|Previous Section||Home Page|
Mr. Brian Sedgemore (Hackney, South and Shoreditch) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Are there really unauthorised and unaccredited MI5 spies in the Box whose names are in my hon. Friend's possession? If so, what access have they to the rest of the building?
Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Many would consider it a matter of great disquiet that you have sought to rule out questions relating to the security services, which apparently means that we cannot even ask what security action has been taken for the surveillance of Members of
Column 328Parliament. I should have thought that the point at issue would be that the House ought to be immune to surveillance by the security services, as should Members of Parliament, just as the Prime Minister claims that we are immune from telephone surveillance by the security services.
Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not an abuse of the House that the Secretary of State for the Environment and the Government's business managers have today taken up 47 minutes of the time allocated for a time-limited debate--although we realise that that will be embarrassing for the Government? Is it not a further abuse that we have had to hear from the Secretary of State that he got it so wrong a year ago when he guillotined the debate on the measure that he has been talking about that he will now have to amend that Act?
What can you, Mr. Speaker, do to protect us? Is there any way in which we can have the time back, or must we face the abuse of not only having a guillotine, but having the guillotine time that is supposed to be available taken up by the Government?
Mr. Speaker : The right hon. Gentleman knows that I am not responsible for what statements are made. That is patently a matter that should be taken up through the usual channels. I do not disagree, however, with the right hon. Gentleman's point that on a timetable day time has been taken up. That is why I have had to restrict the number of questions on the statement.
Mr. Secretary Rifkind, supported by Mr. Norman Lamont, Mr. Ian Lang and Mr. Michael Forsyth, presented a Bill to make provision as regards the acquisition of self-governing status by certain public schools in Scotland ; to make further provision as regards education in Scotland ; and for connected purposes : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow and to be printed. [Bill 73.]
In recent weeks there has been great public concern about the excessive hours worked by many junior hospital doctors. In my opinion, the public are right to be concerned, and my Bill would put a limit on the hours that a junior hospital doctor can be required to work in the course of a month.
Like many other people, a junior hospital doctor is contracted to work a basic 40-hour week, from 9 am to 5 pm from Monday to Friday. As it is essential to provide cover during nights and weekends, however, he is also required to be on call at such times on a rota with other junior hospital doctors. The rota can be one in two, one in three or one in four, meaning that the doctor must be available for work on every second, third or fourth night and every second, third or fourth weekend in addition to the basic 40 -hour week, without any time off in lieu of those extra hours.
If we take the Government's own target of a one-in-three rota, that means that, after working a 40-hour week, the doctor is required to be on call for one third of the remaining 128 hours in the week--that is, for 43 hours on top of the basic 40 hours--making a total of 83 hours a week. A junior hospital doctor must also cover for any other junior hospital doctor who is ill or on holiday, so the actual total can be even higher.
The position varies between specialties and hospitals, but it is not surprising that the Government's own figures show that junior hospital doctors are required to be available for work for an average of 86 hours a week. As that is only an average, the Government's figures also show that for some doctors the position is much worse than I have described. In England and Wales in September 1987 12,689 junior hospital doctors--half the total--were contracted to be available for work for 89 hours or more each week, and 2,528 of them were contracted to work or to be on call for more than 100 hours a week. That is more than 14 hours a day for seven days a week. It is not simply a question of long hours, however. It is a matter of being on call for long periods at night and at weekends without a break. If a doctor is on call throughout the night, the night shift is added to the normal 9-to-5 working day, so that the doctor is there all day from 9 am all through the night and then through the next day until 5 pm--for 32 hours at a stretch. At weekends he will work from 9 am on Friday until 5 pm on Monday, without any guaranteed breaks for sleep or even rest at any time.
As I have said, this is not happening in all specialties and all hospitals- -some doctors who are on call will still get a good night's sleep--but it does happen in some specialties and some hospitals, and it is most likely to happen in acute services, where patients need the most intensive care-- and it is a scandal that it happens at all. It is against the interests not only of doctors but of patients. When a member of my family goes to hospital, I want the best possible care from the best doctor available, and I
Column 330want that doctor to be on top form. I do not want a doctor who is overtired, and I do not want a doctor who has gone without sleep for a couple of nights.
The fact is that tired doctors can kill patients, through no fault of their own. There are plenty of stories from doctors themselves about potentially lethal mistakes that they have made as a result of fatigue. The true scale of the scandal, however, was established by a confidential inquiry in three regions of the country in 1986. The inquiry was into the deaths of people who had had operations during the 30 days before they died.
The inquiry found 28 cases of deaths that could have been avoided, and in which fatigue was one of the factors. If those figures for three regions are extended to the whole country, the number of people who died and need not have died becomes 140--and that is only the number who have died unnecessarily after operations. We shall never know how many people have died as a result of a wrong diagnosis, or the wrong treatment from an exhausted doctor, without ever having reached the operating theatre.
The scandal was first brought to the attention of the House by the Select Committee on Social Services in 1981. At that time, junior hospital doctors were contracted to work for an average of 89 hours a week. The Government's response was to issue a circular and set up some working parties. During the next few years they issued two more circulars. When they came to take stock--after four years and three circulars--they found that the average had fallen by the pathetic figure of three hours a week, from 89 hours to 86. At this rate we shall be into the next century before we reach the Government's target of 72 hours a week.
What has been the Government's response to the latest figures? They announced what Ministers described as a "programme of action" : they issued another circular, set up some more working parties and asked for more reports before the end of the year. With respect, I do not call that a programme of action ; I call it a programme of procrastination. The House has been waiting for eight years for the Department of Health, the consultants, the hospital administrators and the health authorities to get their act together. We have waited long enough. It is time for Parliament to do something about the problem, and that is the aim of the Bill.
Clause 1 would put a limit of 72 hours a week on the hours for which a junior hospital doctor can be required to be available for work, averaged over a month. It would allow considerable flexibility in the arrangements to be made. It would also give plenty of notice to hospital administrators, as it would not come into effect until 1992. But our junior hospital doctors would still be required to be available to work more hours each week than their colleagues in the other member countries of the European Community, where the average is less than 60 hours a week. Clause 2 would therefore enable the Secretary of State to make further reductions to 60 hours a week at his discretion. Clause 3 would allow variations in cases of major emergencies, disasters and accidents, and clause 4 would enable the Secretary of State to approve variations and exceptions for particular specialties in particular hospitals if he were convinced that they were necessary.
The Bill is very reasonable and modest. It has been drafted by my trade union, Manufacturing Science Finance, which includes the Medical Practitioners Union,
Column 331which should be congratulated on its campaign to bring the scandal to the attention of the public. It has also been endorsed by the British Medical Association.
The Bill is in the interests of patients and doctors. It is identical to the Bill which has been introduced by my noble Friend Lord Rea in another place, where it received an unopposed Second Reading. I hope that the House will give me permission to introduce it here today.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Terry Davis, Ms. Hilary Armstrong, Mr. Frank Cook, Mr. Jim Cousins, Mr. Derek Fatchett, Mr. Martin Flannery, Mr. Doug Hoyle, Dr. John Marek, Dr. Lewis Moonie, Ms. Jo Richardson, Mr. Chris Smith and Mr. Robert N. Wareing.
Mr. Terry Davis accordingly presented a Bill to regulate the hours worked by junior hospital doctors : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday next and to be printed. [Bill 75.]
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I would not have dreamt of raising this matter before my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr. Davis) introduced his valuable Bill, which I strongly support. However, used it not to be the case that, on days when the guillotine was in operation, there were neither statements, unless they were designated by Mr. Speaker, nor ten-minute Bills. Has there been a change in the rules?
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker) : I was present when Mr. Speaker dealt with the point of order about statements being made on guillotine days ; I am advised that the rule has been relaxed in respect of ten-minute Bills on guillotine days.
That the Report [14th February] from the Business Committee be now considered.-- [Mr. Wakeham.]
Report considered accordingly.
Question, That this House doth agree with the Committee in their resolution, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 80 (Business Committee) and agreed to.
Following is the report of the Business Committee :
(a) the Bill shall be considered in Committee in the order shown in the Table set out below ;
(b) the two days allotted under the Order [13th February] to the remaining proceedings in Committee shall be allotted in the manner shown in that Table, and, subject to the provisions of that Order, each part of the proceedings shall, if not previously brought to a conclusion, be brought to a conclusion at the time specified in the third column of that Table.
|c|TABLE|c| Allotted day |Proceedings |Time for conclusion of |proceedings ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ First day |Clause No. 1 (remaining|6.00 pm |proceedings) |Clause No. 2 |9.00 pm |Clause No. 3 |Midnight Second day |Clauses No. 7 and 4 |7.15 pm |Clause No. 5 |10.00 pm |Remaining proceedings |Midnight
Official Secrets Bill
Considered in Committee [Progress, 2 February]
in the Chair. ]
Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion) : On a point of order, Mr. Walker. I understand that you have decided not to select new clause 11. I have no intention of challenging your decision on that, but I seek your guidance on a point which involves the House of Commons and which may be of constitutional importance.
During the Second Reading debate on the Official Secrets Bill, my hon. Friend the Minister of State gave me certain detailed assurances relating to the publication of memoirs by members or former members of the secret service. It later transpired that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State sent me a letter which appeared to repudiate those assurances. I shall not go into detail, but I do not think that my right hon. Friend would wish to repudiate assurances given in detail over about half a column of the Official Report without some explanation.
The purpose of new clause 11 was to discover whether he wished to repudiate or modify the assurance which my hon. Friend has given. If the new clause is not selected, I do not see how he will get the opportunity to explain to the House what has happened. I do not think that anyone in the Committee would accept that a single letter to an individual Member of Parliament would suffice as a repudiation of those assurances.
I seek your guidance, Mr. Walker, as to what should be done. If the new clause is not selected, may I have an assurance that it will be selected on Report? How is this matter to be cleared up? A long list of assurances was given in good faith, covering half a column in Hansard, and an apparent repudiation was contained only in a letter to me and not to the House and has not been made in any statement by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. How do we get out of that difficulty if we do not debate the new clause in Committee or on Report? I should be perfectly happy if you were to say that the new clause will be considered on Report.
The Minister of State, Home Department (Mr. John Patten) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Walker. I have listened with great care to my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery). The issue was referred to not only during the debate on the guillotine motion a night or so ago but in Committee, when new clause 6 standing in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason) was debated.
Mr. Michael Foot (Blaenau Gwent) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Walker. I am rather surprised by the Minister's intervention, because he seemed to be discussing the merits of the matter, but we are discussing whether new clause 11 should be selected for discussion. Anyone who listened to the debates over the past few days would be most astonished that we are not to have the chance to debate this subject on the basis of the new clause that the right hon. Gentleman has tabled.
Column 334I am astonished that new clause 11 was not selected, because it raises a particular matter of special importance which was raised during previous debates. Whatever anyone thought about the argument, we went away from that discussion fully imagining that there would be a chance to debate the issue. We certainly did not imagine that a Government Front Bench spokesman would say that there was any good or satisfactory reason for not having such a debate. Therefore, if that new clause, or something that achieves the same result, is not selected for discussion now, I seek your assurance that there will be immediate discussions, as is the normal process, so that by tomorrow at least we shall have an absolute assurance that there will be the possibility of a discussion on new clause 11.
Mr. Roy Hattersley (Birmingham, Sparkbrook) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Walker. May I draw to your attention a parallel problem? Questions were raised in Committee about the relationship between solicitors and their clients, and it became clear that the assurances given by the Government were inaccurate in every particular. As the discussion continued, the Minister of State intervened--I think it was from a sedentary position, but we all heard him--to say that a chance for clarification would be provided. I make no complaint, but I understand that the amendment on that subject is not to be discussed in Committee. Were we not subject to a guillotine we would press all these matters on clause stand part, but the guillotine makes that impossible. I wish to record my belief that a matter as important as that raised by the right hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) will be ignored unless special consideration is given on Report.
Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Walker. We are in some difficulty when undertakings and interpretations are given by my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Floor of the House and subsequently repudiated. That denies us the possibility of an authoritative statement. You will recall that my hon. Friend the Minister of State gave clear assurances to my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) which were subsequently repudiated. We have a series of such instances within the timetable. It is difficult to identify things that my right hon. and hon. Friends have said as the basis of the Bill, and the timetable constricts that.
Mr. Jonathan Aitken (Thanet, South) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Walker. In support of the point of order made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery), I would emphasise that the present state of affairs is unsatisfactory in the eyes of those of us who wish to explore this matter further, and that it should be so in the eyes of the Government. The uncomfortable fact must be faced that, if matters are left to stand in their current unsatisfactory position--and there is not a proper correction of the record in Hansard --it will regrettably leave my hon. Friend the Minister of State perilously vulnerable to a serious charge of having misled the House.
It is not satisfactory for assurances to be given in private correspondence between my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion. We have now had a reversal of those assurances in correspondence and surely the Government
Column 335and the Minister of State would wish to acquit themselves completely of any charge of having double-crossed the House and would instead make it absolutely clear that there is a repudiation and that it is on the record as part of our proceedings.
The Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Harold Walker) : It is difficult for me to see how these points arise on matters of my selection or non- selection of amendments or new clauses which have been tabled.
Mr. Aitken : I shall explain why. I understand that part of the Chair's thinking in deciding not to select this new clause may have been because it was to some extent covered in the debate on amendment No. 71. If that is true, I submit--
The Chairman : Order. We cannot have a debate about what may or may not have been the considerations which I took into account in determining my selection. The hon. Gentleman and certainly right hon. and hon. Members will know that I am required not to give reasons for my selection or non- selection of amendments.
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Walker. Is not the basic trouble that there is a remarkable absence of good will from Home Office Ministers? There is a fundamental problem. We are in Committee and the occupant of the Chair is likely to jump down my throat. Surely in Committee, when those who have been here throughout and who have taken the most interest in the Bill on the Back Benches of both sides of the House are almost uniformly unhappy, is it not reasonable that there should be some explanation, because a similar thing has happened over the serious degree of harm--
The Chairman : Order. I recognise that the hon. Gentleman is unhappy, but these are not matters for the Chair. Those grievances lie not with the Chair but with Ministers. I listened, as we all did, to the earlier exchanges about the amount of guillotine time that had been taken by questions on the statement. It appears that we are now resurrecting the very matters about which complaints were made.
Mr. Foot : On a point of order, Mr. Walker. My previous point of order was a matter directly addressed to you and not to the Ministers, and my point of order now is addressed directly to you. I have heard this happen many times in Committee stages of Bills. We have seen the selection you have made and we have seen what we believe is a grave deficiency in that selection. We are not asking you to give the reasons, because that is understandable, but on behalf of many right hon. and hon. Members I am asking that you should reconsider the matter and see whether we should not tomorrow have a proper opportunity to discuss this matter. I believe that would be the satisfactory way of doing it. It is certainly a matter of procedure that I am entitled to raise with you.
The Chairman : Perhaps I should try to give the Committee a considered view from the Chair. I say to the right hon. Gentleman that, if I were persuaded that I had grounds for reconsideration, I do not believe that it would help him and other right hon. and hon. Members, because I believe that the very matters which he seeks to discuss could not be raised until the very end. It is highly likely
Column 336that, given the circumstances and timing of the guillotine, we should be able to exhaust all the proposals on the Notice Paper. The Ministers and others on the Government Front Bench will have heard the exchanges. It is not for me to anticipate or pre-empt what Mr. Speaker may select for debate on Report, but doubtless these matters will be considered and there may be an appropriate opportunity when the points can be dealt with in a manner which will be satisfactory to hon. Members.
In the light of my comments, perhaps we can make some progress. 4.45 pm
Mr. Amery : Do I understand from what you have just said to the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot), Mr. Walker, that in your view this could and perhaps should be raised on Report, if not before? Otherwise, if the clause is not to be called, how do we extract from Home Office Ministers whether they have repudiated, or whether they want to modify, the assurances given by my hon. Friend the Minister, which occupied half a column of Hansard ? If it cannot be done in this clause, what other way of doing it would you recommend to the Committee?
The Chairman : The right hon. Gentleman is showing the accumulated Housecraft of the many years that he has been here. I have been here a few years, too, and I shall not be lured into the trap which I believe he is setting for me. However, if it is any encouragement, I shall ensure that Mr. Speaker is made fully aware of these exchanges. I am sure that Mr. Speaker will share my anxiety that, so far as is possible within the time parameters that have been set--both at this and later stages of the Bill-- there should be an opportunity for the House to satisfy itself on matters which are clearly of considerable importance.
I have noted that Ministers, too, are responding sympathetically and I hope understandingly-- [Interruption.] I understood their heads to be going up and down rather than from side to side. I think that up and down is more encouraging than from side to side.
Mr. Hattersley : You anticipated, Mr. Walker, the nature of my point of order. I was about to say that all these matters are in the hands of the Government. The Government have been unhelpful about many matters concerning the procedure of this Bill. All that the Home Secretary has to do is to indicate his intention to do his best to make these debates possible, and then we can proceed.
Mr. John Gorst (Hendon, North) : Further to the point of order of my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery), Mr. Walker. I wonder whether your reply means that your customary and entirely proper exorcism of the martinet in matters of relevance means that you were indicating that you would be less of a martinet in terms of what is not relevant to the clauses which we are discussing.
The Chairman : If the hon. Gentleman were to interpret my remarks as suggesting that I would convey to Mr. Speaker the anxiety that has been expressed on this occasion and the hope that, before the Bill completes its
Column 337proceedings in this House, there will be an opportunity for these matters to be cleared up on the Floor of the House, he is interpreting me correctly. I hope that that is helpful.
Sir Ian Gilmour (Chesham and Amersham) : On a point of order, Mr. Walker. As one would expect, you are seeking to help the Committee, for which we are most grateful. Obviously I would not question your reasons for not selecting the new clause of my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery), because I would find the reasons unfathomable anyway. When a serious point has been raised by a right hon. Member who is experienced in these matters, and contradictory things have been said, it is extraordinary that the Government should not seek to clear those matters up straight away. I honestly do not believe that it is good enough to wait until Report. I should have thought that the Government would wish to satisfy the anxieties of my right hon. Friend straight away.
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Douglas Hurd) : On a point of order, Mr. Walker, and responding to what my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) and the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) said. This matter was discussed on the initiative of my right hon. Friend the Member for Pavilion on Second Reading, then in Committee on a new clause moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason) to which my hon. Friend the Minister of State responded. I believe that my right hon. Friend the Member for Pavilion, through no fault of his own, was not there. It was raised, too, by my right hon. Friend on the timetable motion, and I replied to him then.
However, we are not in any way party to the decisions of the Chair on the selection of amendments. On behalf of the Government, I am happy that the matter should be aired again, if that is the view of my right hon. Friend, when it is procedurally in order to do so. If that is on Report, as you have suggested, Mr. Walker, we will fall in with whatever arrangements suit the Committee.
Mr. Aitken : Further to that point of order, Mr. Walker. I should like to respond to the comment made by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. Whatever may or may not have been said during the first day of the Committee stage in response to the amendments moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason) is largely irrelevant. If I have the date right, I believe that those exchanges took place on 26 January ; but the correspondence from my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary repudiating the comments of the Minister of State was dated 31 January. Therefore, it was several days later, and the repudiation could not have been debated.
The Chairman : We are straying from points of order into the substance of the matter. I hope that the hon. Member will find the earlier exchanges helpful in respect of that matter and that he will accept that there may be the opportunity for debate which right hon. and hon. Members have sought.
Ms. Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Walker. I would appreciate your guidance. I understood that the Committee stage was supposed to provide an opportunity to study legislation in detail. I am not privy to correspondence between the right hon. Member for
Column 338Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery) and the Minister. However, I was in the Chamber when the Minister commented at length and gave assurances about the arrangements for allowing ex-members of the security services to publish their memoirs. I understand from the points of order that the Secretary of State has repudiated those assurances. At the time--
The Chairman : Order. The hon. Lady is repeating the error committed by the hon. Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken). She is discussing the substance of the matter rather than the question whether an amendment or a new clause should be selected and debated.
Mr. Richard Shepherd : On a point of order, Mr. Walker. I wish to seek your guidance on amendment No. 14, which was discussed in a previous debate. It deals with the absolute nature of the lifelong duty of confidentiality. Is this the stage at which it is in order to call a Division on that amendment?
The Chairman : If the hon. Gentleman were to press for a Division, it would be difficult for me to refuse. However, I hope that he will have regard to the limitations imposed by the guillotine and the anxiety of the Committee to make progress. I hope that we can move to amendment No. 3.
Mr. Shepherd : I think that I should press the amendment to a Division, because it concerns a fundamental element of the Bill. Amendment proposed ; No. 14 in page 1, line 9, leave out discloses' and insert
makes a damaging disclosure of'.-- [Mr. Richard Shepherd.] Question put, That the amendment be made :--
The Committee divided : Ayes 175, Noes 275.
Division No. 94] [4.52 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane
Amery, Rt Hon Julian
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)
Beith, A. J.
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Buckley, George J.
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)
Campbell-Savours, D. N.
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cook, Robin (Livingston)
Cunningham, Dr John
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth
Evans, John (St Helens N)
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)
Foot, Rt Hon Michael