§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Tony Newton)
With permission, I should like to make a further short business statement. Following my announcement earlier today and discussions through the usual channels, the business for tomorrow will now be as follows.
TUESDAY 18 MARCH—Remaining stages of the Transfer of Crofting Estates (Scotland) Bill [Lords].
Remaining stages of the Social Security (Recovery of Benefits) Bill [Lords].
Remaining stages of the Birds (Registration Charges) Bill.
Motions on the Legal Aid (Functions) Order and the Legal Advice and Assistance (Scope) (Amendment) Regulations.
I regret that it has not been possible, as I had hoped earlier, to announce the business for the rest of the week. Discussions between the usual channels are continuing and I shall make a further business statement tomorrow.
§ Mrs. Ann Taylor (Dewsbury)
I thank the Leader of the House for that information and share his regret—although I understand why—that he is not able to announce more than one day's business at the moment. Will he confirm that the other business to be completed later in the week is important and could, indeed, lead to votes in the House? Discussions are continuing and I am sure that further statements will be made shortly.
Is the Leader of the House in a position to say anything about private Member's Bills and the procedure that he suggests we adopt for them? Will he assure the House that Ministers will not in the next few days abuse their position to make statements to the House except on matters of real significance or to provide genuine accountability to the House, which has been rare in this Parliament?
In the earlier business statement, the Leader of the House very unusually forgot to answer one of my questions. Will he take this opportunity to confirm that, when the House is prorogued on Friday, it will not meet again and that the Dissolution of Parliament will be by proclamation?
§ Mr. Newton
I apologise to the hon. Lady for the fact that I did indeed miss one of her questions earlier. I will take it first now, and the answer is yes. I am grateful to her for acknowledging the difficulties of sorting everything out in time for this statement. I can confirm that some of the other business that we expect to take later in the week, including that currently in another place, could well lead to votes. If she is anxious to underline that, I can certainly confirm what she says. The area of private Member's Bills is one of those in which we are 668 still considering precisely how we should proceed. I hope that I shall be able to make things clearer on that tomorrow. Lastly, I have not the slightest idea what she means in talking about ministerial abuse of statements.
§ Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire)
Will my right hon. Friend clarify one point with regard to Friday? Will the House meet for Prorogation only or will there be some business before Prorogation?
§ Mr. Newton
My expectation, and certainly my hope, is that the House will meet for Prorogation only.
§ Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire)
On Thursday, the Leader of the House promised that electoral registration figures for England and Wales would be supplied to the House on 26 March. As the House will prorogue on 21 March, there will be no opportunity to try to use the procedures of the House to discuss those figures if they prove to be inadequate. In those circumstances, will he ensure that the figures are made available to the House tomorrow so that hon. Members who are interested in such matters will still have an opportunity to raise them before the House prorogues?
§ Mr. Newton
I cannot give the hon. Gentleman that promise off the cuff—not least because I am not the Minister who has responsibility for those statistics. I shall however certainly look into his point, and if there is any possibility of achieving what he wants, I will of course be very pleased to please him, and indeed the House. I cannot add to that.
§ Mr. Barry Legg (Milton Keynes, South-West)
Is my right hon. Friend having discussions with the usual channels in this House and the House of Lords concerning the private Member's Bill, the Public Entertainments Licences (Drugs Misuse) Bill, which progressed unanimously—
§ Madam Speaker
Order. The Leader of the House has made a very limited statement about tomorrow's business only. He is coming to the House tomorrow to make a further statement. Negotiations are going on about things such as the Bill to which the hon. Member referred.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
On tomorrow's business, is there any chance of a statement—some kind of comment or action—on the subject that I have now indelicately raised four times with the Leader of the House in business questions: the work of the Standards and Privileges Committee in relation to the outpourings of Mr. Mohammed Al-Fayed and the book "Sleaze"?
§ Mr. Newton
I have referred the hon. Gentleman on one or two occasions to the fact that a substantial report—the one dealing with my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary—on that area has already been published. Beyond that, I am not in a position to make statements from the Dispatch Box on behalf of the Standards and Privileges Committee.