HC Deb 16 December 1992 vol 216 cc431-43 3.30 pm
Mr. Nicholas Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne, East)

Will the Leader of the House tell us the forthcoming business?

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

The business for the first week after the Christmas Adjournment will be as follows:

MONDAY 11 JANUARY—Remaining stages of the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Bill.

TUESDAY 12 JANUARY—Opposition day (8th allotted day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion, subject to be announced.

Motion on the Insurance Companies (Amendment No. 2) Regulations.

WEDNESDAY 13 JANUARY—European Communities (Amendment) Bill. Progress in Committee—third day.

THURSDAY 14 JANUARY—European Communities (Amendment) Bill. Progress in Committee—fourth day.

FRIDAY 15 JANUARY—Private Members' Bills.

The House will also wish to know that European Standing Committee B will meet on Wednesday 13 January at 10.30 am to consider European Community Document No. 9752/91 relating to investment and management of pension funds.

[Wednesday 13 January:

Mr. Brown

In the light of recent events in Bosnia, will the Leader of the House give us an assurance that, if there are any new developments in the immediate future, the Government will make a statement tomorrow morning? In any event, will he assure us that the House will be informed at the earliest possible opportunity whether there is any change in Britain's present commitment?

Will the Leader of the House assure us that there will be an early debate on the investigation into the pit closure programme? As he will be aware, substantial concern has been expressed that one pit face in Nottingham has already closed, and there is some doubt as to whether there will be a complete and fairly judged review.

Will the Leader of the House invite the Secretary of State for Health to make a statement on the workings of the internal market, especially in the context of the Tomlinson report? We understand that certain matters were deleted from the report at her insistence and we should like to question her about that.

Will the Leader of the House give us an assurance that the crimes committed in the Maxwell pension fund affair could not possibly recur, at least during the Christmas recess? What assurance can he give us about that?

Mr. Newton

I shall take the hon. Gentleman's questions in order.

It is always my wish, and, I know, that of my right hon. Friends, to inform the House in an appropriate way at the earliest opportunity of significant changes, should there be any, on a matter as important as Bosnia. However, there is no basis for suggesting that that might lead to a statement tomorrow, which I think is what the hon. Gentleman meant.

I can do no more than note the hon. Gentleman's request for an early debate on pit closures. If he has in mind the period after Christmas, I point out that there is an opportunity available to the Opposition, should they wish to take it, in the business that I have just announced.

The hon. Gentleman referred to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health. I understand that the Tomlinson report reflects the inquiry's terms of reference. It was not doctored at any stage and contains the views that Sir Bernard wished to express. Almost every statement that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health makes relates to the internal market of the NHS and reflects its success in increasing the amount of treatment provided.

Again, I note the hon. Gentleman's ingenious question about the Maxwell pension fund. I recognise the welcome given by the Select Committee on Social Security to the inquiry into the matter that the Government have set up with a view to ensuring that difficulties are prevented in future.

Mr. John Biffen (Shropshire, North)

If, during the Christmas recess, there should be a further commitment of British armed forces into what was Yugoslavia, will my right hon. Friend give an undertaking that that decision would be the subject not merely of a statement but of a debate in the House during the first week back, even if that meant rearranging business?

Mr. Newton

I very much take on board my right hon. Friend's suggestion. He will understand—this echoes what I said to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Brown)—that I do not wish to add to the words that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister uttered on the subject generally in the House yesterday afternoon.

Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)

Does the Leader of the House recognise that there is concern among hon. Members of all parties that we should be informed of the latest moves on the enforcement of the no-fly zone? The Prime Minister referred yesterday to the conference today in Geneva and to the conference on security and co-operation in Europe which meets today in Stockholm. In the circumstances, it would be appropriate to have a report tomorrow on the matter before the House rises.

Will the right hon. Gentleman ask whether the Lord Chancellor will make a statement on the contraction of eligibility for legal aid in the light of the announcement today that representatives of the Bar Council, of the Law Society and of many other lawyers' organisations are willing to enter meaningful discussions about reducing the cost of legal aid, including the possibility of a pay freeze?

Mr. Newton

I note the hon. Gentleman's observation on the earlier matter. He will, of course, reflect on the fact that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister also referred to discussions at the North Atlantic Council on Thursday in addition to the two gatherings to which the hon. Gentleman referred.

I shall ensure that my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Lord Chancellor's Department are made aware of the hon. Gentleman's request on the question of legal aid and reports in today's papers.

Sir Dudley Smith (Warwick and Leamington)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that some of us have parliamentary duties away from this place at, for example, the Western European Union and the Council of Europe? In view of the fact that the European Communities (Amendment) Bill may go on for the rest of our parliamentary lives, does my right hon. Friend think that it would be helpful for those of us who have other official commitments to have the same two days every week delineated by my right hon. Friend so that we know where we are and can make our plans?

Mr. Newton

Without wishing to seem to endorse what I would term my hon. Friend's overweening pessimism, I note his request, which has come from one or two other quarters of the House on earlier occasions. I recognise the need to take account as far as we can of things that are occurring elsewhere when it is proper to do so, and I note the latter part of his request. I cannot give my hon. Friend an absolute promise at present, but I shall consider whether there are ways in which I could be helpful to the House, which I will describe at some later stage.

Mr. David Jamieson (Plymouth, Devonport)

The Leader of the House will be aware of the importance of the award of the nuclear refit contract to either Devonport Management Ltd. in Devonport, in my constituency, or to Babcock Thorn in Rosyth. There is clear and growing evidence that there has been a leak of vital commercial information from the DML bid to Babcock Thorn. The award of the contract involves the jobs and futures of more than 40,000 workers in both England and Scotland.

In the light of the change in stance on the matter by the Minister of State for Defence Procurement since he answered a debate in the House on 25 November this year, and as the Secretary of State for Defence has not yet found time to answer my letter to him of 7 December, will the Leader of the House allow time immediately after the recess for the Secretary of State for Defence to make a statement or to answer a debate on this matter of great national importance?

Mr. Newton

The hon. Gentleman made a number of points and I certainly shall not attempt to answer all of them off the cuff, but I shall bring them to the attention of my right hon. Friend. As for the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's comments, he should note that questions to the Ministry of Defence are at the top of the list for the Tuesday of the week that we return after Christmas.

Mr. William Powell (Corby)

My right hon. Friend will be aware that there is continuing disappointment in the House that he has failed to give his considered view on the recommendations made in the report of the Committee chaired by my right hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling). When does he expect to make a statement to the House on the future of the proposals?

Mr. Newton

I cannot give my hon. Friend a definite date, but my contacts through the usual channels are continuing, and I hope to come forward with my views without too much further delay. As on previous occasions, may I say that a number of important aspects of the Jopling report have clearly been reflected in practice in the way that we have managed to operate the business of the House in recent weeks.

Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)

In view of the appalling impression given to people outside by the televising of debates in the House, and in view of the fact that the succubi in the Press Gallery are the only ones who benefit financially and professionally from televising the proceedings of the House, would it not be advisable to have a debate on the matter so that the House may decide once and for all to remove that technical incunabula from the place?

Mr. Newton

I am aware from experience that one always disagrees with the hon. Gentleman at one's peril, but personally I do not share his view about the overall impression of the place created by television, which I believe has done a great deal to enhance public interest in Parliament and politics.

Mr. Peter Thurnham (Bolton, North-East)

Will my right hon. Friend find time for an early debate—preferably over two days—on the consultation paper on the future of the BBC? I have received a lot of correspondence about it, and I am sure that many right hon. and hon. Members would want to participate in such a debate.

Mr. Newton

I shall certainly bear in mind my hon. Friend's request; but I do not want to encourage any hopes of a two-day debate.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Home Secretary to come to the House tomorrow before we rise for the recess to give clear guidance to people throughout the country in the light of the European Court's judgment that it is time that the laws of the land on Sunday trading should be observed?

Mr. Newton

I should perhaps mention, as there will be widespread interest in the matter, that my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General will be answering a question this afternoon about the legal consequences of the judgment of the European Court of Justice. The hon. Gentleman will also be aware that, on 26 November at the Dispatch Box, my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary described the way that the Government wanted to progress in relation to the legislation once they had the European Court judgment.

Mr. Bob Dunn (Dartford)

Will my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House arrange for an early debate in the new year to remind Members of Parliament that what they say and publish must be accurate and based on fact? The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw)—we are all delighted that he is no longer getting stoned in India—recently published a statement to say that there were now fewer teachers in employment when, in fact, more teachers are in employment than ever before. Such disgraceful behaviour by the Opposition has simply got to stop.

Mr. Newton

While I have not seen the paper to which my hon. Friend refers, I have no doubt that the hon. Member for Blackburn will carefully study what he said and will wish to correct any errors that he has put about. Manifestly, all of us would agree that we have a duty to ensure that what we say is straightforward and accurate.

Mr. Derek Enright (Hemsworth)

I wish to thank the Leader of the House because, as a result of my request to him about miners' payments before Christmas, I received a prompt reply from the Minister concerned the next day, saying that the bonus would be paid as usual. That was subsequently repudiated by British Coal, and this morning that repudiation was confirmed by the President of the Board of Trade. Will the Leader of the House therefore ask the Prime Minister to come to the House to debate early-day motion 1085, standing in my name?

[That this House recalls and approves the statement of the President of the Board of Trade that miners in pits under review would not lose benefits at the most advantageous rate; notes the confirmation by British Coal that they would withhold the vast majority of these payments despite a statement from the Minister of Energy to the contrary; and calls upon the President of the Board of Trade to intervene urgently, ensuring that payments are made before Christmas.]

Will the Leader of the House ask the Prime Minister to persuade British Coal to behave like Scrooge after rather than before his conversion?

Mr. Newton

The hon. Gentleman asked whether I would bring the Prime Minister to the House to debate his early-day motion. I fear that, as he may have foreseen, I do not expect to be in a position to do that. In view of the hon. Gentleman's kind remarks at the beginning of his question, I shall again make inquiries, once business questions are over.

Mr. Roy Thomason (Bromsgrove)

Will my right hon. Friend arrange for time to be given for an early debate on Britain's contribution to the European Community to give us the opportunity not only to congratulate the Prime Minister on the outcome of the Edinburgh summit but, particularly, to expose the hypocrisy of Opposition Members who appear intent on pouring British taxpayers' money—

Madam Speaker

Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that "hypocrite" and "hypocrisy" are not words that we tend to bandy across the Chamber.

Mr. Thomason

In that case, Madam Speaker, may I withdraw and use instead the word "inconsistency"?

Madam Speaker

That is perfectly acceptable.

Mr. Newton

Clearly, the spirit of Chirstmas is now suffusing the House. I warmly endorse my hon. Friend's remarks about the success of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister at Edinburgh, both on that matter and on a number of others. As I said in my statement, I shall be providing the House with two full days' worth of opportunities to make a wide variety of comments about Europe.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Is the Leader of the House aware that people will be extremely disappointed that the House will be breaking up for Christmas without any statement being made on the latest developments in British policy towards Bosnia? Is the right hon. Gentleman further aware that those of us who have been reluctant in recent months to condone military action remain of that view but nevertheless believe that the crimes and atrocities that are being committed by the Serbians in their so-called ethnic cleansing programme are totally unacceptable in today's world and cry out for United Nations action?

A statement should be made before the Christmas break so that the people of Britain may know to what extent we should commit ourselves. I am not suggesting that we should commit ourselves all the way by any means, but we need some action so that the criminals who now control Belgrade realise that the international community cannot stay silent or indifferent to what is happening.

Mr. Newton

The whole House will agree with the hon. Gentleman's condemnation of what is going on in the areas to which he referred. I touched on the question of a statement and debate in a number of earlier answers and I have nothing to add. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will agree, however, that the Prime Minister spoke in firm terms yesterday and referred—as I did during the Christmas Adjournment motion debate on Monday—to the vigorous language of the Edinburgh Council conclusions.

Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

May we have an opportunity to debate early-day motions 991, 992 and 1040?

[That this House is concerned that for the last 10 years Councillor J. Brooks has been Labour Leader of Monklands District Council, where with the help of the local Labour Party he has achieved a position of near absolute power which has resulted in (1) a £1 million land deal for a company owned by Councillor Brooks and his brother, whereby the company acquired council land for £50,000 and forced through planning permission to make the land worth more than £1 million, the payment of generous fees to Councillor Brooks and his brother and other expenses followed by the company being placed in liquidation with unpaid bills to third party creditors of over £200,000, (2) the employment by the Council of Councillor Brooks' son in Direct Works, another son in the Planning Department and a daughter in a temporary post, (3) the sacking from council employment of Labour Party member Tom McFarlane at 51 years of age, believed to be the only Monklands District Council worker ever made redundant without being offered alternative employment, because he and his wife had dared to question the internal procedures of the local Labour Party and its corrupt rule of the Council and (4) the attempt by Councillor Brooks to cover up the mafia-like behaviour of himself and other Labour councillors by seeking to obtain council funding for legal fees for a private libel action against the local newspaper and by starting a council-owned free newspaper; believes that other allegations about relationships between the expenditure of council money and benefits to Councillor Brooks and his family need to be independently investigated; and is further concerned that the manner in which the Labour Party is governing local councils in Scotland is against the public interest and requires to be independently investigated.]

My right hon. Friend will be aware that, at Scottish questions, the conduct of Monklands district council was raised on a number of occasions. As there is an Opposition day on the Tuesday after we return, will my right hon. Friend persuade the Leader of the Opposition, who happens to have Monklands district in his constituency, that that is an opportunity to have the matter properly aired and all the charges properly examined so that the situation can be resolved?

Mr. Newton

I am happy to say that that is a question for the Opposition rather than for me. I understand that there were some somewhat heated exchanges on the matter earlier, and I regard it as my role now to try to reduce the temperature.

Mr. Ray Powell (Ogmore)

The Leader of the House has just been asked a question on the ruling by the European Court on Sunday trading, and he referred to a reply given by the Home Secretary on 26 November which, in essence, was that he would put the Sunday trading laws in abeyance until such time as the court had ruled. The ruling was announced this morning. Surely the Home Secretary or the Attorney-General should be here to make a statement before we go into recess, and before all the large stores are allowed to trade illegally on the Sunday before Christmas. Also, one of them should be here to explain in detail the Government's interpretation of whether the Shops Act 1950 should apply or whether they will leave the law in abeyance despite the ruling of the European Court.

I want a clear decision this afternoon from the Government, through the Leader of the House, which will give guidance to all our people about whether Sunday trading is legal in the run-up to Christmas and before 22 January, when the House will accept my Bill.

Mr. Newton

It is important that I make it clear that I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's interpretation of the statement—it was not an answer to a question—by my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary on 26 November. On the latter part of his question, I already made it clear in my reply to another hon. Gentleman that the Attorney-General is answering a question this afternoon setting out his view of the position.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)

In view of the fact that my right hon. Friend has not been able to announce a debate on foreign affairs before the end of the year, and as he could devote only 10 minutes to the subject in his speech in the debate on Monday because of his generosity to others, will he arrange for a debate on foreign affairs and especially on the situation in Bosnia? Hon. Members on both sides of the House, of all shades of opinion, want a debate, so could we please discuss the matter in the week that we come back and change the business accordingly?

Mr. Newton

I note my hon. Friend's request, but he would not expect me to go further in view of the fact that I have just announced the business. As I said at the time, he made an impressive speech in the debate on the Christmas Adjournment motion. The principal reason that I was unable to devote much time to replying to him was that I made a short speech—as did the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Brown)—to allow Back Benchers to have as much of the debate as possible. I devoted virtually all my speech to answering my hon. Friend and neglected other hon. Members.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

Will the Leader of the House contact the Home Secretary to arrange for an urgent statement to be made to the House on the removal of Lorrain Osman from this country to Hong Kong last night? He has been held in remand in British prisons for seven years, mostly in maximum security. His family saw him at 7.30 pm yesterday, in the company of his solicitor, Mr. Kingston, and they were not told anything. Two hours later, he was bundled on a plane to Hong Kong, where he arrived earlier today, despite the fact that an appeal to the House of Lords was pending against the decision of the Home Secretary grant an extradition order for him.

I and many people outside the House believe that the case needs to be brought out into the open. Undoubtedly, Mr. Osman has a great deal of information about the goings-on in Hong Kong and Malaysia, which also needs to be brought out into the open. There is deep anger about the way in which Mr. Osman has been treated, the length of time that he has spent in prison, and the information needs to come out now, in public.

Mr. Newton

The facts, as I understand them, are that Mr. Osman has been resisting extradition since he was committed into custody to await surrender in June 1987. The Home Secretary signed a warrant for his surrender in June this year. Mr. Osman and those representing him have been made well aware that he would be surrendered to the Hong Kong authorities as soon as outstanding legal proceedings had been completed. Following the refusal of his petition for leave to appeal to the House of Lords last night, which was immediately notified to Mr. Osman's legal representatives, steps were taken to remove him to Hong Kong.

Mr. John Butcher (Coventry, South-West)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that we are approaching a period of great danger in the Balkans and that our indignation and anger over what is going on in Sarajevo could lead to a chain of events that could, unhappily, go out of control? Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to remind the House of the strong links between Serbia and its fellow Slays in Russia, which is led by a Government who are looking increasingly beleaguered and nationalist? For those reasons, would it not be wise to involve the Russian Government closely in any initiative in the Balkans and for us not to use NATO as a vehicle for seeking a solution—

Madam Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is putting political issues to the Leader of the House. We are dealing with the business of the House in the week after the recess. Many hon. Members have a question to ask. I am trying my best to accommodate all of them, but I shall not be able to do so if hon. Members make long statements and in consequence long replies are given. Questions and answers should be brief so that I can call all hon. Members.

Mr. Butcher

Will the Leader of the House make time for a debate in the House before the recess, because it would be a tragedy if we were to sleepwalk into an international crisis before we had a proper discussion?

Mr. Newton

I am grateful for the measured way in which my hon. Friend spoke. He will understand that I have already touched on the matter several times, but I shall ensure that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is aware of what he has said.

Dr. Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak)

In view of Birmingham city council's announcement today that all job vacancies are to be frozen, that new spending commitments are to be halted and that there are to be 3,000 redundancies in the next financial year as a result of the Government's revenue support grant settlement, and the likelihood of similar announcements from other councils as their treasurers get to grips with the figures, will the Leader of the House arrange for an early debate on the Government's local government policy and its impact on services and jobs, and hence on the wider economy?

Mr. Newton

The hon. Lady will be aware that the local government settlement involved a substantial increase. I note her request for a debate.

Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)

In view of the presentation today of the National Lottery Etc. Bill, tomorrow's announcement by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage, the great deal of good that that Bill will do for the arts, sport, charities and our heritage, and its widespread support in the House and the country, how soon can we expect a Second Reading debate?

Mr. Newton

Not in the first week after the recess.

Mr. Norman Hogg (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth)

The Leader of the House will be aware that the Government have published two policy papers in relation to Scotland, one dealing with local government and the other with the future of the water supply industry. As water privatisation was not mentioned in the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party's manifesto, on which it fought and lost the election in Scotland, may we have an early debate on the Floor of the House on those major policy matters?

Mr. Newton

To give a direct answer to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question, I am aware of the publication of those documents. The widespread consultation will be completed at the end of January, and I would not want to promise a debate within that time scale.

Mr. John Bowis (Battersea)

My right hon. Friend may recall my invitation to him to join me in a walk over London's bridges. In the light of a written answer that I have received which shows that just about every bridge from Hampton Court to the sea will be closed or partly closed to traffic in the next six months, will my right hon. Friend arrange for a statement to be made either tomorrow or early in January? If not, all he can do is make a Christmas present to each of my constituents of a course on walking on water, as that will be the only way that they will be able to get here.

Mr. Newton

That is an ingenious question, but I shall still not take up my hon. Friend's offer to join him on a walk over Christmas. I note his request, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport and my hon. Friend the Minister for Transport in London will also note his point. A debate on London transport on the Consolidated Fund was initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) at some unearthly hour of the night, but I am not sure whether my hon. Friend managed to speak in it.

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

Members' interests.

Mr. Newton

I think that the hon. Gentleman knows that I have been in touch with my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Sir G. Johnston Smith), the Chairman of the Select Committee on Members' Interests, who I understand has made firm arrangements for the publication of the new Register. He has also put to me proposals for debating other recommendations in the Select Committee report. I have discussed those with him in the past few days, and I shall consider them through the usual channels.

Mr. Phil Gallie (Ayr)

Bearing in mind today's tragic bombings in Oxford street, would my right hon. Friend consider announcing a debate to address the shameful situation in which people residing within our island seem to have no regard at all for the welfare, life or limb of others?

Mr. Newton

I do not think that I can promise an early debate, but all hon. Members will echo my hon. Friend's comments.

Mr. Denzil Davies (Llanelli)

In his report to the House on Monday about the Edinburgh summit, the Prime Minister said that the agreement on the Danish opt-out was between Heads of State and Governments and indicated that it was outwith the Maastricht arrangements. If that is the case, and if as a result it may not be possible to discuss those arrangements during debate on the European Communities (Amendment) Bill, may we have an assurance that that agreement between Governments can be debated in the House?

Mr. Newton

I certainly cannot give the hon. Gentleman that assurance off the cuff. What is in order during debate on the Bill is a matter for the Chairman of Ways and Means and not for me.

Dr. Liam Fox (Woodspring)

Will my right hon. Friend consider an early debate on the European fighter aircraft, because the Government's success in keeping that project afloat, if I may use that term in the context of an aircraft, has important implications, not only for this country's defences, but for the maintenance of jobs in the United Kingdom, not least in the Bristol area?

Mr. Newton

My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence will be answering questions in the first week after the recess. I am sure that all hon. Members will welcome yet another achievement by the Government, who have brought the project to its present state with their current prospects.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement to be made as soon as possible on the issue of dioxin in Bolsover and the fact that Coalite, a friend of the Tory Government, is planning to build a new incinerator? I have a petition containing the names of thousands of people who are protesting against the incinerator. At a time when Coalite shares have dropped to about 6p on the stock exchange, will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that a planted question on the subject by a Tory Member will be answered this afternoon so that Coalite can be given a lifeline and farmers can be allowed to operate again, just because the National Farmers Union has taken out a case against Coalite in the court? It sounds to me as if this Tory Government are aiding and abetting their friends at Coalite, and it is time that it was stopped.

Mr. Newton

I am a little uncertain about precisely what the hon. Gentleman is asking me to do. I note his points, and I shall, of course, ensure that my right hon. Friend is made aware of the vigour with which he has put them.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)

Will the Leader of the House do everything possible to persuade the Prime Minister to make a statement tomorrow on Bosnia? A statement would coincide with the arrival here of the first 100 detainees from Bosnia. If the official Opposition made Bosnia the subject of their Supply day debate on the first Tuesday back, would the Leader of the House consider switching business on the Wednesday, thereby providing for a two-day debate which would enable hon. Members to address what is clearly the most serious and dangerous political crisis facing Europe at this time?

Mr. Newton

I respect the hon. Gentleman's view and the reasons for his request, but I do not think that I can add to what I said at the start of these exchanges. The hon. Gentleman asked about the Opposition Supply day. That is entirely a matter for the usual channels and Opposition Members, who I see are nodding in agreement. However, I should not encourage hopes that the Government would wish to add a second day.

Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann)

May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to what the Secretary of State for Scotland said earlier this afternoon? In referring to his consideration of the governance of Scotland, he said that he was giving particular consideration to improving the way in which Scottish affairs are handled in the House and to increasing the effectiveness of Scottish representatives. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is a uniquely suitable subject for an early debate next year, especially as representatives of what the Chancellor of the Exchequer inelegantly calls "the other territories" within the country have a particular interest in ensuring that they are treated at least as well as Scotland?

Mr. Newton

We are always seeking to improve the way in which all parts of the United Kingdom are governed and also to improve British government as a whole. However, I do not think that I can promise an early debate on those matters in the new year.

Mr. Bryan Davies (Oldham, Central and Royton)

On the matter of the National Lottery Etc. Bill, which is to be presented today, will the right hon. Gentleman dispel the unfortunate rumour that it might first be introduced in the Upper House? Does he recognise that, given the range of opinions on the Bill, it is important that it should be introduced in the Lower House?

Mr. Newton

It is my expectation that the Bill will be introduced in this House.

Madam Speaker

Indeed, presentation of the Bill is to be the next item of business.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

On the question of the European Court's decision on Sunday trading, will the right hon. Gentleman assure us that a statement will be made by the Secretary of State for the Environment? Is not the task of catching the lawbreakers, who treat the law with indifference and effrontery by opening Sunday after Sunday, in the hands of local authorities—which are short of the money that they need to prosecute those companies?

Will the right hon. Gentleman also tell us how much money he intends to give local authorities? Should he not encourage them to prosecute the big corporations that treat the law with such contempt, or are the Government being slow on that because organisations such as B and Q are considerable contributors to the Conservative party and expect something in return? If that is the truth, as I and others believe, it is a deplorable case of political corruption.

Mr. Newton

It is clear that the spirit of Christmas has now left the Chamber. I sometimes find that I am a little weary of the extent to which the hon. Gentleman sees conspiracy in absolutely everything. I have already made a brief comment on local authority financing. He is right to say that the primary role in enforcing the law on Sunday trading rests with local authorities—the precise point made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General in the answer to which I have already referred.

Mr. Calum Macdonald (Western Isles)

If there cannot be a statement tomorrow or during our first week back, may we have a debate on Bosnia during the first fortnight after the House returns? The subject has dominated business questions today, and that should be reflected in our business after the recess.

Mr. Newton

The hon. Gentleman is right to say that there has been much reference to Bosnia in our exchanges. Indeed, it has been quite striking, as it was in the Christmas Adjournment motion debate earlier this week.

I cannot add to what I said earlier, but the hon. Gentleman will have noted the suggestion of his hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) that it is a subject for debate that the Opposition, apart from anyone else, might wish to consider.

Dr. John Marek (Wrexham)

In view of the flagrant breaking of the law by companies such as B and Q, other do-it-yourself stores and various supermarkets, and also the apparent abetting of those actions by the Home Secretary when he said that the law was in abeyance, does not the right hon. Gentleman think that the matter is too serious to be left to a written answer? Surely the Home Secretary should come to the House and make a statement, on which he can be questioned by hon. Members, about the current position following the judgment of the European Court?

Mr. Newton

My right hon. and learned Friend made a specific statement on 26 November about his intentions in the wake of the judgment, whose timing we did not then know. He set out clearly and, in my view, sensibly how the Government hoped to proceed. The interpretation of the law is a matter for my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General—the very point on which he has answered a question this afternoon.

Mr. Mike O'Brien (Warwickshire, North)

Will the Leader of the House arrange for an urgent ministerial response to the statement by the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis in the Home Affairs Select Committee this morning? He said that the police may have inadequate powers to deal with IRA terrorism. In particular, he voiced his concern about the need for an urgent clarification of the law on the ability of the police to carry out random road checks to prevent IRA terrorists from bringing lorries and equipment into central London and other towns.

Mr. Newton

The hon. Gentleman will hardly expect me to comment on his account—not that I have reason to doubt it—of something that took place in a Select Committee hearing this morning. He will have seen, as I have, reports of action that the police have taken in recent weeks, which appears to be effective and precisely of the kind to which he referred.

Mr. John Hutton (Barrow and Furness)

Will the Leader of the House reconsider his earlier response to the request by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Brown) and arrange for a statement to be made by the Secretary of State for Health in the first week after the recess about the current problems facing the national health service? Many hospitals and health authorities, not least in my constituency, face an acute cash crisis, which might lead to the closure of operating theatres and surgical wards. If ever there were a need for a statement by the Secretary of State for Health, it is in the first week after the recess.

Mr. Newton

The current position in the health service, put briefly, is that we have increased spending by 58 per cent. in real terms since we first came to office, and the extra £1 billion for next year will allow nearly 200,000 more acute in-patients and day patients to be treated in England alone.

Mr. Bill Olner (Nuneaton)

Is the Leader of the House aware of the decision reached today by the Secretary of State for Defence on youth training within the armed forces for junior leaders and apprentice training? Does he realise the effect that it will have on my constituency, with the closure of Bramcote barracks, with the loss of civilian jobs and thousands of pounds from the local economy? Will he arrange for an early statement to be made to the House next year?

Mr. Newton

My right hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces is answering a written question this afternoon about the restructuring of Army training bases and has written to all hon. Members whose constituencies are affected. The hon. Gentleman may be aware that one of the Adjournment debates tomorrow—admittedly it will be brief—is on redundancies in the defence industry. Perhaps he could make a brief intervention in that debate. To do so, it would be up to him to come to an understanding with one of his hon. Friends.

Mr. Nigel Griffiths (Edinburgh, South)

I would like to think, Madam Speaker, that you are saving the best until last.

Will the Leader of the House allow time for an early debate on the 17 deaths and 9,000 injuries in the home through electrical accidents each year caused in part by the Government's failure, over the past five years, to insist that every electrical household appliance should be sold with a pre-fitted plug? We are now one of the few countries in the world that does not insist on that vital safety measure.

Mr. Newton

I shall bring that point to the attention of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade.