I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman's second point. It is significant that, on that issue and others, Labour Front-Bench Members somehow manage to run out of time when they reach the point of detailing some aspects of Labour's policies. There has been endless probing on one particular unemployment policy and that is the national minimum wage. There is clear concern in the House and the country about the damaging effects of that policy and we simply have not had answers about it.

On the hon. Gentleman's first point in relation to new proposals to reform the CAP, I have not yet seen details. There have been a number of leaks about what the proposals are likely to amount to. I shall certainly try to ensure that the House is informed of them when they are available. As the hon. Gentleman will know, there will be prolonged and detailed negotiations on the proposals and we need to consider when would be the most appropriate point for the House to express its views. The House should be in no doubt about the Government's view. Those aspects that we believe are not in the interests of the long-term competitiveness and viability of agriculture, and certainly not in the interests of British agriculture, will be strongly opposed by my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Nicholas Soames (Crawley)

My right hon. Friend will be aware that the defence White Paper is due to be published tomorrow. Although I understand that there cannot be a debate in the House next week or before the House rises, in view of the imminent butchery of the British Army, will he assure the House that when the matter is debated—after the recess—we shall be allowed a full two days' debate so that the whole House can let the Government know of its extreme reluctance to let those measures go through?

Mr. MacGregor

I do not think that the White Paper will be published tomorrow. However, in the light of all the changes that have taken place in the past year, the Army authorities are currently considering the proposals. My right hon. Friend will make a decision and, if appropriate, a statement on that matter before the House rises. As for the debate, we shall have to see what the overall timetable and programme look like.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Would it be possible for the Home Secretary to come to the House and make a statement as soon as possible on why it was decided to allow a meeting to take place today in London of right-wing extremists promoting racial hatred in defiance of existing legislation in Britain? Bearing in mind this island's position in the war against Nazism from 1939–45, why should a notorious fascist agitator like Le Pen, with all his poison, be allowed in?

Mr. MacGregor

If the published views of the person concerned are correct, our views and those of most people in this country are clear: we totally reject the views of Mr. Le Pen. However, to ban his entry would be an extreme step, given his position as an elected member of the European Parliament and the French National Assembly. There seems to be no evidence to justify exercising the powers to which the hon. Gentleman refers.

Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)

May I once again draw the attention of the Leader of the House to two early-day motions, Nos. 518 and 556—

Mr. Speaker

Only one, please.

Rev. Ian Paisley

No. 518 is signed by over 200 hon. Members and concerns the imprisonment of four former members of the Ulster Defence Regiment.

[That this House views with concern the recent Newsnight exposè of serious flaws in the evidence which led to the conviction of four members of the Ulster Defence Regiment; and calls upon the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to have the case referred to the Court of Appeal.]

Is he aware that new evidence has come to light, that the Secretary of State has had it presented to him, and that the police have now announced that they have referred the matter of police inquiries at the original trial to the Director of Public Prosecutions? Will he arrange for a statement or a debate on the issue in the House before the House rises, or are the four young men to languish in prison during the recess without having their cases reheard?

Mr. MacGregor

As I understand the position, the Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary has been asked to conduct further inquiries into a number of matters in relation to that case—the process will inevitably take some time. I do not know whether it would be appropriate for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to make a statement at present. I am not sure what stage has been reached, but I shall draw the hon. Gentleman's point to the attention of my right hon. Friend. I should like to check, but it may be appropriate to raise the matter in the second of the debates on Wednesday.

Mr. Jim Sillars (Glasgow, Govan)

How is it possible to justify setting up a Select Committee on sittings of the House for the convenience of 650 people down here, but not setting up a Select Committee on Scottish Affairs, which is a necessity for 5 million people north of the border? Is the Leader of the House aware that we would like a Select Committee on Scottish Affairs so that we could bring the Prime Minister before it to be examined on a letter that he wrote on 4 June to the Dalzell shop stewards giving them support for investment, while simultaneously the Secretary of State for Scotland was sitting in Bob Scholey's office being told that Dalzell was to close? Was that duplicity or incompetence? Is not that precisely the sort of thing that we should examine?

Mr. MacGregor

The hon. Gentleman knows well the position on a Select Committee on Scottish Affairs and why it has not been possible to make progress in this Parliament. He also knows that the Scottish Grand Committee has met a number of times recently to consider many Scottish measures, and that steel issues are the subject of a debate this afternoon, so there are plenty of opportunities to debate those matters.

The hon. Gentleman referred to 650 Members here, including himself and colleagues from Scotland. I think that there is a strong desire in all parts of the House for a Select Committee to be established, start operating and have its first meeting before we rise for the summer recess so that much of the preparatory work can be done. That is why I propose that we should deal with that issue next week.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross)

I wonder whether the Leader of the House, as a Scotsman, will arrange for a debate on employment—not unemployment —in Scotland so that we can rejoice in the fact that there are tens of thousands more Scots employed in Scotland than there were when we came to office. They are doing a good job and making it a prosperous country—no thanks to the Labour party.

Mr. MacGregor

I agree with my hon. and learned Friend. What we have seen in Scotland is a successful illustration of the restructuring of an economy from old industries to new ones, with a substantial emphasis on new industries of the future. As for my hon. and learned Friend's concluding remarks, in Scotland as elsewhere policies such as the national minimum wage would undoubtedly retard that programme.

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

Is the Leader of the House aware that there is absolutely no reason for rejecting compensation for non-haemophiliacs who have been infected with HIV as a result of contaminated blood transfusions because they face exactly the same critical, fateful illness and suffer the same appalling consequences? As they are dying regularly, may we have an urgent debate on the matter next week?

Mr. MacGregor

No, I do not think that it will be possible to have a debate on that next week, but before long I shall arrange a debate in which many matters may be raised on the Floor of the House.

Mr. James Hill (Southampton, Test)

Would my right hon. Friend kindly answer one question on Monday evening's business, the Road Traffic Bill? I understand that in the House of Lords a new clause has been introduced to the Bill which we shall be discussing on Monday evening. As my right hon. Friend will know, 192 Members of this House signed early-day motion 667, which called for the convictions of applicants for taxi drivers' licences to be examined beforehand.

[That this House notes with grave concern the findings of a survey by the National Association of Taxi and Private Hire Licensing and Enforcement Officers which revealed that in the 136 councils that replied 486 criminal records had actually been discovered in an 18 month period, none of which had initially been declared during the interviews which took place under the provisions of the Local Government ( Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 which required a district council not to grant a licence unless they are satisfied that the applicant is a fit and proper person to hold a taxi driver's licence; calls upon the Home Office, the Department of Transport and the Association of Chief Police Officers to co-operate in the release of past criminal records of all new applicants to the chairmen of district licensing committees in a confidential file, so as to prevent any recurrence of what occurred in Southampton where a licence was given to a convicted rapist; and calls for a similar system to be introduced as that practised in London where the Metropolitan Police have access to criminal records when determining applicants for Hackney carriage driver's licences to be expanded to all district councils in the United Kingdom.]

I congratulate the Government on that. I certainly look forward to Monday evening's debate in which, if I catch Mr. Speaker's eye, I shall be delighted to take part. But is my right hon. Friend allowing enough time to discuss this praiseworthy Government move?

Mr. MacGregor

I hope that there will be time on Monday, because we shall take all the amendments then. As a result of the consultation promised when the Road Traffic Bill was considered in another place we shall introduce on Monday a new clause meeting the anxieties expressed in the early-day motion to which my hon. Friend referred. In doing so we are responding to pressure from colleagues in the House who have been making good points about the matter—not least my hon. Friend, who has raised it on many occasions on the Floor of the House.

Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South)

Would the Leader of the House agree that, at a time of increasing recession and of small businesses going into bankruptcy, and at a time when, despite interest rates falling, bank rates charged to customers have not fallen, there should be a debate before the House rises for the summer on the actions of the four clearing banks as they affect small businesses and personal accounts? Is it not a disgrace that the banks seem to be increasing their profits while other people are being sent into bankruptcy and ruin?

Mr. MacGregor

As the hon. Gentleman knows, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has discussed these matters with the chairmen of the clearing banks and will no doubt come to a conclusion on those discussions. I do not know whether it would be appropriate to discuss this matter at length in the House given that we have a large number of other issues to deal with, but I think that there may be one or two occasions in the near future when it will be possible to raise these matters. The Government's interest and involvement in them is well known.

Mr. Jerry Wiggin (Weston-super-Mare)

Could my right hon. Friend expand on the answer that he gave my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames)? When the White Paper is published, many Conservative Members will want crtically to examine these drastic proposals in considerable detail. Will my right hon. Friend consider—unusually—allowing three days for this important debate, preferably before the House rises at the end of this month? Will he confirm that no administrative decisions will be taken in the Ministry of Defence that will pre-empt the decision of the House on that White Paper?

Mr. MacGregor

There is a distinction between the White Paper, which is the usual document on defence, and the points to which my hon. Friend refers, which concern the reorganisation of the Army and the reduction in its numbers as a result of the very different situation in Europe. That change is also reflected in the considerable reductions in numbers in the armed forces of all the other NATO countries.

In due course we shall have the usual debate on the White Paper. I have noted my hon. Friend's point on what is a separate issue, but I cannot promise him a debate before the House rises, although I shall consider that. The timetable is extremely crowded already if we are to rise at a reasonable date before we get well into the holiday period.

Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West)

Should not there be an early debate on the criteria applied by the Home Office when deciding whether to permit the entry into this country of people with criminal records—[Interruption.] The former Home Secretary should not groan: this is a real problem. Does the Leader of the House know that Mr. Le Pen was recently convicted of incitement to racial violence and fined the equivalent of £90,000 for that? I know that he will agree that this man's views are odious, but why will he not also agree—if Le Pen is not to be thrown out of this country, as he should be, and forcibly returned to France, whence he should never have come—that the sooner this man returns to France the sooner we can all rejoice—

Mr. Speaker

Order. This should be a question to the Leader of the House—

Mr. Janner

I asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he agreed with me that this man should be slung out—

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is not a point for business questions.

Mr. MacGregor

I think that I have already dealt with the matter.

Mrs. Edwina Currie (Derbyshire, South)

Did the Leader of the House note that in the excellent debate on Europe in Government time last week 49 hon. Members put their names down to speak and only a handful of non-Privy Councillors were called? Given the considerable importance of the subject and the huge majority of 154 with which the House sent the Prime Minister to Luxembourg, which must have helped him in his negotiations, will the Leader of the House take soundings to see whether we can have more time, preferably a couple of days, so that the foot soldiers may have their say? That would help, as did last week's debate, to emphasise the emptiness of Labour's policies on Europe.

Mr. MacGregor

I wish that I could exercise what used to be my magical skills in fitting the enormous amount of business into the time available while at the same time taking account of the feelings of many hon. Members about House rising times. That was one of the problems that we faced in last week's debate on Europe in which many hon. Members wished to speak. The Select Committee on Procedure is currently considering whether the 10-minute limit on speeches could be extended. That would be one way of allowing more hon. Members to speak in debates. I gave evidence to the Committee yesterday and look forward to its report, which I hope will be published shortly. It is always difficult to judge how many days should be allowed for a debate. Sometimes a long period is allocated and there are not enough speakers to fill it. My hon. Friend was right to say that last week's debate showed the overwhelming support for the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary for the way in which they were conducting negotiations. A significant contribution to that debate was the excellent speech by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

Will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement next week by the Secretary of State for Health on the proposed closure of the baby unit at St. Luke's hospital in Bradford and on the £5,000 performance bonus to the manager of Bradford national health service trust for his performance in closing such facilities, cutting other services and sacking 300 people? Is it not outrageous and wrong that such an important facility as the baby unit, which serves a large part of Bradford, South, should be in jeopardy as a result of the Government's policies being carried out by puppets on Bradford NHS trust?

Mr. MacGregor

Clearly, I am not in a position to comment on the hon. Gentleman's allegations, but I shall draw his remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)

In respect of the package of measures to facilitate our work in the context of the European Community, will the Leader of the House explain what has happened to the one portion to complete the package—the envelopes that we are supposed to use to write to designated institutions? They seem to have been delayed and I think that they were promised in early June.

Mr. MacGregor

There does seem to be some hold-up on that. I do not have an up-to-date report, but I shall look into the matter. What we have agreed to do is clear.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)

Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to make a statement before the recess on the progress of the GATT talks? Is he aware that the scars of recession are clearly seen in the textile industry? There has been a 14 per cent. reduction in employment in the wool textile sector and massive redundancies and short-time working in many areas, including Bradford. Employers, trade unions and the whole industry want a clear commitment that the multi-fibre arrangement will be extended to the end of next year. Will the Leader of the House arrange for that assurance to be given as soon as possible?

Mr. MacGregor

As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have discussed progress on GATT on many occasions. It is clearly our desire to seek a successful outcome to the current talks. We are well aware of the textile industry's wish to minimise uncertainty and of the need to agree arrangements about the future of international trade in textiles before the current M FA expires this year. The hon. Gentleman will know, because he has spoken about it before, that the European Community has proposed an interim extension of the current multi-fibre arrangement to the end of 1992, which is what the hon. Gentleman seeks. 1 am sure he will agree that in the longer term a successful GATT settlement encompassing strengthened rules and disciplines will best serve the textile industry's interests. I am not sure whether it would be appropriate to go beyond that and arrange for a further statement before the House rises. I hope that the proposal for an interim extension reassures the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Conal Gregory (York)

May we have a statement next week about the aims of the Government's citizens charter so that the House may clearly understand that the Government wish to restore responsibility to individuals? We may then compare that fact with the Labour spectacle of a comrades charter which would effectively return responsibility to the union barons.

Mr. MacGregor

I very much agree with my hon. Friend. When we announce the full charter, I think that the contrast will be clear. I cannot say now exactly when a statement will be made.

Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East)

The current issue of "Population Trends" of the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys shows that there are 1 million people missing from the electoral register in England, Scotland and Wales. Many of the missing people are 18-year-olds. It would be a disgrace to go into a general election without there being a full discussion about the democratic and constitutional implications of the loss of so many people from the electoral register. Numbers have fallen during the operation of the poll tax. I have asked the question for the past two weeks and I hope that the Leader of the House will not tell me to find other methods of raising the issue. Indeed, I have raised it incessantly over the past three years. It is time that the Government faced the issue.

Mr. MacGregor

I have nothing to add to what I said last week. I repeat that it is open to the hon. Gentleman to use the many opportunities that present themselves in this place outside Government time that enable hon. Members to raise issues that concern them. I think that he might look in that direction rather than to raise the matter again next week during business questions. If the hon. Gentleman raises the matter with me next week, I assure him that I shall give him the same reply.

Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)

In view of the Irish triumph thus far announced in relation to the talks yesterday, will my right hon. Friend give an undertaking that there will be a statement about the better government of Northern Ireland soon, as Northern Ireland is a constitutional slum? At the very least, let us have a statement that the truly scandalous procedure of, for instance, reforming the criminal law in Northern Ireland by the procedure of Order in Council will be stopped and that the proper rights of the minorities in Northern Ireland are dealt with by using the procedures of this place in a proper and orderly way.

Mr. MacGregor

There are a number of occasions when Northern Ireland matters can be raised. Indeed, there will be opportunities to raise them next week. I shall discuss the matter that my hon. Friend has raised with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement to be made next week about the need for a public inquiry into the level of dioxin in milk in north Derbyshire and the Bolsover area? He promised last week to call upon the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to make a statement, but none has been forthcoming. I called for compensation for the farmers involved, who have suffered loss of livelihood, but the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has refused to allow it to be paid. Will the Leader of the House ask his right hon. Friend again to make a statement? Many in north Derbyshire are alarmed that two farms were involved and that 27 others were monitored, many of which had high dioxin levels as well.

Mr. MacGregor

As the hon. Gentleman knows, I gave a fairly full reply to his question last week. I shall take up the matter again with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Sir Robert McCrindle (Brentwood and Ongar)

In view of the immense irritation of my constituents on being requested to pay an additional community charge for no better reason than that some of their fellow community charge payers evaded paying the charge last year, will my right hon. Friend ensure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment at least makes a statement in the near future to reassure us that local authorities are not taking the easy way out and surcharging law-abiding citizens while failing to exercise all the freedoms that are open to them to take non-payers to court?

Mr. MacGregor

I do not think that it is necessary for my right hon. Friend to make a separate statement on that point because we agree with the point that my hon. Friend has made. All charge payers are under a legal duty to pay the community charge and local authorities have strong powers to enforce payment. It is for local authorities to make full use of those powers. We have on many occasions in the House condemned those who do not pay their community charge.

Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber)


Mr. Speaker

Was the hon. Gentleman present for the business statement?

Sir Russell Johnston

No, Sir.

Mr. Speaker

In that case, in fairness, because of the limit that I have imposed, I cannot call the hon. Gentleman.

Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay)

As we can find time next week to discuss such an esoteric yet mundane subject as boiler regulations from Europe, can we find a little time before the recess to talk about the domestic arrangements in this place, particularly the allocation of the new rooms which are coming on stream? If that is done in the usual way through the back door, by the old boy network or by Buggins' turn, a lot of boilers will be boiling over among my colleagues on the Conservative Benches.

Mr. MacGregor

My hon. Friend has made her heated views on the matter known. The boiler regulations are being debated not on the Floor of the House but in Committee and I suspect that it might be better if the issue that she raises was pursued in other ways than in a debate on the Floor of the House. However, I am sure that her point will have been noted.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I will ensure that those hon. Members who have not been called this week will be called reasonably early at business questions next week.

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