HC Deb 11 July 1996 vol 281 cc571-81 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 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).

TUESDAY 16 JULY—Opposition Day [19th Allotted Day]. Until about 7 o'clock, there will be a debate on energy policy, followed by a debate on the role of the voluntary sector in British society. Both debates will arise on Opposition motions.

Remaining stages of the Damages Bill [Lords].

Remaining stages of the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Bill [Lords].

WEDNESDAY 17 JULY—Until 2 o'clock, there will be debates on the motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Debate on the economy on a Government motion.

Consideration of any Lords amendments which may be received to the Nursery Education and Grant-Maintained Schools Bill.

THURSDAY 18 JULY—Estimates Day [3rd Allotted Day].

There will be a debate on British forces in Bosnia, followed by a debate on housing need. Details will be given in the Official Report.

At 10 o'clock, the House will be asked to agree all outstanding estimates.

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

MONDAY 22 JULY—Proceedings on the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill. Consideration of any Lords amendments which may be received to the Housing Bill.

I regret that I am not able to give details of business for the following three days running up to the recess. However, one of them is likely to be the 20th Opposition Day.

The House will also wish to know that on Wednesday 17 July, there will be a debate on methods of trapping wild animals in European Standing Committee A.

It will also be proposed that on Tuesday 23 July, there will be a debate on documents relating to the common fisheries policy in European Standing Committee A. Details of the relevant documents will be given in the Official Report.

[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 reports:

The Fifth Report from the Defence Committee, Session 1995–96, (HC 423), British Forces in Bosnia, and the Government's reply in the Sixth Special Report, Session 1995–96, (HC 592), to be published on Tuesday 16 July 1996.

Class V1, vote 1, Housing and Construction, England: in so far as it relates to housing need. Relevant reports:

The Second Report from the Environment Committee Session 1995–96, (HC22), Housing Need, and the Government's reply (Cm 3259).

Wednesday 17 July:

European Standing Committee A—Relevant European Community Document: 4198/96, Wild animals: trapping methods. Relevant European Legislation Committee report: HC 51-viii (1995–96).

Tuesday 23 July:

European Standing Committee A—Relevant European Community Documents: (a) 7833/96, Common Fisheries Policy: Multi-Annual Guidance Programme (MAGP IV); (b) Unnumbered, Common Fisheries Policy: Restructuring of the Community Fleet; (c) Unnumbered, Conservation of Fishery Resources: Technical Measures; (d) Unnumbered, Fisheries Agreement: Mauritania; (e) Unnumbered, Fisheries Agreement: Angola; (f) Unnumbered, Fisheries Agreement: Sao Tomé e Principe; (g) Unnumbered, Annual Report on Multiannual Guidance Programme for the Fishing Fleet at the end of 1995 (MAGP III); (h) 7701/96, Common Fisheries Policy: Satellite-Based Vessel Monitoring System. Relevant European Legislation Committee reports: (a)-(g) HC 5 I-xxv (1995–96); (h) HC 51-xxiii (1995–96).]

Mrs. Taylor

I thank the Leader of the House for that information. In view of the misleading remark that the Deputy Prime Minister made at Question Time, may I first ask the Leader of the House to confirm that today's debate on the civil service will take place not in Opposition time but on a Government motion for the Adjournment of the House? The record should be put straight.

I understand why on this occasion the right hon. Gentleman cannot give us full details of the second week's business, as he often does these days. We understand the need to be flexible at this time of year, just before the recess. However, I hope that, during the last few days before the House rises, it will be possible to have a debate on the code of conduct. I think that hon. Members would appreciate the opportunity to deal with that before the summer recess.

Can the Leader of the House give any information about the expected length of the overspill session in October? It would also be helpful for Members on both sides of the House if we had an early idea of the expected date of the Queen's Speech.

On next week's business, may I express my concern about the fact that the Lords amendments to the Nursery Education and Grant-Maintained Schools Bill will be dealt with so late on Wednesday evening? Do the Government intend to reverse the sensible amendment on evaluation of nursery vouchers? When I asked the Leader of the House about that matter a few weeks ago, he said that the Secretary of State for Education and Employment was taking careful note of the amendment.

Given that that statement was made several weeks ago, what does it now mean? In view of the late hour at which the amendments will be debated, are we entitled to conclude that the timing of that part of our proceedings has been arranged because the Government wish to minimise the public attention that will be drawn to the flawed idea of nursery vouchers? It is unusual for such a controversial measure to be taken so late in the evening.

On a totally different matter, may I ask the Leader of the House to use his good offices to arrange for the publication of a full transcript of today's events in Westminster Hall, including the Lord Chancellor's remarks, President Mandela's moving and historic address and, of course, the outstanding response that you, Madam Speaker, made on behalf of us all?

Mr. Newton

It is a pleasure to take those points in reverse order, and to echo without reserve the hon. Lady's warm words about your remarks in Westminster Hall today, Madam Speaker, which seemed to us all to suit the occasion, and Mr. Mandela, absolutely perfectly.

On the hon. Lady's rather more aggressive penultimate question, she will know that proceedings on the Nursery Education and Grant-Maintained Schools Bill have not yet been completed in another place, and that it is customary for the Government to wait for the completion of such proceedings before making comments about what they intend to do about the outcome of any part of them. As for our taking such a measure late, that may be unusual now, but it is not so long since it would have been highly usual. The reason for the timing, as I have said several times recently, is simply that, unless the House wants to sit into August, we shall have to have one or two days that are longer than those to which the House has become accustomed in recent years. There is no question of our trying to hide anything.

I cannot yet give an exact measure for the length of the overspill, but I expect it to be significantly shorter than in recent years; that has certainly been my aim. I shall of course do my best to ensure that a date for the Queen's Speech is given as soon as it reasonably can be.

The question of flexibility over business interrelates in a way with what I was saying about the Nursery Education and Grant-Maintained Schools Bill. I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her understanding of the need for flexibility. Of course, if we can release the code of conduct that the Select Committee agreed two nights ago, I very much hope to be able to provide time to debate it before the recess.

Lastly, on today's debate on training in the civil service, I am quite sure that my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister had no intention of misleading the House, and I confirm that it is a debate in Government time.

Sir Michael Shersby (Uxbridge)

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the considerable public concern about the application by Central Railway plc under the Transport and Works Act 1992? Will he use his good offices to ensure that the matter is disposed of before the House rises for the recess?

Mr. Newton

Indeed. As I said, I am as yet unable to give a detailed idea of the business for 23, 24 and 25 July, but that is one of the matters that I have it in mind to fit in if that is conceivably possible.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

In the spirit of today's events, may I join in the thanks to the Leader of the House and to you, Madam Speaker, for arranging this morning's events and for your response on our behalf?

May I push the Government to respond in a practical way by announcing—today, if possible—that, when the Asylum and Immigration Bill returns to the House next week, they will take the same view as the House of Lords: that it is not unreasonable to allow someone a few days to make an asylum application? Perhaps they will reflect on the circumstances of people from countries such as South Africa who, in their hour of persecution, needed to find safety in countries such as ours, so that they could return to their own country when it had been liberated from oppression.

Mr. Newton

I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary will consider carefully the hon. Gentleman's remarks. However, the Government's key priority is to make sure that what I believe is a widely supported policy to deal with abuses of asylum seeking remains effective.

Mr. Peter Bottomley (Eltham)

Following that point, while most of us thoroughly support Government policy, the testimony of such people as John McCarthy, who spent five years in the Lebanon, has demonstrated—privately if not publicly—how difficult it is to speak openly within two or three days of arrival. Therefore, a three-day limit would be welcome.

On a different subject—animal welfare—do the Government propose to lift the ban on marine mammal products? Are the rumours about allowing seal products into Britain correct? Is that necessary, or can we support the view of most people across the political spectrum—that we do not want seal or whale products, and that marine mammals should be able to rove the oceans without being persecuted?

Mr. Newton

I have no doubt that my hon. Friend's first remarks—and those of the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes)—will be noted by my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary. I shall draw his second set of remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friends.

Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

Why are the Government denying me the opportunity of congratulating them on the splendid news that they are bringing 6,000 jobs to my constituency? When there was a similar influx of jobs thanks to Toyota, there was a statement in the House. May we have a statement now on the news, so that we can join the Deputy Prime Minister in congratulating the Secretary of State for Wales on his year of activity in Wales, the Welsh Development Agency and especially Newport borough council, under the inspired leadership of Harry Jones, who has been working boldly and with great imagination and courage over a long period in order to establish the marvellous site that LG found irresistible?

Mr. Newton

The hon. Gentleman will have an early opportunity to fulfil his ambition of congratulating the Government, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales will be answering questions next Monday.

Mr. Jacques Arnold (Gravesham)

Will my right hon. Friend ensure that, on Wednesday 24 July, we have our morning Adjournment debates? He will be aware that, for eight years now, we have had one-and-a-half-hour debates in July on Britain's relations with Latin America. To date, this year we have been unable to obtain such a debate, and this is our last opportunity to request one.

Mr. Newton

As I think my hon. Friend will know, because he sometimes makes an excellent contribution, the Wednesday morning of the last day before the recess is customarily one when I am here for three hours and have to answer for everybody on everything.

Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)

It is absolutely in order, Madam Speaker, that I should reiterate the appreciation earlier of your admirable and most moving appreciation of President Mandela this morning. We are most grateful. You spoke for the House in a most brilliant way. But to business.

Is the Leader of the House aware that it really is essential that we discuss our relations with China in this year in which we are going to abandon Hong Kong—quite rightly, because the treaty runs to an end—in which there are elements trying to make worse our relations with China for obvious reasons, and where it is essential that we produce the very best relations we can with this important and very significant country? When can we have an opportunity to discuss our relations with China?

Mr. Newton

The question of a debate on Hong Kong has also been raised once or twice by the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor). I acknowledge the importance of the subject and the interest in it, but one has only to look at the amount of business with which we are seeking to deal for it to be clear that I would be rash to hold out a promise of such a debate before the recess.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it would be most helpful to have an answer to the question asked by the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) about the publication of a transcript of this morning's very moving proceedings? I intend to publish it in The House Magazine if he will not make those arrangements. Also, many, many people would be deeply disturbed if the House of Lords three-day amendment were resisted on Monday.

Mr. Newton

I cannot add to what I said earlier on my hon. Friend's latter point. On the first, I was so carried away in my enthusiasm for congratulating you, Madam Speaker, that I forgot about the other part of the hon. Lady's question. I am not honestly sure who would be responsible for ensuring that a transcript was produced. If it is me, I shall try to ensure its production, and if it is not, I shall try to ensure that whoever is responsible ensures it.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Will the Leader of the House ensure that the chairman of the Tory party answers questions in the House? I know that the chairman has not done so and that he has not got the kind of portfolio which, apparently, enables him to do so, but I would like him to answer this question. Why, after only two years, was the Tory party £19 million in the red, and then, apparently, £26 million in the black? We are all anxious to find out where the money has come from. I would like the Chancellor of the Exchequer to sit next to the party chairman. The Chancellor is running the country into debt, yet the Tory party is managing to get those funds. The Chancellor ought to be told how to do it. What we would really like to ask is where the money has come from. The Tory party should be made to publish its accounts, because I believe that there is some sleaze money.

Mr. Newton

I am sure that the success of my right hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney) in relation to the Conservative party's affairs reflects the strength of support for the Conservative party in the country, which is rightly strong because it is partly related to the success of my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor in creating conditions that have brought the largest ever inward investment into Wales, which was referred to earlier.

Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent)

I am absolutely delighted, as everyone else must be, at the enormous success of the Government's policies in attracting huge investment into Wales, but having ascertained this week that Kent has the lowest gross domestic product per capita of any county in the country, could we have a debate on why Wales gets such tremendous assistance and Kent so very little?

Mr. Newton

I cannot promise a debate. Although I accept that the investment is not quite the same and in some circumstances controversial, it can hardly be said that, with the significant building of the channel tunnel rail link in Kent, the channel tunnel and Ashford international station, Kent has been short of investment in recent times.

Ms Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North)

Madam Speaker, you certainly spoke for the whole House this morning.

I make no apology for raising again this week the issue that I raised last week: benefit for ex-miners for chronic bronchitis and emphysema. The right hon. Gentleman has taken the matter up but, given that there are only two weeks before the summer recess, will he give an undertaking that it will be dealt with and the costs estimated? Will he ensure that the new arrangements go ahead without anything having to come back to the House? If further approval from the House is needed, will he make sure that that is in hand before the summer recess? Ex-miners deserve that.

Mr. Newton

I cannot, I am afraid, add to what I said to the hon. Lady before. I shall certainly seek to come back to her on the matter before the recess, but I cannot make a promise beyond that.

Mr. Bob Dunn (Dartford)

Can we have an urgent early debate on industrial anarchy in London Underground, given that many thousands of my constituents who work in London and go to the city for leisure will have their lives severely disrupted by the strike that is proposed to take place shortly? Does my right hon. Friend agree that such a debate would give all parties an opportunity to condemn the anarchy once and for all?

Mr. Newton

Anything that helped to end the deafening silence from Opposition Front Benchers on that matter would be welcome, but I rather doubt that even a debate would achieve that.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Is there not a case for looking again at the possibility of a debate on financial contributions to political parties and knighthoods and peerages? Is the Leader of the House aware that a newspaper today stated that a leading industrialist has given £4 million to the Tory party—not as a loan, but as a gift—a couple of weeks after being knighted? Is there not now a case for looking into the possibility of sheer political corruption?

Mr. Newton

The implication and suggestion of the hon. Gentleman is unworthy—even by his standards.

Mr. Bill Walker (North Tayside)

Will my right hon. Friend arrange for an early debate on the constitution of the United Kingdom and, in particular, the relationship between Scotland and England? Would not such a debate give us an opportunity to look closely at Opposition proposals that would result in a Government Front Bench largely made up of Scots being here in Westminster, while the Scots ran their own Parliament in Edinburgh? Is that not a case of the Scots having their cake and eating it, while expecting English taxpayers to bake, ice and deliver that cake?

Mr. Newton

My hon. Friend puts an important point neatly. There is a case for substituting such a debate for either of the two subjects that the Opposition have chosen for next week.

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

The Leader of the House will be aware that there has been a major shortfall in the Government's revenue targets, which will clearly have a major effect on the Government's economic policy management over the next six months. Is there not a need not only for a statement to Parliament on those matters, but for a full debate, so that we can all learn the gravity of the situation?

Mr. Dunn

We are having that debate next week.

Mr. Newton

As my hon. Friend points out, the summer economic debate will be held on Wednesday 17 July. That debate is related to the summer economic forecast, published by my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer this week, and it is therefore superfluous for the hon. Gentleman to demand a debate.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

May I associate myself with the remarks of the Leader of the House and others on your contribution this morning, Madam Speaker? I was delighted to hear President Mandela's warm tribute to my lifelong friend Trevor Huddleston, who has not been well of late, but will have been lifted by those remarks.

Separately, may I ask for a debate next week on housing? I can then raise the awful policy of Ealing's Labour council of removing wardens from sheltered accommodation, causing consternation and distress to a lot of old people, who depend on seeing their warden day after day, to keep going.

Mr. Newton

I have made it clear that, along with my hon. Friend, I am a member of your fan club, Madam Speaker.

I cannot promise a debate on housing, although I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the fact that consideration of any Lords amendments that may be received to the Housing Bill is scheduled for Monday 22 July. I am not sure whether that will provide an opportunity to make the point that my hon. Friend wishes to make.

Mr. Nick Ainger (Pembroke)

I gave notice of the subject of my question to the Leader of the House earlier today. I drew to his attention late last night, after the debate, an apparent mistake in the office costs allowance. The report appears to exclude national insurance contributions for staff salaries; the discussions that I have had this morning, with Hay Management Consultants Ltd. and the secretariat of the Senior Salaries Review Body, seem to confirm that fact. Can the Leader of the House assure us that he will take that matter up with the SSRB and that, if my suspicions are correct, he will find time to correct the error?

Mr. Newton

First, I wish to thank the hon. Gentleman for his courtesy in mentioning the matter to me informally last night. I know that he has also contacted my office during the day, and my office, in turn, has contacted the SSRB. I do not wish to comment further until I have had an opportunity to consider the issue more carefully.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

In view of the probability that the European Court of Justice will adjudicate during the recess and will require the United Kingdom to accept the working time directive, will my right hon. Friend ensure that, before we rise, a Minister comes to the House to lay before hon. Members the options that the House would have to legislate to rectify the situation? Otherwise, the ECJ will set a precedent that would enable Britain's opt-out of the social chapter to be circumvented.

Mr. Newton

I simply remind my hon. Friend of what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said on this day last week. We certainly intend to protect our veto and, indeed, the effect of our opt-out, and that is why we shall seek treaty changes at the intergovernmental conference.

Mr. Tam Dalyel1 (Linlithgow)

May I ask a question that by implication could be interpreted as being offensive, but is not meant to be? Cabinet members have some 300 years' experience between them as constituency Members of Parliament. Can we be told, before Monday's debate, whether any member of the Cabinet, as a constituency Member, has become involved with asylum seekers within three days of their arrival in this country? I have, and it is a very chastening experience, because the asylum seekers are extremely confused when they arrive. I wish to know whether any Cabinet member or any Home Office Minister has had that experience in the course of their constituency duties.

Mr. Newton

I do not regard that question as offensive, but it will not surprise the hon. Gentleman to learn that I am not in a position to answer it. I shall draw it to the attention of those who will reply to the debate.

Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South)

May I ask my right hon. Friend for an urgent debate on early-day motion 1106?

[That this House expresses profound concern about the fate of Mr. Robert Hussein following the judgments of a religious court in Kuwait that he is an apostate and therefore subject to a death penalty; calls on Her Majesty's Government to continue to press the Kuwait Government to adhere to international legal norms; and calls on the Government of Kuwait to protect Mr. Hussein, his wife, children and property and to ensure that his religious freedom is fully and effectively guaranteed and protected according to the constitution. ]

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is quite intolerable that someone should be threatened with death simply because of his religious beliefs? My right hon. Friend will remember that Kuwait was liberated, five years ago, by people of all religions and none. It is therefore wrong for fundamentalist Muslims to threaten to kill someone because he has been converted to Christianity.

Mr. Newton

We are aware of and share the concerns set out in early-day motion 1106, and we have repeatedly raised the case at a senior level with the Kuwaiti authorities. I am sure that my right hon. and hon. Friends will continue to do what they can.

Mr. Paddy Tipping (Sherwood)

The Leader of the House has already heard an urgent plea for a statement, before the House rises, on the Government's response to the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council's report on chronic bronchitis and emphysema. May I remind him that the Secretary of State for Social Security said, on 14 June—in an exclusive interview with the Nottingham Evening Post—that the regulations would be relaxed? If he can tell the press, why cannot he tell Parliament and, more especially, why cannot he reassure miners who have given their lives to secure energy for this country?

Mr. Newton

I cannot add to what I said to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Ms Walley) earlier. I shall, of course, bring the hon. Gentleman's comments to my right hon. Friend's attention.

Mr. Barry Porter (Wirral, South)

I may have missed something—I do not think so—but it appears that we shall not have a discussion about Northern Ireland between now and the recess. Will my right hon. Friend reconsider that? It seems an entirely appropriate opportunity to re-emphasise the tripartite support for the political negotiations that are going on, and perhaps to give some much-needed impetus to them. We may not have another chance. If my right hon. Friend is prepared to accede to that request, will he commend to hon. Members an article written by Mr. Ed Pearce—not a noted reactionary—in one of the national newspapers this morning, which explains the history and the purpose of the Orange order? It might bring a glimmer of understanding to some people in this place.

Mr. Newton

We obviously keep under review whether it is appropriate at particular times to have a debate on Northern Ireland, and we shall continue to do so. I must make the obvious point that it would not be easy now to fit in such a debate before the recess. If I may be allowed to volunteer something—perhaps I shall do it at the end of business questions, Madam Speaker.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

Madam Speaker, may I, too, thank you for your speech in Westminster Hall this morning, the most moving part of which was the mention of President Mandela walking into South Africa house tomorrow? As someone who was arrested twice outside South Africa house, I cannot wait to see that. It will perhaps be even more moving than the speeches this morning.

As we had a statement from the Prime Minister about the transfer of the Stone of Scone back to Scotland, could we please have a debate on that matter? There is considerable controversy among academics and people responsible for artefacts of great historic importance in this country about the significance of the stone to the coronation chair and its position in Westminster abbey. If we are to start moving around objects of that significance, could we not discuss the possibility of transferring the Parthenon marbles back to Greece? They are far more significant to Greece than to Britain, whereas the coronation chair and the Stone of Scone are of great significance to England.

Mr. Newton

In response to the original thrust of the hon. Gentleman's question, I should make the point that my hon. Friend the Member for North Tayside (Mr. Walker) has an Adjournment debate on that very subject on Tuesday 16 July. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman could negotiate with him a few minutes of that debate.

Mr. Barry Field (Isle of Wight)

Could we have a debate on the provision of insurance against terrorist actions? I ask that in the light of three rather peculiar events. One was the impersonation of a firm of solicitors to my wife in a telephone call recently. Another was a telephone call to a business colleague and friend, which was so odd that he telephoned me about it. As my right hon. Friend knows, because I discussed it with him before business questions, the third is a deliberate act of vandalism to a tyre on my motor car, in what is supposed to be a secure area.

Mr. Newton

Perhaps I can concentrate on the last part of the question. If, as I understand it, the damage to my hon. Friend's car took place in the underground car park, that raises significant issues of security, which I shall certainly make sure are examined by the Serjeant at Arms.

Mr. Edward O'Hara (Knowsley, South)

May I associate myself with the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) about the Parthenon marbles? I am reminded of being in the peculiar situation a couple of weeks ago of doing a live interview down the line about the marbles and going straight across to Millbank to do an interview about slaughterhouses. It is about slaughterhouses that I wish to question the Leader of the House.

Is it possible to arrange for the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to come to the House to make a statement and answer questions about an aspect of the bovine spongiform encephalopathy crisis that has never been adequately dealt with in the House, that is, the operation of the 30-month slaughter scheme? It is scandalous that less than one fifth of the slaughterhouses in the country have been given 100 per cent. of the business in relation to the cull and that, of those, one quarter have 80 per cent. of the business.

There has been no competitive tendering and, even worse, those who are fortunate enough to have been selected for the scheme have negotiated a price per head which seems to be three or four times the market rate that could be achieved by competitive tendering. Not only is that a gross abuse of taxpayers' money, but the distortion of costs is likely to have a disruptive and destructive effect on the meat industry.

Mr. Newton

I do not think that I can expect my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to make a statement on that matter specifically. I would draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that he is here to answer questions this day week. I shall bring the hon. Gentleman's comments to his attention.

Madam Speaker

I think that the Leader of the House wanted to volunteer some more information.

Mr. Newton

I thought that it might be helpful at least to the hon. Member for Dewsbury and to my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir P. Cormack), although he has had to go, to volunteer some information, because I had done better in advance of being asked than I had realised. I now have a note that informs me that the Vote Office will have copies of the transcript of this morning's proceedings after 6 pm for those Members who wish to collect them. I hope that that is helpful to the House.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. May I press my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House further, by asking whether it might be possible to add that transcript to the Official Report either of the House or of the other place?

Mr. Newton

Perhaps it was a mistake to volunteer that additional information, as it has prompted that extremely awkward additional question. I rather doubt that there is any procedure for adding a transcript of proceedings outside the Chamber to the Official Report of our proceedings. I therefore anticipate some difficulty in acceding to my hon. Friend's request, but you, Madam Speaker, have helpfully mouthed, "We shall look at it," so I take it that that means that you will look at it, and I am very grateful.