HC Deb 18 July 1995 vol 263 cc1451-4


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

I should like to make a short business statement. The business for tomorrow—[Interruption.]

Madam Speaker

Order. This is a most important statement, which the House should pay attention to. Would those Members who are leaving please do so quietly, because the remainder of us want to hear what it is all about?

Mr. Newton

The business for tomorrow will now be as follows:

Until 2.30 pm, there will be debates on the motion for the Adjournment of the House.

For three hours, there will be a debate on the First Report of the Select Committee on Standards in Public Life.

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

That will be followed by a debate on Bosnia on a motion for the Adjournment of the House, for a further three hours.

Mrs. Ann Taylor (Dewsbury)

May I thank the Leader of the House for that statement, and say that we recognise the need for a debate on Bosnia in the present circumstances? Obviously, he is right to make arrangements for the House to discuss that specific matter in a specific debate, rather than using the Wednesday morning debate for that purpose. We shall also understand if the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House feel it necessary to recall Parliament in the recess, given the speed with which events may move.

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he can clarify the position of the Foreign Secretary, who was here a few moments ago for Question Time? I understand that the Foreign Secretary is going to Washington shortly. Surely it would be possible for him to delay that visit so that he can participate in that debate tomorrow, and surely it will be right for him to do so.

Finally, I do not want to quibble with the statement that the right hon. Gentleman has just made, but, in view of the fanfare last week when the Prime Minister launched his sports policy, may we ask whether that debate will be rearranged—or will sport be put back on the back burner?

Mr. Newton

I welcome the hon. Lady's generally constructive and supportive remarks. I shall return to her last point in a moment.

As far as the debate on Bosnia is concerned, my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary is going to Washington, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, and I believe that most people in the House will regard it as important that he should play his full part in the international discussions that need to be associated with effective action in Bosnia. The debate in the House will be taken on behalf of the Government by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence and my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the hon. Member for Upminster (Sir N. Bonsor).

There is, of course, no suggestion of putting sport on the back burner. I believe that it will be universally agreed that Bosnia must come ahead of it tomorrow, but of course I shall make every effort to provide time for a debate on sport in the spillover.

Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire)

I am happy to endorse the change in the business for tomorrow; it is absolutely right and proper that the House should have an opportunity to discuss the Bosnian situation before the summer recess. Will the Leader of the House give an assurance that it will not be a substitute for a recall of Parliament, if the circumstances dictate that Parliament should be recalled?

Secondly, I hope that I can assist the right hon. Gentleman by assuring him—I think that I speak for most hon. Members from Scotland—that the Lords amendments to the Children (Scotland) Bill are largely uncontentious and should be taken more or less formally to enable the House to go straight to the debate on Bosnia, as is right and proper in the circumstances.

Mr. Newton

On the Children (Scotland) Bill, I should make it clear that that business was inserted following representations from both sides of the House, and on the clear understanding that the amendments are uncontentious and should pass through the House without difficulty. The business will not impede the debate on Bosnia. I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's affirmation of that fact on behalf of the Liberal Democrats.

On the hon. Gentleman's first point, yes, I think that I have shown—by this statement and various other changes that I have made, including the recall of Parliament during the short recess—that the Prime Minister and I are always willing to make appropriate arrangements as circumstances necessitate.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

Why did not the Leader of the House make it clear in his statement that the important debate on Bosnia was, in effect, replacing the planned debate on sport? Does he recall that, on Friday at 9.30 am, I said that, despite the presence of the Minister responsible for sport on the Front Bench, there was to be no statement in the House at 11 am, although one was made at Millwall football ground? Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that he could perfectly easily move the motion tomorrow at 10 o'clock to suspend the rule, so that we could have a debate on sport for two or three hours? If he does not do that, he might well be accused of putting sport on the back burner.

Mr. Newton

I have already said something on that subject to the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor), and it would be a ridiculous charge if pressed. I also think that it would be ridiculous for anyone to think anything other than that, in today's circumstances, it is more appropriate to debate Bosnia tomorrow.

Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South)

While I recognise the need to replace the debate on sport, does my right hon. Friend accept that a sum of £100 million for a sports academy gives the lie to those who say that the Government are putting sport on the back burner?

Mr. Newton

My hon. Friend is as helpful to me from below the Gangway as he used to be from above it.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

Why can we not have the debate on Bosnia on an Executive motion from the Government, so that we can vote at the end of it and the will of the House can be made known to the country at large? If the Prime Minister has his summit meeting on Friday, would it not be appropriate to suspend the Adjournment of the House for the summer recess until next week?

Mr. Newton

I do not think it would, especially given what I have already said by implication to the hon. Member for Dewsbury, and more directly to the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood), about our willingness to make appropriate arrangements—for example, for a recall—should that prove necessary.

Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his assurance about a recall of the House was perhaps not quite as categoric as it should have been? May we have an absolute assurance that, if this Government of supine gentlemen plan a retreat from Bosnia, in the scuttle they intend, the House has a chance to debate the matter before it is done?

Mr. Newton

I shall try to keep my tone down, despite the way in which the hon. Gentleman raised—

Mr. Faulds

Bloody disgrace.

Madam Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) should keep his temper—nobody in the House wants to hear it.

Mr. Newton

I shall say as calmly as I can to the hon. Gentleman that, if we felt that Bosnia did not matter, we would not have recalled Parliament during the recent short recess precisely because of an important development that needed to be debated.

Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill)

May I thank the Leader of the House for responding to a request to bring forward the Children (Scotland) Bill tomorrow, which is much appreciated by all those involved in Scotland? Will he tell us now that all possible steps will be taken to ensure that that legislation is implemented as quickly as possible?

Mr. Newton

That is the purpose of inserting the legislation in tomorrow's business, and I am grateful to everyone who has co-operated in the process, including the hon. Lady.

Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South)

Why are the Government attempting to push through the draft Broadcasting (Restrictions on the Holding of Licences) (Amendment) Order 1995 on the nod this afternoon, when it was rejected in Committee only last week?

Madam Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is quite out of order. We are concerned only with the very narrow business statement about tomorrow's change of business. As I am sure there are no more questions about that, we will move on to the statement from the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

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