HC Deb 15 June 1995 vol 261 cc891-902 3.30 pm
Mrs. Ann Taylor (Dewsbury)

May I ask the Leader of the House for details of future business?

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

The next instalment of the serial. The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY 19 JUNE—Opposition Day (14th allotted day). Until about 7 o'clock there will be a debate entitled "The Need for an Independent Inquiry into the BMARC Affair", followed by a debate entitled "Government Failure on Overseas Aid". Both debates will arise, I need hardly say, on Opposition motions.

TUESDAY 20 JUNE—Until about 7 o'clock, Second Reading of the Mental Health (Patients in the Community) Bill (Lords). Remaining stages of the Town and Country Planning (Costs of Inquiries, etc.) Bill.

WEDNESDAY 21 JUNE—Until 2.30 pm, there will be debates on the motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Debate on the European Union on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

THURSDAY 22 JUNE—Remaining stages of the Crown Agents Bill (Lords).

FRIDAY 23 JUNE—The House will not be sitting.

The House will also wish to know that European Standing Committee B will meet at 10.30 am on Wednesday 21 June to consider European Community document No. 10911/94 relating to economic growth and the environment.

MONDAY 26 JUNE—I understand that the Chairman of Ways and Means is expected to name opposed private business for consideration. In addition, the House will be invited to consider Lords Amendments to the Health Authorities Bill and to the Jobseekers Bill.

Subject to the progress of business, it will be proposed that the remaining stages of the Environment Bill (Lords) are taken on Tuesday 27 June and Wednesday 28 June. Government business will also be taken on Thursday 29 June and Friday 30 June, which, in the case of that Friday, is a sitting day. I should say, however, that I would expect the business on the Friday to be on a motion for the Adjournment.

[Wednesday 21 June: Debate on the European Union—Relevant Documents: White paper on Developments in the European Union January-June 1994 (Cm 2675); White paper on Developments in the European Union July-December 1994 (Cm 2798); European Community document COM (95) 333 relating to the Green paper on the practical arrangement of the introduction of the single currency; Unnumbered explanatory memorandum of 6 June 1995 submitted by Her Majesty's Treasury on the European Commission's recommendation for the broad guidelines of the economic policies of the member states and the community, drawn up in conformity with article 103 (2) of the Treaty establishing the European Community; European Community document EP: A4–0102/95 relating to a European Parliament Resolution on the Functioning of the Treaty on European Union with a View to the 1996 Intergovernmental Conference—Implementation and Development of the Union; European Community Document SEC (95) relating to the Report of the European Commission on the operation of the Treaty of the European Union; Report of the Council of the European Union on the Functioning of the Treaty of the European Union (Cm 2866); Report by the Court of Auditor to the "Reflection Group" on the operation of the Treaty of European Union; Report of the Court of Justice on Certain Aspects of the Application of the Treaty on European Union; European Community Document 7221/95 relating to the White paper: Preparation of the Associated Countries of Central and Eastern Europe for integration into the internal market of the Union; European Community Document 12269/94 relating to a Commission communication on recognition of qualifications for academic and professional purposes; Letters from the Minister of State at the Department of Employment to the Chairman of the House of Commons European Legislation Committee dated 23/3/95 and 31/3/95 concerning a Resolution on the implementation of directives in the social field.

European Standing Committee B—European Community document: 10911/94, Economic Growth and the Environment. Relevant European Legislation Report: HC 70-iv (1994–95).]

Mrs. Taylor

I thank the Leader of the House for that information. Regarding the Jobseekers Bill, which the Leader of the House has announced will appear before the House again on Monday week, when will Ministers give an indication of whether they intend to accept their defeats in the House of Lords? Will the Leader of the House ensure that full information about that is supplied before the deadline for the tabling of amendments, so that decisions can be taken after proper consultation, discussion and reflection, because those amendments will have to be tabled next week?

Secondly, may I ask the Leader of the House about the Criminal Injuries Compensation Bill? Victims of crime throughout the country will not understand the Government's refusal to have a proper debate on the Bill. They will also fail to understand the Government's reluctance to disclose the fact that millions of crime victims who are self-employed or on low pay will lose under the new system as a result of the new time limit that Ministers are trying to smuggle through the Parliament. The Bill went into Committee only a week ago today. Will the Leader of the House give an assurance this afternoon that all aspects of the Government's changes to the system will be considered fully in Committee?

Thirdly, will the Leader of the House arrange for the Secretary of State for Employment to make a statement next week about the outcome of the International Labour Organisation annual conference which is taking place this week in Geneva? It has issued a statement deeply regretting and deploring the failure of British Ministers to solve the problem of the trade union ban at Government communications headquarters. Will Her Majesty's Government accept the proposed ILO mission to arbitrate in the matter of the trade union membership ban?

Finally, I press the Leader of the House yet again for a debate on the economy. I have raised the matter several times during business questions, as have hon. Members on both sides of the House. We must have an economic debate before the Budget statement. The Leader of the House must recognise that an economic debate is becoming increasingly urgent, not least because of questions surrounding the Chancellor's words last night and the central office briefing. When will we have an economic debate, and when will we know the date of the Budget statement in the autumn?

Mr. Newton

I am in a position to respond somewhat more positively to the hon. Lady's final questions than to some of her earlier ones. That probably means that I should conclude my remarks by responding to her latter questions, but I shall go straight to them now.

We need to have a debate on the economy before the summer recess. I must obviously add a qualification about uncertainties at this stage, but it is my intention—subject to those uncertainties—to have a debate on the economy on Wednesday 12 July. I can inform the House that my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposes to introduce his Budget statement on Tuesday 28 November.

I now turn to the hon. Lady's other questions. So far as the Jobseekers Bill is concerned, I can do no more than ensure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment is aware of the hon. Lady's request. I shall bring the hon. Lady's request for a statement to the attention of the Secretary of State, but I make it clear that the Government do not accept that their policies in respect of GCHQ are inconsistent with their obligations to the International Labour Organisation.

I have not yet received an account of this morning's proceedings on the Criminal Injuries Compensation Bill in Committee. As with any legislation, the Government are concerned to see that it is discussed properly in the appropriate manner, while taking account of the need to make progress.

Sir Anthony Grant (Cambridgeshire, South-West)

Has my right hon. Friend noticed in recent years the slow, inexorable intrusion of the judiciary into the business of the Executive and of the legislature? Does he share my view that the first principle of parliamentary democracy is that Parliament is answerable not to outside bodies or persons, no matter how eminent, but to the electorate alone? Will it be possible to have a general debate on that increasing constitutional problem?

Mr. Newton

I note my hon. Friend's concern and the request that he has made, although I am certainly not in a position to undertake to make time available for an early debate on that matter. We need to bear in mind the fact that it is for the courts to interpret the laws passed by Parliament. If that interpretation turns out to be different from what was intended, Parliament must then decide whether to change the law.

Ms Liz Lynne (Rochdale)

Following the petition that I delivered to 10 Downing street about the crime rate in the north-west and the recent debate on drugs in the House, will the Leader of the House make time for debate next week on the causes of crime, particularly the link between drug abuse and crime?

Mr. Newton

I understand why the hon. Lady raised that point. No doubt she was unable to be here last Friday, when we had a full debate, to which her Front Bench contributed, on drug abuse. However, I cannot promise a further early opportunity.

Mr. John Butcher (Coventry, South-West)

May I support the hon. Member for Rochdale (Ms Lynne) in calling for a debate on law and order? What society have we become, when evil and violent people can randomly select a woman on the streets of London, take her away and rape her with impunity, because they no longer fear the law?

During such a debate, may we examine why the Tory party, the Cabinet and successive Home Secretaries are united and vehement in their defence of law and order, but when the law is administered out there in the country, the civil liberties of criminals seem to be safeguarded more vigorously than those of the population at large?

Mr. Newton

I am sure that the House will agree that it is important to strike the right balance. Neither aspect of civil liberty to which my hon. Friend has referred can be ignored. He will be aware that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, by proposed changes in the law and reforms in the organisation and management of police forces, is seeking to direct attention firmly and strongly to exactly such concerns as my hon. Friend has expressed.

Mr. Eddie Loyden (Liverpool, Garston)

Is the Leader of the House aware of the widespread concern in the House about the Derbyshire? The House should know that the two objectives of the inquiry are the Derbyshire itself and the wider issue of safety at sea. There is concern that Lord Donaldson's terms of reference fall far short of what is required to reach those objectives. Will the Leader of the House ensure that the terms of reference are published and copies placed in the House of Commons, so that hon. Members can see them?

Mr. Newton

I have several times paid my respects and those of the whole House to the way in which the hon. Gentleman has followed this matter over a long period. In that spirit, I shall draw his request to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport.

Mr. David Ashby (Leicestershire, North-West)

Has my right hon. Friend seen that a jury today returned a verdict in favour of Mr. Souness in respect of the disgraceful libel by a national paper, the Daily Mirror, about the personal life of Mr. Souness? Can hon. Friend say when we shall have a privacy Bill to put a stop to such behaviour by newspapers?

Mr. Newton

I am aware of my hon. Friend's strong interest in the subject, and understand it. Only this afternoon, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage is continuing work towards, among other matters, the response due to the Select Committee on National Heritage on that subject.

Mr. George Stevenson (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

In view of the recent opinion poll showing that 63 per cent. of the population blame the Government for the housing crisis, and the Shelter report that 700,000 people have lost their homes due to repossessions since 1985, will the Leader of the House provide a debate in Government time to discuss what can only be described as a national scandal presided over by the Government of which he is a member?

Mr. Newton

I made some comments on related matters a few moments ago, wearing my deputising hat, and I cannot add to them.

Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South)

Has my right hon. Friend seen early-day motion 1219, which now has nearly 200 signatures?

[That this House calls on the Government to acknowledge that over 3,000 people with haemophilia have been infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) as a result of NHS treatment with contaminated blood products to recognise that over 50 people with haemophilia are now understood to have died from liver disease contracted as a result, and to consider giving similar financial assistance to those infected with HCV, who currently receive no additional help, as for those infected in the same way with HIV who have been compensated by the Government.]

Does he agree that it is morally and logically unfair to deny compensation to those who have been infected with hepatitis C, perhaps mortally, through treatment on the national health service?

Mr. Newton

Once again, I have good reason greatly to respect my hon. Friend's interest in such matters. It is, of course, an unhappy fact that the patients about whom he is concerned received the best treatment available in the light of medical knowledge at the time. He will acknowledge that to offer compensation when no negligence or neglect was demonstrated would be a significant and substantial step.

Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)

Would it not be advisable that the House, sooner rather than later, should debate the appalling social damage being done by the national lottery to the well-being of the folk of this country, and the total improprieties of the profit levels of the company running it?

Mr. Newton

Against the background of the huge sums of money being raised for the arts, sport, heritage and a number of other important social causes, the hon. Gentleman's description of the consequences of the lottery is—to put it mildly—an exaggeration. Secondly, Camelot's bid to run the lottery, which has proved such a great success, involved the lowest costs of the kind that the hon. Gentleman is talking about of any of the bids.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

Would it be in order to make a helpful suggestion to the Government? There is to be a debate next week on Europe, so would it be possible for the Government to make a commitment to a referendum if ever a single currency were put before the country? In that way, the Government would be able to unite the right-wing xenophobes and the left-wing Euro-quislings among their supporters.

Mr. Newton

It is certainly well in order, if slightly out of the usual run of things, for my hon. Friend to make a helpful suggestion; but I am not in a position to add to what the Prime Minister said most recently last Tuesday, or to what was said in a number of the exchanges during Treasury questions today.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the vigorous debate in the European Standing Committee last Tuesday, when a number of hon. Members expressed serious concerns about the lack of direction in the Government's fisheries policy, especially in relation to Spain's integration in the common fisheries policy? Is he aware that that debate was marked by an anxiety on the part of the Fisheries Minister not to return the subject to the Floor of the House? Can he at least give us an undertaking that there will be a statement early next week on the outcome of today's Fisheries Council meeting?

Mr. Newton

In a sense, the hon. Gentleman has answered his own questions. The need for parliamentary consideration before today's Council was one of the factors rendering the debate necessary. Of course, as always, consideration will be given to the appropriateness of a statement, in the light of today's discussions.

Mr. Jacques Arnold (Gravesham)

May we have a debate next week on the value for money and freedom of decision taking being enjoyed by grant-maintained schools? I am thinking of the seven out of nine secondary schools in my constituency and about 1,000 elsewhere. It is clear that these facts are not getting across enough—although the Leader of the Opposition understands them, to the benefit of his own family. But I am not so sure that these benefits are clearly understood by the Opposition in general, and it is obvious that they are not understood by Labour councillors up and down the country, who are spending council tax payers' money on opposing parents' decisions to go grant-maintained.

Mr. Newton

I share my hon. Friend's hope that the Leader of the Opposition might divert some of his time, among other things, to securing a more sensible and more responsible approach by Labour authorities to this subject.

Several hon. Members


Madam Speaker

Order. I seek the co-operation of the House. We have an important debate coming up, for which I will have to limit speeches to 10 minutes, so it will be difficult to call all hon. Members who are seeking to ask a business question if they take a long time asking that question. I shall do my best, without commitment, to call them all; but I want one brief question in each case, and a brisk reply.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

As virtually every national newspaper is stating that the Prime Minister is going to face a challenge in November to his position as party leader, may I helpfully suggest that arrangements be made for the contenders to come to the House and explain why they want the job, and their alternative policies?

Mr. Newton

It is even more unusual for the hon. Gentleman to make a helpful suggestion, and he has certainly been true to form on this occasion. I think I shall leave his suggestion on the table.

Sir Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)

In view of the alarming report agreed yesterday by the Employment Committee of the European Parliament, which stated that the convergence criteria would add another 10 million people to the unemployment total on the continent—on top of the appalling 20 million who are already on it—will my right hon. Friend guarantee that Ministers comment on the report on Wednesday? Will they also think about it and explain to the House whether this is not—coming as it does before the single currency—the kind of economic disaster that some of us think it is?

Mr. Newton

I can hardly guarantee the contents of other people's speeches, but I should be surprised if my right hon. Friends did not make some reference to the report.

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

May I pre-empt the difficulties that, in my view, will inevitably arise in the new special Committee set up to implement the Nolan proposals, by asking again whether that Committee can meet in public and deliberate in public—a question that was raised last week during and after business questions? If we are to avoid the disputes that I expect to take place, why should we not hear the arguments in public? Surely that would at least enable us to achieve a resolution.

Mr. Newton

I shall not add much to what I said last week. It is clear that no Select Committee has ever deliberated in public; that is a centuries-old practice of the House, and if this Committee decided to deliberate in public, it would constitute a change going beyond what is expected of Select Committees.

Mr. Harold Elletson (Blackpool, North)

Will my right hon. Friend find time for an urgent statement from the Foreign Office on the state of Anglo-French relations, following the French Government's decision to resume nuclear testing on the Muroroa atoll? Does he agree that that disgraceful decision, which has been roundly con-demned by environmentalists and Commonwealth Governments, may seriously undermine other countries' commitment to both the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and the comprehensive test ban treaty? Does he also agree that the decision underlines, once again, the utter foolishness of attempts to impose a common European foreign policy?

Mr. Newton

Obviously, we may have to take a second or two to understand the concern caused by the French decision; but we see no reason why a limited programme of tests need affect prospects for a successful negotiation of the comprehensive test ban treaty. At any rate, I can assure my hon. Friend that our policy on testing remains unchanged. We are actively working for a test ban treaty, and have said that we will not seek to test while the United States moratorium remains in force.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

May we have a debate on London soon, please?

Mr. Newton

I will think about it.

Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent)

Some months ago, the Labour-controlled council of Rochester-upon-Medway sent away the enthusiasts who are trying to restore a local theatre, saying that, if they raised £50,000, the council would give them an interest-free loan of £50,000. When they returned, having raised the money, the council shilly-shallied. May we have a debate, at this early stage of the council's existence, in order to teach it how to run itself?

Mr. Newton

There appear to be a large number of matters that the Leader of the Opposition ought to be investigating in relation to Labour-led local authorities.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Will we hear a statement from the Prime Minister about the G7 meeting in Canada? Canada is a very funny place for the Prime Minister to visit, in view of what happened a few short months ago, when its Conservative party lost every seat bar two. What is the Prime Minister going to Canada for—to study election meltdown?

Mr. Newton

As I said at Prime Minister's questions, my right hon. Friend has gone to Canada to demonstrate how to run an extremely successful economy.

Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford)

Will my right hon. Friend find time for a proper debate to inform the public about the way in which policy is made by both Opposition and Government? I am particularly concerned about the fact that a policy that opposed grant-maintained schools in December moved towards doubt in January; by March, it seemed that the Opposition might accept a grant-maintained school system, and it now appears that they will.

Mr. Newton

I shall certainly take the matter into consideration. It is another addition to the long list of Labour "policies", in which the only policy appears to be confusion.

Mr. Bill Michie (Sheffield, Heeley)

Will the Leader of the House devote some Government time to the issue of the pay rise for the head of Ofgas, which is of great interest to the public? We are asked questions about it, and I think it only right for us to debate it.

Mr. Newton

I do not undertake to give time for such a debate. The Gas Bill is, of course, before Parliament at the moment. Indeed, that is part of the background to the matter, because the extra work, which will increase still further with the Government's plan to introduce more competition, is a factor in the decision.

Sir David Madel (Bedfordshire, South-West)

I assume that the new Select Committee on the Nolan report will invite Lord Nolan himself to come and share his thoughts on why he reached his conclusions. On Lord Nolan's view that outside earnings from consultancies should be declared in full—my interest in the matter is properly declared in the Register of Members' Interests—would my right hon. Friend draw Lord Nolan's attention to the Data Protection Act 1984, which imposes a general duty of confidentiality between employer and employee and to the Companies Act 1985? [HON. MEMBERS: "Special pleading".] Not at all. We are all taxpayers in the House, and no different from the public. We should all be treated the same.

Mr. Newton

On the first half of my hon. Friend's question, as I told my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Field), since the Committee has not yet met, I can hardly pre-empt the decisions that it might or might not take. On the latter point, I will, of course, draw his remarks to the attention of the Nolan Select Committee.

Mr. Mike Watson (Glasgow, Central)

The Leader of the House may be aware of early-day motion 1242, which refers to the campaign being led by the Glasgow Evening Times on the terrible drug problems facing that city.

[That this House congratulates the Glasgow Evening Times on its anti-drugs campaign, in particular the immediate success of the hotline enabling the public to expose the merchants of death on the city's streets; recognises that drug abuse is in large measure the result of appalling social conditions and the lack of jobs available for young people; and urges the Government to ensure that increased resources are made available to statutory and non-statutory organisations which help those affected, directly and indirectly, by drug abuse.]

However, he will certainly be aware of the similar problems that afflict every majority city throughout the United Kingdom. Will he do everything in his power to ensure that we have an opportunity to debate that serious matter before the summer recess?

Mr. Newton

We debated the Government's White Paper on drugs on Friday—I accept that it applies to England, but it parallels the Scottish document—and that would make it difficult to schedule another such debate before the summer recess.

Mr. Rupert Allason (Torbay)

Will my right hon. Friend arrange for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence to make a statement on the publication of the air accident investigation branch report into the Chinook helicopter crash on Mull last year? Is he aware that, among the families of the people who died in that tragedy, there is widespread concern that compensation is likely to be limited to the terms of the Warsaw convention? That would not only be bad for the morale of all members of the security and intelligence services but also terribly unfair on the widows of those people, who devoted their lives to fighting terrorism.

Mr. Newton

The whole House would once again want to express its condolences to the widows and other family members of those who died, and I should like to do that in responding to my hon. Friend's question.

I should make it clear that the Ministry of Defence will be considering compensation claims in excess of the provisions of the Air Act Order 1967, which is another way of making the point that my hon. Friend raised. However, the amount of compensation is for discussion between the MOD and the next of kin or their representatives.

Ms Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate)

As, under Government rules, a French water company may submit a bid to provide rail services in south-west England, but, under the same rules, British Rail, the only company with the relevant experience and expertise, may not, will the Leader of the House find time next week for an urgent debate on what is clearly a deeply unpopular piece of legislation? That is highlighted by a recent national opinion poll, which showed that one in six Conservative voters will be reconsidering their votes because of that issue alone.

Mr. Newton

It seems to me that the interest of a French company in south-west trains is a demonstration of how wrong Opposition Members were to say that there would be no interest in the private sector franchises.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

May we have a debate next week on local government finance, so that the House can consider the position of Ealing's Labour council, which put up service charges for those who bought their homes—a fat lot the Labour party cares about that—by 200 or 300 per cent. at a stroke two or three weeks ago? The House should know that that is costing my constituents £300 or £400 a year in some cases, and should take action against Ealing's Labour council accordingly.

Mr. Newton

I do not know whether my hon. Friend is on your obviously long list, Madam Speaker but if he is, I hope that he may get an opportunity to make that point in today's debate.

Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East)

Is the Leader of the House aware of the letter from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to the chair of the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights in Belfast, which says that, if a Northern Ireland Member brought forward a Bill on abortion to clarify the law or to bring it into line with the British legislation of 1967, the Government would facilitate its progress through the House? As the Government believe in a United Kingdom Parliament, is that offer open to other hon. Members? Would such facilitation be extended to me if I introduced such a measure?

Mr. Newton

I think that I had better draw that request to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Lady Olga Maitland (Sutton and Cheam)

Will my right hon. Friend consider an urgent debate on grant-maintained schools? I ask because of the concern felt by parents in my constituency who have been reading reports that the Labour party is proposing to pack school governing bodies with elected councillors. That is socialism through the back door, and parents will not stand for it.

Mr. Newton

Once again, there is an urgent need for clarification of the Opposition's policy, and I hope we shall get it.

Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston)

In a written answer on 17 May, the Government announced their intention to investigate the possible privatisation or scrapping of the Data Protection Registrar's office. Since the consultation period expires tomorrow—as I understand it, the Government have invited very few views—will the Leader of the House consider a debate on the subject, and ask his colleagues in the Home Office to extend the consultation period as a matter of urgency?

Mr. Newton

My right hon. and hon. Friends in the Home Office will be answering questions next Thursday; perhaps the hon. Gentleman might like to raise the matter with them then.

Mr. Peter Luff (Worcester)

Will my right hon. Friend find time for an early debate on the availability of pornographic material to children? I hope that he has had the opportunity to study the correspondence that I delivered to his office yesterday. It is correspondence that I have had with my constituent, Mr. Wilde, about the purchase by his 11-year-old daughter of a grossly obscene record which rejoices in the innocent name "(Don't Stop) Wiggle Wiggle" by the Outhere Brothers. Such filth suggests that the record industry is not policing its output effectively, and that there could be a need for further action by the Government.

Mr. Newton

I have indeed read the correspondence that my hon. Friend kindly gave me, and I fully understand his concern. He has written to my right hon. and noble Friend the Minister of State, Home Office, and I am sure that she will reply to him.

Mr. George Mudie (Leeds, East)

The Leader of the House will be aware that his reply to the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) will be depressing for the families of the 3,000 haemophiliacs who caught hepatitis C from having contaminated blood through the national health service. Is he aware that a number of the 3,000 people affected are youngsters whose lives have been blighted? Will he use his considerable influence with the Secretary of State for Health to get a debate, or at the very least a ministerial statement, on this sensitive matter?

Mr. Newton

The hon. Gentleman will know that I have good cause to be aware of the difficulties and the problems for families affected in this way, as I held the relevant ministerial post when there was a similar problem in relation to AIDS. I shall, of course, draw the hon. Gentleman's request to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health.

Mr. Gyles Brandreth (City of Chester)

Will my right hon. Friend find time for an urgent debate on policing policy? It would give the House an opportunity to congratulate the deputy chief constable of Cheshire on her unique appointment as chief constable of Lancashire, which is a proper recognition of the qualities of an outstanding police officer. It would also give us the opportunity to recognise good service when it is delivered, because crime in Cheshire is falling, detection rates are rising and front-line policing in Cheshire is improving, thanks to 195 additional police officers and special constables this year.

Mr. Newton

Everyone will want to congratulate Mrs. Clare on her appointment as chief constable of Lancashire. I hope that it will not have gone unnoticed by the Labour party that it has happened without an all-women selection list.

Mr. Jim Dowd (Lewisham, West)

Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on the role and responsibilities of Ministers, so that the House might further explore the thesis advanced by the President of the Board of Trade on Tuesday: that, although Ministers can come to the House and deal with individual Members proclaiming Government policies, they seem to have no responsibility for carrying them out?

Mr. Newton

I am sure that my right hon. Friend made no such suggestion, but, if the hon. Gentleman thinks he did, I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend will consider his words.

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley)

May I join the growing clamour for a debate on grant-maintained education? A number of schools in my constituency are currently grant-maintained, and the reason is that parents wanted to dislodge themselves from local authority control. The leadership of the National Union of Teachers has changed its mind, but the Labour party is hopelessly confused. A debate would give the Labour party the opportunity to focus its attention on coming up with a policy on grant-maintained education, so that the public will know where they stand.

Mr. Newton

I would add only to what I said earlier: that I am pleased to see that, in the NUT's survey of its members who work in GM schools, an overwhelming number supported GM status and believed that it had improved those schools. I hope that that will be taken into account by local authorities and by the Labour party.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire)

Will my right hon. Friend facilitate a debate as soon as possible on whether there was collusion between the Labour party and the BBC following the report on 5 June, on the "Today" programme regarding Sir Richard Scott's report? Is my right hon. Friend aware that the thesis of that report was a letter that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister had written to the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook)? That letter was sent on 25 May, yet the BBC did not use it until 5 June—the same day that it used the leaked report of Sir Richard Scott, which, it emerged this morning, it had had for two to three weeks.

Mr. Newton

I am sure that my hon. Friend's question will be looked at carefully, both by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage and, no doubt, by those at the BBC.

Mr. Richard Tracey (Surbiton)

Will my right hon. Friend consider arranging an urgent debate on the policies of social correctness and social engineering, such as that imposed by the London borough of Islington, which led to such dire effects for the children of that borough?

Mr. Newton

I very much hope there will be an opportunity before too long to explore some of those matters in local authority affairs, many of them falling exactly under the heading of political correctness.

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