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Business of the House

3.31 pm

Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras) : Will the Leader of the House state the business for the first week after the spring Adjournment?

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Wakeham) : Yes, Sir. The business for the first week after the spring Adjournment will be as follows :

Tuesday 6 June----Conclusion of the remaining stages of the Employment Bill.

Remaining stages of the Pesticides (Fees and Enforcement) Bill. The Chairman of Ways and Means has named opposed private business for consideration at seven o'clock.

Wednesday 7 June----Opposition Day (12th Allotted Day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion, subject for debate to be announced.

Motions on the Treatment of Offenders (Northern Ireland) order and the Community Service Orders (Northern Ireland Consequential Amendments) Order.

Thursday 8 June----There will be a debate on the Army on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Friday 9 June----Private Members' motions.

Mr. Dobson : I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his statement. Could the Leader of the House arrange for the Secretary of State for Scotland to come to the House as soon as possible to deal with poll tax rebates in Scotland, where the 56-day deadline for claiming poll tax rebates runs out tomorrow? Anyone in Scotland who applies for a poll tax rebate after tomorrow will not have it backdated to cover the whole year. Many thousands of Scottish people, who are recognised by the Government to be entitled to poll tax rebates because they are so badly off, have still not had the opportunity to apply. Therefore, it is vital that the Secretary of State comes to the House to extend the deadline. If that requires a change in the regulations, the Opposition will do everything they can to facilitate a speedy change to ensure that the badly off people in Scotland are not robbed of the rebates to which even this Government believes they are entitled.

When may we expect a debate on the Government's response to the Social Services Select Committee's report issued today, which urges the Secretary of State for Health to abandon his headlong rush to change the National Health Service? That all-party Committee is concerned and has serious fears about the stability of services and the continuity of patient care if the Secretary of State achieves his aim.

When can we expect a debate on the Government's response to the Griffiths report on care in the community ; and, for that matter, when will the Government publish their response?

When are we to have a debate on the Green Papers on the reform of the legal profession?

When can we expect a debate on the proposal to substitute student loans for student grants? That is a matter of growing concern for many parents of students and would-be students who, in many cases, are the self-same parents who are growing more and more concerned about the rapid increases in mortgage payments, and the likely increases that are to come.

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Mr. Wakeham : The hon. Gentleman has asked me five questions about the business for the first week after the spring Adjournment. First, he asked whether my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland would make a statement about the Scottish community charge arrangements. I cannot give such an undertaking, although I will of course refer the hon. Gentleman's question to my right hon. and learned Friend. I understand, however, that the community charge arrangements are proceeding pretty well in Scotland, in spite of some not very helpful remarks by Opposition Members. I think that it is a little premature to arrange a debate on the Social Services Committee report, which I believe was published this morning, but I shall bear in mind what the hon. Gentleman said. I was interested to note that the Committee took evidence from my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Health yesterday afternoon, and seems to have compiled its report rather rapidly thereafter.

As I have said, I recognise that there is a good deal of interest in the Griffiths report, and also in the Wagner report. We are working on our own proposals, which we shall introduce in the near future. There will be no undue delay, but it is essential for us to reach the right answers when considering such an important subject. Any further debate will take place when we have announced our proposals.

I cannot promise an early debate on the Green Papers on law reform. The Lord Chancellor will announce the conclusions of his review later, and there will of course be time for debates on any proposals that are presented.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science is having discussions with the financial institutions about the administration of the student loan scheme, and they are continuing to make progress. As I have said on many previous occasions, the time for debate will be when conclusions have been reached.

Mr. Julian Amery (Brighton, Pavilion) : I understand that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is to make a statement later this afternoon. Can my right hon. Friend give some assurance that before the summer recess we shall have an opportunity for a full debate on the situation in Northern Ireland? We shall have an opportunity this afternoon for some cross-examination, but that does not quite take the place of the assurance that I understood my right hon. Friend to have given me some months ago that we would have a full debate in due course.

Mr. Wakeham : I do not think that I want to add to the assurance that I gave until we have heard my right hon. Friend's statement. I recognise the concern felt by my right hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Mr. Amery), and the matter is indeed suitable for debate, but I think it best to hear the statement first and then consider how to proceed.

Mr. Dennis Canavan (Falkirk, West) : When can we have a full debate on sport to enable hon. Members to express their views on participation, sponsorship and the current anxieties about crowd safety and the exploits of ticket touts at sporting events? In view of the recent decision by the Scottish Rugby Union to allow its players to go to South Africa, will the Leader of the House join the

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General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, which yesterday condemned the decision after being told that for the vice- president of the Scottish Rugby Union to assert that the players are white, free and over 21 was an insult to the players, to the game and to Scotland?

Mr. Wakeham : Sport is clearly a suitable subject for debate in the House, but I cannot promise a debate in the near future. The question of ticket touts was raised in Monday's Adjournment debate. As for matters such as football safety, the Football Spectators Bill will have its Third Reading in the other place in the not too distant future, and there will be arrangements for it to be debated in this House after that.

As for the South African visit, I stand by what my hon. Friend the Under- Secretary said about the Gleneagles agreement. We have given our views. In a free society people must make up their own minds, but the Government's view is quite clear.

Mr. Kenneth Warren (Hastings and Rye) : Will my right hon. Friend consider the need for a debate on the White Paper on information technology which, as he will recall, was produced in response to the Trade and Industry Committee's report and which has raised considerable concern in industry? A debate before the summer recess would be most helpful.

Mr. Wakeham : I agree. I wish I could find the time, but I cannot. Of course, the Opposition day debate recently on investing in the future was devoted largely to the subject and my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry recently gave evidence to the Select Committee on Trade and Industry on the IT White Paper. Of course, it is an important subject. I should like to find time for a debate, but I am not too hopeful for the immediate future.

Mr. John Morris (Aberavon) : Since the Lord Chancellor has invited widespread consultation on his Green Papers before he reaches any conclusions, and since he has extended the time for the judges to give their views, would it not be wrong if the House, which is in charge of Supply for the Executive, did not have an opportunity of presenting its views to the Lord Chancellor before he reaches any conclusions?

Mr. Wakeham : It will, in the end, be for Parliament to decide if there are to be changes. I do not think it is wrong at all. However, I believe that hon. and learned Gentlemen who wish to make representations to the Lord Chancellor have plenty of opportunities to do so. I agree that a debate would be useful, but I cannot find the time at present.

Mr. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North) : As the right hon. Gentleman is aware, the majority population in Northern Ireland were not consulted about the Anglo-Irish Agreement when it was drawn up. Now, we have a review of the agreement. Is he telling the House that the representatives from Northern Ireland will not have the same right as any other person in the House to have a full discussion and to express their opinions on that review? For the first time, that review puts members of all the regiments of the British Army into the same position as the Ulster Defence Regiment where they cannot appear in the streets of Belfast or anywhere else in Northern Ireland without being accompanied by a member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The review also gives to the Dublin

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Government the power to nominate to the Mournes in Northern Ireland. Surely the Leader of the House should safeguard minority interests and say that we will have a full debate in the House as well as an opportunity of voting on the matter.

Mr. Wakeham : I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman took the opportunity during the review to give his views to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State because that would have been an important thing for him to have done.

I have not ruled out the question of debate. Indeed, when the matter was raised earlier, I said that it is a proper subject for debate and I would hope to be able to arrange one. It is a question of finding an appropriate time. The right thing now is to hear the statement from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and decide how best to proceed.

Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire) : Having regard to the uncertainty in the financial markets and on the Government Back Benches, would it not be right to have an urgent debate on the state of the economy as soon as we return from the Whitsun recess? Also, does the Leader of the House think that it is time the House was given an opportunity to discuss the Select Committee report on televising the proceedings in the House?

Mr. Wakeham : With regard to the point on televising the House, I hope to be able to make an announcement very soon as to when that debate will take place because it is needed as soon as we can find time for it.

I do not accept the proposition that it is necessary for there to be a debate on the economy at the present time. I believe that the Government have made it absolutely clear that they are not prepared to take any risks with inflation. I recognise that high interest rates are not desirable in themselves, but they are necessary if we are to bear down on inflation. I believe that that is the right policy.

Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent) : My right hon. Friend will have noticed that recently a proposition, drafted largely by British Rail, even if not presented by it, failed to secure approval in their Lordships' House largely because it had been hurried. Given the fact that British Rail is engaged on a proposition which involves noise parameters which have not yet been settled by the Department of the Environment, changing the costs by hundreds of millions of pounds, trying to create a parkway station in the middle of an area of particular landscape importance, and a whole range of other things--including the fact that the Kent county council has just employed a set of consultants--would my right hon. Friend agree that the time has come to have a debate to try to prevent British Rail from bringing a half-baked proposal before the House next November rather than postponing it until it has really worked it through?

Mr. Wakeham : I understand my hon. Friend's concern and interest in the matter, but I do not believe that that allows me to support his proposition. It is not right for me to advise British Rail on its tactics as to how and when to bring a private Bill to the House. I do not believe that it would be wise or helpful for the House to debate the subject. British Rail has to decide what is right, and the House will then have an opportunity of dealing with it.

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Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West) : May we have a debate on the defective laws affecting people who are knocked down and injured on our roads, in particular people such as my constituent, John Sweetman? He was a pedestrian who was knocked down by a bicycle. He lost an eye and his job and has never gone back to work. He received no compensation because the cyclist was uninsured and a man of straw. May we debate the suffering of ordinary people in cases such as that because they are extremely common?

Mr. Wakeham : That is a serious matter and I regret that the hon. and learned Gentleman had to raise it in the House. I extend my sympathies to the person concerned. It is difficult to find time for a debate on the subject now, although I recognise that if there are shortcomings in the law they should be considered. Perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman would try to initiate an Adjournment debate on the subject.

Sir Bernard Braine (Castle Point) : Has my right hon. Friend's attention been drawn to early-day motion 827, which refers to a judgment in the Family Division of the High Court at Leeds? [That this House notes the judgment of Mr. Justice Ward of the Family Division of the High Court, Leeds, on 14th April, that the doctors concerned with Baby C', a Ward of Court, should treat (the ward) to die' and that it would not be necessary to feed the child either by intravenous fusions or nasal gastric regimes ; notes that both these sections of the formal order were deleted in the Court of Appeal on Thursday 20th April ; notes that medical evidence provided by the Official Solicitor was instrumental in guiding Mr. Justice Ward in his conclusions ; and calls on the Law Officers to publish in full both the medical report from the Official Solicitor and the judgment of Mr. Justice Ward, deleting those sections which would breach the anonymity of the child, her family, and the doctors involved.]

The decision was that doctors concerned with baby C should treat the baby to die--in other words, medical attention should be withdrawn. The matter went to the appeal court but, because of the nature of the matter it is impossible for the House to ask questions about it ; hence the early-day motion. Tragically, the baby died today.

This is a matter of grave public concern and an opportunity should be given to Parliament to debate the issue. I realise that it cannot be debated next week, but will my right hon. Friend, who I know cares deeply about such things, consider the matter, consult the Ministers concerned and arrange for a debate at the earliest opportunity?

Mr. Wakeham : I recognise that my right hon. Friend has raised a serious matter about which he is greatly concerned. I share his concern and I shall certainly accept his suggestion to discuss it with my right hon. Friends to see whether there is anything that can be done. Baby C, who has tragically died, was a ward of court. The proceedings were held in private and, under section 12 of the Administration of Justice Act 1982, any person who publishes material about the case other than that authorised by the court would be guilty of contempt of court. Therefore, it would be improper for the Law Officers to seek to circumvent that statutory provision. Nevertheless, there are principles and issues involved and it may be possible to have a debate if we can find the right formula.

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Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton) : I am not asking the Leader of the House for a statement yet, but may we have some highly publicised Government action on the position of the Kurdish refugees? The Government should urge the Turkish authorities to stop their persecution of the Kurdish people, they should release the Kurdish refugees they have in detention and they should provide financial aid to hard-pressed local authorities, particularly in east London, which are acting humanely in this matter.

Mr. Wakeham : I note what the hon. Gentleman has said. The hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Corbyn) has an Adjournment debate tomorrow which will provide an opportunity for a Minister to make a considered comment.

Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills) : Will my right hon. Friend consider arranging an urgent debate on what appears to be the crass decision of the Department of Transport to postpone the building of the north Birmingham orbital road, despite six years of planning and the payment of millions of pounds in compensation and blight payments? We need to debate the prospect of it being put out to tender or finding a new alternative route, subject to the suggestions of contractors or the people prepared to pay for it. It has vital effects on the economy of the west midlands, from the north to the south. It seems to be a crass decision which was taken without any consultation with the Members of Parliament affected by it.

Mr. Wakeham : I cannot comment on the road concerned or on the details because I do not have the details here. The statement by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport on the substantial increase in the road building programme was widely welcomed in all parts of the House. I shall certainly refer the matter to the Minister concerned.

Mr. Ernie Ross (Dundee, West) : The Leader of the House does not seem to appreciate the seriousness of the problem raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson). The Government boasted that the rebate was one of the advantages of the new community charge and tomorrow, Friday, is the last day on which those who are entitled to a rebate can apply, otherwise they will be disallowed this benefit. The Leader of the House must take this matter much more seriously. A campaign in Scotland by the SNP suggested that people should either not pay the tax or should flood the registration officer with requests for rebates whether or not they were entitled to them. People are genuinely in need of knowledge on whether they are entitled to the rebate. We need an extension of the time limit, and we need it now.

Mr. Wakeham : I entirely reject the charge that I have not taken this matter seriously. I told the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) that I would refer the matter to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. That is about as much as I can do from the Dispatch Box at the moment. The Opposition have responsibilities in this matter. The other day the hon. Gentleman complained about the number of people who had not registered, and the Opposition continually refer to the community charge as the poll tax. No wonder some people are misled.

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Mr. Teddy Taylor (Southend, East) : The trade figures published this morning show a further sharp deterioration in trade with the Common Market as opposed to the rest of the world. For example, exports to other developed countries went up by 8 per cent. and exports to the EEC have gone up by only 1 per cent. As this follows a year in which the deficit was more than £13 billion, will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate on what is proving to be the national disaster of our appalling and consistently worsening trade with the EEC? As that affects jobs and the Government's economic policies, may we have a full day's debate simply to find out why our trade with the Common Market is such a dreadful disaster? For every £3 of goods that come in, £2 of goods go out, whereas our trade with the rest of the world seems in some respects to be steadily improving. May we have a debate on this big issue?

Mr. Wakeham : I recognise that the balance of trade is a perfectly proper subject for debate, but I cannot promise my hon. Friend a debate in the immediate future because there is a great deal of other business that I have to get through.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West) : Will the Leader of the House arrange for an urgent debate on poll tax registration? That would allow our constituents in England and Wales to be told that it is perfectly lawful for them to return unsigned registration forms and to ask legitimate questions. It would also allow Ministers to explain why overseas students are liable for poll tax while American service personnel are exempt. It would draw attention to the discretion of poll tax officers, because in Bradford the poll tax officer is proposing to exempt persons from poll tax if they are outside the United Kingdom for more than a year. However, they lose entitlement to social security if they are outside the United Kingdom for more than eight weeks.

Mr. Wakeham : The hon. Gentleman does not carry much conviction when he tries to raise questions concerning his constituents and continually refers to the community charge as the poll tax.

Mr. Geoffrey Dickens (Littleborough and Saddleworth) : Is my right hon. Friend aware that dog lovers, owners and breeders all over the country are banding together and writing to hon. Members hoping that we will have a debate on the question of dog registration and its many benefits? What are the prospects for those people of such a debate being held?

Mr. Wakeham : I recognise the concern, and I have had many letters on the subject. The Government do not believe that implementing section 37 would assist in the matter. I regret to say that I cannot see the opportunity for a debate on the subject in the near future.

Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley) : When will there be the promised debate on the report of the Select Committee on the Environment on toxic waste and on the Government's inadequate response to it? Has not the need for such a debate been strengthened by the report of a Committee of another place underlining many of the concerns that the Environment Select Committee expressed?

Mr. Wakeham : I do not accept the premise of the hon. Gentleman's question, and I cannot promise him a debate in the immediate future.

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Mr. Jonathan Aitken (Thanet, South) : When does my right hon. Friend expect to announce his long-awaited reforms of the unsatisfactory methods by which the House scrutinises EEC legislation? Is he aware that in the early hours of this morning the House reached an all-time low in the saga of inadequate scrutiny when right hon. and hon. Members were invited to give their views on an EEC document on a "take note" motion, only to find that the motion had been pre-empted by a Government announcement earlier in the day to the effect that they accepted everything for which the EEC document asked? My right hon. Friend must surely see the ludicrous absurdity of the House being asked to spend its precious time offering its views on an EEC document when nothing said in the debate could possibly influence either the EEC or the Government.

Mr. Wakeham : There are two parts to my hon. Friend's question--a general part and a specific part. I was present last night, and I heard the points of order.

In EEC scrutiny debates, it is far from unusual for the Government's views to be known in advance. In the particular case in question, we feel that we are now able to support the Commission's proposal and decided that that view should be publicly known in advance of the debate. To have done otherwise would have been to mislead the House.

However, I recognise that there is concern about the way in which EC documents are scrutinised by the House. It is not satisfactory, but it is not for me to announce the way in which matters will be improved. The Select Committee on Procedure is considering the matter and I am having discussions with the Chairman of the Scrutiny Committee. I shall also want to have discussions with the Opposition. We must reach a general consensus as to the best way forward. I share my hon. Friend's view that the present arrangements are unsatisfactory.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington) : Has the Leader of the House read the 15 or so early-day motions that I have tabled calling on Mr. Tiny Rowland to divest himself of his interests in The Observer ? Is it not clear that Mr. Rowland is abusing his position by using journalists and that newspaper's editor to secure his commercial ends?

Mr. Teddy Taylor : Where is the evidence?

Mr. Campbell-Savours : Is it not absolutely clear that the independent directors of The Observer are failing in the duties that were placed upon them when Mr. Rowland was allowed to take over the newspaper?

Mr. Teddy Taylor : Where is the evidence?

Mr. Campbell-Savours : Is it not time that those directors either resigned or did their job properly? May the House have a debate so that those matters can be properly discussed in Parliament?

Mr. Wakeham : I have taken a cursory glance at some of the hon. Gentleman's early-day motions but cannot say that I have read them in great detail. However, I can make a general comment. The tradition of press freedom in this country means that newspaper editors are free to publish what they wish, provided that they observe the criminal and the civil law. Where there is doubt about the accuracy or fairness of their reporting, complaints should be made to the Press Council, which is responsible for investigating such matters.

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Mr. Michael Latham (Rutland and Melton) : In a week in which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary had very constructive discussions with the Prime Minister of Israel, and in view of the fact that Ministers have met the Palestine Liberation Organisation leader, Yasser Arafat, is it not high time that the House had a proper debate on the problems of the middle east and the Arab-Israel conflict?

Mr. Wakeham : A number of very important foreign affairs subjects, of which that to which my hon. Friend refers is one, should be the subject of debates, but, as I have said at this Dispatch Box in recent weeks, we have a particularly heavy programme and at this time of the year it is difficult to find time for debates. Nevertheless, I recognise my hon. Friend's concern and will do my very best.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) : When the House returns from the recess, will there be a statement on the law relating to defamation, bearing in mind the libel damages of £600,000 that were awarded yesterday? Is not that a matter of some importance? Although we want people to utilise the law fully if they are libelled, should we not also bear in mind that two of the women attacked by Sutcliffe but who fortunately survived have yet to be paid a penny of the compensation of £10,000 and £8,000 that they were awarded? Is it likely that Mrs. Sutcliffe, although she was in no way responsible for her husband's crimes, will pay out to those two women and to the relatives of the women who were murdered?

Mr. Wakeham : I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that it would be quite inappropriate to comment on any particular case, but I am aware that there has been criticism recently of a number of aspects of the law of defamation, including the size of some libel awards. My right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor is to consider proposals for reform, taking all issues into account. My hon. Friend the Secretary of State, Home Office has already announced that an inquiry is to be established into privacy and related matters, and that could affect this consideration.

Mr. Ian Bruce (Dorset, South) : Will my right hon. Friend reconsider his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth (Mr. Dickens) as hon. Members on both sides of the House are receiving vast numbers of letters from constituents about dog registration? I should like us to debate the matter for a different reason from that given by my hon. Friend--to highlight the disgraceful advertising campaign by the RSPCA in which it accuses the Government of causing a larger number of dogs to be destroyed by removing the dog licence. Its annual report this year says that the number of dogs which have had to be destroyed has reduced since the dog licence was abolished. That needs to be highlighted.

Mr. Wakeham : My hon. Friend makes his point very clearly. As I said, I cannot find time for a debate on this subject in Government time, but perhaps my hon. Friend will consider applying to raise the matter in an Adjournment debate.

Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East) : Is the Leader of the House aware of the collapse of the electoral register by more than 4 per cent. in 17 constituencies,

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including that of Finchley? Should not the House have a discussion about the serious state of the electoral register? It is a matter of great democratic and constitutional concern, and not to have such a debate would be to intimate that the House did not care one iota about the democratic procedures of the country.

Mr. Wakeham : I do not accept the premise of the hon. Gentleman's question. I realise that he has raised a perfectly proper matter for discussion. I cannot find time for it immediately, but as his colleagues on the Labour Front Bench have not chosen a subject for debate in the first week back after the spring Adjournment perhaps the hon. Gentleman should ask them whether they might like to discuss this subject.

Mr. James Hill (Southampton, Test) : Is my right hon. Friend aware of the serious environmental pollution problem in the city of Southampton? The ship Moby Dick, crewed by Greenpeace, has been blockading what is known as the "sludge ship" which takes the sewerage of Southampton out into mid- channel and dumps it. In 1989 we should not be dumping all the sewerage from a city the size of Southampton into the channel. The licences issued by MAFF should be brought before the House and scrutinised to find out just how much pollution of the sea is taking place. Would not a debate clear up some of those points?

Mr. Wakeham : A debate might clear up some of those points. I hope to be sailing my boat somewhere in that area during the spring Adjournment next week, if the weather stays fine, and I might have more knowledge when I return.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) : Will the Leader of the House look into a problem that has arisen concerning lobbyists coming to the House? I understand that the Grand Committee Room has been used by an inquiry for some months, so no public lobbyists will be able to use it to meet Members of Parliament. I understand that other rooms cannot be made available for lobbyists to meet Members of Parliament. On 22 June a very large pensioners' lobby will be coming here. Will the Leader of the House look into the problem and propose lifting the rule for other Committee Rooms so that lobbyists can meet Members of Parliament, or will he make arrangements for Westminster Hall to be made available so that the pensioners can meet Members of Parliament to put their perfectly legitimate claims for a decent old-age pension for all?

Mr. Wakeham : I cannot give the hon. Gentleman any undertaking that something can be done because there are difficulties, but I can certainly give him the clear undertaking that I shall look into the matter to find out what can be done and will write to him.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North) : I wonder whether my right hon. Friend will allow the House to have an urgent debate on the cultural vandalism of the BBC in its proposal to tamper with the ball-by-ball commentary on Test Match Special? Will my right hon. Friend agree with me that cricket, cathedrals, "Land of Hope and Glory", an enduring distrust of foreigners and the continuing premiership of my right hon. Friend the Prime

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Minister define classically the best of England, and it would be a disaster and a catastrophe of the first order if any of these were damaged or destroyed in any way?

Mr. Wakeham : I do not have a Test score later than lunchtime, but I believe that it was 132 for three at lunchtime today. I am interested to know what has happened since then. If it is not irresponsible of me, I share the sentiments of my hon. Friend, but it is for the BBC to decide what sporting events to cover and the extent of that coverage. I understand that the BBC aims to continue providing as much uninterrupted ball-by-ball coverage as possible. For the majority of the time, the BBC sees no reason why Test Match Special should differ from its persent form.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West) : May I remind the Leader of the House that, although we have had Adjournment debates on the Roman baths at Huggin hill and the Rose theatre, there remains in the House considerable concern that a great deal of damage is being done to Britain's archaeological heritage by the activities of property developers and that we will not safeguard our heritage by one-off campaigns that occur on sites within easy reach of Fleet street and Westminster? May we have an urgent and early debate on the preservation of our archaeological heritage and the clear loopholes in present legislation?

Mr. Wakeham : I thought that the Government and the developers moved speedily and effectively to deal with recent cases. By their very nature, one cannot always anticipate when such matters will arise, but I agree that the subject is suitable for debate. It is difficult for me to make time for a debate in the immediate future, but I shall certainly bear the hon. Gentleman's suggestion in mind.

Mr. Gary Waller (Keighley) : It would obviously be improper for my right hon. Friend to comment on any one case of libel, even one as significant as the Sutcliffe case about which so many members of the public are concerned, but is he aware that it is now 14 years since the Faulks committee on defamation reported, yet none of its recommendations has been implemented by any Government, although several of them are relevant to recent cases? Does he agree that it might be appropriate for the House to have a debate on that matter so that the views of right hon. and hon. Members could be taken into account by the committee reviewing the press, privacy and similar matters that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has announced?

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Mr. Wakeham : It is clear from the way in which he phrased his question that my hon. Friend is aware that he has raised a difficult subject on which it is not easy to find a solution. The right approach is for my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor to consider these matters in the way that he has suggested, but if any right hon. or hon. Member has any suggestions I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend will be only too pleased to receive them.

Mr. Rhodri Morgan (Cardiff, West) : Does the Leader of the House agree that the time is now right for the House to debate the appointment of regulators? The matter has been highlighted this week by the appointment of Professor Littlechild as regulator-designate of the electricity industry, the appointment last month of Ian Byatt as regulator-designate of the water industry, and just before Christmas the appointment of Adam Peat as the new director, with regulatory functions, of the Housing Corporation for Wales.

It is notable that those three appointments are of civil servants, temporary or permanent, who were deeply involved in writing the legislation. That raises two important constitutional issues which need to be thought about seriously by the Leader of the House and by the House as a whole. Those appointments mean one of two things : either only those who are engaged in writing the legislation understand its functions--

Mr. Speaker : Order. Business questions should be about future debates.

Mr. Morgan : The other point that we should debate is whether the Government approve of the idea of civil servants writing £40,000 or £50,000 a year jobs for themselves.

Mr. Wakeham : The hon. Gentleman seems to misunderstand the whole process. Parliament is considering the legislation that requires the regulators to be appointed. The gentlemen that the hon. Gentleman mentioned seem eminently suitable for the jobs. I see no cause for a debate.

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