HC Deb 27 February 1997 vol 291 cc443-54 4.21 pm
The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Tony Newton)

With permission, I should like to make a statement about the business for next week.

MONDAY 3 MARCH—Motion on the Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations.

Motions on the Representation of the People (Variation of Limits of Candidates' Election Expenses) Order and the Local Elections (Variation of Limits of Candidates' Election Expenses) (Northern Ireland) Order.

Motion on the Company Accounts (Disclosure of Directors' Emoluments) Regulations.

TUESDAY 4 MARCH—Until 7 o'clock, motions on the Scottish revenue support grant reports. Details will be given in the Official Report.

Motion on the Housing Support Grant (Scotland) Order.

Remaining stages of the Welsh Development Agency Bill.

WEDNESDAY 5 MARCH—Until 2 o'clock, there will be debates on the motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Until 7 o'clock, motion on the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1989 (Continuance) Order.

Motion on the Appropriation (Northern Ireland) Order.

THURSDAY 6 MARCH—Debate on public expenditure on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

FRIDAY 7 MARCH—The House will not be sitting.

For the following week I can, once again, give only limited information.

MONDAY 10 MARCH—Opposition Day (7th Allotted Day) (First part).

Until 7 o'clock there will be a debate on an Opposition motion in the names of the Scottish National party and Plaid Cymru. Subject to be announced.

That will be followed by Government business.

The House will also wish to know that on Wednesday 5 March there will be a debate on the Court of Auditors reports in European Standing Committee B.

Details of the relevant documents will be given in the Official Report.

[Wednesday 5 March

European Standing Committee B—European Community Documents: (a) OJ C340, Court of Auditors' Report for 1995; (b) OJ C395, Court of Auditors' Statement of Assurance for 1995; (c) OJ C395, Court of Auditors' Statement of Assurance for 1995: European Development Funds.

Relevant European Legislation Committee Reports: (a) and (b) HC 36-xii (1996–97); (c) HC 36-xiv (1996–97)

Tuesday 4 March:

The Local Government Finance (Scotland) Order 1997; The Revenue Support Grant (Scotland) Order 1997; The Special Grant Report (Scotland) on Supplementary Mismatch Scheme Grant for 1997–98. The Special Grant Report (Scotland) on grant in aid of building works at Dunblane primary school and grant in aid of local authority revenue costs resulting from the Dunblane tragedy.]

Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

I thank the Leader of the House for that statement. I note that we are to have what I might call yet another Government Supply day next Thursday.

Before asking the Leader of the House about one or two issues that I think should be included in next week's business, I should like to ask him about the business scheduled for Monday. Hon. Members will have seen below the line on the Order Paper several orders relating to the Representation of the People Acts and amendments thereto. Only two of those are scheduled for approval by the House next Monday. Do the Government intend to bring forward the other orders? I am particularly interested in the amendment—an agreed amendment, to the best of my knowledge—to close some of the loopholes and abuses in the absent voting procedures. That important issue is relevant to the democracy of our country. Why is the package not being taken together? My second question on that is: will it be dealt with before the election? It is important, and it requires the approval of the House.

Will the Leader of the House seek to make time in what is clearly a slack period for a debate on the privatisation of the Building Research Establishment—before it is privatised?

Another point, which has been raised repeatedly in the past few months, relates to the mystical building societies Bill. Where is it? Are we going to see it? The Leader of the House is well aware that the Opposition are prepared to facilitate the agreed legislation, for which the industry is desperate. There is clearly a hole in the Government's programme and we would like to know whether that Bill will be put into it.

I should also like to ask the Leader of the House about the non-publication of the report of the inquiry into the Sea Empress disaster, which occurred well over a year ago. Is it to be assumed that the report will not be available before the election? We know that the salvage operation was bungled, leaving 72,000 tonnes of oil in the waters; that, as every television viewer saw for days on end, Ministers showed no interest in intervening even though they had the power to do so; and that the third heavy tug on the western approaches recommended in the Donaldson report was not in place due to the Government's penny pinching.

Answers in the other place in the past few days have indicated that the report was on target for publication in February—yet, in two days' time, it will be March. The implication of the delay is that the Government intend not to let the report see the light of day before the election. Frankly, that is not good enough. It looks as though we can claim legitimately that there has been a cover-up. Will the Leader of the House comment on that and look into the matter?

May I raise the need for a debate and/or statement by the Secretary of State for Defence following the proceedings in the Select Committee on Defence yesterday? He appears not to have shown the slightest interest in the issue of chemicals used in the Gulf war and the effect on our troops. The Minister of State for the Armed Forces is an honourable man, and, contrary to what has been implied in some of the press reports today, he is not a liar. He has, however, proved himself less than an alert Minister. As everybody knows, and contrary to what the Prime Minister said today, it is a matter of public record that, in October 1995—

Sir Roger Moate (Faversham)

Is this something to do with next week's business?

Mr. Rooker

Yes, next week's business. We need a debate and a statement on the issue. In October 1995, local purchase of organophosphates was referred to in Ministers' civil service briefings in preparation for questions in the House—yet that was never disclosed. How can a Minister dismiss briefings in October 1995 and then claim that Ministers were given clear written advice from the civil service on the issue only in September 1996? The issue is important and there is time for it to be raised on the Floor of the House before Parliament is dissolved.

The Leader of the House will recall that, on 10 December last year, the Minister of State for the Armed Forces said that, due to his previous role as a Minister responsible for farming, I am extraordinarily aware of the question of OPs".—[Official Report, 10 December 1996; Vol. 287, c. 132.] None the less, he ignored his own civil service brief. What was the Secretary of State doing? Was he being briefed? If not, was he asking the advisers in the Ministry any questions? If there is a contradiction between a brief and a draft answer, surely Ministers should be asking questions about it. Should not a Minister keep his officials on their toes and be critical at all times? It appears that that has not been so. Although it is clear that we have a sloppy, lazy Minister, who is falling short of his duties, the Secretary of State should carry the can and make a statement to the House on the issue next week.

Mr. Newton

To take the last point first, for a moment I thought that the hon. Gentleman was virtually alone and unaided in initiating a debate on the matter. I am grateful for him at least acknowledging that my hon. Friend the Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames) is an honourable Member and Minister. At the same time, I should make it clear that I do not for one moment accept the rest of his rather abusive remarks about my hon. Friend, and indeed my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

I think that my hon. Friend has behaved absolutely properly in making a statement to the House last December—as soon as he reasonably could once new information became available—and in giving extensive evidence yesterday on those matters, quite openly and straightforwardly, to the Defence Select Committee. Beyond that, I will not attempt to add to what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said on those points during Prime Minister's Question Time. However, I certainly know of no plans for a statement of the type requested by the hon. Gentleman.

As for the Sea Empress, I must again reject any suggestion that some type of cover-up—to use the hon. Gentleman's rather overheated language—is occurring. I will of course bring the points that he has made to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, who has always made it absolutely clear that he wants the matters to be pursued as vigorously, but also as thoroughly, as the incident requires.

I am not quite sure whether the hon. Gentleman will be aware—although I imagine that he has been told—that a good deal of discussion has taken place in the usual channels on the building societies Bill. I can tell him that we do intend to introduce the Bill—on the basis that the Opposition will deliver on the assurance which he has now publicly given on the Floor of the House that they will fully co-operate in passing it speedily, which clearly is the only way in which it can be passed at this time in the Session. I am grateful to him for giving that assurance, and I hope that he will make every endeavour to ensure that they—I was about to say "deliver", but the implication of that word would be offensive, and I certainly do not mean to be offensive in any way. I am grateful for his comments.

On privatisation of the Building Research Establishment, I will draw the hon. Gentleman's request to the attention of my hon. and right hon. Friends. However, I cannot now promise a debate of the type that he suggested.

I will come back to the hon. Gentleman on his point on the various orders.

Mr. James Pawsey (Rugby and Kenilworth)

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the enormous confusion among the public about the future of grammar schools? Will he therefore make early arrangements for a debate centred on the future of those schools, particularly because of the contradictory remarks made by Opposition Members? He will be aware that, 16 months ago, the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) said that grammar schools would be abolished. Matters have apparently changed since then—but we should like to test that. Will he provide us with an opportunity to discuss the issue, either in Government time or—preferably, as it is their fault—in Opposition time, so that we can clear it up?

Madam Speaker

Order. Before we proceed any further, I remind hon. Members that this is not speech time. I do not want to hear speeches, I want to hear direct questions on what will happen next week. I know that the Leader of the House will be good enough to speed up, because I want to move on to other business.

Mr. Newton

One thing that is not within my power is to make commitments on the use of Opposition time. Perhaps the best thing for me to tell my hon. Friend is that those matters are closely related to a piece of legislation currently under discussion in another place. When that legislation returns to the House, there should be opportunities of the type that he seeks.

Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill)

Has the Leader of the House had a chance to study early-day motion 584?

[That this House records the remarks of the Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Professor Joseph Rotblat, that developments in cloning and genetics 'may result in mass destruction'; welcomes the decision of the White House to urgently reassess the ethical and legal implications of the cloning of a sheep at the Roslin Institute, Edinburgh; and calls on Her Majesty's Government to suspend further experiments involving cloning and transgenic animals, to initiate a wide-ranging public debate and to appoint additional representatives to the Genetics Commission who reflect traditional concerns about the sanctity of human life, who are opposed to the development of eugenics, and who disagree with the Nuffield Council's view that 'species boundaries, in any case, are not inviolable.'.]

The motion—which I tabled, and which is supported by representatives of five of the political parties in the House—calls for a ban on the cloning experiments that have been conducted in Scotland. Will he arrange for a debate next week on that important subject, and for a review of the make-up of the Human Genetics Advisory Commission, so that it is more broadly based and contains dissenting views?

Mr. Newton

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that today my hon. Friend the Minister for Science and Technology spoke on both the scientific implications and the effective ethical safeguards that are already in place. However, I am sure that my hon. Friend, and my right hon. and hon. Friends at the Department of Health, will carefully consider the hon. Gentleman's comments.

Mr. Bernard Jenkin (Colchester, North)

Will my right hon. Friend consider granting a debate combining the subjects of cloning and grammar schools? Some extravagant claims have been made that the Government's policy on grammar schools has been cloned by the Opposition parties, but that is completely untrue, and the experiments have been fraudulent.

Mr. Newton

From what I hear, the clones appear only in parts of the country where a by-election is taking place.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)

Will the Leader of the House have a word with the Secretary of State for Transport about the assets of London Transport? Yesterday, we were told that the value of those major assets was unknown and that no reserve price had been suggested for their sale. Perhaps the Leader of the House could draw the attention of the Department of Transport to the list of assets of the London regional transport system, which gave a value of £13 billion for infrastructure, property, rolling stock, equipment and conservation, plus a sum of £29 million per annum for property letting. I would like to know what the Government are playing at.

Mr. Newton

Unless I am to make a speech—which I do not intend to do, in response to your strictures, Madam Speaker—in reply to what sounded suspiciously close to being a speech, my proper course is to draw the hon. Lady's attention to the Secretary of State for Transport's presence in the House to answer questions on Monday 10 March.

Sir Ivan Lawrence (Burton)

My right hon. Friend will be aware that the Government have accepted the recommendations of the Home Affairs Committee on the working of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1989. The Committee suggested that although people thought the Act had been implemented too hastily, it was successful and worked, but the time had come to introduce some flexibility. I understand that the Bill sponsored by my hon. Friend the Member for North Thanet (Mr. Gale), which has come from the House of Lords, is to be debated in the Chamber and that, with the agreement of both sides, it would reach the Statute Book before the rising of Parliament. Can my right hon. Friend tell the House when the dangerous dogs issue will be debated and the legislation implemented?

Mr. Newton

I cannot give an immediate undertaking about when the issue will be debated. The Dangerous Dogs (Amendment) Bill is listed for discussion tomorrow, but it is well down a long list and, in all honesty, it is unlikely to be debated. I hope, however, that the House will agree that the Bill should proceed, so that it can be amended in a way that would reflect the Home Affairs Committee's recommendations.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Forgive my curiosity, but, in his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker), the Leader of the House used the phrase "new information" about organophosphates. What new information? Next week, may we have a statement on the increasing practice—which being old-fashioned, I find distasteful—of Ministers blaming civil servants, despite the doctrine of ministerial responsibility? May we have a statement on that doctrine, which seems to have vanished out of the window?

Mr. Newton

I do not for a moment accept the hon. Gentleman's last remarks. As it happens and as he will know, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has been in discussion with Opposition Front Benchers about issues arising from ministerial accountability to the House. I do not recall making any reference to new information—

Mr. Rooker

You did.

Mr. Newton

In that case, I shall read what I said and if I feel that I should correct something or come back to the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), I shall.

Mrs. Elizabeth Peacock (Batley and Spen)

Will my right hon. Friend provide some time next week to discuss the process of adoption in the United Kingdom? The social services inspectorate report, published in December, highlighted the long wait of up to three years that children in care sometimes have. I know that my right hon. Friend may refer me to a Wednesday morning debate, but he will know how difficult it is to obtain one.

Mr. Newton

I am sure that the occupant of the Chair will have heard my hon. Friend's comments about Wednesday morning debates. She is right to think that I would refer her in that direction, because I could not promise Government time for such a debate in the near future.

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax)

Is the Leader of the House aware that the Royal British Legion is currently seeking judicial review of the proposed cuts affecting war veterans with hearing loss? Will he ask the Secretary of State for Social Security to drop those dreadful cuts and to come to the House and apologise to war veterans? They should have our gratitude, not cuts in their benefits.

Mr. Newton

A meeting was arranged a considerable time before the Royal British Legion's recent announcement, so perhaps I could simply make the point that the Minister of State, my right hon. and noble Friend Lord MacKay of Ardbrecknish, is due to meet the Legion and its advisers on 12 March to discuss those matters.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

Will my right hon. Friend initiate a debate early next week on the role of local authorities in the planning process, so that the Minister replying to it can explain how the codes of practice on development plans can be adhered to? That is an issue of the greatest importance not only nationally but to my constituents, who face the problems associated with a socialist borough council that seeks to build social housing on recreation grounds and other green-chain areas.

Mr. Newton

My hon. Friend will have noticed that my ever-assiduous hon. Friend the Minister for Construction, Planning and Energy Efficiency has manifestly been here to note his remarks—and all Environment Ministers will be here to answer questions next Tuesday.

Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire)

Has the Leader of the House seen early-day motion 563, on the new electoral registers?

[That this House is amazed that, although new electoral registers came into operation on 16th February and that this is an age of fax machines, computers and other forms of modern technology, the Office of National Statistics is unable to publish, until April, even in a provisional form, the total number of people who are on the new electoral registers in England and Wales; and further contrasts this with the touch-button technology used by the National Lottery.]

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that for some time I have been trying to discover the number of people on the electoral registers that have been in force since 16 February. The Northern Ireland figures have been provided, but the wrong figures, a year out of date, have been given for Scotland, and as for the figures for England and Wales, all that has happened is that the date initially offered for providing them—April—has been moved forward by the Prime Minister to late March. Can we not have those figures now? Is there not a great contrast between that arrangement and the national lottery, for which one can discover within two hours how much money has been lodged and how many winners there are? Why can we not know how many people are registered in each constituency? It would be an easy matter to give the House that information, so that it could be used in the future.

Mr. Newton

I am not sure that I see an easy analogy between the electoral register and the national lottery. Clearly the Office for National Statistics has before it a substantial task, which takes time. As the hon. Gentleman has already said, every effort is being made to provide the information that he wants as soon as possible.

Mr. Richard Tracey (Surbiton)

May I again try to persuade my right hon. Friend to give time for a debate on standards in education, in which the Government's firm principles on standards in schools could be restated? I imagine that he is aware that this morning the Labour party spokesman on education made some sort of statement on standards in, of all places, Islington. He will surely recognise that such a debate would allow the Government to state again their principles on standards, as well as allowing the Opposition to explain why they consistently fail to deliver standards in education, despite the fact that the Labour party controls so many education authorities. That is where education is failing in this country, and it is not through any efforts of the Government.

Mr. Newton

I need hardly say that I think that my hon. Friend has made a good point, with which I have great sympathy. However, I am afraid that that does not enable me to promise such a debate, although there will be opportunities to discuss such matters when the Education Bill returns here from another place.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to an early-day motion—I believe the number is 329—which has now been signed by 224 members? In fact, the number is 378.

[That this House welcomes the joint appeal by the church councils of both parts of the Sudan entitled 'Here We Stand United in Action for Peace' noting particularly their appeal for international help to oversee a cease-fire and a referendum; and encourages the Foreign Secretary to respond positively.]

Is there a possibility that the Foreign Secretary will come to the House next week to respond to that early-day motion?

I realise that a fair bit of Northern Ireland business has been arranged for next week, but will the right hon. Gentleman be tabling a motion extending the powers of the Northern Ireland Grand Committee?

Mr. Newton

If I heard right, the hon. Gentleman referred to early-day motion 329, which appears to be about digital television set-top boxes. I would not immediately have seen those as a matter for my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary. [Interruption.] I am not sure whether my communication system is up to moving from one early-day motion to another so quickly. However, I shall consider what the hon. Gentleman has said, and the relevant early-day motion, as soon as I can.

As for the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question, I understand that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will write to the Northern Ireland party leaders this afternoon saying that, following consultation, the Government intend to bring before the House a motion amending the Standing Orders of the Northern Ireland Grand Committee.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

When can we have a debate on London? The right hon. Gentleman has been asked before about policing in London, but we could have a debate on London as a whole. We could discuss the absurd proposal to flog off, or rather give away, London Underground, and also the real differences between the two parties over the plans for London. We could discuss a strategic authority for London, as well as an elected mayor. We need that debate. May we have it before the general election, whenever that will be?

Mr. Newton

That all sounds most interesting, but I cannot add to what I have said in previous weeks.

Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle)

May we have an early debate on the problems facing small businesses, especially small bookshops? Is the Leader of the House aware that when I popped into Books Etc at lunchtime to try to buy a copy of "Sleaze—the corruption of Parliament", I was told that all copies had been removed from the bookshelves because solicitors acting for the hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Hamilton) had threatened the proprietors of the shop? Does that not raise wider questions? In the run-up to the general election such a book, detailing the hon. Gentleman's activities, should be widely available. Freedom of information in this crucial period is most important.

Mr. Newton

May I make two points? First, as I have said on several comparable occasions recently, I am Chairman of the Select Committee on Standards and Privileges, and various things before that Committee are not unrelated to what the hon. Gentleman has said. My second point, which I hope the hon. Gentleman will consider, is that he was again raising on the Floor of the House a matter already under consideration in the proper way. Frankly, I do not think that he should do that.

Mr. Hugh Bayley (York)

Has the Leader of the House seen the news reports this morning telling us that MTL, the company that has been offered the Regional Railways North East franchise, is planning to get rid of 1,200 of its staff—40 per cent. of the work force—many of whom live in my constituency? That is a matter of intense public interest, because MTL's Regional Railways operation does not make a profit; it is a loss-making business, subsidised by the taxpayer to the tune of £1,200 million under the franchising agreement.

The House needs reassurance that after the cuts the public will still get the railway services for which the taxpayer is paying. Will the Leader of the House ask the Secretary of State for Transport to meet the company as a matter of urgency, and then to make a statement to the House before the franchise agreement is finally signed, so that we know whether taxpayers' money will be used for the purposes for which it was voted?

Mr. Newton

I shall of course convey that request to my right hon. Friend, but the hon. Gentleman might also mention the facts that the firm has guaranteed existing train mileage and promised service improvement, will introduce new rolling stock and is committed to deliver a better quality service.

Mr. John Austin-Walker (Woolwich)

The Leader of the House may recall that I have raised on an earlier occasion my concern, expressed in early-day motion 404, about the inquest procedures relating to the death of my constituent, Kenneth Severin.

[That this House believes that it is in the interests of justice for all parties to go into an inquest hearing with the same amount of information; notes that there is no formal procedure for disclosure in inquest cases; draws attention to the Annual Report of the Police Complaints Authority 1995–96 which expressed concern that at some inquests those representing the police may have material not available to the representatives of other interested parties, particularly the family of the deceased, thus giving a strong impression of injustice; notes that the former Chief Inspector of Prisons, Judge Tumim has made similar comments expressing the view that it is in the interests of justice for all parties to go into an inquest hearing with the same amount of information; draws attention to the difficulties faced by the family and representatives of Kenneth Severin who died in suspicious circumstances in HM Prison Belmarsh; and calls upon the Home Secretary and the Lord Chancellor to review the rights of the deceased person's family in such cases and to institute rights of disclosure as recommended by the Police Complaints Authority.]

I have now had the opportunity to read the coroner's recommendations in that case, and to see other papers concerning Kenneth Severin's treatment. In view of those recommendations, would it be possible to have an early debate not only on the circumstances of Kenneth Severin's death but on the situation of all persons in need of psychiatric care who, through failures in the system, find themselves in prison and meet a brutal end? That would not only be to the benefit of Kenneth Severin's family, but might help to prevent more such tragedies.

Mr. Newton

I immediately acknowledge the importance of the general issue that the hon. Gentleman has raised in connection with that case, although I am not in a position to comment on the particular case. I am sure that his request will be carefully weighed by the Ministers concerned. I shall keep it in mind, but the hon. Gentleman will understand that I cannot immediately promise a debate.

Mr. Alan W. Williams (Carmarthen)

Can the Leader of the House tell us when the report on the Sea Empress disaster will be published? It is now more than a year since the disaster. The Government refused to set up a public inquiry, and instead set up an internal Department of Transport inquiry. It seems that they are now delaying the publication of the report. Is that not a shabby way to treat the people of Pembrokeshire and Wales and the well-being of the environment?

Mr. Newton

I know of no basis for the kind of language used by the hon. Gentleman, which matches the phrase "cover-up" used by his hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker). I cannot add to what I said earlier. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport will look carefully at the hon. Gentleman's comments, as it is the wish of us all that this matter is properly investigated and that the facts are established at the earliest possible moment.

Mr. John Gunnell (Morley and Leeds, South)

Has the Leader of the House anything to add to his statement of some months ago about the Easter recess? I hear many rumours—most, I think, emanating from Conservative Members—which suggest that he is likely to alter the date so that Members will have the week before Easter for electioneering purposes in their constituencies and that we will be brought back to dissolve Parliament in the time that he had originally announced for the Easter recess. Is he able to make a further comment on the recess? If not, when will he be able to do so?

Mr. Newton

First, I do not see how I can be accused of making an alteration to a date that I have never announced. I have said nothing about the Easter recess. All that I can say is that it will be in the vicinity of Easter.

Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

When can we debate the extraordinary behaviour of this dying Government and their announcement of the privatisation of London Underground: a scheme for which they do not know the cost, as they do not know the value of London Underground; a scheme for which they have three separate ideas for privatisation on which they have not yet decided; and a scheme that is sensible in investment terms only if there is an absolute guarantee that the Conservatives will win the general election?

We should compare the Government's reaction on that matter—on which they have moved with the speed of a cobra—with the way in which they have behaved with the report on the Sea Empress. The report is ready, it has been printed and—we know—it is available. The Leader of the House says that he has not been properly informed, but if he wishes to absolve himself from the accusation of taking part in a cover-up will he guarantee that, next week, he will tell us when the report is to be published?

Mr. Newton

What I can tell the hon. Gentleman, and what I have told one or two others, is that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport—to whom I have referred several times—will be here to answer questions on 10 March. I shall be a little unfriendly and say that I am tempted to observe that I wish the hon. Gentleman would give me the name of his scriptwriter so that I can make sure that I never use him.