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Business of the House

3.30 pm

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

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Wakeham) : The business for next week will be as follows :

Monday 15 May----Private Members' motions.

Motion to take note of EC documents on taxation of savings. 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.

Tuesday 16 May----Opposition day (10th allotted day). Until about Seven o'clock there will be a debate entitled "The Soaring Cost of the Government's Publicity Machine". Afterwards there will be a debate entitled "The Decline of Manufacturing Industry". Both debates will arise on Opposition motions.

Motion to take note of EC documents on procurement procedures in the water, energy, transport and telecommunications sectors. Details will be given in the Official Report.

Wednesday 17 May----Progress on remaining stages of the Employment Bill.

Motion to take note of EC documents on control of concentrations. Details will be given in the Official Report.

Thursday 18 May----There will be a debate on a motion to take note of the White Paper on Developments in the European Community July-December 1988 (Cm. 641).

Friday 19 May----Private Members' motions.

Monday 22 May----Motion for the spring Adjournment.

Remaining stages of the Atomic Energy Bill [Lords] , the National Maritime Museum Bill [Lords] and the Civil Aviation (Air Navigation Charges) Bill [Lords] .

Mr. Speaker, the House will wish to know that, subject to the progress of business, it will be proposed that the House should rise for the spring Adjournment on Friday 26 May until Tuesday 6 June. [Monday 15 May

Relevant European Community Document

4763/89 Withholding tax

Relevant Report of European Legislation Committee

HC 15-xvi (1988-89), para 2

Tuesday 16 May

Relevant European Community Documents



8805/88 Procurement procedures (Water, Energy, Transport and Telecommunications)

Relevant Reports of European Legislation Committee

HC 15-ii (1988-89), para 1 and HC 15-xxi (1988-89), para 2 Wednesday 17 May

Relevant European Community Documents

(a) 9822/88 Control of mergers

(b) 5936/88 Control of mergers

Relevant Reports of European Legislation Committee

(a) HC 15-ix (1988-89), para 1

(b) HC 43-xxxvii (1987-88), para 1

HC 220-i]

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Mr. Dobson : I thank the Leader of the House for his statement. We know that the Secretary of State for the Environment was seeking sanctuary yesterday rather than coming to the House, but will the Leader of the House arrange for him to come to the House later today or early next week to explain why the law of the land is still being flouted and why this poll tax leaflet was delivered through the letter box of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition only this morning as were tens of thousands of such leaflets elsewhere? When will the Government obey the ruling of the judge in this matter?

The Leader of the House said last week, when I asked him when we would have the long-promised debate on the Government's proposals to substitute student loans for student grants, that we would have a debate

"when the current discussions with the financial institutions have been concluded".--[ Official Report, 4 May 1989 ; Vol. 152, c. 364.] According to newpaper reports today, those discussions are being concluded by a breakdown of relations between the Government and the institutions that they were trying to con into backing the scheme. Can we have an urgent debate, because the students, the universities, and above all, the students' parents are desperately keen to know what the Government will propose?

Will the Leader of the House also tell us when we can expect the long- promised debate on community care? it is now more than a year since the Griffiths report was received by the Government and during that time, hundreds of people who find it difficult to cope outside institutions without proper care have been turned out on to the streets. How many more thousands will be turned out before the Government come up with their response to the Griffiths report? Will the Leader of the House tell us when we shall have a debate on the lamentable state of our preparations for 1992?

Mr. Wakeham : The hon. Gentleman raised questions that I imagine could feature in the debate next Tuesday. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government is the Minister responsible for local government matters and it was wholly proper and appropriate for him to respond to the private notice question yesterday. As he informed the House, the case will be heard in court on Monday. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment acted as quickly as possible to comply with the terms of the order on Tuesday. It is right that the Government should explain a change that will affect 35 million people clearly, concisely and accurately. That is what we have been seeking to do by means of the leaflet.

The hon. Gentleman also asked about student loans. As I have said in previous weeks, the best time for a debate on top-up loans for students will be when the discussions of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education with the financial institutions have reached a conclusion. We have not yet reached that stage, so I cannot undertake that there will be a very early debate, but I will keep the position under review. The discussions with the financial institutions are making good progress and there is absolutely no truth in the suggestion in today's press that they are close to breakdown.

The hon. Gentleman raised again the question of the Griffiths report and I recognise that there is much interest in the Griffiths report on community care. As I have made clear in recent weeks, the Government are actively engaged in work to formulate our own proposals, which we intend

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to bring forward in the near future. We are very mindful of the concern that there should not be undue delay, but it is essential to reach the right solution and there are no easy answers in this complex area. The time for a debate will be when we have announced our proposals.

On the question of a debate about 1992 matters, subject to your decision, Mr. Speaker, I would have thought that the Opposition could have raised some of those issues in the debate next Thursday.

Mr. Bob Dunn (Dartford) : Will my right hon. Friend say whether it will be possible to have a debate in the near future on the tragic events taking place in the Socialist Republic of Romania? Is my right hon. Friend aware that many hundreds of thousands of people are having their lives and homes smashed to bits, that people are being persecuted for wishing to follow Christian or other religious beliefs and that civil rights, to the extent they exist in Romania, are being denied daily to those who wish to have at least a modicum of freedom?

Mr. Wakeham : I certainly recognise the strength of my hon. Friend's point. Our right hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) raised the matter with me recently and he had many of the same considerations in mind. I am aware of the general interest in the matter and in a debate on foreign affairs. However, I am sure that my hon. Friend will appreciate that at this time in the season, the demands for time on the Floor of the House are particularly heavy. I will look for a suitable opportunity when I can see the time.

Mr. Jack Ashley (Stoke-on-Trent, South) : Is the Leader of the House aware that, regardless of whether the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Defence are right about the nuclear test veterans or whether I am right, the fact is that those men, who have served their country loyally and with great dedication, now feel aggrieved and embittered? The only way to solve their grievance is by a judicial inquiry. May we debate that next week please?

Mr. Wakeham : I cannot comment further on the substance of the matter except to repeat what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said. I am afraid that I cannot find time for a debate next week, although the right hon. Gentleman presses me.

Mr. David Curry (Skipton and Ripon) : My right hon. Friend has announced a debate on EEC happenings of more than six months ago. Is he aware that many of us are far more concerned about what is likely to happen over the next six months? Will he ensure that the terms of the debate are drawn so that we can raise the whole matter of the prospects for the Madrid summit, the Delors report and other matters that are of great concern to hon. Members, irrespective of their view of the Community?

Mr. Wakeham : I cannot promise my hon. Friend that I shall do exactly that, although I shall consider his point. I realise that matters of European scrutiny are causing considerable dissatisfaction among a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House. I had a meeting with the Chairman of the Scrutiny Committee yesterday to discuss how such matters are handled and next week I shall be giving evidence to the Procedure Committee, which is also considering the matter. I hope that the collective

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wisdom of many hon. Members will enable us to find a better solution, and a better way of dealing with these matters in future.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland) : Will the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food be able to come to the House next week to explain why full safety clearance has been given to the apple spray Alar, given thatt the United States Environment Protection Agency has reached the interim conclusion that it causes cancer, and will he set about initiating the cancellation of its chemical licence?

Will there be an opportunity for the House to discuss the reform of the legal services before the Government give their response to the representations made following their Green Papers?

Mr. Wakeham : I shall refer the first point to my right hon. Friend the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and if a statement is necessary, he will make one. I cannot anticipate that. I realise that the reform of the legal services is an important matter and that a significant number of discussion documents have gone out. As I have said in previous weeks, I do not see myself being able to find time for a debate on the Green Papers, although if the Government come forward with proposals, there will certainly be plenty of time to discuss them.

Mr. Nicholas Baker (Dorset, North) : Will my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House ensure that the debate about the EEC next Thursday is wide enough to enable us to discuss the proposition that hon. Members should be encouraged--or at least able--to put their names forward for membership of the European Community in respect of constituencies in other countries?

Mr. Wakeham : That sounds an interesting subject, although whether it will be in order in the debate next week will depend on you, Mr. Speaker, rather than me.

Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr) : In answer to the first question the Leader of the House referred to a change in the law affecting 35 million citizens. Does he appreciate that the cause of our complaint and the reason why we should like to raise the matter next week is that to 10 million couples--20 million of those 35 million citizens--the poll tax has not been explained satisfactorily? The right hon. Gentleman has announced the business up to Monday, 22 May--the date when regulations Nos. 4 and 5 of the poll tax enforcement regulations come into force. In other words, it is the registration date from which the 21 days apply. Why has the House not so far debated any of the poll tax regulations, even though prayers have been laid? The 40-day period has long since passed and new orders have had to be put on the Order Paper. That date--22 May--is the key date. For those who had poll tax registration forms today, last week and the week before, the 21-day period does not start until 22 May. Why has the House not debated those regulations?

Mr. Wakeham : I think it best if I deal with the question of debates through the usual channels. I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's assertion that my right hon. Friend was wrong in what he said in his statement. However, that is a matter not for me but for the court next Monday.

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Sir Anthony Grant (Cambridgeshire, South-West) : Will there be an opportunity in the near future to have a debate on general defence policy, which is very much sought after by Her Majesty's loyal Opposition?

Mr. Wakeham : I realise that. I cannot promise a debate next week, but a debate will come pretty soon, I think.

Mr. Jim Marshall (Leicester, South) : Will the Leader of the House arrange for an early statement on the future of Short Brothers, Belfast? Is he aware that the company announced yesterday that there were to be 700 redundancies? It is vital that the House should have an opportunity, at the earliest possible date, to question the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland about the reason for these redundancies and discover whether they are a consequence of the past and present performance of the company or whether they are in preparation for privatisation. We need an early opportunity to press these questions.

Mr. Wakeham : The hon. Gentleman will have a chance to question my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State at Question Time next Thursday. The appropriate level of employment in Shorts is a matter for the management of Shorts and not for the Government to decide.

Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent) : Given that it appears that the only way in which one can ensure a next-day delivery of first-class mail is to have an ex-parte injunction banning the delivery, is there any prospect of having a debate on the future of the Post Office monopoly?

Mr. Wakeham : That is an important subject, but I cannot find time to debate it next week.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South) : May we have an early debate on the Government's propaganda machine? We could then discuss water authorities. Without any authority, they are embarking on a campaign on behalf of the Government, in which about £30 million is involved. At the same time, the Yorkshire water authority is proposing to sell off customers' names, as it claims, to raise revenue--revenue that, presumably, will work on behalf of the Government. Is it not time that we had a debate, a statement or Government intervention to stop a public service industry, which is publicly owned at the moment, propagandising on behalf of the Government?

Mr. Wakeham : If the debate next Tuesday is not about that matter and some related interests, I have no idea why the Opposition sought to put it down for debate. Opposition members will get a firm answer in that debate, and matters will certainly be clearer afterwards. The advertisements about which the hon. Gentleman is talking are purely commercial matters for the companies concerned to decide.

Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East) : Does my right hon. Friend recognise that, further to the EEC scrutiny point, there will be dismay among members of the Select Committee on European Legislation and other hon. Members that the Lingua programme documents are not to be debated next week, before the meeting of the Education Council of Ministers on Monday 22 May? The Select Committee has recommended those documents for debate. Does that not make a laughing stock of the whole business of scrutiny?

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Mr. Wakeham : I had a meeting with the Chairman of the Select Committee yesterday. I thought that we made considerable progress in identifying ways in which we might be able to improve some of those matters. I recognise that they are not totally satisfactory at the moment, but I am struggling to find better ways of doing it.

Mr. Ted Rowlands (Myrthyr Tydfil and Rhymney) : The Leader of the House has clarified the position of the Football Spectators Bill. Apart from the utter insensitivity of the Bill towards Hillsborough, will not the Bill come rather late to the House? Will he give the House an assurance that an early guillotine will not be imposed in an attempt to railroad the Bill through the House, when genuine divisions of opinion do not necessarily conform to party lines? Will he at least make sure that the Football Spectators Bill is not part of an elective dictatorship?

Mr. Wakeham : The Government have decided to have a pause in the passage of the Football Spectators Bill to allow a period of reflection following the Hillsborough tragedy. As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made clear, it is our intention to complete the Bill this Session. The Bill enables us to deal with the long-standing problem of football hooliganism and take account of any relevant recommendations that Lord Justice Taylor might make. Questions about guillotines and matters of that sort are totally hypothetical at this stage.

Mr. Michael Latham (Rutland and Melton) : Is my right hon. Friend able to announce any progress in the long-standing discussions about sheltering from the weather our constituents who want to visit this place? If we can erect a permanent-looking structure on the Terrace, why can we not think of something for our constituents?

Mr. Wakeham : I appreciate that these matters have taken rather a long time, but, as my hon. Friend knows, some quite complex discussions are taking place with those along the passage and with others. We are seeking to make progress. I hope that it will not be too long in coming. I apologise to my hon. Friend for the delay.

Dr. Jeremy Bray (Motherwell, South) : When he considers the business for next week will the Leader of the House bear in mind that the House is under an obligation to find time in July for a debate on Hong Kong? In Hong Kong, about 5 million people for whom the House is responsible are anxious to hear the views of the House on the report of the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs on the revised basic law draft for which the consultative period will terminate before the House resumes in the autumn. This is a major issue in which the House has an important part to play. Will the Leader of the House confirm that time will be found for a debate?

Mr. Wakeham : We must first wait for the report, and then we will consider the question of any debate.

Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton) : Further to the questions that have been directed to my right hon. Friend about foreign affairs, does he not agree that there have been some remarkable changes all over the world with direct or indirect effect on Britain? Will he recall that he was sympathetic some time ago to the idea of having regional debates on foreign affairs? Does my right hon. Friend, therefore, not conclude that the logic of those two

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important factors means that we need to have many more foreign affairs debates than we have been used to in the past?

Mr. Wakeham : I know that my hon. and learned Friend is keen on having more foreign affairs debates, but there are only a certain number of days in the year and only a certain number of debates can be fitted into that period. I am sympathetic to my hon. and learned Friend's point of view and I will do my best. However, I cannot do the impossible with the number of days available.

Mr. James Lamond (Oldham, Central and Royton) : In view of the Government Actuary's report on our pension scheme, and the possibility of the Treasury reducing its contribution because it feels that there is too much money in it, should there not be a debate about it in the House? After all, hon. Members are concerned, for example, about the widows of late Members, whose benefits could be increased if there is more money in the fund than is necessary. Surely, we should have some say about what happens to our money.

Mr. Wakeham : I do not think that there is much doubt that before too long the House will have some say in those matters--whatever I might think about it. I hope that I can help the hon. Gentleman by telling him the position. I have been in touch with his right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris), who is the chairman of the managing trustees. I have suggested that he and I, together with his fellow trustees, should have a meeting in the near future to discuss how best to deal with those matters.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North) : Will my right hon. Friend accept that, regrettably, his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dyke) is totally unacceptable? The Lingua programme extends European competence into a field in which it has not had competence before. There will be a meeting of the Council on this subject on Monday week, when a decision might be taken. If we have not debated it in the meantime, Parliament will have no influence over an extension of Community competence. Will my right hon. Friend do something to increase the power and influence of this House over European legislation? We hear today that the European Commission is conniving and cobbling together with the European Parliament measures on exhaust emission, which are against the recommendations of the Council and against the interests of the environment, but which are in favour of increasing the power of the European institutions that are cobbling this together. This is totally unacceptable. There is nothing we can do about it, because we cannot assemble a blocking minority in the European Council. Could my right hon. Friend look into this? The Government got us into this mess. It is totally undemocratic. How the hell are we going to get out of it?

Mr. Wakeham : My hon. Friend understandably went rather wider than the question of next week's business. I have already indicated that I regret that I have not been able to fit in the debate that he and my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) wanted. I will look into the matter and see what, if anything, can be done about it.

So far as my responsibilities go--the scrutiny by the House on European legislative matters--I agree that matters are not satisfactory and I am seeking to find a way

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that will improve the situation. On the more general matters of European policy, I believe that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has made her position and that of the Government extremely clear.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) : Is the Leader of the House aware that every year some 70,000 African elephants are illegally killed and that 80 per cent. of the world trade in ivory, much of which goes through Hong Kong and other places in the far east, is also illegal? Today the Tanzanian Government have made application under the 1973 Washington convention for the registration of the African elephant as an endangered species.

Will the right hon. Gentleman find time for the Government to arrange a debate on this subject in which they could indicate their support for the Tanzanian application for registration and the actions that they are taking, within their power and purview, to prevent trade from illegal ivory coming through the British Crown colony of Hong Kong, which is a major conduit and a major cause of the death of so many African elephants and other endangered species?

Mr. Wakeham : Obviously, without looking into this, I cannot accept everything that the hon. Gentleman has said. Nevertheless, I recognise that this is a serious matter and although I cannot promise him an early debate on it, I shall certainly bring the matter to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary. I shall either write to the hon. Gentleman myself or I shall ask my right hon. and learned Friend to do so.

Mr. Anthony Coombs (Wyre Forest) : While welcoming the debate next week on the EEC and appreciating the contraints on Government time, may I ask my right hon. Friend to confirm that the last time that we had a debate in this House on non-EEC foreign affairs was in November last year on the Queen's Speech? In view of the enormous and significant changes taking place in Eastern Europe, will my right hon. Friend at least give some thought to the possibility of a debate on Eastern Europe, especially in the light of next month's visit by General Jaruzelski of Poland?

Mr. Wakeham : My hon. Friend is right that there is a need for such a debate and I wish that I could find an early date on which to hold one. However, although I shall do my best, I cannot promise such a debate in the immediate future.

Mr. Joseph Ashton (Bassetlaw) : Is the Leader of the House aware that the non-elected Tories on the Bassetlaw district health authority are seeking to have the Bassetlaw district general hospital opt out of the current administration? Surely that action is illegal since there has been no legislation on this matter and it is being taken solely on the strength of the published White Paper. Will the right hon. Gentleman check up on this with his right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Health, on whose advice 50 hospitals have now decided to opt out? The Secretary of State for Health must be using some loophole that goes against the traditions of the House if he is encouraging such actions before we have seen a Bill, held a Committee stage or had the enactment of any legislation whatsoever.

Mr. Wakeham : My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Health is absolutely right to seek

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discussions among the hospitals to ascertain what sort of interest there is for the proposals in his White Paper. There will be legislation soon enough. The hon. Gentleman's real problem is that so many hospitals seem to think that this is an interesting proposal.

Mr. Roger Knapman (Stroud) : Will my right hon. Friend find the time next week to arrange a debate on the attempted Minorco takeover of Consolidated Gold Fields, bearing in mind that the Takeover Panel has recently sought to move the goalposts and that some of us feel that the takeover should not be permitted to go ahead until we have had a chance to debate it on the Floor of the House?

Mr. Wakeham : That bid has been cleared by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission and it is for the shareholders to decide on its merits. The question of any Takeover Panel ruling is a matter for the panel and I cannot therefore promise my hon. Friend an early debate in the House on that matter.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South) : The Leader of the House has referred to conversations with myself about European scrutiny. May I thank him for giving me the opportunity of presenting the views of the Scrutiny Committee and say that we look forward to his evidence to the Select Committee on Procedure in due course?

Will he turn his attention to two items of business for next week? In relation to Thursday's business, is he aware that the Scrutiny Committee believes that it will be more useful for six-monthly debates to be prospective, even if on a subject suggested by the Government, rather than retrospective? In respect of the business that he announced for Wednesday, which he said was "control of concentrations", will he confirm that that is a proposal to transfer control of mergers from the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and Her Majesty's Government to the Commission in Brussels? If it is, does he think that even at this early stage, one and a half hours after ten o'clock is a suitable length of time for debates of such importance, and will he reconsider that?

Mr. Wakeham : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he said about our meeting yesterday. I am glad that he is looking forward to the evidence that I shall be giving to the Procedure Committee next week and I look forward to his evidence which, I believe, will be given the week afterwards, although I am not absolutely sure of the date.

I shall certainly look at the terms of the motion for next Thursday to see whether there is any way in which I can meet the hon. Gentleman's request. I must confess that when I saw that I was to announce a debate on "control of concentrations" I was not too sure what it meant, but it is to do with EC matters in relation to company mergers, which is an important issue. The question of how long the debate should be is a matter for discussion through the usual channels.

Mr. Chris Butler (Warrington, South) : May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to early-day motion 835?

[That this House condemns the actions of the Warrington and Runcorn Development Corporation and the honourable Member for Rossendale, the Junior Minister at the Department of the Environment, in ignoring the wishes of the tenants of Warrington and Runcorn Development Corporation to have a ballot so that they can determine the

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