HC Deb 14 November 1991 vol 198 cc1235-45 3.51 pm
Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland)

May I ask the Leader of the House to 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:

Motion on the Library Charges (England and Wales) Regulations

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 Committee B will meet at 10.30 am on Wednesday 20 November, to consider documents Nos. 4173/91, 4174/91 and 4175/91 relating to copyright and neighbouring rights.

[Wednesday 20 November

European Standing Committee B

Relevant European Community Documents

4173/91 Copyright

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

Dr. Cunningham

When we debate the Education (Schools) Bill next week, will the Leader of the House ensure that the Secretary of State for Education and Science publishes the report that he commissioned on the future of Her Majesty's inspectors of schools, which seems to have been suppressed by the Secretary of State? Is not this a clear example of the double standards of the Secretary of State for Education and Science? He introduces a Bill requiring schools to publish more information about their activities while he is suppressing information about the activities of his own Department. There could be no greater deception of the public and parents.

When can we expect to see the terms of the motion that is to be debated next week on developments in the European Community? I hope that the Leader of the House recognises that it would be of interest and, no doubt, of benefit to all his right hon. and hon. Friends, as well as to the Opposition, to see the terms of the motion as soon as possible. In addition, it would be helpful if we could also know, and quickly, who will be speaking from the Government Front Bench during the two-day debate. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will quickly be able to help us with that information.

May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day motion 136?

[That this House notes with deep concern the state of health care within the Parkside and Riverside health authorities which has prompted five consultants and 10 general practitioners to call for an inquiry into allegations that both authorities are failing to meet legal requirements on patient care; and further urges the Government to conduct such an inquiry as a matter of great urgency.] As the right hon. Gentleman will see, the motion, which concerns the Parkside and Riverside health authorities, was tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe). Is the Leader of the House aware that doctors and consultants have alleged that those authorities are failing to meet their statutory duties in patient care because of a lack of resources? Is not this a serious state of affairs? Does not it cast great doubts on the efficacy of the Government's policies towards the health service? Will we have a statement from the Secretary of State for Health next week about the two authorities?

Will it be possible to have a debate next week on electoral reform in the Conservative party? Has the Leader of the House seen the quotes in newspapers today about his colleagues behaving as if they were "rooms full of imbeciles", to quote the hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth (Mr. Dickens)? What about the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit), who had to climb on to the table to get his ballot paper? After all that the Government have had to say about the conduct of elections and ballots in trade unions, is not it shameful that they cannot even guarantee one person one vote in their own party?

Mr. MacGregor

On the hon. Gentleman's question about the Education (Schools) Bill, my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science made it clear in the House on 6 June that the review of HMI, to which reference was made in a newspaper this morning, was internal advice to Ministers, and that he did not intend to publish it. It is for Ministers to make up their minds on any internal advice from Departments, and there is often a great deal of it from different areas within Departments.

My right hon. and learned Friend has made his decisions clear. He has informed the House about a number of relevant facts and about other matters that follow from those decisions, and I have no doubt that he will do so again in the debate next week. The Government will be making the position absolutely clear.

Dr. Cunningham

But not publishing the report.

Mr. MacGregor

My right hon. and learned Friend will make his position on the decisions that he made absolutely clear, and he will fully report to Parliament on them.

On the question about the European debate next week, I confirm that, because of the great importance of the matter and, as the hon. Gentleman said, the extensive interest in it not only in the House but elsewhere, we are arranging for the motion to be published tomorrow. The House will be able to consider the terms of the motion well in advance of the debate.

Dr. Cunningham

What about the Government's speakers?

Mr. MacGregor

As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have to consider such matters. I shall, in the usual way, inform the Opposition and others about who those speakers will be.

The hon. Gentleman requested a statement on the Parkside and Riverside health authorities. I do not think that that is necessary, because the facts are clear. Indeed, those facts dispute a great number of the allegations. More money is spent in Riverside and Parkside districts than anywhere else in the North West Thames region. This year, patient care activity at Parkside is likely to be up 30 per cent. on last year. Riverside is carrying out routine elective surgery and waiting lists are falling. No less than £206 million is being invested in the new Westminster and Chelsea hospital, which will be the most modern teaching hospital in the country. In view of those facts and that statement, I do not think that a further statement is necessary.

Finally, the hon. Gentleman referred to a certain election, in which there was a great deal of interest. Under our rules it is for the outgoing chairman and his committee to decide how the election is conducted.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross)

Following the statement of our right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, will my right hon. Friend arrange for a debate on the relative benefits of the investigative and prosecuting services in England and Scotland? As the investigation has resulted in an announcement—although our right hon. Friend was shady in saying so—[HON. MEMBERS: "Shady?"] Our right hon. Friend was cautious in saying that the investigation has resulted in charges of the murder of 260 people, conspiracy to murder, and various statutory contraventions of aviation legislation. As that is due alone to the particular characteristics of the investigative, prosecuting, criminal and corroborative services in Scotland, will my right hon. Friend arrange a debate, just as a reminder that when those who are accused are convicted, if found guilty, they will not thereafter get away with it as they do in England, thanks to the rottenness of English law?

Mr. MacGregor

My hon. and learned Friend paid tribute to the work of the investigating authorities in this case and he has made his point about the Scottish authorities. I do not think that it is necessary to have a debate and I do not want to enter into the issue now.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

Following the clear precedent set by the Secretary of State for Health with regard to expenses for the Cleveland inquiry, can we expect the Secretary of State for Scotland to make an announcement next week that he will give funding to the Orkney islands council to assist with the expenses being incurred there with regard to the judicial inquiry into events in South Ronaldsay rather than the whole burden falling on some 15,000 poll tax payers in Orkney?

Before we debate the Education (Schools) Bill next week, can we be told whether the Government intend to withdraw the current Bill and issue a new one, because, as things stand at the moment, the section requiring information from schools in England and Wales applies to Scotland only and the section requiring information from schools in Scotland applies to England and Wales only? Will there be a league table of Cabinet Ministers on their attention to detail?

Mr. MacGregor

We have no intention of withdrawing the Bill, but I shall consider the hon. Gentleman's point. I shall draw his first point to the attention of my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher)

My right hon. Friend has given the good news that we are to have a two-day debate on Europe next week, but will the announcement that we are to learn the terms of the motion tomorrow cause embarrassment on the Opposition Benches? Given that they have changed their minds seven times on the principle of the EC, that may not give them enough time to change it again, or it might encourage them to incorporate in their amendment the views of the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) as expressed in The Daily Telegraph earlier this week.

Mr. MacGregor

As I understand it, it is many more on the Opposition Benches than the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney. I have no doubt that those points will be made in the debate. My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the large number of times that the Labour party has changed its policy on the issue. Ours has been clear for many years.

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

Is the Leader of the House aware that, on average, one member of the armed forces dies on duty every week, some of them while training, but the Ministry of Defence refuses to disclose full details of the boards of inquiry, causing deep distress to the relatives who are entitled to the facts? May we have a debate on that next week please?

Mr. MacGregor

I cannot promise a debate, but I should like to say something about it, because I know that the right hon. Gentleman has an early-day motion on the subject. We well understand and greatly sympathise with the grief and distress of the relatives of service men and women killed in the course of their duties. It is never the Ministry of Defence's intention to exacerbate that by withholding information on the circumstances surrounding the death. However, there are legitimate reasons why some documents, including boards of inquiry reports, must remain confidential to the Department. To assist bereaved relatives the MOD will always provide, on request, a statement summarising the board of inquiry report and will be as helpful as possible in answering any subsequent questions.

Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Bristol, East)

I endorse the point made by the right hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley). My right hon. Friend will know that a constituent of mine, Simeon Ferrante, died on parachute training and during the two years since that date his father has been trying most energetically to get to the facts, not just to find out what happened to his son, but to ensure that a similar accident does not happen again. The problem with the board of inquiry is that there is no alternative way of testing the evidence and making clear whether the MOD has some faults to put right. It is essential that we have a debate so that the MOD understands that its policy of secrecy puts it always in the wrong.

Mr. MacGregor

I have given a fairly full answer to the question and I would simply say to my hon. Friend that, as he will know, there are ways in which he can pursue the matter in the House. I will just repeat that the MOD endeavours to be as helpful as possible in answering any questions on individual cases.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

In view of the remarks made by the Leader of the House to the Committee studying the question of changing parliamentary hours, when he suggested that Members of Parliament should have only a four-day week, will the right hon. Gentleman have a few words within the next few minutes with the Secretary of State for Energy, and tell him to withdraw that section of the Coal Industry Bill that seeks to allocate a larger number of working hours—up to 48 hours a week—to miners? That shows the Government's hypocrisy, for they are prepared to recommend four-day weeks for Members of Parliament and Cabinet Ministers, but longer hours for miners working underground.

Mr. MacGregor

I am very surprised with the hon. Gentleman, who obviously has not read my comments to the Committee. I said that Members of Parliament also have substantial constituency functions to undertake, and Fridays and weekends are often the only times when right hon. and hon. Members representing constituencies outside London can perform them. I was looking for ways in which, included within the very lengthy period that we spend in the House during the week—which is well beyond 48 hours—Members of Parliament could more easily attend in their constituencies during weekdays. I am sure that I speak for nearly every right hon. and hon. Member when I say that the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) is misleading the public if he is suggesting that Members of Parliament would work only a four-day week if sometimes the House did not sit on Fridays.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is increasing support in the country for a national lottery? Will he arrange a debate on that subject—if not next week, then before Christmas—so that the views of the House may be heard?

Mr. MacGregor

I do not want to discourage my hon. Friend, but such a debate certainly cannot be arranged for next week and, as we have a great deal of business to complete before Christmas, I do not see much opportunity for a debate in Government time before then.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

Will the Leader of the House make a statement next week on early-day motion 137, which concerns the proposed closure of Westwood hospital?

[That this House notes that, shortly after this Government rubber stamped approval for the second hospital trust in Bradford, the trust announced closure proposals for Westwood Hospital for mentally handicapped people which will involve dumping patients into varying degrees of community care in order to sell off the land for residential development from this tranquil sheltered site which should be the basis for a village community for the mentally handicapped; and recognises that instead patients will be treated like pawns by a group of trust managers who put profit and puffed up salaries before patients whilst riding roughshod over the wishes of relatives and patients alike in an act of betrayal towards the mentally handicapped, one of the most vulnerable sections of our community.]

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that second Bradford trust hospital was based on a false prospectus, because during the period of the application—which was so eagerly rubber-stamped by the Government—no mention was made of the fact that the trusts would close a hospital for mentally handicapped people against the policy of the Department of Health, which encourages village communities for such people? Instead of the site in question being used to benefit the mentally handicapped, it will be sold off for residential development and the hospital will be closed—which will be a serious blow against the provisions for mentally handicapped people.

Mr. MacGregor

I looked into that matter, because the hon. Gentleman has raised it before. The Bradford project to which he refers long predates the establishment of the local NHS trust and is all about providing more homely community facilities for the people concerned. All the revenue from the sale will be reinvested in community services. The hon. Gentleman should support that project, rather than denigrate local efforts and mix them up with NHS trusts—which are, across the country, already demonstrating that they are a successful method of reforming the NHS—as is the case at Guy's.

Mr. Christopher Gill (Ludlow)

In view of the considerable constitutional implications of the outcome of the Maastricht summit, will my right hon. Friend consider devoting more time to debating developments in the European Community, so that all the views of Back Benchers can be expressed? If my right hon. Friend cannot devote more time to hearing the views of Back Benchers, how are the wishes of the British public to be adequately expressed?

Mr. MacGregor

We are allowing substantial time to enable the House to debate those matters, including a two-day debate next week. My hon. Friend will realise that I must bear in mind the very important business that the Government have to get through in the current Session, which will require many Second Reading debates before Christmas.

Mr. Brian Wilson (Cunninghame, North)

In view of widespread concern about the workings of opted-out hospitals, and of the implications for an area such as my own if an application is approved, will the Leader of the House arrange a debate both on what was in and what was out of the Select Committee on Health's report on that topic? Must we wait for such a debate until the Privileges Committee has succeeded in swatting the Tory sneak?

Mr. MacGregor

I am making arrangements with the Clerk for the Committee to meet as soon as is practicable, but I certainly do not think that we shall be able to have a general debate on the matter in the forthcoming weeks. As I have said, we have a great deal of other business to handle.

Mr. James Cran (Beverley)

It is indeed welcome news that we are to debate the future of the European Community next week. In the light of what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. Gill), however, will my right hon. Friend think again about the amount of time that is to be allowed? I know perfectly well what my right hon. Friend has done to secure a two-day debate, but the fact remains that most Back Benchers will be crowded out. Essentially, the debate will be reserved for Privy Councillors, former Ministers and the like, and we shall not get a look-in.

If my right hon. Friend is unable to do anything about that problem, will he at least ensure that no statements are taken on those two days? Statements would further curtail Back Benchers' time.

Mr. MacGregor

I have nothing to add to what I said earlier. Given all the business that is ahead of us, I feel that two days constitute a large amount of time. I shall, of course, endeavour to avoid the scheduling of statements on those days, but sometimes—today, for instance—a statement is needed urgently, and can be made only on a specific day.

Mr. Michael J. Martin (Glasgow, Springburn)

I understand that a new Director of Catering has been appointed, and I wish the lady well. May I ask her to examine, as one of her first duties, the continued abuse of our catering facilities by outside organisations? An organisation known as the Tobacco Alliance, for instance, is currently writing to newsagents throughout the country telling them that they are invited to tea at the House of Commons, provided that they bring along their Members of Parliament. That, surely, is a breach of privilege.

Mr. MacGregor

I seem to recollect that the way in which catering facilities are made available for activities in which outsiders can participate was examined recently. I did not know of the specific case referred to by the hon. Gentleman, but I am sure that those concerned will take note of what he has said.

Mr. John Browne (Winchester)

Further to what was said by the right hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, East (Mr. Sayeed), may I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to early-day motion 776?

[That this House, conscious of the fact that real care for the men and women of our armed forces has enabled our country to rely, even to the point of ultimate sacrifice, upon their loyalty, steadfastness and efficiency in times of grave national threat, is astounded to note that, when digging a trench during an official Army exercise in Canada in July 1989, three men of the Grenadier Guards (Adrian Hicks, John Ray and Sean Povey) detonated a six year old unexploed shell which was not only rendered them limbless but caused them such grieivous wounds that Mr. Ray and Mr. Povey are still, after almost two years, in receipt of hospital treatment; notes that the Ministry of Defence find themselves unable, on the grounds of unattributable negligence, to pay compensation; and calls upon the Prime Minister to review this case personally and to ensure that, regardless of the possible legal responsibility of some unknown nation who failed to 'clear' the shell some six years previously, Her Majesty's Government is seen to follow truly a policy that shows an appreciation of human understanding, human dignity and the value of a human life on earth by awarding generous compensation and a return of the accumulated legal costs to these youthful British Grenadiers.] Despite the successful conclusion of the case, the tabling of that motion indicated that something is very wrong with the present legislation relating to compensation for those who are injured in the course of their duties in the armed forces. The problem, essentially, is that currently the onus is on an injured soldier, sailor or airman to prove negligence by the Government. Surely the onus should be on the Ministry of Defence, as a good employer, to prove negligence by its personnel. In the meantime, the Government merely suggest that service men take out personal accident insurance. Surely the Ministry of Defence should take out blanket insurance cover for all its personnel.

Mr. MacGregor

As my hon. Friend knows, the matter has been discussed before. As I recall, the early-day motion concerned a specific case. I hope that my hon. Friend will agree that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence and my noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Armed Forces spent a great deal of time in reaching a conclusion that proved satisfactory for all concerned.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Will the Leader of the House reconsider the suggestion by my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) that a debate on internal matters be held next week to avoid a repetition of yesterday's unseemly and undignified scene? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, in the event of any such debate, the parliamentary Labour party would be entirely willing to supply scrutineers for internal Tory elections to ensure the fairness that, apparently, did not operate yesterday?

Mr. MacGregor

I do not agree; I think that the process was perfectly fair. What yesterday's events demonstrated was the great enthusiasm within the Conservative party to discuss and vote on European matters.

Mr. Michael Latham (Rutland and Melton)

Since, in practice, most of next week's two-day debate on Europe will be dominated by the thunder and lightning of the twilight of the gods and godesses in the Privy Council, will my right hon. Friend consider extending Wednesday's debate, when there will be no vote, to midnight to give the ordinary squaddie a chance to take part?

Mr. MacGregor

I am not sure that that is an appropriate description. I have to take into account the need to give adequate time for debate and also the wish, expressed in most of the responses to the Committee chaired by my right hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling), that the House should not rise too late at night on these occasions. I shall give thought to my hon. Friend's request, but without commitment.

Mr. Andrew Welsh (Angus, East)

May I draw the Minister's attention to clause 17 of the Education (Schools) Bill which relates to an exclusively Scottish matter in what is otherwise an English Bill? It is yet another example of Scottish matters being shoehorned into English legislation. It means also that decisions will be taken by Members of Parliament with no knowledge and experience of or participation in the Scottish education system; the Conservatives have no electoral mandate in Scotland. Will the Minister consider transferring this particularly Scottish clause to the Scottish Grand Committee or to a Scottish Standing Committee for consideration, or drafting a separate Scottish Bill in order to allow informed comment and decision making on it?

Mr. MacGregor

But I would point out to the hon. Gentleman that Scottish Members are entitled to participate and frequently do so in many debates and votes on many English matters, including the whole of the region of East Anglia. I have not heard them complain about their ability to do that.

Mr. John Bowis (Battersea)

Further to the points that have been raised by my hon. Friends about the European debate and in the interests of fairness to those who sit on the Opposition Benches, I wonder whether my right hon. Friend has done his mathematics to ensure that there will be time for at least a 10-minute speech to be made by each of the 42 Labour party Members who have distanced themselves today from the position of the leader of their party, including the hon. Members for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) and for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett)?

Mr. MacGregor

My hon. Friend makes a fair point, but I suspect that quite a number of those 42 will, for one reason or another, not wish to participate in the debate.

Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge)

Is the Leader of the House aware of the 22,000-signature petition, handed in to No. 10 Downing street on Tuesday, which calls for urgent action by the Government to stem the badly misnamed practice of joyriding? Why are the Government not giving the matter urgent priority? People's lives are being disrupted daily by that practice, and every day that the Government delay further lives are in danger of being lost.

Mr. MacGregor

I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman's description of joyriding. That is absolutely the wrong word to describe the dreadful practice that takes place. I agree also with him about the need to have legislation as quickly as possible. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman agrees with me that it is important that it should be drafted correctly. The Government intend to bring forward legislation as soon as they possibly can. As I hope and believe that such legislation has support on both sides of the House, I hope that we can pass it speedily.

Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South)

Will my right hon. Friend arrange for an early debate on the work of the national health service trusts? Is he aware that Guy's hospital, the flagship trust, has been able to report that there has been an 8 per cent. increase in the number of patients treated and a substantial reduction in waiting lists and that it will be giving NUPE employees a Christmas bonus and a salary increase in January? Is not that the sort of progress that anyone who cares for the national health service will welcome?

Mr. MacGregor

I have seen the excellent progress report from the Guy's NHS trust. I am sure that it will be followed by others. I hope that a great deal of publicity will be given to that progress. It illustrates how well the reform is moving after a very short time. I cannot, however, promise a debate next week.

Mr. Gordon McMaster (Paisley, South)

During next week's debate on nuclear defence, will the House have an opportunity to debate the case of the British nuclear test veterans? Is the Leader of the House aware that the Government's continued refusal to pay just and adequate compensation to these victims of Britain's nuclear tests is becoming less and less credible as more and more evidence accumulates?

Mr. MacGregor

That will be a matter for the Chair, but the debate will be fairly wide, as it is to be on the Adjournment of the House.

Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

Will the Leader of the House guarantee that in next Friday's debate full account is given to the supremely important issues raised in early-day motion 157?

[That this House recalls that five months before the start of the Gulf War, on 19th April 1990 (Official Report, column 1013–4) the honourable Member for Newport West requested the Government to initiate investigations at the International Atomic Energy Agency into the Iraqi nuclear weapons programme, and that the then Minister of State at the Foreign Office, the Right honourable Member Jiff Bristol West, replied that Iraq was a party to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, "and as such has undertaken not to develop nuclear weapons. We expect Iraq to abide by her international obligations. We do not envisage taking the specific action outlined by the honourable Member."; notes that in a parliamentary answer on 11th November 1991 the Minister of State at the Foreign Office the honourable Member for Grantham, replied to the honourable Member for Newport West "We now know that Iraq circumvented IAEA safeguards in seeking to develop a nuclear weapons capability. This is a cause for concern. The IAEA is considering how to strengthen the system.".]

It recalls that five months before the start of the Gulf war the Government had refused a request to increase the international surveillance of Iraq's nuclear weapons programme on the extraordinary grounds that Iraq had signed the international non-proliferation treaty and the Government believed that Iraq would abide by its obligations and would not build nuclear weapons. As those conditions still exist and 30 other countries might be deceiving the international community, is not it crucial that we now have proper international surveillance of all those unstable countries that might be building nuclear weapons as Iraq would have done? If the war had not started, Iraq would have continued to deceive the world and would have nuclear weapons by now. Is not the most important issue to create world peace by reducing the proliferation of nuclear weapons?

Mr. MacGregor

The hon. Gentleman knows well the Government's position on the proliferation of nuclear weapons. It seems that he has already made his speech for next Friday. It is likely that that could be covered in the debate, but I shall draw to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence the fact that the hon. Gentleman has raised it.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)

May I press the Leader of the House further on the proposed closure of Westwood hospital? Is the Secretary of State for Health required to approve the closure and the disposal of the grounds—estimated to be worth at least £11 million—for residential development? Is he aware that, in the bogus consultation exercise before the establishment of the second trust in Bradford, there was no word about the closure of the hospital or the flogging off of the grounds? Is he aware that earlier this year——

Mr. Speaker

Order. We cannot have a debate on this. Will the hon. Gentleman ask a question about next week's business please?

Mr. Madden

The chairman of the health authority told me earlier this year that there was to be a 50 bed——

Mr. Speaker

Order. Will the hon. Gentleman ask a question?

Mr. MacGregor

That is a bogus question for the business statement because it is not asking for a debate on a particular point. However, I shall draw the matter to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health.

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

With regard to the request made to the Leader of the House to extend next Wednesday's debate to midnight, may I point out that I have the Adjournment debate that night and I would rather be called at 10 o'clock than at midnight?

With regard to next Wednesday's meeting of European Standing Committee B, will the Leader of the House impress upon his ministerial colleagues the need to dispatch the relevant documents to the members of that Committee in plenty of time? The Department of Energy has set a fine benchmark in that regard and other Departments should attempt to achieve that record.

Mr. MacGregor

On the hon. Gentleman's first point, I have noted with interest the view that he expressed. It shows the different considerations that I have to take into account when reaching decisions on questions of business. I shall bear it in mind.

On the second point, the hon. Gentleman knows that I am anxious that, wherever possible, Departments should get the documents to the members of the European Standing Committees as early as they can. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy will have noted the tribute paid to the good lead given by his Department. I am keen that as many Departments as possible should send out the documents quickly. Of course, as the hon. Gentleman knows, the matter is not always in our hands, because some of the documents come rather late from the European Community to the Departments.

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

In light of a dramatic increase in crime nationally and, in particular, in my constituency, can we have a statement next week on police numbers and police authority budgets? Will the Leader of the House ask the Home Secretary whether he would be prepared to meet Labour Back Benchers individually to discuss policing problems in their constituencies?

Mr. MacGregor

The hon. Gentleman's second point is not for the business statement. On the first point, with the business that we have next week, it is unlikely that we shall be able to have a specific statement on the question of police numbers.