HC Deb 09 May 1991 vol 190 cc825-40 3.32 pm
Mr. Bruce Grocott (The Wrekin)

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:

  1. MONDAY 13 MAY—Motion for spring Adjournment.
  2. Motion on the Coal Industry (Restructuring Grants) Order.
  3. The Chairman of Ways and Means has named opposed private business for consideration at seven o'clock.
  4. TUESDAY 14 MAY—Opposition day (11th allotted day). Until about seven o'clock there will be a debate described as "The damage caused to the NHS by the implementation of the National Health Service and Community Care Act". Afterwards there will be a debate described as "The need for improved policies to deal with famine, flood and refugees in the world". Both debates arise on Opposition motions.
  5. WEDNESDAY I5 MAY—Debate on a motion to approve the Government's public expenditure plans for 1991–92 to 1993–94 (Cm. 1501 to 1520).
  6. Motion relating to the Education (Grant-Maintained Schools) (Finance) Regulations.
  7. THURSDAY I6 MAY—Remaining stages of Planning and Compensation Bill [Lords].
  8. FRIDAY I7 MAY—Private Members' motions.
  9. MONDAY 20 MAY—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Disability Living Allowance and Disability Working Allowance Bill.
  10. The Chairman of Ways and Means is expected to name opposed private business for consideration at seven o'clock.
The House will also wish to know that European Standing Committees will meet on Wednesday 15 May at 10.30 am to consider European Community documents as follows:—
  1. Committee A—Document No. 5491/91 relating to milk quotas.
  2. Committee B to continue to consider document No. 8597/90 and COR 1 relating to unfair terms in consumer contracts.

[Wednesday 15 May

European Standing Committee A

Relevant European Community Document

5491/91— Milk Quotas: Outgoers (ECJ Ruling)

Relevant Report of European Legislation Committee

HC 29-xvii (1990–91)

European Standing Committee B

Relevant European Community Document

8597/90 + COR 1 Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts

Relevant Reports of European Legislation Committee

HC 11-xxxiii (1989–90) and HC 29-xii ( 1990–91)]

Mr. Grocott

May I thank the Leader of the House for arranging, for next Wednesday, a debate on the Government's public expenditure plans? I am afraid that that is the only thing for which I shall be able to thank him.

I know that what I am about to say upsets the right hon. Gentleman and that he will be annoyed again today, but I have to point out that the Government are running out of steam. Why is it that the two key debates next week—the one on the crisis in the health service, and the one on the famine in Bangladesh and Africa and the problems facing the Kurds—have been arranged by us in Opposition time, and that the Government have arranged no major debates on national issues in Government time? As the Leader of the House is running short of ideas, I put it to him that, for a start, it is high time we had a debate on unemployment. Yesterday, 10,000 redundancies were announced at British Coal and Rolls-Royce, making 15,000 in the last 15 days.

It is also high time for a debate on the education service. The Prime Minister seems to think that that service is important, but not important enough for a debate. Let me make an offer to the Leader of the House: if he cannot think of key issues for debate, let him hand over the precious parliamentary time to the Opposition, and we shall choose the subjects.

Mr. MacGregor

Once again, the hon. Gentleman has got himself completely in a twist. He really cannot make that case. After all, I have been urged for some time by his hon. Friend the shadow Leader of the House to arrange a debate on public expenditure plans. According to the hon. Gentleman, we are wasting the time of the House next week by doing just that. It is absolutely ridiculous. As I have told the hon. Gentleman before, I am keen to have a debate on public expenditure plans. I am anxious that we should have a whole day to compare the Government's achievements in public expenditure with the nonsense that the Labour party talks. I am glad to have been able to provide such an opportunity. When the hon. Gentleman himself has asked for the debate, he cannot accuse me of wasting the time of the House.

As to the point about unemployment, I need only remind the hon. Gentleman of the spring Adjournment debate. As he knows, I have an obligation to find time for such a debate, which provides an opportunity to raise these matters. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not saying that the Planning and Compensation Bill is unimportant. In fact, it is an extremely important part of the Government's legislative programme, welcomed by very many people. The same is true of the Disability Living Allowance and Disability Working Allowance Bill. The hon. Gentleman is trying to score cheap points, and he is completely off target.

Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)

Will my right hon. Friend make arrangements for a very early debate on the document issued on 3 May by the presidency of the intergovernmental conference on European political union? Will he ensure that in such a debate a Government spokesman will comment on the section about a proposed European foreign policy, which might be held together by qualified majority voting? Will he please make sure that the Government will emphasise that, while they are prepared to be polite and correct to our allies in the EC, they have set their face like granite against ceding any more sovereignty from this House, this Parliament and the British people to the institutions of the EC?

Mr. MacGregor

I cannot promise my hon. Friend an early debate on the IGC in particular. However, he will know that we have regular debates on European developments. I hope, shortly after the recess, to be able to arrange such a debate, in which all these points may be discussed.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

Can the Leader of the House confirm the rumour that the Government are to set up a Northern Ireland Select Committee? Such a Committee would be very welcome indeed, but would seem rather out of place in view of the fact that the Government have failed to set up a Scottish Select Committee.

On the subject of Select Committees, will the right hon. Gentleman find time to debate the very valuable report from the Select Committee on the Environment on the tropical rain forest?

Mr. MacGregor

I have indicated that I recognise that the second subject is obviously very important, but it is a question of finding time, because we are debating many important subjects both in legislation and in ordinary debates at the present time. On the first point, I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the Government's response to the Committee on Procedure's report on Select Committees, from which he will see very clearly our position on the Northern Ireland Select Committee.

Sir Robert McCrindle (Brentwood and Ongar)

As it is now some years since the House held a debate on civil aviation, and in view of the many changes that have taken place since that time, ranging through matters of regulation, competition and, indeed, safety, would. not it be appropriate for us to hold a debate on this important matter at the earliest possible moment?

Mr. MacGregor

I have noted my hon. Friend's request, but, while in no way wishing to diminish the importance of the subjects that he raises, I do not think that it will be possible for me to find time for a full debate on these matters in the near future. There are, of course, a number of other ways in which they could be raised in the House, including the motion for the spring Adjournment next Monday.

Mr. Peter Shore (Bethnal Green and Stepney)

Is the Leader of the House aware that his right hon. and hon. Friends in the Foreign Office still decline to publish the text of the draft treaty on political union? It so happens that the text of the treaty is available in the Library owing to the initiative of the Library in obtaining it, which makes this an absurdity as well as an insult to the House. Will the right hon. Gentleman consider very carefully indeed what further progress can be made in getting Ministers to make periodic reports to the House on the state of the negotiations as they proceed, as the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) did when he was Prime Minister and we were negotiating the original treaty of British entry?

Mr. MacGregor

As far as the document is concerned, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, he and I and my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, have had a number of exchanges on this in the past few weeks in an attempt to find a solution acceptable to the House. As he also knows, this is an intergovernmental conference and it would he wrong for the Government to deposit negotiating texts while it continues. We did not do so during the negotiations on the Single European Act, and the presidency has enjoined member states not to publicise conference texts. However, that negotiating draft text did get into the public domain and that is how it is now in the Library.

Mr. Peter Fry (Wellingborough)

Will my right hon. Friend reconsider his reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Sir R. McCrindle)? Civil aviation has not been debated for a long time and it is now clear that negotiations are commencing to replace the agreement between this country and the United States, Bermuda 2. In view of the controversy that has surrounded recent negotiations, is it not time that the House had an opportunity to put its view forward to guide Her Majesty's Government?

Mr. MacGregor

I have certainly noticed my hon. Friend's comments in support of my hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Sir R. McCrindle) and I will draw them to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Transport. However, there are other ways in which these matters can be debated in the House and a ministerial reply can be given. I must be honest with my hon. Friend: I think that it will be difficult to find Government time for a full day's debate in the near future.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

Reverting to the topic of the non-publication of this so-called non-paper, which is, in fact, a draft treaty of political union, is the Leader of the House aware that the authorities of the House, using their ingenuity, have obtained a copy from the library of the Luxembourg Parliament? Does he agree that the House should be at least as well officially informed as any Parliament of any of the member states of the EEC? Why should proposals on the important subject of the welfare of animals, about which we are all concerned, be available and be debated in the House when working documents concerning the constitution of a new pan-European state are kept secret?

Mr. MacGregor

I have already described the previous practice on these matters and that is what we have followed in this case. The hon. Gentleman knows that I try to help the House whenever possible. We have endeavoured to make arrangements to ensure that some of these drafts are available in the Library to hon. Members, including the hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore).

Mr. Terence L. Higgins (Worthing)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the present practice is simply not acceptable to the House? The position on the draft treaty on economic and monetary union is the same. It is absurd for the presidency to say that it will not release the papers. The House is unable to have official knowledge of them although they are circulating far and wide throughout the Community. Will he ensure that the Government make representations to the presidency to say that this is an intolerable situation and that we will not put up with it?

Mr. MacGregor

I will certainly discuss the matter further with my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones), the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Clearly, I tried to ensure that hon. Members who wish to follow these matters in detail are able to do so because the documents are now accessible to them.

Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshaw)

The right hon. Gentleman wrote to me recently about the report to the Government on resettlement grant. Can he say now when he intends to table the necessary motion, or will he be able to do so early next week?

Mr. MacGregor

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for raising that point, because I know that it is a matter of concern to many hon. Members. As he knows, I announced that we had received the review by the Top Salaries Review Body on resettlement grant, which has been placed in the Library of the House. I have made it clear that it will be my intention to bring forward the necessary resolution to implement that recommendation, because it will widely commend itself to hon. Members of all parties. I very much hope that I shall be able to table the resolution and that it will be agreed by the House, if it so wishes, before the Whitsun recess.

Mr. Peter Bottomley (Eltham)

May I thank my right hon. Friend for rearranging the adjourned debates in European Standing Committee B? May I also ask him whether he can find some way to inform the House and those whom the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) calls the permanent members of such Committees of what is likely to come up in future? Will my right hon. Friend also find some way to let such information be known to outside groups, because I fear that only those advised by expert lobbyists will be able to get their views to the hon. Members who will consider some of the draft directives? In practice, outside groups should know what is going on here and in Europe without having to pay others to tell them.

Mr. MacGregor

Yes, I suspect that some of the problems about advance information also occurred when these matters were normally debated on the Floor of the House. I take my hon. Friend's point. It is desirable that as much notice as is realistic in all the circumstances should be given to members of the Standing Committee. I said earlier that I should like that to happen and I am pursuing the matter further to ensure that it does. I should be happy to listen to members of the Standing Committee on such matters, because my hon. Friend makes a reasonable point.

Mr. Roy Beggs (Antrim, East)

I am sure that the whole House would want to avert another mini-De Lorean scandal in Northern Ireland. There is perceived to be a veritable can of worms relating to the stewardship of Northern Ireland Electricity by its chief executive. Can the Leader of the House make time available for the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to make a further report on NIE so that we can ask him whether he has confidence in that board, whether he has confidence in the chief executive and in his ability, and whether he is likely to reappoint him in view of the heavy rumour that the NIE board does not intend to reappoint the chief executive? That would also afford us the opportunity to ask the Secretary of State whether it is his intention to reappoint the deputy chairman when his contract comes to an end later this year.

Mr. MacGregor

I will draw the hon. Gentleman's remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. I am afraid that I do not know the details of those matters.

Sir Dudley Smith (Warwick and Leamington)

In view of the scurrilous and inaccurate reports in some of the tabloid newspapers this week about the working hours of Members of Parliament, does my right hon. Friend think that it is time that we had a high-profile debate on the accepted duties of Members of Parliament, on the hours that we work in this place and on the necessary reforms which need to be considered soberly and carefully sc that we can, perhaps, bring ourselves more up to date? Such a debate would impress on the public the fact that Members of Parliament, by and large, do a good job.

Mr. MacGregor

I do not think that we need a debate on how Members of Parliament fulfil their duties. My hon. Friend makes two points. I should be happy to agree with him that the amount of time that we spend in the Chamber or in Parliament itself does not reflect the amount of time that we spend on our duties as Members of Parliament. As an example of that, I—and I am sure that this applies to many other hon. Members—spent a large number of hours over the weekend in constituency engagements on a bank holiday. It is necessary to keep repeating that the duties of Members of Parliament are not just reflected by the amount of time they sit in the Chamber.

With regard to reforms, I have said that I am considering those matters and I hope to come forward with some thoughts in due course. However, some of the reforms that we have carried through in this Parliament, such as the European Standing Committees, are already having an effect on the hours in this Chamber.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

Will the Leader of the House make time available as soon as possible for a debate on the Government's policies towards the middle east in view of the continuing problems facing the Kurdish and Palestinian peoples? Will he ask the Government to reconsider their policy towards non-recognition of the right of Kurdish people to self-determination? Many people believe that peace in the region can come only when the rights of people such as the Kurds are recognised. That will be the key to a long-term and just peace in the region.

Mr. MacGregor

I am not sure when it might be possible to have a full-day's debate on that subject. As I have said, the Government are keen to keep the House fully informed about developments. I will bear in mind not the hon. Gentleman's point about the particular policy proposals, but his point about the possibility of a debate.

Mr. Nicholas Soames (Crawley)

May I return my right hon. Friend to the question about European debate and the intergovernmental conferences? Is my right hon. Friend aware that in the saloon bar of almost every pub in my constituency, and at Eton college debating society and in Lady Antonia Fraser's drawing room, those matters are discussed daily with anxiety? Why is it uniquely that this House, which is and should be the authority to allow the Executive to proceed with those negotiations, is not permitted to address those matters that are fundamental to the constitution of this country?

Mr. MacGregor

I am not familiar with the discussions that take place in all the areas to which my hon. Friend has referred. However, I am aware that those matters are frequently discussed within the precincts of the House and there are opportunities to question my right hon. Friends. The Select Committee on Foreign Affairs will shortly do that in a session with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.

Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West)

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that in his excellent interview titled "The Challenge of Conjuring" in this week's House Magazine he states: My first love really is mind-reading. In those circumstances, did he know that I was going to ask him for a debate about American pitbull terriers and the serious problem whether fighting dogs of that kind should, as the Leicester Mercury so rightly demands, be banned because of the danger that they cause, as revealed in the disastrous injuries caused to a man who is at present being treated in the Leicester royal infirmary?

Mr. MacGregor

It did not require much mind-reading to know that the hon. and learned Gentleman was going to quote the Leicester Mercury. As he is aware, legislation is already in place to put down any dog that is dangerous. Furthermore, any owner who fails to take action about a dangerous dog can be banned from keeping a dog in future. Because the Government recognise that there may be a need to extend the law further, we issued a consultation paper last year entitled "The Control of Dogs" which contained several specific proposals. We have received a diverse range of views in response to that. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will announce his proposals this summer.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

May I remind my right hon. Friend of the statement made in the House a few weeks ago by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Transport on the civil air transport regulations? Since then, they have had a considerable impact and there are also major policy implications and employment considerations. If my right hon. Friend cannot allow a full-day's debate in Government time, can he at least allow a half-day's debate on civil air transport policy?

Mr. MacGregor

I do not think I can add to what I said earlier. Half days are in quite short supply in some respects as well. There are quite a large number of matters that hon. Members want to raise in the House. As I said earlier, I will bear in mind the point that my hon. Friend raised.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)

Given the right. hon. Gentleman's welcome comment that he will consider the reform of the working processes of this place, what consideration will he give to the decentralisation of decision making, particularly against the background in which support for the independence of Scotland is rising, and even one third of the tattered remnants of his own party want constitutional change? Will he seriously take that matter on board?

Mr. MacGregor

I was in Perth last night discussing some of those matters with a lot of my friends in the party in Scotland. On my way back this morning, I noticed a headline in The Scotsman suggesting that there was some change in attitudes to such matters as a result of a recent poll.

Mr. Richard Tracey (Surbiton)

In order to make next week's debates totally useful, will my right hon. Friend use his best endeavours to persuade the Opposition to give some figures for their policies and tell the House and the country whether extra taxation would be needed to pay for them? My right hon. Friend will agree that it is dishonest for the Opposition constantly to hold out promises without giving any figures and that, without such details, our time in such debates would be wasted.

Mr. MacGregor

My hon. Friend makes a very good point, and I hope that that will be clear in next week's debates on the national health service. It is clear to me from what the Leader of the Opposition said last night that he does not understand what has been taking place in the health service in recent years and does not understand public spending. It is quite clear that the very substantial increase—over 53 per cent. in real terms—which we have achieved in NHS spending has arisen partly as a result of the priority that we have given it and partly as a result of economic growth. He could not do better—he would do worse.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

Since the Leader of the House is so good at mind reading, does he know the question that I am about to ask him? He is obviously not as good as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) thinks he is.

As a member of the Procedure Committee, I was encouraged by the Government's response to the Committee's report on the workings of the Select Committee system. When will the necessary changes in the Standing Orders come forward? Will we have a debate? Since it appears that the Government are running out of business—business has collapsed on the past two evenings—could we discuss some of the outstanding Procedure Committee reports, in particular the Joint Committee report on the workings of the private Bill system? That matter also needs to be sorted out, and we now have the time to do it.

Mr. MacGregor

The hon. Gentleman is wrong about running out of business. The two days to which he refers were the two days that were given to the Committee stage of the Finance Bill. In a number of previous years we have given three days, and we have sometimes been accused of not giving enough. This year there have been two days. As the hon. Gentleman will know, it is largely up to the Opposition how those two days are deployed. I was giving the House the normal amount of time. It is largely for the Opposition how that time is used. It is not a matter of the Government running out of business. I would have been much criticised if I had given less time to the Finance Bill on the Floor of the House.

On the Select Committee on Procedure, I confirm that I hope to be able to lay the orders fairly soon. That would be the appropriate time to have a debate on them. That is the proper way to proceed. I am very keen to do so because it is a very good report. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we accepted a large part of it and I am anxious to see it implemented.

Mr. Bob Dunn (Dartford)

Will the Leader of the House please arrange for an urgent, early debate on the workings of the grant-maintained schools provisions of the Education Reform Act 1988? That would enable the House to demonstrate to the people of this country the Labour party's commitment to abolish not only grant-maintained schools but grammar schools, city technology colleges, the assisted places scheme, Church schools and independent secondary schools, and to reduce everything to the single common denominator of 11-to-16 comprehensive schools and tertiary colleges, thereby creating no choice whatsoever for the people of this country.

Mr. MacGregor

I agree 100 per cent. with my hon. Friend. He puts his points extremely well. I am happy to tell him that some of the points, at least in relation to grant-maintained schools, may be raised next week, because we shall debate regulations next Wednesday.

Mr. Dennis Canavan (Falkirk, West)

Is it not time to have a debate on the report of the Scottish Constitutional Convention, bearing in mind that the Scottish constitutional question managed to reach the agenda of even the Scottish Tory party conference in Perth this week, and the fact that the opinion polls in today's Scotsman reveal that the overwhelming majority of Scots, including almost half all Scottish Tory voters, are in favour of some form of Scottish Parliament?

Mr. MacGregor

We had some extremely good debates yesterday in Perth. The hon. Gentleman knows that the issue of the Scottish Convention was not put forward by the Government. He also knows that there are other ways of raising in the House matters on which the Government cannot find time for a debate, including all the Supply days that are available to the Opposition.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

While we are on the subject of constitutional issues, may we have a debate about the role and position of the Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition, given that his job security is more dependent on the well-being, prestige and the length of the membership rolls of the Confederation of Health Service Employees and of the National Union of Public Employees than on the effectiveness, efficiency and caring ability of the national health service? If we were to have that debate good and early, before the debate next week on the health service, might that be illuminating and set out some of the ground rules?

Mr. MacGregor

It would be in order for my hon. Friend to raise those matters in next week's debate.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

If the Government are so confident of their case on taxation and benefits, why can we not have a debate on that as early as possible, in which we shall be able to show that a large majority of the people of this country are now paying more in taxation—in both direct and indirect taxation—[Interruption.] The Leader of the House is asking for information about the local election results, but he will not get any satisfaction in relation to my seat. Although the large majority of people are now paying more in both indirect and direct taxation, the fact remains that the richest I per cent. of the population are now paying £30,000 less per year than 12 years ago. Does not that show the unfairness of Tory policies? If the Government really want a debate on such subjects, we shall be only too pleased to have one as quickly as possible.

Mr. MacGregor

The hon. Gentleman wrongly read either my mind or my lips. I was trying to find out whether he was present for our debates on the Finance Bill, where the issues——

Mr. Winnick

I was not.

Mr. MacGregor

The hon. Gentleman says that he was not here for our debates on the Finance Bill——

Mr. Winnick

I was attending the British-Irish parliamentary body.

Mr. MacGregor

Well, that cannot have been running through both the Second Reading and Committee stages of the Finance Bill. The plain fact is that we have recently had three days in which all those issues could have been fully raised if the hon. Gentleman had wished, so I do not intend to find another day. However, his point about higher-rate taxpayers entirely misses the point, which is that, as a result of our changes in higher rate taxation, the yield from higher income earners is now very much greater than under the Labour Government. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that his own party should go back to the disastrous tax regime of Labour's period in government.

Mr. James Pawsey (Rugby and Kenilworth)

Is my right hon. Friend aware of Warwickshire's difficult position because of the reductions in revenue support grant and because of being community charge-capped? Is he further aware of the damage that is likely to be done to education in the county of Warwickshire as a result of the reductions in funding for schools? Will he therefore allow us an early debate on this matter next week?

Mr. MacGregor

Not next week, but I shall find time fairly soon for the general issue of capping to be raised.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Did the Leader of the House see the article that stated that he was going to make an announcement that the House would rise on 15 July until 22 October? In view of all the representations that have been made today for debates on Bangladesh, and on unemployment and all the rest, will he ensure that we do not get those suggested extra weeks so that we can have all those debates? We could have a debate on the Common Market and another vote on the Single European Act so that all those Tory Members who now have misgivings about the Common Market could join those Opposition Members who voted against the Single European Act and tell the Common Market to get lost.

Mr. MacGregor

As the hon. Gentleman knows, not for the first time I disagree entirely with his stance on European issues as well as on many others. Of course, those issues can be debated in June when I hope we shall have a full day's debate on developments in the European Community. We all get used to seeing speculative stories in the newspapers about the rising of the House. I simply do not know where that one came from as I have made no announcement.

Mr. Michael Brown (Brigg and Cleethorpes)

Will my right hon. Friend reconsider the debate on the Government's public expenditure plans for 1991–92 to be held next Wednesday? Following the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton (Mr. Tracey), my right hon. Friend said that it would give us the opportunity to compare and contrast the Government's plans with those of the Opposition. However, for us to make that comparison, is it not necessary for us to have the Opposition's public expenditure plans on public display for every Member of Parliament and everyone outside this place? We can have no constructive debate on Wednesday unless the Opposition publish their proposals which so far they will not do. What is the point of the debate?

Mr. MacGregor

The debate on Wednesday is about our public expenditure plans which are real, financable at present levels of taxation, and I believe have absolutely the right set of priorities. As my hon. Friend knows, there have been real and significant increases in expenditure. The debate on Wednesday is about ours, but I see no reason whatsoever why my hon. Friend should not raise the points he has made then. Certainly we shall continue doing so time and again in the weeks and months ahead.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

Will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement next week from the Home Secretary in regard to early-day motion 691 which concerns the importation of powerful and potentially dangerous and brutal dogs?

[That this House draws attention to the proposal to import a second Japanese Tosa dog for breeding purposes; notes that this species of dog grows to 17 stone and was originally bred for fighting; and calls on Her Majesty's Government to propose amendments to the law so that the import of new breeds of dog may be prohibited if it is against the public interest by virtue of the size, nature and purpose of the animal and so that, where appropriate, even where dogs are imported conditions may be attached to import licences as to the custody and breeding of such animals.] Does he realise that the Department of the Environment already has powers passed by the House to introduce a dog registration scheme which will enable those potentially brutal and vicious dogs to be registered and traced and the owners to be given guidance and advice and any potential visitors warned about the dangers? The Bradford Telegraph and Argus and the Yorkshire Post have carried a number of stories—[Laughter.] Although hon. Members may find this amusing, some people have been savagely attacked by dogs such as American pitbull terriers, alsatians and doberman pinschers which have been allowed to roam loose. It really is time that the Government did something about it. They have the appropriate powers and we should not be waiting for vague statements from the Home Secretary at some vague future date.

Mr. MacGregor

I do not think anyone was finding the subject of the hon. Gentleman's remarks amusing. It was simply because a smile flitted across his face when he mentioned the Bradford Telegraph and Argus that others responded in like fashion. I am sure that he will accept that we all take the matter extremely seriously. As I have already said, there is legislation to put down any dangerous dog. We have received a wide range of comments on the consultation paper and I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will wish to make a statement as soon as he can.

Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Bristol, East)

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that Wednesday's debate on the Government's public expenditure plans will provide the Government with an opportunity to confirm that they will continue to fund spending on defence at a level which enables us to deal with an uncertain and unstable world and that they have no intention of following the Labour party's plans to slash defence expenditure by £9,000 million a year?

Mr. MacGregor

One of the documents to which I referred in my announcement about business relates to our defence expenditure plans which are clearly set out. I have no doubt that they will be referred to in Wednesday's debate.

Mrs. Ray Michie (Argyll and Bute)

When is the Scottish Grand Committee likely to resume its sittings? I hope that we can have an early debate either through that forum or on the Floor of the House about Scottish fish farming. The problems affecting that industry are being exacerbated by Norwegian dumping on the European Community which will be made worse if the reports that the United States will impose a levy on Norwegian farmed fish are true. My fish farming constituents believe that the Government do not know what they are doing or how to tackle the problem and I should welcome a debate on the matter.

Mr. MacGregor

I am aware of the issues facing the fish farming industry, in which, as the hon. Lady may know, I have taken and will continue to take a close interest. Indeed, I was discussing some of those matters in Perth last night.

Mrs. Michie

In Perth?

Mr. MacGregor

Yes. I do not know why the hon. Lady is so surprised—it seems to me to be an appropriate place to discuss such matters, with people who are experts in them. As regards how the matter is raised in the House, the hon. Lady will have ways to raise it, but, if she will allow me, I shall look into the matter and reflect on it.

Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay)

In view of the amount of public disquiet expressed in the media and in all the pubs in my constituency about the level of public support given to people who borrow inordinately large amounts of money on mortgage and cannot repay them, may we have an early debate in this House on the subject, not because we object to helping such people, but because my constituents feel that the burden of those bad judgments in overlending should be borne equally by the lenders of those very large sums?

Mr. MacGregor

My hon. Friend may be referring to a specific case that has received much publicity. The rules on help with mortgage interest are applied even-handedly to all owner-occupiers who suddenly become unemployed. In that case I think that there was some reference to a second home. No help is given with outgoings on a second home, and the possession of a second property will preclude entitlement to income support if its value, less any debts secured on it, exceeds £8,000. My hon. Friend may wish to know that the chief adjudication officer is taking legal advice on some aspects of the commissioner's decision to allow full payment of mortgage interest in one recent case.

Mr. Tom Clarke (Monklands, West)

Is the Leader of the House aware of the great concern in colleges of education in Scotland about the Secretary of State's proposal, in his poll tax announcement, to take them out of the ambit of local government? Today, I received a letter from the principal of Coatbridge college—he is also secretary of the Strathclyde Principals Association—and from the chairman of the council at Coatbridge college expressing grave anxieties about administrative and other difficulties that would arise. Since that college serves Lanarkshire, including the village of Shotts which I gather is dear to the right hon. Gentleman's heart, will he agree that those well-informed views on education should not be dismissed lightly?

Mr. MacGregor

I hesitate to say this, but I referred to Shotts in Perth last night as well—it was obviously a long night. When I was Secretary of State for Education and Science I was certainly enthusiastic to work towards what we have announced—further education colleges coming outside local authority control in England. I know that that has been widely welcomed by many colleges in England and it is a desirable policy development. As regards the administrative problems of a college in Scotland that the hon. Gentleman mentioned, I shall draw them to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

May I impress on the Leader of the House the need for an early debate either in the Chamber or in the Scottish Grand Committee on the worrying subject of the present circumstances of child care law in Scotland, especially when we compare the present state of the law with English legislation? The right hon. Gentleman well knows that there was a time when Scots law was well in advance of English law in the protection of children. I refer to the Social Work (Scotland) Act, 1968. Today, children in Scotland are discriminated against, compared with the protection that is given, rightly and properly, to children here in England. There is no Children (Scotland) Act similar to match that in England. Under the provisions of the Criminal Justice Bill, children caught up in sexual and child abuse cases in England will rightly be spared the ordeal of giving evidence in court but a few feet away from the accused. We do not have that type of legislation in Scotland. We ought to have it and we need that debate.

Mr. MacGregor

The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that it is not possible for me to comment on a particular child abuse case in Scotland which is sub judice, but my right hon. Friend has announced that when that matter is completed, there will be an inquiry into this whole area. I am not sure that it would be appropriate to find Government time for a debate on the matter in the near future. It is important that the inquiry should take place. The hon. Gentleman will be able to raise issues that concern him—and I fully agree with him that these are important matters—in other ways in the House.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

When might we have an opportunity to debate the proposed European extradition treaty—or does that come in the general van of the House not knowing until things are finished—so that hon. Members might express their views on the Republic of Ireland constantly seeking favoured-nation status with us while being unwilling to sign a treaty of extradition, when this nation suffers most because of that failure?

Mr. MacGregor

I am sure that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has made clear the Government's position on those matters. I cannot promise a debate on them in the near future.

Mr. Ron Brown (Edinburgh, Leith)

The Government are not even handed about certain matters. As a Scot, the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that north of the border a different law operates on the poll tax, which is how the struggle started. Nobody can be gaoled there, although in England 16 people have been hounded and imprisoned by the Government under the laws of England. We need a debate to see whether we can be more even handed on the issue. It seems clear that there should be an amnesty. Can we discuss the matter next week? It is important that we do that, because the people outside are demanding it, and they are the people who matter. People power matters.

Mr. MacGregor

The people outside, as the hon. Gentleman puts it, in England—I am sure that the same applies in Scotland—feel strongly when they pay their community charge and find that others, sometimes on higher incomes than themselves, do not. There is very strong feeling indeed in the country about that. People feel that those who do not make their payments should be properly pursued in the normal way.

Ms. Marjorie Mowlam (Redcar)

Will the Leader of the House allocate time for a debate on the practice of the HFC bank in selling insurance-linked loans? Revelations in the Daily Mirror have recently shown how many people have been misled in a cold and calculating way. One couple who had a loan of £5,000 were misled into taking out an insurance policy and now have a loan of £14,000. They are not alone in that experience. People who have worked for the bank have complained. It is essential that we debate the matter so that the Minister has an opportunity to explain what will be done by the regulatory bodies about such scandals.

Mr. MacGregor

I did not see the newspaper report to which the hon. Member referred, so I cannot comment on it. I cannot find Government time for those matters to be discussed in the near future, but there are other ways in which they can be raised in the House.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Regarding Tuesday's business, since fortunately, but deservedly, I have the Adjournment debate on the subject of the Kuwaiti oilfields, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to say who will answer my debate? Will it be the Foreign Office, which must conduct relations with paralysed Kuwait; will it be the Department of the Environment, in view of the fact that the effects now stretch to the Himalayas, west China, Quetta and Baluchistan; will it be the Department of Energy, with its oil well responsibilities; will it be the Department of Trade and Industry, which is responsible for contracts; or will it be the Ministry of Defence, whose sappers are trying their best in the most difficult conditions to fight the oilwell fires? Whoever answers, will the Leader of the House arrange for a formal statement to be forthcoming from the chief medical officer, Sir Donald Acheson, giving the Government's views on the carcinogenic or other effects of what is happening to those who are trying to put out the dreadful fires?

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member should not go into the subject of his Adjournment debate. He may ask which Minister will reply.

Mr. Dalyell

Can I not use this opportunity to ask for a formal statement of the Government's view? If not, the issue will be evaded.

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is about business next week. I thought that the hon. Gentleman was asking who will answer the debate.

Mr. Dalyell

Yes, but perhaps we could have a statement from the Department that will not be answering it—the Department of Health—because part of the debate is a serious statement on the considered, non-political, governmental view of the medical authorities on the cancer risks that our people, as well as the indigenous populations, face in an increasingly appalling situation.

Mr. MacGregor

I am not yet sure who will answer the hon. Gentleman's Adjournment debate. It will not be all five Departments, but I shall let him know which one it is as soon as I can find out. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his usual courtesy in indicating the subject that he will raise and I shall draw it to the attention of the Minister who will reply.

Mr. William O'Brien (Normanton)

Will the Leader of the House allow time next week to discuss a serious matter that has arisen because of the policy directive that Yorkshire regional health authority has issued to GPs? It has told GPs that if they refer patients to a hospital that is not contracted to the local health authority there could be delays in that patient's treatment, but that if a patient is referred from a funded practice there will be no delay. It is a two-tier system and, until someone decides who will pay the cash for the patient who will be under the practice contracted by the health authority, there will be tremendous problems. Will the Leader of the House allow time for this two-tier system in the health service to be discussed so that we can resolve the matter?

Mr. MacGregor

We do not have a two-tier system and the matter can be raised if the hon. Gentleman catches your eye, Mr. Speaker, in the debate on Tuesday.

Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East)

Does the Leader of the House agree that there is now an urgent need for a debate on the defence industry in general and the aerospace industry in particular? The huge number of redundancies that have already been announced this year were disgracefully augmented yesterday by the axing of 3,000 jobs by Rolls-Royce, not least in Leavesden. If the Leader of the House could find time to organise such a debate, it would allow a contrast to be made between the chaotic way in which defence jobs are being run down—often losing highly skilled men and women who have worked for the same company for 20, 30 or 40 years—and the need for those companies to diversify into socially useful products. If the companies will not do it, why will not the Government offer some direction from the Ministry of Defence or the Department of Trade and Industry? If they will not do so in the private sector, the industry should be brought back into the public sector so that the jobs of those skilled defence workers can be guaranteed.

Mr. MacGregor

This is the first time that I have heard the hon. Gentleman argue for higher defence expenditure. He has always moved in a different way.

Mr. Nellist

I was talking about diversification.

Mr. MacGregor

I know, but the hon. Gentleman was also complaining about the loss of jobs because of the lack of defence expenditure. He tries to have it both ways. As he knows, we have debates on defence matters. There will be two more in this Session and the defence aspects could be raised then.