HC Deb 11 July 1991 vol 194 cc1085-101 3.31 pm
Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland)

Will the Leader of the House tell us the business for next week, and will he recommend to the Prime Minister that he reads Matthew Parris in The Times?

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

Motion on the Fair Employment (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order.

TUESDAY 16 JULY—Conclusion of remaining stages of the Finance Bill.

Consideration of Lords amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill.

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

WEDNESDAY 17 JULY—Opposition day (18th allotted day)—(1st part). Until seven o'clock there will be a debate on a motion in the name of Plaid Cymru entitled "The Future Structures of Government in Wales".

Proceedings on the Foreign Corporations Bill [Lords]. Proceedings on the consolidation measures. Details will be given in the Official Report.

Consideration of Lords amendments to the Coal Mining Subsidence Bill.

Motion on the Education (Assisted Places) (Amendment) Regulations.

THURSDAY 18 JULY—Remaining stages of the Child Support Bill [Lords].

Motions to amend Standing Orders relating to departmental Select Committees.

Motion on parliamentary pensions.

Motions to approve new Standing Orders to establish the new Committee system for the management of services in the House and to provide in Standing Orders for a Broadcasting Committee.

FRIDAY 19 JULY—Debate on a motion for the Adjournment of the House entitled "Wider Choice and Higher Standards in Schools".

MONDAY 22 JULY—Motion for the summer Adjournment.

Proceedings on the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill.

The House will also wish to know that European Standing Committees will meet on Wednesday 17 July at 10.30 am to consider European Community documents as follows: Committee A—Document No. 4658/91 relating to restriction on the marketing and use of certain dangerous substances and preparations.

Committee B—Document No. 10445/90 relating to the oil supply situation.

I hope it will be for the convenience of the House to know that, subject to the progress of business, it will be proposed that the House should rise for the summer Adjournment on Thursday 25 July until Monday 14 October.

[Wednesday 17 July

Proceedings on the consolidation measures

Water Industry Bill [Lords]

Water Resources Bill [Lords]

Statutory Water Companies Bill [Lords]

Land Drainage Bill [Lords]

Water Consolidation (Consequential Provisions) Bill [Lords]

Deer Bill [Lords]

Statute Law Revision (Isle of Man) Bill [Lords]

Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Bill [Lords]

Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Regulations.]

Dr. Cunningham

After a week of high security gaol breaks, bank collapses and scandals over the sale of the Property Services Agency, I have no doubt that Conservative Members will breathe a sigh of relief at the news that the House is to rise for the summer recess in two weeks' time. But before that occurs, and especially in view of the meetings of the Group of Seven, and the damning indictment of the OECD report on the failure of the Government's policies, will the Leader of the House assure us that we shall have an opportunity to debate the British economy, preferably in Government time? If we are not to have such a debate on economic affairs in Government time, may we be assured that we will have a Supply day so that Opposition Members can ensure that Parliament has that important debate before the summer recess?

Yet again, we have seen an obscene rise in salaries for chairmen and chief executives in privatised monopolies, a direct result of the Government's policies. But the cat was let out of the bad when the chairman of MANWEB said that Ministers knew in advance of those grotesque salary increases, taken completely at the mercy of electricity and water consumers the length and breadth of Britain. Is it not time to end the prevarication of the Prime Minister and other Cabinet Ministers responsible and have a full debate in the House about the consequences of Government policy and their implications for consumer bills in those industries?

The Secretary of State for Defence has said, rightly, that he intends to make a statement about his review of the regimental system in the British Army before the House rises for the summer recess. May we, especially in view of the widespread interest in the future of the regimental system, which I believe extends to Members of all political parties—I know, for example, of the concern in Cumbria about the future of the King's Own Royal Border Regiment—

Mrs. Edwina Currie (Derbyshire, South)

The hon. Gentleman should read Matthew Parris in The Times, too.

Dr. Cunningham

I recommend the hon. Lady and all her hon. Friends to read Matthew Parris about the toadies on the Government Benches.

May we have an assurance that that statement will be made in the Chamber of the House of Commons, so that we all have the opportunity to put questions to the Secretary of State for Defence?

Mr. MacGregor

I assure the hon. Gentleman that Conservative Members are happy to debate many of the matters that were debated during Prime Minister's questions. There is much vigour and enthusiasm among Conservative Members to probe the Labour party's policies, and it has been noticeable during recent Prime Minister's questions that Opposition Members dislike every moment of the probing of the Labour party's policies. Therefore, the desire to rise for the summer recess is much stronger among Opposition Members, because they are anxious to avoid such continued probing of their policies. That is why, every time the matter is raised, they try to provide smokescreens and make sufficient noise for the responses not to be heard.

We would welcome a debate on the economy. The precise timing would be left to discussion between the usual channels. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have been having some discussions about the matter and we are anxious to ensure that the debate is taken in the best possible circumstances with the fullest attendance arid with the appropriate speakers. We hope that, somehow or other, that can be fitted in before the summer recess. The hon. Gentleman knows of the pressure on the timetable, particularly with the date that I have announced for the rising of the House for the summer recess, but we are doing our best to ensure that we have a debate.

Privatisation could also be debated on that occasion. The hon. Gentleman will know that we have had a recent debate on the matter which is frequently raised in the House. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made the position absolutely clear in the House this afternoon. The statement of the gentleman from MANWEB was not correct and a denial was issued thereafter.

The hon. Gentleman made a request for a statement on Army restructuring. I can confirm that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence intends to make an oral statement in the House, if at all possible, before the House rises. The hon. Gentleman knows that when the House returns in October we shall have the usual debate on the Defence White Paper.

Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)

From his past ministerial experience, my right hon. Friend will know of the obligation that section 39 of the Salmon Act 1986 lays on the Government. May we be told whether there will be an opportunity for a statement to be made before we rise on the Government's failure to honour that obligation?

Mr. MacGregor

I not only know of section 39 of the Salmon Act 1986, but I am extremely well aware of my right hon. Friend's interest in such matters. Ministers are now considering a detailed scientific background report. As my right hon. Friend knows, the issues are complicated. The review will be presented to Parliament as soon as possible. I cannot give an exact time, and he will know that no time limit is specified for presentation of the point in the 1986 Act.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

My hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) also has an interest in that matter, although perhaps of a slightly different nature.

I am sure that the Leader of the House would be the first to acknowledge that the consequences for individual investors, for companies and for local authorities, especially for small local authorities, of the failure of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International are a serious matter. Given the time constraints, a debate may not be possible, but is it possible to have a statement so that matters can be aired? It is a serious matter and there are concerns among hon. Members of all parties. An opportunity to air those concerns properly would be most welcome.

Mr. MacGregor

Many of the issues are being aired thoroughly at present. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister referred to the position of local authorities. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman also recognises that those who are pressing for compensation for personal and small business depositors of BCCI must realise that the deposit protection scheme is funded by contributions from the United Kingdom banking industry as a whole, so that the cost of any increase either in the £20,000 ceiling or in the 75 per cent. pay-out ratio would fall on the other United Kingdom banks, with implications either for their depositors or for their own small business customers. That point must be borne in mind.

I cannot promise a debate—indeed, I must rule out a debate in the time left. There is not sufficient Government time for a debate before the House rises. No doubt the matter can be raised in the debate on the economy, if we succeed in having it.

Mr. Graham Riddick (Colne Valley)

Will my right hon. Friend tell me during which debate next week I shall be able to point out that every Labour Government in history, bar the 1924 Government, have increased the basic rate of income tax despite having promised not to do so at the preceding general election? Does he agree that if, by some misfortune, the Labour party was elected to government at the next general election, it would have massively to increase income tax, yet again, to pay for its enormous public spending plans?

Mr. MacGregor

I am sure that the electorate will not give the Labour party that opportunity. We will make the point frequently in the House that the £35 billion extra expenditure to which Labour is already committed would have massive implications for tax. My hon. Friend may be able to deploy his arguments at greater length in the debate on Monday 22 July on the motion for the summer Adjournment.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Does the Leader of the House recall that two weeks ago I called on him to tell the Minister of Agriculture, to make a statement about the livelihood of two farmers in my constituency who are not allowed to milk their cows and now have no income? We have never had such a statement, although there are 25 other farms in the locality. Why does the Minister of Agriculture, refuse to compensate those farmers? The Government talk about the citizens charter and compensation for people, yet they do not have the guts and decency to pay the farmers in that locality. Why do they not get on with it?

Mr. MacGregor

I know of the hon. Gentleman's concern about the matter, and he knows that a full statement was given when the initial announcement was made. I referred to that at some length in the House. Further explanations have been given in reply to parliamentary questions. A research programme is being devised for the two farms concerned and other farms in the vicinity. These are complex matters, as I know because I have had to deal with similar issues in relation to rhizomania and other matters. The details of the research programme for the two farms have yet to be decided. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will want to make a statement when he has completed those details. I believe that the farms were visited recently.

It is entirely fair for the hon. Gentleman to raise this point, not only in the context of compensation but in other contexts. It is indeed a serious issue. Let me assure him again—and assure everyone living in the area—that it has been made clear that, of the 27 farms in the Bolsover area that were monitored, only the two whose milk is no longer going into the public supply showed dioxin levels that required action.

Mr. John Browne (Winchester)

May I refer my right hon. Friend to early-day motion 1103?

[That this House welcomes the decision of the Secretary of State for Defence and the Chancellor of the Exchequer in authorising certain of their officials to meet with the legal representatives of the injured Grenadiers; and looks forward to fruitful negotiations yielding a just and humane solution.]

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Crown Proceedings (Armed Forces) Act 1987, although very well intentioned, has two major deficiencies? First, it makes no provision for flexibility; it does not allow the Secretary of State for Defence to make any ex gratia payments. Secondly, it makes no provision for any service man who sues the Government to have full discovery of documents. Those two facts add up to a great injustice, which is continuing every day of the week. Please may we have a debate, as a matter of urgency, to put the Act right?

Mr. MacGregor

I do not think that there will be an opportunity for a debate in Government time on a specific Act before the House rises. As for the early-day motion, I know that the meeting between officials and legal representatives of the three guardsmen led to a full and useful discussion of the case. My hon. Friend mentioned the provision of information. The MOD officials provided the guardsmen's lawyers with some further information, and undertook to provide other information as requested.

Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East)

We may have only 10 parliamentary days left before a general election is called. Meanwhile, 1 million people are missing from the electoral register. In the course of those 10 days, should we not discuss the position, and establish whether anything can be done to restore full and genuine electoral registration? If Conservative Members think that there is nothing wrong with the current state of affairs, let me remind them that this House introduced the universal franchise, and that this Government have helped to destroy it.

Mr. MacGregor

I told the hon. Gentleman that I would give him the same reply as before if he asked for a debate on the matter again. Let me add to that reply, however. There is no connection between the number of people who register for voting purposes and the number who register for the community charge. By fomenting such a view, the hon. Gentleman is doing an injustice to those who might wish to register for electoral purposes. He is creating the wrong impression—just as Opposition Members are doing when they encourage people not to pay their community charge.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

Will my right hon. Friend arrange a debate next week on the important question of minimum values on the export of horses and ponies after 1992? Will he bear in mind that the matter is likely to be settled by the Council of Ministers, perhaps as early as September? Is it not time that the House debated the issue, which is disturbing the nation's conscience more than any other issue connected with animal welfare?

Mr. MacGregor

I do not think that it will be possible to find Government time for a debate before the House rises, although my hon. Friend will have other opportunities to raise the matter. Let me assure him, however, that I have no doubt that the Government—including my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food—know the views of the House full well. I have seen extensive constituency correspondence, and thorough replies from my right hon. Friend the Minister expressing the Government's sympathy and determination to continue to press to get the policy right.

Mr. Andrew Welsh (Angus, East)

Of all people, the Leader of the House should understand the importance of the agriculture industry and of the negotiations taking place in the Common Market. Can he guarantee that these matters will be brought before the House, either in the form of a statement or preferably in a full-scale debate? Is he now in a position to say when and how these events will be reported back to the House?

Mr. MacGregor

I imagine that the hon. Gentleman has in mind the MacSharry proposals, phase 2, to reform the common agricultural policy. As he knows, the Commission's latest ideas have been published in a lengthy document that will need to be studied in detail before it can be commented upon in depth. I think that the hon. Gentleman knows already that the Government have made it clear that we shall continue to resist firmly all suggestions that would increase the cost of the CAP unacceptably, that would be incompatible with increasing agricultural efficiency and, above all, that would discriminate against the United Kingdom. That has been made absolutely clear, as well as our desire to press strongly for closer integration of agricultural and environmental policies, on which I believe firmly that the United Kingdom has been taking the lead in the Council for a considerable time.

The Agriculture Council will have a preliminary discussion on 15 and 16 July and will commence detailed discussions at the September Council. My guess is that the discussions will continue for a considerable time. I assure the hon. Gentleman that I shall arrange a suitable opportunity to debate these matters.

Mr. Keith Vaz (Leicester, East)

When may we have a further statement or debate on the collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International? The Leader of the House knows the catastrophic effects that the closure will have on some local authorities, investors and depositors as well as on businesses. He will also know that the situation is developing every day. We heard rumours that the Governor of the Bank of England was going to fly out of the country to meet the sheikh of Abu Dhabi, and that further discussions were taking place.

Is this not exactly the sort of issue that deserves to be debated when we know that there is a time limit, which is the date that the petition is to be presented to the High Court for the winding up of the bank? There is no point in debating the issue after that. We can do nothing to alleviate the suffering of these people once that is done. May we have a further statement and a debate on this very important matter?

Mr. MacGregor

I have already stated the position regarding a debate. If it seemed appropriate at any point, I would certainly discuss with my right hon. Friends whether it would be possible for a statement to be made, but we have to judge when, and if, that is appropriate.

Mr. John Biffen (Shropshire, North)

My right hon. Friend stated that the House will rise on Thursday 25 July for the long recess and, by convention, has announced the business for Monday 22 July. That leaves undeclared the business for Tuesday and Wednesday 23 and 24 July. May I make a very modest suggestion: that the Tuesday should bear the more onerous business and the Wednesday the more optional?

Mr. MacGregor

I do not know what my right hon. Friend succeeded in doing in the last week before the summer recess when he was in my position, but he will certainly be aware of some of the pressures. I can assure him that Tuesday's business will be onerous. I am fairly certain—though this largely depends on what returns to us from the other place—that Wednesday will be a long and onerous day as well. I have suggested for some time time that the idea that the House is running out of business —a rumour that was propagated in June—is absolute and total nonsense. We can see, with the pressure on the timetable during the next fortnight, how much we shall have to deal with.

Mr. Andrew MacKay (Berkshire, East)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it might be helpful to have a wide-ranging debate on fundamental beliefs so that we can establish how many of the beliefs that the Leader of the Opposition previously held have now been jettisoned? My right hon. Friend will have read the report on the front page of The Times today that the Leader of the Opposition and his wife have not renewed their membership of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. He will further recall that in 1981 the Leader of the Opposition said that nuclear disarmament was one of the fundamental beliefs that he would never desert. How many more of these fundamental beliefs is he going to desert?

Mr. MacGregor

In the earlier exchanges on Prime Minister's questions, when it was suggested by one of my hon. Friends that the Opposition seemed to be changing their position on the nuclear question, I was interested to hear the response from the Opposition Front Bench to the effect that there had been no change at all.

Dr. Cunningham

That was three years ago.

Mr. MacGregor

The hon. Gentleman has now confirmed that the change was made three years ago and that there has been no change since. I am sure that my hon. Friends will find that extremely interesting, because there has been a great deal of probing of the Opposition's position on that question in recent months and a great deal of fudging in response. Therefore, I think that my hon. Friend is making a fair point. There will be an opportunity—

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours Workington)

Is this in order?

Mr. MacGregor

I am totally in order because I am dealing with the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay). There will be opportunities to debate this matter when the House returns after the recess because, when, as I have said, we shall be having the usual debate on the defence White Paper.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

May we have a debate earlier than the debate on the defence White Paper? We could discuss the United Nations and the Government's role in supporting it. We could also discuss the United Nations nuclear non-proliferation treaty and the 139 nations of our planet which have taken the decision not to manufacture or deploy nuclear weapons. We could discuss whether we should maintain the indefensible position of threatening to exterminate half the world through the possession of nuclear weapons or support and join the vast majority of the world's nations which will not have nuclear weapons. We could then decide which is the most sensible policy to pursue.

Mr. MacGregor

I agree with the hon. Gentleman on one point. If it had been possible, I would have liked to have a debate on the defence estimates—

Mr. Greville-Janner (Leicester, West)

On the defence cuts.

Mr. MacGregor

I would have liked to have the debate on the defence White Paper before October for a number of reasons, one of which is that it is clear that there are great divisions within the Opposition and it would have enabled us to establish that the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) clearly disagrees with the views of his Front-Bench spokesmen—at least in so far as we can establish what those views are.

Sir Robert McCrindle (Brentwood and Ongar)

The question of clause 52, relating to building societies, of the Finance Bill was raised during Prime Minister's Question Time. Will the Leader of the House consider a new dimension to the long-running debate between the Government and the building societies, in that the Leeds Permanent building society has now applied to the court to test the legality of the Government's propositions? In those circumstances, would it not be appropriate if clause 52 were to be deferred until we could ascertain whether the Government are entitled to engage in what the building societies contend is double taxation, although I appreciate that the Government take an opposite view?

Mr. MacGregor

Clearly the selection of clauses, new clauses and amendments for debate on Monday and possibly Tuesday is for you, Mr. Speaker; I would not wish to comment on that. However, clause 52 was debated thoroughly in Committee, and I doubt whether it makes sense to withdraw it from the Finance Bill now.

Mr. Stan Crowther (Rotherham)

Is the Leader of the House aware of early-day motion 1035, which draws attention to and expresses alarm about the disruption in the licensed trade?

[That this House views with alarm the disruption now occurring in the licensed trade; deplores the fact that many tenant licensees with long experience of serving the public are being forced either to accept long leases at extortionate rents and with full repairing liabilities or to leave the trade with little hope of finding new employment; notes that beer prices have been substantially increased while the market share held by the four biggest brewery companies has risen to almost 70 per cent., thus negating the aim of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission to provide more consumer choice; and therefore calls on the Government (a) to instruct the Director General of Fair Trading to review the position immediately, (b) to introduce a minimum level of compensation for displaced tenants above that provided in the Landlord and Tenant Act and (c) to introduce a form of independent arbitration for the assessment of fair rents.]

It asks the Government to take remedial measures and now has the support of 73 right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the legislation introduced after the Monopolies and Mergers Commission report has failed in its objective of providing a better deal for customers? It has certainly not provided better security for tenant licensees and most assuredly has upset the Conservative party's traditional friends in the brewing industry? In view of that, will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate on those matters before the summer Adjournment?

Mr. MacGregor

I do not think that I can arrange for such a debate in Government time. The hon. Gentleman talked of a debate before the summer Adjournment. The subject could be raised in the motion for the summer Adjournment, and there may be other opportunities as well.

On the substance of the early-day motion, the hon. Gentleman will know that the Landlord and Tenant (Licensed Premises) Act 1990 was introduced by the Government and ensures that pub tenants are entitled to the same security of tenure and statutory minimum compensation as other business tenants.

Mr. James Kilfedder (North Down)

The Leader of the House must be aware of the numberous complaints about the lack of real democracy in the governance of Northern Ireland. Therefore, as I put to him in the debate yesterday, pending the establishment of a Northern Ireland assembly, will he establish now a Select Committee on Northern Ireland?

Mr. MacGregor

The position on the Select Committees for Northern Ireland and for Scotland has been discussed a number of times. I have nothing to add.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

I welcome the fact that on Thursday we shall consider motions to amend the Standing Orders on departmental Select Committees, but may I take it that it will be possible to move motion No. 41, which has been tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Lagan Valley (Mr. Molyneaux) and other hon. Members?

Will it be possible to have a debate, even in the spillover period, on the defence White Paper to allow us to make a plea for the uniting and maintaining of the Queen's Irish Hussars?

Mr. MacGregor

The debate on the defence White Paper will be in the spillover period. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence will be able to make a statement on Army restructuring before the House rises, when such matters could be discussed. I hope that the motions on Standing Orders will implement all, but possibly the majority, of the Procedure Committee's recommendations on Select Committees.

Mr. Tony Favell (Stockport)

My right hon. Friend said that business is likely to be heavy on 24 July. May I remind him that that is my wife's birthday?

Will my right hon. Friend consider arranging a debate on the exchange rate mechanism? It is nine months since we joined, and several eminent economic commentators such as Anatole Kaletsky of The Times and Andrew Alexander of the Daily Mail, and economic academics such as Professor Patrick Minford of Liverpool university, feel that it is having an adverse effect on our prospects of recovering from the recession and for lowering interest rates.

Mr. MacGregor

I apologise to my hon. Friend's wife. It is not the first time that we have had heavy business on the birthdays of hon. Members' wives, including mine. My hon. Friend will be able to give his wife dinner in the House, which has excellent facilities.

On the point of substance that he raised—

Dr. Cunningham

The hon. Gentleman did not say anything of substance.

Mr. MacGregor

The point of policy substance that my hon. Friend made would be appropriate for a debate on the economy. As I said to the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), I hope that we shall have such a debate in the last week before the recess. I shall bear in mind my hon. Friend's request about 24 July in considering when that debate should be held.

Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West)

As today is a much more auspicious occasion—my birthday—will the Leader of the House, who apparently is in a good mood, be kind enough to answer two questions, if you, Mr. Speaker, will allow me to ask them?

First, despite what the right hon. Gentleman has said, may we have a debate on the collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International? Is he aware of the enormous hardship that it has caused ordinary people, including the Oulik family in my constituency, who stand to lose nearly all their life savings? Surely we should at least have a statement, and will the Leader of the House undertake to talk to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry about that?

Secondly, will the Leader of the House ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to make a statement on the unworthy and indefensible 63 per cent. increase in the salary of the chairman of East Midlands Electricity, when its staff's salary increases were held down to 8.9 per cent.? Everyone in the Leicester area considers that to be a bad precedent in an industry that should not have been taken out of public ownership.

Mr. MacGregor

I disagree with the hon. and learned Gentleman about the implications of the privatisation of electricity boards for the industry and for consumers. It will benefit both.

The hon. and learned Gentleman will know that I have already responded to both his other questions. I understand the consequences of the collapse of BCCI for families and businesses, but, as I said earlier, there is no room for a debate in Government time. If and when it is appropriate, I shall discuss the possibility of a statement with my right hon. Friends.

Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of my right hon. and hon. Friends—and, for all I know, some members of the Opposition—believe that no more technical assistance should be given to the Soviet Union by the G7 countries until there is genuine democracy, genuine economic reform, genuine rule of law and a genuine reduction in the conventional arms build-up in that country? Will there be an opportunity next week when President Gorbachev will be in London for us to make that clear statement to him in the presence of representatives from the G7 countries?

Mr. MacGregor

That question does not relate to the business of the House, but I am sure that my hon. and learned Friend's comment will have been noted. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will, I expect, make a statement on the outcome of the G7 talks.

Mr. Dennis Canavan (Falkirk, West)

In view of the decision taken by the United States Government to lift sanctions against South Africa, may we have a statement next week to the effect that the Government will not follow the American example until a new constitution is in place in South Africa to guarantee the right to vote for all South African people?

Mr. MacGregor

I believe that there will be a widespread welcome not only for that decision, but for the recent decision of various sports councils to readmit South Africa to the international sporting arena. However, I cannot promise a debate or a statement on these issues.

Sir Anthony Grant (Cambridgeshire, South-West)

It is welcome news that the Secretary of State for Defence is to make a statement on Army reorganisation before the House rises, but can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that there will be sufficient time to question the Secretary of State? Last time, there was not sufficient time for many hon. Members with regimental interests to ask questions, and I was unable to raise the issue of the future of the Royal Anglian Regiment. In view of the pressure that is being brought to bear, would not it be better to have a debate on the White Paper before the House rises? Is it not absolutely essential for the world, in its present state, to know that the Government's nuclear defence policy commands a majority in the House so that the issue can be put to rest?

Mr. MacGregor

On the second point, I have already said that I wish we could have time for a debate on these issues before the House rises because I am keen to solve the conundrum of the Opposition's nuclear defence policy and to contrast it with ours. I do not think that it is necessary to have a debate for the country to know of the big differences between us on that issue.

My hon. Friend's first point illustrates the difficulties of the past two weeks. There is a lot of business to be covered, which is why I said that there will be a number of very heavy days. However, the amount of time given to an oral statement is a matter not for me but for Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East)

Will the Leader of the House find time before the recess to arrange for further discussion on the "fortress Europe" statement on political refugees which was made by the Home Secretary last week, so that we can, in general, answer some of the rabid comments of the Tory right to the effect that Britain is being swamped by people from an alien culture and specifically raise an answer that I received from a Home Office Minister on Monday? That answer showed that in 20 of the past 27 years more people have left the country than have entered it, and that since 1964 there has been a net emigration of 786,000 people from the United Kingdom. Does not that put into context the false justification for denying and tightening the rights of political refugees?

Mr. MacGregor

My right hon. Friend's statement last week was not on immigration or emigration but was specifically about asylum. His statement was very clear.

Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent)

My right hon. Friend announced that there was to be yet another debate on Wales next week. Does he ever reflect on the difficulties that hon. Members have in raising matters relating to parts of the United Kingdom that get a much smaller per capita handout from central Government than do Wales and Scotland? Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the fact that the county of Kent faces extraordinary pressures, partly because the channel tunnel is now finished? We are now linked to France and, in many ways, we are already being treated, and hope to continue to be treated, as a Euro-region. The volume of traffic per mile is increasing faster in Kent than in almost any other part of the United Kingdom. There is a whole range of issues that it would be good to debate in the House. Can my right hon. Friend see his way to providing us with an opportunity to do that?

Mr. MacGregor

I do not think that I can see a way to providing an opportunity to debate those specific issues before the House rises, although I know that they have already been raised quite often. My hon. Friend will know that next week's debate on Welsh matters is to be held on an Opposition day, and that the subject has been chosen by Plaid Cymru.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

The Leader of the House says that we "might" have a statement on BCCI "when and if" it is appropriate. May I tell him that the local authorities think that it is appropriate now? They expected a statement to be made to Parliament today. May we have that statement on Monday, and may we have an assurance that a statement will not be made tomorrow because, too often, important statements are slipped through on Fridays when it is mostly London and home counties Members who are present and when many of us have had to go back to Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and all parts of the United Kingdom, with a travelling time of five, six or seven hours? May we have that statement as a matter of urgency—particularly as, in the north-west of England, many authorities of all political persuasions are affected?

Mr. MacGregor

I do not think that I can add to what I have already said about our making a statement when and if it is appropriate to do so. I note what the hon. Gentleman says about statements on Fridays, but I emphasise that it is sometimes appropriate to have statements on Fridays.

Mr. Henry Bellingham (Norfolk, North-West)

The Leader of the House will be aware that the resort of Hunstanton in my constituency today took delivery of the highly prestigious blue flag award for being one of the cleanest and best resorts in the country. May I ask my right hon. Friend for his advice? I should like to pay tribute to Kings Lynn and West Norfolk borough council, to Hunstanton town council, to Anglian Water and to all those in the town of Hunstanton who have worked so hard to achieve the award. When will I have the chance to pay tribute to those bodies and to discuss the question of improving beaches throughout the United Kingdom?

Mr. MacGregor

My hon. Friend has already done so, and, as a Norfolk man myself, I should like to add to the tributes that he has paid in respect of Hunstanton beach. May I give him another favourable reply by pointing out that tomorrow there is to be a debate on the environment in which he could embellish the points that he has already made.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

Will there be a statement or a debate next week on the G7 economic summit and its outcome, with particular reference to third-world debt—the system whereby the poorest countries subsidise the banking systems of western Europe, north America and Japan? It is time that the G7 summit stopped the transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich, wrote off the debts and arranged for changes in the trading system so that commodity prices paid to the poorest people around the world for their products rise instead of continuing to decline. Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that, the longer the system continues, the more schools and hospitals will be closed in poor countries, the worse the health of the people of those countries will become and the more damage will be done to their environment? This is a serious matter and should be debated in the House.

Mr. MacGregor

I can give the hon. Gentleman an assurance that there will be a statement on the outcome of the summit, although I cannot, at this stage, say exactly when.

Mr. John Butterfill (Bournemouth, West)

Will my right hon. Friend arrange for a debate on the usual courtesies in the proceedings of this House? May I draw his attention to the statement made earlier by the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), who referred to a number of Conservative Members as toads and drew attention to an article by Mr. Matthew Parris in The Times? Will my right hon. Friend remind Opposition Members that Mr. Toad and his friends defeated the weasels and drove them out of the house? Some of us would be proud to be toads.

Mr. MacGregor

My hon. Friend's point speaks for itself. It was an answer and not a question.

Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)

Will the Leader of the House reflect on the way in which we are handling the business of defence? He has said that we will not have a debate on the White Paper until the spillover period. Therefore, there will be three months from the publication of the White Paper until the House discusses it. That is not the normal procedure. The normal procedure would be to discuss a White Paper very soon after its publication.

Some very serious issues in Scotland require answers on the Floor of the House, and they should not wait for the spillover period, especially those in relation to the safety of the Trident system which has been reported upon extensively by the Select Committee on Defence. We need a decision and a statement on the future of naval bases, including the base at Rosyth. Although it is perfectly reasonable to have disputes about such matters across the Floor of the House, if the Leader of the House is really anxious to discuss the matter, should we not have a longer period before the recess? There is ample time, and a recess of a couple of months or so is a bit of a nonsense. The Leader of the House should know better.

Mr. MacGregor

The hon. Gentleman understands why the White Paper was later this year. He will know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence gave evidence to the Select Committee only yesterday. He will also know that we had two full days' debates on defence matters only recently. We therefore need some time to consider the matters in the White Paper and the points about Army restructuring on which I have been pressed today. I am under great pressure from hon. Members on both sides of the House for the House to rise at the time that I have announced. It is therefore not possible to have the debate on the defence White Paper until we come back.

Mr. James Hill (Southampton, Test)

My right hon. Friend probably read in The Daily Telegraph today that Saddam Hussein has been responsible for the assassination of 14 of his generals over the past few weeks, and that the United Nations team of observers in Iraq is having particular problems. The Pentagon has now said that satellites have observed more than 10 depositories of nuclear material. In the same breath, the Pentagon is preparing a strike force. Before everything happens again, may we talk the matter through before the recess?

Mr. MacGregor

I will convey my hon. Friend's concerns to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Is the Leader of the House aware that I fully support the request for an early debate or for a statement from the Secretary of State for Defence on the position of the injured Grenadier guardsmen? Is he aware that the meeting the other day between the solicitors representing the soldiers and Ministry of Defence officials was welcome? I believe that there will be progress and that there will be proper compensation for those who have been crippled for life. However, if that progress is not made, may we have a statement as quickly as possible about the matter, certainly before the House rises for the recess? There is tremendous concern in the west midlands about the issue and about Sean Povey.

Mr. MacGregor

I am aware of the hon. Gentleman's concern about the matter because he has raised it on a number of occasions. I cannot say whether there will be developments before the House rises. However, I will convey yet again to my right hon. Friend the point that the hon. Gentleman has raised this afternoon.

Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne)

Earlier this week the Civil Aviation Authority published proposals that threaten the viability of the express rail link at Heathrow airport. If that scheme is abandoned, it will cause great harm to my constituents, to the travelling public, and to British aviation interests in general. By the time that I have sat down, my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Transport will be left in no doubt about my views. Will my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House organise a debate before the House rises so that the rest of the House may make it crystal clear to the Secretary of State for Transport that the proposals are absolute nonsense and that once again they show that the CAA does not understand the economic facts of life?

Mr. MacGregor

As my hon. Friend knows, the proposals were advanced not by the Government but by the CAA. I am sure that he will make his views known during the consultation process.

Dr. Kim Howells (Pontypridd)

Is the Leader of the House aware that grave concern was expressed last night in another place by the chairman of British Coal about the behaviour of the two big generating companies') Will he find time to discuss the problems that have been caused by the privatisation of one electricity company and the creation of two electricity duopolies—that is what they are; they act as monopolies—which are now screwing down coal prices so far that there will be drastic closures in the coal industry unless something is done soon?

Mr. MacGregor

I have not yet had the opportunity to read the comments made last night in another place, but I will draw them to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy.

Mr. Michael Brown (Brigg and Cleethorpes)

If the Prime Minister totally changed the Government's policy on our independent nuclear deterrent next week, the Opposition and the House would rightly expect him to make a statement in the House. Therefore, perhaps not before the recess but during it, will my right hon. Friend, in his capacity as Leader of the House, devote his energies to considering the possibility of introducing a procedure whereby if the Leader of the Opposition, who receives an official salary for that job, changes his policy, he can be asked to account for it in the House?

We have heard the shadow Leader of the House say this afternoon, sotto voce, that Labour's defence policy was changed three years ago, but we need to have that on the record. Does my right hon. Friend agree that if anybody who receives an official salary similar to that received by a Minister and thus has the responsibilities that go with it changes his policy on privatisation, nationalisation or nuclear deterrence, that person should be required to subject himself to a debate in the House?

Mr. MacGregor

I can assure my hon. Friend that, in an appropriate debate, such a person would certainly be subjected to a great deal of probing on his or her position. There has been considerable confusion about the Opposition's nuclear policy for some months. We have heard this afternoon—it has been confirmed by those on the Opposition Front Bench—that there is no change in the Opposition's policy, so I am afraid that there is still no change in the confusion.

Mr. Peter Hain (Neath)

May I press the Leader of the House again to find time for a statement on the increasingly complex issue of sanctions against South Africa? Although, in common with many others, I welcome South Africa's readmission to the international Olympics and to cricket because it has integrated its sports structures for the Olympic sports and for cricket, that has not yet happened in rugby or in the other sports that are still organised on racial lines. By backing President Bush's almost obscene haste in lifting economic sanctions while blacks do not have the vote in South Africa, the Government risk derailing the whole process of reform that has been gathering momentum over the past year. Does the Leader of the House recognise those concerns, and will he find time for a debate on those vital issues?

Mr. MacGregor

I have already said that I do not think that it will be possible to find time to debate that issue before the House rises. The Government's position on sanctions is clear, and has been clear for some time.

Mr. David Sumberg (Bury, South)

May we have a debate next week on leasehold reform to give the Government the opportunity to refer to reports in the press today that they are shortly to announce the introduction of the commonhold system of land tenure, which would remove many of the problems that my constituents face because of impossible and difficult landlords who are making their lives a complete misery? Can my right hon. Friend give us any hint about what the Government might say in the next few days?

Mr. MacGregor

Although there will not be time for a debate, I assure my hon. Friend that there will be a statement shortly, which I believe he will very much welcome.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

May I advise the Leader of the House that I am a Member cif the Council of Europe and thoroughly enjoy the experience of our debates at Strasbourg, Paris and other places of hardship around Europe? I attend the Council of Europe as part of a delegation which is sent there by the House of Commons. It would therefore be appropriate if we had the opportunity to give an account in this House of what we have been doing in the Council of Europe on behalf of all hon. Members—[Interruption.]—and often at great pressure to our health and livelihoods.

When did we last have a debate in Government time on the working of the Council of Europe? If the Leader of the House cannot say that, will he give us an assurance that we shall have an early debate when we return from the recess so that we can give an account of what we have been doing on behalf of the whole House?

Mr. MacGregor

I shall have to look into the record. I cannot give an assurance that there will be a debate in Government time—although I am sure that the entire House would be interested to know what the hon. Gentleman has been up to.

Mr. Skinner

He got a new jacket last Christmas.

Mr. MacGregor

The jacket has certainly come from somewhere. I have noticed that the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) is never short of opportunities to tell us what he has been up to in various pursuits. Undoubtedly he will find an opportunity at some point to explain what he has been up to.

Mr. Jacques Arnold (Gravesham)

May I support the request of the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist) for a debate on political refugees? In such a debate, we could consider one particularly unworthy group of political refugees—the Militant Tendency in the Labour party. It would give the hon. Gentleman an opportunity to tell us whether he believes that he is eligible.

Mr. MacGregor

Many of us believe that it is time that the Leader of the Opposition made clear his position on those of his colleagues who are members of Militant or who support Militant. Therefore, my hon. Friend makes a fair point.