HC Deb 15 July 1993 vol 228 cc1126-37 4.15 pm
The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Tony Newton)

With permission, I should like to make a statement about the business for next week and a day or two beyond that. The business will be as follows:

  • MONDAY 19 JULY—Supplemental timetable motion on and consideration of Lords amendments to the Education Bill.
  • TUESDAY 20 JuLY—Opposition day (18th allotted day).
  • There will be a debate described as "The Threat of Government Policies to the Social Fabric and the Security of the Individual", on an Opposition motion.
  • Motions relating to immigration and asylum. Details will be given in the Official Report.
  • WEDNESDAY 21 JULY—Estimates day (first allotted day, second part). There will be a debate relating to domestic violence.
  • Details of the estimates concerned and the relevant Select Committee reports will be given in the Official Report.
  • Motion on the Suppression of Terrorism Act 1978 (Application of Provisions) (India) order.
  • Motion on the Incumbents (Vacation of Benefices) (Amendment) measure.
  • The Chairman of Ways and Means has named opposed private business for consideration at seven o'clock.
  • At 10 o'clock, the House will be asked to agree the outstanding estimates for 1993–94.
  • THURSDAY 22 JULY—Subject to Royal Assent being signified to the European Communities (Amendment) Bill, there will be a debate on a motion considering the question of adopting the protocol on social policy.
  • FRIDAY 23 JULY—There will be a debate on the environment on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.
  • MONDAY 26 JULY—Motion for the summer Adjournment.
  • Proceedings Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) (No.2) Bill.
  • TUESDAY 27 JULY—Debates on the summer Adjournment.
In view of what I have said about those last two days, the House will obviously wish me to say something about the contents of the motion for the Adjournment. Subject to the progress of business, it will be proposed that the House should rise for the summer Adjournment on Tuesday 27 July until Monday 18 October. The House may be also asked to consider any Lords messages that may be received.

I have already announced that the debate for Thursday 22 July is subject to the signifying of Royal Assent to the European Communities (Amendment) Bill. It may be helpful to the House to know that the Government motion for that debate would be That this House, in compliance with the requirements of section 7 of the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993, notes the policy of Her Majesty's Government on the adoption of the protocol on social policy. The House will also wish to know that European Standing Committees will meet on Wednesday 21 July to consider European Community documents as follows: Committee A, document No. 6654/93 on control of residues in meat; Committee B, document No. 9909/92 on human rights, democracy and development.

[Tuesday 20 July

Immigration and Asylum

Wednesday 21 July

Estimates Day

Class VIII, Vote 1, Police, Criminal Injuries Compensation Board and other grants, England and Wales; Class VIII, Vote 3, Home Office Administration, Immigration, Probation and Police Support Services, England and Wales; Class IX. Vote 1, Lord Chancellor's Department: Administration of Justice: England and Wales; and Class IX, Vote 5, the Crown Prosecution Service: Administration, in so far as they related to Domestic Violence.

The Third Report of the Home Affairs Committee, Session 1992–93 (HC 245–1) and the Government reply to the Third Report from the Home Affairs Committee, Session 1992–93 (CM 2269) are relevant.

Wednesday 21 July

European Standing Committee A—Relevant European Community document: 6654/93, control of residues in meat; relevant European Legislation Committee report: HC 79-xxxiv ( 1992–93).

European Standing Committee B—Relevant European Community document: 9909/92, human rights, democracy and development co-operation: relevant European Legislation Committee reports: HC 79-xviii (1992–93); HC 79-xxv (1992–93).]

Mrs. Margaret Beckett (Derby, South)

The Lord President of the Council will know that we have pressed on a number of occasions for a debate in Government time on the stocktaking exercise that was announced for Scotland. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman recalls that the major part of those proposals was the offer of extra meetings of the Scottish Grand Committee.

Is he aware that, despite an extra long Session, the Scottish Grand Committee has met less often than usual, rather than more? I understand from my hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State for Scotland that we would normally expect two or three meetings at such a stage in the Session. It is said that the Secretary of State has issued instructions to cancel all the meetings scheduled before the summer recess. Is not that a betrayal of the undertakings given in the House and of the people of Scotland? Should not the Secretary of State therefore come to the House to answer for that decision, preferably in a debate in Government time?

Is the Lord President also aware that the Opposition are concerned about the somewhat last-minute switch of Friday's debate? We were hoping for and would still press for a debate on the affairs of London. There is also concern at the guillotining of the sole day's debate allowed for the Education Bill, to which, I understand, some 600 amendments have been tabled in another place.

The Leader of the House should be aware that it is our view that, first, it is not fair to the House to allow only one day with a guillotine motion to debate that number of amendments. Secondly, amendments on that scale and scope do not suggest Government responsiveness to outside pressure, but either indecision in policy-making or incompetence in the execution of legislation.

I ask the Leader of the House to recognise that, although we all appreciate his statement that the Government's plans for the final week allow for some fluidity, we hope that he will accept that the House should be told officially by him if there are likely to be major votes in the final week.

Mr. Newton

I shall take the points in the order in which they were raised. On the Scottish stocktaking exercise, I understand that the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) cancelled the meeting due this week with the Secretary of State to discuss strengthening the Scottish Grand Committee.

Mr. Tom Clarke (Monklands, West)

indicated dissent.

Mr. Newton

I understand that the Opposition have repeatedly failed to take up all the opportunities available to them to debate issues in the Scottish Grand Committee. I note that there is some dispute about that from a sedentary position by the hon. Gentleman. I will certainly draw that and what the right hon. Lady has said to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.

The right hon. Lady asked about a debate on London. Her request left me slightly wondering whether I had inadvertently failed to announce the business for Friday 23 July. If I did, I shall put the matter right. There will be a debate on the environment, on a motion for the Adjournment of the House. That is the debate that the right hon. Lady had hoped would be on London. The Government have concluded that it would be more appropriate for it to be on the environment. It is fair to say that there will clearly be opportunities for matters concerned with London to be raised on a number of occasions of the kind that take place before the House adjourns for the summer recess.

The arrangements announced for the Education Bill are for the general convenience of the House. I believe that the time that we have allocated is adequate for consideration of the Lords amendments. It is our intention that the opportunity for discussion should extend to midnight rather than to 10 pm. to take account of the concerns that the right hon. Lady expressed.

The right hon. Lady asked whether there would be votes in the final week. She will be aware that the motion for the Adjournment can technically be voted on, as can the motion that paves the way for the Consolidated Fund debate. She and her right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench may be able to have some influence on the question whether such votes take place.

Mr. Roy Thomason (Bromsgrove)

Will my right hon. Friend be able to arrange an early debate on law and order issues, which are of great concern to my constituents and no doubt to the constituents of other hon. Members? Will he endeavour to ensure that such a debate takes into account the Government's announcements and the recent release of the Sheehy report? Will he ensure that law and order is shown as being at the top of the Government's priorities?

Mr. Newton

I very much appreciate my hon. Friend's reasons for adverting to this extremely important subject. It was only a fortnight ago, in the immediate aftermath of the Sheehy report, the royal commission report and the White Paper on the police, that the Government arranged for a full day's debate on law and order matters. However, the importance of the subject is such that I hope in due course to be able to provide further opportunities. My hon. Friend, whom I know to be an assiduous attender, may find an opportunity to raise the matter on the summer Adjournment, or he may wish to put in for a debate on the Consolidated Fund.

Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire)

Will the Leader of the House turn his mind to the possibility of a debate in Government time at the earliest opportunity on GATT? I understand that some progress was made at the G7 summit, but I know that there is a great deal of concern in textile communities and agricultural communities that there should be an early statement or debate on this very important subject.

Mr. Newton

I am sure that many share the hon. Gentleman's view of the importance of the subject, as the Government clearly do. It is difficult to see how to fit such a debate into the programme that I have announced. I have a feeling that the hon. Gentleman may wish to go on holiday as much as others do.

Sir Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)

To avoid any confusion about Thursday's business, can the Leader of the House confirm that, in the event of the House on Thursday approving an amendment that gives support to the social chapter, there will be an opportunity immediately thereafter, if the House so wishes, to vote down the motion as amended, and thereby to remove any commitment to or support for the social chapter?

Mr. Newton

It would be inappropriate for me to attempt to dictate the handling of the procedures of the House with you, Madam Speaker, sitting there with your eagle eye upon me. I will leave that matter to you.

Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East)

Has the Leader of the House seen early-day motion 2317 on the siege of Sarajevo?

[That this House notes with grave concern that Sarajevo has been under siege for 15 months and that its people are living in atrocious conditions, including having to boil up sewage water for drinking water as there is no fuel to operate the pumps that could clean the water due to the Serb paramilitaries' refusal to allow United Nations fuel convoys through to the city; further notes that surgeons cannot wash their hands before performing operations, that the first cases of typhus have been reported and that the World Health Organisation is predicting imminent epidemics of typhus, dysentery and cholera; believes that the United Nations has the authority to lift the siege of Sarajevo; urges urgent action to lift the siege and save a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural community which has so far resisted ethnic division and which symbolises the values of the United Nations Charter; and welcomes the decision of the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly to hand in its appeal for action to lift the siege to the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street, at 10 am on 15 July, along with samples of untreated sewage water, as a reminder of the atrocious conditions in which the people of Sarajevo are forced to exist.]

Sarajevo is a multi-ethnic, multicultural mixed community which has been under siege for 15 months and is now at the end of its tether. Water supplies have been cut off by Serbian paramilitaries, and there is a great danger of typhus and other epidemics spreading within the area.

Can we debate the situation in Sarajevo? Would the right hon. Gentleman like to drink the water that I have here in the Chamber, which is the sewage and untreated water presently being used in Sarajevo?

Mr. Newton

I need hardly say that the Government share the hon. Gentleman's concern about the critical humanitarian situation in Sarajevo and in other safe areas that have been established under UN Security Council resolution 836. It is deplorable that the parties involved in the conflict should withhold supplies of vital utilities. It is increasingly important that the early arrival of troops and equipments to implement the safe areas resolution should be secured. It is also important for Governments to step up their contributions to the humanitarian effort.

Mr. Simon Coombs (Swindon)

The Leader of the House will be aware that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has just made a statement to the House on open government. In that statement, he went as far as he reasonably could down the road towards open government, without being sidetracked into the primrose path of ungovernability.

It would be wrong of me to suggest that the summer Session be extended any further than has been proposed, but does my right hon. Friend agree that it might be helpful for the House to have an opportunity to debate freedom of information, as until now that opportunity has been given only to Standing Committee Members for a short time on one Friday earlier this month?

Mr. Newton

It would indeed be helpful, but it may be easier for me to be helpful later in the year, rather than next week.

Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South)

When can we expect to have a debate on the report of the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice? Many hon. Members were surprised that there was not a statement from the Secretary of State for the Home Department. There is widespread curiosity about the Government's plans for implementing some of the reforms that are proposed in the report. When can we expect a debate on the subject?

Mr. Newton

Not next week, Madam Speaker. However, there may be time during Home Office questions on Thursday 22 July to raise the matter. As to the rest of the hon. Gentleman's question, I should have thought that probably everybody would think it sensible for the Government to spend time studying the royal commission's report before rushing to conclusions.

Mr. Raymond S. Robertson (Aberdeen, South)

Will my right hon. Friend consider having an early debate on early-day motion 2319, which deals with the subject of an energy tax as outlined in a recent edition of Labour Party News?

[This this House notes the discrepancy between the policy expressed in the House and elsewhere by the Leader of the Opposition, especially regarding VAT on domestic fuel, and the latest edition of Labour Party News which invites Labour Party members to consider shifting taxation from 'good things', such as income, towards bad things, such as 'resource depletion', specifically suggesting an energy tax as one alternative; and calls upon the Leader of the Opposition to clarify his or his party's position by making a statement to the House at the earliest opportunity.]

As the right hon. Member for Derby South (Mrs. Beckett) seems reluctant to use an Opposition day for a debate on the subject, will my right hon. Friend consider using a Government day?

Mr. Newton

My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the somewhat curious position of the Leader of the Opposition and his hon. Friends. They have made a good deal of noise about VAT, but have also made it clear that they are considering wide-ranging proposals for energy taxes.

Mr. Ian Davidson (Glasgow, Govan)

Will the Leader of the House take note of the revelations on television and in newspapers this week about outdoor pursuit centres? Some of those centres are still taking on staff without checking their qualifications. Those members of staff are likely to undertake hazardous activity with children.

Will the right hon. Gentleman note that one of the centres concerned was the St. Alban's centre in Lyme Regis, which was involved in a tragedy in which four of my constituents lost their lives? In view of the deep and bitter anger that is felt by my constituents who lost their children in that tragedy, and the fact that hundreds of thousands of children will be undertaking such holidays in the next few weeks, will the Leader of the House find time next week to debate that important matter?

Mr. Newton

I cannot undertake to find such time, despite the undoubted importance of the matter that the hon. Gentleman has raised—although he may be able to find his own opportunity to raise it on one of the occasions to which I have already referred. I shall of course ensure that his remarks are drawn to the attention of my right hon. Friends who are concerned with these matters.

Mr. David Shaw (Dover)

Will my right hon. Friend consider the fact that my constituents will be surprised that Parliament will not next week be holding a debate, at the request of the Opposition, to express pleasure at the fall in the unemployment figures? It seems that we are not to have a debate on the justice system, either. That, too, is surprising.

A music teacher's killer, who was high on drugs, who had been vandalising cars and threatening people in the neighbourhood, and who had a knife in his pocket, has not been found guilty of murder or of manslaughter and has been let off as a result of a clever legal plea of self-defence. Surely that constitutes a major problem, and Parliament should debate the justice system as early as possible.

Mr. Newton

I note my hon. Friend's request, which is similar to one from my hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Thomason). Manifestly, I am not in a position to promise a full-scale debate next week. My hon. Friend will know that the Home Secretary has asked officials closely to examine the case to which he has referred to see whether there are lessons that can be learned. I am sure that the whole House supports such an examination.

Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston)

Given today's statement on open government, will the Leader of the House arrange for his colleagues from the Department of Transport to make a statement on their policies of open government, especially in the light of a letter that they sent me yesterday about the extension of the A550 and the public inquiry associated with it? They should explain why, in this era of open government, the public inquiry is not to be held in the area cut through by the road; it is to be held outside the constituency—indeed, in the country next door, Wales. The place where it is to be held is not even known to my hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones)—although I suspect that that may come up in the debate later this afternoon.

Mr. Newton

The safest course for me on this occasion is to draw attention to the fact that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport is due to answer questions on Monday 26 July. If the hon. Gentleman cares to stay on that long—I might encourage him to go on holiday earlier—he might get an opportunity.

Mr. David Sumberg (Bury, South)

My right hon. Friend will know of the concern in my constituency about the redrawing of the assisted areas map. Can he assure me that there will be a statement on that before we rise for the summer, and if possible next week?

Mr. Newton

I can certainly assure my hon. Friend that my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry will aim to make a statement at the earliest possible opportunity; but at the moment we are awaiting the European Commission's conclusions on the proposals that the British Government have put to it.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)

As the Leader of the House already recognised the importance that hon. Members attach to the report of the Sheehy inquiry, could he arrange next week, or certainly before the House rises, to give us an idea of the legislative programme that will be followed in this context? Many Members will be discussing the matter with representatives of police forces during the summer recess, and it would be helpful to know whether there will be separate Scottish legislation, given the differences between Home Office and Scottish Office responsibilities.

Mr. Newton

The position on the Sheehy report is pretty much the same as that on the royal commission, about which I was asked earlier. It is not a report by the Government or a set of conclusions by the Government: it is a report which the Government and others need to consider.

As for the rest of her question, the hon. Lady has been here long enough to know that the Leader of the House does not anticipate the Gracious Speech in the autumn.

Mr. Stephen Day (Cheadle)

Will it be possible at an early stage for the House to discuss the changes taking place in the Province of Northern Ireland, to allow us to debate the obvious abandonment of that Province by the Opposition, and the obvious failings of the Anglo-Irish Agreement? In such a debate, we could also put in context the Government's efforts to defeat terrorism and repeat our commitment to the people of Northern Ireland and to the union that it represents.

Mr. Newton

I agree with my hon. Friend that it is perhaps surprising that the Opposition have chosen to use their Opposition day next week to discuss the subject that I read out, rather than the extremely important signs that have been given about a major change in their policy towards Northern Ireland, which would call into question the whole constitutional basis of the arrangements.

Mr. Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield)

I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to the fact that, this morning, the West Midlands regional health authority decided that the Department of Health has no moral obligation to the pensioners of Qa Business Services. Will he arrange for his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health to come to the House next week to explain why it is felt that there is a moral obligation to give £10,000 to a discredited chairman of a regional health authority, yet pay nothing to people who have lost their security in their old age as a result of a bungled privatisation?

Mr. Newton

I shall draw the attention of my right hon. Friend to that question.

Mr. Spencer Batiste (Elmet)

My right hon. Friend will recall that, during the statement on the Defence White Paper a few days ago, my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State said that he would make a separate statement concerning the procurement of tanks for future British Army requirements. As there will be several opportunities for export sales of the Challenger 2 tank—opportunities that would be much enhanced by an early and positive statement, which would benefit greatly my constituents and the industrial infrastructure in Leeds—will my right hon. Friend see whether such a statement could be made as a matter of urgency?

Mr. Newton

I shall brief my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence, who is due to be here on Tuesday, on at least one of the questions that he may be asked.

Mr. John Gunnell (Morley and Leeds, South)

As the Leader of the House has already suggested that the Home Secretary will want to give time to debate the Runciman report, will he be willing to bring forward for discussion, with particular urgency, the recommendation for a criminal cases review authority?

Just as many hon. Members share the concerns of the hon. Member for Dover (Mr. Shaw) about the case that has occurred recently, it is also true that there are many instances where people are in prison and have maintained their innocence over several years. There is an urgent need for an authority to be set up, preferably with its own independent investigating officers.

Mr. Newton

I shall take that as a clear sign of support for one of the recommendations, but I do not want to add to what I said earlier about it being right for the Government to consider the report before jumping to conclusions.

Dr. Liam Fox (Woodspring)

While I acknowledge the response that my right hon. Friend gave to an earlier question, will he reconsider, for the sake of the minority parties, the decision to hold an urgent debate for a day on law and order, as only one of the Liberal Democrats managed to attend the last such debate? Perhaps that would give them a chance to reassess the importance that they attach to the issue.

Mr. Newton

That is a helpful question. I note that it has been heard by the Liberal Chief Whip, who will no doubt ensure better attendance on a future occasion.

Mr. Ray Powell (Ogmore)

Will the Leader of the House consider having a debate next week on the White Paper that the Government published on Tuesday about Sunday trading? Is he aware that the House should at least have had a statement from the Home Secretary on their complex document? Those who support one particular option would like to know why the Government are dictating to the House the terms of the option that any organisation may wish to offer regarding employment protection. The Government are under an obligation to present the House with a statement so that they can qualify on what grounds they are dictating the options that will be presented to the House.

Mr. Newton

My understanding is that there is no question whatever of the Government trying to dictate to anybody. There has been some difficulty in getting sufficient details of proposals from some quarters to turn them into the form in which they have appeared in the White Paper. As to the question of an early debate, the whole purpose of publishing the document at this time was to give all Members of the House a good opportunity to study the whole range of options and think about the issues before we debate them in detail later in the year.

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset)

Will it be appropriate in the Adjournment debate on the environment on Friday to discuss carbon taxes and their role in preserving the environment? If it will be, could my right hon. Friend arrange to have copies of "Costing the Earth", "Looking to the Future" and the Labour and Liberal manifestos available in the Vote Office, so that people can look at those documents and their contribution to the debate on carbon taxes, particularly as the Liberal Democrats' manifesto called for a larger than VAT tax on energy, with the money so raised being used to reduce the VAT scales on luxury items?

Madam Speaker

Order. That is hardly a matter for next week.

Mr. Newton

My hon. Friend has made some good points. I am not sure whether it would be proper for me to make the documents available, but I shall do everything I can to ensure that as many people as possible are made further aware of them, together with some other recent documents about an energy tax published by the Labour party. My hon. Friend makes a good point about next week's business, in that it would seem to me that there is a jolly good chance that it would be in order to consider such matters in the debate on the environment.

Mr. John Spellar (Warley, West)

It is unfortunate that the Secretary of State for Employment has not taken the opportunity to make an announcement about the future of May day. There are three possible reasons for that: first, he intends to make an announcement in the recess, when it cannot be subject to scrutiny; secondly, he will make an announcement in the autumn, which will cause considerable inconvenience to the leisure trade and to the printing industry, which will be preparing diaries and calendars; thirdly, he has realised that the whole idea is a load of dogmatic nonsense and is trying to get rid of it. Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Secretary of State to come to the House to make a statement and clarify the matter?

Mr. Newton

I will bring to my right hon. Friend's attention the hon. Gentleman's engaging speculations. All that I can say is that an announcement on those matters will be made in due course.

Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby)

Has the Leader of the House seen early-day motion 2100 and my amendment to it?

[That this House condemns the heavy-handed and bullying methods employed by GrandMet in its manoeuvres against the Morning Advertiser's campaign on behalf of Inntrepreneur tenants; notes that the Agriculture Select Committee believed that the Government's policy towards the brewing industry has done nothing to help tenants whilst the six giant breweries have increased their market share by five per cent. to 82 per cent. since the introduction of the Beer Orders; believes that the issues raised by the Morning Advertiser report of 21st May call in question both the fair trading policy of Her Majesty's Government and the actual working practices of GrandMet; and calls upon the President of the Board of Trade to instigate and immediate inquiry into the state of the brewing and licensed trade before more tenants are forced out of business.]

It refers to the bully-boy tactics of Inntrepreneur Estates, the unacceptable face of the brewing industry, which is charging exorbitant rents, driving people into bankruptcy and causing disturbances in an industry whose problems were supposed to be solved after the report from the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. Despite the fact that the brewers distribute largesse to Conservative party funds, can we have a statement from a Trade and Industry Minister on what will be done to help the tenants and the consumers of the brewery industry's products?

Mr. Newton

The hon. Gentleman can ask that question directly of Trade and Industry Ministers, with luck, on Wednesday 21 July.

Mr. David Hanson (Delyn)

Will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement and a debate next week on local government reorganisation in Wales? On I March, the Secretary of State for Wales announced proposals for reorganisation, only for hon. Members to find yesterday, in the Welsh Grand Committee, that large chunks of these proposals had been ripped out and new ones put in. That is an affront to democracy, particularly as Parliament will have no opportunity to scrutinise the White Paper before the Bill is produced in October. That is a disgrace, and the Secretary of State should make a statement.

Mr. Newton

I cannot promise either a debate or a statement, but the organisation of parliamentary questions next week is turning out rather well, because the Secretary of State for Wales is here on Monday.

Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

Will the Leader of the House ensure that, when we have our debate on open government, it will include consideration of the procedures used in the House to correct untruthful parliamentary answers received by hon. Members?

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that today I received a letter from the Minister of State for the Armed Forces telling me that information given to me last month—that British soldiers in the Gulf were warned of the danger of depleted uranium shells—was completely untrue? Is it not right that, when untrue answers are given, they are corrected in Hansard with a supplementary answer and not given to individual Members in a private letter?

Mr. Newton

The hon. Gentleman has clearly found a way to draw attention to the letter that he received. I shall draw the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence to that point.

Mr. Cryer

Can I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day motion 2315, headed "Questions of procedure for Ministers"?

[That this House notes that section 107 of the Rules for Ministers says 'Ministers must resign any directorships they hold when they take up office' and is concerned to note that in recent company returns Viscount Cranbourne is a director of Stalbury Trustees, which is devoted to the promotion of conservative principles; further notes that the honourable Member for Conwy is a director of Professional Secretarial Services Ltd., that the honourable Member for Richmond and Barnes is a director of Sheridon-Hanley Enterprises Ltd., and that the honourable Member for Suffolk South is a director of Aracol Holdings Ltd., a subsidiary of which has principally been engaged in security dealing; and calls on the Prime Minister to investigate these breaches of Ministerial rules and publish his conclusions.]

Does the right hod. Gentleman recall that the Prime Minister published that document? Therefore, breaches of rule 107 by four Ministers—there are more—holding directorships should be answered by the Prime Minister in a statement. It is no good publishing the rules for Ministers if they are to be breached behind closed doors. There should be accountability to the House to demonstrate that Ministers are not breaching the rules. The companies listed have nothing to do with Ministers' family estates.

Mr. Newton

I understand that, in all the cases that the hon. Gentleman has in mind, the companies are wholly concerned with private family financial affairs. The Ministers concerned are satisfied that there is no conflict between their private interests and their public duties. In those circumstances, there would appear to be nothing further to investigate.