HC Deb 09 July 1992 vol 211 cc473-84 3.32 pm
Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland)

Will the Leader of the House state the business for next week?

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

Yes, Madam. The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY 13 JULY—Debate on the report from the Select Committee on sittings of the House on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Motions relating to the nominations of departmental Select Committees.

TUESDAY 14 JULY—Remaining stages of the Sea Fish (Conservation) Bill.

Proceedings on the Protection of Badgers Bill [Lords], the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Bill [Lords] and the Tribunals and Inquiries Bill [Lords]. These are consolidation measures.

Motion on office costs allowance.

WEDNESDAY 15 JuLY—Proceedings on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Disclosure of Information) Bill [Lords].

Motion on the Education (Assisted Places) (Amendment) Regulations.

Motion on the Value Added Tax (Payments on Account) Order.

Motion on the Value Added Tax (Cars) (Amendment) (No. 2) Order.

THURSDAY 16 JULY—Debates on the Adjournment.

The House will also wish to know that European Standing Committee B will meet on Wednesday 21 October at 10.30 am to consider European Community document No. 5894/92 concerning relations with Libya.

It may also be for the convenience of the House to know that the provisional business for the first week after the summer Adjournment will be as follows:

MONDAY 19 OCTOBER—Second Reading of the Prisoners and Criminal Proceedings (Scotland) Bill [Lords].

TUESDAY 20 OCTOBER—Remaining stages of the Cardiff Bay Barrage Bill

WEDNESDAY 21 OCTOBER—Opposition Day (4th allotted day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion, subject to be announced.

THURSDAY 22 OCTOBER—Debate on the White Paper "Health of the Nation", on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

FRIDAY 23 OCTOBER—Debate on the policing of London, on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

[Wednesday 21 October:


Relevant European Community Document

5894/92 Relations with Libya

Relevant Report of the European Legislation Committee HC 79-ii (1992–93)]

Dr. Cunningham

I thank the Leader of the House for giving us notice of the business for the first week following the long summer recess. However, is it not rather curious that he has been able to give us that information three months in advance but has not yet adopted one of the simplest recommendations of the Jopling Committee—to give us the business two weeks in advance? If he can give us the information three months in advance, why has he not been able to adopt that Jopling Committee recommendation, which does not need a resolution of the House for its implementation, before now?

Why are we to debate the Jopling Committee report next week once again on a motion for the Adjournment of the House? Why is the Leader of the House not producing some specific recommendations for action to change the hours and working practices of the House, which would be widely welcomed?

May we have an assurance that, before the House rises for the recess next week, there will be statements in the Chamber on the Bingham report into the collapse of BCCI? Can we also have statements while the House is still sitting about the Government's White Papers on transport and education? Does the Leader of the House accept that it would be an abuse of the House for those very important White Papers to be published once the House has gone into recess, when hon. Members would have no opportunity to question the Cabinet colleagues of the Leader of the House about them?

Can the Leader of the House assure us that he will table today the Government's motion on Members' allowances for employment of staff and the financing of their offices? It is surely important that we see the terms of the Government's motion in good time for possible amendments to be tabled and so that we can all clearly understand the Government's intentions in that regard.

May I press the Leader of the House to ask his right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary to make a statement before the summer Adjournment on the future of the primary-purpose rule, which affects people and their families the length and breadth of this country? That is an essential matter for almost all hon. Members. It affects many of our constituents and we should have a statement from the Government clarifying their position.

Mr. Newton

Taking those questions nearly in reverse order, I can confirm that I expect to table later today a resolution on the office costs allowance for the consideration of the House. I will also obviously transmit the requests of the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) for various statements to those to whom the requests are directed. I will do my best to ensure that important statements which need to be made are made in the appropriate way to the House.

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the timing of the Bingham report is a matter for Lord Justice Bingham and not for the Government. I cannot give the hon. Gentleman the undertaking that he sought in that respect.

With regard to the hon. Gentleman's questions on the Jopling report, perhaps we might leave the first of them for discussion in the debate. His question appeared to be an advance contribution to that debate.

The debate is taking place on a motion for the Adjournment of the House for two reasons. First, as I have said on several occasions, it seemed appropriate with a substantial number of new Members and with an entirely different House of Commons that there should be a further general debate on the proposals before we proceed with what will, in some circumstances, be very complex details, on which we may need further guidance from the House. It is appropriate that, in the light of the general indications that the House provides on Monday, there will have to be further discussions between the usual channels, of which no doubt the hon. Member for Copeland may be part.

Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale)

Will my right hon. Friend arrange for our right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence to make a statement in the House next week? It is widely rumoured that a consultation document will be published on Tuesday which will lead to the closure of a number of REME depots, including one in my constituency, with a loss of more than 200 jobs. The consultation for such a proposal will expire during the recess. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, if there are to be changes in the support establishment for the British Army, the House should debate them before the decisions are taken?

Mr. Newton

My hon. Friend will not expect me to comment on whatever speculation he has picked up, but I will undertake to draw his remarks to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence.

Sir David Steel (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale)

May I in parenthesis support the shadow Leader of the House in arguing that the matter of the primary-purpose rule should not be left until the middle of the summer recess? It must he dealt with before we rise. Will next Tuedsay's debate on office costs be cast wide enough to allow the argument to be put that those cash allowances, demeaning and misleading as they are, should be abolished altogether in favour of providing hon. Members with the staff and equipment necessary to do the job?

Mr. Newton

It will ultimately be for the Chair rather than for myself to determine the parameters of the debate, but I should be surprised if it were not open to the right hon. Gentleman to raise that point if he wished to do so.

Several hon. Members


Madam Speaker

Order. I should be much obliged if hon. Members would ask one question. I could then call all hon. Members who wish to ask a question, and we could have speedy answers. That is a much more efficient way of conducting our business.

Mr. James Paice (Cambridgeshire, South-East)

Is it correct that the Government's promised proposals on the change of the law on gipsies is to be deferred until the autumn? If that is the case, is it to be hoped that that is because officials and Ministers in the Department of the Environment now realise that my constituents and many others will not put up with those parasites continuing to live off the backs of law-abiding property owners and citizens? We want some draconian legislation to deal with the matter.

Mr. Newton

My hon. Friend has obviously registered that I have not been able to announce a debate on those matters in the two weeks that I have covered in my statement, but I do not think that anyone is under any illusions about the strength of feeling among my hon. Friend and others: I certainly assure him of that.

Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)

Will the Leader of the House recognise that, in the uncertain international situation that exists and could persist until October, the House would expect to be recalled before any British forces were committed to military action or British bases were made available for military action? Will the right hon.

Gentleman give an assurance on behalf of the Government that the House would be recalled before any of our bases or troops were involved?

Mr. Newton

I note what the right hon. Gentleman has said. Obviously, if it were judged that the situation required it, I would be prepared to make the necessary arrangements, but the right hon. Gentleman will be aware that such matters would normally be the subject of discussion through the usual channels, and that is appropriate.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

May I ask my right hon. Friend for a debate next week on school organisation so that I may bring before the House an application from the London borough of Ealing for a reorganisation of 108 schools which have been without permanent heads for nearly two years? A decision from the Government is urgent, and the matter should be debated in the House as soon as possible.

Mr. Newton

My hon. Friend would probably be somewhat surprised if, in response to his question, I immediately changed the business that I have announced for next week. He will be aware that there are several opportunities for raising all sorts of matters, one of which is to occur as soon as this business statement is over—the three-hour debate on the Adjournment.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

Does the Leader of the House recall that I asked him last week whether there would be a statement from the Minister of Agriculture on the outcome of the International Whaling Commission conference in Glasgow? He said that he would pass on that request. Did he pass on that request? As we did not have a statement, could he pass it on again, because we need to hear what the Minister feels about the disgraceful decision of Norway and Iceland about the possibility of taking up commercial whaling?

Mr. Newton

I will certainly undertake to re-pass on the hon. Gentleman's request. He will be aware, however, that my right hon. Friend gave quite an extensive written answer last Friday, in which he made clear his views and the views of most other participants about the Norwegian action.

Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)

May I add my voice to those who would like to hear a statement on the Government's proposals for the primary-purpose rule? May I offer my apologies to my constituents for the support that I gave the Government on the primary-purpose rule? I was unwise enough to believe that the House still decided immigration policies. Since we now find that our European masters decide such matters, will the Government please make a statement to explain to the House what little power is left to it?

Mr. Newton

My hon. Friend will find that the judgment to which he refers was a great deal more narrowly drawn than the conclusions that he has drawn from it. Of course, I undertake to pass on his observations to my right hon. and learned Friend.

Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann)

May we have an early statement on the Amnesty International report published today which, of course, largely repeats and amplifies the usual propaganda against the security forces in Northern Ireland? Such a statement would be particularly useful because we can see from the Press Association's summary of the report that the propaganda has been too effective. The Press Association uses the word "notorious" about Northern Ireland's Diplock courts—a regrettable lapse from its usual standards of impartiality. As the Leader of the House will know, the record shows that there is cause for more concern about English juries than about Northern Ireland judges.

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.

Mr. James Hill (Southampton, Test)

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the headlines in the Evening Standard this afternoon? Are we to have our economic policy led from the other place, or are we to have an economic debate here? Can we not answer the vague remarks that have been made in private? Is it not time that the Prime Minister and the whole Cabinet took hold of the situation and arranged for a separate debate in the House on the economy?

Mr. Newton

We have very recently had a debate on the economy. I have seen the newspaper report to which my hon. Friend refers. It appeared highly speculative. All that I should like to say is that I have read it with interest.

Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West)

Following the sad misjudgment of The Sunday Times in employing the services of that hero of the modern Nazis, David Irving, could we have a statement on the defects in the Public Order Act 1986 and the Race Relations Act 1976, which allowed that to happen? Does the Leader of the House agree that it is an abomination and an incitement —

Madam Speaker

Order. We are asking business questions for next week. We are not asking whether Ministers agree on various matters. We must stick with business questions.

Mr. Janner

As part of the Government's statement, could they express their view on the denial of the holocaust, which was an incitement not only to those of us who suffered grievous loss as a result of the holocaust, which happened with the knowledge of Irving's heroes Goebbels and Hitler, but to all of us who remember the past and are determined that it shall not happen again?

Mr. Newton

Many on both sides of the House will understand the hon. Gentleman's reasons for raising that matter. All of us would wish to join in the condemnation of what happened in the holocaust.

Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury)

Following his welcome answer to the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), does my right hon. Friend recognise that there is strong support in many parts of the House for the Government's cautious line on risking British lives in Yugoslavia? Does he agree that, before some of our hotter-headed friends on the continent try to talk us into further action, they should consider their position and perhaps consider sending German fighters, French lorries —

Madam Speaker

Order. I am a most tolerant Speaker —[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—but I will certainly not have political statements made during business questions.

If the hon. Gentleman is prepared to put a question that is in order to the Leader of the House, I shall hear it. Otherwise, I shall call the next Member.

Mr. Brazier

I ask again, and I reinforce the point made by the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn), that there should be a debate in the House before British troops are committed in Yugoslavia. There is widespread anxiety among people from all parts of the political spectrum and many parts of Britain about the idea of British troops being put at risk in combat roles on the ground.

Mr. Newton

I very much note what my hon. Friend has said. He is certainly right to expect that the Government will remain cautious in their approach to the matter.

Mr. Thomas Graham (Renfrew, West and Inverclyde)

Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Secretary of State for Employment to make a statement about 120 unemployed constituents of mine who worked at a company called Lawtecs, six of whom are still waiting after almost a full year to receive their redundancy pay? Surely that is a disgrace which the House should not tolerate.

Mr. Newton

Clearly, I am not familiar with details of the case, but I shall ensure that my right hon. Friend looks into what the hon. Gentleman has said.

Mr. Peter Fry (Wellingborough)

May I put it to my right hon. Friend that there is a case for an urgent debate on the future of civil aviation? The Government were recently euphoric over an agreement in Brussels about the liberalisation of European air services, but people who have studied the small print and the deferral of the effect of that agreement feel that many British airlines will not gain very much very quickly from it. Surely the House should have the opportunity to debate the issue, in the best interests of British aviation.

Mr. Newton

Again, my hon. Friend will be aware that there are a number of opportunities today and before the House is due to go into recess to raise a variety of matters. I hope that he will be fortunate in achieving one of those opportunities. I cannot promise to change the business in the forthcoming week to accommodate such a debate.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Would it be possible before the House goes into recess for the Prime Minister to make a statement giving his views on how keen he is to have the ever ready advice—although it is friendly advice, I am sure—of his predecessor? Would it not be useful for us to know what he feels about Lady Thatcher giving her views on various subjects at every opportunity?

Mr. Newton

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has good reasons for asking the question. I do not want to add to what I said a few moments ago to my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Hill).

Mr. John Gorst (Hendon, North)

May I urge my right hon. Friend to go a little further than he did in answering my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Paice) on the subject of caravan sites? It is a most important subject, and the Caravan Sites Act 1968 is proving unworkable. May we urge him to produce a statement on Government policy before we rise for the recess?

Mr. Newton

My hon. Friend not only can but evidently has urged me to do so. While acknowledging the strength of feeling on the matter, I cannot give him quite the undertaking that he seeks. As was the case with my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East, who raised the matter earlier, I shall ensure that that concern is brought to the attention of my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

Is there not the strongest case for a statement from the Secretary of State for Scotland on the 1,300 job losses at Ardersier, which represent 5 per cent. of the Highland region's work force? In such a statement, would the Secretary of State have any policy initiative to announce, whether it be seeking objective 1 status, accelerating oilfield development, studying competitive tendering, or moving oil jobs from London to the north of Scotland? Or will the Government stand idly by and watch an economic blizzard descend on the north of Scotland?

Mr. Newton

On behalf of my right hon. Friend, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that he will certainly be concerned to do everything that is proper and appropriate to assist with the difficulties faced by the people to whom the hon. Gentleman has referred. Of course, the Government's efforts in developing the work of the Highlands and Islands Enterprise Board, which I am sure will seek to help in that respect, is a good example.

Mr. Roger Knapman (Stroud)

Further to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen), is my right hon. Friend aware of an article in The Guardian on 8 July, headed "Euro court punches holes in migrants laws", in which it states that our right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has promised that a copy of the draft convention on European frontier controls will be placed in the Commons Library? As yet, the paper is not in the Library. Could my right hon. Friend ensure that it is there soon, as the summer recess approaches rapidly?

Mr. Newton

I made some comment on the first point to which my hon. Friend adverted in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen). On the latter point, I shall certainly make inquiries about the position and seek to ensure that what my hon. Friend has asked for is achieved.

Mrs. Audrey Wise (Preston)

Will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement next week to announce the extension of the Jubilee line, which would provide thousands of construction jobs in London and many jobs for those who manufacture trains, such as the work force at GEC in my constituency?

Mr. Newton

The hon. Lady is well aware of the repeated statements by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport and others about the basis on which the Jubilee line would proceed. I do not think that I can go beyond that today.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

Before my association with the Select Committee on Health is arbitrarily terminated, may I, on behalf of that Committee of the previous Parliament, ask my right hon. Friend when the Secretary of State for Health will come to the House to make a statement on the Government's reaction and response to the Committee's report on maternity services, which I remind the House was published on 4 March and should have been responded to long before now?

Mr. Newton

The hon. Gentleman, to my knowledge and from my observation—

Mr. Winterton

No longer friend?

Mr. Newton

My hon. Friend, whom I observed and listened to with care, was in the Chamber yesterday for the statement of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health on "Health of the Nation" and he will be aware that that very report was raised by the hon. Member for Preston (Mrs. Wise). I do not believe that I can add to the comments that my right hon. Friend made at that time.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

In view of the fact that we have a most tolerant Speaker, will there be a statement next week on the extraordinary information which has emerged from the Appeal Court, in relation to the case of Mr. David Mackenzie, whose sperm count and fertility make it quite clear that he was not responsible for the murder of Hilda Murrell? Could we have a statement on that, of which I have given notice to the right hon. Gentleman?

Mr. Newton

I have nothing to add to the categorical assurance that was given—and repeated subsequently—by the Minister of State, Home Office in his letter to the hon. Gentleman at the end of 1984 of his belief that the security and intelligence services were not involved in any way in the death of Mrs. Murrell.

Mr. Rupert Allason (Torbay)

Will there be a statement next week on the water industry, bearing in mind the fact that a Government discussion paper on this topic is imminent and the terrible hardship endured by the people in the south-west, who last year experienced a 16 per cent. increase in their water rates, had another 16 per cent. increase this year and are likely to face a third 16 per cent. increase next year? Water metering is an extremely important issue. Will my right hon. Friend please arrange a statement either next week or certainly in the week when the House returns?

Mr. Newton

We have had a substantial debate on water issues within the past fortnight, and I do not believe that I can promise another within the next week. I will, of course, ensure that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has his attention drawn to my hon. Friend's comment.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

Could we have a statement at the earliest opportunity about whether any improvements will be made to this building during the recess to allow disabled people at least to rest somewhere and perhaps to have a meal as well, given that there are so few facilities for them at present?

No doubt the Leader of the House will have seen the story of Nicholas Killen, the little lad who has had his sight completely removed, of his bravery and the courage of his family. That little boy is now going to Temple Bank school for the partially sighted and blind in Bradford—

Madam Speaker

Order. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will come to the point about next week's business.

Mr. Cryer

Members of that school came round here 12 months ago, and I raised the question of facilities for disabled people then. There are absolutely none in this building, yet the Dining Rooms are booked by organisations where the fat cats can stuff themselves. I was promised 12 months ago that something would be done. Nothing has been done. What will happen during the recess?

Mr. Newton

I am not sure that it is entirely appropriate to draw the particular comparison that the hon. Gentleman has drawn between facilities of one kind or another. It is certainly true that all of us would want further improvements in facilities here for disabled people. I am sure that the Accommodation and Administration Sub-Committee, now happily set up, will wish to pay heed to the hon. Gentleman's remarks.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

May I remind my right hon. Friend that, at the end of the previous Parliament, his predecessor refused to have substantive resolutions tabled on the Jopling report on the sittings of the House? My right hon. Friend is following that sorry precedent even though, at the end of the previous Parliament, there were inevitably more senior parliamentarians than now. Could my right hon. Friend use the period after Monday's debate, before the recess, to table substantive resolutions drawing on the conclusions of that debate, so that we can implement them, hopefully in the first week back or very soon thereafter?

Mr. Newton

I am not sure that it would be practicable to table resolutions during the recess, but I shall tell the House on Monday that it is very much my hope that during the recess we shall make progress in precisely the way my hon. Friend wants so that we can take substantive decisions at an early stage after we return.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)

I again draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day motion 113.

[That this House contrasts the willingness of the British Ambassador to America to meet an American citizen, settled in the USA, to discuss why he was refused permission to visit the United Kingdom with the unwillingness of the British High Commissioner to Pakistan to make enquiries about a Pakistan citizen, settled in the United Kingdom for the last 18 years, who has been imprisoned in Pakistan for more than a year; again urges the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the honourable Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale, to instruct British officials at our post in Islamabad to contact Pakistani authorities to obtain full information about Chazanfer Ali, a constituent of the honourable Member for Bradford West who first asked the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for information on Mr Ali's case on 25th March; understands Mr Ali's wife and children, living in Bradford, are desperately worried about Mr Ali, who they have not seen for the past 22 months; and believes Mrs Ali and her family are entitled to expect the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to obtain full information about Mr Ali's circumstances, especially news as to then he is to be released from prison and allowed to return to his home and family in Bradford.]

It concerns my constituent, Mr. Chazanfer Ali, who is in prison in Pakistan, who next Wednesday will lose his automatic right to return to this country and who on Thursday will be making his first court appearance.

Does the right hon. Gentleman share my concern that, despite requests for information about Mr. Ali that I have made in the last three months to the Foreign Office, to the Pakistan High Commission, to the Prime Ministers of Britain and Pakistan and even to you, Madam Speaker, not a single crumb of official information has been passed to me about my constituent? Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the Prime Minister that I am grateful for his letter of this week, that I am determined to ask for information about my constituent, and that I am equally determined that he does not become a forgotten man, separated from his wife and five children in my constituency?

Mr. Newton

I understand that there has been considerable correspondence between the hon. Gentleman and Ministers and that the principal difficulty is that Mr. Ali is a Pakistani national. As my hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) told the hon. Gentleman in a letter of 8 May, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has no standing to intervene in the case of a Pakistani national detained in Pakistan.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross)

May we have a foreign affairs debate on the question of the decorum of those who represent us abroad? If, by losing his seat, the new Governor of Hong Kong obtains his position, is it appropriate that everybody who greets him should dress properly in uniform while he discards his uniform and dresses like Harry Lime?

Mr. Newton

I am not sure that I would wish—indeed, I am sure I would not wish—to be associated with that description of my right hon. Friend, a former Member of the House, now the Governor of Hong Kong. But, even from this distance, I hope to find some way of drawing his attention to what my hon. and learned Friend said.

Mr. Jack Thompson (Wansbeck)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the deep concern that has been expressed by hon. Members in all parts of the House about the environmental problems that arise from opencast coal operations? Is he further aware that, more than two years ago, we raised with the Department of the Environment the issue of what are called the mineral planning guidance notes, and were promised that the environmental issues would be looked into and consultations held? Will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Secretary of State for the Environment to make a statement next week on the results of those consultations and the changes that will be made to the MPG notes?

Mr. Newton

I shall, in the ordinary way, pass on the hon. Gentleman's request.

Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)

I refer the Leader of the House to the motion on the membership of Select Committees and, in particular, draw his attention to the fact that his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross (Sir N. Fairbairn) has been nominated to serve not only on the Scottish Select Committee but also on the Select Committee on Defence. Is he totally confident of his hon. and learned Friend's ability to apply his notable talents to two Select Committees at once—

Madam Speaker

Order. The hon. Member must ask a question about next week's business; he must not make debating points. What is his question about next week's business?

Mr. Home Robertson

I was asking—

Madam Speaker

Order. I heard the preamble. I now need to hear the question.

Mr. Home Robertson

The question is whether it would be appropriate to debate a motion in those terms next week.

Mr. Newton

My task as Leader of the House was, first, to table a motion enabling the Select Committees to be set up, which we have successfully done, and then to table a motion to provide time for a motion to be debated to provide the complement of the Select Committees. Happily, the content of that motion is a matter for the Committee of Selection, and I direct the hon. Gentleman in that direction.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Now that the Minister of Agriculture has decided to have a meeting with Bolsover council and other groups next Wednesday on the subject of dioxin, may we have an assurance that a statement will be made by that Minister before or after the meeting, if he still feels up to it?

Mr. Newton

It seems highly unlikely that my right hon. Friend will be able to attend a meeting of the sort outlined by the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) without making a statement of some sort.

Mr. Derek Enright (Hemsworth)

The Home Secretary this week confided to The Guardian that he intended to reconstitute police committees in the same way as he had reconstituted health authorities. Will the Leader of the House arrange for his right hon. and learned Friend to come to the House next week to explain on what principles he will reconstitute the police committees? Are there not sufficient estate agents any more?

Mr. Newton

Perhaps I should make it clear, in case there was any misunderstanding on the part of the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) over my previous answer to him, that I was saying that, if my right hon. Friend the Minister has a meeting of the sort to which the hon. Gentleman referred, he will say something in the course of that meeting.

I shall bring to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary the issue raised by the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Enright).

Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley)

Will the Leader of the House ask the Secretary of State for Defence to make a statement next week about the report published today by the marine accident investiga-tion branch of the Department of Trade and Industry into the sinking of the Antares? In particular, will he state whether or not the Ministry of Defence and the Royal Navy accept the eight recommendations included in that report? It is absolutely essential that those recommenda-tions are accepted if we are to ensure that the tragedy of the sinking of the Antares is not repeated, in the Clyde or elsewhere.

Mr. Newton

I will bring that request to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend.

Mr. Peter Hain (Neath)

Will the Leader of the House find time next week for a statement on the Post Office? The President of the Board of Trade recently authorised the dropping of the Royal Mail prefix from the Post Office's Parcel Force. Is it not outrageous that that clear step towards privatisation was not even reported to the House, let alone debated properly?

Mr. Newton

The hon. Gentleman is right to record the fact that that change of name has taken place. It reflects the fact that Royal Mail and Parcel Force are significantly different enterprises.

Mr. Jimmy Boyce (Rotherham)

Can I urge the Leader of the House to set aside time before the onset of winter and a return of the scandalous deaths through hypothermia to debate cold weather payments at the earliest possible opportunity?

Mr. Newton

As I well know from my role in a previous capacity, significant improvements were made in the cold weather payments system before last winter. My experience and view is that the new arrangements worked extremely well last winter, and a large amount of money —I think about £23 million—was paid out under them.