HC Deb 18 June 1992 vol 209 cc1041-53 3.30 pm
Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland)

Will the Leader of the House tell us the business for next 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 22 JUNE—Progress in Committee on the Boundary Commissions Bill.

TUESDAY 23 JUNE—Until about seven o'clock, completion in Committee of the Boundary Commissions Bill.

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

Motions on the Criminal Law orders. Details will be given in the Official Report.

Debate on reports from the Select Committee on Members' Interests (House of Commons Papers Nos. 108 and 326) on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

WEDNESDAY 24 JUNE—Until about seven o'clock, motions on the special grant reports for England and Wales. Details will be given in the Official Report.

Motion on the Charge Limitation (England) (Maximum Amounts) Order.

THURSDAY 25 JUNE—Debate on the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

FRIDAY 26 JUNE—Private Members' motions.

MONDAY 29 JUNE—Remaining stages of British Coal and British Rail (Transfer Proposals) Bill.

The House will also wish to know that European Standing Committee A will meet at 10.30 am on Wednesday 24 June to consider European Community Document No. 7857/91 relating to vehicle noise.

There is one further piece of intelligence, possibly rather more welcome, which I can communicate to the House. The House will wish to know that, subject to the progress of business, it is proposed that the House should rise for the summer Adjournment on Thursday 16 July until Monday 19 October. [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker

Order. The House should not get too excited about that last item of information.

[Tuesday 23 June: Criminal Law Orders

  1. (a) Drug Trafficking Offences Act 1986 (Designated Countries and Territories) (Amendment) Order
  2. (b) Criminal Justice (International Co-operation) Act 1990 (Enforcement of Overseas Forfeiture Orders) (Amendment) Order

Wednesday 24 June: Special Grant Reports

  1. (a) Special Grant Report (No. 4) 1992–93
  2. (b) Special Grant Report (Wales) 1992

European Standing Committee A

Relevant European Community Document

7857/91 Vehicle Noise

Relevant Reports of the European Legislation Committee HC 29-xxx (1990–91) and HC 24-v (1991–92).]

Dr. Cunningham

The welcome for the right hon. Gentleman's announcement of the summer recess is evident. Would it not have been better if that announcement had been made in the context of a debate in the House on the proposals in the Jopling report? May I again urge the Leader of the House to find time for a debate on that important report before we reach the summer Adjournment?

May I welcome the Government's announcement and the decision by the Leader of the House to find time for a debate on the important Rio summit? However, I express regret that the debate will take place on a motion for the Adjournment of the House and not on a substantive motion setting out the Government's detailed ideas and proposals on how they will implement the general agreement reached at the Earth summit in Rio.

I strongly urge the Leader of the House to find Government time for a debate on the appalling level of unemployment. Is it not a daunting—indeed, dismaying —prospect for young people leaving schools, universities and colleges this summer who face such difficulties in finding employment? May we have a debate? May we have a statement at that time about what new ideas, policies or initiatives, if any, the Government intend to take as a matter of urgency to tackle the inexorable and appalling rise in unemployment?

Mr. Newton

First, I welcome the hon. Gentleman's comments about the recess dates. Obviously, I note what he said about the wider proposals of the Jopling report. Although a debate is not scheduled for next week, it is our firm intention to provide time for a debate on the report before the House rises on 16 July.

On the Rio summit, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made it clear on many occasions that the wide-ranging discussions at Rio were part of a continuing process rather than something that is implemented at one time. The nature of the summit, the problem and the on-going action and consideration that will be required in Britain and elsewhere makes it more appropriate to have a wide-ranging debate on the Adjournment than to attempt to devise a motion along the lines that the hon. Gentleman suggested.

On the unemployment figures, there will obviously be several occasions, not least the various Adjournment debates and other occasions during the next few weeks, on which it will be possible to debate the unemployment figures. However, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not overplay his hand. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said in response to questions this afternoon, the figures this month seem to confirm a slowing down of an albeit unwelcome rise in unemployment. As for initiatives, the hon. Gentleman will no doubt have registered the fact that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment has announced today a significantly higher new target for the Employment Service for placing people in new jobs in the coming year.

Mr. Terence L. Higgins (Worthing)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is growing anxiety about the delay in establishing the departmental Select Committees? As there is even less time before the recess than we expected, it is important that they should be set up so that they can appoint advisers and determine their programmes, and so that the Clerks can begin their work. Although there may be particular points which give cause for further negotiation on certain Committees, there is no reason why most of the Committees should not be set up in the next two weeks.

Mr. Newton

My right hon. Friend is aware of the endeavours that I am making in this respect. The discussions are taking place through the usual channels. One of the debates that I have announced this week, on which I have been pressed from both below and above the Gangway—the debate on Members' interests in relation to Select Committees—is a further step in paving the way to setting up the Select Committees.

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

May we have a Government statement as soon as possible on the announcement this afternoon that Yorkshire Television is to take over Tyne Tees Television by agreement with Tyne Tees Television? Does the Leader of the House recall that, in debates on the Broadcasting Bill, the Minister was pressed from this Bench many times on possible takeovers of smaller regional companies? Should not the House now be told why the responses and assurances given at that time have been shown to be of no value?

Mr. Newton

Of course, I shall make sure that the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage, who is responsible for these matters, is drawn at once to the hon. Gentleman's remarks. However, he is aware that the Broadcasting Act 1987 makes provision for mergers and takeovers with the approval of the Independent Television Commission. I understand that the commission will continue to enforce the original licence conditions.

Sir Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)

As a gesture to show our appreciation to the voters of Denmark for bringing about a longer summer break, will the Leader of the House arrange a debate next week on how the British Government can let the voters of Britain know what is in the Maastricht treaty?

Mr. Newton

I cannot undertake to publish a substantial additional document between now and next week. As I believe was fairly commonplace in what might be called gossip around the place at earlier times, it has persistently been the Government's wish and hope to get the House up in the middle of July, in line with one of the Jopling report's recommendations.

Mr. Joseph Ashton (Bassetlaw)

Will the Leader of the House send the sincerest apologies of the House to the Government and people of Sweden for the crass behaviour there this week, of vandals who represent only 3 per cent. of football supporters in this country? Will he approach the president of the Union of European Football Associations, perhaps through the diplomatic channels, and ask it not to ban clubs such as Sheffield Wednesday—my club—Manchester United and Leeds United from playing in Europe next season, because there supporters and players have committed no crime and it would be unfair to punish them in that way?

Mr. Newton

I shall ensure that the attention of UEFA is drawn to the hon. Gentleman's remarks. On his first question, I am in the happy position of being able simply to say yes.

Mr. Anthony Steen (South Hams)

Members have received correspondence from the Minister for Housing and Planning about the planning inspectorate agency, informing us that the answers to questions normally published in Hansard will instead be put in the Library. Will the Leader of the House consider publishing daily, as an appendix to Hansard, questions asked by Members so that there is some record of what they are asking the planning inspectorate?

Mr. Newton

That issue arose on several occasions during the last Parliament as the executive agencies were being set up. I think that my hon. Friend understands the position. The Government wish to improve access to the letters answering such questions in some circumstances, and have put proposals for their publication to the House authorities. Now that the House Committees have been reconstituted, I hope that it will be possible for an early decision to be taken.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

Now we know that we are to have an even earlier summer recess, will the Leader of the House tell us when we can debate the vexed matter of research and secretarial allowances? It is a crucial issue and we need to debate it because too many people outside the House seem to believe that research and secretarial allowances are an addition to Members' pay. I had to pay back an additional £5,000 to the Fees Office last year because of excess demands upon my office. We need a debate before the summer recess.

Mr. Newton

I agree that we need such a debate before the summer recess and it is my intention that there should be one, but I cannot give an exact date.

Mr. James Hill (Southampton, Test)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that we are still a seafaring nation? I have been asking for some time for a debate on shipping and ports policy, possibly attached to a debate on transport infrastructure. The problem is being studied by three or four different Departments and it would be useful to have a debate in the [...]ouse to bring it all together.

Mr. Newton

I appreciate my hon. Friend's long interest in such matters in the House, and I note his request. I would not wish to excite hopes of being able to accommodate his wish before the summer recess, but I shall certainly bear it in mind.

Ms. Estelle Morris (Birmingham, Yardley)

Will the Minister find time next week for at least a statement on the rights of parents of children with special needs to choose the school that their child attends? Will he include in his statement a response to the representations that I have made on behalf of my constituents, Mr. and Mrs. McNerlin, about their nine-year-old autistic son Daniel, who has not been to school for 16 months as a result of a difference of opinion between his parents and the local authority?

Mr. Newton

I note the hon. Lady's reference to the case, which will no doubt be examined by those responsible. On the general issue, she will be aware, I am sure, that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education is working on some education proposals. I shall ensure that his attention is drawn to the matter about which the hon. Lady has expressed concern.

Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale)

During Home Office questions today my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department paid tribute to Special Constable Glenn Goodman of the North Yorkshire police. May we have a debate soon on the police service? In recent weeks the Home Secretary has made important speeches about policing policy to the Association of Chief Police Officers conference and before that to the Police Federation. Does not my right hon. Friend share my concern that the arrangements about payment of a pension to Constable Goodman's widow are in some doubt? Is that not a matter that the House should consider?

Mr. Newton

I echo the earlier remarks made by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department. My hon. Friend will appreciate that, while I acknowledge his legitimate concern about the matter, I cannot promise a debate. However, I shall bear his request in mind.

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax)

Will the Leader of the House find time for an urgent debate on the housing crisis? Is he aware that, this week, my local authority found that it had no bed-and-breakfast or hostel accommodation for the elderly and had to appeal to the citizens of Halifax to take in the homeless? Is he further aware that the Federation of Housing Associations published a report this week stating that it could no longer build affordable homes, which is all due to the Government's housing policies? Is it not time that we spared just one day for a debate on the homeless to show that we really care?

Mr. Newton

Perhaps I should observe that the Opposition had a Supply day this week and it would have been open to them to raise that subject if they had wished to do so. However, as I said in reply to the request from the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) for a debate on unemployment, it will be possible to raise various matters in what remains of the Session before the summer recess. The Government are concerned to make some improvements to housing policy, and that was manifest by out commitment in the Queen's Speech to introduce the Housing Land and Urban Development Bill. That will certainly provide the hon. Lady with many opportunities to discuss housing later in the year.

Mr. John Butcher (Coventry, South-West)

In the aftermath of the events in Sweden, in which the sub-humans who call themselves football supporters dragged England's name through the mud, may we have a debate on civil liberties? Does my right hon. Friend agree that, if we do not interfere with the civil liberties of that mindless minority, it will damage the civil liberties of us all?

Mr. Newton

I need not go so far as to promise a debate in the terms sought by my hon. Friend. However, he will probably be aware that we have reached an agreement with the Swedish Government whereby English supporters who are convicted of football-related offences in Sweden may be made the subject of restriction orders. That would prevent them from causing further trouble at overseas matches, which is something that the whole House wants to ensure.

Mr. Eddie Loyden (Liverpool, Garston)

May I press the right hon. Gentleman on his reply to the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Hill) on the safety of vessels? He will be aware of the Select Committee report from another place that dealt with that matter. Will the House be able to consider that report in order to give us some idea of the Government's position in relation to it?

Mr. Newton

I have enough difficulty from time to time in accommodating the desire to debate the Select Committee reports of this House without entering into a commitment to debate Select Committee reports from another place. The hon. Gentleman can press me further and, clearly, he intends to do so. However, I cannot promise any more than I did to my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Hill).

Mr. James Paice (Cambridgeshire, South-East)

Will it be possible to have a debate soon on the problems caused by travellers? Many Conservative Members have commented in meetings at which I have been present about the widespread problems that are caused by travellers. The problems are caused not by the traditional romany but by Johnny-come-latelies, who park anywhere, take no notice of people's property and have no respect for the law or anything else. We need a debate, and some action to tighten up the legislation.

Mr. Newton

That subject has been raised on several occasions during business questions in the past few weeks. Although I cannot add to what I have said before, I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the fact that our hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Mr. Spicer) is to initiate an Adjournment debate on Monday 29 June under the heading "Camping by travellers".

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, instead of packing up and going on holiday on 16 July, we should debate next week, and extend the other business into the holiday period, the question of opencast mining? Several early-day motions appear on the Order Paper relating to opencasting in many constituencies. Is he further aware that opencast production has more than doubled in recent years? Does he appreciate the need to withdraw a circular that was issued in 1984 which enables opencast mining to occur not on the basis of planning conditions but in relation to whether the coal is needed? As we do not need coal through opencasting—because we have plenty of deep-mined coal—let us debate the whole subject, including that planning arrangement, so that the circular can be withdrawn and we can reduce the amount of opencast mining that is blighting countless constituencies in Britain.

Mr. Newton

Without endorsing everything that the hon. Gentleman said, I am aware that there is concern among hon. Members on both sides of the House who represent coalmining areas about some aspects of the matter. I remind the hon. Gentleman that the House will be debating legislation concerned with coal this Session, so I am sure that there will be a number of opportunities to raise the issue.

Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)

Will my right hon. Friend find time to debate whether the Secretary of State for Health should kindly provide skilled counselling or other help for Labour Members who seem to be slating one another on their election tactics when what they really need to do is come to terms with the fact that the British people just do not want a Labour Government?

Mr. Newton

My hon. Friend may think that that is a good subject for a Supply day debate, but I had better leave the Opposition to make their own decision on that.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Will it be possible for the Secretary of State for Social Security to make a statement early next week on whether a formal application will be made by the British authorities to ensure that any funds owned by the Maxwell foundation are returned to this country to be used for the pensioners who were swindled? Is he aware that, when we went to the Swiss embassy yesterday, my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett) and I made that point strongly and were told that no formal application had yet been made? Perhaps we could have a statement about that.

Mr. Newton

I will draw that request to the attention of my right hon. Friend. The hon. Gentleman will be aware of what has been reported from those concerned with some of the funds allegedly held in Liechtenstein, and he has probably welcomed some of the comments made in recent days about that. I am sure that the unit that my right hon. Friend has set up will do everything possible to assist in any way, whether in Liechtenstein or elsewhere, to ensure the maximum possible recovery of funds for the Maxwell pensioners.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)

Does my right hon. Friend accept that there are many matters of current concern—from the situation in Yugoslavia to the activities of certain sections of the press—which could, and probably should, be the subject of Select Committee inquiries? May we have a definite assurance that before the House rises the Select Committees monitoring the work of all Departments will be established?

Mr. Newton

I cannot add to what were intended to be as helpful as possible remarks that I made on the subject earlier. In view of the well-known fact that there must be extensive discussions on those matters, I cannot give my hon. Friend the definite assurance he is seeking, but I assure him that I shall continue to use my best endeavours to make progress along those lines.

Mr. Peter Hardy (Wentworth)

In view of the right hon. Gentleman's responsibilities to the House, may I ask him to look soon at the question of the future leadership of the Council of Europe delegation? Does he agree—

Madam Speaker

Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that we are dealing with the business for next week. Perhaps he will rephrase his question so as to make it acceptable.

Mr. Hardy

Will the Leader of the House do it next week? Will he, in the coming few days, consider whether it is desirable to ensure that the democratic factor is not overlooked and the fact that it would not be desirable, although it might be unavoidable, for some Opposition Members to lodge an objection to the British credentials should an unfortunate decision be made?

Mr. Newton

I know that the hon. Gentleman raised that matter in the Council of Europe a few months ago, and I followed his comments carefully and what happened afterwards. I can do no more this afternoon than note what he has said.

Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher)

Will my right hon. Friend ask the Secretary of State for Transport to make an early statement to the House about the safety of electrically operated car windows? That would provide an opportunity for us to find out what motor manufacturers are urgently doing to increase the safety of such windows, particularly by applying sensors. My right hon. Friend may care to know that the recent tragedy of Lucinda Richardson occurred to a family in my constituency.

Mr. Newton

In the light of my hon. Friend's final point, may I, on behalf of the whole House, join in the sympathy expressed by many people to the parents of the child killed in that tragic accident? I shall certainly draw my right hon. Friend's attention to my hon. Friend's request.

Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South)

Next week, or before the House adjourns for the summer, will the Home Secretary or the Attorney-General make a statement about the fate of Sir John May's inquiry into the miscarriage of justice in the Guildford and Woolwich cases? It is now two years and 10 months since that inquiry was set up in an atmosphere of some urgency and the Home Secretary make a statement to the House, but Sir John May has not yet commenced the main part of his inquiry. There is a widespread view that he will never be permitted to do so because of where the trail of responsibility leads.

Mr. Newton

I recall the hon. Gentleman raising that matter in the Whitsun Adjournment debate, when I ran out of time and could not comment on it. As I told him informally afterwards, I have drawn his remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend. I shall do so again in the expectation that my right hon. Friend will wish to respond to him in an appropriate way.

Sir Michael Neubert (Romford)

Will my right hon. Friend find time next week to debate London's docklands and the project to extend the Jubilee line? Is he aware that Canary wharf accounts for only some 150 acres out of 5,500 acres in docklands, and that the Jubilee line is needed to help to revitalise south as well as east London and is of major importance to the future of our capital city?

Mr. Newton

I note what my hon. Friend has said, but he would not expect me to add to the answer given a few moments ago by the Prime Minister and, a day or two ago, by the Secretary of State for Transport.

Mr. Tom Pendry (Stalybridge and Hyde)

Is the Leader of the House aware that, whatever good wishes the House may wish to extend to the people of Denmark, leaving early for the summer recess is not one of them? I speak for all my hon. Friends when I say that we have come here to do a job and would like to continue working to a later date. Will he make a statement next week, having thought again about that date for closing down? The Government should recognise that they gave an obligation to legislate on ticket touting and, since January 1990, they have been saying that when parliamentary time allows they will legislate on it. On 16 May, the Prime Minister said the same. We now have time to do so, so will the Leader of the House consider it?

Mr. Newton

I note the request and, with some amazement, the fact that this must be the first time that any Leader of the House, having announced the dates for a recess, has been confronted with a demand that it be delayed.

Mr. Bob Dunn (Dartford)

May I revert to the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Paice) on traveller families? As my right hon. Friend knows, many of our constituents are fearful that they face another summer with wave upon wave of traveller families attacking our communities, with no protection from or application of the law. May we please have a debate on the matter before the House rises?

Mr. Newton

I cannot give the undertaking precisely in the terms for which my hon. Friend asks, but he will be aware of the concern expressed following the incidents that occurred in the west country a few weeks ago. The lessons of that will, as far as possible, be learned by police forces throughout the country, and that may he at least as effective as seeking to make hasty changes in legislation.

Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston)

In the light of earlier comments to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition about unemployment and comments earlier this week on the Rio summit, will the Leader of the House ask the President of the Board of Trade and the Department of the Environment to address the House next week on the fact that 108 people have been dismissed from the Kemira factory, which manufactures fertilisers, in my constituency? It is suffering drastically from eastern European dumping in circumstances that would be untenable in this country and in environmental conditions that we would not tolerate.

Mr. Newton

The hon. Gentleman will have noticed that next Thursday there is to be a wide-ranging debate on environmental matters arising out of the Rio summit. It struck me as he was asking his question that it would require only a modest amount of ingenuity to work his point into that debate.

Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth)

Further to the questions of my hon. Friends the Members for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Paice) and for Dartford (Mr. Dunn), will my right hon. Friend reconsider his position on gipsies? Does he agree that the problems of the Caravan Sites Act 1968 are at the root of the difficulty? Is he aware that my constituency has the biggest problem in the county of Leicestershire? Some farmers in my constituency have been told by illegal travellers that they will have their ricks and barns burnt if they do not let them reside on their land.

Mr. Newton

I deplore any behaviour of the sort outlined in my hon. Friend's latter remarks. Three of my hon. Friends have now expressed concern, which I am sure is widely shared, about the issue. I shall draw that fact to the attention of my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

May we have a statement next week on the Leeds-Bradford electrification scheme for which, as the Leader of the House may be aware, authority has been granted for overhead electrical equipment but not for rolling stock? The Government are recommending leasing, but the Industrial Bank of Scotland is refusing to go ahead on the present terms as it is unhappy about the proposed privatisation and does not believe in the marketplace when it can operate against its interests. That is placing the scheme in jeopardy. We need a statement from the Secretary of State for Transport to clarify the position on the much-needed scheme as the commuter services between Leeds and Bradford are heavily used. If the scheme does not go ahead, 200 jobs in Leeds will be lost.

Mr. Newton

In my statement, I referred to a debate next week on the remaining stages of the British Coal and British Rail (Transfer Proposals) Bill, and only a modest amount of ingenuity would be required for the hon. Gentleman to raise his question during that debate.

Mr. Christopher Gill (Ludlow)

Will my right hon. Friend give the House an opportunity to debate the European Union (Public Information) Bill? If the British electorate are not to be given an opportunity to express their views in a referendum, the Government should at least give them the opportunity of knowing what their Members of Parliament will decide on their behalf in light of the profound and fundamental constitutional issues at stake in any treaty of union.

Mr. Newton

Having urged the exercise of ingenuity on other hon. Members, I pay tribute to my hon. Friend's ingenuity in finding a way of raising an issue about which he is anxious. However, I do not think I can promise time to debate that Bill next week.

Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)

Thank you, Madam Speaker. This is the second time that I have been called this Parliament, and I am delighted and grateful.

In view of recent events, in view of the fact that the Press Commission under Lord McGregor of Durris, with its self-regulatory code, is proving less efficient than its predecessor the Press Council, and in view of the fact that the trial term of the Press Commission is about to finish, may we have a debate next week on the necessity for proper regulation of the conduct of the popular press in this country?

Mr. Newton

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage is about to embark on a review of the Press Commission, which is coming to the end of its trial period. I am sure that in his review my right hon. and learned Friend will wish to take into account the concerns expressed by the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. John Bowis (Battersea)

Will my right hon. Friend find time for a full debate on the arts, certainly before the summer recess, so that the excellent new National Heritage Department can set out its arts strategy? Another reason for a debate is that the Arts Council has recently published a consultative paper on its strategy, comments on which must be returned by July. I think that my right hon. Friend would agree that the House should have a say in that consultation process.

Mr. Newton

I share my hon. Friend's view of the importance of these matters, but he would be surprised if I were to respond in exactly the way that he invites me to do. I want first to make sure that I have time for debates on the Jopling report and office costs.

Ms. Liz Lynne (Rochdale)

Has the Leader of the House seen early-day motion 266? [That this House, noting that the profits of the electricity supplier Norweb have risen by 96 per cent. in the last year, calls on the company to issue a clear statement as to how the £138 million profit is to be invested; notes that all the regional electricity companies are overcharging their customers; and urges that some of Norweb's £138 million profit makes its way back to the consumers through reduced prices.] Will he find time next week for an urgent debate on the profits of all the privatised utilities?

Mr. Newton

The hon. Lady would be surprised if I were to respond quite as she requests me to. I merely observe that I sometimes wonder about the complaints that I hear to the effect that many industries which for long periods performed extremely badly and invested far too little are now far more successful and are investing large sums in providing much better services for their consumers.

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset)

Will my right hon. Friend initiate an early debate on law and order, especially to emphasise what happens to offenders who are on bail, on parole or on home release from prison, and the problems of ensuring that those who have left prison do not reoffend? Chief police officers are keen that those whom their officers arrest should not immediately return to the streets to offend again before they even come to court.

Mr. Newton

I cannot promise an early debate on that, although I well understand my hon. Friend's concern and will draw it to the attention of the Home Secretary.

Mr. Mike O'Brien (Warwickshire, North)

Will the Leader of the House arrange for an urgent statement to be made by the Government on the proposed halving of the number of Customs officials engaged in anti-smuggling activities at Birmingham and Coventry airports—cuts which could open the west midlands to the easier importation of drugs, pornography and terrorism? Can the statement be made in the light of the Prime Minister's recent commitment to maintaining effective border controls—a commitment which will have a shamefully hollow ring if the cuts take place?

Mr. Newton

The hon. Gentleman acknowledges by implication the determination that the British Government have expressed on a number of occasions to ensure the continued effectiveness of controls to prevent, for instance, drug offences. I also note the hon. Gentleman's suggestion.

Mr. Thomas McAvoy (Glasgow, Rutherglen)

I know that the Leader of the House will not be aware of the details, but recently the Department of Transport sanctioned the closure of the driving test centre in Rutherglen without giving notice to the public or me. Bearing in mind the Prime Minister's support for the citizens charter, will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to come to the House next week to make a statement that matches the ideals of the citizens charter against the behaviour of the Department of Transport?

Mr. Newton

I must acknowledge that the hon. Gentleman is right to think that news of the closure of the driving test centre at Rutherglen had not yet reached the Privy Council Office or that of the Leader of the House, but I will ensure that the news reaches the office of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Mr. Norman Hogg (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth)

The right hon. Gentleman will have heard the Prime Minister state that the Government continue to take stock of the Scottish situation that resulted from the general election. What is the apparatus within the Government for the stocktaking? When will it be completed? And may we have a debate on the future of the government of Scotland?

Mr. Newton

The hon. Gentleman obviously heard what the Prime Minister said at Prime Minister's questions. I intend to take the cautious line of adding nothing to it.

Mr. Neil Gerrard (Walthamstow)

As it appears that the Home Office is reviewing the rules and procedures for dealing with entry clearance appeals on cases refused under the primary-purpose rule, and that such cases are not being listed for appeal, will the Leader of the House ask the Home Secretary to make a statement to the House on the exact purpose and, in due course, the outcome of that review? It appears that it is connected with a case before the European Court on which judgment is expected in late July, so may we have a statement before the House rises for the summer recess so that changes on this important matter are not made at a time when the House is in recess?

Mr. Newton

I am beginning to feel, as on one previous such occasion, that I am being asked questions that hon. Members were unable to ask during Home Office questions earlier. However, I shall draw that question to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend.

Mr. Bryan Davies (Oldham, Central and Royton)

Will the Leader of the House acknowledge that many hon. Members representing constituents who are facing acute difficulties during the summer while the recession continues and unemployment continues to rise do not share the satisfaction evident on the Government Benches at the unduly long summer recess? Will it not be the longest recess of modern times, and does not that suggest that the Government are running out of steam in their first year?

Mr. Newton

Anyone who believes that will believe anything.

Mr. Mike Hall (Warrington, South)

Will the Leader of the House read early-day motion 201? [That this House calls upon the Government to support Article 89 of the European Parliament resolution on a Community tourism policy by instigating a scheme of compensation for tourists who are not only victims of crime but who have suffered bodily harm as a result of a criminal act; and believes such compensation should be set at a European average level with an addition for any legal costs that may be necessary.] It calls upon the Government to support moves in the European Parliament to introduce a compensation scheme for the victims of crime and those who have suffered actual bodily harm as a criminal act which should be paid at European level with additional payments for any legal costs incurred. Will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement next week to explain why Britain is opposing such moves in the Council of Ministers?

Mr. Newton

I understand that Britain already has probably the most generous criminal injuries compensation scheme anywhere. More than 60,000 claims were resolved in 1991–92 and the better part of £150 million was paid in compensation. Therefore, I am not prepared to accept too many strictures on the Government's record in that respect.