HC Deb 08 December 1994 vol 251 cc489-99 4.28 pm
The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Tony Newton)

With permission, Madam Speaker, I should like to make a statement on the business for next week:

MONDAY 12 DECEMBER—Second Reading of the Health Authorities Bill.

Motion on the First Special Report from the Committee of Privileges.

TUESDAY 13 DECEMBER—Until 10 o'clock, motions relating to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's statement of 8 December.

WEDNESDAY 14 DECEMBER—Until 7 o'clock, motions on rating and valuation orders and regulations. Details will be given in the Official Report.

Debate on the common fisheries policy on a Government motion.

THURSDAY 15 DECEMBER—Estimates Day (1st allotted day).There will be a debate on administration and miscellaneous services in so far as they relate to the Department of Social Security's responsibilities for the Child Support Agency and the operation of the Child Support Act, followed by a debate on the Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner and Health Service Commissioners, in so far as it relates to the powers, work and jurisdiction of the ombudsman.

At 10 o'clock the House will be asked to agree the civil and defence votes on account and the outstanding winter supplementary estimates. There will then be proceedings on the Consolidated Fund Bill.

FRIDAY 16 DECEMBER—Debate on the national lottery on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

MONDAY 19 DECEMBER—Motion for the Christmas Adjournment.

Motions on parliamentary procedures.

The House will also wish to know that the following European Standing Committees will meet at 10.30 am to consider European Community documents as follows:

Tuesday 13 December: European Standing Committee A, European Community Document No. 4195/94 relating to food hygiene for milk and milk products.

European Standing Committee B, European Community Document No. 9101/94 relating to generalised schemes of preferences.

Wednesday 14 December: European Standing Committee A, Unnumbered memorandum submitted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on 28 November 1994 relating to reform of the agri-monetary system.

European Standing Committee B, European Community Document No. 8077/94 relating to action against drugs; and EC document No. 8929/94 relating to prevention of drug dependence.

[Tuesday 13 December:

European Standing Committee A—Relevant European Community document: 4195/94 relating to food hygiene for milk and milk products. Relevant European Legislation Committee Reports HC 48-vii (1993–94) and HC 70-i (1994–95).

European Standing Committee B—Relevant European Community document: 9101/94 relating to Tariff Preference for Developing Countries. Relevant European Legislation Committee Report HC 70-i (1994–95).

Wednesday 14 December: European Standing Committee A—European Community Document; unnumbered, Agri-Monetary Reform. Relevant European Legislation Committee Report HC 70-i (1994–95).

European Standing Committee B—European Community Documents: 8077/94 and 8929/94 Action to Combat Drugs. Relevant European Document HC 48-xxvi (1993–94).

Floor of the House—Motions on rating and valuation orders and regulations. The documents are as follows: The Non-domestic Rating (Chargeable Amounts) Regulations; The British Gas Plc (Rateable Values) Order; The Electricity Supply Industry (Rateable Values) Order; The Docks and Harbours (Rateable Values) (Amendment) Order; The Water Undertakers (Rateable Values) Order; The Railways (Rateable Values) Order; and The British Waterways Board and Telecommunications Industry (Rateable Values) Revocation Order.]

And now, the bit they all want—or perhaps I should say, the bit the House wants. The House will wish to know that, subject to the progress of business, it will be proposed that the House should rise for the Christmas Adjournment on Wednesday 21 December until Tuesday 10 January.

Mrs. Ann Taylor (Dewsbury)

I thank the Leader of the House for that statement, and I welcome the fact that we shall at last have a chance to debate the Jopling proposals. I hope that we shall be able to make good progress, with the Leader of the House giving us as much notice as possible of future business on all occasions, even if that business is provisional.

I assure the right hon. Gentleman that, although we all welcome knowing the dates of the recess, it is his party, not ours, which is anxious for it to start as soon as possible.

With regard to the Committee of Selection, which met yesterday, the Leader of the House will be aware that the Committee was unsure as to how it should act now that we have a minority Government. Hence the Committee recommended that the whole issue of appointments to Standing Committees be referred to the Floor of the House. I wonder when the right hon. Gentleman intends to ensure that there is a debate on that matter on the Floor of the House, because we are obviously anxious to have it resolved; we believe that we have a strong case for parity on those Committees, given that the Government have lost their majority.

The Leader of the House will be aware that in July 1993 the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food published a consultative document proposing the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board, and that the responses to that document were overwhelmingly hostile. As the former Agriculture Minister promised a response by Easter this year, and as it has still not been forthcoming, when may we expect the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to remove that threat to agricultural workers and their families? It should have been removed by Easter; will it be removed by Christmas?

Mr. Newton

I am afraid that I am not at the moment able to give the hon. Lady a precise date and time for resolving the uncertainty to which she has just referred, but I shall bring the fact that she has just raised it to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

The hon. Lady asked about the Committee of Selection. We are all aware of what emerged from the Committee yesterday, and she will understand that the timing of any debate is a matter for discussion through the usual channels. I do not think that I can hold out expectation of it being before Christmas, but I am sure that discussions can resolve a satisfactory time. The hon. Lady's first question was rather routine, and I shall take it principally as welcoming the procedure motions arising from our negotiations on the Jopling report. Of course, I continue to take notice of the desire of the hon. Lady and others for further notification about business.

Mr. Michael Jopling (Westmorland and Lonsdale)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there will be a broad welcome in the House for the fact that at last the recommendations of the Select Committee on Sittings of the House will be brought to fruition? Will he be kind enough to lay before us the changes in Standing Orders, whatever they are, as soon as possible, so that we may have a good chance to read them? Does he intend the new arrangements to operate when we return from the Christmas recess?

Mr. Newton

Essentially, the answer to the latter part of my right hon. Friend's question is yes. In answer to his earlier question, I can tell him that I shall do everything that I can to make sure that the detailed resolutions are laid at the earliest practicable moment, so that there will be a proper opportunity to consider them. In view of the contacts that I have maintained with my right hon. Friend over what is now more than months, it goes almost without saying that I greatly value his appreciation of the fact that we are now able to make a move on this front.

Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire)

Does the Leader of the House accept that if the Jopling proposals were extant and we had their benefit, he would today have been able to give us the last two days' business before Christmas rather than keeping us all on tenterhooks? There is a clear feeling in all parts of the House that the more notice we get on important debates, the better. If there are substantial and fundamental changes to the rules of engagement in Bosnia, will the Government undertake to make not just a statement on such important and serious matters, but provision for a short debate if that is necessary? While I am on this matter, what about Hong Kong?

Mr. Newton

Perhaps for the moment I may confine my remarks to Bosnia. The hon. Gentleman will know that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made a statement yesterday. That responded to representations that I had received from various quarters about the desirability of such a statement. I think that I can claim some credibility because of my repeated assurances to the House about making arrangements for appropriate statements or debates as and when the need for them is clear.

Sir Peter Emery (Honiton)

Does my right hon. Friend realise that this is the ninth time that I have risen to press him on Jopling? I am delighted to congratulate him on being able to give a favourable response this time. Can he confirm that the motions will be amendable? As this matter of procedure is fairly wide, will he try to limit the amendments so that they relate only to the Jopling report and not to other aspects of procedure because, of course, to do so would be to go much wider?

Mr. Newton

Although those are ultimately matters for the Chair, I expect the motions to be amendable. However, I shall not presume on the judgment of the Chair about the scope and scale of amendments. As Chairman of the Procedure Committee, my right hon. Friend will understand that. I appreciate his warm welcome for what I said, and say to him in return that it feels like many more than nine times.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)

Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Department of Transport to send a Minister to the Dispatch Box to explain what has happened today to our rolling stock industry? That industry is virtually bankrupt and is now faced with the award of a major contract for London Underground trains to a firm that will give most of the work to France and Spain and very little work, which will be of an assembly type, to the west midlands. That is not only a disgrace but typical of what happens. No one can imagine the French Government awarding such a major contract for their transport system to any foreign supplier.

Mr. Newton

I am, of course, aware—and had I not been, I would have been made aware by my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall), who has pressed so hard for new rolling stock for the Northern line—of the fact that a decision has been announced today. I have not had an opportunity to study the detail of that decision but, inevitably—and quite properly within the rules—London Underground will have had to have regard to the value for money of the various tenders that came in. I hope that the hon. Lady will understand that, while I understand entirely why she raised the issue and why the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) and others may wish to raise it, I cannot add to that.

I acknowledge that all hon. Members representing Derbyshire and the surrounding area have quite rightly worked very hard for the award of the contract, which they wished to go to Derby, including my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Knight).

Mr. Eric Pickles (Brentwood and Ongar)

Will my right hon. Friend arrange an urgent debate on the appalling mismanagement of the Labour and Liberal Democrat-controlled Essex council, which is denying care in the community to frail and elderly people in that county? Does he recognise that the debate is urgent, given the shocking discovery that at the same time as the council is denying care to my constituents, it is sitting on more than £24 million, and that figure is growing with every profit? Surely the House should have an opportunity to debate the callous behaviour of councillors in Essex.

Mr. Newton

Again, as a Member of Parliament for Essex, as my hon. Friend knows, I well understand why he raises that point. In noting his remarks, I would make the point that, for all local authorities, the support funding for social services, including community care responsibilities, has gone up by 15 per cent. this year on last and, over four years, from just over £3.5 billion to nearly £6.5 billion.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

On Thursday's business, would the Leader of the House consider asking the Prime Minister whether he would answer the detailed Question 5 on Lockerbie at the end of questions, so that he can give the proper answer that he would wish, in view of the sensitivities of the relatives and to be fair to the noble Lord Parkinson, who, in good faith gave undertakings to the relatives that there would be a public inquiry, and to be fair to the right hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon), who, as Secretary of State for Transport, made a statement to journalists at the Garrick club for which he was later dismissed—possibly unfairly because of its complexity? Will the Leader of the House ask the Prime Minister whether he would consider answering that at the end of questions, for the sake of coherence?

Mr. Newton

I shall bring that request to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

May I ask my right hon. Friend for a debate on health next week, so that hon. Members can examine properly the argument advanced on both sides of the House that increasing taxation on cigarettes improves health in Britain when that is not proven, bearing in mind the fact that cigarettes imported from Germany and France replace British cigarettes that would otherwise be smoked, not to mention smuggling, which my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor mentioned this afternoon? The fact that 204 jobs at Gallaher Tobacco in my constituency have been lost this week to cigarette makers from overseas should properly be discussed in the House.

Mr. Newton

I understand why my hon. Friend raises that point. Perhaps he will have the good fortune to catch the Chair's eye next Tuesday if he wishes to pursue it. I should acknowledge, however, that it is clear that price has played a part in reducing cigarette consumption and that the reduction in cigarette consumption has had beneficial health effects.

Mr. John Denham (Southampton, Itchen)

Will the Leader of the House ask the Secretary of State for Social Security for a debate or statement on the thousands of women who are living on reduced incomes because they are denied invalidity benefit while the Government challenge a European Court decision that they should be entitled to it? It is outrageous and we are now told that it will be another 18 months at least before the matter is resolved. Millions of pounds are being denied to women living in reduced circumstances. If the Leader of the House has a word with the Secretary of State for Social Security, will he tell him that it really is not good enough consistently to refuse to estimate how much money is being withheld from those women? It is not good enough that the Secretary of State refuses to answer parliamentary questions on the matter.

Mr. Newton

I have to say to the hon. Gentleman, as I expect he anticipates, that I shall bring that question to my right hon. Friend's attention.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire)

In view of what my right hon. Friend has just said to the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody), is he aware of the concern of hon. Members representing Derbyshire about today's announcement from the Department of Transport? Would it be possible to have a statement next week? Will the Secretary of State, perhaps at that stage, draw to the House's attention early-day motion 71 in which a number of Labour Members demanded that the contract went to GEC?

[That this House welcomes the bid from GEC Alsthom for a 20-year service provision package, including new rolling stock, for London Underground's Northern Line and the job security which the award of this tender would bring to its factories in Birmingham and the North West; calls upon London Underground to make its tender decision strictly on the quality of the product and value for money; and commends the bid to London Underground on these criteria.]

Mr. Newton

I certainly take note of my hon. Friend's last point. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport will answer questions on Monday 19 December. Lastly, I acknowledge the efforts that my hon. Friend has made as a Member representing Derbyshire, in the interests of his constituents and those nearby.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Would it be possible to have a debate in the very near future—next week, if possible—on the duties and responsibilities of Members of Parliament, bearing in mind how the standing of the House has improved considerably since the vote on Tuesday, because people have realised that there are Members of Parliament who vote according to what they believe to be in the national interest and according to their conscience, and who are not willing to be stamped on and bullied by Whips? If the Leader of the House has seen some of the letters that appeared in the national press yesterday and today, he will know full well that I am absolutely correct in saying that the authority of the House has gone up and that that is far more important than any proposed change over Jopling.

Mr. Newton

The hon. Gentleman may possibly care to reflect on those remarks when he starts to get the complaints that we heard so vociferously from the Opposition in relation to what my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor said this afternoon.

Mr. Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton)

Notwithstanding the welcome collapse of the iron curtain, will the Leader of the House admit that it is a matter of grave concern if ever it is discovered that a British subject has been in the pay of a foreign security service? Will he consider, therefore, having an urgent debate on national security and perhaps the remit of the Nolan committee, given that Mr. Richard Gott, who still writes for The Guardian, has been accused this week by The Spectator of having been in the pay of the KGB for a number of years, despite which treason, he and his paper have continued to attack the supposed corruption of the British establishment?

Mr. Newton

While I have seen the front cover of The Spectator, I have not had the opportunity to read the story to which my hon. Friend refers. In view of what he said, he will understand that my proper course this afternoon is simply to take note of what he says.

Mr. Jimmy Wray (Glasgow, Provan)

Will the Leader of the House allocate some time to discuss the escalation of violent crime and the use of firearms in Scotland? One of the reasons why I ask this question is that the Secretary of State for Scotland gave a very misleading reply yesterday to my hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian (Mr. Clarke), by telling him that such incidents represented only two incidents per 1,000 crimes, when in the past decade there were about 17,000 crimes—5,000 in the past three years—with 4,000 people injured and 60 people killed. It is a serious problem for the people of Scotland. Nearly all those incidents happen in deprived areas in Scotland. Will the Leader of the House raise the matter with the Secretary of State for Scotland?

Mr. Newton

I am not in a position to engage in a statistical dispute of the type that the hon. Gentleman describes without notice. I will, of course, bring his remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend, but I know no one more determined to seek to tackle the problems of crime in Scotland, on which he has a Bill in this very Session of Parliament, than my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

Mr. Jacques Arnold (Gravesham)

May we have a debate next week on British exports, during which we can congratulate British industry on its exceptional performance of late? Perhaps we could also consider the effect of the Government's announcement on reducing the rates of export credit guarantees, which has put Britain's exporters in a far better position than their competitors.

Mr. Newton

Much as I would like to arrange such a debate because I acknowledge what my hon. Friend said, I cannot readily envisage finding the time before the Christmas recess. I might be more encouraged even to seek to do so if I thought that there was the slightest chance that those well-deserved tributes to British industry would be paid by the Opposition Front Bench.

Mr. Frank Cook (Stockton, North)

I believe that the order relating to the local government reorganisation of Cleveland was tabled today and will appear on the Order Paper tomorrow. Does the Lord President of the Council recall his statement of 16 June that it would clearly be inappropriate to proceed while the judicial review was taking place? I invite him to repeat that assurance to the House today.

Mr. Newton

Clearly, we would not have laid the order as the hon. Gentleman described had we felt that it was any longer inappropriate to do so. He will know that there has been an extensive amount of legal action on the matter. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment would say that there must come a stage when it is appropriate to proceed.

Mr. Quentin Davies (Stamford and Spalding)

May we have an urgent debate on the constitution, as the Opposition are making some extraordinary proposals these days? The Labour party is attacking the monarchy and suggests that if it were ever elected, it would spend the first year of government getting through legislation to introduce unequal representation. Those of us representing English constituencies would not be able to discuss matters relating to health, education, welfare and so forth in England and Wales, yet Members representing Scotland and Wales would be able discuss those matters here, in the same Parliament, as they relate to English residents. Unequal representation is a sinister idea and it is contrary to democracy wherever it is practised. May we have a debate to investigate that matter? Perhaps the hon. Member who represents West Lothian—the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell)—who has just left the Chamber, might like to take part.

Mr. Newton

That would certainly be the case and, indeed, that question—previously called the West Lothian question—has never even remotely been answered, to the embarrassment of many Opposition Members. In future, we shall have to describe it as the Linlithgow question, but it remains the same.

Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East)

The Commons was absent for 13 weeks in the summer and for two weeks when Parliament prorogued. We shall be away for another three weeks over Christmas and the new year. Furthermore, this afternoon's business has collapsed and we have five and a half hours to discuss a bridge in Wales. Important though that might be, we could have discussed other matters later. Why then has a junior Transport Minister offered me a private Member's Bill to introduce, instead of a measure of my choice, because there is not enough time for it to be debated in Parliament? Should not we alter our arrangements so that we can get through our business correctly and properly?

Mr. Newton

I am sure that any hon. Friend who approached the hon. Gentleman was merely trying to be helpful. On the first part of his question, we have had such exchanges many times before and, judging by representations made to me about sitting hours and all the rest, the hon. Gentleman's views are simply unrepresentative—for example, he had only to listen to the welcome given this afternoon to the proposed debate on what are known as the Jopling proposals.

Dr. Robert Spink (Castle Point)

Further to the matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles), may I press my right hon. Friend for a debate on the monumental mismanagement by Liberal and Labour-controlled Essex county council, which has lost £8.5 million from its community and child care budgets, with reserves rising from £25 million today to a predicted £28 million at the end of the financial year? Surely the council should be using those reserves to protect the vulnerable elderly people and children in my constituency and in Brentwood and Ongar.

Mr. Newton

I would certainly tell my hon. Friends the Members for Castle Point (Dr. Spink) and for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles) that the matter that they pointed out raises some very real questions. While I cannot promise a debate before the Christmas recess, I shall certainly bear it in mind.

Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)

The Leader of the House will remember that my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Simpson) mentioned the United States-United Kingdom nuclear agreement last week, which the Government extended for another 10 years. Does not he think that it is deplorable and damaging to democracy for such an agreement to be extended without the House having the opportunity to debate it and without hon. Members who oppose that nuclear strategy having the opportunity to express their opposition?

Mr. Newton

No, I do not, for reasons that I sought to explain in the letter that I sent to the hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Simpson) following the exchange last week. I shall arrange for a copy of that letter to be sent to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Alan Simpson (Nottingham, South)

May I follow that question? I understood when I raised the matter in the House last week that the Government were extending the treaty under the Ponsonby rule whereby, for the matter to be debated by the whole House, an hon. Member is required to object in this Chamber. I asked the Leader of the House to arrange such a debate and I have not yet received a reply. Is he saying that the Ponsonby rule is being ignored and that the House is being denied the opportunity of having the debate that the rule should require?

Mr. Newton

I am certainly not saying that. I need hardly say that I signed a reply to the hon. Gentleman earlier today and I must apologise if it has not yet reached him. I shall ensure that it does as soon as possible.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

In line with the other representations that the right hon. Gentleman has heard this afternoon, may I ask for a statement by the Secretary of State for Transport about the contract that has been awarded to GEC, which will result in 600 immediate job losses in Derby and up to 3,000 losses eventually, if no other contracts are awarded in lieu of that loss? Will the Leader of the House convey to the Secretary of State that it is not good enough saying that France has got those jobs because of the minimum wage and the social chapter? The loss is a direct result of the Government's decision to allocate that contract to GEC, which will export jobs to France. It is not good enough and the decision should be reversed.

Mr. Newton

I have already made several comments on that matter in response to entirely understandable points from hon. Members on both sides of the House. I cannot add to them, but I shall add the hon. Gentleman's representations to those that I shall communicate to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport.

Mr. Robert Ainsworth (Coventry, North-East)

May we have an early opportunity to debate the figures issued through a planted written question on the single regeneration budget the other day? The Leader of the House may know that the single regeneration budget represented a massive cut in its constituent parts—the different budgets that went into it originally. He may also know that the figures released in the Budget were a cut on those announced earlier this year. At least, if we had such a debate, we would have the opportunity to discuss the astonishing press release put out by the Secretary of State for the Environment, which claimed £800 million of new money for regeneration.

Mr. Newton

Perhaps I should declare an interest, in that one of the successful schemes was the regeneration scheme in Braintree, East. I was very pleased about that. On the main thrust of the hon. Gentleman's question, his remarks may simply reflect a misunderstanding, given that one of the most notable features of the single regeneration budget is the amount of money brought in, alongside what is strictly SRB money, from other parts of the public sector and not least from the private sector. What the economists would call the gearing is immensely high and the investment is much greater than the outlay in the SRB itself.

Mr. Greg Pope (Hyndburn)

Is the Leader of the House aware of early-day motion 211 on today's Order Paper, which was tabled in my name?

[That this House notes with concern the proposed loss of over 200 jobs at GEC Engineering (Accrington) as a result of the continuing recession in the aircraft industry; recognises that these redundancies are a disaster for the workforce and will cause real damage to the skills base of the East Lancashire economy; further notes that GEC is a cash rich company which recorded pre-tax profits in the last financial year of £866 million, and which can afford to bid for VSEL but apparently cannot afford to stand by its loyal workforce in Accrington; believes that GEC Engineering (Accrington) should be given further time to prove its economic viability; and therefore calls on the GEC board to defer these proposed redundancies pending talks with the trade unions, local authorities, honourable Members and other interested bodies.]

The job losses are not merely a tragedy for my constituents, but a disgrace from a company such as GEC, which made profits of nearly £900 million last year. Given that the job losses are in a crucial defence-related industry, will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on the matter before the House rises for the Christmas recess?

Mr. Newton

Perhaps I had better not be unkind enough to observe some tension between the demand to prevent job losses at one part of GEC and the attacks on the award of a contract to another part of GEC. But I shall certainly take note of the hon. Gentleman's understandable concern.

Mr. Jim Dowd (Lewisham, West)

Does the Leader of the House agree that the prevarication and delay that have beset the channel tunnel rail link ever since the scheme's inception mean that the House really should get down to considering that matter as soon as possible? Can the right hon. Gentleman say how soon that might be?

Mr. Newton

I hope that it will be quite soon. I do not anticipate a debate before the Christmas recess, but I shall be very much looking to arrange one shortly afterwards.

Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle)

May I press the Leader of the House to have an early debate on insider share dealing? Does he appreciate that many people believe, as I do, that his noble Friend Lord Archer is guilty as sin of insider share dealing and made £80,000 in the space of a few weeks in January last year? Is he further aware that the Chancellor told me last week that the Government were keeping the law on insider dealing under review? He will have seen from today's Financial Times that the stock exchange is bringing forward new rules on insider trading. In view of those developments, surely there is a case for an early debate on the matter.

Mr. Newton

I do not know about you, Madam Speaker, but I am getting fed up with Opposition Members using the Floor of the House to make remarks about individuals which they would not dare to make outside because it would land them in court, and I shall certainly not provide time for a debate that would enable more of the same thing to occur.

Mr. Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock)

May we have a statement tomorrow on Gibraltar? Will the Leader of the House reflect that Parliament—the Government and other parties as well—has failed to address itself to the interests of British subjects, citizens of the European Union, who are being messed around, to say the least, by the Spanish authorities? It is unacceptable for the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister to pretend that they are macho in diplomatic affairs and not to address themselves to the interests of the people of Gibraltar. The House is failing them. It is time that we had a statement tomorrow on behalf of their interests, to show that Her Majesty's Government are being robust in their approaches to the Spanish Government. Secondly, we should have a debate in the House about the natural, legitimate aspirations of the people of Gibraltar for constitutional development. We are failing them.

Mr. Newton

I do not think that I can promise a statement, but the hon. Gentleman will no doubt be aware that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will be here to answer questions next Wednesday.