HC Deb 27 June 1991 vol 193 cc1141-54 3.46 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 1 JULY—Debate on the Army on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Motions on the Church of England (General Synod) Measures.

TUESDAY 2 JULY—Opposition day (16th allotted day). Until about seven o'clock there will be a debate described as "The Housing Crisis". Afterwards there will be a debate entitled "The Conduct of Affairs in the Privatised Electricity and Gas Industries". Both debates arise on Opposition motions.

Remaining stages of the Severn Bridges Bill.

WEDNESDAY 3 JULY—Estimates day (2nd allotted day). Until seven o'clock there will be a debate on aid to Iraqi refugees, followed by a debate on future levels of employment and unemployment.

Details of the estimates concerned and the relevant Select Committee reports will be given in the Official Report.

THURSDAY 4 JULY—Estimates day (3rd allotted day). Until seven o'clock there will be a debate on the steel industry, assistance to redundant steel workers, and Scottish Enterprise, followed by a debate on the waiting list initiative.

Details of the estimates concerned and the relevant Select Committee reports will be given in the Official Report.

At ten o'clock the Question will be put on all outstanding estimates.

FRIDAY 5 JULY—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY 8 JULY—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Road Traffic Bill.

The House will also wish to know that European Standing Committee B will meet at 10.30 am on Wednesday 3 July to consider European Community Document No. 4466/91 relating to informing and consulting employees.

Wednesday 3 July


Estimates class II, vote 5, Foreign and Commonwealth Office—Overseas Development and Administration: Overseas Aid so far as it relates to aid to Iraqi refugees.

Relevant document: Second Report from the Foreign Affairs Committee: Aid to Iraqi Refugees, Session 1990–91 (HC 528) (to be published Monday 1 July).

Class VI, vote 1, Department of Employment: Programmes and central services and class VI, vote 2, Department of Employment: Employment Service so far as they relate to future prospects for levels of employment and unemployment.

Relevant document: Third Report from the Employment Committee: Future Prospects for levels of employment and unemployment, Session 1990–91 (HC 228).

Thursday 4 July


Class IV, vote 1, Department of Trade and Industry: regional and selective assistance, suppport for aerospace, shipbuilding and steel and class XV, vote 3, training programmes and industrial support, Scotland, so far as they relate to the steel industry, assistance to redundant steel workers, and Scottish Enterprise.

Relevant document: Second Report from the Trade and Industry Committee: British Steel—Ravenscraig and Clydesdale, Session 1990–91 (HC 63) and Second Special Report: British Steel—Ravenscraig and Clydesdale Government Observations on the Second Report, Session 1990–91 (HC 473).

Class XIII, vote 1, hospital, community health, family health services (part) and related services, England and class XVI, vote 8, hospital, community health, family health services (part) and related services, Wales, so far as they relate to the Waiting List Initiative.

Relevant document: First Report from the Health Committee. Public Expenditure and Health Services: Waiting Lists Session 1990–91 (HC 429—i); Minutes of Evidence from the Welsh Affairs Committee Session 1990–91 (HC 390—i to iii).

[Wednesday 3 July

European Standing Committee B

Relevant European Community Document

4466/91 Informing and Consulting Employees (European Works Councils)

Relevant report from European Legislation Committee HC 29—xv (1990–91)]

Dr. Cunningham

Will the Leader of the House assure us that, when the Prime Minister returns From Luxembourg next week, we shall have an oral statement in the Chamber so that hon. Members of all parties not only can hear the report from the Prime Minister on the important meeting but have an opportunity to put questions to him?

May we be assured that, when we have the Opposition Supply day debate on nationalised industries which have been privatised and which have resulted in the creation of private monopoly powers, the Minister speaking for the Government will have something more to say than the Prime Minister has yet been able to manage about the grotesque abuse of those private monopoly powers and about the abuse of consumers, shown most flagrantly in the past few weeks by the enormous salary increases that people in charge of those industries have awarded themselves? Many more private monopoly industries are to report in the next few weeks. May we have an end to the abuse of their private monopoly powers and a little more defence of consumers who, after all, have no choice in the matter—and, apparently, no protection from the Government either?

On a lighter note, will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate on the weather? The whole country is talking about it, and some people are even blaming the Government for it. Perhaps we should have a debate and, if we do, I have no doubt that it would be appropriate for one of the right hon. Gentleman's drier colleagues to report to the House.

Mr. MacGregor

On the hon. Gentleman's first point, I am confident that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will follow the normal convention in these matters and make a full report to the House next week.

On the second point, my right hon. Friend has already made clear his view, which I share, that excessive salary increases are not right. We believe that management should take the lead in setting an example of pay restraint. My right hon. Friend has also said, however, that these are commercial matters for the companies concerned. I am sure that whichever of my right hon. Friends deals with the debate on Tuesday will make clear to the House the considerable and wide-ranging benefits to consumers—from price increases below the level of inflation to considerable improvements in the range and standard of services—that have resulted in respect of many privatised industries.

On the third point, it is typical of the Opposition to call for Government intervention on matters right across the board. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we have no intention of following the last Labour Government's example and appointing a Minister for rain, or whatever.

Mr. John Butcher (Coventry, South-West)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the term "market socialism" is an oxymoron, and that it is one of a growing number of terms emanating from the Opposition whose purpose is to conceal rather than to illuminate Labour's economic policies? May we have a debate on economic policy to examine the term, and others coming from the Opposition?

Mr. MacGregor

Yesterday's debate should have given us the opportunity to examine the Opposition's position on Europe and to clarify the 228-word sentence—not just two words but 228—that emanated from the Leader of the Opposition, which served to conceal the divisions rather than to enlighten anyone on the Opposition's policies. There will be a number of opportunities to consider various aspects of the Opposition's economic policy, not least when the Finance Bill returns to the House, at which point we shall be able to explore the very big increases in the basic rate of income tax to which the Opposition are committing themselves.

Mr. David Bellotti (Eastbourne)

Will the Leader of the House find time, next week or the week after, for a debate on the future of football in England and the blueprint that the Football Association has produced and circulated, so that the House may intervene in the disagreements between the Football Association and the Football League and so protect the smaller clubs, which would go to the wall if a super league were set up?

Mr. MacGregor

I have to say to the hon. Gentleman —as I shall probably have to say on a number of occasions this afternoon—that, if we are to rise for the summer recess at what anyone in the House would regard as a reasonable date, I shall have to refuse requests for Government time to be given to a number of subjects. We already have a great many commitments to cover, both during the remainder of this month and throughout next month. The hon. Gentleman will have to find another way of pursuing the matter in the House before the recess.

Sir Jim Spicer (Dorset, West)

Has my right hon. Friend been made aware of the fact that, in the Republic of Ireland this morning, there was a leak of an authoritative document about the MacSharry proposals on agricultural pricing? Is he aware that, if that leak is correct, and those proposals go ahead, it will be a disaster for British farmers? Can he assure me that, if there is any truth in the leak, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will take an early opportunity to speak to the House about it as the matter is of supreme importance to our hard-pressed farming community?

Mr. MacGregor

I have seen only this morning's press reports. I understand that there are no papers or proposals from the Commission and nothing has yet been put to the Agriculture Council. I understand that we do not expect proposals or papers to emerge until about mid-July. If the press reports prove to be correct, it would appear that the package under consideration has similar features to those to which we objected earlier this year. I can assure my hon. Friend that I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend will be extremely assiduous, as he has been throughout, in opposing and rejecting proposals that discriminate against the United Kingdom's interests. I have noted my hon. Friend's request for a statement. We need to see what happens when we receive some official information about what Mr. MacSharry is likely to propose.

Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South)

Will the Leader of the House persuade a Minister in the Ministry of Defence or a Minister of State at the Foreign Office to make a statement in the House next week about the news that British service men in the Special Air Services trained Khmer terrorists for six years between 1983 and 1989, something about which they misled the House and which in an answer to a planted question on 25 June, buried deep in Hansard, they now admit to? I should have thought that that should have been the subject of today's private notice question. I was surprised that the Minister could find time to come and talk about the internal affairs of Yugoslavia but have nothing to say about the grave state of affairs in which British taxpayers' money has been used to fund terrorism in Cambodia.

Mr. MacGregor

The private notice question was about Yugoslavia, and it was therefore appropriate to concentrate on Yugoslavia. With regard to the issue that the hon. Gentleman has raised, he will have seen in the written answer to which he referred that my hon. Friend made it clear that the United Kingdom has never, and will never, provide training to the Khmer Rouge.

Mr. Richard Tracey (Surbiton)

I am sure that my right hon. Friend will agree that there is confusion in some parts of the House about the implications of a minimum wages policy. Does he agree that a debate on that subject would flush out a few people? Conservative Members are totally opposed to such a policy because we believe that it would cause chaos. However, some Opposition Members seem to believe that a minimum wages policy would be a good thing, although they are receiving advice from eminent authorities in the socialist party that such a policy could lead to the loss of up to 2 million jobs.

Mr. MacGregor

The estimates vary, but clearly there would be a substantial number of job losses. I agree with my hon. Friend that most of the objective comments and the comments from most economists, including some who normally support the Labour party, have made it clear that there would be significant job losses. My hon. Friend and others will have an opportunity to develop those points further if they so wish in the second estimates debate next Wednesday.

Mr. Doug Hoyle (Warrington, North)

Has the Leader of the House seen early-day motion 882?

[That this House views with great concern the possibility that Hanson plc will soon be making a takeover bid for ICI; notes ICI is Britain's largest manufacturing company and a major export earner; believes a Hanson plc takeover would result in ICI being broken-up and sold off in parts to the highest bidder, which would be a devastating blow to Britain's chemical industry which does not need another forced rationalisation; notes ICI is one of Britain's few industrial success stories with about 70 per cent. of ICI's research being carried out in Britain with about half its manufacturing capacity based here, at over 50 production sites and with a further 200,000 jobs depending on its business in Britain; notes the chemical industry is a net contributor to Britain's balance of trade and that if ICI is sold off it may fall into the hands of an overseas company resulting in productive capacity and research and development moving abroad, and markets won by ICI being taken over; believes Hanson plc's record on long-term investment should give this House cause for concern as it has a very poor record on research and development expenditure in an industry where this type of expenditure is essential; calls on the Government to indicate that it would oppose a Hanson plc takeover of ICI, and refer the bid to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission as being against the public and national interest; and further calls for legislation to be introduced to tighten up regulations governing takeovers and prevent companies that invest in Britain from being taken over by unwelcome predators.]

That motion and early-day motions 997 and 1001, which have been signed by more than 100 hon. Members from both sides of the House, relate either to ICI's record or to the possibility of a takeover bid by Hanson plc. Does he agree that our largest manufacturing company—ICI —which employs directly more than 56,000 people, which spends 4.5 per cent. of its total sales on research and development and which exports more than 50 per cent. of its output is threatened by an asset stripper? Does he not agree that the uncertainty for that company should be removed? Will he ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to make a statement in the House to the effect that such a bid by Hanson would be unwelcome instead of his remaining silent, something that would not happen in any other European country, least of all in France and Germany?

Mr. MacGregor

I have said before, and I repeat, that no takeover bid has been announced. Therefore, it would be inappropriate to comment on a hypothetical matter.

Mr. Andrew Mitchell (Gedling)

My right hon. Friend has always made it absolutely clear that the principal aim of the House of Commons is to ensure that we can properly question and examine the Executive. Is he aware that, following the advent of the televising of the proceedings of the House, there is widespread concern and interest among our constituents in the Opposition's policies? Will he therefore, without prejudice to his next statement, consider whether we should debate procedure in the House with the aim of instituting a question time so that Opposition policies can be properly scrutinised by Conservative Members?

Mr. MacGregor

I shall shortly make a statement about procedure. It will be open to my hon. Friend to put that suggestion to the Committee that I am about to announce,. We are managing to find a considerable number of opportunities to expose some of the very substantial defects in the Opposition's policies.

Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East)

The Leader of the House will be aware that the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys has found that 1 million people are missing from the electoral register. Should we not discuss that serious matter to discover why so many people are missing and begin to take action to put the matter right?

Mr. MacGregor

The hon. Gentleman has raised this matter with me before. I think that I am right in recalling that I suggested to him that there are other ways in which he can discuss this matter in the House other than in a debate in Government time, for which, quite frankly, I do not have time in the coming weeks.

Mr. Kenneth Hind (Lancashire, West)

My right hon. Friend will be aware of my ten-minute Bill, which will be on next Tuesday's Order Paper. It is a matter of great concern because it relates to the loss of 420 jobs in Wigan, Skelmersdale and Warrington. The matter requires changes in company law. Will my right hon. Friend consider giving time for a debate next week?

Mr. MacGregor

I cannot promise my hon. Friend time for a debate on that matter next week, but there will be opportunities, if he catches your eye, Mr. Speaker. to raise such issues in debates before the recess.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

May we have a statement next week about the Leeds-Bradford electrification proposals? As the Leader of the House will know, loan approval has been given for the overhead equipment, but no approval has been given for the rolling stock to run underneath. One is absolutely useless without the other. Unless loan approval is given in the very near future, the price of rolling stock will increase, and the rolling stock manufacturer, Hunslet of Leeds, will face the possibility of having to reduce a skilled and dedicated work force.

When will the Government stop dithering, approve the programme, which has been before them for more than 12 months, and make a decision? The project is supported by all parties in the area. They want that investment, and they want the Government to stop dithering.

Mr. MacGregor

I cannot promise a debate next week. However, credit approvals have been reserved for the infrastructure work for the project, but resources are still needed for the rolling stock. We have promised urgently to consider providing credit approvals for the rolling stock in the financial year 1992–93, but we cannot make a decision until the end of the public expenditure round this autumn.

I advise those who say that it is too late and that there should be instant responses to such matters that one of the features of the Government, which has added greatly to the strength of our economy in the 1980s, is that we have had financial disciplines and proper financial approaches to such matters. The Labour party, which already would increase public expenditure by £35 billion, would freely go on adding to it. We shall be watching very carefully between now and the general election for all the additional spending commitments to which the Labour party is committing itself. It is quite clear that it has no financial discipline and no regard for the taxpayer.

Mr. Stephen Day (Cheadle)

My right hon. Friend will be aware that my constituency borders Manchester airport and that there was a terrible disaster there some years ago. Following an inquiry, a recommendation was made that smoke hoods should be introduced. Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Civil Aviation Authority has refused to recommend the use of smoke hoods, despite all the research-based evidence, despite the recommendation, and despite the support of the Select Committee on Transport?

Is my right hon. Friend further aware that there have been reports that members of the Civil Aviation Authority take smoke hoods on to aircraft with them? Does it not seem that double standards are applying? Because of the great concern about the fact that the Civil Aviation Authority does not seem to be accountable to anyone—although it is technically accountable to the Secretary of State for Transport, it is not accountable to the House —will my right hon. Friend arrange for an early debate on its role and accountability?

Mr. MacGregor

For the reasons that I have already given, I cannot promise my hon. Friend a debate on this matter before the House rises for the recess, but he can use the opportunities that are open to him to raise the matter in the House. Although I am not aware of these matters, I shall draw what my hon. Friend has said to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Will the Leader of the House ensure that the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food makes an early statement on the levels of dioxin that were discovered and monitored the other day at two farms in Bolsover, as was reported in Hansard yesterday in an answer to a planted question? Will he also ensure that there is a thorough and public investigation into the way in which the dioxin reached that area, thus depriving farmers of their livelihoods? Will he bear it in mind that, at the end of 1990, the safety levels were raised by a factor of 10 and that many other farms in Britain might have been caught in the net if that change had not taken place? Will he ensure that compensation is paid to all those who are affected, and arrange for a statement to be made as early as possible?

Mr. MacGregor

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has already said that his Department will be carrying out further food surveillance in the Bolsover area and undertaking detailed studies to learn more about the mechanism for the transmission of dioxins. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Milk Marketing Board has concluded that the milk does not meet the conditions of its standard terms of sale for producers and will not accept it into the food supply. We welcome that prompt action, which shows that the board is determined to uphold the highest quality standards.

As I served at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food myself, I know that the Government are determined, through our surveillance of the food supply, to ensure the fullest possible protection of the public. Although I have noted the hon. Gentleman's request for another statement, such a statement would be premature before the studies are complete. I shall, however, convey to my right hon. Friend his concerns and his requests for a further statement at the appropriate time.

Mr. Andrew MacKay (Berkshire, East)

Notwithstanding the fact that we are in the middle of the public expenditure negotiations, can I tempt my right hon. Friend to break recent precedent and to arrange an early debate on public expenditure? I am sure that he will agree that there is widespread confusion in the country and, to a degree, in this House about how the Labour party will fund the £35 billion-worth of pledges that it has made. We should like to know whether that will be done through increased taxation or whether some of the pledges will be scrapped.

Mr. MacGregor

I do not think that there is any confusion because it is clear from the costings that have been carried out by my right hon. and learned Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury that the Labour party appears to have committed itself to the figure of £35 billion, or an extra 15p on income tax. It is now up to the Labour party to show how it will meet that bill or what it will cut from its spending pledges. We shall have an opportunity to consider such matters when the Finance Bill returns to the Floor of the House. I am sure that my hon. Friend will wish to pursue his points then.

Mr. Keith Vaz (Leicester, East)

Will the Leader of the House initiate an urgent debate or arrange for a full statement to be made on the appalling crime figures that were announced yesterday? Is he aware that those figures show a 30 per cent. increase in crime in Leicestershire? He must recall that at business questions throughout the lifetime of this Parliament hon. Members of all parties have raised with him the need for extra police officers in Leicestershire and that I have presented successive Home Secretaries with petitions for more police officers. Despite the excellent work of Michael Hirst, the chief constable, and his police force, the crime rate continues to rise. Will the right hon. Gentleman please arrange for the Home Secretary to initiate a debate on this important matter?

Mr. MacGregor

I am not familiar with the precise position in Leicestershire, but in Britain as a whole the numbers of police have been rising, and rising considerably. I do not think that it will be possible to find time for a debate in Government time on the matter taking the United Kingdom as a whole, or indeed England, before the House rises for the simple reason that we have an enormous amount of business to do. However, I shall draw the hon. Gentleman's anxiety to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.

Mr. Keith Mans (Wyre)

As Supply days are allocated on the basis of the number of hon. Members in each political party, and as we have a party within a party on the Opposition Benches, would my right hon. Friend care to give consideration to allocating a Supply day to the hon. Members for Liverpool, Broad Green (Mr. Fields), for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Loyden) and for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) so that the House may have the benefit of the views of the Militant Tendency from within the Labour party?

Mr. MacGregor

I think that my hon. Friend knows that I am not responsible for choosing the subjects for discussion on Supply days, as those days are given to the Opposition. However, my hon. Friend makes a fair point. It is noticeable that in the current by-election in Liverpool certain Members of Parliament are conspicuous by their absence and their silence because they do not want to frighten the voters.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Member for Wyre (Mr. Mans) has just mentioned me in connection with Militant. Clearly he wishes to leave the impression that I am a supporter of or sympathiser with Militant Tendency. As such an allegation is entirely unfounded, I hope that the hon. Member for Wyre will see fit to withdraw it immediately.

Mr. Speaker

That was exactly why I called the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden). The term "Militant", although not unparliamentary, is highly offensive to some people here. In view of what the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) says, the hon. Member for Wyre (Mr. Mans) should withdraw his comment about him.

Mr. Mans

I am more than happy to withdraw the term "Militant" if, indeed, the views of the hon. Member for Bradford, West have changed.

Mr. Speaker

Order. That really is not good enough. Come on.

Mr. Mans

I withdraw the term, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Madden

I am most grateful to you for your protection and assistance, Mr. Speaker. I now turn to the Leader of the House. Will he arrange in next Tuesday's debate on housing for the Minister who will speak in that debate to tell us what he intends to do to ensure that speculation in private homes built with taxpayers' money is not allowed? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that private homes are being built in Bradford, Halifax and Bolton with taxpayers' money? They are wide open for speculation because there are no rules to prevent people from buying such properties and renting them out or selling them immediately for a profit.

Therefore, I hope that the Leader of the House will warn the Minister that I and other hon. Members will be chasing him on the matter. We hope very much that the Minister will announce some new rules to prevent speculation in private homes built with the help of taxpayers' money.

Mr. MacGregor

I am not familiar with the examples to which the hon. Gentleman refers, so I do not know the background or the justification for the charges that he makes. I am grateful to him for drawing attention to a point that he might wish to make in Tuesday's debate. I will alert whichever Minister is to reply to the debate to the hon. Gentleman's point.

Mr. Christopher Gill (Ludlow)

You will be aware, Mr. Speaker, that a large number of hon. Members were unable to speak in yesterday's debate on developments in the European Community, which was curtailed by the business statement before its commencement. Is my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House aware that I am probably not alone in believing that the issue is so important in British politics at present that the arguments and the consequences of the decisions which will be made in Europe in the forthcoming six months need to be ventilated in this place so that the British public can understand the issues? I hope that it will be possible for us to have a further debate on the subject in the near future.

Mr. MacGregor

I have followed the obligation that has been undertaken by the Government to allow a one-day debate on European matters every six months, normally in advance of the meeting that is taking place this weekend, as will be the case in the future, and I certainly intend to stick to that obligation. I am sure that there will be opportunities other than that one-day debate for issues affecting the European Community to be debated. Indeed, such opportunities will be quite frequent, and my hon. Friend will know that one such opportunity will occur when the Prime Minister makes a statement next week, following the weekend's meeting.

Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

Will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate to take place urgently on the plight of students this summer? Is he aware that New port borough council has expressed alarm at the fact that there will be a sharp rise in homelessness in the borough because of the cuts in the hardship scheme for students and the fact that unemployment in the area has increased by 50 per cent. in the last year, meaning that there are no part-time jobs? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the extreme likelihood that city cardboard-type encampments will spread from London throughout the land? Does he appreciate that students face a bleak summer because they will have no hardship allowance scheme, no income support, no housing benefit and no jobs?

Mr. MacGregor

Those issues have been debated on a number of occasions, not least when the Student Loans Bill, as it then was, was taken through the House. Because of the pressure of business, I see no opportunity for a separate debate in Government time. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to raise the subject, he will have to find other opportunities for doing so.

Mr. Bowen Wells (Hertford and Stortford)

I, too, urge my right hon. Friend to find further time to debate the issues surrounding the Common Market and the two intergovernmental conferences. It would seem appropriate for us to have a debate immediately following the Prime Minister's return from Luxembourg. Yesterday, because of the organisation of business and the fact that we finished at 10 o'clock when we could have gone on til 11 o'clock, we heard only the most senior right hon. and hon. Members express their views. That shows that the debate was seriously imbalanced—indeed, that it embarrassed you, Mr. Speaker—when that would not have been the case had the business been better arranged.

Mr. MacGregor

Sometimes I make arrangements for business and find that we almost run out of speakers. It is always difficult to get the balance right. I was following the normal practice yesterday in allocating one day. There will be other opportunities to debate European matters and to question my right hon. Friends on the issues involved, and I repeat that there will be an opportunity next week.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

Has the Leader of the House noticed that there is considerable traffic chaos in London, that the underground system does not work properly, that the roads are overcrowded and that there are high levels of pollution throughout central London because of the increased car traffic? In those circumstances, will he arrange for a statement to be made to the House about the Government's policies for traffic in London, including ending the nonsensical red route experiment and instead trying to prevent cars from coming into and out of central London and putting an end to any proposal to deregulate London's bus service, which would lead to even greater chaos?

Mr. MacGregor

I have noted the hon. Gentleman's request for a statement or even a debate. I think it unlikely that I shall find time for that to happen before the recess.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

May we have an early debate on the policies and actions of the London Civil and Fire Defence Authority, which is Labour-controlled, bearing in mind its proposal to take away a fire engine—one of two—from Northolt fire station? Is he aware that such action would be to the enormous detriment of the people of Northolt, Greenford and the surrounding areas? My constituents want the fire engine to be retained, and I ask for an opportunity to express in debate the good reasons for their wish in this matter.

Mr. MacGregor

My hon. Friend has already made his point. If he wishes to elaborate on it, I am sure that he will do so. If I understood him aright, the issues should be addressed to others than my right hon. Friends, and I am sure that he will lose no opportunity of doing that as well.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Although there will be a debate on the Army next Monday, may I press the Leader of the House for a statement on the position of the three injured Grenadier guards, one of whom is my constituent, Sean Povey, who, with his two colleagues, lost both legs? In that statement, would the Government explain why there is strong feeling in the country that the soldiers should receive compensation, on both sides of the House and among senior officers of the Grenadier guards, one of whose names I am not allowed to mention, while only the Government are determined to make those three soldiers continue to suffer, not knowing what the outcome will be in the courts? Has he seen what my constituent, who is now in a wheelchair, has said in the paper, about how he is feeling sad and depressed? He is only 21 years of age and has been crippled for life, but the Government insist that in no circumstances will they pay compensation. What sort of justice is that?

Mr. MacGregor

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has recently referred to this matter, and I have discussed it with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, following questions raised by the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members during previous business questions. The matter can be raised in the debate on Monday.

Mr. Phillip Oppenheim (Amber Valley)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many Conservative Members would welcome a debate on top people's pay, and especially on the pay of top trade union leaders such as Mr. Scargill, who is better known for destroying rather than for creating jobs, who pays himself nearly £1,000 a week, and whose salary has increased, relative to the number of members in his union, by 900 per cent. in the past decade?

Mr. MacGregor

My hon. Friend has made his point and, if he wishes, he could perhaps elaborate it in the debate on two industries on Tuesday, as I have no doubt that general remarks will be made in that debate.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Has the Leader of the House really understood why about 120 of his colleagues were kept late out of their beds on Monday night? Will he reflect, as I have asked his office to give him notice, on early-day motion 1031 in light of the fact that it was opposed in the House of Lords by those who knew most about it, the Government's own appointee, the Earl of Cranbrook and my colleague Lady Nicol?

[That this House, concerned that Lords Amendments, inserted at a late stage, changed the very nature of a Bill from that which was proposed at Second Reading and in Commons Committee, calls on Her Majesty's Government to delay implementation of the Scottish Heritage Bill, until such time as further consideration has been given to second-guessing of scientific decisions.]

Also, they could not get the vote of the hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro)—faithful Sir Hector—in the House of Commons, who had piloted the Bill through in 1981 and cared deeply about it. Does the Leader of the House understand that the issue is the double-crossing of a Commons Committee—

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is a continuation of the rather long speech by the hon. Gentleman on that subject, which indeed did keep us up rather late. Will he please come to the question?

Mr. Dalyell

This is the only way that Opposition Members of Parliament can challenge that exercise—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am not criticising the hon. Member. He is absolutely within his rights, but he must ask a question.

Mr. Dalyell

Will the Leader of the House discuss next week the deceit of Parliament on Second Reading because the Bill that we put through was totally different from the Bill which was fundamentally altered in the Lords? Will he send for the most obscure member of the Administration, Mr. Tom Strathclyde, to ask why he gave in to some maverick peers—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman has been here long enough to know that we do not refer to members of another place by Christian names. They are noble Lords.

Mr. Dalyell

The noble Lord Strathclyde—aged 30 or whatever—who has never been elected by anyone to anything and who through a something muddle—I will not say it—has fundamentally altered the Bill on which his colleagues and mine sweated our guts out upstairs in Committee, has enraged the heritage organisations in Scotland and it is all the result of a mistake. Cannot the Leader of the House get hold of that inexperienced man and get the thing put right?

Mr. MacGregor

The debate went on at some length on Monday evening and it would not be right for me to go over it all again. As regards business, I understand, and I am sure, that the Lords amendments in no way changed the nature of the Bill as proposed on Second Reading, and the Government will proceed with the establishment of Scottish Natural Heritage as planned.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

This afternoon, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House confirmed that there is to be a debate on the Army on Monday, and we know that there is to be a debate on the Royal Navy later today. Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the fact that, although individual service debates may be of minority interest, they provide a unique opportunity for a well-structured examination of the individual services and the problems that they face? Will he resist any temptation—although I hope that he has none—to change to a system whereby just two days would be allowed for defence debates, other than those in connection with the White Papers on procurement and the armed forces? If that happened, the individual services would certainly suffer.

Mr. MacGregor

I note my hon. Friend's comments. I am aware that there are differing views on that subject in the House. This year, I followed previous practice, but we will certainly want to review it because, as there are differing views, it would be right to do so. There will be discussions on that matter through the usual channels, and my hon. Friend's views will also be taken into account.

Mr. John Browne (Winchester)

I refer my right hon. Friend to early-day motion 1017.

[That this House congratulates Paul Woolwich, Clive Edwards, Ian Pollard and all members of the Thames Television's This Week team on their production of Casualties of Peace; notes that it highlights the quite disgraceful lack of compensation awarded to British servicemen grievously injured in the line of duty; believes that Her Majesty's Government should bow its head in shame; and calls upon the Prime Minister in the national interest to instil forthwith an attitude of genuine concern, common sense and compassion.]

Does my right hon. Friend accept that if the Government continue to resist the payment of ex gratia compensation to the three injured Grenadiers they will be effectively challenging those mutilated men to take on, in a legal battle, the mighty Ministry of Defence? Their suit would, of necessity, have to be based on the findings of the board of inquiry, whose report is still classified—though why I cannot imagine—and therefore unavailable even to the guardsmen's legal representatives.

My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will recollect that Ministers, including my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, assured the House that no one was to blame for the accident. Is my right hon. Friend aware that the board of inquiry took no evidence whatsoever as to why the 76 mm HESH blind round was lying on the range in the first place?

Mr. Winnick

That is absolutely right.

Mr. Browne

Is it clear, as was asked by the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick), that—

Mr. Speaker

Order. In fairness to both sides of the House, let me point out that those are detailed matters. The hon. Member may ask for a debate or for a statement, but he must not rehearse the arguments.

Mr. Browne

Is it clear to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House that, if equity is to be achieved, the board of inquiry must he reopened? If the Government do not order that to be done immediately, may we have a debate on the subject?

Mr. MacGregor

As I intimated to my hon. Friend, and as you, Mr. Speaker, made clear, it would not be right for me, as Leader of the House, to comment on those detailed matters. We are now talking about the business of the House. I said that the issue can be raised in next Monday's debate.