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House of Commons

Thursday 24 November 1988

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[ Mr. Speaker-- in the Chair ]

Business of the House

2.34 pm

Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras) : Will the Leader of the House state the business for next week?

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Wakeham) : As the House is aware the debate on theAddress in reply to the Gracious Speech will be brought to a conclusion on Tuesday 29 November.

At the end on Monday 28 November, motion to take note of EC documents relating to transport infrastructure and aids to combined transport. Details will be given in the Official Report . The business for the remainder of next week will be as follows : Wednesday-- 30 November---- Until about seven o'clock Second Reading of the Petroleum Royalties (Relief) and Continental Shelf Bill. Afterwards, a debate on procedure on a motion for the Adjournment of the House. Details of relevant Procedure Committee reports will be given in the Official Report .

Motion to take note of EC documents relating to milk quotas and New Zealand butter. Details will be given in the Official Report . Thursday-- 1 December----Motion to take note of EC documents relating to fisheries arrangements for 1989. Details will be given in the Official Report .

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

Motion to take note of EC document relating to summer time arrangements. Details will be given in the Official Report . Friday-- 2 December----There will be a debate on the House of Commons (Services) Committee's first report Session 1987-88 on the new parliamentary building (phase 2) (HC 561) on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Monday-- 5 December----Second Reading of the Elected Authorities (Northern Ireland) Bill.

Motion relating to the Scottish Affairs Select Commitee.

[Monday 28 November 1988

Relevant European Community Documents

(a) 7325/88 Transport Infrastructure Programme

(b) 6047/88 Combined Transport (National Aids)

Relevant Reports of European Legislation Committee

(a) HC 43-xxxv (1987-88) para 4

(b) HC 43-xxxv (1987-88) para 3

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Wednesday 30 November 1988

Relevant European Community Documents

(a) 8108/88 Milk Quota : Compensation for outgoers

(b) 8961/88 New Zealand Butter

Relevant Reports of European Legislation Committee

(a) HC 43-xxxviii (1987-88) para 3

(b) HC 43-xxxix (1987-88) para 7

Thursday 1 December

Fisheries Debate

Relevant European Comunity Documents

(a) unnumbered Fisheries : Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and Quotas 1989

(b) unnumbered Reciprocal fisheries agreement with Norway 1989 (c) 9185/88 Fish Guide Prices

(d) unnumbered Greenland Fishery Quotas 1989

(e) unnumbered North West Atlantic Fisheries (NAFO)

(f) unnumbered Fisheries : Norwegian Waters Catch Quota Amendment 1988

Relevant Reports of European Legislation Committee

(a) HC 15-i (1988-89) para 6

(b) HC 15-i (1988-89) para 16

(c) HC 15-i (1988-89) para 4

(d) HC 15-i (1988-89) para 14

(e) HC 15-i (1988-89) para 15

(f) HC 43-xxxvi (1987-88) para 19

Summer time debate--

Relevant European Community Document

(a) 7876/88 Summer Time

Relevant Report of European Legislation Committee

(a) HC 43-xxxviii (1987-88) para 1

Debate on Procedure Wednesday 30 November :

Relevant House of Commons Procedure Committee Reports-- Second Report, Session 1984-85 (HC 49) on Public Bill Procedure Second Report, Session 1985-86 (HC 324) on Allocation of time for Public Bills in Standing Committee

First Report, Session 1986-87 (HC 157) on a Parliamentary Calendar

Second Report, Session 1986-87 (HC 350) on the use of time on the floor of the House

Third Report, Session 1986-87 (HC 254) on Early Day Motions Fourth Report, Session 1986-87 (HC 373) on the work of the Committee.]

Mr. Dobson : I thank the Leader of the House for his answer, although, on the basis of what he announced, it appears that he and I will feature rather heavily next week.

I remind the right hon. Gentleman that he promised us a half-day debate on the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs, whether it is set up or not, and it is unsatisfactory, that half a day should begin at 10 o'clock in the evening. We would like the debate to start earlier, or we shall feel that he has not honoured his promise.

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When the right hon. Gentleman is considering the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs, may I ask him to reconsider his position, as enunciated until now, that there is no way on earth in which he can get enough Tories to serve on the Committe to allow it to be established. He and the Tory party owe it to the people of Scotland to establish the Committee under the Standing Orders of the House, and they should use the famous discipline of the Tory Whips to ensure that they get enough members of that Committee.

Will the House be given an opportunity to debate the purchase of the next generation of tanks before the Cabinet comes to a decision, and especially before the Cabinet comes to a decision to sell British industry down the river and buy American to make us fit in better in Washington?

When may we expect a debate on the housing crisis? The debate on the last Friday of the previous Session was postponed to permit debate on the Housing Bill, now the Housing Act 1988, which will make the homelessness crisis even worse.

When will the House be given an opportunity to debate the Fennell report on the King's Cross fire and its implications for the safety of railway passengers?

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Prime Minister to come to the House to make a statement and answer questions to clear up the discrepancy between her denial that there was any discussion of her stopping the Queen accepting an invitation to the Soviet Union and the off-the-record briefing by her press secretary, Mr. Bernard Ingham, which said the opposite? They cannot both be right. We know that, according to the rules of the House, the Prime Minister cannot be a liar. Therefore, Mr. Bernard Ingham must be. She should explain to the House how this happened.

Mr. Wakeham : I think that that was five questions and a little bit of a whinge. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman and I will be featuring rather a lot in next week's business. I regret that as much as he does, but we shall have to do our best to keep going through the week.

With regard to the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs, I note the hon. Gentleman's views about the timing of the debate that I have announced and, in view of what he said, I shall look at the matter again. I am sure that we shall be able to reach a satisfactory arrangement if there are further discussions through the usual channels. On the substance of the matter, it is probably better to wait for the debate, but I have to say that I do not recognise the situation as the hon. Gentleman enunciated it.

I note what the hon. Gentleman said about tanks. There has been a useful first discussion on that difficult procurement matter, but no decisions were reached as further work is required.

The hon. Gentleman will know that the debate on homelessness did not take place because we had to debate the timetable motion on the Housing Bill. Therefore, I cannot promise an early debate. I recognise that this is a matter to which we shall have to return, but, subject to your views, Mr. Speaker, homelessness may well be a relevant subject for Monday's debate.

I recognise the hon. Gentleman's considerable concern about the report on the King's Cross fire and the need for a debate, but the matter can best be discussed through the usual channels.

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With regard to the hon. Gentleman's question about my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and what is alleged by some people to have taken place, I have nothing further to add to what the Prime Minister said last week.

Sir Bernard Braine (Castle Point) : My right hon. Friend will be aware of the profound disappointment that many of us feel that the Government have not yet seen fit to introduce their promised legislation on embryo experimentation. He will be aware that the Warnock committee, which first broached the subject, reported four years ago, that the White Paper was produced last year and that on the two occasions that the House has had the opportunity to vote on the subject it has voted overwhelmingly against experimentation. Is he aware that at present experiments are taking place in laboratories throughout Britain? Against that background, will he arrange for a Minister to explain to the House why legislation on this subject cannot be introduced in this Session?

Mr. Wakeham : I recognise my right hon. Friend's deep concern, which is shared by many hon. Members. I know that he will be disappointed that it was not possible to announce in the Queen's Speech the legislation that he so urgently requires. We had difficult choices to make and I am sure that he will welcome the children's Bill, an important piece of social legislation, that we did announce. However, I have taken note of what my right hon. Friend says and I shall see what I can do about further explanation.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland) : Given the comments made by the Leader of the House a few moments ago, can we expect the motion relating to the Scottish Affairs Select Committee to be in favour of setting up such a Committee rather than against it? Has the Leader of the House had the opportunity of reading early-day motions 9 to 19, 27 to 31, 33 to 36 and 41? They contrast the Government's inaction on environmental issues and the action by Social and Liberal Democrat groups in a number of local authorities reflecting local concerns about the environment. I accept that the environment will be a subject for the debate on the Loyal Address next Monday, but does the Leader of the House accept that that is an inadequate substitute for legislation dealing with some of the matters raised in those early-day motions?

Mr. Wakeham : With regard to the Scottish Affairs Select Committee debate, the hon. Gentleman will have to wait until the motion on that subject is tabled. I hope that it will commend itself to the House. I do not think that I can say any more about that.

I have noted the early-day motions tabled by the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends. I congratulate them on their energy in doing so. It is easier to table motions than to do all the things for the environment that are required. The Government have a good record. Subject to catching your eye, Mr. Speaker, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment will speak on that subject on Monday and no doubt will give a good account of himself.

Mr. Roger Sims (Chislehurst) : I welcome the long overdue debate on procedure, to be held on Wednesday evening. If it is to be on a motion for the Adjournment, presumably no decisions will be taken. If, during the debate, my right hon. Friend realises that there is general support for at least some of the recommendations that the

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Procedure Committee has discussed, will he assure me that there will be an opportunity for the House to vote on and implement the recommendations without further delay?

Mr. Wakeham : I think that my hon. Friend, who is fair about the matter, will have recognised that quite a few recommendations of the Procedure Committee have already been implemented, so we have made a start. It is important that we should get as much agreement in the House as we can on others before we make some of the fundamental changes that are recommended. I shall listen to the debate and to the views expressed in all sections of the House. I hope that I shall get a clear steer as to what the House would like to do. We had better wait until that debate to decide how best to proceed afterwards.

Mr. Michael Foot (Blaenau Gwent) : When the Leader of the House gave his earlier answer about any advice given to Her Majesty the Queen by the Prime Minister about the prospective visit to Moscow, he seemed to imply that that was not a proper matter for discussion in the House. Will he clarify that? Is it not the case that, although of course the monarch must accept the advice of the Prime Minister on such matters, there is nothing in the British constitution that suggests that Her Majesty the Queen should be subjected to insults from Mr. Bernard Ingham and the office at No. 10? As a gross discourtesy has occurred, is it not the case that the proper way for an apology to be made is by the Prime Minister to the House of Commons?

Mr. Wakeham : Either the right hon. Gentleman decided to ask that question before I gave my answer or he was not listening to me because I said that I had nothing to add to what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said in her speech earlier this week, when she said that no such meeting or discussion had taken place. That is the position, and I have nothing to add to that.

Mr. James Hill (Southampton, Test) : My right hon. Friend will be aware that last week a most significant move was made in European defence by Spain and Portugal signing to join the Western European Union, which is the European pillar of NATO. Should we not discuss burden sharing and collaboration between the nine nations on European defence?

Mr. Wakeham : My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It seems to me that the subject is totally appropriate to tomorrow's debate. I hope that my hon. Friend will seek to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Allen McKay (Barnsley, West and Penistone) : Will the right hon. Gentleman find time to debate the Barlow Clowes affair and the Department of Trade and Industry's interest in it?

Mr. Wakeham rose

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South) : The piece of paper is just behind the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Wakeham : I recognise that the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) is trying to be helpful, as always. I shall read what is on the piece of paper when I have sat down to see whether I have said the wrong thing.

This is a serious matter. I am well aware of the concern of many hon. Members about that case. I understand the interest behind the early-day motion and the question asked by the hon. Member for Barnsley, West and

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Penistone (Mr. McKay). The Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration has decided to investigate complaints about the case and my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry is co-operating fully with him. I am not convinced that a debate at present would serve a useful purpose. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster made a full statement on 20 October.

Mr. James Kilfedder (North Down) : May we have a statement from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland or a debate on Northern Ireland, which we have been promised time and again, so that we can have an explanation of the reference in the Queen's Speech to the proposal to give elected representatives greater involvement in the Province?

Mr. Wakeham : I know that there is a desire to have a debate on Northern Ireland, and I recognise the need for one, but when would be the best time for it is a matter of judgment. My hon. Friend, with his ingenuity, could fit the matter either into tomorrow's debate or, possibly, into the debate on Monday 5 December. He has several opportunities to make his points.

Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, Small Heath) : Is the Leader of the House aware that yesterday it was stated in the other place that the Second Reading of the football membership Bill is likely to take place there on 23 January? Can he confirm that? Can he tell us when the Bill will be published, because it will require detailed study? When I telephoned the office of the Minister for Sport this morning his staff had not the faintest idea when it would be published and did not know that it was having its Second Reading in another place on the date that I have given. Can the Leader of the House bring some order out of this chaos?

Mr. Wakeham : I have enough difficulty organising the business in this House without also having to organise it in the other House. I recognise the right hon. Gentleman's concern and I shall make it my job to check up and to ensure that he receives the earliest indication possible.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North) : May I support calls for an early debate on homelessness so that I may put to the House the concern of my constituents that the Labour-controlled Ealing council abolished residents' points immediately on taking office in May 1986 when there were 30 homeless families on the council register with the effect that 1,200 families have now been attracted onto the homeless list at a cost to taxpayers and ratepayers of £14 million a year with no honest prospect of rehousing them in the near future? May I put it to my right hon. Friend that a debate is needed--

Mr. Speaker : Order. The hon. Gentleman has asked for a debate. He may not make debating points.

Mr. Greenway : A debate is needed so that I can put to the House the concern of people born and bred in Ealing and those who have lived there for some time because they cannot be housed on account of that policy, which even the Labour-dominated Association of London Authorities has repudiated.

Mr. Wakeham : I recognise the importance of my hon. Friend's question and the subject, but I cannot say more than I have already said about a debate on homelessness.

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I had occasion to visit Ealing not long ago, and the first question everybody asked me was whether I knew Harry, and I said I did.

Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley) : Will the Leader of the House, recognising both the thousands of students outside this building who are being refused permission to lobby their Members of Parliament and the fact that Members of Parliament are being refused permission to cross Westminster bridge, which is sealed, provide time next week for a full day's debate on student grants and loans, which are rightly causing so much concern among the student population? To say that that can be debated in the debate on the Loyal Address would be seen as undemocratic by students and others outside the House as well as by hon. Members.

Mr. Wakeham : I thank the hon. Gentleman for asking me a question and telling me that the answer is unsatisfactory before I have given it. I shall not say that we should debate the matter necessarily in the Queen's Speech debate, although I guess that it would be in order. The Government have issued a White Paper on the subject of top-up loans. It is right for people to express their views and we shall undoubtedly find the right opportunity to return to the subject in the House in due course.

Mr. Ian Bruce (Dorset, South) : My right hon. Friend will be aware that in the last Session more than 200 hon. Members supported early-day motion 1119 on reparations for the people who were imprisoned by the Japanese in the last war.

[That this House, in welcoming the growing friendship between Japan and the United Kingdom, believes that this friendship will not fully blossom until the wrongs done during the Second World War to Allied prisoners are fully accepted by the Japanese Government and due reparation made.]

I wonder whether my right hon. Friend will find the time among all the debates on forward-looking legislation to look back at the debt that we owe those people. Does he believe that we should rightly be putting pressure on the Japanese Government, as it took six months to obtain a reply to a letter sent to the Japanese Prime Minister saying that the Japanese did not intend doing anything for the people concerned? Time is surely running out. The constituent for whom I took up the matter has unfortunately died as a result of the treatment that he received from the Japanese.

Mr. Wakeham : I know that my hon. Friend feels strongly about this subject, which he has raised before. I believe that these matters may not have been dealt with as satisfactorily as he would like, but they were part of the negotiated peace treaty. I shall refer my hon. Friend's points to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and ask him to write to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Ernie Ross (Dundee, West) : As to the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs, I support the comment of my hon. Friend the shadow Leader of the House that a debate starting at 10 o'clock will not be acceptable. If the Leader of the House is having difficulty, along with the Chairman of the Committee of Selection, in finding English Tory Members to serve on the Committee, I draw to his attention the fact that 17 to 19 English Tory

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Members regularly attend Scottish Question Time. If the Leader of the House asks them, he may find that they are willing to serve on the Committee on behalf of Scottish Tories.

Mr. Wakeham : I told the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) that I will look at the matter again and that I believe it will be possible to reach a satisfactory arrangement through the proper channels, and I stand by that.

Mr. David Shaw (Dover) : Has my right hon. Friend read the Official Report of the Prime Minister's speech on the first day of our debate on the Loyal Address and that of the Leader of the Opposition? Did he note that, according to Hansard, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was interrupted eight times--

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