Monday --17 April----Second Reading of the Dock Work Bill. Motion relating to the Housing (Change of Landlord) Regulations. Motions relating to the Education (National Curriculum) (Attainment Targets and Programmes of Study in Mathematics) and (Science) Orders.
Tuesday --18 April----Opposition Day (7th Allotted Day, 1st half). There will be a debate on a motion in the name of the Social Democratic party motion entitled "The Commercialisation of the National Health Service".
Motion to take note of EC documents on the single market. Details will be given in the Official Report.
The Chairman of Ways and Means has named opposed private business for consideration at Seven o'clock.
Wednesday --19 April----Opposition Day (8th Allotted Day). Until about Seven o'clock there will be a debate entitled "Investing in the Future--The Next Decade". Afterwards there will be a debate entitled "Care in the Community--The Next Decade". Both debates will arise on motions in the name of the Social and Liberal Democrats.
Thursday --20 April----There will be a debate on private bill procedure on a motion for the Adjournment of the House. The report of the Joint Committee on Private Bill procedure (HC 625) will be relevant to the debate.
Friday --21 April----Private Members' Bills.
Monday --24 April----Progress on remaining stages of the Social Security Bill.
[Debate on Tuesday 18 April
Relevant European Community Documents
(a) 9756/88 Completing the internal market
(b) 10413/88 Information on technical standards and Regulations Relevant Reports of European Legislation Committee
(a) HC 15-vii (1988-89), para 2
(b) HC 15-ix (1988-89), para 2.]
Mr. Dobson : I thank the Leader of the House for his statement and in particular I thank him for including the report of the Committee looking into private Bill procedure and for providing time to debate that report next week.
When can we expect the promised debate in Government time on the future of the National Health Service? There was a rumour that that would be held over until some reputable body to do with the Health Service came up with an expression of support for the Government's proposals. Will the Leader of the House tell his right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Health that that is not going to happen and that we cannot wait much longer?
When are we likely to have the long-promised debate on the Government's proposals to substitute student loans for student grants? What progress is being made to bring forward the Bill to outlaw the buying and selling of human tissue? Has the Leader of the House made any progress in
Column 1060the discussions which he set in train with a view to establishing a Select Committee on Scottish Affairs or finding some other proposal which might prove acceptable to the House and in particular to Scottish Members?
Mr. Wakeham : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I agree that Thursday's debate on private Bill procedure is important. It is a complicated subject and I look forward to hearing the views of the House on the matter. The hon. Gentleman asked about the National Health Service. The hon. Gentleman will of course appreciate that it will be possible to raise Health Service matters in the debate on Tuesday--subject to your approval, Mr. Speaker. With regard to the general debate that I have promised, he shares with my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Health a desire to have that debate as soon as I can arrange it. Finding the time is causing the difficulty.
As I told the hon. Gentleman last week, there are consultations and discussions going on about student loans. The right time for a debate is after those have finished.
The hon. Gentleman asked about the sale of kidneys. Discussions are taking place through the usual channels about legislation on that matter. I am glad to say that there is considerable support in all parts of the House for the appropriate legislation, and we shortly expect to announce the introduction of a Government Bill. As the hon. Gentleman knows, I have had discussions with two of his hon. Friends about Scottish affairs. I told them that I did not see an easy solution, although I thought that their contribution to the discussion was helpful. I am working on it to see whether I can come up with some satisfactory proposals.
Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor and Maidenhead) : In view of the opinion of the House about human rights, can the Leader of the House find time for a debate on the matter? Such a debate would reveal that the human rights issue is now international and not just confined to the Soviet Union or south American or to any specific part of the world. If we could have a debate on the subject--contrary to the views of The Times --we might be able to establish some sort of international control.
Mr. Wakeham : I recognise that my hon. Friend speaks for many hon. Members in wanting a debate on this subject. If I were able to arrange it in the short term I should look forward to hearing his contribution. However, I am sorry to say that he must be a little patient with me because I cannot find time immediately for such a debate. I recognise that human rights is an important subject.
Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland) : The Leader of the House will acknowledge that another year has elapsed since publication of the Griffiths report on care in the community, yet during that time the Government have miserably failed to come up with a response. Will he congratulate my party colleagues on initiating a debate next week on that subject which will give Ministers an opportunity to spell out the Government's position? Can the right hon. Gentleman clarify the precise status of the decision taken last night by the European Parliament for tighter controls on car exhaust emissions? When will the House get an opportunity to endorse that decision?
Column 1061hon. Gentleman's party and think that we shall have a useful debate. I do not think that I can say that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security will be in a position during that debate to announce the final considerations of the Government. Nevertheless, we welcome the debate and will have to find another occasion on which to discuss matters further.
The hon. Gentleman asked about car emission standards. We shall, of course, carefully study the European Parliament's vote and decision yesterday, and in due course we shall study the Commission's revised proposals that we expect it to put to the Council of Ministers in June.
Sir Bernard Braine (Castle Point) : In view of the implications for both East and West of recent developments in the Soviet Union and the stirrings that are now taking place in eastern Europe linked with new hopes about the awareness of human rights, when can we expect an early debate on foreign affairs?
Mr. Wakeham : I recognise a general interest in this subject in all parts of the House, and the support by my right hon. Friend of the request made by my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor and Maidenhead (Dr. Glyn) is an important addition. I wish that I could find time in the near future for such a debate. I shall look for the earliest possible opportunity.
Mr. Robert Parry (Liverpool, Riverside) : Will the Leader of the House state that hon. Members who act as consultants for port companies will not take part in the Committee on the Bill, and will not be allowed to vote in or take part in debates on the operation of the dock labour scheme?
Mr. Wakeham : Statements by me do not govern those matters. They are matters for the House and for my hon. Friend the Chairman of the Committee of Selection and his colleagues on the Committee. It is not for me to make statements on those matters.
Mr. Spencer Batiste (Elmet) : My right hon. Friend will be aware that earlier in the week the Attorney-General indicated that the object of the Green Papers produced by the Lord Chancellor was to generate as wide a debate as possible on the future of the legal profession. There has been an extensive debate in another place. The judges are apparently having a debate on Saturday. Everybody except the House has had a chance to debate the Green Papers. Will my right hon. Friend find an opportunity for a debate here before the end of the consultation period?
Mr. Wakeham : I cannot give my hon. Friend that promise. Had he been here at a late hour early in the week, he would have found that there was a debate in which the contributions were, if I may say so, of variable quality.
Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) : Can we have a statement next week on how the same sort of stories appeared in yesterday's papers saying that the Secretary of State for Wales was likely to be an earlier victim of a Cabinet reshuffle? Did those stories originate with Mr. Ingham? Is the Leader of the House aware that in any such statement next week the point will no doubt be made that it is undesirable for a civil servant, a close member of the
Column 1062Prime Minister's kitchen Cabinet, to have such influence in the country, bearing in mind his dishonourable conduct at the time of the Westland affair?
Mr. Wakeham : The hon. Gentleman uses Parliament to express his point of view. I do not complain about that, but he makes disgraceful and disagreeable remarks that are not based on substance. I do not think that they are worthy of a reply.
Sir Hal Miller (Bromsgrove) : Further to the vote in the European Parliament on vehicle emission standards, does my right hon. Friend accept that it would be in the interests of car owners, environmental lobbyists and motor manufacturers alike for a definitive decision to be reached as soon as possible because of the probable expense for the car owner and the technology likely to be involved for the motor manufacturer? May we have an early indication of what the Government seek to achieve on the matter?
Mr. Wakeham : I recognise that it is an important matter and that there are alternative solutions to the problem. The announcement that I made, that the Government will study carefully the decision of the European Parliament and in due coure the Commission's revised proposals, is the most constructive way forward.
Mrs. Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley) : I welcome the announcement that there is to be a debate on the report of the Joint Committee on Private Bill Procedure. Can the Leader of the House tell us why there has been a delay in giving the Government's response to that report? Is he aware that highly controversial Bills, such as the Cardiff Bay Barrage Bill, are going through the House at the moment? The objectors to that Bill are at a grave disadvantage compared to the promoters. Is he aware that the delay in implementing the Government's response to the report, which we hope will be favourable, means that we are continuing to cost the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of pounds?
Mr. Wakeham : I think that the hon. Lady recognises that the subject is considerably more complicated than the way she phrased her question would lead one to believe. Whether or not the Government can come to a clear view on all aspects of the report next Thursday, from many readings of the report it is clear that it would require a substantial amount of primary legislation to enact it. That clearly cannot be done at this stage in the Session. The right procedure is for the House to express its views next Thursday. I hope that the hon. Lady is called to express her view. I hope that hon. Members will use the occasion to debate the principles underlying these important matters rather than deal with particular cases. I hope to learn something from the views of all parts of the House. Then we shall decide how best to proceed.
Sir Richard Body (Holland with Boston) : Further to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Elmet (Mr. Baptiste), will my right hon. Friend reconsider his decision concerning a debate on the Green Papers on the legal profession? Last week in another place, a succession of dinosaurs were trundled through at the behest--we understand--of the Lord Chief Justice, giving a very unfortunate impression of the legal profession. Some of us who are more in touch with public opinion would like to put another point of view.
Mr. Wakeham : My hon. Friend makes a fair point. I attended part of the debate and read it. Some of the analysis was not as accurate as it might be. A considerable number of noble Lords spoke in favour of the proposals. I believe that a majority of those who spoke and who are not lawyers were in favour of them. However, I shall still find it difficult to make time for a debate in the very near future.
Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) : When the judges go on strike on Monday-- [Interruption.] If there are further developments, and if there is an unofficial strike, will the Home Secretary make a statement in the House? If that demonstration takes place in the Strand, will appropriate plans be made for a road block? If the leader of that gang, Lord Donaldson, ex-head of NIRC, finishes up in gaol, will the right hon. Gentleman make arrangements for the Official Solicitor to fetch him out? If people like me want to attend that spectacle, will passes be needed?
Mr. Wakeham : The hon. Gentleman raises a number of important issues, and I do not have at my fingertips all the details that he will need for his voyage of discovery. However, I can tell the House that a press release about that matter was issued this afternoon and that the judges council has decided to postpone the meeting to a Saturday. I am sure that right hon. and hon. Members will welcome that decision.
Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough and Horncastle) : Did my right hon. Friend note the report in The Scotsman that the Opposition intend carrying out line-by-line trench warfare against the Bill now being considered in Committee room 12, to give Scottish parents the right to govern their own schools? As Opposition Members who are members of that Committee have already shown that they are more interested in time-wasting than in reasoned argument by, for example, filibustering an amendment that the Minister had already accepted, will my right hon. Friend consider introducing a timetable motion so that the will of Parliament, as expressed on Second Reading, will be carried out?
Mr. Wakeham : I find it hard to agree with my hon. Friend. I thought that any Opposition worth their salt would use reasoned argument in debate. I have not studied in detail what is going on in the Committee, but I shall be extremely surprised if the Opposition are devoting themselves to trench warfare and other ploys, which I am sure would be quite disreputable.
Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) : Will the Leader of the House find time next week or in the near future for a debate on the prison conditions and the circumstances surrounding the reference to the Court of Appeal of the Guildford Four? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is continuing concern about the health and condition of all four prisoners while awaiting discussions at the Court of Appeal? There is also considerable concern about a report in The Guardian last Monday of a dispute between the Home Office and Somerset and Avon constabulary about non-payment of money by the Home Office for that constabulary's inquiries, and the statement that it has refused to undertake any additional preparatory work in connection with the reference to the Court of Appeal until the constabulary has been paid for the last inquiries that it undertook. Does the Leader of the House agree that that matter is serious and warrants debate?
Mr. Wakeham : It is a serious matter, and I have grave doubts whether it would be right and proper to have a debate in the House at the present time. However, if the hon. Gentleman will write to me with more information, I shall ensure that he receives an answer.
Mr. James Kilfedder (North Down) : Will the Leader of the House provide time for a debate on the provision of television licences at a concessionary rate to pensioners living alone, with their spouse, or with another pensioner? That is an important matter, because for some pensioners television is their only form of companionship, and for many of them it provides a window on the world.
Mr. Wakeham : I recognise that it is important to make that concession to some pensioners but I cannot see a way to find time for a debate at present. My hon. Friend might care to raise the matter on an Adjournment debate. Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish) : I shall bring the Leader of the House back to the debate on private Bills. It would be helpful if the Government's response to the report were made official because it is difficult for people who are considering promoting Bills to know when the procedure may change. Is he aware that by the time a public notice has been put out about the Bill until the time it is brought forward is about two years? It would be helpful if he could tell us whether he intends to accept the report in principle and whether he expects it to be implemented about this time next year.
Mr Wakeham : We held discussions through the usual channels and felt that it was right and proper to debate this on the Adjournment to enable everybody to put their point of view. The Government will give their initial considerations next Thursday. That is the best way to proceed.
Mr. Jonathan Aitken (Thanet, South) : Will my right hon. Friend confirm the leak in today's Guardian which says that the Government seem to have suffered a most welcome degree of repentance over their hard-line views on the Official Secrets Bill? Is it true, as the newspaper says, that the very amendments that the Government refused to accept in this House-- strengthening the harm test--are to be introduced in another place? Will my right hon. Friend confirm that we shall be given an opportunity to debate these important issues in the House.
Mr. Wakeham : I am certainly not in a position to state what amendments will be tabled in another place. My hon. Friend may already appreciate that if the amendments are accepted in another place, he will be able to debate them in this House in due course.
Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington) : When the Leader of the House was considering whether there should be debates on the numerous reports produced by the Procedure Committee, was the absence of time a consideration in his mind?
Mr. Wakeham : The absence of time is a consideration in every debate that I organise in the House. We had a debate on the outstanding Procedure Committee reports some time ago. It was not well attended but it was useful, nevertheless. We shall no doubt have to return to the subject again. Time is always a problem but getting the answer right is probably more important.
Mr. Michael Latham (Rutland and Melton) : When he answers a parliamentary question next week, will my right hon. Friend explain why the House can act as a legislative sausage machine all the time, but our best minds cannot solve the problems of how to prevent constituents standing in the rain when they wish to go round the Line of Route? Can we solve this problem as soon as possible?
Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West) : Will the Leader of the House tell us when we last had a Bill as controversial and unheralded as the Dock Work Bill, which the Government are steamrolling through the House in the shortest possible time? It is a controversial Bill and there is no question of it going through with co-operation from the Opposition. Is there a conspiracy between port employers and the Government to try to provoke a strike within the dock industry to cover up the domestic problems now confronting the Government--such as the local elections--and create a domestic equivalent of the Falklands war? Why will not the Leader of the House give us proper time to consider the proposals, reach a conclusion and have a proper debate, rather than merely put a legislative stamp on a piece of nasty conspiracy which is being carried out between them and the employers?
Mr. Wakeham : The hon. Gentleman's views are flavoured by the colour of his tie today. The Dock Work Bill has been introduced in proper time for consideration at appropriate intervals and will be dealt with in a correct and constitutional fashion.
Mr. Nigel Forman (Carshalton and Wallington) : Will my right hon. Friend find time at an early date for a debate on the need to reform and tighten the law on trespass, particularly the problems connected with large gipsy convoys and illegal gipsy encampments?
Mr. Wakeham : I know that that causes concern in some constituencies, and I was asked about it by one of my hon. Friends last week. I cannot promise early legislation, but I will refer the matter to my right hon. Friend.
Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West) : May I again ask the Leader of the House if he will make early arrangements for a debate on issues arising from the publication of the book "Satanic Verses"? Does he agree that Moslems living in Britain have a democratic right to have their deep sense of grievance and offence over the book's publication recorded by the House, and should not the general public have a democratic right to a debate in the House on how we can promote better understanding and respect in a multiracial, multi-faith Britain for all traditions, cultures and religions?
Mr. Wakeham : I have a deal of sympathy with what the hon. Gentleman has said. Views expressed by the Government--and, indeed, by a number of right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House--have shown the considerable concern aroused by those serious events. I do not, however, feel able to promise an early debate on the subject.
Column 1066parallel. On the subject of exhaust emissions in the European Community, as I understand it, this was the Commission's revised proposal. The Commission, of course, is not a democratic institution and has connived with the European Parliament--an institution of somewhat flawed democracy, as it is seen in this country--to produce this new solution. It has not been agreed by a British Minister--a British Minister who is responsible to the democratic control of this House. What can the House now do about it? Have we had it? Is it all over?
Mr. Wakeham : We cannot do anything about it in Business Questions, that is for sure. I think that my advice to the House was right : we must see the Commission's revised proposals, which we expect it to put to the Council of Ministers in June. We shall then be able to reach a view.
Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley) : Does the Leader of the House recognise the concern of many hon. Members that the Government have again failed to announce that time will be made available for a debate on foreign affairs next week? Do they not provide insufficient time annually to discuss foreign affairs--at a time when important developments are taking place in, for instance, Namibia and South Africa--so that we must depend on Adjournment debates such as tonight's? Should not the Government provide more time for us to discuss their role of influence in such matters?
Mr. Wakeham : I recognise the hon. Gentleman's view. I do not suppose that I would take him with me if I said that we have a substantial amount of important legislation to get through, but dealing with these matters is always a question of balance. I have corresponded with a number of right hon. and hon. Members about the foreign affairs debate. There is something that the House can do : perhaps some hon. Members could speak rather more briefly in the foreign affairs debates that we do arrange. I recognise, however, that that is not the sole problem, and I agree that it would be highly desirable to find a bit more time.
Mr. Andrew MacKay (Berkshire, East) : Notwithstanding this afternoon's announcement of the retreat of the judiciary, may I join the request from both sides of the House for a debate on the Green Paper proposals on law reform? Many of us believe that the judges behaved very insensitively, but the great majority of our constituents do not now place much credence in their views on the reforms.
Mr. Eddie Loyden (Liverpool, Garston) : May I ask the Leader of the House in all seriousness whether, if the Government want to avoid a national dock strike, it would not be right for them to allow consultations with the union--which have not taken place so far--and for the House to debate the matter before Second Reading of the Bill? I believe that all concerned want to avoid a national dock strike--
Mr. Wakeham : I am sure that all sensible hon. Members want to avoid a dock strike, but I cannot accept the proposition that a democratic House of Commons cannot discuss legislation introduced in it by a Government with a clear majority in a proper constitutional fashion.
Mr. Roger Gale (Thanet, North) : My right hon. Friend will be aware that as of today 272 hon. Members, including many Conservative Back- Benchers, have signed an early-day motion calling for the introduction of a dog registration scheme. My right hon. Friend will also be aware that on each day since the motion was tabled, 1,000 dogs have been put to death, which amounts to 100,000 dogs. I appreciate that it is not a matter of burning international importance, but it concerns many people. Will my right hon. Friend either find time for the House to debate the matter or, at the least, draw the significance of those figures to the attention of our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment?
Mr. Wakeham : My right hon. Friend is, of course, aware of early-day motion 348 and the strong views of hon. Members. Nevertheless, the Government have made it clear that they do not consider that a registration scheme would do anything to assist dog welfare or control. I regret that there are no plans to implement section 37.
Mr. Ray Powell (Ogmore) : I appreciate the fact that the Leader of the House has to allocate time to certain Bills and has to define priorities. However, he might have listened to the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Garston (Mr. Loyden) during which the hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Hamilton) said that he would like to see a strike being called by the dockers. Why was priority given for the Bill on the dockers to be discussed next week, where there are more important items and Bills waiting to be discussed in the House, such as the Children Bill? Why do the Government delay such Bills just to get legislation they want on to the statute book?
Mr. Wakeham : The hon. Gentleman is not being fair or reasonable. The arrangement of business in the House is done through the usual channels and there are discussions about the most convenient days for business. I have already announced the programme agreed and it is the best way to proceed.
Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch) : For many years, I have pestered my right hon. Friend for some action to bring to a satisfactory conclusion the future of the Settle to Carlisle railway line. May I take the opportunity formally to thank my right hon. Friend and his ministerial colleagues for a historic decision, which has been universally acclaimed in the House and far beyond? Does my right hon. Friend recognise that the decision made by our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport is historic? There has never before been a refusal of a closure of that nature. If it is a U-turn by the Government, it merely refutes those who say that the Government are always inflexible and never listen. In view of the rising environmental clamour, which we all understand and support, and which points to a happy future for the railways, will my right hon. Friend find an early opportunity to debate the investment criteria that the Treasury lays on British Rail?
congratulations to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport. I do not see myself able immediately to find time for a debate on the subject of the investment criteria for British Rail. However, it seems that there may be several occasions in the not too distant future on which the subject could be brought into the debate.
Mr. Neil Hamilton (Tatton) : Will my right hon. Friend find time for an early debate on the hypocrisy of the Opposition Front Bench? Is he aware that the Labour party has an industrial policy group, which is charged with the responsibility for evolving a policy opposed to privatisation without frightening off the voters? A leak of documents from that committee has been roundly condemned by the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) as mischief-making and disloyalty. He has said that he will have strong words with the leaker at the national executive meeting or the industrial policy group meeting this afternoon. Can we assist him by offering the use of the special branch or the police to investigate? Is it not extraordinary that the Opposition are delighted to welcome leaks when information is leaked from the Government, but when their own information is leaked, they are all in favour of secrecy?
Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. We have heard that the Second Reading debate on the Dock Work Bill is to take place next Monday. Before the debate, I should be most grateful if you could advise the House about the position of hon. Members who stand to benefit if the Dock Work Bill is passed and the national dock labour scheme is abolished. Ought they to be allowed to vote at the end of the Second Reading debate? The Register of Members' Interests suggests that a number of right hon. and hon. Members have directorships or parliamentary consultancies that are connected with the docks. The abolition of the national dock labour scheme would directly benefit the interests that they serve in the House It is important that you should consider giving advice as to whether it is proper that such Members should vote on Second Reading.
During Business Questions there were exchanges, particularly involving my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mr. Parry), about the selection of members for the Standing Committee, if the Bill is given a Second Reading on Monday. The Leader of the House said that that is a matter for the Chair of the Committee of Selection. I am advised that the Chair of that Committee--who is up to his eyebrows in commercial interests, but I leave that on one side--cannot take into account Members' interests when he selects the members of Standing Committees. As the Chair of the Committee of Selection is not allowed to take such matters into account when selecting members of Standing Committees, it must therefore be a matter for you. It is for you to consider whether it is appropriate that hon. Members who will directly benefit from the abolition of the national dock labour scheme should be selected to serve on the Standing Committee.
I ask you to look at the Register of Members' Interests. I have looked at it this afternoon and found that it is littered with the names of hon. Members who have a very direct interest in this matter. The hon. Member for Tatton (Mr. Hamilton) was clearly heard by a number of Opposition Members to say a few minutes ago that he wants a national dock strike. It is interesting to note that the hon. Member for Tatton is a consultant to the National Association of Licensed Opencast Operators. Opencast operators will benefit if more profits are to be made in dockland by the abolition of the national dock labour scheme. Those are the interests that the hon. Member for Tatton serves.
Mr. Speaker : I think that I can deal with this matter. It has always been in order for hon. Members to vote on a matter of public policy. That is an established principle. It is not just the Chairman of the Committee of Selection but the Committee of Selection as a whole that decides who should be nominated to serve on the Committee.
Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I accept your ruling about the precedent for the selection of hon. Members, but I have a great deal of sympathy for the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden). It is an important issue. As we know, the Transport and General Workers Union has a great deal of interest in the outcome of the Bill. If we were to consider the position of a few of my right hon. and
Column 1070hon. Friends, would it not also be in order to consider the position of a great many Opposition Members who are sponsored by the Transport and General Workers Union, not least the Leader of the Opposition?