HC Deb 03 December 1992 vol 215 cc402-12 3.56 pm
Mrs. Margaret Beckett (Derby, South)

Will the Leader of the House please give us the business for the forthcoming week?

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Tony Newton)

The business for next week will be as follows:

  • MONDAY 7 DECEMBER—Committee and remaining stages of the Social Security Bill.
  • TUESDAY 8 DECEMBER—Opposition Day (7th allotted day). There will be a debate entitled "Unemployment" on an Opposition Motion.
  • Motion on the Mink Keeping Order.
  • WEDNESDAY 9 DECEMBER—Debate on the common fisheries policy on a Government motion.
  • Consideration of any Lords amendments which may be received to the Sea Fish (Conservation) Bill.
  • THURSDAY 10 DECEMBER—EStimateS Day (1st allotted day, 1st part). There will be a debate on Government support for coastal zone protection and planning. Details of the estimate concerned and the relevant Select. Committee report will be given in the Official Report.
  • Motion on the Banking Co-ordination (Second Council Directive) Regulations.
  • Motion on the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations.
  • At Ten o'clock the House will be asked to agree the outstanding civil and defence votes on account and winter supplementary estimates.
  • FRIDAY I I DECEMBER—Private Members' Bills.
  • MONDAY 14 DECEMBER—Motion for the Christmas Adjournment.
  • Proceedings on the Consolidated Fund Bill.
The House will also wish to know that European Standing Committees will meet on Wednesday 9 December at 10.30 am to consider European Community documents as follows: Standing Committee A: Document No. 8372/92 relating to Common Market Organisation for Bananas—[Interruption.] A lot of hon. Members have been waiting for that one. Standing Committee B: Document No.6718/92 relating to development co-operation policy in the run up to the year 2,000.

Mrs. Beckett

I thank the Lord President for that statement. Is he aware of Labour Members' concern that it has been left to us to find time for a debate on an issue of the most pressing concern to the British people—unemployment? We find that particularly extraordinary when the Secretary of State who should be dealing with this is spending her time abolishing May day, which is not the most pressing example of need. May I express the hope, therefore, that it will not be left to us but that the Government will find time to debate the problems that are still arising between small businesses and the banks, which continue to be a major worry?

May we press the Leader of the House for an early statement on the developing situation in Somalia, where there is still anxiety about people working for the aid agencies? Many hon. Members would welcome an account of how the Government see the position.

Finally, I ask the Leader of the House to seek a statement reviewing the guidelines for voter registration, which seem to need not only reviewing but strengthening. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the alarming situation in the Conservative-controlled borough of Brent, in which the number of voters on the register has fallen by 26,000 since last year, and the council has refused to take steps to rectify the situation—steps which have been taken in, for example, the Conservative-controlled borough of Barnet? As the right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, will the Leader of the House consider arranging an early statement on the matter?

Mr. Newton

The hon. Lady's remarks on the economy and the proposed debate on unemployment in Opposition time on Tuesday are a fraction ungenerous, as I have responded to her request last week for some Opposition time, and it is less than two or three weeks since the Government provided two full days for a complete debate on the autumn statement. I do not accept her criticism.

I should have thought that some of what the hon. Lady said about small businesses might prove to be in order during that debate—although that will of course be a matter for you, Madam Speaker. The hon. Lady will know that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has asked the Bank of England to look into the banks' charging practices, and that he is also discussing those matters directly with the clearing banks.

I cannot undertake to provide time for a debate on Somalia in the near future, although there will be considerable opportunities in the business that I announced towards the end of my reply—the debates on the Christmas Adjournment and on the Consolidated Fund Bill. The hon. Lady may like to note that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs is due to be here next Monday to answer questions.

On the subject of voter registration, my understanding is that more than 95.5 per cent. of those eligible are believed to be on the register. Nevertheless, I shall draw the hon. Lady's remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Patrick Nicholls (Teignbridge)

May I ask my right hon. Friend to consider an urgent debate next week in the light of information that has come to me which suggests that facilities of the House are being grossly abused by the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Hain), to whom I have given notice.

Mr. Peter Hain (Neath)


Mr. Nicholls

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a letter was sent out on House of Commons stationery, using the pre-paid post—[Interruption.]

Madam Speaker

Order. Of course I want to hear the hon. Gentleman, if his point relates to the business statement and next week's business. If he can do that directly, I want to hear him.

Mr. Nicholls

I ask my right hon. Friend——

Mr. Hain


Madam Speaker

Order. Will the hon. Member for Teignbridge (Mr. Nicholls) make his position clear about next week's business?

Mr. Nicholls

I have given the hon. Member for Neath notice by writing to him and placing a letter on the board of the House. How often he checks the board is not a matter for me.

The matter that I have raised is important, and should be debated as a matter of urgency. If pre-paid stationery is sent out inviting people for a full silver service dinner, which will be followed by the evening's political lecture by the Leader of the Labour party, John Smith MP", and if such matters are being dealt with using the facilities of the House, that urgently requires a debate next week. If it is legitimate to pick over the contents of Ministers' Access statements, it is legitimate to talk about the grotesque waste of public money by Labour Members.

Mr. Hain

I have had no notice of the matter at all.

Mr. Newton

It may not surprise my hon. Friend the Member for Teignbridge (Mr. Nicholls), if I say that I do not believe that it will be possible for me to fit in a debate on that matter next week. No doubt the hon. Member for Neath and others, including you, Madam Speaker, may feel it right to consider the point that my hon. Friend has raised. Certainly it is my understanding that the use of the free post would not be appropriate for letters of that kind.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

As the Queen has now said that she is willing to pay income tax, and the Lord Chief Justice and the Master of the Rolls have said that they believe that we should sign up to the European convention on human rights, and implement it as part of the British legal system, and as there is great concern about future legal aid provisions, and widespread interest in how subsidiarity abroad might become subsidiarity at home, could we have a debate either in the remaining part of this year or early next year on the constitutional agenda that the Government consider to be relevant not just for this year but for the decade to come?

Mr. Newton

There have been considerable opportunities in the past two days to raise constitutional matters in various relationships, and I expect that there will be further opportunities after Christmas. I do not promise a further debate specifically on those matters.

Mr. Michael Stephen (Shoreham)

I too wish to ask my right hon. Friend whether he will make time available next week for a debate on the activities of the clearing banks. Many right hon. and hon. Members will have seen the annual report published this week by the banking ombudsman. I readily acknowledge that the banking ombudsman system was set up by the banks themselves and I also acknowledge that the banks are not charitable institutions. However, the report is a depressing litany of negligence, overcharging and failure to pay compensation. We have also recently seen an appalling example of a breach of the duty of confidentiality. Will my right hon. Friend make time available for an early debate on the subject?

Mr. Newton

I note what my hon. Friend has said. In expressing his concern, he speaks for many hon. Members of all parties. I have already made some comment about what my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has said and done in that respect. To the extent that many people allege that the problems have contributed to unemployment, it may be in order to raise them in the debate on Tuesday.

Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)

Is there to be a ministerial statement on the terrorist attack this morning on the citizens of Manchester, about which the city's representatives are, of course, utterly appalled and deeply concerned? What is the Government's latest information on the outrage, and are Ministers keeping in close touch with its effects on the life of the city?

Mr. Newton

I assure the right hon. Gentleman and all hon. Members who are concerned that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary is taking a very close interest in the matter. He will, of course, be concerned to do anything that can be done to support the efforts of the police both to track down those who perpetrated the events and to prevent them from recurring.

Mr. Winston Churchill (Davyhulme)

Will the Home Secretary or, in his absence, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, convey the Government's sympathy to the more than 65 victims of the terrorist bomb blasts in the city of Manchester this morning? Will my right hon. Friend further confirm that the Government will in no way be intimidated by such outrages and that the British people will never give in to terrorism?

Mr. Newton

I wholly endorse the latter part of my hon. Friend's remarks, and I assure him that I shall ensure that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, on behalf of all of us in the Government and in the House, conveys to the people who have had their lives damaged in Manchester today the thoughts that my hon. Friend has expressed.

Mr. Eddie McGrady (South Down)

Is the Leader of the House aware that the details of forthcoming public expenditure have not yet been announced for Northern Ireland? I understand that the details are to be announced next week by the Secretary of State, not in the House, but in Belfast, I presume, thereby depriving Northern Ireland Members of a debate on the consequences of the public expenditure proposals which, I understand, will be very drastic. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is most frustrating for Northern Ireland Members to know that parties outside the House will be briefed before the announcement is made?

Mr. Newton

I will draw the hon. Gentleman's remarks to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. I cannot promise an oral statement next week.

Mr. David Sumberg (Bury, South)

May I join my colleagues of all parties in echoing the call for a statement in relation to the awful tragedy that occurred in Manchester this morning? Will my right hon. Friend not only send a message of sympathy to those affected, but express our thanks to those who are helping the injured? Will he send a message to those who perpetrated the action that just as the people of Manchester resisted the Lufwaffe 50 years ago, they will equally resist the terrorists of today?

Mr. Newton

Again, I not only note my hon. Friend's remarks, but very much wish to echo them, not least by paying tribute to the work of those who helped to cope with the incidents and to keep the harm done by them to the lowest possible level.

Ms. Angela Eagle (Wallasey)

I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day motion 981 which was placed on the Order Paper yesterday following the announcement by Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd. that it intended to close Cammel Laird shipyard after 60 years of shipbuilding on Merseyside.

[That this House, mindful that Cammell Lairds was bought from taxpayers for £1, by VSEL, calls upon the owners, who have announced that they see no future for Lairds, to hand back this industrial asset so that others with drive and vision can begin planning a successful future for Lairds and so help safeguard the manufacturing base of Britain.]

That disgraceful decision threatens to put 900 people directly out of work and will withdraw £30 million of expenditure from the local economy and affect 5,000 other jobs. In the light of that economic holocaust which is threatened on Merseyside, will the Leader of the House allow time for us to debate the issue next week?

Mr. Newton

It is very clear that the issue raised by the hon. Lady, which manifestly relates to employment problems, could be included in the debate that is to take place on Tuesday. The Government and I personally very much regret the closure of Cammell Laird which reflects the worldwide reduction in the demand for warships. The Government are participating in activities designed to develop a redevelopment strategy for the site with the aim of creating new employment and give very substantial aid to the Merseyside development corporation.

Mrs. Edwina Currie (Derbyshire, South)

Am I right in thinking that, on the timetable that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has given us, we are likely to have only one more day's debate on the Maastricht Bill before the Christmas recess? Given the enormous majorities in the House last night, which must have warmed the cockles of my right hon. Friend's heart and those of the Patronage Secretary and of everyone else on the Government Front Bench, why do we not get on with it rather more quickly? We are aware that there are other things to debate in the House, but surely we can get on with the Maastricht Bill, get it out of the way, and then continue.

Mr. Newton

I would not want to mislead my hon. Friend. In the business that I announced until Monday 14 December, I did not announce another day on the European Communities (Amendment) Bill, but there is a substantial amount of important business in the programme that I announced which the House also needs to get through, including the discussions on fisheries matters which are of interest in several quarters of the House. However, I note with approval the enthusiasm of my hon. Friend the Member for Derbshire, South (Mrs. Currie) for making progress on the Bill which will certainly be shared in some, if not all, quarters of the House.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

The House will share the sympathy that I extend from the people of Northern Ireland to the people of Manchester, especially during a week when the people of Belfast have suffered continuously.

May I ask the Lord President whether we can have an urgent statement next week from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to clarify the situation whereby there seem to be conflicting comments from the Minister of State and the Northern Ireland Office vis-a-vis meetings with councillors from Sinn Fein, the protagonists of the IRA, at a time when councillors in Northern Ireland are asked to sit with them and when Northern Ireland courts are saying that they must be on sub-committees in the city hall when we know that even in this House, minority parties are not necessarily guaranteed places on committees—and they are certainly not guaranteed that in local government throughout the nation? I press for a statement, especially in view of the possibility—the Leader of the House may wish to consult the Attorney-General—that the next court case might oblige Ministers of the Crown to consort with them.

Mr. Newton

In view of the suggestion in the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's remarks, I will certainly have a conversation with my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General and will draw the remarks generally to the attention of the Attorney-General and my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The whole House—and certainly those hon. Members who represent Manchester and the people of Manchester—will be grateful for the sentiments that the hon. Gentleman expressed at the beginning of his remarks.

Mr. James Hill (Southampton, Test)

Will my right hon. Friend find time next week for a debate on value added tax? The bloodstock industry and fine arts, antiques and charity shops are staggering under the imposition of VAT. The whole issue must be totally reviewed in the new era of directives on VAT from Brussels.

Mr. Newton

I note what my hon. Friend says and I know that the Treasury Ministers are aware of the concerns being expressed, but I cannot promise that we can have a debate on this next week.

Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West)

As part of its inquiry into the unemployment effects of pit closures, the Select Committee on Employment is due tomorrow to go down a pit at Silverdale and the pit at Thentham. As the chairman of British Coal at first refused permission for my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mrs. Golding) to descend the pit in her constituency and, I am informed, has today reinforced and restated his ban on the media entering the colliery premises during that visit, could we have a debate, because it is surely important that Select Committees of this House should receive full co-operation from British Coal and from all other employers causing major unemployment by their decisions?

Mr. Newton

I sense from what the hon. and learned Gentleman says—that the chairman of British Coal at first refused permission—that that implies some change.

Mr. Janner

Yes, the hon. Lady will be coming down the pit with us, but there is no change in the banning of the media entering the colliery premises.

Mr Newton

Now I am slightly confused about what the hon. and learned Gentleman is saying, but the basic thrust of his point is clear and it would be the hope and expectation of the Government that proper co-operation would be given to a Select Committee of this House on a visit. On the other hand it must also be acknowledged—this is a problem that sometimes occurs when visits are made to DSS offices, as I well know—that it is necessarily a matter for management to decide whether there should be access by the media and I do not think that it necessarily follows from co-operation with the Select Committee that the media should be allowed access to the site. That has to be a matter for the management.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)

Would my right hon. Friend reconsider the business for next Thursday and would he, instead of that business, arrange a debate on foreign affairs on the Adjournment of the House, so that, before the Edinburgh summit, the House can consider, among other things, the destruction and devastation of an internationally recognised sovereign state and the progressive slaughter of a large number of its people, because many of my hon. Friends were much encouraged by the more positive noises coming from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office yesterday and hope that the Community will be able to adopt a firmer policy towards Serbia, which is undoubtedly the aggressor?

Mr. Newton

My hon. Friend's concern with these matters is very well known and he will have heard what the Prime Minister said during Question Time an hour or so ago. I cannot promise a debate of the kind he seeks next week, but I will ensure that his concern is drawn to the attention of my right hon. Friends.

Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East)

The Guardian newspaper has special links with Manchester, having been at one time The Manchester Guardian. It is therefore unfortunate that on 23 November it published an article by Ronan Bennett almost eulogising the activities of the IRA which is now seen to be particularly inappropriate to the situation which has developed in Manchester. I am sorry that we are not to have a statement today on Manchester, but perhaps at least the Leader of the House could support those people who intend to hold a vigil against this in Manchester on Saturday. Vigils are now being held persistently in London, Belfast, Manchester and wherever violence takes place, the peace movement is there.

Mr. Newton

I note the hon. Gentleman's comments on a particular newspaper article, which I am sure will be noted by the newspaper as well. On the subject of the vigils, I express my sympathetic support for anything which can contribute to preventing this sort of violence.

Mr. David Lidington (Aylesbury)

Will my right hon. Friend please find time in next week's business for either a debate or a statement on the future of the Stoke Mandeville hospital, which is of enormous concern to my constituents in Aylesbury? In particular, will he find an occasion for his colleagues from the Department of Health to assure both the House and my constituents that the £20 million capital programme now in preparation for that hospital will be given urgent and sympathetic consideration when it gets to that Department?

Mr. Newton

Having visited the hospital when I was Minister for Health about four or five years ago, I am conscious of the strong support that it has in the community and of the excellent work done there. Beyond that, I can help my hon. Friend by telling him that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and her fellow Ministers are due to be here on Tuesday next week to answer questions.

Mr. Ray Powell (Ogmore)

Will the Leader of the House consider a debate next week, because, as numerous organisations and traders have accepted the Home Secretary's decision to allow trading on Sunday and will open on the Sundays before Christmas, shop workers could be compelled to work on Sundays? Can I draw his attention to early-day motion 989, which was put down yesterday and signed by 67 hon. Members, dealing with the sacking of 89 persons who refused to work on Sundays?

[That this House roundly condemns the actions of Middlebrook Mushrooms and its parent company Booker Plc in sacking 89 of its part time staff and replacing them with casual labour at lower rates of pay; congratulates the Transport and General Worker's Union on its attempts to negotiate with both Middlebrook Mushrooms and. ACAS; expresses its grave concern that this situation has developed as a direct result of supermarket chains such as ASDA and Sainsbury's decision to open on Sundays; believes that the 89 sacked are amongst the first casualties of Sunday trading; and urges proper protection of pay and conditions not only for retail workers but for those who supply and transport goods in any new legislation on Sunday trading.]

That is an escalation of what is happening throughout the country, when workers refuse to work in shops and other establishments on Sundays. It is a direct result of the Home Secretary's failure to ensure that the Shops Act 1950 is complied with by all the people in this country. I ask for an early debate next week, so that the matter can be resolved.

Mr. Newton

The hon. Gentleman has tabled a private Member's Bill on the subject, which we are due to see and to hear more of in the new year. He is very well informed about the matter and knows that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary made a full statement on the position and the Government's intentions last week. The Government have outlined how they will proceed, once the uncertainty caused by the present European Court of Justice hearing is resolved.

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley)

May I press my right hon. Friend on the same matter that my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham (Mr. Stephen) mentioned—for a debate next week on the banks? It is required not merely because of the shocking report from the banking ombudsman, which showed a 62 per cent. increase in complaints received this year, on top of a 60 per cent. rise last year, but also following the creation of the Banking Action Group—an organisation looking after the interests of small businesses, which have faced high interest charges, over-charging and high commission charges, as well as the short term approach of some banks in their lending policies towards small businesses.

Mr. Newton

I appreciate why my hon. Friend has thought it right to press me further on that matter, but perhaps he will understand that I cannot add to the answers that I have given on two previous occasions. I do not think that it would be beyond his ingenuity to devise a speech in next Tuesday's debate which could relate to some of those matters.

Mr. Hain

First, is it in order, Madam Speaker, to ask for an apology from the hon. Member for Teignbridge (Mr. Nicholls), who gave me no notice of his statement?

Madam Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Teignbridge said that he had put a letter on the board. I am afraid that the hon. Member for Neath cannot seek an apology through me. He must find some other method. I ask him to respond to the business statement.

Mr. Hain

Could we have a Government statement next week on the massive job cuts announced today in the Post Office? More than 16,000 jobs are due to go in Post Office Counters and the Royal Mail letters divisions. Why has the President of the Board of Trade sanctioned those job cuts, and the wholesale reorganisation of the Post Office involved without first getting Parliament's approval? In July, he announced a review of the Post Office, but he has pre-empted it before reporting back to Parliament, by allowing the cuts together. Surely they are a dress rehearsal for Post Office privatisation.

Mr. Newton

The hon. Gentleman will have noted that my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade is here and will have heard what he said, although he is present to deal with other business. While I understand the hon. Gentleman's concern, the decisions are primarily operational matters for Post Office management and are certainly not directly related to the review of its structure and ownership, nor do they require my right hon. Friend's permission.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

I wonder whether time could be allocated for a debate on the new rules for the Register of Members' Interests. It has been outstanding for many months. Indeed, the report was presented in the last Parliament, not this. If the debate had been undertaken and conclusions reached, it would have helped answer the question raised in early-day motion 988, tabled by my hon. Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon), in which a question is raised as to whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to have registered the £19,000 which had been given to him as a gift, because that would have clarified the rules.

[That this House urges the Chancellor of the Exchequer to register through the Register of Members' Interests the source of the £19,000 paid on his behalf in settlement of the balance of a personal legal bill and to indicate if, under section 153 of the Income and Corporate Taxes Act 1988, he has paid income tax on the total amount involved.]

I realise that the Chancellor is confused about the economy, about his position and about this gift, but he is setting a very bad example of non-registration of business interests by failing to declare a huge gift such as that.

Mr. Newton

My right hon. Friend would not have been in a position to declare the source of this payment because he had no knowledge of the source, as he made clear earlier in the week.

On the principal point of the hon. Gentleman's question—the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) I know has a close interest in these matters—I said last week that we have now achieved the setting up of the new Select Committee on Members' Interests, which I think has now had its first meeting. That should pave the way for publishing the Register for the new Parliament. I hope that the Chairman of the Committee will not mind my saying that I have already had an informal discussion with him with a view to identifying the appropriate way to proceed on the matters which the hon. Gentleman has raised.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

Can the Leader of the House focus on the debate on fishing next Wednesday? I accept that it is probably correct to have the common fisheries policy debate and the Lords amendments to the Sea Fish (Conservation) Bill on the same day, but will he ensure that the timetabling for the CFP debate will be such as to allow the huge numbers of hon. Members with fishing interests to contribute to that debate on what is an absolutely vital change in a fundamental policy affecting many tens of thousands of people?

When it comes to the conservation Bill, will he consider the possibility of a free vote on the Lords amendments, because he will be aware that many of his hon. Friends have had to choose between their constituents and their party on that issue. It would be nice, just for a change, to allow hon. Gentlemen representing fishing communities to vote with their consciences rather than for their careers.

Mr. Newton

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that he will get a very cautious answer to the latter part of that question, since among the things that are certainly not my responsibility is the advice that is offered to my hon. Friends about how they should approach these or any other votes. There may be somebody else in the Chamber who has heard what the hon. Gentleman has said, however. With regard to the timing of the debate, the Common Fisheries Policy debate allocation is a full day. I cannot, of course, promise at this stage that there will not be any statements or anything else that may eat into the time a bit, but it is a full day's debate and there should be ample opportunity for all those who wish to speak, provided that they do so reasonably succinctly.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Would it be possible for the Foreign Secretary to make a statement early next week on what steps are being taken by the Government to draw the attention of other European countries and, in particular, the United States to the death and destruction committed by the Provisional IRA, so that they may understand the terror campaign being waged on the mainland and, as we saw again tragically during the week, the destruction of much of a centre in Belfast, with many severe injuries? Should not people abroad, therefore, understand that we are dealing with murderers—people who, as was demonstrated in the recent Irish general election, have no electoral support whatsoever among the Irish people? That is the message that we should get across internationally, and as soon as possible.

Mr. Newton

It is very clear that many hon. Members on both sides of the House will warmly welcome those remarks by the hon. Gentleman. I will draw them to the attention of my right hon. and hon. Friends concerned, because they make persistent efforts to ensure that the nature of the incidents that happen here is properly understood abroad.

Several Hon. Members

rose ——

Madam Speaker

Order. We must now move on. Before I call the Secretary of State——

Mr. Ken Eastham (Manchester, Blackley)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker

Order. I have to take points of order, as the hon. Gentleman knows, after——

Mr. Eastham

I am a Manchester Member and I would like to say something about what happened in Manchester.

Madam Speaker

I am sorry. It was most remiss of me. I will give the hon. Gentleman an opportunity. I call Mr. Ken Eastham.

Mr. Eastham

Thank you, Madam Speaker, and I am sure that I speak for all the people of Manchester when I say that, following the atrocity that occurred there, we are grateful for the sympathy that has been expressed in the House.

Is the Leader of the House aware that, within the last 10 days, I have passed to the Home Office a petition signed by a good number of Manchester citizens complaining about inadequate police provision? Yesterday I received a letter from Lord Ferris saying that there would be no extra funding this year or next year to allow for the provision of more police. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that instead of just sympathy, the people should be offered more protection through the police?

Mr. Newton

I appreciate why the hon. Gentleman felt it right to make that point, and I shall ensure that my right hon. and learned Friend is made aware of it. But I think it has been right to put the main emphasis this afternoon on expressing our distaste for what has happened. Indeed, that is a very mild word to use. It is right to express distress and offer our sympathy to the people involved, including the police, and at the same time congratulate the police on their work in that connection.