HC Deb 22 May 1991 vol 191 cc929-44 3.30 pm
Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland)

Will the Leader of the House tell us the business for the first week after the recess?

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John MacGregor)

Yes, Sir. The business for the week following the spring adjournment will be as follows: MONDAY 3 JUNE—Second Reading of the Local Government Finance Bill.

TUESDAY 4 JUNE—Second Reading of the Child Support Bill [Lords].

WEDNESDAY 5 JUNE—Opposition day (12th allotted day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion. Subject for debate to be announced.

THURSDAY 6 JuNE—Remaining stages of the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions (No. 2) Bill.

FRIDAY 7 JUNE—Debate on a motion for the Adjournment of the House. Subject for debate to be announced.

The House will also wish to know that European Standing Committees will meet to consider European Community documents as follows:

Tuesday 4 June at 4.30 pm:

Committee A will consider document No. 5518/91 relating to the import of animals.

Wednesday 5 June at 10.30 am:

Committee A will consider documents Nos. 10749/90 and 10837/90 relating to the specific character and origin marking of foodstuffs.

Committee B will consider document No. 8460/90 relating to data protection.

[Tuesday 4 June

European Standing Committee A
Relevant European Committee Document
5518/91 Third Country Imports of Live Animals

Relevant Reports of European Legislation Committee

HC 29–xviii (19990–1991)

Wednesday 5 June

European Standing Committee A

Relevant European Community Documents
(a) 10749/90 Foodstuffs: Certificates of Specific Character
(b) 10837/90 Foodstuffs: Geographical Indications and Designations of Origin

Relevant Reports of European Legislation Committee

  1. (a) HC 29–xii(1990–91) and HC 29–xx (1990–91)
  2. (b) HC 29–xi(1990–91) and HC 29–xix (1990–91)

European Standing Committee B

Relevant European Community Document
8460/90 Processing of Personal Data and Information Security

Relevant Report of European Legislation Committee HC 29–iv (1990–91).]

Dr. Cunningham

Given the urgent need to act on the issue of vicious dogs, why is not legislation to take the necessary action being introduced at the earliest opportunity, in the first week after the recess? As the Government have deliberately and consistently blocked proposals to introduce a dog registration scheme—against which the Prime Minister, the Home Secretary and the Leader of the House have voted, against the advice even of their hon. Friends—may we have some assurance that when the legislation is published it will include provisions for a dog registration scheme?

We are to have yet another Local Government Finance Bill from this Government. People have lost count of the number of Local Government Finance Bills that we have had and of the changes that have been made. Does the Leader of the House recall the assurances that were given to hon. Members in all parts of the House during the debates on the Local Government Act 1984—that councils with small budgets would never be the subject of capping proposals under this Government? Does he recall that just a year ago the present Secretary of State for the Environment said, when he wrote to The Times on 10 May 1990—

Mr. Speaker

Order. These are business questions. The hon. Gentleman should ask about the business for the week following the spring recess.

Dr. Cunningham

I am speaking about the very business that is to occupy the House after the recess. Does the Leader of the House recall that the present Secretary of State for the Environment said that universal capping would be an act of centralisation which the nation could well do without? What has changed since May of last year when the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) said that? Can we be told when this Bill, the most centralising and the most ignominious control of local government ever introduced, is to be published? When will the Bill be in the Vote Office? As the Leader of the House —[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I know that we are going into recess tomorrow, but could we just settle down and deal with today's business in a serious manner?

Dr. Cunningham

Has the Leader of the House seen the decision of the Royal College of Nursing, unanimously taken, to press the Government yet again to stop—

Mr. Richard Holt (Langbaurgh)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I have heard nothing out of order, but what is it?

Mr. Holt

It is only a short while ago that, when it came to business questions, the Leader of the Opposition undertook that role. Arbitrarily, the Labour party changed that. One of the reasons that it changed it was the verbosity of the Leader of the Opposition. He is now—

Mr. Speaker

Order. [Interruption.] Well, I am afraid some points of order are bogus.

I must tell the hon. Gentleman that I am not responsible for whom the Opposition Front Bench designate for business questions. It is not a point of order.

Dr. Cunningham


Mr. Holt

It is a point of order.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Will the hon. Gentleman please resume his seat?

Mr. Holt

The fact is, Mr. Speaker, that you will not allow this side of the House to speak. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is behaving in his usual boorish fashion.

Dr. Cunningham

We are well used to the whingeing from the Conservative side of the House.

Has the Leader of the House seen the decision, unanimously taken, by the Royal College of Nursing to press the Government yet again to stop proposals for the creation of new national health service trusts? As the Government have a day in the first week after the recess, the Friday, to which they have not yet allocated a subject, why can we not have a debate in Government time about the crisis in the national health service so that, if the Government have such a good story to tell, the nation can hear it?

Mr. MacGregor

First of all, the hon. Gentleman asked me about dogs. As he knows, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will be making a statement about legislation immediately after this business statement. We shall introduce legislation as soon as possible, and that means very soon. I note that the Labour party has given its broad support to the objectives of this measure. As my right hon. Friend will make clear, we are endeavouring to make the Bill concentrate on the key issue of the breeds of dog that are causing the present difficulties. I voted against dog registration for a variety of reasons, one of which was that it did not seem to focus on this key issue, which is what the Bill is about. The country expects us to act on this issue as soon as possible, and will want speedy action on the relevant measures. The country will not forgive the Labour party if it tries to obstruct the measure. I hope that it will not, but will co-operate fully to achieve the objectives of the Bill as quickly as possible.

Secondly, the hon. Gentleman asked about the Local Government Finance Bill. One of the issues on which that Bill focuses is an increase in capping on authorities with a turnover of less than £15 million. The hon. Gentleman will know that since last year there has been a major change, which is that we propose to introduce the council tax. That tax has many merits and, unlike the Labour proposals, it deals with the criticisms of both the domestic rating system and the community charge. As we said in the consultative documents on the council tax, it is necessary to ensure that we have some protection against authorities that substantially increase expenditure. For the hon. Gentleman to claim that this is a great centralising measure is, like so many of his remarks on these issues, right over the top. We already have considerable capping powers. As I have explained to him, we now propose a council tax rather than the community charge.

The hon. Gentleman asked when the Bill is likely to be published. It will be published by the time the House rises tomorrow. Therefore, we shall be giving the normal two weekends for the Bill to be considered before the debate on Monday 3 June.

Finally, the hon. Gentleman asked about national health service trusts. I am glad that he used the phrase "national health service trusts" which, of course, makes it absolutely clear that the trusts are part of the national health service. We have made it clear that we will continue this policy because it is very much in the interests of the funding of the national health service that all its expenditure is as efficient as possible. The NHS trusts are a way of achieving that.

As for Friday's debate, the hon. Gentleman will know that on recent business statements I have been urged to find time for debates on a wide range of issues. We now have an embarrassment of choices. We have already had many debates on the national health service, and the House has urged me to consider other subjects on which we have not had a recent debate. We are endeavouring to decide which of those many subjects should be chosen for 7 June.

Mr. John Bowis (Battersea)

Will my right hon. Friend find time to make a statement to the House not only to confirm that questions to the Secretary of State for Health on hospital trusts within the national health service are in order, but to follow up inquiries which I trust he has made into yesterday's activities in the House when the hon. Members for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) and for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) sought to mislead the House and, even more disgracefully, sought to involve in a party political charade a Clerk of the Table Office?

Mr. MacGregor

I should make the position clear, as it was made clear yesterday by you, Mr. Speaker, when you said: The answer to that question … is yes. That is absolutely unequivocal, and you went on to say: I have already said that the Table Office is accepting questions."—[Official Report, 21 May 1991; Vol. 191, c.782.] This is the second time that the Labour party has raised a wholly inaccurate and wrong scare about NHS trusts. I am sure that the House will regret the fact that, on both occasions, the Labour party has not seen fit to withdraw.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

The Leader of the House has mentioned legislation on dogs but, although he might reasonably expect co-operation to get it through speedily, does he accept that there should be careful consideration of the terms of such legislation? Will he guarantee that adequate time will be given in both Houses for consideration of the Bill?

In the first week after the recess, what measures will create one more job or do something to decrease the growing number of the unemployed in this country? Can we have a debate on the growing scandal of unemployment?

Mr. MacGregor

On the second point, I have already said on many occasions that I am perfectly happy for the question of unemployment to be raised in the House as often as possible, because our record on unemployment measures is streets ahead of that of the Opposition. We have had many opportunities to debate that issue.

On the first point, we are anxious to publish the Bill as soon as possible, so that the House will have the opportunity to consider it. Clearly, we want proper parliamentary consideration of it in both Houses. Given the urgency of the situation and the desirability of ensuring that the dreadful incidents that have occurred recently do not recur or, at least, that we take every possible action to prevent them from recurring, I am sure that the House will agree that it is important to act quickly

Sir Peter Emery (Honiton)

Does my right hon. Friend recall that the Government's response to the previous two Procedure Committee reports showed considerable agreement with many of its recommendations? They need to be debated in the House, as does the resolution for them to come into operation. I wonder whether we might have a debate on that next week, or, if not, very soon afterwards.

Mr. MacGregor

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend and I pay tribute to his work as Chairman of that Committee and to all the members of the Committee. The effectiveness of the Committee's work is shown by the fact that, as he says, the Government have accepted many of its recommendations. The first stage is clearly for me to put the orders on the Order Paper, which I hope to do fairly shortly after we return. I should then wish to give the House a short time to consider them, and I hope to be able to deal with that before the House rises.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

Did the Leader of the House see the excellent publicity and does he know of the great public interest in the launch of the Labour party's proposal to set up a Greater London authority to act as a strategic authority for London? I have a copy here if he would like to see it. In view of the fact that he has not announced—[HON. MEMBERS: "Give back the silver."] I will give it back when we have the Greater London authority. As the Leader of the House has not announced a subject for the Adjournment debate on 7 June, may we have a debate on strategic planning in London and on the fact that, under this Government, the standard of living and of life in London has deteriorated rapidly?

Mr. MacGregor

I have certainly seen the publicity and I have also read some of the leaders about the Labour party's proposals, which were pretty devastating critiques. It is clear that the bureaucratic, profligate and extremist Greater London council, of which the hon. Gentleman was a member, was deservedly unloved and that its passing was understandably unlamented. The proposal to reincarnate son of GLC will go down extremely badly with the electorate because it was not a period or an institution that was popular or effective.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes (Harrow, West)

Further to the question asked by the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), will my right hon. Friend arrange for a debate on London so that the widest possible publicity can be given to the Labour party's document? The Labour party speaks about creating a vision of quality, but the people of London will see that the creation of a Greater London authority means a vision of filthy streets, uncollected rents, rotten services and overweaning bureaucracy. Is not the Labour party trying merely to saddle all Londoners with more red ink, more red tape and more red Ken?

Mr. MacGregor

My hon. Friend is absolutely right and that point has been made by commentators this morning. There is no doubt that no one was sad to see the Greater London council go except for people such as the hon. Members for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone) and for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks). No one else was. Its passing was unlamented and it will remain so.

Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West)

In view of the typically charming, friendly and generous refusal of the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the hon. and learned Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg), to reply to the question on Mr. Gore-Booth, may we have a debate on whether civil servants who speak in so-called private meetings attended by more than 100 people are entitled to put forward their views in a private capacity and continue in their jobs when in the process they are palpably speaking against Government policy as expressed by everyone other than the Minister of State?

Mr. MacGregor

I understand that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary dealt with the matter during Question Time and I have nothing to add to what he said.

Mr. Phillip Oppenheim (Amber Valley)

May we have a debate as soon as possible on priorities in public spending? Bearing in mind that Nye Bevan once said that socialism is the language of priorities, will my right hon. Friend arrange for a copy of the book "What Nye said" to be placed in the Library of the House? Unfortunately, although the Leader of the Opposition claims authorship of the book in several of his "Who's Who" entries, the Library can find absolutely no trace of it. Would it not benefit all hon. Members to have the views of the Leader of the Opposition on priorities as an absolute, overriding and top priority?

Mr. MacGregor

I have certainly noted my hon. Friend's remarks. I would recommend another book which, if I recall correctly, was called "Inside the Treasury", written by Lord Barnett—Joel Barnett—Chief Secretary to the Treasury during a horrendous period under the previous Labour Government when public expenditure went completely out of control. It is an interesting book because it is riddled with quotations on how the Labour party succumbed to every spending pressure and simply did not control public expenditure. In the coming months, we need many more opportunities to debate that, because it is exactly what would happen again.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. In view of the pressure on business today, will hon. Members concentrate on the business statement and not deal with matters which might more correctly be dealt with on a different platform?

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)

The Leader of the House will be aware of the important statement that was made earlier this week about post-school education in Scotland, as it is a matter in which he takes a great interest. Given the continuing contravention by the House of its Standing Orders, in that there is not a Scottish Select Committee to discuss such vital matters, does the right hon. Gentleman expect that such a Committee will be established after the recess? At the very least, will the Scottish Grand Committee, which has not met for virtually a year, be convened, or have the usual channels clogged up?

Mr. MacGregor

I have nothing to add to what I have said on several occasions in the House about a Scottish Select Committee and I do not expect to add anything more after the recess. I am happy to discuss with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland the means by which we can debate his excellent proposals.

Mr. Conal Gregory (York)

In view of the increase in crime, especially auto crime, in north Yorkshire, will my right hon. Friend arrange a debate at the earliest opportunity on whether we need to extend the powers available to the judiciary and why magistrates in York have never in the last year used the maximum penalties available to them? Does he agree that such a debate would clearly illustrate that crime does not pay?

Mr. MacGregor

Obviously, my hon. Friend's message is important and we wish to find every opportunity to put that message over. I cannot promise any Government time to debate that matter in the near future, but he will know that other means are available to him to raise the matter in the House.

Mr. A. E. P. Duffy (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

Will the Leader of the Flouse provide time for an early debate on this week's Home Affairs Select Committee report on horse racing? Will he explain to the Home Secretary that all my hon. Friends, with the exception of one, who are active members of the all-party group on bloodstock industries and horse racing—incidentally, none of them were called as witnesses by the Committee—wish to express dissent on two or three of the recommendations? They particularly wish to dissent from the criticism of the Jockey Club and the recommendation that it should be replaced.

Mr. MacGregor

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Government will respond to all Select Committee reports in the normal way and within the normal time scale. It may be appropriate to find time for a debate after that.

Mr. David Shaw (Dover)

Will my right hon. Friend accept the congratulations of many hon. Members on his excellent speech pointing out that many building societies are not reducing their interest rates as fast as the Government are reducing the bank base rate? If that continues and banks do not reduce their mortgage lending rates as fast as the Chancellor is reducing the minimum lending rate, it may be necessary to have a debate in the House on competition in the financial services sector.

Mr. MacGregor

I hope that more building societies will follow the lead of some that have already offered greater choice and flexibility to borrowers who had previously had annual repayment schemes. That was the real point that I was making last night. It is a matter for the building societies and their borrowers, because I believe in choice and variety.

Mr. Dennis Turner (Wolverhampton, South-East)

Is the Leader of the House as concerned as some Opposition Members at the development of the European Commission's drafting of food legislation on certain important British products that we have enjoyed in this country for many years, such as mince and beautiful sausages? Our flavoured crisps are now being attacked. Those are important items in the lives of many people. We should have a debate in the House on behalf of the people of this country who want to continue to enjoy products against which the Commission is discriminating.

Mr. MacGregor

I have long experience of those matters. Sometimes, inappropriate proposals are made at an early stage and they should not be pursued by the Commission. The proposal to prohibit flavoured crisps falls into that category. It is not necessary to debate the matter in the House, because any moves to prohibit the production of that food item, which has been marketed safely for years in the United Kingdom, will be opposed by the Government, and we are already making our position clear.

Mr. Andrew MacKay (Berkshire, East)

Following the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis), does the Leader of the House agree that it is high time that we had a debate on procedure and abuse thereof? That would ensure that we did not have the disgraceful scenes that occurred on the Floor of the House yesterday when, under the guise of bogus points of order, the hon. Members for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) and for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) wantonly misled the House by saying that the Table Office—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman has been here long enough to know that no Member wantonly or deliberately misleads the House. Will he withdraw that comment, please?

Mr. MacKay

I withdraw the word "wantonly", Mr. Speaker.

Mr. MacGregor

I thought that there was more to come.

It was uncharacteristic of the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) to pursue a matter that turned out to be inaccurate. He does not normally do so and is falling into the trap of some of his hon. Friends who are pursuing wrong issues and giving an inaccurate impression of NHS trusts.

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

Since, in South Africa today, so many political prisoners are on hunger strike and the peace process there is at a dangerous stage, will the Leader of the House give an undertaking that the Government will use the recess to put pressure on President de Klerk to honour his obligations and guarantee that the Foreign Secretary will make a statement immediately after the recess?

Mr. MacGregor

Obviously, I cannot give any guarantees about statements, but I have noted what the hon. Gentleman has said and I shall draw his remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Patrick Nicholls (Teignbridge)

Will my right hon. Friend consider having a debate on dog registration that could go wider than the debate on the Bill? Would not that give the House an opportunity to remind the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) that the essence of a dog registration scheme is ownership, and that in none of the attacks with which the Bill will deal has the issue of ownership been in any doubt, so the idea that a dog registration scheme is relevant to this issue is wrong?

Mr. MacGregor

I agree very much with my hon. Friend and think that, if the Bill is to progress speedily through both Houses—as we wish it to do and as, I think, the country wants us to ensure—it will be important to concentrate precisely on the matters in question and find solutions that are entirely pertinent to the problem.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Why does the Leader of the House not have a debate about unemployment? For the past 13 months the figures have soared and there are now probably many more than 3 million people unemployed if we include women who do not appear on the register and the half a million young people who are on slave labour schemes. Is it not a fact that the jobs of ambulance men and women up and down the country are now placed in jeopardy because the NHS and the trusts are refusing to cart people back and forward from hospital? Therefore, the 3 million unemployed will be added to by numerous ambulance workers up and down the country. Let us have a debate on unemployment.

Mr. MacGregor

I have said already that we are happy to debate the issue all the time, because our employment policies are very much more designed to deal with ensuring permanent, secure, long-term jobs, which are viable and deliver goods and services effectively. That is part of the answer to the hon. Gentleman's point about NHS trusts.

It is open to the Opposition to use their Supply day for a debate on the subject. I hope that they will, because it will enable us to contrast our policies and proposals with theirs, and demonstrate yet again the point on which they seem to be so sensitive—a national minimum wage will destroy many jobs. I shall be happy for us to have a Supply day debate on the subject. The hon. Gentleman might suggest it to the relevant Opposition spokesmen.

Mrs. Edwina Currie (Derbyshire, South)

Does the Leader of the House consider, as I do, that the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) owes the excellent staff of the House an apology? At exactly the same time as the hon. Member was saying yesterday that staff were refusing to accept questions—an allegation which I have just heard him repeat today—exasperated staff in the Table Office were protesting that they had been given no such instructions; I heard them say so. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Government of this country are more than happy to answer questions in debates on subjects that involve the spending of millions of pounds of taxpayers' money on NHS patients in NHS hospitals, whatever they are called, so that the Government can take the credit when the benefit of the reforms comes to the fore?

Mr. MacGregor

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that the Government are happy to answer all questions on the NHS because their record is an extremely creditable one. I believe that our policies ensure not only substantial funding, but the effective delivery of services within that funding. It is noticeable that the Labour party has no such policies, which is why it resorts to inaccurate side issues —it is obvious that that is all it can do.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

Last week, the Leader of the House said that he could not find time this week for a statement on the World in Action programme about the Larry Goodman empire. In the light of evidence that Government servants have been in receipt of gifts from Mr. Goodman and agriculture in Northern Ireland is suffering as a result of the way in which his empire has spread, will the Leader of the House re-examine the subject and attempt to find time for such a statement when we return after the recess—or are we waiting for the inquiry in the Republic of Ireland?

Mr. MacGregor

Obviously, I cannot find time for that in the week after the recess, but I shall discuss that matter with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Mr. James Paice (Cambridgeshire, South-East)

When my right hon. Friend considers finding time for a debate on procedures in the House, will he also consider the question of information to hon. Members about what is taking place in the House because I was rather concerned to see early-day motion 861 on coal mining subsidence?

[That this House congratulates the honourable Member for Sherwood on persuading Her Majesty's Government to include the Coal Mining Subsidence Bill in this year's parliamentary programme; congratulates Her Majesty's Government and the Secretary of State for Energy on making the parliamentary time available; notes that this Bill completed its Second Reading on 4th February of this session and all its remaining stages in the House of Commons on 22nd April; and is surprised that this information does not appear yet to have reached the honourable Members for Llanelli, Brent East, Clydesdale, Birmingham, Perry Barr, and Preston, all of whom signed Early Day Motion Number 78, condemning Her Majesty's Government for failing to introduce the Coal Mining Subsidence Bill after it had completed all its stages in the House of Commons.]

That reminds us that five Labour Members, including a Front-Bench spokesman, continued to press the Government to take action on coal mining subsidence even after the Coal Mining Subsidence Bill passed all its stages in the House.

Mr. MacGregor

I agree with my hon. Friend. I was interested to see that six Opposition Members were urging the Government to do something that we had already done and that had taken up a great deal of parliamentary time, which suggests that some Opposition Members are not exactly following what is going on.

The Government have acted on that matter and I pay a special tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Mr. Stewart), as does the early-day motion, because that subject has been a great interest of his and he has had a great deal to do with the fact that we have acted so swiftly on the matter.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Is there to be a statement on the further responsibilities which are apparently to be given to the Government Chief Whip? We are told in the newspapers that he is to be the Government's troubleshooter—Mr. Fixit. If that is the case, is not it necessary to have a statement because surely, with the way in which the Government are facing a crisis virtually every day, the Chief Whip's job will be virtually redundant, as he will be so busy occupying himself with his second job?

Mr. MacGregor

I am sure that Conservative Members feel that it is totally unnecessary to have a debate because we know that my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Norfolk (Mr. Ryder) is doing an admirable job and I am sure that he will continue to do so. I am also sure that he is glad that anything to do with handling the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) is not one of his responsibilities.

Mr. Roger King (Birmingham, Northfield)

Does my right hon. Friend share my concern about the fact that the wonderful news that inflation has reduced by a huge amount to 6.4 per cent. seems not to have reached the Opposition? Therefore, will he consider giving time at the next available opportunity for a debate on the success of the Government's economic policies and for a comparison of our policies with those of the Opposition, which revolve around spend-tax, spend-tax, spend-tax?

Mr. MacGregor

As my hon. Friend knows, I agree with him, and I am sure that when the House gets back after the recess we shall concentrate upon such matters.

Mr. Ray Powell (Ogmore)

I wonder whether the Leader of the House would consider early-day motion 868, tabled by myself and 134 right hon. and hon. Members yesterday,

[That this House expresses deep concern and sympathy at the death of .Jeff Jones, a Rhondda miner, at the Wem Tern licensed coal mine at Pencoed, Mid Glamorgan, and asks the Secretary of State for Energy to hold an immediate inquiry into the safety standards at this and other licensed coal mines and to publish quarterly statistics on safety inspections in those mines.]

May I ask for an early debate on the issue, and especially on the subject of safety in mines? I am sure that you, Mr. Speaker, together with right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House, would like to join me in recording our sympathy to the widow June and daughters Gemma and Jade at their home in Stanley road in Gelli, Rhondda, which is represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers). I am sure that it will be a comfort to them to know that we share their grief in this tragedy.

It is always a sad day when there is a death in a mine and it is a constant reminder of the days when deaths occurred in the mines every week and sometimes every day, especially in Wales. I pay tribute to all those who burrowed with hands, picks and shovels to reach Mr. Jones but who found, after 22 hours, that they had worked in vain. This is yet another reminder that safety in our mines must always be a top priority for any Government.

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. MacGregor

As the hon. Gentleman knows, I come from a coal-mining village and therefore I very much share the sentiments that he has expressed. I am sure that the whole House will wish to express its sympathy to the relatives of Mr. Jones and to pay a tribute to the work that was done yesterday, alas to no avail.

The Health and Safety Executive's mines inspectorate has responded, as it always does in the case of a fatal accident, by initiating a full and thorough investigation. We must now await the outcome of that investigation, but I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising the matter so that it enables the whole House to express its sympathy in this tragic incident.

Mr. Robert B. Jones (Hertfordshire, West)

Will my right hon. Friend reconsider the question of having another debate on the national health service, specifically on the distribution of spending within the NHS? Is he aware that, within the North West Thames region, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire comprise 45 per cent. of the population, but benefit from only 32 per cent. of spending? The Leader of the Opposition has made it clear that a Labour Government would provide no extra money for the NHS, and that the Labour party will fight to prevent redistribution of money away from London to where people actually live. My constituents and others would suffer the effects of such Labour policies.

Mr. MacGregor

I am sure that my hon. Friend will have other opportunites to make his point in the House, but I cannot say when we shall be able to have another debate on the NHS in Government time. My hon. Friend has made the important point, which should be made constantly, that the Opposition have made it clear that they will not be able to spend any more on the NHS than we have.

Mr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East)

Is it not remarkable that we have not debated the Gulf since 21 January—a few days after the outbreak of war? If the outcome of the war did not justify a debate, surely developments in Iraq since then have shown that a debate is long overdue.

Mr. MacGregor

As I have said, I am aware of the desire of many hon. Members to debate this matter, but we must wait for an appropriate time. There are many pressures on Government time between now and the summer recess.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

I wonder whether we could have a debate on the disgraceful, unspecific and cowardly attack on a highly respected public servant, the Hon. David Gore-Booth—particularly when that attack has been co-ordinated by people who have at heart not the interests of the United Kingdom, but the interests of a foreign country, which has quite rightly been the subject of widespread criticism in the House.

Mr. MacGregor

I understand that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary referred to that at Question Time today. I was unable to be present, but I am sure that my right hon. Friend will take note of what my hon. Friend has said.

Mr. Ron Brown (Edinburgh, Leith)

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, SAI in my constituency is likely to close. That is a disgrace, because it is the most efficient fertiliser plant in the United Kingdom. Jobs are important in Leith and throughout the United Kingdom. Can we have a debate about that issue at the earliest possible moment?

Mr. MacGregor

I cannot promise a debate on a specific plant. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to pursue that matter, he will have to do so in other ways.

Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher)

Further to the point of order that I raised on Friday, when I urged Treasury Ministers to come to the House to justify and extend the excellent policies that have led to a dramatic fall in the rate of inflation, can my right hon. Friend find time for a debate so that the House may fully understand that the Government have reduced inflation from 10.5 to 6.4 per cent.? Has my right hon. Friend noted that that rate compares with an average of 15.5 per cent. under the previous Labour Government? The present Government understand that beating inflation is the only way to remove a socially divisive disease. That underlines our estimate of caring. By allowing inflation to rip when it was in office, the Labour party damaged the people who could least afford to be affected. This Government care and a Labour Government cannot deliver their promises.

Mr. MacGregor

I very much agree with my hon. Friend. Reducing inflation to levels comparable with those of our major competitors is the Government's overriding priority. I am sure that there will be opportunities throughout the summer and beyond, as inflation continues to come down, to make the points that my hon. Friend has made.

Mr. Eddie Loyden (Liverpool, Garston)

Will the Leader of the House consider having an early debate—perhaps immediately after the spring recess—on the problems facing the car industry? Grave concern has been expressed about the effect of Government policies on the industry. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the Government should arrange such a debate?

Mr. MacGregor

I must make it clear to the hon. Gentleman that we have a heavy legislative programme to complete in Government time. There are many opportunities for debates outside Government time, and that is how the subject will have to be pursued.

Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South)

The debate on 7 June should be on the future government of London, as many people regard the proposed Greater London authority as bureaucratic, bolshevik and unwanted. Is my right hon. Friend aware that the proposed Greater London authority would have more elected members than the old Greater London council? Is he aware that London Labour councils have the worst record for the collection of rates and for empty council houses, whereas Conservative councils have the best school records in London?

Mr. MacGregor

My hon. Friend makes some effective points. As I said, I do not believe that the people of London want a return to the GLC.

Mr. Ian McCartney (Makerfield)

Will the Leader of the House ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he will make a statement to the House on the continued infiltration of the British security industry by organised crime, especially in the leisure industry? More people are killed and injured each year in Britain by rogue bouncers than by rogue dogs. Every day of the week, someone is injured or even killed by bouncers whose companies have been infiltrated by organised crime. The Secretary of State should make a statement on regulating the industry to drive bouncer companies and those who are involved in organised crime out of legitimate interests such as security.

Mr. MacGregor

I shall not go into the issues or respond to the allegations that the hon. Gentleman made, but he asked for a statement. I do not know whether a statement would be appropriate, but my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is in the Chamber and will have heard what he said.

Mr. Gerald Howarth (Cannock and Burntwood)

May I wholeheartedly support the request that was made by the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) and by some of my hon. Friends for a further debate on the provision of health care so that we can set out again and again the Government's superb record in the past 12 years, so that I can draw attention to the brand new £18 million community hospital in Cannock and to the increased employment opportunities at the Mental Health Foundation for Mid-Staffordshire NHS trust, so that I may expose the shroud-waving hypocrisy of Opposition Members and so that the Labour party may formally, on the Floor of the House, retract the disgraceful allegations contained in the notorious leaflet that it issued at Monmouth, which suggested that NHS trust hospitals were opting out of the NHS?

Mr. MacGregor

I am sure that there will be many opportunities for my hon. Friend to make his effective points about the considerable progress in his constituency and about the Labour party's policy. There will be opportunities, therefore, to continue to ask the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw the allegations that were made in the leaflet to which my hon. Friend drew attention.

Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East)

May we have a debate to explore why the Government acquiesced last Saturday in allowing General Augusto Pinochet to arrive at British Aerospace's private aerodrome at Hatfield? On a day when millions of people are mourning the assassination of the former Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi, can the Government have forgotten that Pinochet organised the assassination of the elected President of Chile, Salvador Allende, and in the 1970s and 1980s murdered thousands of decent people in Chile? Is it now Government policy that, after a set number of years, the murder of a head of state is a sanatised, politically acceptable act, as long as the perpetrator is coming here to buy arms?

Mr. MacGregor

I shall draw the hon. Gentleman's remarks to my right hon. Friend's attention, but I cannot see scope for a debate on the issue in the forthcoming week.

Mr. Andrew Mitchell (Gedling)

Will my right hon. Friend give further urgent consideration to the possibility of having a debate on a national minimum wage? Although the Labour Fabian Society has made it clear that such a policy would cost 800,000 jobs, and although we all know that the figure would be twice as high, does not it remain a key policy of the Labour party, and should not we have a chance to debate it as a matter of urgency in the House?

Mr. MacGregor

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. It is clear that that proposal will result in the loss of a very considerable number of jobs. It is interesting that the Fabian Society now corroborates that fact and gives its own estimate. We shall have many opportunities in the weeks ahead to continue to make these points, and I note the embarassment of the Labour party every time the proposal for a national minimum wage is raised.

Ms. Marjorie Mowlam (Redcar)

The Leader of the House said last week that it would be inappropriate to have a debate on the future of ICI, on the ground that That would be a matter for the takeover panel".—[Official Report, 16 May 1991; Vol. 191, c. 433.] Last Friday, the takeover panel gave the green light to Hanson, the asset stripper, causing a great deal of concern in the country at large and to many of my constituents who work for ICI. Will the Leader of the House consider the provision of time to debate this important matter—we are dealing here with the leading manufacturer and second largest exporter in this country—or does he intend to wait for the recess, when Hanson can act without our having any democratic input whatsoever?

Mr. MacGregor

There is no question of our waiting for the recess. We do not have a situation in which action of the sort that I outlined might have to be taken. In my comments last week on referrals, I mentioned not only the takeover panel but also two other bodies. We are not in a situation in which that action is triggered. That being the case, it would not be appropriate to have a debate.

Mr. Jacques Arnold (Gravesham)

I support the suggestion that we should have a debate on the visit of General Pinochet to this country. That would give us an opportunity to highlight the fact that the Government neither received General Pinochet nor conferred on him an order of knighthood, as happened during the term of the last Labour Government, when President Ceausescu visited this country.

Mr. MacGregor

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the point that he has made.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)

May I ask the Leader of the House to accept that, following the savage attack on Rucksana Khan, the vast majority of people understand that if effective action is to be taken against dangerous dogs it must he based on a national dog register? Will the Leader of the House ensure that when the Government's Bill is introduced it will be debated as quickly as possible, and that it will be framed in such a. way as to enable the House to take a clear decision on the establishment of a national dog register? Will he give an undertaking that, if an amendment to this end is moved, Conservative Members will have a free vote so that they may support something that clearly now has the support of a vast majority of the British people?

Mr. MacGregor

I have already expressed my own view. I do not believe that the issue to be addressed by the Bill—an issue about which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will make a statement shortly—is related to a dog registration scheme. It is important that the Bill should focus on the emergency measures that are necessary to prevent, if possible, any further tragic incidents such as the one that involved the hon. Gentleman's constituent. That is the importance of getting on quickly with this measure.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)

As my right hon. Friend has not yet decided the business for 7 June, may I commend to him the idea of arranging a debate on the need for a national lottery, for which there is a great deal of support among Conservative Members?

Mr. MacGregor

I note my hon. Friend's suggestion, but it is unlikely that we shall be able to debate that matter for a whole day, as many other issues have been raised. My hon. Friend knows very well that there are other ways in which he personally can pursue the matter.

Mr. Norman Hogg (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth)

As the Leader of the House will be aware, there has been only one item of Scottish legislation this Session. Therefore, as has been pointed out already, we have had very little opportunity to debate Scottish issues. Can the Leader of the House find Government time for a debate on the Scottish economy, the Scottish national health service, or primary school testing in Scotland, all of which are matters of policy in which there is considerable public interest? It is a very long time since there was any Scottish debate on the Floor of the House, and there has certainly been no debate in the Scottish Grand Committee.

Mr. MacGregor

I will bear in mind the hon. Gentleman's point. I am sure that he recognises that there are many opportunities for those issues to be raised in other debates in the House. However, I will bear in mind what the hon. Gentleman has said.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)

May we have a statement on the reporting of national health service matters to Parliament and in particular on the question of trusts? May we have an assurance in that statement that there will be no distinction in the way in which questions on health service trusts are answered as opposed to questions about other hospitals that remain in the national health service? At the moment, questions about the internal workings of hospitals can be answered fully by Ministers. May we have the same assurance about questions on health service trust matters?

Mr. MacGregor

The hon. Gentleman is again misleading the House and making the wrong point if he tries to suggest that somehow trust hospitals are outside the NHS. My right hon. and hon. Friends will continue to answer questions fully on the health service.

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

Will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for a debate at the earliest possible moment on the safety of fishermen and fishing vessels? If that is not possible, may we have in the very near future—perhaps in the first week after the recess— a statement from the Secretary of State for Transport on the regulations governing the safety of our fishermen? For some years I have been seeking to persuade the Department of Transport to invoke regulations allowing for the provision of immersion suits on fishing vessels. The Department of Transport has refused that sensible measure. I discovered yesterday that the European Commission is to introduce a draft directive on the safety of fishermen that will include among many other things the provision of immersion suits on all fishing vessels above a certain size. Why is the European Community leading us? The Government should have taken such a decision years ago.

Mr. MacGregor

I am not aware of that particular Commission proposal, if indeed it is such at this stage. However, I will raise that point with my two right hon. Friends who are responsible for those matters.

Mr. Peter Hain (Neath)

Will the Leader of the House find time after the recess to allow the Government to repudiate the disgraceful behaviour of the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) who has been parading her pro-apartheid views around South Africa, including—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member has not been here very long. Normally, if that kind of attack is made on another hon. Member, prior notice is given about it.

Mr. Hain

It may be a case of post-prime ministerial senility.

Mr. MacGregor

That question shows that the hon. Gentleman has a great deal to learn in this House. I certainly do not intend to find time to respond to a charge of that kind.

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