HC Deb 04 February 1993 vol 218 cc475-87 3.30 pm
Mrs. Margaret Beckett (Derby, South)

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 8 FEBRUARY—Motions on the Welsh revenue support grant reports. Details will be given in the Official Report.

Motion on the Industrial Training Levy (Construction Board) Order.

Motion on the Industrial Training Levy (Engineering Construction Board) Order.

The Chairman of Ways and Means has named opposed private business for consideration at seven o'clock.

TUESDAY 9 FEBRUARY—Remaining stages of the Housing and Urban Development Bill.

WEDNESDAY IO FEBRUARY—Until about seven o'clock, completion of remaining stages of the Housing and Urban Development Bill.

Motions on the Social Security Benefit Uprating Order and other orders and regulations. Details will be given in the Official Report.

The House will then be asked to agree spring supplementary estimates 1992–93.

THURSDAY II FEBRUARY—Motion on the Local Government Finance (England) Special Grant Report (No. 6).

Motion on the Maximum Number of Judges Order.

Motion on the Civil Jurisdiction and Judgements Act 1982 (Amendment) Order.

FRIDAY 12 FEBRUARY—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY 15 FEBRUARY—Until seven o'clock, private Members' motions.

Proceedings on the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill.

Consideration of Lords amendments to the Bankruptcy (Scotland) Bill.

Remaining stages of the Judicial Pensions and Retirement Bill [Lords].

The House will also wish to know that European Standing Committees will meet on Wednesday 10 February at 10.30 am to consider European Community documents as follows: Standing Committee A—Document No. 8642/92, relating to the appointment of an officer for prevention of risks inherent in the carriage of dangerous goods. Standing Committee B—Documents Nos. 9766192 and 10341192 relating to the restructuring of the Spanish steel industry.

The House will recall that, before Christmas, I announced the dates of the Easter recess. I hope that it will now be for the convenience of the House to know that, subject to the progress of business, it is proposed that the House should rise for the Spring Adjournment—the Whit recess in common parlance—on Friday 28 May until Monday 7 June.

Monday 8 February:

Welsh Revenue Support Grant Reports: 1. Local Government Finance Report ( Wales) 1993–94 (HC 412);

2. Limitation of Council Tax and Precepts ( Relevant Notional Amounts) Report ( Wales) 1993–94 (HC 413).

Wednesday 10 February:

Social security uprating and other orders and regulations: 1. Guaranteed Minimum Pensions Increase Order 1992; 2. Social Security Benefits Up-Rating Order 1993; 3. Social Security (Contributions) ( Re-Rating) Order 1993; 4. Social Security (Contributions) (Amendment) Regulations 1993; 5. Statutory Sick Pay ( Rate of Payment) Order 1993.

European Standing Committee A: Relevant European Community document-8642/92, risk prevention officers; relevant report of the European Legislation Committee—HC 79-vii ( 1992–93 ).

European Standing Committee B: Relevant European Community documents-9766/92, 10341192, Spanish steel; relevant report of the European Legislation Committee—HC 79-ix (1992–93 )]

Mrs. Beckett

I thank the Leader of the House for that statement, and in particular for his courtesy in letting the House know the dates of the Whitsun recess, which will certainly be most helpful to people's planning.

Could I ask him to find time as soon as possible for a debate on legal aid, in view of the growing concern about the serious consequences of the Government's proposals and their implications for the access to justice of many citizens—something that should be everyone's right?

The House is owed time for a number of outstanding debates not only on the Government's public expenditure programme, but on the estimates for the Army and the Navy. There is particular concern about the employment implications of the Navy's present programme and, unless we are granted those debates, the employment implications of the Government's overall defence programme may simply trickle out piecemeal.

May we have an assurance that we will have a debate on the Home Secretary's plans for the police force before he does for police morale what he has already done for the morale of doctors and teachers?

Finally, may I press the right hon. Gentleman to find time for an Opposition day in the near future?

Mr. Newton

Most of those requests must be taken on board for consideration, including those about the police and legal aid, on which the Lord Chancellor will be bringing forward his proposals.

As for the economy and the hon. Lady's reference to public expenditure, there is not much that I can usefully add to what I told her last week. I can be a little more forthcoming on her reference to defence issues, and there may be others in the House who would have mentioned foreign affairs. It would be helpful to have a debate on defence and foreign affairs issues, and while I cannot give an absolute commitment about the timing, I shall be looking for an opportunity in the not too distant future. Finally, in line with the spirit with which the hon. Lady spoke, I thank her for her thanks for the early notice of the Whit recess.

Sir Anthony Grant (Cambridgeshire, South-West)

Will it be possible some time to have a debate on international trade protectionism in which it will be possible to emphasise the vital importance of President Clinton making quite clear the views of his new Administration on protectionism and isolationism?

Mr. Newton

My hon. Friend will be aware that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is expecting to meet President Clinton later this month, and I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend will wish to take account of that point. Much as I would like to please my hon. Friend, I cannot promise an early debate in exactly the terms that he has suggested, but I guess that a number of these issues might prove in order during the debate on the Budget, which is not too far away.

Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire)

Having regard to some of the comments made in the other place yesterday by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Taylor, about the draconian nature of the proposed civil legal aid cuts, can I reinforce the request by the official Opposition for an early debate on civil legal aid? If rumours are to be believed, these measures are supposed to come into effect on 1 April, and it is necessary for people to make proper arrangements and plan for those changes. Can the right hon. Gentleman assure us that we will have an early debate on the matter on the Floor of the House?

Mr. Newton

I will add a little to what I told the hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett). My noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor has said that he will consider the proposals by the legal profession, which embrace some of the points made in another place, but he has not been persuaded that they will yield the required amounts. He will shortly be laying regulations to bring into effect the changes he has announced, and we shall then consider having a debate.

Mr. Peter Thurnham (Bolton, North-East)

Will my right hon. Friend find time for an early and urgent debate on Angola? Three British citizens, including my constituent, Mr. Stephenson, have been caught up in fighting between the UNITA rebels and the Government forces along with nationals from other countries. There is a need for concerted international action to secure their release and bring an end to the fighting which has ravished Angola for so long.

Mr. Newton

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for having given me some notice of his concern, which I am sure the House will understand and share. I understand that the Foreign Office has had further meetings with UNITA officials this afternoon to discuss the plight of the British oil workers held captive and has been assured that UNITA is actively trying to arrange for those people to be flown out. My right hon. Friend's officials will continue to pursue the case very urgently.

Mr. Stephen Byers (Wallsend)

Can I press the Leader of the House to find time for an early debate on the Royal Navy? He will be aware that the House has not debated the navy since June 1991 and, in addition, that the Ministry of Defence is about to take important decisions on those projects that will form the long-term programme and forward plan for the Ministry of Defence. Given the importance of the naval procurement programme to shipbuilding communities like those on Tyneside, will the Leader of the House find time for a debate so that the views of the House can be heard before the Secretary of State for Defence reaches final decisions?

Mr. Newton

I note the hon. Gentleman's request, but I cannot go beyond what I have already, I think reasonably forthcomingly, said to his hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) about the possibility of a debate on defence and foreign affairs issues.

Mr. Gyles Brandreth (City of Chester)

Will my right hon. Friend find time for an early debate on children's play and recreation? He may be aware that, from 1 April, ring-fenced funding for children's play will no longer exist and that what funding there is will go through the Sports Council rather than through the National Children's Play and Recreation Unit. There is concern on all sides of the House about the issue of children's play, and I would be grateful for an early opportunity to raise this in a debate.

Mr. Newton

Perhaps I can satisfy my hon. Friend reasonably rapidly. The motion on the Local Government Finance (England) Special Grant Report (No. 6) which I announced for next Thursday covers community care issues.

Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann)

Can we have a clear indication from the Leader of the House as to when the Secretary of State for Scotland will announce the results of his taking stock exercise? Can it be done in the form of a proper debate in which we can fully explore the United Kingdom dimension, so that, before the status of Scotland and Scottish business in the House is enhanced, Northern Ireland business can be lifted to at least the present level enjoyed by Scotland, so that we do not suffer even greater discrimination?

Mr. Newton

Had the hon. Gentleman been able to be here—I have no doubt that he was pursuing urgent business—he could perhaps have asked that question of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland yesterday.

Mr. Trimble

I was here.

Mr. Newton

In that case, I apologise to the hon. Gentleman. I am sorry that he did not get the opportunity to ask the question.

As to the thrust of his main question, I strongly suspect that there would in other parts of the House perhaps be some objection to an announcement taking the form directly of a debate rather than of a statement followed by some opportunity for hon. Members to consider what it said.

Mr. Michael Spicer (Worcestershire, South)

As the Government are very wisely not proceeding next week with the European Communities (Amendment) Bill, and are therefore presumably in no great hurry to complete the Bill, will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that Ministers in future will at least be given an opportunity to wind up after debates rather than before, and that the Government will not close a debate before they have had an opportunity to do so?

Mr. Newton

I probably ought to make it clear to my hon. Friend, while appreciating his motivation and dedication on this subject, that I do not wish to validate the interpretation that he placed on next week's business in his introductory remarks. As to the rest, he would not expect me to give undertakings about the details of handling the Bill from day to day, except, to pick up the words that he actually used, that I am not aware of Ministers having sought to wind up a debate before it had started.

Mr. Terry Lewis (Worsley)

Will the Leader of the House consider a debate on the Leyland DAF situation as soon as possible and, more important, on the wider aspects of Government support for industry? People watching the proceedings today on television will have been perplexed to see, in the range of one question time, one Minister lauding the £300 million given in taxpayers' money to encourage Nissan and then his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister saying that we should not support indigenous manufacturing industries which are otherwise sound. It is perplexing to hon. Members, and even more perplexing to people outside. We need a debate.

Mr. Newton

The hon. Member has asked two questions. On his request for a debate, I cannot add to what I have said on a number of economic and related issues in earlier exchanges this afternoon. On his second point, my understanding is that no rules would prevent any firm from applying for regional selective assistance; but that is not the principal issue that he has in mind, I think.

Mr. Richard Tracey (Surbiton)

Can my right hon. Friend promise the House a full debate on local government corruption, as it has been reported, or at least a full statement from my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment? Our debates on the revenue support grant for England have passed, and soon local councils will be setting their council tax and householders will be receiving bills through their letter boxes. It is a matter of great concern to many millions of citizens that councils are reported to have deep-rooted corruption within them, and it is time that the House discussed that issue.

Mr. Newton

I am well aware of the concern expressed by my hon. Friend, which I believe is widely shared. I must rest on the proposition that there have been or will be at least four opportunities to debate local government matters in a short space of time. Right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House have shown some ingenuity in raising the issue to which my hon. Friend referred on those and other occasions.

Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South)

Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on law and order? The crime rate is rising, the detection rate is falling, and the courts are half-empty—I declare an interest as a barrister—because nobody seems to be arrested any more. Labour has been out of power for 14 years, and in the Government's 14 years in power law and order has got into quite a mess. It is time to debate that issue.

Mr. Newton

I cannot promise the hon. Gentleman a debate, but my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary will be here to answer questions this day week.

Mr. Harold Elletson (Blackpool, North)

Can my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on tourism, which is of great and growing importance to the British economy? It has not been debated in the House for five years.

Mr. Newton

I cannot give an immediate promise, but that issue has been raised several times in recent weeks and I will certainly bear it in mind.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Will the Leader of the House consider a debate on workfare, so that the House can discuss all its aspects and the Government's proposal to throw several hundred thousand more people out of work this year and then call upon them to clean the streets or whatever? At the same time, Members of Parliament are picking up £30,000 a year—and some do not turn up for work. More than 200 Tory Members of Parliament have 500 consultancies and directorships between them, and 19 Tory ex-Cabinet Ministers have 52 directorships between them. Let us have a proper debate about workfare and the way in which the right hon. Gentleman and his Tory friends look after one another.

Mr. Newton

Not for the first time, I shall seek to resist the provocation that I am offered. I will simply say that the hon. Gentleman's interpretation bears no relationship whatever to what was said by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister last night.

Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockton, South)

On the evening opening of betting shops, about which I asked last week, I understand that a prayer has been laid against us by the Opposition, and that there are two early-day motions—Nos 1311 and 1175.

[That this House expresses its concern that the plans to extend the opening hours of licensed betting offices has already resulted in Ladbrokes issuing revised contracts with the threat that refusal to sign will result in individuals being given notice to terminate their existing contracts; and calls upon the Government to take this into account when amending the law to ensure that existing workers are not penalized.]

Will the House have an opportunity to debate that matter? There is growing concern among right hon. and hon. Members that betting companies are forcing employees to sign new contracts, failing which they will be fired—and there are no proper safeguards in that industry.

Mr. Newton

Any thoughts that the Government have about those matters may be expressed at the Statutory Instruments Committee next Thursday. As I understand it, they do not affect the rights of betting office employees, which would remain a matter for discussion between them and the companies that employ them.

Mr. John Denham (Southampton, Itchen)

Will the right hon. Gentleman provide an early opportunity to debate the waste of millions of pounds by Wessex regional health authority in the light of today's reports of the confidential district auditor's study? It shows that the chairman of that authority, Sir Robin Buchanan, appears to have been personally involved in disastrous decisions —including the removal of penalty clauses from contracts with private sector companies and creating the situation in which an IBM employee was advising the authority on the purchase of IBM equipment.

May the House have an early opportunity to debate that appalling waste of money and the bumbling incompetence with which the Department of Health failed to supervise Wessex regional health authority, despite grave public concern stretching back to the mid-1980s?

Mr. Newton

I am not in a position to promise an early debate on that subject, but I will certainly draw the hon. Gentleman's comments to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security.

Mr. John Bowis (Battersea)

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that next week's debate on the Maximum Number of Judges Order will give the House an opportunity to ascertain whether enough judges are available to adjudicate in cases involving allegations of fraud in Labour councils in London and elsewhere? There will be a number of such cases.

Mr. Newton

A few months ago, I referred to the ingenuity with which such matters had been introduced. My hon. Friend's question certainly falls into the ingenious category. The issue of what is in order during next week's debate will, of course, be a matter for whoever is in the Chair.

Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)

Is it not, at the very least, deeply disquieting that a report from the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council that went to the Secretary of State for Social Security last autumn, and recommended benefits for miners whose work underground had left them with emphysema and chronic bronchitis, has still not been acted on by the Government? Is the Leader of the House aware that many of the intended beneficiaries have died, week by week, since last August, and that many others have to struggle even to breathe? May we have a statement from the Secretary of State next week?

Mr. Newton

I cannot promise what the right hon. Gentleman requests. I can say, however, that—having held responsibilities in such maters myself for some time —I know of the difficulty and complexity of some of the issues raised, and I consider it right for my right, hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security to give them careful and proper consideration.

Mr. John Sykes (Scarborough)

Will my right hon. Friend consider arranging a debate on a subject that I believe will be of grave concern to the House? Is he aware that Peter Sutcliffe—the Yorkshire ripper—is seeking to publish his memoirs? Does he appreciate the enormous revulsion that will be felt by the people of Yorkshire, not least the families of victims?

Mr. Newton

I am sure that many will share my hon. Friend's view. He will be aware of the opinion expressed by my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary on a not entirely dissimilar matter that came up during Prime Minister's Question Time last week. I shall certainly draw my hon. Friend's concern to his attention.

Mr. Nicholas Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne, East)

Should not the Secretary of State for Defence make his announcements about the Navy's helicopter carrier in the House of Commons, rather than on "Newsnight"? On that programme, when the Secretary of State was asked whether he intended to cancel the order for the carrier, he said, "No, it's not true." We have been trying for weeks to get him to say that in the House of Commons. Will he come to the Dispatch Box and make a statement, either tomorrow or next week?

Mr. Newton

That question is—if I may use the vernacular—a bit over the top. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State very properly came to the House only yesterday to make a substantial statement, on which, if I remember rightly, the hon. Gentleman managed to question him—[Interruption.] In any event, there was certainly a clear opportunity for him to ask the question that he has just mentioned.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

I think that many hon. Members will be baffled about the dog that didn't bark, knowing how keen the Government are to get the Maastricht treaty on to the statute book. Why are we not debating it next week? Perhaps my right hon. Friend could take the House into his confidence. Is it that the Liberal party has not agreed to be there next week, or something?

Mr. Newton

I have already taken the House into my confidence: I have announced the wide range of important business with which the House needs to deal.

Mr. Ray Powell (Ogmore)

In considering next week's business, will the Leader of the House also consider what happened on 22 January, when the House voted for my Shops (Amendment) Bill by a majority of 173? Now that the Standing Committee has been set up, will he assure me that it will not be held up unduly? I understand from rumours that the Committee stage of the Osteopaths Bill is being deliberately delayed so that my Committee will have to wait.

I waited eight months for the Bill to be given a Second Reading. Surely the Government should now allow time for a Committee to debate it.

Mr. Newton

1 and my right hon. Friends the business managers certainly have no interest in doing anything other than ensuring that measures that have been granted a Second Reading are properly discussed in Committee. As for the right hon. Gentleman's specific point, while I understand the reason that he made it, the Osteopaths Bill is also a very important measure of considerable interest to many people.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

Bearing in mind the great importance to children and the nation of the key stage 3 English tests and the great uncertainty created by the call by the National Union of Teachers to boycott them, may we have a statement or debate next week to resolve the problem so that children may know, as they need to, that the tests will go ahead and that they can prepare properly for them?

Mr. Newton

The Government's intention that the tests should go ahead as planned has repeatedly been made clear, and was, I think, reiterated by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister—I hope to my hon. Friend's pleasure —only a few minutes ago.

Mr. Alex Sahnond (Banff and Buchan)

Will the Leader of the House now answer the question that he was asked: why no Maastricht Bill debate next week? Is he losing his nerve? When can we look forward to discussing the Government's taking-stock talking shop proposals for Scotland?

Mr. Newton

On the latter subject, I cannot add to what I have said and to what my right hon. Friend no doubt said during Scottish questions yesterday; nor can I say very much more on the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question, beyond what I have already said to my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow). We shall discuss a wide range of business—Welsh revenue support, the Housing and Urban Development Bill, community care and private business selected by the Chairman of Ways and Means, as well as private Members' motions, about which the House would certainly feel aggrieved were they to be swept away by Government business—which needs discussion in the week for which I have today announced the business.

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley)

May I add my voice to that of my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Elletson) and ask for a debate on tourism soon? My constituency's economy relies heavily on tourism. Nationally, £8 billion was contributed to the British economy last year by visitors from abroad. Much has been said today about the balance of payments, but it is only too easy to overlook tourists' great contribution to our economy.

Mr. Newton

I shall add my hon. Friend's request, which I well understand in view of the nature of the area that he represents, to the growing list of such requests which, as I have already said, I shall bear in mind.

Mr. Piara S. Khabra (Ealing, Southall)

May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day motion 1251, which has been signed by 115 hon. Members?

[That this House believes that, to implement an EC Directive on the Use of Personal Protective Equipment, which makes it compulsory for the Sikhs, against their religion, to wear protective headgear whilst working in the non-construction industry, is an attack on the freedom of the Sikh religion; further believes that the effects of the EC Directive will mean widespread dismissals, demotions, redeployment and loss of promotion opportunities for Sikhs; and calls on the Government to reconsider its decision and grant an exemption for members of the Sikh community with similar terms to that already granted for construction areas.]

It is a matter of great importance to the Sikhs, who are a large section of the community and who will be affected by the EC directive. It will be mandatory for them to wear protective gear while working in the non-construction industry. I belong to the same community. Unless the community is exempted from wearing protective gear, it will be an attack on the religion of the Sikhs. Will the Leader of the House make a statement on this issue?

Mr. Newton

I cannot give the hon. Gentleman the undertaking that he seeks. He is right to say that we are talking about the implementation of a Community directive. I understand that the issues involved are complex and cause strong feeling. The right course is to draw his remarks to the attention of my appropriate right hon. Friend.

Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)

Is the delay on the Maastricht debate due to the continued ill health of the ERM—is it because last week it was the punt, this week it is the kroner and next week it will probably be the franc? Are the Government terrified that they will finish up having to recommend to the House a dead mechanism?

Mr. Newton

I will try to choose slightly different words to say for the third time that the programme of business for next week has absolutely nothing to do with any of the factors to which my hon. Friend referred. It has to do with the fact that we also have other important business with which the House needs to deal.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Jim Marshall (Leicester, South)

I am grateful that the gestures of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) have such weight in this place.

Does the Leader of the House recall that, two weeks ago, I raised with him the reduction in section 11 expenditure for many inner-city schools? It will affect many thousands of children from ethnic minority backgrounds. The Leader of the House will be aware of early-day motion 1183 in my name, which is signed by nearly 100 hon. Members and which expresses the increasing disquiet and anger that is being felt throughout the country.

[That this House is appalled at the Government decision to cut the level of financial support available for Section 11 expenditure; notes that this reduction will adversely affect those parliamentary constituencies with ethnic minority populations from Commonwealth countries; believes that this decision will undermine the education of these children who learn English as a second language, with the result that they will be deprived access to the full range of educational opportunities with consequential effects on their examination results, their access to higher education and their role in society as equal citizens; and urges the Government to withdraw this discriminatory, unjust and shortsighted policy.]

I know that the Home Secretary will be here to answer questions soon, but that is not sufficient. I urge the Leader of the House to urge his right hon. and learned Friend to come to the House and make a statement, or the Leader of the House should arrange an urgent debate.

Mr. Newton

I cannot promise an early debate, but I will certainly draw the hon. Gentleman's request to the attention of my right hon. Friend.

Mr. David Shaw (Dover)

My right hon. Friend will be aware that there is a strong rumour going around the House that, in the next few weeks, he will find time to arrange a debate on energy matters. Will he confirm that any such debate will enable hon. Members with constituencies that no longer have coal mines to point out that their constituents have had to suffer considerable change without the enormous support and suggested subsidy that was recently canvassed for coal mining communities?

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that there will be an opportunity in that debate for us to make the point that, if there is to be considerable Government support, constituencies such as mine of Dover should also receive it?

Mr. Newton

Perhaps that is an advance bid for a slot in the debate which will take place on my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade's White Paper. If I might take the liberty, I draw that bid to your attention, Madam Speaker.

Ms Jean Corston (Bristol, East)

In view of the fact that on both sides of the House there is a recognition that the interests of representative democracy would be better served if there were more women Members, and since the job of a Member of Parliament should be commensurate with a decent home and family life, will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on the Select Committee report on the reform of the sitting hours of the House?

Mr. Newton

The hon. Lady and the hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) will know that we are seeking to advance discussion of those matters through the usual channels, with a view to making the progress that the hon. Lady would like.

Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West)

In view of the Prime Minister's statement today that there could be a discussion of the workfare proposals which he sailed out yesterday, could we not have a very early debate on that subject? Surely the right way to keep unemployed people in touch with the world of work is to find them jobs, and the right way to keep the House in touch with the unemployment situation is to debate it. Perhaps that is the only way to keep the Secretary of State for Employment in touch with what the Prime Minister is going to say about unemployment.

Mr. Newton

I have already said in my reply to the hon. Member for Derby, South that I anticipate that the House will have a considerable opportunity to debate economic matters within the next month or so, taking account of the impending Budget.

Ms Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate)

Is the Leader of the House aware of the deep sense of outrage that is felt by some of my constituents at the implications in the Prime Minister's remarks last night that the long-term unemployed are unemployed not because of his Government's economic policies but because they are not looking sufficiently hard for work? Will the right hon. Gentleman use his best offices to urge his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to make a statement about workfare to the House, and not at the Carlton club?

Mr. Newton

First, I do not believe that my right hon. Friend's remarks carried that implication. Rather, they made clear the Government's wish to do everything possible to help those who, unhappily, have been unemployed for a long time to find work again. Secondly, as for my right hon. Friend coming to the House, he was here and he extensively commented on the subject.

Mr. Jacques Arnold (Gravesham)

May I back the call of the hon. Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Khabra) for a debate on the European Community proposals for headgear at construction sites and the like? During that debate, we could highlight the support given by the Conservative Government to the Sikh community and its concerns in the Employment Act 1989.

Mr. Newton

I note my hon. Friend's helpful comments. Obviously, I cannot add to what I said earlier on the specific request for a debate.

Mr. Stuart Randall (Kingston upon Hull, West)

Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate or a statement on the Government's cost-reduction exercises in the NHS? Is he aware that last night, Committee Room 14 was packed with people from all walks of life who are deeply concerned that the Government might introduce prescription charges for contraceptives? Is he aware that such a proposal would be serious socially, lead to many unwanted pregnancies and probably save no money whatever? Is he aware that people in my constituency want some decent research at a reasonable cost to produce quality products at prices which the NHS can afford?

Mr. Newton

The hon. Gentleman probably would not expect me to promise a debate in response to his question, but I will draw his concerns to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security.

Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East)

Arising from the action taken by the management at Timex in Dundee, which is simply tearing up current agreements which were negotiated with the workers and imposing wage cuts and redundancies on the work force, will the Leader of the House find time to debate the erosion of trade union rights which has given birth to brutal management? The erosion of trade union rights and the rise of brutal management are hitting jobs and destroying the economy not only in Dundee but throughout the United Kingdom.

Mr. Newton

Without commenting on the specific case —and still less accepting some of the language used by the hon. Gentleman—I simply make the point that the House has before it at present a fairly wide-ranging Employment Bill on which some of those matters will undoubtedly be relevant in due course.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

Can we have a debate in the near future on the seminar on deregulation which was held by the Prime Minister recently? The Prime Minister could then explain why, in 1992, the Government produced 3,359 statutory instruments, producing the largest number of regulations, rules and orders in the history of any Government or any Parliament, and how double standards apply in that case? Those who claim to take government off people's backs are piling it on in a move towards centralisation and dictatorship.

Mr. Newton

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made clear during Prime Minister's Question Time about three quarters of an hour ago, the deregulation initiative has been launched precisely to deal with aspects of the problem of centralisation.

Several hon. Members


Madam Speaker

Did the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Mr. Deva) hear the statement?

Mr. Nirj Joseph Deva (Brentford and Isleworth)


Madam Speaker

In that case, I call Mr. Deva.

Mr. Deva

I ask my right hon. Friend to support the request made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Khabra) to discuss the motion about Sikh turbans. It is a matter of grave concern to my constituents, and I should be pleased if my right hon. Friend would take note of my views.

Mr. Newton

I certainly take note of all views that are expressed to me, not least those of my hon. Friend. I cannot add to what I said earlier.

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

Members' interests.

Mr. Newton

I cannot add to what I have said previously to the hon. Gentleman but that does not mean that I have lost interest in the matter.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

I welcome the fact that at least next week will be free from Maastricht, but will it be possible to have an early debate on the economy? Bearing in mind the daily shambles—one is not certain whether the Prime Minister or the Chancellor is in charge of the economy—the contradictions and the question whether interest rates will remain at the present rate, increase or go down, why can we not have a debate on the whole subject as quickly as possible?

Mr. Newton

I have already responded to a slightly less aggressive question of the hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett). I do not think that I shall seek to go beyond that in responding to the more aggressive stance adopted by the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick).