Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West) (by private notice) : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on the current outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in central London.
The Minister of State, Department of Employment (Mr. John Cope) : An outbreak of Legionnaires' disease has been identified in the central London area. Ten people are currently suspected of being associated with the incident. I am confident that it is being dealt with in the best possible way by all the appropriate authorities. Westminster city council is in the lead because it enforces the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 in offices, shops and hotels in the area. The Health and Safety Executive is assisting the environmental health team at Westminster city council.
It is important to keep this outbreak in perspective. If employers follow the procedures set out by the HSE in its guidance material, the problem of Legionnaires' disease is a controllable one. This outbreak emphasises the importance of doing so.
Mr. Janner : Does the Minister accept that responsibi-lity for ensuring compliance by employers with the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 in general, and their duties in respect of Legionnaires' disease in particular, rests with him because of his responsibility for the Health and Safety Commission and the Health and Safety Executive?
Does the Minister know that the Select Committee on Employment has for several years been profoundly concerned at the increase in the number of incidents of Legionnaires' disease in various parts of the country, of which the most serious were in Stafford, where there were 101 cases and 28 deaths, at the BBC, where there were 58 cases and three deaths, and now at British Aerospace, where there are 36 confirmed cases and, happily, no deaths so far? Does he accept that the BBC case has not been dealt with properly by the courts and that the fine of £3,600 was derisory, disgraceful and utterly inadequate in dealing with what could have become a plague? Does he not understand that his Department has not provided facilities for the Health and Safety Commission and Executive properly to do their jobs in inspecting those air cooling towers which are causing these problems?
In the circumstances, while expressing sympathy to the sufferers and the hope that they will soon be well, may I ask him to reassure the House and the public that he is taking the matter seriously? Will he urge the courts to treat the causing of death in industry as a hugely serious matter that deserves appropriate penalties? Will he please tell the House in far more detail what is being done to contain the outbreak and to find people who may believe that they are suffering from pneumonia but in fact are suffering from Legionnaires' disease?
Mr. Cope : I shall endeavour to respond to all those questions from the hon. and learned Gentleman. First, I did my best to reassure the hon. and learned Gentleman and the House that we are certainly taking the outbreak seriously. As for the BBC case, I do not think that I should comment today on individual decisions of the courts, but it is certainly very important that the courts consider the penalties for individual cases involving health and safety
Column 648very carefully, subject to the Acts which govern it and their statutory responsibilities. I am aware of the cases that the hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned and of the interest of the Select Committee, with which I know that he has been involved. Responsibility is governed by the allocation regulations of 1977, which were made under the Health and Safety at Work Act etc. 1974. They allocate responsibility for inspection between the Health and Safety Executive and local authorities. As I said in my original reply, the responsibility for shops, hotels and offices rests with the city council--in this case Westminster city council--as the environmental health authority. It is taking action and doing its best to isolate the incidents caused by the outbreak. It has appealed--and I reinforce that appeal--for any doctors who suspect cases of Legionnaires' disease to contact it at once so that they may be taken into account in the inquiry and so that it can do its best to discover the cause and treat those who, unfortunately, are subject to the disease.
Mr. John Hannam (Exeter) : Is my right hon. Friend absolutely sure that the guidance notes which go out to the managers and engineers of the various establishments, hospitals, office blocks and others using air cooling tower systems are clear enough in the directions that are necessary to carry out procedures to check and test the water supply and then to carry out very quick biocide treatment to ensure that any Legionnella that is discovered is dealt with immediately?
Mr. Cope : The guidelines are very clear and we know of no incidence of Legionnaires' disease when the guidelines have been followed. A new leaflet was put out just a few days ago and has received some attention in the press. It is quite short, extremely clear, and gives good initial guidance. Obviously the full guidance is much more elaborate, but the initial guidance in the new leaflet is extremely helpful.
Mr. David Young (Bolton, South-East) : Will the Minister take on board the fact that we are dealing not with an isolated case, but that this is the third series of cases in a relatively short period stretching between London and Bolton? As various groups share responsibi-lity, and as there has been a series of outbreaks, will the Minister consider introducing some co-ordination so that we can bring together all the lessons that have been learned by examining the cases that have been investigated and apply them when dealing with any others that may arise?
Mr. Cope : It is important that the different authorities with responsibility in different areas co-ordinate the information they gather. That is particularly important in an incident such as this, in which people from a wide area might be affected. The Health and Safety Executive does co -ordinate information from all the different outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease.
Mr. Jeremy Hanley (Richmond and Barnes) : I know how serious Legionnaires' disease can be as I suffered from an air conditioning virus about two years ago. However, will the Minister ensure that this does not become the latest in a long line of panics? Will he put the problem into perspective and continue to act with determination, together with Westminster city council, to try to find the origins of the disease, rather than react as the press and some Opposition Members might and turn the incident into another great disaster?
Mr. Cope : I do not think that it qualifies for the great disaster stakes. There are up to 200 cases of Legionnaires' disease a year compared with 180,000 cases of pneumonia. About 15 or 20 people die each year die from Legionnaires' disease. It is important to keep things in perspective but we should do everything possible to control and look after the disease.
Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West) : Given the number of water- cooled plants in central London, notwithstanding what has been said by the hon. Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley), this is potentially disastrous and the Minister must appreciate that. Will he consider introducing legislation requiring annual inspections of the plants, because that seems to be overdue? Will he give a clear undertaking from the Dispatch Box that the Government will make all resources available to the House and Westminster city council, if they request them, in order to track down the current outbreak?
Mr. Cope : There is no indication that the resources currently available are inadequate for the purpose. In fact, as far as I know, they are entirely adequate. We would respond carefully to any request for further legislation from the HSC or the HSE, as we always do. So far, they have not suggested the need for further legislation.
Mr. Simon Coombs (Swindon) : Does my right hon. Friend agree that such outbreaks are, in essence, unnecessary and avoidable? Will he recognise that every case investigated by the Select Committee on Employment has shown that the guidelines issued by the Health and Safety Executive--known as EH48--were known to the employers, management and staff but were not being followed? Therefore, will he think clearly and carefully about the need to make those guidelines legally enforceable so that it becomes an offence for anybody to fail to carry them out? Will he accept that, if he does that, he will find that we do not need question and answer sessions such as this in the House in future?
Mr. Cope : I do not want to cut off question and answer sessions in the House, but I would rather deal with the disease. I have already said that we shall consider any specific proposals for legislation made by the Health and Safety Executive, the Health and Safety Commission or by other people. The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 states that employers must provide for the health and safety of their employees. It was under that Act that the BBC was recently taken to court. Therefore, it is already an offence not to provide for the health and safety of one's employees.
Mr. Ronnie Fearn (Southport) : Will the Minister say that more than five cases have already been confirmed? He mentioned only 10 suspected cases. Will he give instructions to staff to inspect the water coolers manufactured and used from 1972 because they seem to be causing the difficulties? Will he let the House know whether inspections of jacuzzis and whirlpools will be encompassed in the instructions?
Mr. Cope : The information I received just before I came to the House was that there were 10 suspected cases and five confirmed. I mentioned the figure of 10 in my original answer. All employers and others concerned should follow the advice which is already given in the guidance on Legionnaires' disease. If they have done that thoroughly,
Column 650their cooling systems should cause no problems. It is, of course, important to follow the specific advice of the environmental health officers who are on the spot dealing with this outbreak.
Mr. Chris Butler (Warrington, South) : Will my hon. Friend assure us that this place is not affected by Legionnaires' disease? When were the water systems of this place last tested for Legionnaires' disease?
Mr. Cope : I cannot give my hon. Friend a specific reply to his first question, but I understand that the guidance given by the Health and Safety Commission and Executive in their leaflets is carefully followed throughout this building.
Mrs. Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley) : Will the Minister look at international experience in this area, especially the work done by the World Health Organisation and by the European Parliament, which have seriously considered over a number of years the implications of diseases caused by air conditioning, of which Legionnaires' disease is the most extreme? Does he agree that the sick building syndrome, probably caused by air conditioning, has not been taken seriously enough in Britain? Surely it is time that much firmer and stronger guidelines were issued by the Government, as diseases caused by air conditioning can cause many days off work and other serious problems for people.
Further to the point made by the hon. Member for Warrington, South (Mr. Butler), will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that the air conditioning system in this place is inspected? Because of the effect that the air conditioning has on me in this Chamber--sitting here for over an hour at a time--and looking at my hon. Friends, I believe that the air conditioning system needs proper inspection and regular cleaning. I do not believe that that happens.
Mr. Cope : I believe that that does happen. One has to be careful before blaming the air conditioning for behaviour of hon. Members. The Health and Safety Executive is in close and continuous touch with its colleagues in Europe and elsewhere about this, and, of course, other health problems. It is important that we make the best use that we can of everything that can be learnt from overseas. This disease was first identified in the United States, from where we received our original information about it.
Mr. Michael Meacher (Oldham, West) : Will the Minister confirm that, while two air conditioning systems have been closed down, there are another 31 within a 200-metre radius of the National Gallery which are currently being investigated? Will he name the two large office buildings affected, so that the office workers within them and those who have used them within the past six weeks can be alerted to seek immediate medical advice if they have any relevant symptoms? As any of the 33 air conditioning systems in the area may be the source, will the Minister order them all to be shut down and until tests are fully completed to eliminate any further risk?
When referring to the previous outbreak at the BBC, the Secretary of State said :
"any lessons learnt will be acted upon".--[ Official Report , 5 July 1988 ; Vol. 136, c. 883.]
Is it not clear that lessons have not been learnt, because another outbreak has occurred only 10 months later and
Column 651only a few hundred yards away? Therefore, because wet cooling systems have been the source of previous outbreaks, will he consider the permanent closure of all wet cooling systems in urban areas?
Mr. Cope : I cannot confirm the figures that the hon. Gentleman gave in the first part of his question, nor am I prepared to name individual systems which have been shut down, because I believe that to do so might give the impression that no other systems could be involved, and that anyone who was suspected of having Legionnaires' disease but who had not been involved with those two, or adjacent buildings, could not be affected. That is not the case. It could be extremely wider. I believe that the best guidance is that given by the Westminster city council and the environmental health people, which is that any doctor who suspects anybody of having Legionnaires' disease and who might be in any way connected with this outbreak should contact them. The wider the net is thrown, the better. I do not believe that it would be right to close all such air conditioning systems. As I said earlier, if the guidelines are followed those systems are not dangerous. On the contrary. Therefore, there is no need to close them all, but it is necessary for people to follow the guidelines to ensure that they operate their systems correctly. That was one of the lessons learnt from the previous outbreak and that is the lesson that we are trying to get home to the public with the aid of the leaflets that I mentioned earlier.
Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I want to raise a point of order in connection with your role as protector of Back -Bench rights, particularly in relation to direct constituency cases. Question No. 10 to the Secretary of State for Social Security was about the age limit for widows' pensions. My constituent, Mrs. Doreen Whitbread was the one who won the important test case about that age limit and the tribunal ruled that the retrospective impact of the regulations was unfair and that they were invalidly introduced. Mrs. Whitbread stated that she felt that the rug had been pulled from under her feet--
Mr. Speaker : Order. The hon. Gentleman has raised a point of order, but he is only one of a large number of hon. Members in this House who have an equal interest in this question. If it is a point of order for me, I shall deal with it.
Mr. Cohen : The point of order is that it was a direct constituency case, because my constituent was involved and won that important test case. The points that Mrs. Whitbread made during and after that tribunal hearing were the ones I wanted to put to the Minister. Will you confirm that it was your choice that I was not given the opportunity to do so?
Mr. Speaker : Sadly, it was my choice and I am sorry. The hon. Gentleman has already said that I am the protector of Back-Bench Members' rights and interests and I must pay regard to all hon. Members. We did not get far at Question Time today and if I took into account every hon. Member who wanted to be called on every question, I fear we would have gone even more slowly. Today we reached only question No. 12, which was not a very good score.
Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I support my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) because, although I understand the point that you have made, the Minister specifically mentioned Mrs. Whitbread on a number of occasions and she happens to be my hon. Friend's constituent.
That the Pesticides (Fees and Enforcement) Bill be referred to a Second Reading Committee.-- [Mr. Wakeham.]
That the following provisions shall apply to the remaining proceedings on the Bill :
Committee 1.--(1) The Standing Committee to which the Bill is allocated shall report the Bill to the House on or before 7th March 1989.
(2) Proceedings on the Bill at a sitting of the Standing Committee on the said 7th March may continue until Eight p.m., whether or not the House is adjourned before that time, and if the House is adjourned before those proceedings have been brought to a conclusion the Standing Committee shall report the Bill to the House on 8th March.
Report and Third Reading 2.--(1) The proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading of the Bill shall be completed in three allotted days and shall be brought to a conclusion at Ten p.m. on the last of those days ; and for the purposes of Standing Order No. 80 (Business Committee) this Order shall be taken to allot to the proceedings on Consideration such part of those days as the Resolution of the Business Committee may determine.
(2) The Business Committee shall report to the House its Resolutions as to the proceedings on consideration of the Bill, and as to the allocation of time between those proceedings and proceedings on Third Reading, not later than the fourth day on which the House sits after the day on which the Chairman of the Standing Committee reports the Bill to the House.
(3) The Resolutions in any Report made under Standing Order No. 80 may be varied by a further Report so made, whether or not within the time specified in sub-paragraph (2) above, and whether or not the Resolutions have been agreed to by the House.
(4) The Resolutions of the Business Committee may include alterations in the order in which proceedings on consideration of the Bill are taken.
Procedure in Standing Committee 3.--(1) At a Sitting of the Standing Committee at which any proceedings on the Bill are to be brought to a conclusion under a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee the Chairman shall not adjourn the Committee under any Order relating to the sittings of the Committee until the proceedings have been brought to a conclusion.
(2) No motion shall be made in the Standing Committee relating to the sitting of the Committee except by a member of the Government, and the Chairman shall permit a brief explanatory statement from the Member who makes, and from a Member who opposes, the Motion, and shall then put the Question thereon.
4. No Motion shall be made to alter the order in which Clauses, Schedules, new Clauses and new Schedules are taken in the Standing Committee but the Resolutions of the Business Sub-Committee may include alterations in that order.
Conclusion of proceedings in Committee 5. On the conclusion of the proceedings in any Committee on the Bill the Chairman shall report the Bill to the House without putting any Question. Dilatory Motions 6. No dilatory Motion with respect to, or in the course of, proceedings on the Bill shall be made in the Standing Committee or on an allotted day except by a member of the Government, and the Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith. Extra time on allotted days 7.--(1) On the first and second allotted days, paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted Business) shall apply to the proceedings on the Bill for two hours after 10 o'clock.
(2) Any period during which proceedings on the Bill may be proceeded with after Ten o'clock under paragraph (7) of Standing Order No. 20 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) shall be in addition to the said period of two hours.
Column 654(3) If an allotted day is one to which a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 20 stands over from an earlier day, Standing Order No. 14 shall apply to the proceedings on the Bill for a period of time equal to the duration of the proceedings upon that Motion ; and on the first or second allotted day that period shall be added to the said period of two hours.
Private business 8. Any private business which has been set down for consideration at Seven o clock on an allotted day shall, instead of being considered as provided by Standing Orders, be considered at the conclusion of the proceedings on the Bill on that day, and paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted business) shall apply to the private business for a period of three hours from the conclusion of the proceedings on the Bill or, if those proceedings are concluded before Ten o'clock, for a period equal to the time elapsing between Seven o'clock and the conclusion of those proceedings.
Conclusion of proceedings 9.--(1) For the purpose of bringing to a conclusion any proceedings which are to be brought to a conclusion at a time appointed by this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee or the Business Sub-Committee and which have not previously been brought to a conclusion, the Chairman or Mr. Speaker shall forthwith put the following Questions (but no others)--
(a) any Question already proposed from the Chair ;
(b) any Question necessary to bring to a decision a Question so proposed (including, in the case of a new Clause or new Schedule which has been read a second time, the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill) ;
(c) the Question of any amendment or Motion standing on the Order Paper in the name of any Member, if that amendment or Motion is made by a member of the Government ;
(d) any other Question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded ;
and on a Motion so made for a new Clause or a new Schedule, the Chairman or Mr. Speaker shall put only the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill.
(2) Proceedings under sub-paragraph (1) above shall not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House.
(3) If an allotted day is one on which a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 20 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) would, apart from this Order, stand over to Seven o'clock--
(a) that Motion shall stand over until the conclusion of any proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion at or before that time ;
(b) the bringing to a conclusion of any proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion after that time shall be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the proceedings on that Motion.
(4) If an allotted day is one to which a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 20 stands over from an earlier day, the bringing to a conclusion of any proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion on that day shall be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the proceedings on that Motion.
Supplemental orders 10.--(1) The proceedings on any Motion made in the House by a member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order (including anything which might have been the subject of a report of the Business Committee or Business Sub-Committee) shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion one hour after they have been commenced, and paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted business) shall apply to the proceedings.
(2) If on an allotted day on which any proceedings on the Bill are to be brought to a conclusion at a time appointed by this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee the House is adjourned, or the sitting is suspended, before that
Column 655time no notice shall be required of a Motion made at the next sitting by a member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order.
Saving 11. Nothing in this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee or Business Sub-Committee shall--
(a) prevent any proceedings to which the Order or Resolution applies from being taken or completed earlier than is required by the Order or Resolution ; or
(b) prevent any business (whether on the Bill or not) from being proceeded with on any day after the completion of all such proceedings on the Bill as are to be taken on that day.
Recommittal 12.--(1) References in this Order to proceedings on Consideration or proceedings on Third Reading include references to proceedings at those stages respectively, for, on or in consequence of, recommittal.
(2) On an allotted day no debate shall be permitted on any Motion to recommit the Bill (whether as a whole or otherwise), and Mr. Speaker shall put forthwith any Question necessary to dispose of the Motion, including the Question on any amendment moved to the Question.
Interpretation 13. In this Order--
allotted day' means any day (other than Friday) on which the Bill is put down as first Government Order of the day, provided that a Motion for allotting time to the proceedings on the Bill to be taken on that day either has been agreed on a previous day or is set down for consideration on that day ;
the Bill' means the Water Bill ;
Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee' means a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee as agreed to by the Standing Committe ; Resolution of the Business Committee' means a Resolution of the Business Committee as agreed to by the House.
The House will need no reminding of the importance of the Water Bill to which my motion would apply a timetable. The Bill will greatly benefit consumers, taxpayers, workers in the industry, future shareholders, and above all the environment. It will do this through a number of measures, which, by now, are well known to the House. It will establish a National Rivers Authority to take responsibility in England and Wales for the control of water pollution, for water resource management, flood defence, fisheries and navigation. The Bill will provide a new statutory framework for setting river quality objectives and other standards, with effective means of enforcement. The utility functions of the water authorities will be transferred to new limited companies, and the role of the 29 statutory water companies will be maintained, with provision for them to convert to plc status if they wish.
Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) : The Leader of the House spoke about protecting the consumer. As early as possible in his speech will he explain how consumers will be assisted by the 30 per cent. increase that existing private companies will bring in as quickly as possible as a result of privatisation?
Mr. Wakeham : My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has already said that the 30 per cent. price increase is not justified. Water charges would have to rise, irrespective of privatisation, to help to pay for higher standards of drinking water quality and sewage treatment. The price of water is still low compared with the price of other basic services in western Europe. I repeat
Column 656that there is nothing in our proposals that could justify statutory water companies raising their charges by 30 per cent. or more. The Bill will further seek to provide for the terms of the new companies' appointment and for the sale of their shares to the public towards the end of this year.
Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland) : It is all very well for the Leader of the House to say that these price increases, ranging from 30 to 50 per cent., are not justified. However, they will happen as we predicted they would in December--a prediction that the Secretary of State for the Environment pooh-poohed. People will pay more simply because of the Government's dogma in insisting on privatising water. It is no good saying that the Government do not like the price increases, because consumers are being ripped off.
Mr. Wakeham : The hon. Gentleman may have no faith in the ability to negotiate anything and perhaps in his case he is right. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment will discuss these matters with the water industry. These increases are not justified by anything to do with privatisation. Let us see what happens at the end of the discussions.
There will be a clear legal framework for the duties, functions and powers of the new companies, and water and sewarage law will be updated. A Director General of Water Services will be appointed to keep water and sewerage services under review and to protect the interests of customers. In all, it is the most far-reaching reform in the history of the water industry.
The Government's commitment to privatisation of the water industry is long- standing and well-known. My hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) first announced in February 1985 that the Government intended to examine the prospects for the privatisation of the water industry. A discussion document followed shortly thereafter. Subsequently, my right hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker), the then Secretary of State for the Environment, announced in February 1986 that the Government had decided to transfer the 10 water authorities in England and Wales to private ownership. A White Paper containing detailed proposals was issued, and this was followed by two consultation papers on sewerage law and the water environment respectively, which developed these aspects of the proposals. The Government consulted widely on all those documents.
In May 1987 my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment announced that the pollution control functions of the water authorities would remain in the public sector under a new National Rivers Authority. Privatisation on that basis was a feature of our manifesto for the June 1987 election, which saw the Government returned to office with a large vote of confidence. The detailed proposals were set out in two further consultation papers later that year. The result of all this is the extremely thorough and detailed Bill to which the House gave a Second Reading by 301 votes to 241. The Bill has also received detailed scrutiny in the House. It had two full days for Second Reading, and the Standing Committee has so far devoted nearly 75 hours to the first nine clauses and four schedules. There are another 171 clauses yet to be considered. I welcome the careful attention that the Bill has received so far, but I am concerned that sufficient consideration be given to all parts of this large and wide-ranging Bill. Major issues still to be
Column 657covered include customer service standards, drinking water quality, the control of pollution, sewerage, flood defences and fisheries. The House would wish these subjects to be considered no less carefully than our proposals on the National Rivers Authority, the Director General of Water Services, and the duties of the Secretary of State. But this consideration must be balanced against our commitment to ensure that the legislation is enacted this Session. If we are to arrange for the sale of shares towards the end of the year and leave sufficient time for the necessary regulations to be made after Royal Assent, we must speed up our pace. I regret that we simply do not have available the 80 weeks, or about 1,400 hours, that it would take the Committee to finish its scrutiny if it were to continue at its present rate.
I am not suggesting that there has been excessive filibustering in Committee, but I believe that a constructive timetable motion is now necessary. I have brought it forward to ensure proper, measured discussion of all parts of a complex and important Bill. It is also important that the Bill receives this full scrutiny before it goes to another place.
In devising my motion, I have had in mind also the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) and his colleagues on the Procedure Committee in the last Parliament--that the introduction of a timetable motion too late in the Committee stage of a Bill can lead to inadequate consideration of a Bill's later clauses. In the debate on the Procedure Committee's reports towards the end of last year, while I argued that it was important for the Government to retain flexibility on timetable motions, I said that I shared the Committee's desire to move towards the introduction of timetable motions, if necessary and where possible, at a time that allows for properly apportioned consideration of a Bill.
Mr. Richard Livsey (Brecon and Radnor) : By imposing this timetable, in which the crucial date appears to be 7 March, is not the Leader of the House assisting the Chancellor of the Exchequer to announce in the Budget that the assets of the water authorities will be included in the following year's accounts, to the benefit of the Government and their policies?