HC Deb 26 November 1992 vol 214 cc987-97 3.31 pm
Mrs. Margaret Beckett (Derby, South)

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 30 NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Social Security Bill.

TUESDAY I DECEMBER and WEDNESDAY 2 DECEMBER —Progress in Committee on the European Communities (Amendment) Bill

THURSDAY 3 DECEMBER—Second Reading of the Judicial Pensions and Retirement Bill [Lords]

FRIDAY 4 DECEMBER—Private Members' motions

MONDAY 7 DECEMBER—Committee and remaining stages of the Social Security Bill.

The House will also wish to know that European Standing Committee B will meet on Wednesday 2 December at 10.30 am to consider European Community document No. 4204/89, relating to VAT: special arrangements for second-hand goods, works of art, antiques and collectors' items.

I come now to the bit that everyone has been waiting for. The House will wish to know that, subject to the progress of business, it will be proposed that the House should rise for the Christmas Adjournment on Thursday 17 December until Monday 11 January.

It may also be of assistance to the House to know that, even more subject to the progress of business, it will be proposed that the House should rise for the Easter Adjournment on Friday 2 April until Wednesday 14 April.

  • [Wednesday 2 December
  • European Standing Committee B
  • Relevant European Community Document
  • 4204/89 Value Added Tax
  • Relevant Report of the European Legislation Committee HC 79-viii (1992–93)]

Mrs. Beckett

I thank the Leader of the House for his statement—especially for having responded to the concern expressed on both sides of the House and for having given us early notice of the dates for the Easter recess. I know that all hon. Members will appreciate that help with their planning. That is the good news.

There is, however, considerable resentment in the House at the scheduling of the statement this afternoon on the revenue support grant, after a statement on Sunday trading for which some other time could surely have been found. Hon. Members on both sides are anxious to question the Secretary of State for the Environment on issues of local taxation, about which there is anxiety. I hope that satisfactory arrangements have been made for our Scottish and Welsh colleagues to pursue issues of local taxation pertaining to Scotland and Wales.

I press the Leader of the House to find time for a debate in Government time on the consequences of privatisation, before any further such moves. Does he recognise that strong concerns about the consequences of electricity privatisation for British Coal are exacerbating fears for the future of that industry? Recent reports from the bidders that double fares or the closure of 5 per cent. of the routes on Network SouthEast might follow privatisation are also giving great cause for anxiety, and they highlight the need for a full debate on the consequences of past privatisation well before we embark on further such risky moves.

Having sought a debate in Government time, I also ask the Leader of the House for an assurance that there will be a further Opposition day in the near future.

Mr. Newton

I thank the hon. Lady for her generous remarks about the recess dates. I should have made it clear that, because Easter is rather late next year, the Easter Adjournment is largely before rather than after Easter, as has happened on previous occasions.

I note what the hon. Lady says about the revenue support grant statement and the other statement which are to be made shortly. The Sunday trading statement was originally to have been made on Monday, but it was thought that that might be inconvenient to some Opposition Members as it was also their Supply day. However, we felt it right to make the statement this week.

There will not be oral statements by the Secretary of State for Scotland or for Wales today, but the Secretary of State for Scotland will be making an oral statement next week and the Secretary of State for Wales will be making one towards the middle of next month.

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

In the House?

Mr. Newton

Yes, oral statements—by which I mean statements from where I am standing now, when the hon. Gentleman will have every opportunity to look the Minister straight in the eye and ask direct questions.

Those statements will not be precisely in every detail parallel with the one today because the various parts of the United Kingdom operate slightly differently, but there will be oral statements on local government finance in Scotland and Wales within the next couple of weeks or so.

I cannot promise a debate specifically on privatisation between now and Christmas, but the hon. Lady will be aware that my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade has undertaken to have debates on coal, to mention one of the matters to which the hon. Lady referred, in the light of his White Paper in the new year. The hon. Lady will well know also that we expect to bring the rail privatisation Bill before the House in due course, which will give opportunities on that as well.

I note the hon. Lady's request about Opposition time. I am obviously anxious to be helpful, but I cannot at this moment make a commitment for one between now and Christmas.

Mr. Barry Porter (Wirral, South)

My right hon. Friend will no doubt have noted during Northern Ireland questions that we never reached question 11 on security. The hon. Member for Belfast, West (Dr. Hendron) tried to raise the matter in a way in which I would not have done and was told that the appropriate question would be reached in due course, but it never was.

Bearing in mind the number of murders that are taking place in Northern Ireland, may we have a debate in the House before Christmas to discuss, in particular, the disgraceful and appalling article published in The Guardian last Mondy which purported to portray the IRA as respectable soldiers who are jolly sorry that they kill people and who are kind to their children, and that sort of thing? Such a debate would be much more important than one on the privatisation of the railways and should be given greater priority.

Mr. Newton

I understand that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland touched on that point at one stage during Northern Ireland questions, but I note my hon. Friend's request, which was an ingenious effort during business questions to make a point intended for Irish questions.

Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire)

I remind the Leader of the House of his responsibility to allow the Scottish Grand Committee up to six matter days in the course of any one year. The right hon. Gentleman may know that there has been an effective Scottish Trades Union Council lobby of the House on constitutional and job issues which are of the first significance north of the border. I hope that, if the right hon. Gentleman cannot find time to allocate one day next week, he will do so before Christmas.

May we have an early debate on the common fisheries policy regime which will apply to the inshore fleet in 1993?

Mr. Newton

As to the hon. Gentleman's first point, I will of course consider his suggestion. As to his second, I indicated in one or two answers to previous business questions that I hope to provide time for a fisheries debate between now and Christmas.

Mr. Phillip Oppenheim (Amber Valley)

May the House debate job creation, and discuss an interesting new wheeze discovered by friends of the Leader of the Opposition, who apparently create jobs for their friends in Monklands by giving them coloured forms? Is that what Labour means by their new agenda? It sounds suspiciously like the old one to me.

Mr. Newton

I note my hon. Friend's remarks, but that is more a question for the Leader of the Opposition than for me—and I believe that the whole House would be interested to hear the comments of the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith).

Mr. Ken Maginnis (Fermanagh and South Tyrone)

Insofar as there is increasing contravention of broadcasting directives prohibiting the availability of the air waves to those espousing the causes of terrorist organisations, will it be possible to find time to allow the Secretary of State for National Heritage to come to the House to tell us how those directives can be made more effective, both in letter and in law?

Yesterday, a Sinn Fein councillor who did not see a shooting incident was able to appear on television and spew out his vicious and malicious propaganda to the disadvantage of our hard-pressed security services. Will the Leader of the House try to find time in the very near future to allow the Secretary of State to explain how that can be put right?

Mr. Newton

Perhaps I can help the hon. Gentleman, because my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage is due to answer questions within the span of the business statement that I just made—that is, on Monday 7 December. In any case, I will draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the hon. Gentleman's point.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)

So that the House can discuss GATT, the Balkans, and all the other matters that will preoccupy the Edinburgh summit, can a debate on foreign affairs be placed on the agenda of the House before the Christmas recess?

Mr. Newton

I cannot promise a general debate on foreign affairs in quite that form, but I make the point —as I did to the hon. Member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone (Mr. Maginnis)—that my right hon. Friends the President of the Board of Trade and the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food are due to answer questions next week, so there should be an opportunity to raise the question of GATT. In view of my hon. Friend's well-known interest in such matters, I draw his attention to the opportunities that will arise perhaps on the Consolidated Fund and certainly on the debate on the Christmas Adjournment motion.

Mr. Mark Fisher (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)

Will the right hon. Gentleman ask the President of the Board of Trade to make a statement to the House about the condition of the 10 pits marked for closure? When the President last spoke to the House on that subject, he gave an assurance that the fabric of those pits—the faces and roadways-—would be kept viable so that the pits could be reopened, if that were the will of the House. All the evidence of weekly inspections is that those faces a re coverging and deteriorating fast.

Unless the President makes a statement and requires British Coal to inform him on a weekly basis about what is happening to those faces, people will not know. Several of my hon. Friends and I have been seeking a meeting with the President of the Board of Trade and are aghast that he has so far refused personally to meet us. That shows an unusual and, I believe, unprecedented lack of courtesy by a Minister in relation to such a pressing issue.

Mr. Newton

As I mentioned in response to a previous question, my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade will answer questions in the House next Wednesday. Meanwhile, I fall back on the formula of undertaking to convey to my right hon. Friend the strength of feeling that the hon. Gentleman has expressed.

Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)

I am sure that the House is grateful to know the dates of the Easter as well as the Christmas recess, but I hope that that does not ominously mean that the Bill to ratify the Maastricht treaty will drag on that long in Committee on the Floor of the House. I have no wish to stifle debate, but in view of the will of the House on Second Reading, with a one-page Bill of only three to four clauses, surely even the Chair will have to rule out of order most of the amendments tabled so far. Can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that the Bill will be expedited so that ours will not be the last country to ratify the treaty?

Mr. Newton

My hon. Friend's interest in such matters is, to say the least, well known. Let me give him two assurances. First, my announcement of the Easter recess dates was prompted by nothing more than my desire to please the House, in my familiar fashion; it did not constitute a comment on the European Communities (Amendment) Bill. Secondly, the Government's position on that Bill remains the same: it is an important measure, and the House must be given proper time to discuss it.

Mr. Terry Lewis (Worsley)

Does the Lord President share my grief and anger about the rape of a 17-year-old girl in Hillingdon by a man who, it was claimed in court, was moved to commit that heinous crime by the pornographic telephone service? Is it not about time that the Lord President and his right hon. Friends took account of the seriousness of the situation? I have been trying to do something about it for seven years. How much longer must we wait, and how many more youngsters must be terrorised in the same way because an Act of Parliament has allowed British Telecom to run such lines?

I cannot understand how Conservative Members can pray before each sitting of the House knowing that an Act that they passed in 1984 has resulted in so much agony and trouble for ordinary people. When will we be able to debate the matter, and when will the law be changed?

Mr. Newton

It is to the hon. Gentleman's credit that he has taken an interest in such matters for a long time. No one would wish to express anything other than grave concern about the case that he has described. I shall ensure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage is made aware of what he has said, and it is possible that he will be able to raise the matter with my right hon. Friend at National Heritage questions in 10 days' time.

Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills)

My right hon. Friend will recall that, on 19 October, the Foreign Office wrote to my right hon. Friend the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee confirming that a document in straightforward English explaining the Government's interpretation of the Maastricht Bill would be made available to the House. According to the Foreign Office, the document would be made available at the earliest possible opportunity, but certainly before the recommencement of debate on the Bill. That can now be done only today or on Monday. If the Foreign Office pledge is not honoured, will my right hon. Friend make a business statement on Monday, postponing the Bill's Committee stage until we have seen the document?

Mr. Newton

I shall not give my hon. Friend the immediate undertaking that he seeks. I shall, however, give him an immediate undertaking to look into the point that he has raised as soon as business questions are over.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)

May I revert to the distressing and deeply worrying position of the fishing industry? Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake not only to confer with the relevant Ministers in both the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Scottish Office about the possibility of a debate before Christmas, but to write to interested Members on the subject?

Last week, during a sitting of Standing Committee A, it was clearly intimated that no such debate would take place before Christmas. In the light of the failure of the fisheries Minister to report back to the House following Monday's meeting in Brussels, will the Leader of the House ensure that a statement is made next week? Hundreds of our constituents now face not only a bleak December, but bankruptcy and a loss of livelihood.

Mr. Newton

I note what the hon. Lady has said. As she will know, her hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond)—who evidently could not be present for business questions—has secured for next week an Adjournment debate on the North sea haddock quota. Obviously, that will cover some of the issues raised by the hon. Lady.

Mrs. Edwina Currie (Derbyshire, South)

May we give three cheers for the fact that, after six months, the Maastricht Bill is at last going into Committee? As it will take many hours and many weeks, will my right hon. Friend consider telling us on which days it will be discussed so that hon. Members can make their plans? No doubt the information is already available to Ministers.

Will my right hon. Friend also take on board the point that was hinted at by my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd)—that the Bill could be scuppered by points of order, if we are not careful? Those of us who want to support the Government and get the Bill through would like enough time for full discussion of all the issues, without any trouble.

Mr. Newton

I sense that the latter part of my hon. Friend's remarks were directed elsewhere than at myself, because I am not seeking to cause, or acquiesce in, the sort of trouble that she seems to have in mind.

On my hon. Friend's first point, as I hope I have made clear in the few months that I have been doing this job, I am always anxious to give the House as much notice as I can of business or of recess dates, but I cannot promise to give in advance all the dates that my hon. Friend would like.

Mr. Kevin Barron (Rother Valley)

Did the Lord President hear on the radio this morning that the Government are about to abolish the independent living allowance, which has brought a better quality of life to many severely disabled people in recent years? Will he find out why the House has not been told, and what is likely to replace the fund? May we have a statement next week so that hon. Members may be aware of what is happening?

Mr. Newton

The hon. Gentleman is a little behind the time. This is a matter in which I am interested, and he will find that a question was answered earlier this week setting out the Government's plans, on which, as is well known, we have been working for some time, for a successor body to the independent living fund. The Government intend to legislate in the present Session to provide for the successor body.

Mr. Roger Knapman (Stroud)

The House will welcome the return of the European Communities (Amendment) Bill to the Floor of the House—none more so, I suspect, than Madam Speaker. What will be the position if the exchange rate mechanism falls apart? Will we continue with amendments relating to the mechanism?

Mr. Newton

The question whether amendments are proceeded with will depend, first, on the selection of the Chairman of Ways and Means—that is not a matter for me—and the wishes of hon. Members who have tabled them. On the underlying issue, it seems that what has happened with the exchange rate mechanism has very much confirmed almost everything that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has been saying for a long time.

Mr. Thomas Graham (Renfrew, West and Inverclyde)

I demand that the Leader of the House arranges for the Secretary of State for Scotland to make a statement on this letter sent direct to my constituents, usurping my democratic role as an elected Member by asking my constituents to contact him if they have problems of a national or local nature. Surely that is a breach of may repesentation and role in the house.

Mr. Newton

I have not had the advantage of seeing the missive to which the hon. Gentleman refers, but I shall bring his remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State as soon as I can.

Mr. Bob Dunn (Dartford)

May we have a day's debate on general education matters, not least the publication of league tables showing school results? My right hon. Friend will know that that is important to me and my constituents. A debate would give us a chance to welcome the change in Labour policy, because the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) has now said that the Labour party would publish league tables.

Mr. Newton

As I think I said last week, I am increasingly tempted to find time for a debate to allow the Opposition to explain why they opposed the policy for so long, even if there has now been a welcome shift of view. It is not the first time, of course, that there has been a welcome shift by Labour Members to policies that we espouse but which they initially opposed. Despite that temptation, I cannot undertake to provide time for a further debate on education in the immediate future.

Mr. Joe Ashton (Bassetlaw)

Will the Minister reconsider his decision about the Easter recess? Is he aware that, despite what the Jopling report said, he has fixed dates when children will be at school but the House will be on holiday? The week after, children will be on holiday and we shall be back here. In the interests of family unity, will he reconsider the dates to ensure that they coincide with school holidays?

Mr. Newton

If ever there was an example of how difficult it is to please all the people all the time, even though I have announced a recess date so far in advance, that must be it. I cannot give quite the undertaking which the hon. Gentleman seeks, but I shall certainly consider what he has said.

Mr. Peter Viggers (Gosport)

Will my right hon. Friend find time soon for a debate on a business issue which has become serious—the insurance of premises on the mainland of the United Kingdom in the wake of IRA bombings? Is he aware that the withdrawal of reinsurance arrangements means that businesses may remain uncovered in the United Kingdom, which not only poses a threat to the insurance industry—in which I declare an interest, through my membership of Lloyd's—but is a serious problem when we try to attract business to the United Kingdom? I yield to no one in my understanding of the publicity angle, but, as the Financial Times has said, what I suggest does not represent acquiescence to terrorism; it is simply carrying on the fight against terrorism by different means.

Mr. Newton

If I understand my hon. Friend's question aright, this seems to be a matter for the President of the Board of Trade, who will be here next week to answer questions. I shall bring it to his attention.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Will the Leader of the House review his answer to a question about a debate on coal privatisation, in view of the odd set of circumstances now prevailing? British Coal wants a small industry because British Coal is part and parcel of a takeover bid. It wants a nice little captive rigged market, with only 30 million tonnes worth of coal contracts at the power stations. It is important that we should have a debate before the White Paper is published so that we can expose the murky deal going on with Mr. Neil Clarke and his gang. They are obviously intent on shaping the market to suit themselves rather than the miners. That is why we should have a debate before Christmas.

Mr. Newton

I do not believe that I referred to a debate specifically on coal rivatisation—certainly I did not intend to. I was referring to the whole range of issues that will arise from the review by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade and the White Paper which he has promised. The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) is making a point which I suspect he may seek to develop at that time. I cannot promise him a debate in the near future.

Mr. Anthony Coombs (Wyre Forest)

May I remind my right hon. Friend that an amendment has been tabled to early-day motion 908?

[That this House welcomes the resumption on 28th October in New York of direct negotiations between the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus, with a view to searching for a lasting and mutually acceptable solution to the Cyprus question; is heartened by the recent references in this House by a Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister to the constructive aproaches of the two leaders taking part in the negotiations; notes the United Nations Security Council Resolution which envisages a freely negotiated and mutually acceptable settlement to the Cyprus question; and welcomes the statement from another Minister of State that the Greek Cypriots must agree to genuine power sharing that accepts Turkish Cypriots as a politically equal community.]

The amendment expresses the regret of the House at the breakdown of the talks on the reunification of Cyprus in New York a few weeks ago. In a report this week the Secretary-General of the United Nations attributes that breakdown to the intransigence and lack of political will of the Turkish Cypriot community.

Will the Government make a statement telling us what they, as President of the Community, can do to bring about a resumption of the talks? Will they also tell us what Suleyman Demirel, the Turkish Prime Minister, said on the subject when he visited London recently?

Mr. Newton

I cannot undertake that the Foreign Secretary will make a statement, but I assure my hon. Friend that the Foreign Secretary and the Government as a whole will continue to give every support to the efforts of the United Nations Secretary-General to resolve the Cyprus dispute.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Members' interests.

Mr. Newton

The hon. Gentleman will know, and I hope that he will be pleased, that the usual channels finally managed to appoint the Select Committee last Friday. That paves the way to the publication of the new register. which I hope will take place at an early stage—although that is a matter for the Committee. It also enables me to consider some of the other issues in which the hon. Gentleman is interested.

Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth)

My right hon. Friend is to be sincerely congratulated on his decision to announce the Easter recess—for the sake not only of Members but of their families. He will be aware that this decision relates to an important part of the report of my right hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling), which calls for reform of the hours of the House. Can my right hon. Friend make further progress on the reforms proposed in the Jopling report? Is he aware that, of the almost 1,000 motions on the Order Paper, early-day motion 9, which calls for those reforms, bears the second highest number of Members' signatures?

[That this House welcomes the Report of the Select Committee on the Sittings of the House, HC20, Session 1991–92, which considered 'whether the public and private business of the House might be conducted more effectively by making changes to the order and timing of business, the hours of sitting and the arrangement of the parliamentary year'; notes the recommendations of the report and the debate on 2nd March 1992; and urges the Government to provide time to discuss further and consider substantive motions and vote on the recommendations of the report at the earliest opportunity.]

Two hundred and fifteen Members have signed that motion, which represents one third of the Members of the House of Commons.

Mr. Newton

I am very much aware of the interest shown in these matters by my hon. Friend and by my right hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling). As I said, I hope that we shall be able to make further progress before too long following discussion through the usual channels. Apart from the relatively early announcement of recess dates today, the pattern of business in the House on Thursdays over the past few weeks and the hours at which the House has risen show that quite a lot of progress has been made even within the existing rules.

Mr. Barry Jones (Alyn and Deeside)

Is it possible to have a full day's debate on Britain's growing housing crisis? There is evidence in the surgeries of hon. Members of all parties of great distress in housing. Does the Leader of the House know that on Tuesday the Churches National Housing Coalition hopes to lobby the House? It has an all-party approach and aims to emphasise the seriousness of the housing crisis. Would the right hon. Gentleman like to meet the Archbishop of Wales, for example, on Tuesday?

Mr. Newton

I am not sure that I can undertake to meet the Archbishop of Wales about housing matters on Tuesday, much as I would, in some respects, wish to be able to do so. Nor can I promise the debate that the hon. Gentleman seeks. In the past couple of weeks, notably in the autumn statement, the Government have announced a number of measures that will have an important and advantageous effect on certain housing problems.

Mr. John Butcher (Coventry, South-West)

May we have a debate on today's welcome statement that Treasury economic forecasting is to be contracted out? Is my right hon. Friend aware, for example, that in a league table of forcasters' effectiveness, the Treasury came 19th, whereas the Liverpool Six had four of its members in the top eight?

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Richard Ryder)

indicated dissent.

Mr. Butcher

Could we not give the whole shebang to the Liverpool Six? We might then be able to steer the ship of state with all the hard data required to make appropriate decisions.

Mr. Newton

My right hon. Friend the Chief Whip claims that those are not accurate figures. Whether they are right or wrong, I cannot promise a debate. Indeed, I should be rash to do so until we see how the new arrangements perform.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

Will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement next week on the difficulties being experienced in France and on the potential breakdown of the GATT talks? May we examine the possibility of an interim ban on the export of live animals for slaughter during this period? Many people would like the ban to be permanent in view of the variable standards of transport of live animals in other EC countries. In view of the potential dangers for animals, should not the Government consider the possibility of at least a temporary ban until the difficulties are removed?

Mr. Newton

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Government have a long time vigorously sought to improve the welfare of animals including those being transported abroad. I will ensure that my right hon Friend the Minister of Agriculture Fisheries and Food is a aware of the hon. Gentleman's point.

Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch)

Does my right hon. Friend intend to introduce the paving coal and rail Bill in another place next week? Is the Bill to be split or do the Government intend to push ahead regardless of the timetable for the introduction of the White Paper on the future of the coal industry?

Will my right hon. Friend ponder the stark difference between the Green Paper issued by the Secretary of State for National Heritage on the future of the BBC, under which there is to be a six-month debate on the role, objectives, organisation and funding of that great organisation, and the way in which we are steaming ahead, if I may use that phrase, with the railway privatisation proposals without any serious debate on the possibilities and without alternative methods being considered?

Mr. Newton

My hon. Friend will be aware that the progress of Bills in another place is a matter for another place. I understand that it has been said there that the expectation is that progress will be made on the paving Bill in Committee next week. Knowing my hon. Friend's interest in these matters, I am sure that he is aware that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport said in a slightly different other place—on the "Today" programme—that he expected to introduce the railway privatisation Bill early next year.

Dr. Tony Wright (Cannock and Burntwood)

Now that we have cleared up the question of the Select Committee on Members' Interests, will the Leader of the House tell the House when he thinks the Select Committee on the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration will be established? Given the statement on the citizens charter yesterday, and given the Government's interest in issues of complaint and redress in public services, is it not rather strange that, seven months into a new Parliament, the instrument that the House has to exercise scrutiny in precisely that matter has still not been established?

Mr. Newton

I, too, would like that Select Committee to be established. No doubt the usual channels—whose representatives on both sides of the House are present—will make every effort to do their stuff, if I may use the vernacular, as they have done recently in respect of the Select Committee on Members' Interests.

Mr. Michael Fabricant (Mid-Staffordshire)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker

Order. I think that the hon. Gentleman's point of order may well be a point of frustration, but in any case I am afraid that he will have to wait until the end of the statements.