HC Deb 29 June 1995 vol 262 cc1083-92 3.31 pm
Mrs. Ann Taylor (Dewsbury)

Will the Leader of the House please state the business for next week?

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 3 JULY—Opposition Day [15th allotted day]. There will be a debate entitled "Public Service or Private Markets in Healthcare: the Choice before Britain" on an Opposition motion.

Motion on the Education (Assisted Places) Regulations.

The Chairman of Ways and Means is expected to name opposed private business for consideration at 7 o'clock.

TUESDAY 4 JULY—Progress on remaining stages of the Pensions Bill [Lords].

WEDNESDAY 5 JULY—Until 2.30 pm, there will be debates on the motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Conclusion of remaining stages of the Pensions Bill [Lords].

Proceedings on the following Bills, which are consolidation measures:

Merchant Shipping Bill [Lords]

Shipping and Trading Interests (Protection) Bill [Lords]

Goods Vehicles (Licensing of Operators) Bill [Lords]

Statute Law (Repeals) Bill [Lords]

Motion on the Northern Ireland Act 1974 (Interim Period Extension) Order.

THURSDAY 6 JULY—Motions on the structural and boundary change orders. Details will be given in the Official Report.

FRIDAY 7 JULY—The House will not be sitting.

MONDAY 10 JULY—Opposition Day [16th allotted day].

There will be a debate on an Opposition motion. Subject to be announced.

The House will also wish to know that the following European Standing Committee will meet at 10.30 am on Wednesday 5 July, as follows:

European Standing Committee B, European Community Documents 6398/94 relating to cinema and television films; COM (94) 523 relating to films policy.

[Wednesday 5 July:

European Standing Committee B—Relevant European Community document: 6398/94, Cinema and Television Films; COM (94) 523, Films Policy. Relevant reports of the European Legislation Committee: HC 48-xx (1993–94), HC 48-xxvi (1993–94); and HC 70-xix (1994–95).

Thursday 6 July:

Structural and boundary change orders—Relevant orders: Wiltshire (Borough of Thamesdown) (Structural Change) Order; Staffordshire (City of Stoke-on-Trent) (Structural and Boundary Changes) Order; Durham (Borough of Darlington) (Structural Change) Order; Derbyshire (City of Derby) (Structural Change) Order; Bedfordshire (Borough of Luton) (Structural Change) Order; Buckinghamshire (Borough of Milton Keynes) (Structural Change) Order; Dorset (Boroughs of Poole and Bournemouth) (Structural Change) Order; East Sussex (Boroughs of Brighton and Hove) (Structural Changes) Order; Hampshire (Cities of Portsmouth and Southampton) (Structural Change) Order.]

In the following week, the provisional proposed business is: on Monday 10 July and Tuesday 11 July, the 16th and 17th allotted Opposition days; on Wednesday 12 July, the debate that I have already announced on the economy; on Thursday 13 July, subject to the progress of business in another place, consideration of any amendments that may be received to the Licensing (Sunday Hours) Bill and the Criminal Appeal Bill, and, in addition, the Appropriation (No. 2) (Northern Ireland) Order will be set down for consideration; and, on Friday 14 July, private Members' Bills.

The House will have noticed that there is rather more business that may run after 10 o'clock in this statement than has been customary in recent months. I hope that hon. Members will acknowledge and, indeed, accept that that is not unconnected with the indication that I am able to give the House that, subject to the progress of business, it will be proposed that the House should rise for the summer recess on Friday 21 July.

Mrs. Taylor

May I thank the Leader of the House for that information on future business as far as he knows it? On this somewhat momentous day, will he join me in asking you, Madam Speaker, as the first woman to occupy your position, to send a message of congratulations on our behalf to Lisa Clayton, the first British woman to complete a lone, non-stop, around-the-world voyage in her boat, the Spirit of Birmingham?

On the information that the right hon. Gentleman has given us, what is the status of the business that he has announced, especially from Tuesday onwards? Is that business provisional and conditional on the outcome of the Conservative leadership election, or does he speak with the authority of both candidates? If so, will the economic debate, which he confirmed will take place on 12 July, be a new Budget debate and would he care to speculate on who might open that debate for the Government?

Also, in view of the contempt shown for the House by the Prime Minister and others last Thursday, what steps will the Leader of the House take to ensure that the House is kept fully informed of the constitutional implications of any uncertainty that may arise next Tuesday as a result of the Conservative leadership ballot, especially in the event of a second or subsequent ballot, or, indeed, of the Prime Minister receiving only a bare and unconvincing majority?

Does the Leader of the House acknowledge that, constitutionally, the Prime Minister should be able to command a majority in the House and the support and confidence of the country, and that what the British people want is not an internal contest in the Conservative party, but a general election?

Mr. Newton

I think that I can deal with all that relatively easily. First, on the hon. Lady's initial request that you, Madam Speaker, should convey the congratulations of the House to Lisa Clayton, I am sure that that would command unanimous support. As far as the rest of her questions are concerned, I shall say simply this. I understand why she felt that she had to ask them, but they are pretty silly questions and I do not intend to answer them.

Mr. Michael Alison (Selby)

May I draw the attention of my right hon. Friend to early-day motion 1267 on the prosecution of British paedophile tourists, which has been signed by at least 140 right hon. and hon. Members from both sides of the House and is likely to acquire further signatures in the next few days and weeks?

[That this House notes that over 300 members from all parts of the House have recently expressed their deep concern at reports about citizens of developed countries travelling overseas as tourists to procure child prostitutes and pornography in poor countries in Africa, India, and Asia; noting further that the Governments of Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the United States of America have legislated, or are in the process of legislating, to give their domestic courts jurisdiction to prosecute such residents and nationals for sexual offences inflicted on children abroad; further noting that prosecutions under such legislation have proved feasible, urges Her Majesty's Government to give British courts extra-territorial jurisdiction for prosecuting such offences committed by British nationals abroad either by enacting the Private Member's Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill [Lords], or by introducing a comparable government measure.]

In particular, will my right hon. Friend note the two options at the end of the early-day motion, including the possibility of the Government introducing a measure that would give effect to its aims? Could he arrange for the Home Secretary to monitor progress on the Bill and, if necessary, make a statement in the House about what Government action may be forthcoming?

Mr. Newton

My right hon. Friend will be well aware that the Government share his concern about the activities of western tourists travelling overseas to procure child prostitutes and are considering whether effective measures could be taken to tackle that problem. I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary will look carefully at both the suggestions in the early-day motion and the remarks that my right hon. Friend made.

Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire)

First, will the Leader of the House confirm that the 16th and 17th Opposition Supply days that he announced will give him an opportunity to allow my right hon. Friend the leader of the Liberal Democrats to choose the subject for one of those two days, as it is now time that a Supply day was allocated to one of the minority parties? Secondly, will he look at the possibility of bringing forward at an early date a by-election writ to fill the vacancy in Littleborough and Saddleworth? If that is not done before the summer recess, it will leave electors in that constituency unrepresented for an untoward period of time. Thirdly, will he look at early-day motion 1258 in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace)?

[That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Roads (Transitional Powers) (Scotland) Order 1995 (S.I., 1995, No. 1476), dated 8th June 1995, a copy of which was laid before this House on 9th June, be annulled.]

The Leader of the House will be aware that the Roads (Transitional Powers) (Scotland) Order contains detrunking orders for a raft of roads throughout the length and breadth of Scotland and it would be to the advantage of hon. Members on both sides of the House if we could debate that important order before the summer recess.

Mr. Newton

The hon. Gentleman will acknowledge that the last matter that he raised is for discussion through the usual channels and I am sure that he is pursuing that. The second matter is clearly not for me to discuss on the Floor of the House, but I shall bring his remarks to the attention of those who may be concerned with moving the writ. On his first question, the answer is yes. My only doubt is how those two days will be allocated among the various Opposition parties.

Sir Anthony Grant (Cambridgeshire, South-West)

Has my right hon. Friend seen early-day motion 1322, in the name of the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) and a number of other less significant Members of Parliament, seeking the dissolution of Parliament?

[That an Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as follows: 'Most Gracious Sovereign We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to seek Your Majesty's agreement to dissolve the present Parliament so that the British People may decide, through the ballot box, in a general election, which party should form a government, led by a Prime Minister who would be the leader of that party'.]

May we have an opportunity to consider that and to refresh our memories that no such motion appeared when Lord Callaghan replaced Lord Wilson of Rievaulx, so that we can demonstrate the monumental humbug of Opposition Members?

Mr. Newton

My hon. Friend uses very direct language. Although I am accustomed to putting matters in a more circumlocutory way, I agree with him.

Mr. Michael Connarty (Falkirk, East)

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen early-day motion 1300?

[That this House warmly welcomes the stepping up of the campaign by the non-party political group, the Families of the Disappeared, to put increased pressure on Sinn Fein/IRA to release details of those killed by the Provisional IRA and buried in unmarked graves; supports this group's sole objective of allowing the relatives of the disappeared, who number at least 12 people, to bury their loved ones with Christian dignity; welcomes the public pleas of many, including President Clinton, to Sinn Fein/IRA to accede to this basic humanitarian demand; notes that, as a result of these appeals and the excellent campaign of the Belfast Telegraph on the issue, Sinn Fein has acknowledged the aims and validity of the campaign by the Families of the Disappeared but have so far failed to provide any significant information; and further notes the campaign's decision to popularise the wearing of light blue ribbons as a symbol of hope.]

Will the right hon. Gentleman provide time to discuss the impact of the peace process in Northern Ireland on the ordinary people of Northern Ireland? The early-day motion shows that the families of the disappeared, just like in El Salvador, would like the bodies of their loved ones returned for a decent Christian burial. Is he aware that when I was in Belfast last week, people told me that, on the streets of both west and east Belfast, people are still being beaten up by paramilitaries in an abandonment of the rule of law, which should cover the ordinary people of Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom? May we have a debate to stop the expulsions from Northern Ireland by paramilitaries of people whose lives they think they can govern? When may we debate the return of the rule of law to the ordinary people of Northern Ireland, so that they can have a peace that is not just a peace process at national level, but peace on the streets of their towns and cities?

Mr. Newton

Hon. Members on both sides of the House will have a great deal of sympathy with the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's remarks. I draw his attention to the fact that I announced Northern Ireland business for next week, including a motion on the Northern Ireland Act 1974 (Interim Period Extension) Order, when it may be possible for him to make some of those points. On the first part of his remarks, I am sure that the whole House will join him in supporting the call expressed in the early-day motion for the return of the remains of those abducted and killed by terrorists to their loved ones.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

May we have a debate next week on the organisation and financing of local government, so that I can bring before the House the resentment of my constituents in Ealing, North at Ealing Labour council's sacking of teachers, home helps and other people with essential jobs in the community, while it has some £39 million in the kitty for other purposes? My constituents bitterly resent that and the House should know how Labour is behaving in local government in Ealing.

Mr. Newton

There is of course a debate in the House tomorrow on the conduct of local government and, in the light of what my hon. Friend said, I would hope that he might seek to catch your eye, Madam Speaker.

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax)

I speak as a signatory of early-day motion 1322, and as one who has, I should think, made a far more significant contribution to democracy than the rather elderly hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-West (Sir A. Grant). Why does not the Leader of the House get the Prime Minister to make a statement to the House about the current rabble, called a leadership election? Does he not agree that the British people have a right to elect their Prime Minister through the ballot box, rather than leave it to a handful of people in this place, who simply want to save their own skins at the next election?

Mr. Newton

I am quite astonished that the hon. Lady should have the nerve to make that point in view of what my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-West (Sir A. Grant) said, who recalled precisely what happened when the Labour party changed its leadership in 1976.

Mr. Peter Thurnham (Bolton, North-East)

Will my right hon. Friend arrange for a debate soon on housing, so that we can learn more about the Government's excellent proposals to bring much-needed private enterprise into Labour-dominated council estates?

Mr. Newton

I shall certainly bear that suggestion in mind, not least in view of the excellent proposals in the Government's White Paper.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Will the Leader of the House arrange business in such a way next Tuesday, the date of the Tory leadership ballot, so that when that ballot finishes at 5 o'clock, the Division Lobbies will be made available, and those voting for the Prime Minister can go into one Lobby and the others voting for the ex-Secretary of State can go into the No Lobby? The British people would then be able to see exactly who had voted for whom; the deceit would end and everybody would know the identity of the abstainers. There would be no secret ballot and the process would be much cleaner than the current hole-in-the-corner method, by which Tory Members of Parliament are telling journalists and others that they will vote for both candidates and have not got the guts to tell the British people what they are going to do.

Mr. Newton

Coming from the party with the trade union block vote, that is just amazing.

Mr. Bob Dunn (Dartford)

May I say that all hon. Members condemn agism, which is politically incorrect? The hon. Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) should be ashamed of herself.

Will the Leader of the House arrange for an urgent debate on industrial relations, given that August will be the 17th anniversary of the start of the Grunwick dispute? That was a vicious, left-wing, union attack on a free enterprise institution. That trade union attack was led by a Mr. Jack Dromey, now representing new Labour, or is it old deceit?

Mr. Newton: As my hon. Friend will recall, Mr. Dromey was, recently, not as successful as he would have wished, nor was he as successful as he would have wished on that earlier occasion in causing prolonged trouble to British industrial relations. The improvement in those relations in the intervening period is a testimony to the Government's achievements.

Mrs. Bridget Prentice (Lewisham, East)

I feel that the Lord President is unaware that the Labour party at least records the votes cast by Members of Parliament when deciding a leadership election, so that everyone knows exactly how we vote. Perhaps he ought to consider that method as a possibility for his party.

Given the shambles of the Conservative party and Conservative Government at the moment, does the Lord President think that he might be able to guarantee a debate soon on the fact that Dorset police now have to use a sponsored vehicle because they cannot afford to buy their own police cars? Does he agree with the chief constable of Dorset that it is outrageous that sponsorship is the only means by which the force can afford those cars? Does he not agree that that is such a disgraceful situation for a police force to be in, that it is high time that we had a debate about it; otherwise traders up and down the country will be sponsoring the arrest of criminals? Should that be the case, does he not agree that it is beyond belief?

Mr. Newton

If the standard of questions reflects the standard of government that we would have were the Labour party to achieve its ambitions, the prospect facing the country is indeed a depressing one.

However, the debate on the structural and boundary change orders, which I announced for next Thursday, relates to parts of Dorset.

Mr. Charles Hendry (High Peak)

Will my right hon. Friend arrange an early debate on financial responsibility in the administration of the national parks, following the announcement last week that the Peak District national park is to buy the shooting rights to 1,000 acres of moorland at an estimated cost of £40,000, not for conservation reasons, but simply to stop shooting taking place there in future? Is not that an appalling misuse of public funds and taxpayers' money, and may we have an early debate on the matter?

Mr. Newton

While I cannot promise an early debate, especially as we have just had two days on the Environment Bill, including provisions relating to national parks, I certainly hope that those at whom my hon. Friend's remarks are directed will take note of them.

Mr. Jim Marshall (Leicester, South)

May I again draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day motion 1030?

[That this House, concerned at the anger felt amongst the British Sikh community about the impact on the employment prospects of Sikhs of the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992, introduced as a consequence of a European Directive, notes that British Sikhs have for many years been exempt from wearing hard hats in many areas, including service in the British Army and on construction sites; and urges Her Majesty's Government to introduce amending legislation urgently so that British Sikhs may continue to work in all non-construction employment whilst wearing turbans.]

The Leader of the House will be aware that the Government are always keen to show how they have sought to protect United Kingdom employment from the encroachment of the European Union. If that is so, why do they not do the same towards the Sikh community and seek to protect their jobs rather than witness their jobs disappearing, as they will as a consequence of that directive?

Mr. Newton

I think that the hon. Gentleman, whose interest in that matter is long established and understandable, is aware that implementation of the directive was an obligation on the United Kingdom, and obviously that has been a factor in that.

Mr. Clive Betts (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

Will the Leader of the House say whether the Government will make a statement on their response to the consultation document about the disposal of waste from the nuclear industry, especially the ludicrous suggestion that low-level waste from that industry should be tipped on public refuse tips, in particular the Beighton tip in my constituency, which has caused 10,000 of my constituents to sign a petition opposing that proposal? Will the Government give a clear idea of when a statement will be made and say that they will drop the nonsense of waste from the nuclear industry being put on to public refuse tips?

Mr. Newton

I cannot give the hon. Gentleman an exact date at the moment, but I can assure him that my right hon. Friend the Environment Secretary will make the position clear in the light of the consultation as soon as possible.

Mr. Eddie Loyden (Liverpool, Garston)

It is highly unlikely that in the next couple of weeks Lord Donaldson's assessment will be concluded and the response to it given. In view of the fact that the House will go into recess shortly, will the Leader of the House approach the Secretary of State for Transport to ensure that, when the recess ends, he will come to the House at an early date to make an statement on the results of Lord Donaldson's assessment of the MV Derbyshire?

Mr. Newton

Of course I will, in the usual way that I respond to the hon. Gentleman on that matter, ensure that that request is drawn to the attention of my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Alan Simpson (Nottingham, South)

Will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement to be made about the movement of nuclear materials and public safety?

In some ways, that request would relate to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Betts) because, on Monday this week, a container with nuclear materials in it split open in an accident in my constituency in Nottingham. As a result of the investigations that have been carried out by the local newspaper this week, it appears that there is great confusion about the lines of public responsibility for such accidents, that there is no consultation with public authorities about the safest routes for the movement of such materials and that there is no public knowledge about the frequency of movements of nuclear materials through public areas. The House and the public urgently need to know the answer to those questions.

Mr. Newton

I think that the hon. Gentleman will acknowledge that the rigour of the arrangements and various ways to ensure the safety of anything connected with the nuclear industry in this country is considerable. I am sure that, in the light of the incident that he described, the matter will be very carefully examined by my right hon. Friends.

Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East)

People are interested in the poor condition of our electoral registers only when a general election is on top of us. As we are now in a position of political instability and we do not know what will happen in the future—whether, for instance, we might be moving into a general election some time soon—should we not have an urgent debate, before the House rises on 21 July, about electoral registration, which is in a bad state and should interest us all?

Mr. Newton

There will be an opportunity before too long to have what is now the usual three-hour Adjournment debate on the Wednesday before the recess, and I shall note that the hon. Gentleman may wish to raise that subject then.

Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

Is it not a matter of urgent necessity that we debate early-day motion 1248?

[That this House deplores the decision of the Government of France to resume testing nuclear weapons in the South Pacific; notes the universal hostility to that decision by the countries in that area, who form a voluntary nuclear-free zone; considers that the safety of the weapons excuse proffered by France for resuming the tests is lame because there are plenty of computer simulations of nuclear explosions available, and the same argument could be used by any nuclear state following the introduction of a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty thereby destroying such a treaty; further notes that these proposed tests run contrary to the obligations entered into by nuclear weapons states at the recent Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty conference; further notes that the response from No. 10 Downing Street to the announcement of these tests was a pathetic absence of any criticism whatsoever; and so this House urges the French Government to change its mind and abandon these deplorable nuclear weapons tests.]

That would be particularly appropriate at the moment, as groups of children from Chernobyl are seeking aid outside the Ukraine for the thyroid cancers that they contracted after the Chernobyl accident. Is it not an act of ultimate stupidity and irresponsibility on the part of the French President to plan nuclear tests in the Pacific? Is not our Prime Minister's response weak and supine in the face of the antagonism displayed by many other states in Europe?

If France goes ahead with nuclear tests, there is a danger that we might repeat the worst peacetime contamination of the atmosphere, other than Chernobyl, which occurred during the 1950s and 1960s principally as a result of Chinese nuclear tests. Other nations may follow France's example and test their nuclear weapons in the atmosphere and in the ground. Does not the threat of poisoning and polluting our planet concern not just Europe but the entire world?

Mr. Newton

The hon. Gentleman will not expect me to agree with his description of the approach of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, and I certainly do not. However, the hon. Gentleman will recall that my right hon. Friend referred to the matter following his statement yesterday. He made it clear that the French Government have reaffirmed their commitment to the goal of a comprehensive test ban treaty, which is very much the aim of the British Government.

Mr. Mike O'Brien (Warwickshire, North)

Further to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, East (Mrs. Prentice), can we have an early debate on the shambles of the Government's law and order policy in the light of this week's statement by the chief constable of Warwickshire police that the police will need to charge those who make calls to the police for any attendance by police officers if the £6.5 million deficit in the police budget is not dealt with this year? That constabulary will lose 50 officers in the course of the year and it is therefore essential that the Government respond urgently to that problem.

I see the Minister of State, Home Office, the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean), entering the Chamber. I hope that he realises that, unless the condition of Warwickshire police force is dealt with urgently, those police officers will remember it at the next general election.

Mr. Newton

Happily, as my right hon. Friend the Minister of State has now arrived in the Chamber and has heard the thrust of the hon. Gentleman's remarks, I am spared the task of drawing them to his attention. I am sure that he will have taken note of them.

Mr. Mike Gapes (Ilford, South)

Will the Leader of the House study the remarks of the former Welsh Secretary, the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood), several weeks ago when he said that the Prime Minister was building on the legacy of his predecessor? In view of that, could he arrange a debate, to start at 6 o'clock on Tuesday, about the legacy of Thatcherism?

Mr. Newton

My right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) and all Conservative Members have been steadily developing Conservative policies for some 16 years. The success of those policies—particularly in relation to industry and the economy—is, as my right hon. Friend said a few moments ago, increasingly and very clear.