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Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West) : Can we have an early debate on road safety? Is the Leader of the House aware that the Government have reduced by £4,300,000 the money available to Leicestershire county council for roads, including road safety, this year? That means that 17 pedestrian crossings that are needed in dangerous places cannot conceivably be installed. There has already been the death of one child, Kelly Allen, aged eight, in my constituency. It is a scandal, increased by the fact that there is £600,000 unused in the gritting fund and the Government will not permit it to be employed for road safety because it is in the wrong account.
Mr. Wakeham : The hon. and learned Gentleman knows that these matters are a bit more complicated than he implied by his question. It seems primarily a matter for Leicestershire county council and not for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, although I shall certainly refer the matter to him. I hope that the next time the hon. and learned Gentleman asks a question on roads and road safety he will recognise the substantial increase of about 40 per cent. in real terms that the Government have funded for road improvements.
Mr. Michael Latham (Rutland and Melton) : Regarding my Adjournment debate next Friday, can my right hon. Friend say which junior Minister has drawn the short straw of replying? Will he ensure that that junior Minister, whoever he is, co-ordinates with the Foreign Office, the Home Office, the Attorney-General and the Ministry of Defence so that he can answer all the questions relating to the death of Petty Officer John Black, as this is the second time that I have had to seek an Adjournment debate on this distressing subject?
Mr. Wakeham : As my hon. Friend knows, it is not customary on these occasions to say which Minister will be replying to a particular debate, but my hon. Friend makes his point clearly and I shall see to it that the Minister responsible is aware of my hon. Friend's points before he comes to reply to the debate.
Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr) : Can the Leader of the House arrange for the Secretary of State for Defence to come to the House to make a statement explaining exactly what the Ministry has been doing since last April when I raised in the House the case of the massacre of the Royal Warwickshire prisoners of war and the allegations regarding Wilhelm Mohnke? Bearing in mind and notwithstanding its contacts with the West German Government, I was informed yesterday by the United States Department of Justice on behalf of the director of special investigations that the United States Government have no fewer than 70 cases of documents regarding massacres that occurred in Normandy, many of which refer to Wilhelm Mohnke. The department stands ready to help any Government who request information. It is clear that the British Goverment have never once asked to see those files. Can we have an explanation from the Ministry of Defence next week about exactly what it has been doing since last April?
Mr. Wakeham : Obviously, I cannot give an answer to that question off the cuff, but I know that the hon. Gentleman is concerned about the matter, which he has raised a number of times. I shall see to it that he gets an answer from the Ministry of Defence.
Mr. Andrew MacKay (Berkshire, East) : In view of the ill-informed intervention by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) yesterday evening, will my right hon. Friend confirm that it is up to the House authorities to decide whether amendments should lead to the costly reprinting of a Bill, and that it has absolutely nothing to do with the Government?
Mr. Wakeham : My hon. Friend is right. There are long established customs in this matter. Once a Bill is introduced, it becomes the property of the House, not the Government, and the decision whether to reprint a Bill following amendments in Committee is a matter for the House authorities. The practice is that if an amendment relates to a very few words, no further reprint is necessary for Report and Third Reading. I should have thought that that was a perfectly practical and sensible way in which to proceed.
Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington) : May we have a statement next week on the provision of classified material to Select Committees? To whom must I go if I want to challenge the provision of classified documents, stamped "secret" by the Ministry of Defence or another Department, to Select Committees and members of those Committees? Will the Leader of the House tell me to whom I must go? Someone must answer the question that I ask.
Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West) : Would not 1 March be a suitable occasion to allow the Government to remember in a debate that 10 years ago the legislative proposals for devolution in Scotland and Wales were defeated, and to allow a spokesman from the Conservative and Unionist party to explain why devolution is so wrong in Scotland and Wales but so right in Northern Ireland?
Mr. Wakeham : My hon. Friend would not seriously want to pursue that issue. Wednesday 1 March is St. David's day, and I cannot think of a more appropriate subject for debate on that day than Welsh affairs. I remember that when I arranged last year's debate for 2 March I got into considerable trouble with the Opposition for not getting the right day.
More particularly, I want to ask about Energy Questions next Monday and the serious matter of the contract between the South of Scotland Electricity Board and British Coal, which is still to be resolved. My constituents, and those of many of my colleagues, have been very patient, considering that the contract runs out on 31 March. We have heard good noises from the Secretary of State for Scotland to the effect that the matter will be resolved, but may we expect that the Secretary of
Column 1156State for Energy will tell us, on Monday or very soon after, that it is to be resolved and that deep-mined coal will continue to be produced in Scotland for power stations?
Mr. Wakeham : What I can confirm is that my right hon. Friend will be in the House on Monday to answer questions on energy matters. No doubt the hon. Gentleman will be able to pursue the matter with him. The hon. Gentleman suggested that the Opposition would like to take part in a debate on Scottish matters. I am sure that he is right and that, if we had such a debate, he would make one of his usual trenchant contributions, although whether it would be acceptable to those on the Opposition Front Bench is another matter.
Mr. Graham Riddick (Colne Valley) : As we are to debate a wide range of issues next week, does my right hon. Friend think it appropriate that we should debate the wool textile industry, following the announcement last week of record export figures for 1988? Would he like to comment on those figures, and does he not think that they are a tribute to the industry's increasing investment over the years and to its identification and exploitation of the market opportunities that are present now?
Mr. Wakeham : My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The wool textile industry has produced some very good figures. I would love to be able to arrange a debate next week, but my hon. Friend would be the first to recognise that quite a number of subjects are down for debate and I do not think I can add to them.
Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West) : Is the Leader of the House aware that there is mounting concern among elderly people living alone, women fleeing violence and those granted political asylum about their names and addresses being published on the poll tax register? Will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for the Secretary of State for the Environment to make urgent inquiries and to make a statement to the House making clear that those responsible for drawing up the public poll tax registers will have complete discretion to delete from the public extracts the names and addresses of those who are fearful for their well-being, and in some cases their lives, if their names and addresses are published?
Mr. Wakeham : The hon. Gentleman has not chosen an especially good topic this week. He should perhaps compare the position with that of the register of electors. I do not believe that he is justified in saying what he said. He has grossly overstated the case.
Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North) : I remind my right hon. Friend of his opposition to debates on opinion polls, in which I support him. I invite him, however, to have a debate on a real poll which took place in my constituency last Thursday in the Hobbayne ward, in which the Conservatives gained an Ealing council seat from the Labour party, with a swing from Labour of 23.6 per cent. Will he include in any motion relating to that the fact that that is the third gain by the Conservative party of a seat on Ealing council in five months?
Column 1157the Lord Chancellor's important and far- reaching proposals in the Green Paper? Will he organise, as early as possible, a debate on this subject to demonstrate both the important need for urgent action and the relative isolation of the few objectors?
Mr. Wakeham : My hon. Friend has expressed his opinion, which I value. My view is that the Green Paper is a detailed and complicated document and, before considering the possibility of a debate, it would perhaps be better if we waited until right hon. and hon. Members and those outside the House have had time to consider it properly. I am sure that that is a matter to which we shall want to return.
Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood) : Will my right hon. Friend explain why no Minister from the Ministry of Defence has made a statement to the House about the recent IRA bombing of the Tern Hill barracks? Were there not serious questions to be asked about security, rules of engagement and liaison with the police? Was not grave damage done to property? If such an eventuality were to occur in the future, will my right hon. Friend ensure that, instead of Ministers giving interviews to the media, they come first to the House?
Mr. Wakeham : My hon. Friend will remember that I answered questions for the Prime Minister on this matter earlier in the week. It is a matter of judgment whether it is right to make statements in the House. That is something which the Government consider carefully on each occasion. On this occasion, it was not thought that it was appropriate or helpful, but that did not in any way diminish our horror of and concern about that terrible event.
Column 1158(Mr. Budgen) for a debate on 1 March on devolution? Does my right hon. Friend realise that in the running of this unitary Parliament proposals for the forms and structures of government and voting patterns are reflected and impinge on all the areas covered by the unitary Parliament? In particular, there is no way that Scotland can ignore developments in Ulster, any more than Ulster can ignore developments in Scotland. That has been frequently shown by the number of arms caches recovered in Scotland, which has a direct link with the hostilities in Ulster.
Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay) : Is my right hon. Friend interested to learn that, after I raised the subject of the need for a necessary knick -knack kiosk in this place, I was approached by a score or more hon. Members with their own hard luck stories, including one hon. Member who said that his marriage was threatened because of his inability to buy a birthday card for his wife? Is my right hon. Friend interested to know, further, that the Doormen and the Badge Messengers have brought to my attention the fact that they used to be allowed to run such a store in Westminster Hall and that it has been a long tradition in the House to use that area for commercial purposes? Will my right hon. Friend reconsider reinstating that tradition?
Mr. Wakeham : My hon. Friend wants to be careful of hard luck stories inside or outside the House from men--hon. Gentlemen or not--whom she does not know too well. I know that she is well capable of looking after herself on those occasions. I am glad that her story ended happily. If my hon. Friend believes that there are any changes that we should make to our arrangements, I suggest that she contact the Chairman of the Accommodation and Administration Sub-Committee, which is responsible for such matters.
Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will know how I have persisted with you over these weeks-- indeed, I courteously left the Chamber last week at your request--on the question of six Conservative Members of Parliament. You will have noted once again the reply of the Leader of the House when I asked a question about the provision of classified information to Select Committees. He immediately hid--as indeed, you did, Mr. Speaker, two weeks ago--behind the concept of security being so important that these matters cannot be discussed. Where do I go from here, Mr. Speaker, because this matter remains? I do not intend to give up, and I may have to persist in ways that the House might not like. [Interruption.] I am just saying what will happen. I believe that there is a serious consideration that hon. Members must examine, which is the question whether classified information should be given to Select Committees without us knowing whether the members of those Committees--or even members of the Committee of Selection--are fit to handle classified material. The matter cannot go away. I wonder whether you will go away and examine this matter and give me further advice, because I intend to persist in asking for it, and taking other routes if necessary.
Mr. Michael Latham (Rutland and Melton) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Would it not solve all the problems if the hon. Gentleman were to have a chat with my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken) and then we could perhaps know who those six Conservative Members are? I would like to know, for example, whether I am one of them.
Mr. Campbell-Savours : Might I add to that, because it would be helpful to the House? I have done precisely that. The hon. Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken) is a Member of honour, and he has refused to give me that list.
Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Can I ask you to consider another aspect of this matter? I do not share my hon. Friend's view that Members of Parliament should be vetted--
Mr. Benn : My concern is that there should be vetting of Members of Parliament by the security services, which is a threat to the rights of the House. I am not concerned about whether Members are able to pass the MI5 test or not, because that of itself is a threat to the independence of the House. I would only ask you, therefore, to consider whether it is in order and whether you, Mr. Speaker, would ascertain whether it has occurred and that security services personnel have come to conclusions about the reliability of hon. Members. If that were to prevail, it would not be long before candidates standing for Parliament would have to prove not only that they were not disqualified according to the statute, but that they were not disqualified according to a secret vetting procedure. I hope that, by putting it this way, I can help you to make inquiries on behalf of the House to find out whether it is true that the security services vet Members of Parliament. If that were to occur, that would be the ultimate capitulation of the legislature to the Executive.
Mr. James Wallace, supported by Mr. Menzies Campbell, Mr. Archy Kirkwood, Mrs. Ray Michie, Mr. Charles Kennedy, Mr. Malcolm Bruce and Sir Russell Johnston, presented a Bill to amend section 29 of the Abolition of Domestic Rates Etc. (Scotland) Act 1987 to provide for the hearing of evidence in relation to appeals under the Act : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 3 March and to be printed. [Bill 83].
That this House takes note of the White Paper "Developments in the European Community January-June 1988" (Cm. 467).
I know that the House wishes to be fully informed about proposals and discussions in the European Community. The House deserves both individual and general debate. I join the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) in regretting that this debate could not have been held earlier. We would have preferred it, but it did not prove to be possible.
I accept that there is genuine concern in the House about the need to make the process of parliamentary scrutiny more timely and effective. I have noted the amendment that was tabled by some of my hon. Friends. I assure them that, although we are not debating the amendment, as the issue was raised in section 15 of the White Paper, we are noting carefully the views of all right hon. and hon. Members. My right hon. Friend the Lord President will look carefully at what is said in the debate.
We must ensure that the recommendations of the Scrutiny Committee on European Community legislation are acted on in good time. Of course there are difficulties in arranging the timing of debates, but I am determined to do all possible to improve the situation. Our record in 1988 shows a welcome increase : 39 scrutiny debates on 109 documents. Last year, we debated the largest number of documents for many years. We shall aim for further improvement. We shall try to make the mechanics of the scrutiny system work better, for the benefit of good discussion in the House. We look forward to the comments and suggestions that will be made in the coming weeks to my right hon. Friend the Lord President.
Mrs. Chalker : Off hand, I would be foolish to give the hon. Gentleman an exact answer. My memory--it is only my memory, and it is fallible from time to time--tells me that suggestions were made and were later taken up, but I rather doubt whether the actual wording was changed. If I have erred, I shall tell the hon. Gentleman so that he knows the correct answer and can make it available to other hon. Members.
Mr. Jonathan Aitken (Thanet, South) : Not only the Leader of the House but my right hon. Friend's Department needs to note some of these suggestions. I refer my right hon. Friend to the debate on 14 November on tobacco products. The most gentle of amendments suggested that the Government should be sensitive to not trying to make article 100A, as Mr. Speaker's counsel has said, do more work than it was ever intended to do. According to revelations that were made by the recently ministerially deceased Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie), that amendment was voted down on the instructions of the Foreign Office. That
Column 1162point appeared in correspondence in The Guardian . It is not good enough for the Foreign Office to take such a strong line on a sensible House of Commons suggestion.
Mrs. Chalker : I remember reading something in The Guardian . I am surprised that my hon. Friend believes everything that he reads in it. I remember that the facts were not quite as described in The Guardian . I do not have the relevant papers with me, so I hope that my hon. Friend will forgive me if I refer to the White Paper.
Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North) : I am sure that my right hon. Friend would be happy to agree with me that if there is to be a debate in the House on many of these instruments--there are many important ones and many are coming through at the moment--if democracy is to mean anything at all, it should take place before the common position has been agreed within the Community.
Mrs. Chalker : It is quite difficult to know the best time to have a debate. My hon. Friend is aware that the Commission will put forward a proposal, and comments will be made on it. It may be changed, and it may then go forward again. If the time of the House is not to be concentrated solely on these matters, which would not be in the best interests of the House, we must investigate the best possible times, which may differ according to the matter under consideration, to look at the details. My right hon. Friend the Lord President is concerned with these very measures, as are all Ministers who are engaged on European business, not solely the Foreign Office. Mr. Marlow rose --
Mrs. Chalker : I should not think so, either. My hon. Friend made a reasonable point. My only caution is that I have known an occasion on which we thought that a common position had been agreed, and a further common position was subsequently arrived at. If such an event is possible, we must look at the best possible time to discuss every subject. In this matter, we are concerned to get a better system not only to notify hon. Members when things will come forward but to try to arrange the business of the House in a better fashion to get proper scrutiny. My hon. Friend has my full assurance that nobody will be happier than I if we can get scrutiny debates better organised than they have been for a long while.
In commending to the House this White Paper on 1988 events in the first half of the year, I shall single out three main developments : first, the February 1988 agreements on reforming the common agricultural policy and controlling Economic Community expenditure ; secondly, the dramatic progress on the single market which this unlocked ; and, thirdly, the consequent developments in the Community's relations with the wider world.
The White Paper covers the period of the German presidency. It was a significant six months for the Community. It included the special European Council in Brussels, on 13 February, and the Hanover European Council, held on 27-28 June. It was at the 1988 February
Column 1163Heads of Government Council that final agreement was reached on the key issues of future financing and agriculture.
That agreement was an excellent one, both for Britain and for the Community. It was a threefold triumph to ensure, first, that future increases in Community resources go hand in hand with effective and legally binding controls on expenditure ; secondly, that measures to reduce agricultural surpluses would be effective ; and, thirdly, that the Fontainebleau abatement mechanism for the United Kingdom was maintained in full. That is how, in 1989, we will receive an abatement of £1,179 million.
Some of my hon. Friends have argued that we could have painlessly achieved all that if we had adopted a more accommodating negotiating style. With every respect, they were wrong. I know of no one who was involved in the negotiation leading up to February 1988, in any Community capital, who agrees with them. Some argued that the achievements were illusory and that, in particular, time would tell that we have not succeeded in limiting the CAP. I should like to show some of my hon. Friends who still think that why they are wrong. The February 1988 texts were given legally binding form in June, and the impact was immediate. The 1989 budget was adopted with CAP spending well within the legal guideline. During the 1989 budget process, the Commission proposed, and the Council and Parliament agreed, extra savings worth some £2,500 million. They came from improvements in managements and the change in the dollar-ecu relationship and changes in world prices and, indeed, production due to drought.
The agricultural "stabilisers", that 1988 innovation, were triggered for a wide range of arable crops. This produced 1988 price cuts of up to 20 per cent. For the key cereals crop there will be a 1989 price cut of 3 per cent. The intervention stocks dropped sharply. The milk powder mountain has gone, with quantities in store amounting to only about two days' supply for the Community. The butter mountain shrank by 88 per cent. in 1988.
Even the once stubbornly high stocks of beef are falling significantly. They are now 38 per cent. down on last year. In short, financial control is now biting, and biting hard.
Mr. Taylor : How can the Minister, who is speaking to a half-empty House of Commons, talk about the butter mountain being reduced because of reforms? Do not the figures which I have sent to my right hon. Friend and which have been published in Hansard show that we had a thorough clearance sale whereby 877,000 tonnes of butter were sold at prices as low as 2.75p a pound instead of the usual 400,000 tonnes per year? How on earth can the Minister call this the outcome of reform when the figures published by the Ministry of Agriculture show that we had a thorough clearance sale of the existing mountain at a ludicrously low price? How can that be a reform?
Column 1164reduced, it saves storage costs. By saving storage costs, we are not putting good money into a non-productive sector. That was the importance of these reforms.
Clearly, there is much more to be done. The fact that financial control is now biting is one of the most important aspects of the decisions made last year. Obviously, not everything can be put right overnight. In particular, we need to ensure that value for money in European Community expenditure is pursued with equal rigour. That means effective and continuing action to detect and deter fraud. The United Kingdom has consistently argued for this. In 1987, I urged the late Mr. Aigner, who was then chairman of the Budgetary Control Committee of the European Parliament, to stimulate an increase in his efforts. I am pressing Mr. Scho"n, his successor, to give extra attention to this.
Last week, it was alleged in another place that in 1987 the United Kingdom vetoed action on fraud by the Commission. I have to tell the House that that was not so. On the contrary, the United Kingdom has been the leading advocate of the anti-fraud unit which has been set up inside the Commission. Fraud must be tackled by the Commission, and by member states working together, and we shall see that it is. The decision taken in March 1987 at the ECOFIN Council was unanimously to reject the Commission's proposal because it was not thought right to have a Commission-led investigative mission. It is thought right that both the Commission, and the member states working together, should tackle the problem and get it right.
The House may be interested to know that I spent part of Tuesday of this week with Commissioner Schmidhuber on this very subject. We shall indeed make sure that this is high on all the agendas. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be raising the matter in March at the ECOFIN Council.
Mr. Marlow : Let us be realistic. Is it likely that the Italian Government will prevent the Mafia from fraudulently applying Community funds? It is very difficult for the Italian Government to deal with the Mafia. If they get the money, more Community money goes to Italy, and so Italy will benefit anyway. As the Italian Government will not do it, perhaps it is time that we had an extra-national body that could sort out the problem.
Mrs. Chalker : I am slightly surprised at my hon. Friend's suggestion for an extra-national body. I believe that a combination of Commission and national Government action is right. Whatever may be the problems of the Italian Government in dealing with criminality in their own society, I cannot answer for them this afternoon. I will say, however, that we have made this a British priority, and it has now become a Community priority. We shall consistently support the work of the Court of Auditors. I agree with my hon. Friends that its report for 1987 makes several disturbing criticisms. It is clear that more action is needed.
It is totally wrong if large amounts of Community money are being wasted, because Community money is
Column 1165taxpayers' money and we certainly do not need gamekeepers turned poachers at taxpayers' expense. We must remember that.
At last week's Agriculture Council, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food strongly supported the Commission's determination.
My right hon. Friend strongly supported the Commission's determination to follow up the Court of Auditors' findings. Community controls over intervention stocks and export refunds must be strengthened. That is why my right hon. Friend pressed a strong case for a change to the control procedures. Those adopted up to now have clearly failed to deter fraud effectively, and new proposals are needed.
Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman : Would my right hon. Friend consider, as there has been a lot of fraud in olive oil, linking receipts of EEC money with tax returns in Italy? If one applied for a tax return, one could get olive oil money only on the amount that had been declared.
Mrs. Chalker : I understand my hon. Friend's concern. It is worth investigating measures to get a more accurate figure. Jokes about tax returns have come from various Community countries for a long time. I am not sure that it would be the absolute safety line that my hon. Friend suggests, but we shall consider my hon. Friend's suggestion most carefully because we wish to investigate thoroughly any suggestion to detect and deter fraud.
I mentioned that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor will raise the matter on 13 March at the ECOFIN Council. Let there be no mistaking our determination to pursue the matter. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made clear that she will, if necessary, raise the question of fraud at the European Council in Madrid in June. That is a measure of how seriously we view the problem. We want thorough and effective action, not words.
We have made important strides in 1988 towards the completion of the European single market. That has been, and remains, the major United Kingdom priority. To do this, the Community needs policies which encourage enterprise. It is remarkable how that message of liberalisation has been taken up throughout Europe, including by the Commission. The Hanover European Council endorsed it and called, specifically, for further work on financial services, public purchasing, standards and intellectual property, which are all areas in which we want early progress.
In the six months to June 1988, we secured agreement on a string of 56 liberalising, enabling or market-opening measures, all of them to encourage enterprise. We agreed to abolish quotas for international road haulage. Permits for lorry journeys will be increased each year, so that by the end of 1992 there will be no further restrictions on choice of road transport for businesses throughout the Community. That must bring down costs, and the United Kingdom transport industry stands to benefit greatly.
Secondly, after more than a decade of negotiation, we finally liberalised non-life insurance. That will leave