HC Deb 04 July 1996 vol 280 cc1053-65 3.32 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 business for next week will be as follows: MONDAY 8 JULY—Remaining stages of the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Bill [Lords].

Motions on the Industrial Tribunals (Northern Ireland) Order and the Employment Rights (Northern Ireland) Order.

TUESDAY 9 JULY—Opposition Day [18th allotted day]. Until about seven o'clock, there will be a debate on water metering; followed by a debate on the promotion of family-friendly employment. Both debates will arise on Opposition motions.

Motions relating to the occupational pension schemes regulations. Details will be given in the Official Report.

WEDNESDAY 10 JULY—Until two o'clock, there will be debates on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Remaining stages of the Education (Scotland) Bill [Lords].

Remaining stages of the Deer (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill [Lords].

Motions on Members' pay and allowances.

Motion on the Ministerial and Other Salaries Order.

THURSDAY 11 JULY—Until about seven o'clock, there will be a debate on the White Paper on development and training for civil servants, on a Motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Debate on parliamentary procedure, on a Motion for the Adjournment of the House.

FRIDAY 12 JULY—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY 15 JULY—Consideration of Lords Amendments to the Asylum and Immigration Bill.

Motion on the Education (Assisted Places) (Amendment) Regulations.

Motions on the Local Authorities (Contracting Out of Tax Billing, Collection and Enforcement Functions) Order and the Local Authorities (Contracting out of Investment Functions) Order.

TUESDAY 16 JULY—Opposition Day [19th allotted day]. On a motion yet to be announced.

WEDNESDAY 17 JULY—Until two o'clock, debates on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House.

In the afternoon, the summer economic debate on a Government motion.

THURSDAY 18 JULY—Estimates Day [3rd Allotted Day]. A debate on British forces in Bosnia, followed by a debate on housing need. Details of the estimates will be given in the Official Report. At 10 o'clock, the House will be asked to agree all outstanding estimates.

FRIDAY 19 JULY—a debate on science policy and human genetics on a Motion for the Adjournment of the House.

The House may also wish to know that it is proposed that on Wednesday 10 July there will be a debate on Maritime Policy in European Standing Committee A and a debate on the EC Budget and the financial perspective in European Standing Committee B. On Wednesday 17 July there will be a debate on methods of trapping wild animals in European Standing Committee A. Details of the relevant documents will be given in the Official Report.

[Wednesday 10 July: European Standing Committee A—European Community Document: 6813/96; Maritime Policy. Relevant European Legislation Committee Report: HC 51-xxi (1995–96); European Standing Committee B—European Community Documents: (a) COM(96)300; EC Preliminary Draft Budget for 1997, (b) 6431/96 + COR 1; Financial Perspective. Relevant European Committee Reports: a) HC 51-xxiii (1995–96), b) HC 51-xix (1995–96) and HC 51-xxii (1995–96).

Wednesday 17 July: European Standing Committee A—European Community Document: 4198/96; Wild Animals: Trapping Methods. Relevant European Comtnittee Report: HC 51-viii (1995–96) ]

Tuesday 9 July—Occupational pension schemes regulations: the relevant regulations are as follows: Occupational Pension Schemes (Pensions Compensation Board Limit on Borrowing) Regulations 1996; Occupational Pension Schemes (Mixed Benefit Contracted-out Schemes) regulations 1996; Occupational Pension Schemes (Requirement to Obtain Audited Accounts and a Statement from the Auditor) Regulations 1996; Occupational Pension Schemes (Member-Nominated Trustees and Directors) Regulations 1996 (SI No 1216)]

Thursday 18 July—Estimates Day [3rd Allotted Day]: Class 1, vote 1, Defence: Operational and support costs: in so far as it relates to British Forces in Bosnia; relevant report: fifth report from the Defence Committee, Session 1995–96, (HC 423), British Forces in Bosnia; class VI, vote 1, Housing and Construction, England, in so far as it relates to housing need; relevant report: second report from the Environment Committee, Session 1995–96, (HC 22), Housing Need, and the Government's reply (CM 3259)

Mrs. Ann Taylor

I thank the Leader of the House for that information and, in particular, for agreeing to the debate on procedure next Thursday, for which we have been asking for some time. We are near the recess and I do not wish to overburden the Leader of the House with requests for debates, but I shall press him on some significant issues so that the Government can find time for a statement or a debate before the summer recess. One such topic was not covered properly at Home Office questions today. In light of the new information given by the director of the Prison Service today on projected increases in the prison population and the related security implications, which have been highlighted by Learmont, will the House have an opportunity to have a full debate on the issue before the summer recess? We need a proper debate, not just the excited answers that we got from the Minister of State this afternoon.

The Leader of the House will know that my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) had an important Adjournment debate on holiday airline safety yesterday. My hon. Friend has received further information, following the speech by the Minister for Transport in London yesterday, which shows that the system of licensing that the Minister said was impossible already exists in some parts of the world—for example, Australia. As the Minister may have inadvertently misled the House yesterday and as further concerns about holiday safety have been expressed in a Which? report today, will the Leader of the House arrange a statement or a future debate so that the record can be corrected and the concerns of holidaymakers addressed?

The Leader of the House may recall that the Department of Health announced a consultation exercise last October on the issue of the employment of children. That is a serious problem, especially if any further relaxation of the rules were to be considered. Can the Leader of the House tell us when we can expect an announcement or a debate on that issue and will he undertake to ensure that the submissions that have been made as part of that consultation will be placed in the Library so that hon. Members can have access to that information?

Finally, a Government statement on defence procurement was expected this week by hon. Members on both sides of the House and by the defence industry itself. In view of the fact that such a statement will have implications for billions of pounds of taxpayers' money and tens of thousands of jobs, does the Leader of the House agree that it is unacceptable for the Cabinet, split though it may be on this issue, to play cat and mouse with the livelihoods of tens of thousands of defence workers in that way? When will that announcement be made? Will he give an assurance that any announcement on defence procurement will be made first in the House?

Mr. Newton

On the last point, I obviously do not accept for a moment the hon. Lady's "cat and mouse" reference. As those decisions are very important to many people—including many of my constituents—it is right that they should be considered carefully. I draw attention to the fact that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence will answer questions in the House next Tuesday. In any event, I shall refer him to the hon. Lady's comments. I shall also draw the attention of my appropriate right hon. Friend to her point about consultation on the employment of children.

As to holiday airlines, I draw attention to the fact that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport is due to answer questions as early as next Monday. I have noted the hon. Lady's comments—I see that the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) is sitting on the edge of her seat. If additional information has been provided to my hon. Friend the Minister for Transport in London which calls into question the accuracy of any of his remarks yesterday, I am sure that he will consider it and respond appropriately as soon as possible. I shall bring the hon. Lady's remarks to his attention.

As to the prison population and the Learmont issues, I am plainly not in a position to add to what Home Office Ministers said not long ago. No doubt the hon. Lady and others will have further opportunities to raise those points, but I cannot promise to find time for a debate, in light of the pressure of other business between now and the recess.

Lastly—and validating my previous point—I have acceded to the hon. Lady's request for a debate on procedure. She should regard that as a success, and I am grateful for her initial kind words.

Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham)

Will the Government make time available before the summer recess to debate our options should the European Court of Justice find against us regarding the 48-hour working week directive? That is the banning or limitation of overtime directive, and we may have to implement it before the intergovernmental conference completes its deliberations. Will the Government make time available to discuss contingency plans?

Mr. Newton

My right hon. Friend will have heard the very firm words that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister uttered from this Dispatch Box less than 15 minutes ago, which I am sure he welcomed. I cannot add to them at this stage.

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

The Prime Minister mentioned during Question Time that the review body report on the pay of Members of Parliament will be published today. Is the Leader of the House aware that the Vote Office is refusing to issue that report, on the grounds that it is not authorised to do so and has not been told when it should be published? As the report has been made available to the press, is it not common courtesy to make it available also to hon. Members?

Mr. Newton

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's comments will have been noted, and that inquiries will be made—I shall investigate the matter as soon as I have an opportunity. I understand that it was intended to make the report available at 4 pm, as is usual with review body reports.

Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)

Further to the discussion about the European directive on the 48-hour week, will my right hon. Friend confirm that he expects the European Court to give its judgment some time this week? However, it is likely that the deliberations of the IGC will not be concluded for about 18 months. If the European Court attempts to enforce any adverse judgment against Britain, will my hon. Friend confirm that the British Government intend to reactivate their successful policy of non-co-operation, and determinedly uphold the sovereignty of the House?

Mr. Newton

I note the comments of my hon. Friend, following those of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood), and I must return the same answer.

Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that hon. Members in all parts of the House strongly support the amendments to the Immigration and Asylum Bill made recently in the other place? Will the Government make an early statement on whether they intend to reverse those amendments, so that right hon. and hon. Members can prepare better for that Bill's important remaining stages when it returns to this House on 15 July?

Mr. Newton

The hon. Gentleman is an old hand, and knows that the Government always undertake to consider changes made in the other place. I could comment on the disadvantages of those changes, but I rest on the remark that they are being examined.

Sir John Cope (Northavon)

Now that my right hon. Friend extends the courtesy of informing the House of Government business two weeks ahead, why is it that the Opposition consistently refuse to do the same, with Supply days for the second week left blank? Is that because the Opposition are indecisive, or because they are secretive?

Mr. Newton

Judging by many of the exchanges in the ranks of the Opposition over the past week or two, that omission is because they do not know what is their policy.

Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton)

As the Leader of the House has announced that business for the week after next is provisional, and given that, in the week following, only a few days remain before the summer recess, will the right hon. Gentleman adjust business to allow a debate on the situation in Manchester following the bombing there?

Yesterday, the House spent 17 minutes discussing the Stone of Scone, but it has not spent one minute debating the Manchester bombing in the three weeks since that disaster occurred. We appreciate the letters that the Deputy Prime Minister has been sending to Members of Parliament representing Manchester constituencies and the allocation of money towards rebuilding. However, the city's Members of Parliament are anxious to have the opportunity to raise individual cases on the Floor of the House, such as that of a constituent of mine who was a security guard at the Royal Exchange theatre, but who has been thrown out of his job and had all his employment rights voided.

Mr. Newton

I well understand why the right hon. Gentleman raises such matters on behalf of his constituents, and I respect his efforts. Perhaps I may point the right hon. Gentleman in the direction of the opportunities that can arise on Wednesday mornings. As to his implication that a statement should have been made on the Manchester bombing, it has been established practice for some time not to make statements in the House whenever such an atrocity occurs. The reasons are well understood on both sides of the House.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

In view of the European Commission's edict earlier this week that the quota for the herring catch in the North sea should be reduced by 50 per cent., will the Minister of Agriculture make a statement to the House next week on the common fisheries policy? Clearly the CFP is not conserving fish stocks, safeguarding livelihoods or protecting the economies of fishing communities around our coasts.

Mr. Newton

I am sure that my hon. Friend understands the difficult background to that issue, given the need to conserve fish stocks in the interests of the industry's future. I will bring his remarks to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend, who will be answering questions in the House within the period that my business statement covered.

Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)

Speaking as chairman both of the managing trustees of the parliamentary contributory pension fund and of the House of Commons Members fund, I am grateful to the Leader of the House for having kept us informed of developments in relation to the Government's decision to refer to the Senior Salaries Review Body the questions of right hon. and hon. Members' pay and pensions. I am sure that the Leader of the House will want to respond in the same spirit to the widespread interest in the Prime Minister's response to the question for written answer that appears on the Order Paper the first time today, about the Government's attitude to the review body's report. Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that it would also be helpful to right hon. and hon. Members if he can say anything about the procedure to be followed by the Government in next Wednesday's debate?

Mr. Newton

I am not in a position to pre-empt the written answer that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will give, but of course I shall seek to make the Government's intentions clear to the House as soon as I sensibly can.

Sir Michael Spicer (South Worcestershire)

Further to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's very interesting comments on the 48-hour week, to which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House referred, surely there will be some extremely complex matters to be considered relating to the potential reform of the European Court of Justice? Do not those matters merit further discussion by the House before the House rises?

Mr. Newton

I note my hon. Friend's request, and, as ever, I shall bear it in mind. However, it will be obvious to anyone who has listened to my statements in the past couple of weeks or who has watched the progress of the House's business on Monday or Tuesday of this week, for example, that there is considerable pressure on our time before the recess.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

I wonder whether the Leader of the House will have a word with the Home Secretary about a matter that I raised with him, so that he can make a statement at the appropriate time. The firefighters in Derbyshire are engaged in an industrial dispute, and, a few weeks ago, the three Members of Parliament for Derbyshire—myself, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) and my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Derbyshire (Mr. Barnes)—requested to meet the Home Secretary to try to resolve the dispute. As yet, we have not had an answer, although I challenged him about it in the House. Will the Leader of the House convey to him the need to resolve this matter, so that we can try to get the show back on the road?

Mr. Newton

I shall, of course, convey the gist of the hon. Gentleman's question to my right hon. and learned Friend.

Sir James Hill (Southampton, Test)

My right hon. Friend will probably know of events in the island of Sri Lanka over the past few months, and that the People's Alliance Government have defeated the Tamil Tigers. Meanwhile, however, the Tamil Tigers have stripped hospitals, schools and every scrap of equipment in the occupied area. A small delegation from the House will go there at the end of this month, and they will be questioning us about medical supplies and food. I wonder whether we could have a statement next week, of whatever length, on this very important matter?

Mr. Newton

I cannot promise a statement on the matter next week, but I shall bring my hon. Friend's remarks to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary, who will be in the House to answer questions next Wednesday.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)

I am grateful to the Leader of the House for his kind remarks earlier. While he is talking about aviation, will he have a word with the Foreign Secretary and ask him whether he can explain why, on his last trip, he chartered a plane from a US firm rather than from a British firm? At a time when the US Government are refusing permission to UK charterers to have the same facilities, that is not, to put it at its mildest, very tactful.

Mr. Newton

I can at least bring that prospective question to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend, who, as I have just said, will be in the House next Wednesday.

Sir Irvine Patnick (Sheffield, Hallam)

Will my right hon. Friend allow a debate next week on local authority powers—bearing in mind the fact that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment is sitting beside him—so that we can examine what they are? This request arises because Yorkshire and Humberside's regional assembly, which is composed of all the councils in the area, is levying funds and taking over powers, which it has no powers to do. Can local authorities' powers be clearly and properly defined?

Mr. Newton

My hon. Friend has kindly already noted that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment is, in brotherly fashion, sitting by my side. In those circumstances, I shall regard the question as having been transmitted directly.

Mrs. Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley)

Will the Leader of the House carefully consider finding time for a general debate on child abuse? I know that a judicial inquiry is about to start; however, over the past few weeks, I have spoken to many victims of sexual abuse and received many telephone calls and moving letters, all of which make the same point—that it is a great relief to be able to talk to a woman.

May I suggest that, during the course of such a debate, we might consider whether a man is the best person to be in charge of a judicial inquiry involving child abuse? All the victims say the same thing: they find it impossible to talk to a man—whether he is a policeman, a judge or someone else in authority—because, by and large, they have been abused by men.

Mr. Newton

I suspect that there would soon be protests of a different kind were the Government to say that a person of one sex or the other was for that reason alone to be excluded from undertaking an inquiry of that or any other nature. On the general question with which the hon. Lady started, I am not sure that it would be right to have a debate while the inquiry is in progress. A more appropriate time might be when the inquiry has concluded.

Sir Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)

Will the Leader of the House reconsider his decision regarding a debate on the 48-hour-week decision of the Euro-Parliament, bearing in mind the fact that the wording of that decision, which I have read, makes it abundantly clear that virtually the whole social chapter would have to apply to this country? Would not the advantage of such a debate be that Members on both sides of the House, of all views on the European Union, and of all positions, from socialist to Conservative, could at least have the opportunity to express an opinion on the breach of a treaty that a British Government have suffered? Would it not be helpful to have such a debate, as a means of giving the House the opportunity to express an opinion, rather than our having a party slanging match?

Mr. Newton

My hon. Friend, whose constituency is in the same county as mine, has now become the fourth Member who, even without our having a debate, has found an opportunity to make his views very clear. I am sure not only that those views will be noted by the Prime Minister, but that my hon. Friend will have welcomed what the Prime Minister said.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

The Lord President told us last week that it was hoped that there would be a meeting of the Northern Ireland Grand Committee before the rising of the House. Is he in a position to inform us when that might be, bearing in mind the fact that this week a mischievous article in the Belfast Telegraph spread ignorance by suggesting that that was a new Committee? Others were suggesting that nothing should be done to scrutinise government in this place until people decide what they want over there. Surely it is time that the Grand Committee met to consider the issue.

Mr. Newton

The present position is that the Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office, my right hon. Friend the Member for Westminster, North (Sir J. Wheeler), hopes to obtain confirmation shortly from all the Northern Ireland parties that they are content for the Committee to meet to debate the reports of the examiner of statutory rules, and also hopes that a suitable date for such a meeting can be found. I shall certainly do all I can to assist.

Mr. Warren Hawksley (Halesowen and Stourbridge)

Will my right hon. Friend consider arranging a debate before the recess on the allocation of lottery funds? One thinks especially of the allocations made by the charities board. In the most recent round, it gave money to gay organisations and to people fighting asylum deportations, yet refused an application for about £160,000 by Crimestoppers for a campaign called "Say No and Phone", which it had organised before and wished to extend for two years. As youth and the fight against crime were intended to benefit from the allocations, the Crimestoppers campaign should be supported. The House should be able to make its view known on that point.

Mr. Newton

My hon. Friend might care to think of that subject as one for a Wednesday morning. No doubt he will recall the observations by the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for National Heritage when the grants that he mentioned were announced, and I am sure that those words are being carefully considered.

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

Will the Leader of the House place on the record whether he expects the code of conduct produced by the Standards and Privileges Committee to be published before the recess?

Mr. Newton

The hon. Gentleman is a distinguished member of that Committee, and one who is being most helpful in our deliberations. He will know well, although I appreciate why he wants to get the matter on the record, that the answer to his question is yes, we hope to produce the code before the recess.

Mr. Rupert Allason (Torbay)

My right hon. Friend will know from his fairly recent visit to Torbay about the importance of the Kingskerswell by-pass. Will he find time for the necessary orders relating to the private finance initiative, which we hope will be supported by Devon county council, to be laid before the House, if not before the recess, as soon as possible on our return?

The economic prosperity of Torbay largely depends on eliminating that bottleneck. The PFI is the only solution, so I hope that my right hon. Friend will carefully consider Government business immediately on our return, so as to get the orders through as quickly as possible. They have the support not only of the Department of Transport but of the Minister for the south-west, our right hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry).

Mr. Newton

I will, as always, be as helpful as is practicable.

Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

May we have time to debate the splendid report that was published this morning by the Transport Select Committee on casualty reduction, which has great potential to reduce fatal accidents, particularly its recommendation that the Government should advertise, and thus make clear to the public, the destructive, killing nature of bull bars? We need that debate so that the Government cannot repeat their disgraceful behaviour in March, when they talked out the Bill that is being re-presented next Friday.

Mr. Newton

I have an increasingly high regard for the hon. Gentleman's persistence, and I shall bring his remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend.

Mr. David Congdon (Croydon, North-East)

Given the disruption and inconvenience experienced by Londoners during the tube strikes, will my right hon. Friend provide an opportunity for an urgent debate on that subject, so that all hon. Members will have an opportunity to discuss it, and perhaps it will give an opportunity for reticent Opposition Members to condemn this unnecessary dispute?

Mr. Newton

That is a very good idea.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

Why have we not had a ministerial statement on the outcome of the International Whaling Commission meeting that took place last week in Aberdeen? After all, the British Government took a firm stand against any resumption of commercial whaling. However, Norway walked out, and now continues to flout the IWC moratorium on commercial whaling. We really should have a statement on that.

If we cannot, can we please have a debate, so that the anger felt by hon. Members on both sides of the House, and public opinion in this country, can be forcefully expressed to Norway, which goes around the world saying that it upholds international agreements, but clearly only those that happen to be in its interests.

Mr. Newton

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for recognising the firm position taken by the British Government, and I know him well enough to know that he will indeed welcome it. I cannot promise him a debate, but he is another hon. Member whom I might steer in the direction of a possible application for a Wednesday morning debate.

Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough)

Can my right hon. Friend find time—perhaps it would be a good subject for an Opposition day, since the Opposition do not seem to know what to debate on those days—to debate closed circuit television? That subject would be particularly valuable on an Opposition day, because the Liberal Democrat-controlled Wigston borough council, in my constituency, failed to make an application to the Home Office for funding for CCTV, whereas two grant-maintained schools and a local education authority school that share a campus, supported by Leicestershire constabulary. made a successful bid, and were granted £95,000 to put up CCTV on their campus. Can we please have an early debate on this, because the benefits of CCTV should be better realised by the Liberal Democrat-controlled council in my constituency?

Mr. Newton

That is another attractive idea for a debate, not least because it would give me an opportunity to congratulate my constituents in Witham, Essex, on being successful in the challenge fund.

Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South)

Going back to the remarks by my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) about the prison situation, and following answers given to me yesterday afternoon in the Select Committee, and this afternoon by the Home Secretary, it seems that a very serious problem is being missed. So far this year, there have been six serious alerts in the prison system. The number of prison suicides is rising. Yet the number of prison officers employed is decreasing, because of various cuts, and recruitment is frozen.

In the explosive situation that is developing—particularly as the number of prisoners incarcerated will rise by some 7,000 this year, which will be 7,000 over capacity—is it not time that the House debated the Prison Service?

Mr. Newton

I would be more responsive to the hon. Gentleman if he had taken the trouble to mention that escapes were down by 60 per cent. last year, and if he had adverted to the fact that, this year, more than £50 million is being spent on security improvements at dispersal prisons, endorsed by Sir John Learmont.

Mr. Christopher Gill (Ludlow)

Further to the answers that my right hon. Friend gave my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) and my hon. Friends the Members for South Worcestershire (Sir M. Spicer), for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) and for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor), does my right hon. Friend not consider the outcome of the European Court of Justice judgment on the working time directive of such significance politically and constitutionally that the House should be granted a debate on it?

Mr. Newton

My hon. Friend is another to whom I must—and indeed, gladly do—pay my warm respects for his persistence. He brings to five the number of those who have raised that point. I shall also draw his remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham)

Given the extraordinary news that Baroness Thatcher is to go to Hong Kong to oversee the transition from British rule to Chinese-communist rule, will the Leader of the House find time before the recess for a debate on Hong Kong? It is more than a year since we have had a specific debate on Hong Kong, there is a great deal of worry and concern there, and Government interventions are needed in the remaining eleven and a half months to try to improve what will be a fairly chaotic situation as Lady Thatcher waves goodbye to Chris Patten and hands back 5 million Chinese people to communist dictatorship.

Mr. Newton

Some of the hon. Gentleman's remarks did less than justice to his perfectly reasonable emphasis on the importance of some of the problems. However, with that said, I am afraid that I cannot at present undertake to find time for a debate before the recess.

Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South)

Will my right hon. Friend arrange an early debate on foreign affairs, so that we can congratulate Mr. Yeltsin on his re-election, which will improve the world's safety and is good news for everyone. Is my right hon. Friend aware that some individuals, who paradoxically supported the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament when there was a communist Government in the USSR, now say that they want to keep the independent deterrent?

Mr. Newton

I should like to wish President Yeltsin, as I am sure would everybody in the House, a speedy return to full vigour after what has clearly been a very gruelling and hard-fought campaign.

Mr. Nick Ainger (Pembroke)

The Leader of the House will be aware that, on Tuesday night, the House did not reach the business on the Social Security (Disability Living Allowance and Claims and Payments) Amendment Regulations 1996. In his business statement for the next two weeks, no mention was made of those regulations. Does he intend to provide an opportunity to debate them before the recess?

Mr. Newton

We are obviously considering that matter in the light of what happened on Tuesday evening, which was, of course, as a result of the extensive debate on the Broadcasting Bill.

Mr. Harold Elletson (Blackpool, North)

Will my right hon. Friend be able to find time for a debate on the economy in Lancashire, so that we can examine the danger that two of Lancashire's main industries—defence and tourism—face from the Labour party? Is he aware that the restrictions that Labour Members would place on defence exports would decimate jobs in the defence industry in Lancashire, and that the social chapter and the minimum wage would destroy tourism?

Mr. Newton

Without knowing the full details of my hon. Friend's constituency, that certainly sounds like a very good example of the new dangers that new Labour is bringing forward.

Mr. Jim Dowd (Lewisham, West)

Will the Leader of the House discuss with his colleague the Minister with responsibility for health in Northern Ireland the latest revelations that 6,000 operations and 55,000 out-patient appointments have been cancelled, and operating theatres in many hospitals will be closed throughout the summer because of cash cuts that his right hon. Friend has imposed? Since the Minister said at the time that there would be service reductions as a result of those cuts, will the Leader of the House ask him to explain to the House whether the cuts are running according to target?

Mr. Newton

I have in fact already asked my right hon. Friend and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to be here to answer questions next Thursday.