HC Deb 16 May 1996 vol 277 cc1075-86 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 of the House that I propose is as follows: MONDAY 20 MAY—Remaining stages of the Reserve Forces Bill [Lords].

Proceedings on the Commonwealth Development Corporation Bill.

TUESDAY 21 MAY—Second Reading of the Defamation Bill [Lords].

Proceedings on the following consolidation measures: the Police Bill [Lords]; the Industrial Tribunals Bill [Lords]; the Employment Rights Bill [Lords].

The Chairman of Ways and Means has named opposed private business for consideration at 7 o'clock.

WEDNESDAY 22 MAY—Until 2 o'clock, there will be debates on the motion for the Adjournment of the House. That will be the three hours of general debate prior to the recess, together with two other debates.

Until 7 o'clock, debate on developments in the civil service on a Government motion.

Motion on the Council Tax Limitation (England) (Maximum Amounts) Order.

The House will rise for the spring Adjournment on Wednesday 22 May until Tuesday 4 June.

On a more provisional basis, the business for the week back after the Whitsun recess will be as follows:

TUESDAY 4 JUNE—Second Reading of the Education (Scotland) Bill [Lords].

WEDNESDAY 5 JUNE—Until 2 o'clock, there will be debates on the motion for the Adjournment of the House, followed in the afternoon by a motion relating to the Housing Benefit (General) Amendment Regulations, a motion on the Fishing Vessels (Decommissioning) Scheme, and a motion relating to the third report from the Procedure Committee on the use of Welsh in parliamentary proceedings in Wales.

THURSDAY 6 JUNE—Debate on the Royal Air Force on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

FRIDAY 7 JUNE—Debate on sport on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

The House will also wish to know that, on Wednesday 22 May there will be a debate on transport pricing in European Standing Committee A. Details of the relevant documents will be given in the Official Report.

The House will also wish to know that it is proposed that, on Wednesday 5 June, there will be a debate on driving licences in European Standing Committee A.

[Wednesday 22 May: European Standing Committee A—European Community document: 5179/96, Transport Pricing; Relevant European Legislation Committee Report HC 51-xiv (1995–96).

Wednesday 5 June:

European Standing Committee A—European Community Document: 5415/96, Driving Licences; Relevant European Legislation Committee Report HC 51-xvii (1995–96).]

Mrs. Taylor

I thank the Leader of the House, and I start by asking him about two Bills that he has not mentioned.

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Family Law Bill comes out of Committee today. It is clearly reasonable not to have the Report stage in the first week back after the Whitsun recess, but, in view of the speculation about the measure's ultimate fate, can the Leader of the House tell us what is the Government's attitude to the Bill in its present form?

The other Bill about which we have heard little, and which I have raised on more than one occasion with the Leader of the House, is the Community Care (Direct Payments) Bill. That completed its Committee stage on 18 April, and we have still not heard when the Report stage will be. Can the Leader of the House throw any light on that? Is not the delay due to the Government's embarrassment about their defeats in Committee? Is it not about time that Ministers accepted those amendments, and allowed the Bill to proceed to the statute book? The House is entitled to know what is happening to that Bill.

On a different issue, is the Leader of the House in a position to give us the date, or perhaps dates, of the summer economic debate? I asked him about that also some time ago. Can we have a debate in Government time on the report of the Select Committee on Social Security on housing benefit fraud, which was published yesterday?

I know that such debates are sometimes delayed so that Ministers can make their response to a report, but surely we should discuss this as a priority as today's The Times tells us that landlords are cheating the benefit system of more than £2 billion a year. That situation must be of concern to every hon. Member, and we should have the opportunity to debate the matter as urgently and quickly as possible.

Finally, may I ask the Leader of the House about the arrangements for the Euro 96 football competition, which is hosted by Britain and which will start soon after the Whitsun recess? It might be appropriate if, even in advance of the debate on sport on 7 June, we had a statement from Ministers about security arrangements and related matters, such as the implementation of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 with regard to ticket touts.

Is the Leader of the House aware that local authorities have been denied the necessary funds which were promised in order to police the events adequately? Given that the Government expect that the Treasury will receive an extra £8 million in VAT receipts from Euro 96, is it not about time that they gave proper support to ensure the success of this prestigious tournament?

Mr. Newton

The Government have every intention of proceeding with the Family Law Bill in the normal way. As the hon. Lady says, it is only just emerging from Committee, and I expect to provide time for Report in an early future statement.

I do not think that I can add to what I have said before about the Community Care (Direct Payments) Bill. It is right that my right hon. and hon. Friends should carefully consider the points that have been made in Committee. They are doing that, and in due course we will bring the Bill back before the House.

The last time the hon. Lady asked me about the summer economic debate, I said that I would give the date as soon as possible. I am not yet in a position to do that, but I hope to be able to do so before too much longer.

As for the Social Security Committee's report on housing benefit fraud, I know of no serious basis for a suggestion of a figure of around £2 billion, but the hon. Lady will be aware that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security has already put in place a comprehensive strategy to tackle fraud. I will, however, bring her remarks to the attention of the appropriate people. Perhaps the Liaison Committee will want to take some of the time that, in effect, belongs to it in order to debate the report, but I think it appropriate—and I would expect the Committee to agree—for the Government to respond first in the usual way.

If I may put in a small barb, I would quite like to hear some explanation of why so many Labour authorities appear to have taken no interest in these matters until they were put under pressure by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security.

The Government are keen to do all that they properly and reasonably can to support the success of Euro 96. As the hon. Lady said, hon. Members will have an opportunity to make points about it during the debate on sport; in the meantime, I shall bring her remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage.

Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)

Some months ago, my right hon. Friend kindly said that he would consider a request from me—and, I think, from others—for a debate on developments in the People's Republic of China, the link with Hong Kong, the change of ownership next year, and related matters. Has he been able to make progress on that, notwithstanding the pressure on the timetable?

Mr. Newton

As was manifest in my statement, I have not been able to make progress on it yet, but I keep the issue very much in mind, also bearing in mind a not dissimilar request from the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor).

Sir David Steel (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale)

Why on earth is the Leader of House allowing the Education (Scotland) Bill to be dealt with on the Floor of the House? Is he aware that the Scottish Grand Committee is currently a travelling roadshow in Scotland? We visit various places, at considerable inconvenience to hon. Members and at great cost to the taxpayer, on the basis that it all shows how accountable Scottish Office Ministers are to the people of Scotland.

Why, when something of substance such as the Education (Scotland) Bill comes up, is it dealt with on the Floor of the House, where the Government will mobilise the votes of English, Welsh and Northern Ireland Members on a Bill that does not affect any of their constituents?

Mr. Newton

I will not pursue the right hon. Gentleman too hard, but I hope that, before pressing that last point too often, he at least—even if we cannot expect it from the Opposition Front Bench—will give us an answer to the West Lothian question.

As for the main thrust of the right hon. Gentleman's question, I understand—and the usual channels have made it clear—that the Bill is thought to involve a degree of controversiality that necessitates a debate on the Floor of the House. If the right hon. Gentleman takes a different view and can persuade the usual channels that the Bill should be dealt with by the Scottish Grand Committee, I will happily consider it.

Mr. Bob Dunn (Dartford)

Is it possible for us to have an urgent early debate on the future of grammar schools in Kent, given that the Lib-Lab regime that currently runs county hall in Maidstone has now declared war on the people of that county? It says that our grammar schools, high schools and city technology colleges must go, which directly contradicts the wishes of the people represented by Conservative Members such as me.

Mr. Newton

I hope that my hon. Friend will have an opportunity to raise that subject on a Wednesday morning. It strikes me as an excellent example of the price, in the broadest sense, that so many people are paying for their Lib-Lab or Labour authorities.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)

Is the Leader of the House aware that, in the run-up to the tourist season, there are real worries about the number of British citizens who are making tours and visits on aeroplanes chartered from third countries, sometimes with non-English-speaking crews? Those planes are landing at British airports and picking up British travellers. It is extremely dangerous, and it is happening increasingly. Will the right hon. Gentleman find time for us to debate the matter before there is a very bad accident involving British citizens?

Mr. Newton

Let me respond in the spirit in which the hon. Lady put her question. I think that the first and best thing for me to do now is to ensure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport studies her remarks carefully.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

May we have a debate on the devolution of control of parking to local authorities, and raise in the House Ealing council's frequent failure to remove vehicles that are not properly taxed and the like, and are disrupting traffic? Meanwhile, the council is issuing thousands more parking tickets than have ever been issued before in Northolt, Greenford, Han well, Ealing and everywhere else, to the fury and inconvenience of people who are often not breaking the law.

Mr. Newton

I will also bring that point to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, although I do not expect that he will wish to take control of parking policy throughout the country.

Mr. Norman Hogg (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth)

Returning to the subject of the Scottish Grand Committee, the Leader of the House will be aware that the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Scottish Office Front-Bench team are wandering around Scotland like new age travellers with Committee members and at great expense, as has been pointed out by the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel), the former leader of the Liberal party. Will the Leader of the House include the sittings of the Scottish Grand Committee in his weekly statement of business to the House, so that the House will know just where that Committee is sitting and the consequent expense that goes with that farce?

Mr. Newton

I will consider that practical suggestion, which no doubt was intended to be helpful, although I would not wish my statement to be too much extended. The hon. Gentleman's main point, however, is extraordinary. It is clear that the people of Scotland have found the Scottish Grand Committee's meetings in Scotland a considerable success. They have generated great interest in parliamentary affairs. So far as I can judge from here, this is simply yet another example of Labour Members hating anything that works well.

Mr. Nigel Forman (Carshalton and Wallington)

Will my right hon. Friend find time for an early debate on civil service pensions, and especially the problems that are faced by my constituent, Mrs. Jefferies, who had the misfortune to have interrupted service in the civil service and who therefore finds that her rights are reduced when she needs her occupational pension?

Mr. Newton

I will bring that point to the attention of those responsible for the civil service pension scheme. I think that I am right in saying that, in almost any sphere, people who have interrupted service where the pension is salary-related suffer some change in the pension, but I will reflect on what my hon. Friend has said.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)


Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Winnick

It is nice to see those on the Front Bench joining in.

In relation to future business, will there be a repeat of what is going to occur tonight, when Tory Members have been told not to vote? Is the reason why they are not going to vote, at least officially, simply because the Tory Government are frightened that any such vote would mean that the Tory party would again be shown to be split from top to bottom on anything connected with the European issue?

Mr. Newton

Perhaps I should say that it is not only those on the Labour Front Bench who are pleased to see the hon. Gentleman returned to us, but—albeit with some trepidation—those on the Government Front Bench and other Conservative Members.

That said, the hon. Gentleman may have missed the exchanges that I had on this last week with the hon. Member for Dewsbury, and I will not to try to add to those. However, during the week, she has made a speech extolling the way in which scrutiny takes place in European Standing Committees A and B, and suggesting the wider extension of those practices of scrutiny: endorsing exactly what I said last week about the merits of doing the detailed scrutiny upstairs and having a general debate downstairs.

Mr. Anthony Coombs (Wyre Forest)

May we have a debate on parliamentary procedure so that we can discuss the appalling parliamentary vandalism last Friday, when the uncontroversial Civil Aviation (Amendment) Bill was unnecessarily voted down and delayed? As a result purely of that parliamentary vandalism, the Bill, which gives British courts jurisdiction over criminal acts in foreign airplanes—which could have been used for next month's European championships—will be delayed until 12 July and will therefore not be able to give the protection that the football authorities and others want.

Mr. Newton

My hon. Friend's point will be endorsed by many other hon. Members. What happened last week to that Bill and the one immediately after was singularly unfortunate. I only hope that no difficulties that would otherwise have been avoided arise in consequence during the Euro 96 championships.

Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)


Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mr. Faulds

Most grateful—more, more.

When can the House have an opportunity to debate the programme of the Millennium Commission? Does it not appear that the commission has embarked on a series of really very piddling proposals, when what is needed are, both literally and metaphorically, monumental projects?

Mr. Newton

I am not a member of the Millennium Commission, although my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for National Heritage and the Deputy Prime Minister are. What is being brought forward, and what I personally think would be justified, are some very large projects as well as projects in many parts of the country, of which there are a number, so that the millennium is not only confined to one or two places but marked in a way that can be recognised by people throughout the country.

Mr. Jacques Arnold (Gravesham)

Could we have a debate next week on early-day motion 894?

[That this House congratulates Asda on the boost it has given to the British beef industry, facing a continuation of the offensive ban on its exports, by banning foreign beef from its shelves; welcomes the statement from the Asda Chief Executive, Mr. Archie Norman, that 'British beef is the best and safest in the world and our shoppers want to buy it'; and calls on other supermarket chains and food retailers to endorse this conclusion and follow Asda's example]

The motion congratulates Asda on its wisdom and good taste in selling only British beef. Would we not be able to contrast that with the grubby opportunism of McDonalds and the irresponsible scaremongering—that in many ways started the scare—of the hon. Member for Peckham (Ms Harman)?

Mr. Newton

I naturally agree with my hon. Friend's remarks about the original scare tactics of those on the Opposition Front Bench, which undoubtedly contributed a good deal to the problem. I very much welcome the statement of the chief executive of Asda, which has obviously also been welcomed by people throughout the country.

Mr. Jack Thompson (Wansbeck)

Will the Leader of the House consider at the earliest opportunity having a debate on the future of the coal industry?

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)


Mr. Thompson

Since privatisation, much concern has been expressed about health and safety and working conditions in the industry and the evolving circumstances because of opencast coal site expansion.

Mr. Skinner

That is right.

Mr. Thompson

The industry's current situation and its future are worthy of a debate.

Mr. Newton

I hear the vigorous support of the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). I shall, of course, bear the suggestion in mind, and will meanwhile draw the hon. Gentleman's points to the attention of my right hon. Friends the President of the Board of Trade and the Secretary of State for Education and Employment.

Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South)

May I echo the plea of the hon. Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) that the date of the summer economic debate be announced quickly? May I suggest that it might last for two days, since many of us would like to point out that the Governor of the Bank of England has said that the Government are on course to meet their inflation target, unemployment is at its lowest for five years, economic growth is more rapid than in other European countries, and we are attracting much more inward investment than other European countries? All those successes would be hit by the double whammy of the national minimum wage and the social chapter.

Mr. Newton

My hon. Friend has made some excellent points in his usual very effective way. I shall certainly look at the possibility of providing sufficient time for him to express them at greater length.

Mr. John Heppell (Nottingham, East)

Is the Leader of the House aware of early-day motion 885, which has been signed by 132 Members from all parties?

[That this House shares the dismay and concern of millions of disabled people and their carers that sections 1, 2 and 3 of the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986, The Tom Clarke Act', still await implementation; recalls that these sections were redrafted by the Government and received the full support of the Minister for Disabled People and his successor, now the Prime Minister; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to implement the sections forthwith or to test the will of each House of Parliament by bringing forward legislation to repeal them.]

The motion it expresses concern about the fact that, 10 years after the House agreed to pass the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986, sections 1, 2 and 3 have not been implemented. Does the Leader of the House agree that there is a need for a full debate on the issue?

Mr. Newton

I am not sure whether I agree on the need for a full debate, bearing in mind the amount of time recently that the House has, rightly and to good purpose, devoted to issues concerning disabled people, including the passage of the very important Disability Discrimination Act 1994. The hon. Gentleman might acknowledge that the requirements of the non-implemented sections of the 1986 Act are to a large extent reflected in arrangements for community care, which of course did not exist at the time in the same way.

Mr. David Shaw (Dover)

Will my right hon. Friend promise a debate on disclosure in the registers of members' interests in local councils, so that we can discuss Labour Councillor Peter Bradley in Westminster? He fails to disclose the clients Millbank Consultants Ltd., despite earning tens of thousands of pounds in fees for helping to gain planning permissions. Does not new Labour mean new corruption?

Mr. Newton

No doubt there would have been an opportunity to refer to such matters in the debate on Westminster council that took place earlier this week in Opposition time. However, my hon. Friend will understand that I would not think it appropriate to comment from the Dispatch Box on particular cases.

Mr. Winnick

On a point of order, Madam Speaker, concerning the privileges of the House—

Madam Speaker

Order. I am sorry, but we must follow the rules. Points of order come much later.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

On which day next week will the Government table a substantive and therefore amendable motion on the common agricultural policy? As most of the relevant documents are valid for today's debate on the CAP, why was such a motion not tabled for today? Does the Leader of the House agree that tomorrow would be inappropriate?

As Agriculture Ministers are to meet in Brussels next week, would it not be right and proper for such a motion to be tabled early next week, so that it could be amended and voted upon before any decision was made there? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, if that does not happen, we shall be in breach of the resolution of the House on the scrutiny of European matters?

Mr. Newton

I expect that the motion will be tabled tomorrow.

Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)

A few moments ago, the Leader of the House was rash enough to say that the Scottish Grand Committee was "working" on its perambulations from Dunfermline to Dundee and Inverness and back again. May I put it to him that the Committee will not be able to work until it is in a position to hurt the Government, which would involve allowing it to vote on substantive and controversial motions? How about starting with the Education (Scotland) Bill?

Mr. Newton

As the hon. Gentleman knows, he is raising a question somewhat different from that asked by the right hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Sir D. Steel). Having asked his question, the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) must first give me an answer to the West Lothian question.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

In the light of the concerns about the Scottish Grand Committee, I hesitate to press the Leader of the House again on whether a decision has been made about meetings of the Northern Ireland Grand Committee. In particular, we would like the opportunity to meet in Belfast, where the newspapers and other media seem to find it difficult to report the debates in the House, such as Monday's helpful economic debate. To put it another way, if the Leader of the House has not discovered the answer to the West Lothian question, can he tell us the answer to the West Belfast question?

Mr. Newton

It is not I but the Opposition who should be expected to answer the West Lothian question, because they are the ones who cause it to be asked. As for the West Belfast question, my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and I are continuing to consider the matter carefully, but no decision has yet been taken.

Mrs. Anne Campbell (Cambridge)

Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on the prior options reviews currently being carried out into the public sector research establishments? He will be aware that they will affect hundreds of thousands of top-quality scientific jobs, including those at the Royal Greenwich observatories in my constituency, those at the Horticulture Research Institute at Wellesbourne, and many others.

Mr. Newton

Obviously I am aware of the consideration that is taking place, but I cannot at present tell the hon. Lady when it will be completed to the point at which announcements can be made.

Mr. Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley)

Now that the Government's document "Tackling Drugs Together" is being widely read as part of the Lord President's initiative on a different track, is there any chance of a full debate on drugs, and education for our young people about drugs?

Mr. Newton

I am genuinely grateful for that suggestion, and will, with more than usual emphasis, bear it in mind. There is no doubt that the new strategy—although a further development took place this week, the strategy in general dates back more than a year—has been widely welcomed throughout the country by both the statutory and the voluntary sectors, as well as by almost everybody else. It is important that we carry that drive forward.

Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

When can we debate the terrible situation in Irian Jaya? There is certain to be a wholly disproportionate reaction by the Indonesian forces to the two tragic deaths that took place yesterday, but the real problem in West Papua arises from the forced colonisation of the native people by Indonesia, and the wicked exploitation of its mineral wealth by a British company, Rio Tinto Zinc. When can we debate those issues?

Mr. Newton

I cannot give the hon. Gentleman a date for such a debate. I should like to confine my remarks to expressing regret at the deaths that took place there, and—with all hon. Members—pleasure at the successful release of the British hostages.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

How about the Crown Office question? Does the Leader of the House recollect that one of the attractions of and reasons given for the peripatetic Scottish Grand Committee, as outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth (Mr. Hogg), was that the Lord Advocate and the Crown Office would become in some way accountable to Parliament? In the circumstances of Lockerbie and what has happened in Kent—with those extraordinary findings at the laboratories responsible for the crucial so-called "evidence" on Lockerbie, the work of Dr. Faraday and Dr. Thomas Hayes—would it not be highly desirable that, at Dunfermline on Monday, there should be a statement from the Lord Advocate, and, indeed, that he should answer Question 2 to the Prime Minister on Tuesday?

With respect to the Minister of State, Scottish Office, he may say that he answers the questions—I do not want to be rude to him—but he is a messenger in these matters. The Lord Advocate is the Minister. On Tuesday, the Prime Minister stood at the Dispatch Box and more or less said in answer to my question, "Over to the Lord Advocate." It really flies in the face of accountability that the Minister of State should be a messenger in these affairs, without any detailed knowledge of the background of the issues.

Mr. Newton

Madam Speaker, you will appreciate that I am not in a position to make changes to the procedures between now and next week, and that I cannot give any guarantee of further changes at any time. The hon. Gentleman will have noticed that my hon. Friend the Minister of State is in the Chamber, and that he has heard what the hon. Gentleman said.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day motion 889?

[That this House deplores the decision by the Norwegian Fisheries Department to allow the slaughter of 425 Minke Whales plus an unspecified number to be slaughtered in the name of 'scientific' whaling; accuses the Norwegian Government and in particular Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland of rank hypocrisy in parading green credentials whilst at the same time defying both the International Whaling Commission and public opinion throughout Europe; and demands that the Norwegian Government ends the smuggling of whale meat and blubber into Japan and calls off the Minke Whale slaughter due to commence on 21st May.]

That relates to the Norwegian slaughter of minke whales in the north Atlantic. The Norwegians are due to slaughter about 425 minke whales, plus an unspecified number of them for so-called "scientific whaling", starting on 21 May.

I am sick and tired of Mrs. Gro Harlem Brundtland, the Norwegian Prime Minister—who calls herself a socialist and goes around the world, including to the United Nations, parading her green credentials—flouting the rules and agreements of the International Whaling Commission. As the IWC is due to meet in Scotland on 24 June, can we please have a debate in the House, so that the anger of hon. Members on both sides of the House can be clearly demonstrated to the Norwegians? If we cannot have such a debate in the House, how about in the Scottish Grand Committee?

Mr. Newton

I am sure that the suggestion for the work of the Scottish Grand Committee will be borne in mind by those who determine those matters. The hon. Gentleman knows very well that the Government have consistently made clear their very strong opposition to Norway's decision to resume commercial whaling. We very much regret Norway's announcement that it will raise its minke whale quota this year. I can only tell the hon. Gentleman that my hon. Friend the Scottish Office Fisheries Minister will meet his Norwegian opposite number, and that he will make very clear our view on the matter.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

Next week can we have a statement from the Secretary of State for National Heritage on the question of small credit unions' entitlement to receive lottery funding? As the Leader of the House may be aware, there are five small credit unions in Scotland. They are non-profit-making organisations that are on the point of receiving grants from the National Lottery Charities Board. Those grants have been held up because of a legal technicality—some lack of clarity as to their entitlement. I know that the Leader of the House has a good nature. I appeal to his good nature, because I know that it is there. Can this matter be clarified, because those organisations perform a vital function in some of the more socially deprived areas of Scotland?

Mr. Newton

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman, who is sometimes a bit acerbic, has noticed how good natured I am. So I shall smile at him and say: I shall ensure that the Secretary of State for National Heritage knows of his concern.

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

Is the Minister aware that I received a reply yesterday from the Secretary of State for National Heritage that makes no comment on the problems of the law, saying simply that it is up to the National Lottery Charities Board to determine whether it is legal? The reply went on to state that there are no plans to change the law. Will the Leader of the House use his best endeavours to facilitate a meeting between me and other colleagues who wish to see the Minister to discuss the matter?

Mr. Newton

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has already made such a request. If not, he has now made it publicly on the Floor of the House, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend will consider it carefully.

Mr. Winnick

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. On numerous occasions, you and your predecessors have pointed out that, while we have privilege in the House, it should be used with the recognition that we should exercise it in a way which is not an abuse. I hope that you agree that it is important that we should continue to have privilege, but that it should not be exercised in a way that leads to abuse.

Do you consider that it is right and proper for the hon. Member for Dover (Mr. Shaw) to make the remarks he did? As the hon. Gentleman has demonstrated time and time again, he is undoubtedly the No. 1 smear merchant in the House of Commons. Is there no way in which we can rectify the way in which he abuses privilege time and time again?

Mr. David Shaw

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. Conservative Members have had to take a lot of stick from the Opposition. On Tuesday, people—

Madam Speaker

Order. There was a properly ordered debate on Tuesday. If the hon. Gentleman has a point of order for me, I will listen to it. I have something to say and I am ready to say it, so he had better get what he has to say off his chest quickly.

Mr. Shaw

I am grateful, Madam Speaker. On Tuesday, certain Westminster Conservative councillors were called serial killers by Labour Members in the House. I have raised factual information that anyone can see in the register of companies at Companies house. That information points the finger at a Labour councillor. It is disgraceful that Labour Members are not prepared to have a situation pointed out to them, and want to cover up corruption. [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker

Order. Far too many Members of this House too eagerly make accusations and allegations against each other and against persons outside the House, and do so under the cloak of privilege. I deprecate the way in which they use that privilege without tempering it with responsibility. I have said so before, and I hope that those Members, who are well known to me, will take to heart what I have said, and that we shall have better conduct of debate that deals with policy matters rather than personalities.