§ 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 25 NovEMBER—Second Reading of the Social Security Administration (Fraud) Bill.
Consideration of supplemental allocation of time motion relating to the Firearms (Amendment) Bill.
TUESDAY 26 NOVEMBER—My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will open his Budget statement.
WEDNESDAY 27 NOVEMBER—Until 2 pm, there will be debates on the motion for the Adjournment of the House.
Continuation of the Budget debate.
THURSDAY 28 NovEmBER—Continuation of the Budget debate.
FRIDAY 29 NOVEMBER—Debate on tourism on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.
The House will also wish to know that on Wednesday 27 November there will be a debate on water for human consumption in European Standing Committee A, and a debate on the former Yugoslavia in European Standing Committee B. Details of the relevant documents will be given in the Official Report.
The business for the following week will be as follows:
MONDAY 2 DECEMBER—Continuation of the Budget debate.
TUESDAY 3 DECEMBER—Conclusion of the debate on the Budget statement.
WEDNESDAY 4 DECEMBER—Until 2 pm, there will be debates on the motion for the Adjournment of the House.
Government business will be taken.
THURSDAY 5 DECEMBER—Government business will be taken.
FRIDAY 6 DECEMBER—Debate on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.
The House will also wish to know that it will be proposed that on Wednesday 4 December there will be a debate on air carrier liability in European Standing Committee A, and a debate on protection against third country legislation in European Standing Committee B. Details of the relevant documents will be given in the Official Report.
I should also tell the House that I have in mind two changes to the arrangement of statements during the Budget debate, which I hope that the House will think are sensible. The English local government finance statement will now be made on the second day—Wednesday 27 November—which will give local authorities a little more time to take their budget decisions. The social security statement, which hitherto has taken place on that day, will be replaced by a social security debate on the third day—Thursday 28 November—thus giving the House a proper opportunity to debate the social security aspects of the unified Budget settlement.
§ [Wednesday 27 November:
§ European Standing Committee A—Relevant European Community Document: 7208/95, Water for Human Consumption. Relevant European Legislation Committee Reports: HC 70-xxii (1994–95), HC 51-v, HC51-xxii and HC 51-xxix (1995–96).
§ European Standing Committee B-Relevant European Community Documents: (i) 7312/96, Former Yugoslavia: Aid for Reconstruction and Rehabilitation; (ii) 10602/96, Future Contractual Relations with Certain Countries in South Eastern Europe. Relevant European Legislation Committee Reports: (i) HC 51-xxiii, HC 51-xxvi and HC 51-xxix (1995–96); (ii) HC 36-ii (1996–97).
§ Wednesday 4 December:
§ European Standing Committee A—Relevant European Community Document: 5231/96, Air Carrier Liability. Relevant European Legislation Committee Report: HC 36-ii (1996–97).
§ European Standing Committee B—Relevant European Community Document: 9573/96, Protection against Third Country Legislation. Relevant European Legislation Committee Report: HC 51-xxix (1995–96).]
§ Mrs. Taylor
I thank the Leader of the House for that information. Will he ensure, following the statement in answer to the private notice question on the channel tunnel on Tuesday, that the matters that were mentioned will be followed up? Will he also ensure that there will be an opportunity for the House to debate the issue of channel tunnel safety? I am sure that he agrees that that is an important issue. We must not be alarmist, but it is important that the House should be kept informed. When the results of the public inquiries are announced, the House should have an opportunity to debate that important subject.
Secondly, will the Leader of the House arrange a debate in the near future on the Audit Commission report entitled "Misspent Youth", which was published today? The report is a devastating commentary on the failure of the youth justice system and the Government's record on youth crime, not least because it says that, although crime has doubled since the Conservatives came to office, overall, less is done now than was done a decade ago to address offending by young people. It also criticises the lack of cross-departmental co-operation to tackle those problems. Surely we should be told what action the Government intend to take. Will the Leader of the House give us an assurance that the Government will not simply bury the report and forget it? Our constituents will certainly not forget the problems that they face as a result of youth crime.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, given the events yesterday and the comments made at Prime Minister's questions today, when it was clear that the Prime Minister did not understand the significance of the documents put before European Standing Committee B yesterday—the former Paymaster General, the right hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory) confirmed that there was not proper scrutiny in that Committee—will the Leader of the House reconsider the points that have been raised about those documents? Will he acknowledge that there are two aspects to the problem: first the importance of the documents, despite what the Prime Minister says; and, secondly, as Madam Speaker said yesterday, the fact that the issue involves maintaining the integrity of the 1105 procedures of the House? The Leader of the House has expressed concern on many occasions about the rights of hon. Members and the reputation of the House. Will he therefore think again, and think carefully, before rejecting the idea of a full debate on the Floor of the House? The documents are important, as is the reputation of the House. The Government cannot sweep the issue away. If there is not a full debate on the Floor of the House, not only the integrity of our procedures will be at stake, but the authority of the House.
§ Mr. Newton
The hon. Lady has raised three issues. I am grateful for the way in which she put her point on the channel tunnel. She acknowledged that the appropriate time to consider a debate will be when we have the results of the three inquiries that are taking place. I need hardly say that I shall keep the issue very much in mind.
I suppose that I ought to observe mildly that I find some of the hon. Lady's remarks on the Audit Commission report somewhat curious, given that Labour has voted against almost all the measures that we have taken to tackle the problem of crime. Leaving that aside for the moment, while we clearly do not agree with everything in the report, it appears to endorse our strategy of intervening early with young people who might offend. I shall bring the hon. Lady's remarks to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, because we shall be publishing a Green Paper shortly. I am sure that he will take her remarks into account.
The hon. Lady will not be surprised to know that I am not in a position to add significantly to what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said a few moments ago about the documents debated yesterday in European Standing Committee B. However, the notion that my right hon. Friend does not understand those matters does not correspond with reality.
No one is disputing the importance of the documents. I emphasised last week that the Standing Committee provides an opportunity for effective scrutiny. I also drew attention to the fact that there will be an opportunity—as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said—for debate before the Dublin Council to which the ECOFIN will be reporting. As for maintaining the integrity of the House's procedures, what has been proposed and is taking place is entirely within the Standing Orders of the House.
§ Sir John Stanley (Tonbridge and Malling)
As someone who supports the Government's position on a single currency, and therefore has no axe to grind on the issue whatever, may I ask my right hon. Friend to give serious further consideration to the issue of a debate on the documents being considered by the Select Committee on European Legislation? Is he not aware that under resolution of this House and by its Standing Orders, that Committee has a clear responsibility and duty to advise the House when specific documents should be debated by the House as a whole? It is highly undesirable—and a potentially dangerous precedent—for the Government to sweep aside a unanimous recommendation from that Committee.
§ Mr. Newton
Obviously, whether they come from my right hon. Friend or any other hon. Member, I always look carefully at such concerns. But since the changes to the procedures of the House—which were designed to reduce the amount of business taken on the Floor—it has been 1106 necessary for judgments to be made on particular recommendations. That has happened before, and this is not a unique occasion. I continue to believe that the debate in Committee, taken together with the opportunity for general debate before Dublin, was the right course.
§ Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
Who does the Leader of the House think he is pleasing by keeping this matter off the Floor of the House? He has infuriated a large part of his own party, he will get no thanks from those of us who believe in the merits of a single currency but want to see the issues debated on the Floor of the House, and he did not save the Government from defeat in the Committee. That having happened, surely he must recognise the need for a debate on the Floor.
While we are discussing single market issues, can I draw the Leader of the House's attention to the fact that 700 UK vehicles containing food produce are being blockaded in France by French lorry drivers, with no apparent effective action being taken by the French police? Will he make sure that representations are made on this issue at the highest level? If not, we will have to return to that matter also next week.
§ Mr. Newton
I will ensure that the latter remarks of the right hon. Gentleman are drawn immediately to the attention of my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department of Transport who, no doubt, will be concerned with that matter. On the first part of his remarks, I cannot add to what I and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister have already said.
§ Sir Anthony Grant (South-West Cambridgeshire)
My right hon. Friend will have noted that, belatedly, the Opposition have joined the referendum bandwagon on European currency. But has he noticed that, according to a recent report, they want a referendum not on that issue alone, but on every subject under the sun? May we have an opportunity to consider the future of referendums and their use? If we go down the line suggested by the Opposition—new Labour, new policy—we all might as well go home and leave everything to be decided by opinion polls.
§ Mr. Newton
My hon. Friend makes an important point which is largely for those hon. Members at whom I am looking across the Chamber. They, no doubt, will respond in their own way to my hon. Friend's very effective point.
§ Mr. George Stevenson (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
May I reinforce the calls for a debate on the Floor of the House on the European regulations? I do not intend to repeat the arguments about the fact that the Select Committee was unanimous in its decision and that hardly any debate took place on the matter. I underline the fact that the Prime Minister reacted to an earlier question by saying that there was nothing in these regulations that applies to the United Kingdom. I refer the Leader of the House to the stability pact regulation, article 13, which refers to arrangements being made for sanctions and penalties on any member state that is not a part of economic and monetary union. In the circumstances, is it not imperative that we have a debate on the Floor of the House on the three vital regulations?
§ Mr. Newton
It is certainly important that those documents should be scrutinised and that is what we 1107 sought to arrange through the debate in European Standing Committee B. It appears that at least some of those present chose to raise points of order rather than to concentrate on the issues in the documents. I am not complaining about that, but equally I do not think that I can be held responsible for it. As to the question of the stability pact, whether we take part in the single currency or not, it is in this country's interest to ensure that if it goes ahead it is sustainable and does not damage our main export market.
§ Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)
May we have a debate on local government finance so that I may bring to the House's attention the cuts of £30,000 a year in adult education provision by the Labour council in Ealing? The cuts will take access to adult education away from hundreds, if not thousands, of people in Ealing, even though the Labour party professes to believe in such access. If we have a debate, I will be able to bring that disgraceful behaviour by Ealing Labour council before the House.
§ Mr. Newton
My hon. Friend will have heard me make the point that there will be a statement on local government finance on the day following the Budget. He may wish to raise his point with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.
§ Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)
Since European Standing Committee B has reported to the House that it came to no resolution, is it not now the procedure, as used before, for the Leader of the House under Standing Order No. 102 to put down a motion on those three documents which must be decided forthwith? If he did that, would not he be going against the unanimous view of the Committee, under Standing Order No. 23, because the requirement for scrutiny would not have been discharged? If, however, the documents were to be debated under a motion covering a much wider range of issues, as the Prime Minister suggested this afternoon, a diverse debate would take place on no specific motion or resolution. In either case, would the requirement for scrutiny have been discharged? I suggest to the Leader of the House that it would not, and that is why we must have a debate on the Floor of the House.
§ Mr. Newton
If the hon. Gentleman had been listening closely to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, he would have heard him indicate that the necessary motion will be tabled in the normal way.
§ Mr. Michael Carttiss (Great Yarmouth)
Does not my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House recognise that our hon. Friend the Member for South-West Cambridgeshire (Sir A. Grant) has already made the valid point that we might as well all go home if we cannot discuss issues that will be fundamental? May I also ask my right hon. Friend why the Government are afraid to have the debate on the Floor of the House when the Opposition have got as much to answer for as we have?
§ Mr. Newton
While I agree that the matter is important, I have already made it clear that we have 1108 provided opportunity for debate in what we thought was the most appropriate way and that there will be further opportunity before the Dublin summit.
§ Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge)
Will the Leader of the House make time for an early debate on the future of Hadrian's wall? Is he aware that the hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Evans) yesterday raised the prospect of the wall being policed to keep out the Scots? Is the Leader of the House further aware that when people in the north get to hear about that, there is a grave danger that they will descend on the wall in their thousands and remove it, stone by stone, several hundred miles to the south so that they, and their good neighbours the Scots, might be on the opposite side to the hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield? Indeed, members of the public from all over Britain would gladly and enthusiastically rebuild the wall in a circle around the hon. Gentleman and his like.
§ Mr. Newton
I am slightly at a loss for words for once, but I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that his point could be in order in the debate on tourism.
§ Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)
On the subject of the stability pact, which was not, before the Leader of the Opposition blundered in this afternoon, a party political issue, but an issue between Parliament and the Executive, will my right hon. Friend give an undertaking that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not agree to anything at the ECOFIN Council in Dublin? By not having a debate before the Council meets, the Government are riding roughshod over Parliament and they are being contemptuous of democracy. In that case, why should they deserve support and why should anybody hold their Whip?
§ Mr. Newton
I appreciate the strength of my hon. Friend's feelings, and I was grateful for his courtesy in coming to see me the other night, as I hope he will not mind my mentioning, in order to underline his point. I recognise that, but the fact is that we have provided opportunity for debate, and I have now said several times that there will be further opportunity before the Dublin Council.
§ Mr. Llew Smith (Blaenau Gwent)
Will the Leader of the House consider arranging a debate on the rules governing eligibility for incapacity benefit? I ask that because of the number of complaints that I receive from people in my constituency, which is one of the poorest in the country. I am thinking in particular of the case of David Holmes, who for more than a decade suffered from a severe heart complaint and received incapacity benefit and mobility allowance. As others were, he was called up for examination to see whether he could continue to receive those benefits, and after the examination he was declared fit for work. That put tremendous pressure on him, as he recorded in a letter sent to the Department of Social Security. A few days later David died—from a massive heart attack, it was believed. Is it not now time to examine the rules governing the benefit?
§ Mr. Newton
The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that, even were I in a position to do so, it would be wrong for me to attempt to comment on the details of that particular case—although, naturally, I hear of the outcome with 1109 great sympathy for the family and all those involved. I shall of course, as is right, bring the hon. Gentleman's remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security, and I am sure that he will consider them carefully.
§ Mr. Rupert Allason (Torbay)
Is my right hon. Friend aware that almost all the police agencies in the country, the Security Service, and even Customs and Excise, are united in the belief that there is one measure that the Government could adopt which would assist in the fight against crime? That would be to allow telephone intercepts to be used in evidence in court. Is my right hon. Friend aware of the curious ambiguity that allows intercepted conversations recorded in America, but not recordings made in this country, to be used in the courts in this country? Does he accept that there may be an opportunity to amend the Crime (Sentences) Bill to allow those intercepts to be used in criminal prosecutions?
§ Mr. Newton
I cannot offer my hon. Friend an immediate judgment; in any case it would not be for me to decide whether an amendment to the Crime (Sentences) Bill would be in order. However, I shall ensure that his thoughts on the matter are drawn to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary.
§ Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)
Will the Leader of House encourage the Secretary of State for Scotland to make a statement next week about his delays in implementing the report concerning the interconnector between Scotland and Northern Ireland? This is the second time within less than two weeks that the actions of the person who claims to stand for the Union have militated against the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland, and in this case also against the interests of the miners of Scotland, who could be producing the power.
§ Mr. Newton
I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will study the hon. Gentleman's words with care.
§ Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells)
As Leader of the House, my right hon. Friend will agree with the general proposition that matters touching on the constitutional powers of the House should always be debated on the Floor of the House; it was a mistake to take the matter in question in a specialist Committee with limited membership and time. May I press him a little further beyond what he has already said and remind him that we are talking about draft European regulations, and that once such regulations are agreed in the Council of Ministers, they are directly binding in their entirety on the citizens of each member state, without any further reference to the House of Commons? I therefore ask him not to draft a motion simply inviting the House to take note, but to use a substantive motion asking us to approve, and to say whether we agree to the transfer of our powers as suggested in the regulations.
§ Mr. Newton
On the first part of what my right hon. Friend said, I need to underline, as the Prime Minister did, the fact that the fundamental protection for the rights of the House is the opt-out itself, as negotiated at Maastricht, together with the fact that the House and the country will 1110 have a proper opportunity to consider whether it is in this country's interest to join a single currency when that decision needs to be taken. On the remainder of my right hon. Friend's remarks, I do not think that I can add to what I said earlier.
§ Mr. Denzil Davies (Llanelli)
Is the Leader of the House aware that the proposals for a stability pact mean a change in the operation of the Maastricht treaty as it applies to excessive deficits? The Maastricht treaty was debated on the Floor, approved and ratified by Her Majesty's Government. Should not a change in its operation also be debated on the Floor?
§ Mr. Newton
I do not accept the right hon. Gentleman's interpretation. It is certainly the case that the Maastricht treaty sets out the basis of the stability pact, but it also makes it clear that no fines or other sanctions could apply to Britain unless we were in the single currency.
§ Mr. Barry Field (Isle of Wight)
Has my right hon. Friend seen the article in The Times today about the remarkable improvement of British beaches as a result of the privatisation of the water companies? May we have a debate on the Environment Agency? An anomaly has arisen on the Isle of Wight whereby Ventnor achieved the standard but does not have a sewage scheme, while Ryde failed to but does have one. The Environment Agency does not know why.
§ Mr. Newton
I cannot comment on the precise position in the Isle of Wight, but the bathing water quality results for 1996 certainly show a further increase in the number of bathing waters that meet the key standards of the directive, which is good news for all concerned.
§ Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)
The Leader of the House will understand now, if he did not before, that the House of Commons is strongly committed to the need for open discussion of sensitive political issues on the Floor. I hope that he will therefore be prepared to ask the Secretary of State for Transport to explain to the House next week article 33 of the intergovernmental convention with the French on the channel tunnel, which ensures that total confidentiality of information will not apply in any investigation of what happened in the channel tunnel during the fire.
§ Mr. Newton
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport is, as the hon. Lady will have registered, due to answer questions next Monday. I will bring that possible question to his attention.
§ Mr. John Townend (Bridlington)
May I implore my right hon. Friend to think again about a debate on the stability pact? It is a constitutional issue that has not had adequate scrutiny. Does he appreciate the size of the bundle of documents involved? Many of the proposals can be changed by qualified majority voting and will, or could be made to, apply to Britain whether or not we are members of the single currency. Does he understand how sensitive we are after Britain was double-crossed over the social chapter opt-out? It is vital that the matter should be scrutinised on the Floor. It is not sensible for the Government to take on the whole Chamber.
§ Mr. Newton
I of course note what my hon. Friend said and, as with my hon. Friend the Member for 1111 Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow), the strength of feeling. It must by now be apparent that, with what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said earlier and what I have sought to say in the past few minutes, there is little more that I can add.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)
I refer the Leader of the House to early-day motion 209.
[That this House congratulates Karamjit Singh Chahal on his release after more than six years from Bedford Prison following the landmark judgment concerning his case by the European Court of Human Rights; is delighted Mr. Chahal was freed, enabling him to rejoin his wife and two British-born children in Luton; believes Raghbir Singh, detained in Birmingham on national security grounds, should now be released; urges Her Majesty's Government to scrap the Advisory Committee on National Security—the so-called 'three wise men'—which is an outdated and unjust procedure, as was recognised by the ECHR; further urges Her Majesty's Government to ensure that in any future cases concerning national security the accused and the courts are given adequate factual information about alleged national security breaches; and believes the Labour Party must commit itself to introducing such legal reforms if Her Majesty's Government fails to act.]
I tried to discover whether my constituent, Raghbir Singh, would be released from prison after being held for 18 months with no charges. Will the right hon. Gentleman find out the latest position, which I have been unable to obtain from the Home Secretary's private office? If Raghbir Singh is to remain in prison, despite last week's ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in an identical case where a person was held for five years without charges, will the Home Secretary make a statement to the House to justify his being held in prison without charges?
§ Mr. Newton
I will bring the hon. Gentleman's concern to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary.
§ Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford)
My right hon. Friend will know that I have raised this issue for three weeks running and it will not surprise him to learn that I am going to raise it again: a debate on the Floor on the proceedings that took place in European Standing Committee B yesterday. These matters do not solely concern countries that will be in the single currency; there are huge matters that concern those who will be outside it. Further recommendations on the restriction of the powers of national Parliaments are among the matters that will be passed by the ECOFIN Council. Will he please, please listen to what we are saying and give us some time on the Floor?
§ Mr. Newton
I am not surprised, and I do not resent my hon. Friend, with his well-known and long-standing interest in these matters, raising the matter again in this way. It is precisely because arrangements of that kind do have effects, even on non-members, that it is important that we should play a part in the discussions.
§ Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
Will the Leader of the House confirm that it would be a very shabby decision by the Government to put down a "forthwith" motion about a matter that had gone to a Committee but that had not been agreed by that Committee, in the knowledge that they would be able to sneak it through in the Table Office, at a time that was inconvenient to others, even a non-sitting day? Will he also confirm that it is possible, if we catch him laying that motion in time, that we could table an amendment to it and that, even though it could not be debated on the Floor of the House, we would be able to divide on that amendment; or that, failing to put an amendment down, we could divide on the motion?
As Leader of the House, will the right hon. Gentleman be generous enough and decent enough to ensure that, if he puts down that motion in that fashion and refuses a proper debate on a subject that undoubtedly affects a majority of hon. Members on both sides of the House, people are told in advance so that we can have a legitimate vote—even though we would like a debate—and so that we can send it back whence it came?
§ Mr. Newton
I said earlier, as did my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, that the necessary motion would be tabled and moved in due course.
§ Mr. David Shaw (Dover)
My right hon. Friend will be aware that many of my constituents are involved in the road haulage industry, carrying British exports through the port of Dover and on into Europe. Many of my constituents' companies are faced with enormous difficulties as a result of the outrageous dispute in the French road haulage industry, which is blocking the roads. Can we have an urgent statement, and can that statement be given after a Foreign Office Minister has been sent to the Ministry of Justice in Paris—preferably either by air or by ferry from Dover, rather than via the channel tunnel, which is currently experiencing difficulties? Can we make sure that that British Foreign Minister gives the Ministry in Paris the firm impression that we really mean business and that the police in France must enforce the law and ensure that British lorries can carry British goods into Europe?
§ Mr. Newton
I made some reference to that matter earlier on, when it was raised by the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith). All that I can add at this stage is that both my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport and my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary are due to answer questions next week.
§ Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire)
Is the Leader of the House aware that his reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) was quite shameful? He will not even promise the House that sufficient notice will be given of a motion being tabled to give us an opportunity to respond. In those circumstances, why should those of us who have been members, since their start, of the Select Committee on European Legislation or European Standing Committees continue to plod away, time after time, at rather unglamorous activities? Those bodies should discuss matters of the sort that are down to be considered next week, not a measure that is of such significance that the members of the Select Committee are united in asking for it to be dealt with in 1113 the Chamber. We should have what my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover asked for; it is the least that the Leader of the House should offer at this time.
§ Mr. Newton
I note that request, as I noted the request from the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). I have to say that I do not think that the answer I gave the hon. Gentleman was in any way shameful.
§ Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)
May I say to my right hon. Friend that the matters on the stability pact that were very briefly discussed in Committee yesterday were not mere technicalities?
May I say to my right hon. Friend that it saddens me to see him, as a custodian of the responsibilities of this place, risk his reputation and risk also an allegation that he has been a willing participant in a disreputable subterfuge? Can he now assure the House that, in the two days of Government business next week, he will allow a proper opportunity for the House to debate the merits or otherwise of a stability pact before the Chancellor goes to Dublin, potentially to stitch us up into something from which we cannot withdraw?
I say to my right hon. Friend that I now comprehend the rage that filled the breasts of the parliamentarians in the civil war in this country and of the colonists in the American revolutionary war; the issue at stake on both occasions was an abuse of Executive power.
§ Mr. Newton
I would obviously much regret it, and with some feeling, were my hon. Friend to feel as he suggested in some of his comments, but I have made it clear that we do anticipate further opportunity for debate before the Dublin Council.
§ Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill)
Has the Leader of the House noticed that one of our more enthusiastic Europeans, Mr. Sean Connery, who spends more time in Spain as a tax exile than he does at home, is returning to these shores to make a party political broadcast for the Scottish National party? Does he agree that some time should be devoted in the Chamber to considering the rules under which people can be tax exiles, whether it is appropriate for someone to avoid paying taxes in this country but to influence the votes of his fellow citizens, and approximately how much money is lost to the Exchequer by the system of permitting people to avoid tax by living abroad?
§ Mr. Newton
It would appear to me that, with the imminence of five days' debate on the Budget, the hon. Lady should have an opportunity to raise that point.
§ Mr. Jacques Arnold (Gravesham)
May we have a debate next week on competitive tendering? During the debate, tenderers in our constituencies could be fully advised of the booking arrangements for them to have lunches with the chairmen of the committees that take decisions; I am sure that the Liberal spokesman in that debate would oblige the House.
§ Mr. Newton
There is a Liberal spokesman in his place. I do not know whether he will oblige the House, but I am sure that he listened carefully to what my hon. Friend said.
§ Mr. Ted Rowlands (Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney)
Will the Leader of the House clarify what kind of motion he intends to table to enable us to debate the stability pact papers? Is he saying that, during another debate, he nevertheless will table a motion either to take note of or to approve the documents concerned?
§ Mr. Newton
What I have indicated, I believe both last week and this, is that I anticipate the type of general debate before the Dublin Council that we have had on previous occasions.
§ Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South)
Will my right hon. Friend arrange a debate on the use of the English language? Is he aware that individuals tour the country, saying that services are underfunded, expecting their audiences to assume that that is a spending pledge, and then complaining like billy-o when someone tries to quantify the extent of that extra spending?
§ Mr. Newton
My hon. Friend makes a telling point. There may well be opportunities for him to speak during the debate on the Budget, which also covers public expenditure.
§ Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne)
I realise that being repetitive makes one unpopular; similarly, disagreeing with one's own Government makes one feel even more unpopular. But may I say as gently as I possibly can that I believe that my right hon. Friend is profoundly wrong not to allow the House to debate fully and to vote on the matters that were not scrutinised yesterday?
§ Mr. Newton
I do not in any way resent the repetition by my hon. Friend. Unless I am to repeat the same things over and over again, however, I do not think that I can add to what I said earlier.
§ Mr. Eric Clarke (Midlothian)
May I support the plea of the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) to bring the Secretary of State for Scotland to this place to tell the House why he has overturned the decision of the recorder on that specific aspect of the interconnector between Ireland and Scotland? There has been a six-month inquiry. I learned today from a press release which I happened to get from Dover house—because I asked for it—that the recommendation is that the decision of the recorder on this important link between Northern Ireland and Scotland be overturned.
§ Mr. Newton
The hon. Gentleman will already have heard me undertake to bring that concern, expressed earlier but now underlined by him, to the attention of my right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. John Gunnell (Morley and Leeds, South)
Will the Leader of the House—some time before next Easter while he is still Leader of the House—arrange for a statement by the Government, or preferably a debate in Government time, in which they can make clear their views on the community's role in respect of an opencast mining proposal which is so large that four constituencies are directly affected? On such an important matter, the community's say should be clear; it is not clear in the 1115 minerals planning guidance. We need an opportunity to debate what powers the community has to ensure that such a proposal does not go forward.
§ Mr. Newton
The hon. Gentleman will be well aware that questions concerning the minerals planning guidance are primarily for the Secretary of State for the Environment, to whose attention I shall ensure that his remarks are brought.