HC Deb 20 October 1994 vol 248 cc425-41 3.31 pm
Mr. Nicholas Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne, East)

May I ask the Leader of the House to state the forthcoming business of the House.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Tony Newton)

The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY 24 OCTOBER—Debate on the second report of the Foreign Affairs Committee relating to spending plans of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Overseas Development Administration, followed by a debate on the first report of the Science and Technology Committee relating to the science base and innovative and competitive technology on a motion for the Adjournment of the House. Details will be given in the Official Report.

TUESDAY 25 OCTOBER—Opposition Day (19th allotted day). There will be a debate entitled "Privatisation, Accountability and Bureaucracy in the National Health Service" on an Opposition motion.

WEDNESDAY 26 OCTOBER—Debate on a motion to take note of the outstanding reports of the Public Accounts Committee to which the Government have replied. Details will be given in the Official Report.

Motion on the Legal Aid (Scope) Regulations.

Motion on the Parental Orders (Human Fertilisation and Embryology) Regulations.

Motion on the Parental Orders (Human Fertilisation and Embryology) (Scotland) Regulations.

THURSDAY 27 OCTOBER—Debate on developments in Northern Ireland on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

FRIDAY 28 OCTOBER—Debate on inward investment on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

MONDAY 31 OCTOBER—Opposition Day (20th allotted day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion on a subject to be announced.

The House may also be asked to consider any Lords messages which may be received.

The House will also wish to know that European Standing Committee A will meet on Wednesday 26 October to consider European Community document No. 5934/94 relating to foodstuffs intended for particular nutritional uses.

[Wednesday 26 October:

European Standing Committee A—European Community document: 5934/94, Foodstuff: Particular Nutritional Uses. Relevant European Legislation Committee Reports: HC 48-xix (1993-94) and HC 48-xxiii (1993-94).]

MONDAY 24 OCTOBER—Debate on Foreign Affairs Committee report and debate on Science and Technology Committee report. The relevant reports are as follows:–1)

Second Report from the Foreign Affairs Committee on "Public Expenditure: Spending Plans of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Overseas Development Administration 1994-95 to 1996-97". House of Commons Paper No. 372, Session 1993-94. CM2685 entitled "Second Report from the Foreign Affairs Committee, Session 1993-94, Expenditure Plans of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Overseas Development Administration, Observations by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs" is also relevant. 2)

First Report from the Science and Technology Committee on "The Routes Through which the Science Base is translated into Innovative and Competitive Technology", House of Commons Paper No. 74-I, Session 1993-94. CM2659 entitled "The Routes Through which the Science Base is translated into Innovative and Competitive Technology" Government response to the First Report of the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology, 1993-94, Session is also relevant.

WEDNESDAY 26 OCTOBER—Debate on a motion to take note of the outstanding reports of the Public Accounts Committee to which the Government have replied. The relevant reports are as follows:

Reports Session 1992–1993
No. Report Title HC No. Date of pub.
55 MOD: The Costs and Receipts Arising for the Gulf Conflict 729 6 October
56 Forestry Commission: Timber Harvesting and Marketing 579 7 October
57 West Midlands Regional Health Authority: Regionally Managed Services Organisation 485 25 November
58 Department of Social Security and Benefits Agency: Combating Organised Fraud 672 24 November
59 MOD: Use of Simulators in Training 680 1 December
60 Inland Revenue Inheritance Tax 688 15 December
61 Health Services for Physically Disabled People Aged 16 to 64 538 16 December
62 The Administration of Student Loans 613 8 December
63 Wessex Regional Health Authority: Regional Information Systems Plan 658 9 December
Mr. Brown

I thank the Leader of the House for his statement. He will have heard the exchange at Prime Minister's Question Time. May I put it to him now that, regardless of whether Ministers resign, the allegations contained in The Guardian today are serious enough to warrant an investigation by the Committee on Privileges. While I am on the topic of the Committee on Privileges, may we expect a statement next week from the Leader of the House regarding progress on the "cash for questions" inquiry and related matters at which the Committee is looking? In particular, will the Leader of the House explain why the Committee must hear in private what we can all read for ourselves in The Sunday Times?

On a slightly more cross-party note, given the amicable discussions that have taken place between us during the summer recess, could the Leader of the House find time for the House to debate the Jopling report before the end of the Session?

Mr. Newton

Picking up the more emollient part of the hon. Gentleman's question—I am pleased to see him in his place on the Opposition Front Bench after the contribution that he has made to our discussions during the summer months—I cannot give an absolute undertaking because he and I have not had a chance to talk further since the events of yesterday. Obviously, there are some uncertainties about the precise pace at which we shall be able to proceed and precisely how long the present Session will go on. I am not in a position to resolve that uncertainty, either.

From the spirit of our discussions, the hon. Gentleman knows that we are both proceeding as constructively and speedily as we can. I think that he will accept that I have manifestly made it clear that I want to move as fast as possible. I think that that is all I can say on that matter.

On the earlier part of the hon. Gentleman's remarks, I cannot add to what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has already said. The hon. Gentleman knows that it is the very strong convention of the House—although I appreciate that it does not appear to be universally followed, to put it mildly—that the proceedings of Select Committees are not usually discussed by members of them, let alone by Chairmen, outside the confines of a Committee until that Committee has reported.

In my capacity as Chairman of the Privileges Committee, I think it right to stick to that long-established convention. The appropriate time for debate will be when the Committee has brought a report to the House.

On the other matters raised today, the appropriate time for debate will be when a proper inquiry, of whatever kind, reaches a conclusion.

Sir Peter Emery (Honiton)

I want to add to what the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Brown) said about the Jopling report. Does my right hon. Friend accept that there is still considerable pressure from the Back Benches to move forward on that report? That being so, even if there cannot be a debate, will my right hon. Friend consider whether it is possible, before the end of the Session, for a joint statement from both sides to be made on how we can proceed? I think that hon. Members deserve to know.

Mr. Newton

Again, I cannot make an absolute promise to be able to respond in the way that I should like to respond, for the reasons that I explained to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Brown). I have not had the opportunity to talk to him and to repeat my point since developments in the Labour party yesterday, which leave some element of uncertainty. We both want to make progress as fast as possible. If we cannot have a debate, I shall consider my right hon. Friend's suggestion; he has certainly not been short in exerting pressure on this matter.

Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire)

I recognise that these matters are not entirely under the right hon. Gentleman's control, but I want to press him for a date for the end of the Session. Is it right to assume that the working assumption is still 3 November?

Is not it time that the right hon. Gentleman had urgent words with the Foreign Secretary because of the urgent need to have a debate on the position in Hong Kong?

Mr. Newton

I will certainly bring the hon. Gentleman's latter point to my right hon. Friend's attention. On his first point, as on a number of occasions in this House there is some tension between the implicit wish to have an early date for prorogation and the pressure to put in more and more business before prorogation. I shall bear both in mind, but I cannot put the hon. Gentleman out of his misery at the moment.

Mr. John Biffen (Shropshire, North)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that where the conduct of Members of the House is concerned, subsequent investigation has not always been characterised by calm detachment—something which can be discerned from the Marconi affair onwards? If the work of the Privileges Committee is to be vitiated by trench warfare of the most partisan character, will he keep his mind open to the suggestion made to him about possibly appointing a committee from outside the House to look at how we conduct ourselves?

Mr. Newton

The latter point goes well beyond my immediate responsibility as Leader of the House and Chairman of the Privileges Committee. To echo something said by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, I continue to hope that those hon. Members who have indicated that they do not intend to attend the Committee for the time being will consider the position that will arise in the House, in almost any of our proceedings, if people who do not get their way in a decision properly taken under the procedures of the House then decide not to take part in those procedures.

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

Does the Leader of the House recall that, at the end of July, many of us told him that the Privileges Committee was a rigged Committee that would collapse under the weight of its own—

Madam Speaker

Order. I must ask the hon. Gentleman to ask a business question. As the Leader of the House correctly stated, the proceedings of the Committee at this stage are for the Committee itself, not for this Chamber. These are business questions and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will do me the courtesy of asking a question relating to next week's business.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

May we have a debate on these matters generally next week so that we can consider the membership of the Committee, which we know was rigged by the Government with a majority of people with substantial commercial interests? Does not the Leader of the House realise that Parliament is discredited while he insists on following that course? Why does he not return to the House with a new Committee or follow the recommendations made by the Liberals, who advocated an independent arrangement?

Mr. Newton

Of course I recall what the hon. Gentleman said in the debate that we had when the Committee was established and its membership settled. I also recall what I said in responding, both as Leader of the House and as the likely Chairman of the Committee. I shall not rehearse all those comments. The view expressed by the hon. Gentleman, however strongly felt, was not accepted.

The Committee was duly appointed by the House on a resolution on the basis of all the normal rules about the balance of membership according to the forces of the various parties in the House. The Members whose names were contained in the resolution accepted their appointments to the Committee without making conditions about what sort of decisions the Committee would make on how its work should be conducted.

Sir Anthony Grant (Cambridgeshire, South-West)

Will there be an opportunity next week or possibly today to pay tribute to the remarkable efficiency and dedication of the police in defending our freedoms last night? I have an office overlooking St. Stephen's entrance and was most impressed at the unbelievable patience shown by the police when facing quite disgraceful provocation.

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Newton

It is clear from the response to my hon. Friend that his sentiments are echoed in all parts of the House. Certainly, from what I observed, the police did an extremely good and effective job in controlling what could have become an even nastier situation.

Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)

In courtesy to the House, will the right hon. Gentleman urgently correct, either now or early next week, what he said about his adherence to precedent in regarding what happens in the Select Committee on Privileges as confidential? How does he reconcile that with his decision, against all precedent, on Tuesday night to issue a press statement and hold a press briefing about the Committee's meeting on that day?

Mr. Newton

I indicated to the many journalists outside the room simply that the Committee had taken a decision to sit in private. I made no further comment about who had said what, what the voting was or anything else. It was clear that it was going to be necessary to communicate the simple fact, and I make no apology for that judgment. I have not thought it right beyond that to discuss either the arguments or the proceedings.

Sir Irvine Patnick (Sheffield, Hallam)

Will my right hon. Friend arrange an early debate on the case for socialism as set out in early-day motion 1582?

[That this House believes that the best policies for Britain both now, and in the twenty-first century, would be based upon the principles laid down in Clause Four of the Labour Party Constitution and recently re-affirmed by the Labour Conference, namely 'To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service. Generally to promote the political, social and economic emancipation of the people, and more particularly of those who depend directly upon their own exertions by hand or by brain for the means of life. To co-operate with the Labour and Socialist organisations in the Commonwealth overseas with a view to promoting the purposes of the Party, and to take common action for the promotion of a higher standard of social and economic life for the working population of the respective countries. To co-operate with the Labour and Socialist organisations in other countries and to support the United Nations Organisation … for the promotion of peace, the adjustment and settlement of international disputes by conciliation or judicial arbitration, the establishment and defence of human rights, and the improvement of the social and economic standards and conditions of work of the people of the world.'.]

A debate would enable the country and the constituents of Sheffield, Hallam to see that the old socialist leopard still lives and that its spots are beginning to show beneath the rushed, bodged, newly launched paint job.

Mr. Newton

It certainly seems to be an attempt, through the procedures of the House, to re-insert clause 4 of the Labour party's constitution even before the party has taken it out of the constitution at Brighton or Blackpool.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Will the Leader of the House reconsider his decision not to have a debate about receiving money from companies next week, as it is becoming increasingly clear that there is a narrow dividing line between taking money for questions and becoming directors of firms? It is high time that we made a decision in the House that Members of Parliament should have one job and one job only, with no conflict of interest.

More than 200 Tory Members and a handful of Opposition Members make money on the side and cannot manage on £32,000 a year, while people outside have a job to live. It is time that Members of Parliament stopped the practice of moonlighting—only then will the Augean stables be cleaned up.

Mr. Newton

As some of my hon. Friends observed from a sedentary position during the hon. Gentleman's remarks, I presumed that the hon. Gentleman would also apply everything that he said to union sponsorships. As long as I am Chairman of the Committee on Privileges, I do not intend to engage in such a debate on the Floor of the House. There will be a debate after a report has been produced and, in case there is any doubt, I should perhaps add that the report will be accompanied by publication of the evidence taken by the Committee.

Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent)

Before we take any more lectures from hon. Gentlemen who play no part in any of the Committee structures where the House does most of its work, perhaps we should take seriously the question of full-time Members of Parliament. Will my right hon. Friend allow time for a debate on this important issue because if we are not careful we shall find ourselves moving inexorably towards a category of full-time membership of the House, which would greatly change its nature—something which should not happen without a clear and conscious decision being made?

Mr. Newton

I certainly have no plans to propose such a change without a debate or, indeed, at all. I have noted my hon. Friend's words and the very thoughtful reflections that he has also offered to me in writing.

Ms Jean Corston (Bristol, East)

The Leader of the House will be aware that this is National Asthma Week. There has been a 178 per cent. increase in childhood asthma in the south-west since 1979. From a survey of schools this summer in my constituency, I discovered that one in three children at the Rosemary nursery school, which is in an area of high traffic congestion, has asthma. At a recent summer camp organised by another school, 21 of the 43 children there had asthma or respiratory problems that needed medication. When can we have a debate to discuss the health, environmental and pollution aspects of what is a major epidemic among our children?

Mr. Newton

The hon. Lady might perhaps have suggested that some of the points that she has raised might have been more appropriate for a health debate than the title of the debate tabled for the Opposition day next Tuesday. Leaving that aside, however, having had some experience of asthma in my family, I certainly recognise the importance of the problem, its intractability and the concerns expressed about it. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health will consider carefully what the hon. Lady said.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

Can my right hon. Friend find time next week for an urgent debate on civil air transport in view of the grotesque subsidies to European state carriers such as Air France and Iberia which are blithely waved through by the European Commission, and for a debate on the urgent need for privatisation of the National Air Traffic Services?

Mr. Newton

On the first part of my hon. Friend's question, he will be aware of the vigorous stance taken by the Government, but I am afraid that I cannot promise a debate next week. As for National Air Traffic Services, he will be aware that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport will make a statement when he has considered the outcome of the consultation.

Mr. Eddie Loyden (Liverpool, Garston)

Will the Leader of the House press the Secretary of State for Health to make a statement next week on the transfer of the blood transfusion facility from Liverpool which is being met with almost universal opposition from people in the area? Is not it about time that the Secretary of State for Health was accountable to the House for her actions or non-actions?

Mr. Newton

I will draw the hon. Gentleman's latter remarks to my right hon. Friend's attention, but, in the face of his apparent suggestion that she is unaccountable to the House, I must say that it appears that she will be here nearly all day next Tuesday because health questions will be followed by the health debate to which I have already referred.

Sir Dudley Smith (Warwick and Leamington)

My right hon. Friend will be aware that in 1996 Heads of Government will hold an inter-governmental conference on the future of the European Union and the effects of Maastricht. Is he also aware that it will affect institutions such as the Western European Union, the Council of Europe, the North Atlantic Assembly and the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe and that there is real interest in their future among hon. Members of all parties? I know that my right hon. Friend cannot do so immediately, but I urge him to hold a debate on the subject in due course, as our continental partners will in their various Parliaments.

Mr. Newton

I should not want to undertake to provide time for a debate on European issues before we prorogue, but it is likely that an opportunity will arise not too long after that. I shall bear the idea in mind and, while noting my hon. Friend's request, I pay tribute to him for the work that he has done over many years for some of those institutions.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

Perhaps the Leader of the House has noticed that today, not for the first time, fisheries questions were totally crowded out of Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Question Time. That happens because of the relatively small number of Members with fisheries interests. In view of the importance of the industry in my constituency, and in the constituencies of my hon. Friends and many other hon. Members, will the Leader of the House consider allocating perhaps 15 minutes of questions to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to fisheries matters?

Mr. Newton

I am, of course, aware of one or two examples of that practice. For reasons that the House understands, it happens with the Overseas Development Administration. However—this is an entirely serious answer to the hon. Gentleman—I think that in general, trying to divide up the work of Departments into segments and allocating bits of time to bits of their responsibilities would be a path leading to endless argument, controversy and, in the end, dissatisfaction.

Mr. Richard Tracey (Surbiton)

May I ask my right hon. Friend to give consideration to an urgent debate on the maintenance of public order outside this place? As a London Member of Parliament, I draw his attention to the fact that, while several thousand Metropolitan policemen are employed to maintain what is certainly the important business of the House, my constituents, and people in many other London boroughs, are completely divested of the protection of the Metropolitan police, with the result that they fall prey to burglars, car thieves and muggers, and experience various other forms of public disorder. That cannot be right and it cannot be allowed to continue. Balance is essential in such matters.

Mr. Newton

Clearly it would be vain to expect my hon. Friend's words about the practical effects of demonstrations such as that which took place last night—manifestly those words have some force—to be heeded by those who brought about the demonstration. However, my hon. Friend's remarks should certainly be borne in mind by others in our society.

Dr. Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak)

In view of the Prime Minister's stated commitment to the national health service, does the Lord President agree that it is disgraceful that, having run down its own hospital services, making hundreds of staff redundant and closing wards, the South Birmingham health authority is spending public money flying heart patients to have their operations at an ailing private hospital in Glasgow? Will he ensure that when the Secretary of State comes to the Dispatch Box next Tuesday, she makes a statement on that matter and on the Government's responsibility for the lack of sensible planning for health care needs in south Birmingham?

Mr. Newton

I take it that the main point of the question was contained in the last sentence—and of course I will bring what the hon. Lady said to the attention of the Secretary of State for Health. As for the rest of her question, I should be reluctant to comment without knowing more about the circumstances. I imagine that the health authority was simply seeking to ensure that resources were used to the best possible effect in providing a speedy service for its patients.

Sir David Madel (Bedfordshire, South-West)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that during the summer recess the Child Support Agency has continued to make serious mistakes, causing real anguish to my constituents and no doubt to those of my hon. Friends and of Opposition Members? If there cannot be a statement next week about the necessary reform of the Child Support Agency, can my right hon. Friend see to it that the following sentence is put into the Queen's Speech: "Urgent early measures to reform the Child Support Agency will quickly be laid before you"?

Mr. Newton

My hon. Friend, who also spoke to me about this matter last night, will know that I cannot anticipate the Queen's Speech. On the other hand, I did, sort of, anticipate his question. I can assure him that action is being taken to address some of the administrative problems, although that may take time. Such action is certainly going on vigorously. My hon. Friend will know that the Select Committee on Social Security is expected to produce a further report shortly, which I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security will look at extremely carefully.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)

First, will the Leader of the House do his best to ensure that a statement is made, I hope next week, by the Prime Minister about the inquiry that is presently being conducted by the Cabinet Secretary? Secondly, will the Leader of the House ensure that whatever statement is made, it explains fully what arrangement was proposed, either directly or indirectly, by Mr. A1 Fayed to the Prime Minister?

Mr. Newton

I do not think that it would be right for me to add to what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said. I am sure that as soon as he has the report, he will act in whatever way he thinks appropriate in the light of his other assurances about his determination to ensure proper standards of conduct.

Mr. David Shaw (Dover)

Can my right hon. Friend find time for a debate in which we can discuss how a Member of Parliament can have £88,000 raised on his behalf and then not declare it in the Register of Members' Interests? Is not it scandalous that the Leader of the Opposition has not made a declaration in the Register of Members' Interests?

Madam Speaker

Order. If the hon. Gentleman wants to make a personal attack of that nature, he knows full well that it should be done by means of a substantive motion. I think that he ought to be very careful in his use of words. If he has anything to say of that nature, he must put it on the Order Paper in a substantive motion so that we may all see it.

Mr. Shaw

I am sorry, Madam Speaker, if I did not get the rules right. I thought that by calling for a debate on the issue, we might have the opportunity to air fully the issue of why it has not been declared that £88,000—

Madam Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman does not understand that complaints of that nature must be made to the Committee on Members' Interests. It is not for the Leader of the House to answer questions of that nature. A series of Committees has been set up to deal with all those matters and that is where the request must go. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will refer his request to the Committee.

Mr. Dennis Canavan (Falkirk, West)

In view of the Prime Minister's lofty statement about standards in public life and his attempted whitewash with secret inquiries, why cannot we have a debate next week on a basic, central question? If it takes £2,000 to get a Tory Member to ask a parliamentary question, how much does it take to get a straight answer from a Tory Government about what exactly they are going to do about it?

Mr. Newton

May I, as quietly and calmly as I can, totally reject the use of the word "whitewash" in the hon. Gentleman's remarks. I thought and, I suspect, many thought—not only Conservative Members—that the Prime Minister was very straightforward in his answers this afternoon.

Mr. Gary Streeter (Plymouth, Sutton)

Can my right hon. Friend find time next week for a specific debate on family health matters so that we can discuss the wisdom of the new Liberal Democrat policy of putting 11-year-old girls on the pill without parental consent? That must undermine the family and parental influence, and it is making a laughing stock of the Liberal Democrats.

Mr. Newton

I have some sympathy with that. I say, with as kindly a smile as I can manage, to the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) who is, I suspect, more sensible than some of the resolutions passed at his conference, that if I had to find time to debate every dotty resolution passed at Liberal Democrat conferences, we should be here from now until Christmas.

Mr. Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield)

Further to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Dr. Jones), may I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to the fact that the hospital in question, to which the West Midlands regional health authority is to shift patients, is a private hospital called Health Care International? It has already swallowed up substantial amounts of public money—

Madam Speaker

Order. Is the hon. Gentleman asking a question about business? I think that we have had enough statements. We must have brisk questions and answers.

Mr. Burden

May I ask the Leader of the House to ask his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health during next week's health debate to come to the House to make it clear that this is not a situation, which it appears to be, of the private sector gobbling up public resources and forcing my constituents and others to travel 300 miles for essential treatment?

Mr. Newton

I have made some comment on that, to which I am not going to add. It seems that the appropriate course would be for the hon. Gentleman to come to the House at the appropriate time and seek to put his question to my right hon. Friend or, for that matter, to the Secretary of State for Scotland if that is more appropriate.

Mr. Spencer Batiste (Elmet)

Now that a public consultation has been announced into national ID cards, does my right hon. right Friend think that there should be an early opportunity for the House to debate the issues involved?

Mr. Newton

I note the request, but I am afraid that I cannot promise an early opportunity. It may be that it would be more appropriate when a Green Paper has been produced, but I will bear in mind my hon. Friend's point.

Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle)

The Leader of the House will have seen early-day motion 1595, which relates to the conduct of Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare.

[That this House believes that the public is entitled to a full explanation by Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare as to the circumstances surrounding the purchase by him of shares in Anglia Television; believes that Lord Archer should give such an explanation without further delay, further believes that his conduct and the handling of the investigation by the DTI has further undermined the effectiveness of the United Kingdom's insider dealing legislation; calls on the Government to introduce new legislation free from the taint of political interference; calls on the President of the Board of Trade to publish that part of the DTI report containing information provided in connection with this matter; and regrets that the facts and circumstances of this affair were not put before a jury.] Is not there a pressing case for an early debate on the law on insider dealing, which is clearly unsatisfactory? If someone such as Lord Archer cannot be convicted, no one can.

Mr. Newton

This matter was covered in a lengthy answer by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on Tuesday and I shall not try to add to that now.

Mr. Peter Butler (Milton Keynes, North-East)

Will my right hon. Friend consider acceding to the repeated request for a debate on the matter currently before the Select Committee on Privileges, if only so that the Labour party can explain to the House its peculiar and singular view that an inquiry, the evidence of which will be published in full, the report of which will be published in full; both of which will be subsequently debated in public on the Floor of the House is none the less "secret"?

Mr. Newton

No, I cannot explain that and I have not yet heard an explanation of it.

Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham)

The Leader of the House will be aware that I wrote to him and that we had a friendly conversation about extending the postage and telephone facilities of hon. Members to cover the European Union. The price of stamps is just the same –5p—and the calls are no more expensive. Given the great interest of constituents in the European questions coming up in the next two years, for hon. Members to be fully informed, that right should be extended. I should like an assurance that the matter will be considered seriously before the end of the Session.

Madam Speaker

That is a very good question indeed, but it is not a business question. It is a question which the hon. Gentleman might put to the Leader of the House when he answers questions on those matters. The hon. Gentleman should reserve the question for that time.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

Will my right hon. Friend arrange a debate for next week on the way in which local authorities, which now have responsibility for traffic management and parking, are managing those responsibilities, so that I can highlight the enormous inefficiency of the Labour-controlled Ealing council and its aggravation of the people of Ealing by the inept way in which it is discharging those responsibilities?

Mr. Newton

I cannot promise an early debate, but I suppose that I look forward to learning week by week of the iniquities of the Ealing borough council, which my hon. Friend exposes with such assiduousness.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Will there be an opportunity next week to clarify whether, officially or unofficially, by minute or by telephone, there was any approach from the then Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Defence, Sir Clive Whitmore, to the then Prime Minister, expressing disquiet about the commercial activities of Mark Thatcher?

Mr. Newton

I think that I can only take note of that question and I shall obviously consider the point when I have an opportunity.

Mr. Jacques Arnold (Gravesham)

Could we perhaps have a debate next week on extravagance in local government expenditure, such as the expenditure of £169,000 on a new porch for the Gravesham civic centre, commissioned by the Labour party at the expense of scrapping a substantial part of its contribution to the Meopham sports hall and scrapping a refurbishment of shopping parades, where real people go?

Mr. Newton

It appears that it is trying to compete with Ealing.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

If there is to be a statement early next week, as I hope that there will be, on what is to happen on the Privileges Committee, will the Leader of the House bear in mind the fact that if we are to continue to regulate our own affairs—unlike the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen), who spoke earlier, I am very much in favour of our continuing to do so—it must be seen that we carry out our regulations and investigations in a public way? What may have happened in the past does not necessarily justify what should happen now and in the future. The public expect that a Parliament which is concerned, as we must be, with our own reputation in fighting corruption inside Westminster, should be willing to inquire into those matters in a public way and not simply wait for a report that is being drawn up and discussed in secret and then debate that on the Floor of the House. The reputation of the House is very much at stake.

Mr. Newton

That leads me to echo what I said earlier. It seems to me that a continuation of the practice of the House regulating its own affairs in the way that it has for many years, and which I think would be widely accepted, depends on people being willing to co-operate—without declining to co-operate if a decision goes in a way they do not like—with those procedures properly constituted by the House.

Mr. Michael Stephen (Shoreham)

My right hon. Friend will be aware that last night there was a serious attack on our parliamentary democracy by a howling mob which prevented elected Members from reaching the House to attend to their constituents' business. Can my right hon. Friend make time for a debate so that it can be made clear that the right to protest does not include the right to coerce or intimidate or the right to bring the life of a great city to a standstill and prevent ambulances, fire engines and police cars from attending emergencies? During that debate, perhaps we could consider whether mass demonstrations should be banned completely in urban areas.

Mr. Newton

My right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary is sitting beside me and he will no doubt have heard that suggestion. With regard to a debate, we are about to begin a second day of debate on the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill. I cannot promise an immediate opportunity for a further day's debate of that kind.

Mr. David Hanson (Delyn)

Will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement or an early debate next week on the preferred bidders for the coal industry? I listened to the President of the Board of Trade two weeks ago when he announced at the Conservative party conference who was buying the pit in my constituency. To date, I have received no news about that in the House, I have not had a chance to question the matter in the House, and I have not received written confirmation of the matter from the President of the Board of Trade. I hope that we can have an early debate on the matter next week.

Mr. Newton

I will bring that complaint to the attention of my right hon. Friend. However, the fact that by January we expect around 30 of the former British Coal mines to have transferred to new private sector owners since the coal review in 1993 represents welcome progress.

Mr. Roy Hughes (Newport, East)

Can the Leader of the House at least tell us whether there will be an early ministerial statement about the unfortunate events which took place outside the House last night? Is he aware that the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) suffered a very serious injury when trying to enter the House merely to record his vote? What discussions have there been with the Metropolitan police to ensure that hon. Members have proper access to this place?

Mr. Newton

There are three points here. First, I would like to express on my behalf, and I am sure on behalf of others, our sympathy to the hon. Member for Caernarfon. Secondly, discussions between the authorities of the House, in particular the Serjeant at Arms, and the police are not something I would wish to enter into across the Floor of the House. Thirdly, I must say frankly that I think that in this context, as in some others, to give those who caused such disruption last night the additional satisfaction of diverting the proceedings of this Chamber by the publicity of ministerial statements would actually encourage them rather than the reverse.

Mr. John Gunnell (Morley and Leeds, South)

The Department of the Environment published a paper in August about the disposal of low-grade nuclear waste in municipal sites, many of which were in urban areas. I have two requests. First, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that that paper is available in the Vote Office because it is not available at the moment? Secondly, may we have a debate led by the Department of the Environment on the disposal of low-grade nuclear waste?

Mr. Newton

On the question of a debate, I must give my standard answer and say that I cannot give a promise of that at the moment. With regard to the hon. Gentleman's first point, I will certainly look into what he said.

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)

I am sorry that I have to return to the events of last night, but is my right hon. Friend aware that in Germany the kind of demonstrations that occurred here last night are banned from within 1 km of the Bundestag? Will my right hon. Friend consider imposing such restrictions here?

Mr. Newton

I would not want to add off the cuff to what I have said, but I note my hon. Friend's suggestion.

Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East)

One of the biggest political scandals, which strikes at the heart of parliamentary democracy, is that millions of people are missing from electoral registers. The situation has become worse in recent years. When can we have a full debate in Government time to discuss that serious matter?

Mr. Newton

Again, I cannot promise a debate, but my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, who I think I am right in saying would be responsible for electoral registration matters, has heard what the hon. Gentleman said.

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

I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day motion 1586. [That this House condemns the proposals of the National Blood Authority which would result in the closure of Liverpool's Blood Transfusion Unit with the loss of some 100 jobs; expresses its anxiety that the health of Liverpool citizens would be put at risk whenever there was an urgent need for a blood transfusion, and that it would also result in the loss of a training centre for the study of haematology; notes that over 100,000 Merseysiders have signed a petition objecting to the proposals; commends the Liverpool Echo for its part in opposition to these ill-thought out measures; rejects any diminution of blood transfusion services on Merseyside; and calls on the National Blood Authority to withdraw its proposals.] I tabled the motion and it refers to the misconceived proposals of the National Blood Authority to close the Liverpool blood transfusion unit. Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that his reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Loyden) is unsatisfactory? It is a matter of life or death for many people in Liverpool and in the north-west of England and, rather than being subsumed in a general debate on Tuesday, it requires a specific statement by the Secretary of State so that it can be debated.

Mr. Newton

This is the second time today that the matter has been raised in respect of Liverpool. As before, I will make sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health sees what is said.

Mr. Michael Connarty (Falkirk, East)

Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on the Floor of the House on the gathering and publication of unemployment statistics in this country? Has he seen today's report in The Scotsman analysing the Government's own statistics and showing that there has been a 500,000 increase in the number of people registering for income support as disabled and sick, that 2 million are denied the right to be on the unemployment register by being disabled and sick, and that there has been a 63 per cent. increase in such registration in the south-east of England, where the recession is biting deepest? It is important not only that the people have a lead from my right hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) to be honest in Government, but that we be honest with the people. Is not it time to debate the real unemployment statistics so that, when we know and accept the problem, we can jointly try to solve it, instead of trying to deceive the people?

Mr. Newton

I hear what the hon. Gentleman says. I have not seen the report in The Scotsman, but I will bring the hon. Gentleman's comments to the attention of my right hon. and hon. Friends. The hon. Gentleman had a substantial opportunity to make such points during debate on the Bill in respect of invalidity benefit that was discussed in the House earlier this Session.

Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East)

Following the announcement this week by the Home Secretary that an additional £2 million is to be made available for closed-circuit television schemes in England and Wales and the failure of the Secretary of State for Scotland to say anything about an equivalent spend in Scotland, may we have a statement early next week by the Secretary of State for Scotland on whether money will be made available for such schemes in Scotland, so that Scottish Members can satisfy themselves that the Government regard tackling crime in Scotland just as seriously as they do in England and Wales?

Mr. Newton

That is a question which the hon. Gentleman could put to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland next Wednesday.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

Is the Leader of the House aware that, last week, his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland said that it was a rule of the House that a Bill to set up a parliament for Scotland or Wales could not be guillotined? Can he confirm that the Secretary of State for Scotland got it wrong, or is it his intention to bring in such an amendment to our Standing Orders?

Mr. Newton

As there is no question of the Government's bringing in such a Bill, I do not think that the question arises.

Mr. Oliver Heald (Hertfordshire, North)

Would it be possible to have a debate next week to examine the way in which early-day motions are tabled? In particular, I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to early-day motion 1616.

[That this House notes the allegations made against the honourable Members for Tatton and Beaconsfield, respectively, in connection with the tabling of parliamentary questions referred to in The Guardian for Thursday 20th October; and, in the light of the allegations in that article, calls upon the Prime Minister to appoint an independent commission of Lords of Appeal in Ordinary with full powers to enquire into and report upon ethics and standards in British political life.]

That motion was tabled by the Liberal Democrats last night, and it refers to the article in The Guardian today. One of the questions that I should like to ask in such a debate is whether the effect of that early-day motion was to confer parliamentary privilege on the article and, in the process, possibly deprive an hon. Member of effective action in the courts. If so, would not the House want to debate that matter? Is it right that a newspaper can be given such protection by hon. Members in what amounts to a sleazy deal?

Mr. Newton

I am not in a position to say whether the motion was tabled before or after the earliest editions of The Guardian were available, and I would not want to speculate on that. Also, because of the subject matter of the early-day motion, again I would not want to add anything to what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said on such matters about an hour ago.