HC Deb 18 February 1993 vol 219 cc477-88 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 22 FEBRUARY—European Communities (Amendment) Bill: progress in Committee, 12th day.

TUESDAY 23 FEBRUARY—Debate on international peacekeeping, on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

WEDNESDAY 24 FEBRUARY—Debate on the Army, on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

THURSDAY 25 FEBRUARY—European Communities (Amendment) Bill: progress in Committee, 13th day.

FRIDAY 26 FEBRUARY—Private Members' motions.

MONDAY 29 FEBRUARY—Debate On Welsh affairs, on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

The House will also wish to know that European Standing Committee A will meet on Wednesday 24 February at 10.30 am to consider European Community Documents No. 9482/91 and 9284/92 relating to minimum health and safety requirements for work on board fishing vessels.

[Wednesday 24 February: European Standing Committee A: Relevant European Community documents–9482/91 and 9284/92, health and safety on board fishing vessels; relevant report of the European Legislation Committee—HC 24-ix (1991–92), Hc 79-i (1992–93), HC 79-xi (1992–93).]

Mrs. Beckett

I thank the Lord President for his statement. Does he realise that two aspects of it will arouse considerable resentment in all parts of the House?

First, arranging debates on the Maastricht Bill for Monday and Thursday is a device transparently designed not to facilitate scrutiny but to evade it, as it may well mean that key debates, and possibly key votes, will take place in the early hours of Friday morning, which is not for the convenience of anyone in the House.

Secondly, where is the Education Bill? [Interruption.] As the right hon. Gentleman may not have heard that question, I shall repeat it: where is the Education Bill? The right hon. Gentleman will vividly recall that the Government gave the excuse that they had to guillotine that Bill out of Committee so that it could be back in the House no later than next week. It could have had an extra week in Committee, affording many additional hours of scrutiny—which, heaven knows, it needs. Why will it not be before us next week? Is it to enable us to have one-line business between the two Maastricht days?

In view of the increasing volume of press reporting about the coal industry, can the Lord President give us any indication of when we may expect a White Paper and a debate on that issue?

I want now to put to the Leader of the House a question that I have put in previous weeks and will continue to put until he grants us the necessary debate: when may we have a statement from the Home Secretary about the crime wave in this country? There is increasing concern about this matter. The Home Secretary is widely rumoured to have dramatic and far-reaching plans for reorganisation of the police, to take control into the hands of the Government. That will inspire no one with greater confidence. It is important that we have a statement on this matter and on public expenditure as soon as possible.

Mr. Newton

First, despite the rather abrasive tone of some of the right hon. Lady's questions, I congratulate her on her first appearance with that appellation at the Dispatch Box.

Secondly, in a slightly more abrasive mode myself, I should say that the notion that there should be resentment at a perfectly normal use of parliamentary time to discuss an important Bill is absurd. The Education Bill was allowed a considerable length of time in Committee, no understanding was entered into that it would be debated immediately on Report, and the two debates that are scheduled for the middle of next week are debates that the right hon. Lady has been demanding for weeks.

As for debates on coal, the police and the Home Office, I am afraid that I have nothing to add to what I have said to the right hon. Lady in previous weeks.

Mr. John Biffen (Shropshire, North)

The next time that the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett), the deputy Leader of the Opposition, shows some signs of wilting before the requirements of proper scrutiny of the European Communities (Amendment) Bill, will my right hon. Friend remind her that the Committee and Report stages of Gladstone's Home Rule Bill took 82 days, which gives us some idea of the parliamentary requirements of scrutiny of these affairs?

In that context, the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on Monday about amendment No. 27 to the European Communities (Amendmemnt) Bill have excited considerable interest in the House and outside, and raise matters of proper parliamentary concern that go far wider than Maastricht. It would be unsatisfactory if the House proceeded, technically and formally, to vote upon amendment No. 27 without having a further chance to consider and debate it in the light of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary's remarks.

Mr. Newton

I thank my right hon. Friend for the first part of his observations, which, without exciting expectations of 82 days on the Bill, I regard as a perfectly proper recognition of the importance of proper scrutiny by the House, whether on Mondays, Thursdays or other days, of the European Communities (Amendment) Bill. My right hon. Friend will understand that the latter point he raised is properly one for the Chairman of Ways and Means and not for me.

Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire)

Having regard to the widespread concern north and south of the border at the proposed cuts in public expenditure on civil legal aid, and also to the news that the appropriate Select Committee is now undertaking a quick report in order to investigate the matter, will the Leader of the House use his good offices to bring the appropriate Home Office Minister to the House to make a statement delaying the introduction of the proposed changes until the Select Committee has had a chance to report?

Mr. Newton

I cannot give the hon. Gentleman the specific undertaking he seeks, but he will know that a Scottish Office Minister has commented on legal aid in Scotland, a matter which I would expect to be debated in the appropriate way in due course, as I told the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing).

Sir Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)

As senior Ministers inadvertently but consistently misled the public on the impact of amendment No. 27 on the imposition of the social chapter on the United Kingdom, will the Leader of the House assure us that, before the debates on Monday and Thursday, all Ministers will be circulated with a brief paper by the Foreign Secretary describing the exact impact of the amendments that we are debating?

Mr. Newton

My right hon. Friend, the Foreign Secretary made it clear in his statement on Monday that my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General or another legal officer would be here on appropriate occasions to advise the House if need be.

Ms. Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate)

Is the Lord President aware of early-day motion No. 1412 in my name?

[That this House is appalled to discover that the health needs of Londoners are being decided by a Secretary of State who is unaware that the Royal Free Medical School and the Royal Free Hospital, albeit mutually supportive and inter-dependent, are separate establishments, each with its own unique and proud history of service to their community: and demands both an apology by the Right honourable Lady and a moratorium on any further changes in London's health provision and training until she has fully informed herself of what those needs and provisions really are and who provides them.]

In order to facilitate those London Members who would be only too happy to furnish the right hon. Lady with the relevant information, would he be good enough to find time for a full debate on the subject at the earliest possible opportunity?

Mr. Newton

I note the hon. Lady's specific request. On the first part of her observations, she will know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and my hon. Friend the Minister for Health conducted a wide range of consultations between the publication of the Tomlinson report and the statement that was made on Tuesday. Of course, decisions on many of the matters arising from that report can only follow extensive consultation under statutory procedures, which give everyone the opportunity to have their say.

Mr. Richard Tracey (Surbiton)

When will the House have an opportunity to debate local government corruption? We constantly hear reports from Lambeth, Hackney, and indeed from Monklands, and from Waltham Forest, and so on. Those matters touch members of the public more than many other matters we discuss here. As councils are about to set their council tax bills, surely it is about time that this matter got the widest possible airing.

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Newton

I note my hon. Friend's request, and the substantial support for it, at least on this side of the House. However, I do not think that I can promise in future a further extension of the fairly large opportunities for debating local government matters that have occurred in recent weeks.

Mr. Ernie Ross (Dundee, West)

When are we likely to have a debate on the effect of the Government's employment legislation, particularly on the manufacturing sector? Is he aware that, yesterday, Timex in Dundee paid off 300 skilled and semi-skilled workers, despite the fact that they went through the proper ballot procedures laid down by the Government? Workers have anxiously been trying to get back into work, but the management have arbitrarily decided to pay them off. Can the Leader of the House arrange time for us to discuss the impact of changes in employment legislation on the manufacturing industry?

Mr. Newton

I can only sensibly say to the hon. Gentleman that employment legislation has of course been under debate in the past two days.

Mr. Bob Dunne (Dartford)

Will the Leader of the House find time in the very near future for a debate on education? Such an opportunity would provide us with the chance to point out to people in this country that we enjoy grammar schools, city technology colleges, independent schools, Church schools, grant-maintained schools and a whole range of other choices for parents and pupils because of the policies of the Government and despite the wishes of the Opposition?

Mr. Newton

1 advert to the request of the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett), who is clearly keen to debate the remaining stages of the Education Bill. I certainly envisage that that will not be long delayed, and it will give my hon. Friend the perfect opportunity to make the important point that he has just raised.

Mr. Michael Connarty (Falkirk, East)

Will the Leader of the House ask the Home Secretary to give the House a statement on what he is trying to do about the problem of missing persons in the United Kingdom? Is he aware that there are 43,000 runaways each year? Happily, most return home without having been missing for a long time?

Is he aware that it is the second anniversary of the disappearance of my constituent Vicky Hamilton, who is still untraced? Tragically, her mother died in January without knowing what had happened to her daughter. Is he aware of the concern expressed by the police in Lothian because there is no national bureau or database for missing persons? That is a major problem. Will he ask the Home Secretary to explain when he will do something to set up such a database?

Mr. Newton

I will certainly communicate that request to my right hon. and learned Friend.

Mr. Anthony Coombs (Wyre Forest)

In the light of the recent announcement that Jaguar is to spend no less than £500 million on car making in Coventry, and that Lemmerz, the German wheel-making company, is to transfer its entire heavy wheel-making facilities to my constituency, can we have a debate on engineering, which would give us the opportunity not only to describe how far the investing community throughout the world has confidence in British engineering, but also to discuss the disastrous effects that the social chapter would have on competitiveness in engineering and other industries?

Mr. Newton

Somewhat to my regret, I cannot promise my hon. Friend precisely the debate that he wants. However, we are close to extensive debates on the economy and related matters following the Budget, and it may be that they will provide my hon. Friend with the opportunity he seeks.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

I press upon the Leader of the House the need for the Attorney-General to make a statement on the Maastricht Bill not at some vague future time, but as soon as the Committee sits again next Monday. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is bound to be concern about conflicting advice? As the House and the Committee have already been misled once, what confidence can right hon. and hon. Members have in any legal opinion given by Ministers on future occasions, when it is quite likely that we will be told in a week or a fortnight that it was all a mistake? The Attorney-General should come to the Committee early on Monday and make a statement—that should be the first item of business.

Mr. Newton

I am not in a position, and nor would I wish, to add to my earlier remarks and those of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary on Monday. I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman will find ways of raising those matters when the Committee resumes on Monday.

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his successful timetabling of major recent Bills in Committee. Will he find time for a debate on the Jopling proposals on sittings of the House?

Mr. Newton

I have told the House once or twice recently that the prospect of progress with the Jopling proposals depends on our discussions through the usual channels. Those are complex matters, but I hope that we shall make progress—and I know that the right hon. Member for Derby, South does, too.

Mr. Terry Davis (Birmingham, Hodge Hill)

Will the Leader of the House find time next week to debate the serious implications of a report in today's Birmingham Post to the effect that the British receivers of Leyland-DAF told 200 people working at the Birmingham van factory that Renault will take them over and employ them for five months, on condition that they sign away all their rights under employment protection legislation enacted by the House? Is that not especially important, given that the President of the Board of Trade told the House that he keeps in close touch with the receiver? It seems Government policy not only to deny the benefits of the social chapter to this country's working people but to connive at an attempt by foreign companies to tear up existing Acts of Parliament.

Mr. Newton

Not having had the advantage of reading that report in the important regional newspaper to which the hon. Gentleman referred, it would be wrong for me to comment—but I will bring his remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade.

Mr. Matthew Carrington (Fulham)

Will my right hon. Friend urgently arrange a debate on the Government's response to Professor Tomlinson's report on health care in London? The House needs an opportunity to debate the methodological errors that Professor Tomlinson made, which led him to conclude that London—which has some of the longest hospital waiting lists in the country—still has too many acute hospital beds. That led to significant errors in the Government's response.

Mr. Newton

I cannot give my hon. Friend that undertaking, but I note his request and that made earlier by the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Ms. Jackson). I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the fact that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health will be in the House to answer oral questions on Tuesday.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

May we have a debate at long last on the two outstanding reports from the Select Committee on Members' Interests? I refer to those on the register of commercial lobbying organisations and on clarifying the registering of Members' interests. As the Leader of the House knows, there has been confusion in the minds of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister of Agriculture about what should or should not be registered. I hope that the Leader of the House and the Government are not postponing a debate simply because they endorse the view that Conservative Members should be put out to hire.

Mr. Newton

I assure the hon. Gentleman that there is no foundation for his concluding remarks. As to his request for a debate, and as I have told the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) several times in recent weeks, I have discussed with the Chairman of the Select Committee how we might proceed, but I cannot say this afternoon precisely when a debate will be held.

Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth)

My right hon. Friend may recall an horrific case in my constituency in 1987, when Olympic marksman Alan Bray was robbed in his shop, tied up, doused in petrol and set on fire. Is my right hon. Friend aware that Michael Patrick, the criminal responsible for that, has been released after—

Madam Speaker

Order. I would be obliged if the hon. Gentleman would tell me how his question relates to next week's business. That is what I am interested in.

Mr. Tredinnick

It relates to next week's business in that I request my right hon. Friend to arrange a debate on the activities of the Parole Board. The investigating officer in the case at the time has written to me to say that Michael Patrick's release after five years is not in the public interest. It goes against the advice given to the Parole Board. Is my right hon. Friend aware that a large proportion of my constituents are up in arms about this man's release? With respect, I want to know what my right hon. Friend proposes to do about it.

Mr. Newton

I think that my hon. Friend will understand that it would be inappropriate for me to make any comment on the case without notice. Clearly, however, he would like me to bring his remarks to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary—including his request for a debate—and I undertake to do so.

Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East)

When may we have a debate on the connection between mass unemployment and the industrial relations climate? As the Leader of the House has heard, the management of Timex in Dundee yesterday sacked more than 300 of its workers for committing the crime of standing by negotiated agreements and exercising their rights under the present Government's trade union legislation.

May we have an early debate about that? If the Government do nothing about such management tactics —if they simply sit back while that management recruits replacements for its workers from the ranks of the three million unemployed—no one will ever believe them again when they say that they care about the unemployed.

Everyone will understand that mass unemployment lies at the heart of the Government's strategy for driving down workers' wages and conditions.

Mr. Newton

I do not for a moment accept the thrust of the last part of the hon. Gentleman's question. As for the first part, as I said a few moments ago to the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross), we have been debating such matters for the past two days.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

May I support the call by my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Mr. Dunn) for a debate on education next week, for the additional purpose of finding out what contribution schools and teachers can make to help children avoid becoming sucked into juvenile crime? That is of great concern to the House. In such a debate, should we not consider whether teachers have enough sanctions against indisciplined children, and perhaps consider the reintroduction of moderate and reasonable corporal punishment for the most serious offences—including the occasional six of the best?

Mr. Newton

My hon. Friend will know that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary is considering matters relating to juvenile offenders, but they are slightly wide of my hon. Friend's points about education and discipline in schools. Let me point him in the direction of the remaining stages of the Education Bill, which—as I have said twice—I do not expect to be long delayed.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)

I thank the Lord President for confirming that the regulations pertaining to civil legal aid in Scotland will require the affirmative procedure in the House of Commons. May I also ask him to consider the matter critical, in the light of parliamentary replies given yesterday which suggested that advice and assistance would be given some concessions but that eligibility for legal aid would not?

In deciding when to table the motions, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that the regulations are not debated at the tail end of a busy day, and that the debate is not restricted to an hour and a half? May we have a minimum of half a day's debate, and preferably a full day's debate? The regulations are critical to many people in our society.

Mr. Newton

I take note of the hon. Lady's request. As she knows, the arrangements for business of that kind are normally subject to discussion through the usual channels.

To avoid any possible misunderstanding, let me clarify what I said in my letter to the hon. Lady yesterday. I said that "a number" of the sets of regulations were subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. That, however, is merely a small point of clarification.

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset)

I would not wish to set a precedent by asking a question about next week's business, but I intend to do so. Can my right hon. Friend tell me what exactly the international peacekeeping debate will involve? Shall we be able to talk about naval matters? We consistently have single-service debates—I am very grateful for the one on the Army which is to take place the following day—but we cannot often talk about the full strategic defence issues, because the rules of order prevent us from crossing the boundary, so to speak, into multi-force issues. I should be grateful for guidance from the Leader of the House.

Mr. Newton

I am genuinely grateful to my hon. Friend, in a way that is not always the case when one says that, for making quite an important point, in my view, about the way in which we sometimes discuss matters in the House. It has not proved possible, for various reasons which perhaps I had better not go into, to achieve precisely what I wanted on that occasion, but it is certainly my understanding—subject to your guidance, Madam Speaker—that a debate on international peacekeeping would make possible a range of very wide observations, and certainly could embrace any operations in which any of our armed forces are involved. I should also point out that the debate will be opened by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Will the Leader of the House reverse his opinion about the need for a debate on mass unemployment next week, bearing in mind the fact that the Government could save 300,000 jobs at a stroke by ensuring that the 100,000 local government job cuts are not carried out, that the 100,000 job cuts associated with the pit closures are not carried out and that the 100,000 job cuts associated with the hospitals are not carried out?

If the right hon. Gentleman says that there is no time for such a debate, he should get rid of those tinpot Maastricht debates that are due to take place next week. The British people wonder why this palace of varieties is debating this tinpot Common Market rubbish when it should be debating mass unemployment and that pile of human misery, of people without work.

Mr. Newton

Three points, I think. First, given the extent to which jobs in this country depend upon our trade with Europe, the hon. Gentleman's last point is a long way from reality. Secondly, to answer the first part of his question, if we went down the path that he implicitly advocates, the burdens on British industry through extra taxes would certainly cost more jobs than any that would be created. Thirdly, on his question about a debate, I have already adverted to the fact that we shall be having an extensive economic debate within a matter of weeks.

Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I at least am delighted with the first four days of next week? The topics listed for debate are all ones in which I have an interest. I hope that I shall have an opportunity to contribute. Can my right hon. Friend confirm that on Tuesday, when we debate peacekeeping, and on Wednesday, when we debate the Army, it will be in order to raise matters concerning the Royal Air Force where it is directly involved in peacekeeping and support for the Army?

Mr. Newton

Again I am in danger, Madam Speaker, of treading on your toes, but I should have thought that that is highly likely, although it might be a bit more difficult on Wednesday. As to the general flavour of my hon. Friend's remarks, I can only say that I look forward to his contributions on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

In order to show that this House is in tune with the real concerns of the nation, can I make a suggestion about next week's business: have the two days on Maastricht but make them Saturday and Sunday, and use the two spare days to debate the proposition that work is the foundation of human endeavour and well-being, and that people's capacity and willingness to work is a nation's greatest asset? We should then be able to discuss the immorality of this Government in dismissing that proposition out of hand.

Mr. Newton

For a moment, I was tempted to try some light-hearted response to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question, but he knows that he is someone for whom I have considerable respect. I understand why he made the point, although I do not agree with the thrust of his remarks. All I would do is reiterate what was clear in everything that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said at Question Time: that the Government attach great importance to getting people back into work, but that they have a difference of opinion with those on the Opposition Front Bench as to how that is best done.

Mr. Rupert Allason (Torbay)

Will my right hon. Friend find time next week for a debate on tourism? Is he aware that it is now some five years since our last debate on tourism? Is he further aware that the industry is in considerable difficulty? It is hampered by daft regulations. One which is enforced by all hoteliers in Torbay is that guests are no longer allowed to take their own electrical appliances into their rooms. That means no hair dryers or electric shavers. That is the type of daft regulation which handicaps our industry. It is high time we had an opportunity to bring those matters to the attention of the House.

Mr. Newton

I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment will note the particular point that my hon. Friend embraces in his question. On the matter of a debate on tourism, I can go a little further than last week and the week before. I am actively looking for an opportunity for such a debate, but I cannot give a specific undertaking at present about precisely when it will be.

Mr. Kevin Barron (Rother Valley)

Is the Leader of the House aware that the announcement that there will be no news in next week's business about the future of British coal miners will be deeply disappointing to thousands of miners and their families? As the livelihood of 2,000 miners in my constituency is to end at the end of March and we shall be in March before an announcement has been made, could we have a statement? [Interruption.] I do not know why people are grinning about this issue when 2,000 families are being added to the thousands of other unemployed in my constituency.

Could we have a statement next week from the Department of Trade and Industry to remove the speculation and leaks in the national press which suggest that there is a form of psychological warfare against some of the finest people that there have ever been in Britain?

Mr. Newton

I can only reiterate what I said several times both earlier today and on other occasions. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade will make a statement following his review, which needs to be thoroughly and carefully carried out, as soon as he can do so.

Mr. Phillip Oppenheim (Amber Valley)

Will there be an opportunity in any debate next week to discuss the relevance of President Clinton's policies to Britain and British politics? As the President's policies include making student loans repayable, introducing competition into public health care, tax cuts for the middle classes and even capital punishment, some of us on the Conservative Benches are rather surprised that those on the Labour and Liberal Front Benches seem so pathetically taken with President Clinton's policies. Is this a case of them genuinely revising their policies, or are they playing their old game of jumping on any passing bandwagon?

Madam Speaker

Order. I would be much obliged if Members would not make statements about their opinions. They should ask questions about future business of the House. Such statements delay other Members asking direct questions. I can only call all Members if one short direct question is asked, and there are short answers, please.

Mr. Newton

The short answer to my hon. Friend, despite the fact that I have considerable sympathy with the general purport of his remarks, is that the opportunity for developing those points will most likely arise in the Budget debate to which I have referred several times.

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

Can we have an early debate on the economy? Is it not strangely ironic that the Labour party was attacked over 17 years about the role of the International Monetary Fund in our affairs in 1976, yet the IMF is now issuing instructions and making demands of the Government that they cut public expenditure and reduce the public sector borrowing requirement?

Mr. Newton

I see absolutely no parallel between the comments from the IMF and the position which the Labour Government got into in the autumn of 1976, when they had an IMF team here, in effect running the country.

Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, if the Government deny the House a further and separate debate on amendment No. 27, the Government will add to their reputation for being crude and authoritarian towards individual Members and will demonstrate that they are cavalier and careless with the House? It will further demonstrate that the sovereignty of the British people cannot be safeguarded by parliamentary democracy. The only way in which the rights not of the House but of the British people can be safeguarded is by a referendum.

Mr. Newton

I do not, of course, agree with my hon. Friend. Several other amendments which will be discussed fall into the same category of amendments which the Government do not wish to see passed but which would not affect the capacity to ratify the treaty.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)

Will the Leader of the House consider making a statement next week on religious tolerance in the House of Commons? Is he aware that my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz) is delighted that the Crypt will be available for his forthcoming wedding, but dismayed to learn that the Catholic exchange of wedding vows is not allowed to take place there? Will the right hon. Gentleman use his good offices to ensure that that apparent religious intolerance is removed, thereby demonstrating that the House of Commons is firmly part of a multi-faith Britain?

Mr. Newton

I shall certainly undertake to look into that matter and establish how it can best be further considered.

Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West)

May we have an early debate on the tragic plight of terminally ill children? Is the Leader of the House aware of the cruel rule whereby, while hospices for adults receive nearly half their funding from national health services, hospices for children get none? The rule was revealed by the Rainbow organisation in my constituency. If we cannot have a debate on the subject, will the right hon. Gentleman undertake to ask the Secretary of State for Health whether she will consider making a statement to the House?

Mr. Newton

Perhaps it would be most sensible for me to draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health is due to answer questions in the House next Tuesday. He may like to try to raise the subject with her then—but of course, I shall draw what he has said today to my right hon. Friend's attention.

Mr. Roger Knapman (Stroud)

The fact that we have heard several expressions of concern about the likely impact of the social chapter on the British economy means that it is possible that the House may not have understood or appreciated the full import of Monday's statement. Might it not therefore be a good idea to have a day's debate on the statement next week?

Mr. Newton

I am not sure that I entirely follow my hon. Friend's remarks. In any event, it is clear from what has transpired already, both now and on other occasions, that many such points are likely to be raised next Monday. I would not wish to predict the answers that may then be given.

Mr. Jack Thompson (Wansbeck)

May I press the Leader of the House again to reconsider the prospect of an early debate or a statement on the coal industry—for the sake of the future not only of the 30,000 miners involved, but of the mining manufacturing and engineering companies? In addition, we are also awaiting a statement on mineral planning guidance note No. 3, and on the assisted areas arrangements. Those are all tied in with the response on the coal industry.

Mr. Newton

I understand the hon. Gentleman's anxiety for a statement, but, as I said in response to an earlier question, it is clearly important that the Government's review should be thoroughly conducted. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade will make a statement as soon as he can, and I am not sure that much would be gained by some sort of holding statement, which is what the hon. Gentleman appears to be requesting.

Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

Will the Leader of the House use his great influence with his Front-Bench colleagues to persuade them to concentrate and focus next Tuesday's debate on the subject of the letter signed by two recent former ambassadors to the United Nations which appeared in The Times this week? The letter called on Britain to support a comprehensive international ban on the testing of nuclear weapons. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Russia, the United States Congress and France have all agreed to support such a ban? Unless Britain takes such a decision, we could well be the last country in the whole world to continue to test nuclear weapons—a wasteful, costly, dangerous and polluting practice.

Mr. Newton

I am not sure whether comments on such matters could be squeezed into order on Tuesday or Wednesday next week, Madam Speaker. At any rate, I shall draw the hon. Gentleman's comments to the attention of the Foreign Secretary and others concerned.

Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle)

Following the Prime Minister's statement last week on royal taxation, is there not a case for an early debate on that important matter? Is the Leader of the House aware that Prince Edward told my local paper, the Lancashire Evening Telegraph, that speculation about the extent of royal wealth, to the tune of £6.5 billion, was "absolute crap". Is there not a case for an urgent debate to shed light on the true extent of royal finances?

Mr. Newton

I am afraid that I have not had the advantage of reading the Lancashire Evening Telegraph. I believe that one thing that is probably quite strongly felt by hon. Members on both sides of the House, whatever their views about other aspects of the matter, is that members of the royal family are as entitled as anyone else to privacy in relation to their tax affairs.