HC Deb 29 June 2000 vol 352 cc1047-57 12.45 pm
Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire)

Will the Leader of the House give us the business for next week?

The President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mrs. Margaret Beckett)

The business of the House for next week is as follows:

MONDAY 3 JuLY—Opposition Day [16th Allotted Day]. Until about 7 o'clock, there will be a debate on "The Government's early release of prisoners" followed by a debate on "Neill recommendations relating to Ministers and special advisers". Both debates will arise on Opposition motions.

TUESDAY 4 JULY—Progress on remaining stages of the Local Government Bill [Lords].

WEDNESDAY 5 JULY—Conclusion of remaining stages of the Local Government Bill [Lords].

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

THURSDAY 6 Jun—Estimates Day [2nd Allotted Day].

There will be a debate on HM Customs and Excise followed by a debate on Department of Social Security medical services. Details will be given in the Official Report.

At 7 o'clock the House will be asked to agree all outstanding estimates.

FRIDAY 7 JULY—Debate on the report of the committee of inquiry into hunting with dogs in England and Wales on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

The provisional business for the following week will be:

MONDAY 10 JULY—Proceedings on the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill.

Consideration of Lords amendments to the Terrorism Bill.

The Chairman of Ways and Means is expected to name opposed private business for consideration at 7 o'clock.

TUESDAY 11 JULY—Remaining stages of the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill.

WEDNESDAY 12 JuLY—Remaining stages of the Care Standards Bill [Lords].

THURSDAY 13 JULY—Opposition Day [17th Allotted Day]. There will be a debate on an Opposition motion. Subject to be announced.

FRIDAY 14 JULY—The House will not be sitting.

The House will also wish to know that, subject to progress of business, it will be proposed that the House should rise for the summer recess at the end of business on Friday 28 July, and that it will return on Monday 23 October.

[Thursday 6 July:

Class XVI: Vote 4: Customs and Excise: Administration.

Class XII: Vote 3: Department of Social Security: Administration as it relates to medical services.]

Sir George Young

The House is grateful to the right hon. Lady for next week's business and for an indication of the business in the following week. We are also very grateful for the information about the summer recess. Does the relatively late return of the House in October, combined with the large volume of legislation still in the pipeline, mean that the opening of Parliament will be delayed until December, or that the Government are planning to abandon part of their legislative programme, such as the Freedom of Information Bill?

Will the Leader of the House confirm that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will make a statement in the next two weeks on the outcome of the comprehensive spending review, and will she give the date? Will she confirm that there will be a debate in Government time on that statement?

Will the Prime Minister make a statement on Monday on the outcome of his hastily arranged summit with the German Chancellor?

Will the right hon. Lady confirm that, before the House rises, we will have the outstanding debate on defence procurement, and that there will be the normal two-day debate on the defence White Paper in the autumn?

It is a year since we had a debate on drugs in Government time. Will the Leader of the House find time to debate that most important subject?

Finally, when the right hon. Lady has had her frank and cordial exchange of views with the Liaison Committee, may we have a debate on its most important report, "Shifting the Balance"?

Mrs. Beckett

First, the right hon. Gentleman referred to a relatively late return after the summer recess, but the period for the recess is perfectly ordinary. Indeed, if one looks at the record one sees that the recess was substantially longer in 1992, 1994 and 1995 than is proposed for this year. It is true, of course, that we had shorter recesses in 1998 and 1999, but that was under a Labour Government; under Conservative Governments, holidays are clearly more of a priority.

Secondly, the right hon. Gentleman asked me for a debate on the outcome of the comprehensive spending review. I cannot give a date for that at present, but I do anticipate that a statement will be made and hope that the House will have an opportunity to debate the matter.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is not likely to seek to make a statement on a summit meeting with the German Chancellor, as he is not having a summit with him.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst)

What is he doing there then?

Mrs. Beckett

The Prime Minister is going to Germany to make a speech, and as a matter of courtesy he will pay his respects to the German Chancellor while he is there. The right hon. Gentleman asked about a debate on defence procurement, and of course we anticipate that those matters will be discussed. When that will be we can discuss through the usual channels. He also asked me about the Defence White Paper, which, again, is a matter that the Government have under review.

On the subject of the Liaison Committee, I am very much looking forward to giving evidence to the Committee. At some point following that, I anticipate that the House will wish to discuss its report.

Mr. George Mudie (Leeds, East)

My right hon. Friend will be aware of the recent reports from that increasingly eccentric and politically motivated organisation, Ofsted. One such report contains the quaint observation that only two local authorities in the country are adding to the value of their schools: one is a borough of only 26 schools; the other is the City of London, which has a grand total of one primary school. In view of the harm that this organisation is doing to individuals and to local authorities, can my right hon. Friend possibly find time for a debate on Ofsted's sad and sorry record?

Mrs. Beckett

I fear that I cannot offer my hon. Friend time for an early debate on the issue, although I know that some Ofsted reports have caused considerable controversy. He will be well aware that there are reports in which there has been praise for various local authorities, as well as some in which there has been criticism. He will be aware also that this matter goes across authorities that are under different political control. I fear that I cannot promise an early debate on the matter, but I remind my hon. Friend that Education questions will be held next Thursday.

Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall)

The Leader of the House will have heard the serious concern that greeted the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food's statement about BSE. Can she give any indication when the Government expect to receive the report of the Phillips inquiry into the sad saga and gross mishandling of the BSE crisis by the previous Government? Can she give an undertaking that if there is a possibility of the report being received before the summer recess, there will be an early statement and debate before the recess, as this is a matter of major concern to both sides of the House?

On the subject of certainty in the parliamentary year, the Leader of the House will have heard Members on both sides expressing concern about the present uncertainty. Can she give any indication whether a date has been pencilled into the royal diary for the opening of Parliament and the Queen's Speech, as that is clearly a matter of real concern? Will she give an undertaking—either through the usual channels or to the Select Committee on the Modernisation of the House of Commons—to consider a proposal which has been made before: that the House should meet the holiday requirements of those from Scotland and a number of northern cities and towns and have the summer recess at the end of June; that it should come back in September for the spillover; that we should have the interim period before the Queen's Speech to coincide with the party conferences; and that we should have the Queen's Speech later in October, rather than later in the year?

Mrs. Beckett

First, my understanding is that the Phillips report is not likely to be available before the summer recess, although I take on board the hon. Gentleman's remarks about the House's wish to scrutinise the report when it becomes available.

Secondly, I am afraid that it is certainly not within my power or remit to give indications in advance as to the contents of the royal diary. However, I can certainly say that the wilder hopes entertained by Conservative Members are unlikely to be borne out. The hon. Gentleman will understand it when I say that careful scrutiny of the amount of legislation that has been put through in previous years in no way justifies any contention that this Government's programme is heavier than normal. In the early years of the Government headed by Lady Thatcher, there were 10 or 20 more Bills than the present Government are endeavouring to put through. There is certainly no indication of difficulties.

Any glance at the statistics will show that, under a Labour Government, discussion in the Lords—for some unaccountable reason—seems to take more time and has resulted in more defeats for the Government's programme. The statistics are incontestable. That is a cross that all Labour Governments have had to bear and, no doubt, this Government will continue to bear it. [Interruption.] As for the noises from sedentary positions about the Lords being our House, I remind Conservative Members that there are still 30 more Conservative peers than Labour peers there. Hopefully, in the fullness of time, that will change—at least a little.

With regard to the recess, I believe that under the previous Government, straight after the Jopling report, there was certainly one year—perhaps even two—in which an attempt was made for the House to rise earlier in July. However, I fear that the previous Government were not successful in maintaining that record. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that a change in the pattern of the kind that he describes would have substantial knock-on effects for things like party conferences.

I suspect that the House will continue to return to this matter. However, it seems to me that a more general organisation of our business and other improvements in the way we handle legislation are required before we can come to such conclusions.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)

My right hon. Friend will very kindly be coming to give evidence to the Liaison Committee. Will she be able to indicate to the House the Government's attitude towards its very sensible report? It is, after all, a way in which modernisation can be carried forward and Back-Bench Members can have a much stronger and more effective role in the House of Commons. I hope that my right hon. Friend will find time to indicate how we can proceed.

Mrs. Beckett

My hon. Friend will know that the Government have published a response to the Liaison Committee report. As I have told her and others, I take that report very seriously. Its proposals are profound and would have a significant impact on the work of individual Members. For that reason, I believe that it deserves the most serious scrutiny; but I fear that I cannot tell my hon. Friend that it is likely to be before the Chamber of this House in the very near future.

Mr. Roger Gale (North Thanet)

Last night the Select Committee on Broadcasting agreed a report on the future televising of the proceedings of Parliament. That report will be published on Wednesday 5 July. Given the urgent need, in the light of changing technology and the changing circumstances facing the sittings of the House, to revise the procedures for broadcasting, will the right hon. Lady find time for a debate on that report before the House rises in July?

Mrs. Beckett

Of course I take that report seriously, and I am sure that the House will want to look at it carefully. I fear, however, that it is not altogether likely that it will be possible to debate it before the end of July since, as the hon. Gentleman will appreciate, by the time the House has had a chance to consider it, we will be heading for the second week in July. However, I take his point seriously.

Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington)

If we are to debate Neill's recommendations on ministerial advisers—and I presume that Tory Members think that they will have a feast—would my right hon. Friend arrange to have a document placed in the Library? I refer to the agreement on Short money, whereby taxpayers' money is paid to Conservative Members of Parliament for them to hire political advisers for Front-Bench spokesmen. [HON. MEMBERS: "Wrong."] In that way, there will be a level playing field in the debate. As I understand it, £3 million of taxpayers' money has been allocated to them for that very purpose.

Mrs. Beckett

My hon. Friend is entirely right. I am not sure that there is a need to place a document in the Library, because the terms of the motion were on the Order Paper, and were agreed to. I was very surprised to hear Conservative Members suggesting that my hon. Friend was wrong. It suggests that their leadership may not have conveyed this useful information to them.

Mr. Peter Brooke (Cities of London and Westminster)

The Leader of the House has put down business in relation to Northern Ireland for II July which is, of course, the eve of the parades and marches that take place on 12 July. Air traffic between London and Belfast is difficult on the evening of 11 July and the morning of 12 July. It so happens that the Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs is going over on 12 July to see the marches, as part of its inquiry on the Parades Commission. Was there any consultation with Northern Ireland interests when this particular conjuncture of dates was set down?

Mrs. Beckett

My understanding is that there was substantial discussion, but is not wholly clear to me whether it focused on the particular aspect of the date to which the right hon. Gentleman has quite properly drawn attention. If the interests of the Select Committee have been overlooked in any way, let me at once apologise. I shall ensure that the issues that he raises are drawn to the attention of all responsible. However, I can assure him that there has been considerable discussion of how to handle these later stages of the legislation.

Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle)

There has been a hysterical reaction to the comments of my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office about the use of royal palaces. Given that this is said to be a no-go area for elected politicians, would it be in order for us to debate in this House the role of the monarchy, so that we can deal with those issues calmly and reflectively?

Mrs. Beckett

Of course it is open to any hon. Member to seek a debate on any issue. However, pressure on business in the Chamber is always substantial, as my hon. Friend will know, and I could not undertake to find time for such a debate here.

Mr. Christopher Gill (Ludlow)

Following a meeting in the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions yesterday afternoon, when hon. Members of all parties—and in substantial numbers—sought to discuss fair funding for education in their constituencies, can we have an early debate in the House so that counties such as mine, Shropshire, which comes bottom of the pile not only for education funding but for police, health, fire and emergency and social services funding, will have an opportunity to examine the Government's policy? More particularly, we could investigate why the Government will, during the whole of this Parliament, steadfastly have set their face against changing a formula that, for many local education authorities, is totally inadequate. We were told yesterday that the formula is unlikely to change for the next three years. The Leader of the House will be aware that there has been no change for the past three years and no attempt to consider these matters. Please may we have an early debate?

Mrs. Beckett

I am indeed aware that there has been no change in the funding formula in recent years, which means that it is the formula that was put in place by the Government that the hon. Gentleman supported. I am sure that it is within his knowledge that it is not true that the matter has not been considered: it has received, and continues to receive, extensive consideration. The hon. Gentleman will know that the issues are both complex and difficult. I can assure him that the Government will continue to work to try to get greater fairness into the system. As he will readily identify from the fact that it is the formula that we inherited, there are no easy answers.

Mr. Roger Casale (Wimbledon)

Following the recent meeting in London of Attorneys-General and European Chief Justices to discuss, among other matters, the provisions of the international criminal court, can we have an early debate that could lead to ratification of the ICC treaty? Britain was one of the leading players in gaining international agreement to the ICC and was one of the first to sign the treaty. It would not be right for Britain to be one of the last to ratify it, nor would it send the right message at a time when we should again be taking a leading role in injecting a sense of urgency into the implementation of this important international initiative.

Mrs. Beckett

My hon. Friend is right to say that this is an important initiative on which Britain has a good record. Of course, he will be aware that, unfortunately, an early debate would not be to the point. What is needed is legislation. He will also know that that legislation is not in this year's programme and that we do not discuss what may be in next year's. However, I accept his point; this is an important issue.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst)

Can we please have a debate entitled "Crime and Punishment", to be opened by the Home Secretary and wound up by the Prime Minister, so that the Home Secretary can clarify for the House the recent alarming stories that crime is spiralling completely out of control in this country and that we are now more lawless than the United States of America? We need clarification from the Home Secretary on that. Could the Prime Minister wind up the debate and tell us who these extra people he wants to be put in prison are, where the prison places are, and whether he is remotely concerned with judicial process or just wants to bang them all up straight away?

Mrs. Beckett

I detected an interesting inconsistency in the right hon. Gentleman's question. He started by attacking the Government's record on crime, but promptly turned round to ask, "Does the Prime Minister just want to bang them all up without trial?" That is precisely what we see from the Conservative party. Conservative Members claim continually, whether about asylum, crime, hooliganism or whatever, that the Government are not taking action. The minute we start to do so, they cause problems and do not support us. As for the remarks to which he drew attention, I am not entirely sure where the gentleman who made them resides in the United States, but I can only think that he works for the New York tourist board, because the notion that one is more likely to experience violent crime in Britain than in the United States is not borne out by any statistics that I have ever seen.

Ms Julia Drown (South Swindon)

Given the wise decision this week by members of Standard Life to keep that organisation mutual, can my right hon. Friend find time for an urgent debate on the benefits of mutuality to its members? I ask that for two reasons. First, Bradford and Bingley members will make a crucial decision on their future next month, and organisations such as Nationwide, the headquarters of which are in my constituency, would appreciate the opportunity for Members to make it clear that carpetbaggers who are pushing for a quick buck now make members pay for it time and again later. Secondly, if we lose this mutual status from our organisations, we will lose crucial competition in our financial services markets.

Mrs. Beckett

My hon. Friend is entirely right that competition in the financial markets is beneficial and that the element that mutuality can provide is worth while. Certainly that is the view of all on this side of the House and, until I heard certain remarks from the Opposition, I had thought that was perhaps even the view of Conservative Members. However, I fear that I cannot undertake to find time for a debate on the Floor of the House. My hon. Friend will know that there are now 200 extra opportunities for debates—in Westminster Hall—and I suggest that she should perhaps consider one of those.

Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West)

We know that the Government are shirking their responsibility to reply to the Neill report, but so far they have also failed to reply to or to allow a debate on the Fritchie report, which points to deliberate and systematic politicisation of national health service appointments under this Government. Given that the written answers that I have now obtained demonstrate that things have not improved since the report's publication and that, indeed, 30 per cent. of short-listed applicants for appointments as non-executives to the new primary care trusts declare political activity for the Labour party, is it not now essential that the Government make a statement or allow a debate on the matter?

Mrs. Beckett

I remind the hon. Gentleman that the Government will reply to the Neill report and that we are still within the time that is normally expected for such replies to be made, so the notion that the Government are evading their responsibilities is not in any way borne out. I remind him too, on the issue of the Fritchie report, that the appointments made under this Government have resulted in substantially more women and people from minority communities being appointed to such boards than previously. I note that the Conservative party is opposed to that.

When the hon. Gentleman talks about 30 per cent. of recent appointees being from the Labour party, we are talking about the smallest element—the political appointees—of the appointments that are made. Within those, it is perfectly natural that some come from the Labour party, although I recognise that that was not what happened under the Government whom the hon. Gentleman supported.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East)

I was tempted to ask whether we might have a statement from the Minister responsible for Lord Levy on whether Lord Levy has been given the number of the Inland Revenue's confidential tax helpline to help those in the hidden economy regularise their affairs—but I will resist that temptation. May we have a statement from the Prime Minister on the reason why his office cleared last night's speech by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, outrageously suggesting that a future Labour Government would bring in the alternative vote system for future parliamentary elections? Had it been applied at the last election the Government's disproportionate victory would have been massively increased. Is this not a sign that the Government are beginning to recognise that their only hope for long-term electoral success is to rig the rules, fix the elections and cheat the electorate?

Mrs. Beckett

First, Lord Levy has made it plain that he disagrees with tax avoidance and has never practised it. Unlike many who support the Conservative party, he has paid literally millions of pounds in tax in this country without taking advantage of any of the avoidance devices so familiar to Members opposite. Secondly, I have not seen a report which makes the suggestion that the hon. Gentleman is making about the speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The reports that I have seen suggest that my right hon. Friend said that the matter should not be regarded as closed and that people should give serious consideration to it. As for the notion that there are currently any proposals to change the electoral system, the hon. Gentleman will know that there are not.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York)

Will the right hon. Lady invite her right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions to make a statement to the House in the next few weeks on the state of negotiations between the United Kingdom and United States Governments on bilateral air service agreements? Will the Secretary of State take that opportunity to give the House an assurance that he will not conclude such negotiations under pressure from the US before elections take place there this year, unless it is in the interests of British airlines—passenger and cargo—to do so? Will he also give the House an assurance that he will conclude any agreement only on the basis of access to US cabotage-with an end to the "fly American" policy and to the stringent ownership and control rights currently enjoyed by the Americans?

Mrs. Beckett

I am not aware in precise detail of where we are on the timing of the negotiations; to my knowledge, they have been going on—literally—for years. The reason they have been going on for years is because the Deputy Prime Minister is determined to defend Britain's interests—as the House would expect.

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset)

May we have a debate on the agreement on the civil list reported in today's newspapers? It appears that the royal household has cut its costs enormously and that there will be a real-terms reduction in the amount paid to the civil list. Perhaps it would be useful if someone from the royal household could put a feed into the Government as to how one can cut one's costs these days, especially as the Prime Minister—in setting up his presidential office—seems constantly to be increasing expenditure.

Mrs. Beckett

I fear that I cannot undertake to find time for such a debate, or indicate that there is likely to be a statement on the matter in the near future.

On costs, the hon. Gentleman should know that the costs of central Government have reduced in real terms since the Labour Government were elected. As for how the royal household managed to make savings, it is my understanding that—perfectly reasonably, as it was a long-term settlement—the royal household assumed, and it was assumed under the previous settlement, that inflation and interest rates would continue at the same disastrous levels as they were under the Conservatives. A successful Government conducting a successful economic policy have turned that around.

Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield)

As the right hon. Lady is aware, the Prime Minister chose to alter the structure of Prime Minister's Question Time after the general election. May we have an urgent debate about the new structure that we seem to have? The right hon. Lady will be aware that an analysis of yesterday's Prime Minister's Question Time shows that the Prime Minister spent more than 25 per cent. of his answer time talking about what he perceived to be Conservative party policy. Is it not true that he is not responsible for Conservative party policy? Is it not completely improper that he deliberately sets out to distort policy when he knows that what he is saying is not the truth?

Madam Speaker

Order. I cannot accept that last sentence. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman realised what he was implying. He must apologise and withdraw those remarks.

Mr. Fabricant

I have no hesitation in withdrawing them. I am sure that the Prime Minister does not mean to give a misleading misrepresentation of Conservative party policy.

Mrs. Beckett

I am aware, as we all are, of the changes made by the Prime Minister. That has resulted in his being in attendance at Prime Minister's Question Time more often. He has taken more questions than his predecessor, just as he has made more statements than his predecessor.

I have not calculated—indeed, I should be surprised if anyone could do so—how much time was spent yesterday on remarks on Conservative party policy. However, if it was 25 per cent., that too is a significant improvement, as it is well within my memory that my right hon. Friend's predecessor used to spend at least 90 per cent. of his time talking about Labour party policy.

Mr. Tony Baldry (Banbury)

May we have a debate on postal services? The Postal Services Bill has received its Second Reading. Many of us sat, day after day, in Committee on that Bill and it has been considered on Report and Third Reading—but there was not a word from the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry about how he would help rural post offices until yesterday's statement. It was only when the Prime Minister got a rollicking from the Women's Institute that the Government made any proposals to help rural post offices. In addition to a debate on rural post offices and the future of the Post Office, will the Leader of the House advise us on how to nominate the WI for a collective DBE for its contribution to the rural economy?

Mrs. Beckett

If the hon. Gentleman took part in the debates on the Postal Services Bill, he must surely have observed the discussions about the possibility of making resources available to keep a good post office network. If he thought that that would exclude rural post offices, I would be very surprised. The statement made yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry was welcomed by both sides of the House and it was based on a performance and innovation unit report that has self-evidently been under preparation for a considerable time. The notion that the statement was in some way related to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's speech to the WI has no foundation. On the other issues that surrounded that speech, a small number of those in attendance clearly did not wish to know what the Government are doing for rural post offices, but I imagine that most of the population take a rather different view.

Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West)

Earlier, the Solicitor-General was so garrulous that we were unable to reach Question 32, and therefore unable to ask him quite what he meant when he said today that it was important to create a rights culture. Yesterday, the Home Secretary told local government representatives that they would be facing a raft of legal challenges as a result of the Human Rights Act 1998, and the Lord Chancellor has pointed out that it will cost £40 million in additional legal aid next year. I do not recall Ministers being quite so forthcoming when the Act was being considered by the House, so is it not a matter that we might revisit with a further debate? Furthermore, does the Leader of House agree that our human rights are being infringed by being unable to celebrate the Queen Mother's birthday with a public holiday?

Mrs. Beckett

I am not aware that it is a human right to celebrate the Queen Mother's birthday, although I expect that many people, not least the Queen Mother herself, will do so.

I remind the hon. Gentleman that we are already subject to the European convention on human rights. All that has happened as a result of the change that the Government have made, is that people can exercise their rights in this country instead of having to exercise them by accessing courts overseas. Given their Europhobia, I would have thought that Conservative Members might welcome that.

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley)

A Minister from the Department of Trade and Industry said in the Berliner Zeitung that this country was likely to become a member of the single currency sooner than everyone expects and that this country would be bounced into an early referendum on the single currency should the Labour party form the next Government. Last night, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland said that the Prime Minister had not gone cold on proportional representation and that it was likely that a commitment for a referendum on a changed voting system would also be given. Will the Leader of the House tell the House whether Alastair Campbell has yet told the Prime Minister when the country is likely to have both referendums?

Mrs. Beckett

I am not aware that anyone has suggested that my right hon. Friend from the DTI said that this country would be bounced into a referendum. The Labour party is offering the people of this country a referendum, and the Conservative party will certainly not do that in the next Parliament. As to the issue of what my right hon. Friend is or is not supposed to have said, heaven knows that it is difficult enough to get people to report things accurately even when the remarks are not translated.

Mr. Stephen O'Brien (Eddisbury)

Further to the right hon. Lady's reply, will she help the House by saying whether the remarks of the Minister for Energy and Competitiveness in Europe were a translation of the views of the Prime Minister, or those of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or possibly even those of the Foreign Secretary? Is it not time that the House at last had an open and full discussion of the genuine intentions of the Government on the single currency and on when they wish to introduce it?

Mrs. Beckett

My understanding is that the report was not even a translation of the views of my right hon. Friend.

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