Monday 23 October----Progress on remaining stages of the Children Bill [Lords] .
Tuesday 24 October----Opposition day (19th Allotted Day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion entitled "High Interest Rates and the Failures of Government Economic Policy", followed by the conclusion of remaining stages of the Children Bill [Lords] . Wednesday 25 October ----Progress on remaining stages of the Companies Bill [Lords] .
Motion on the Merchant Shipping Act 1988 (Amendment) Order. Thursday 26 October----Conclusion of remaining stages of the Companies Bill [Lords] .
Friday 27 October----Ways and Means resolution relating to the Football Spectators Bill [Lords] .
Afterwards proceedings on the Prisons (Scotland) Bill [Lords] , followed by proceedings on the Statute Law (Repeals) Bill [Lords] . Both Bills are consolidation measures.
Motion on the Licensing and Clubs (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order.
Motion to take note of EC documents relating to Community--Japan trade. Details will be given in the Official Report.
Monday 30 October----Remaining stages of the Football Spectators Bill [Lords] .
[Friday 27 July
Relevant European Community Documents
(a) 6552/87 Community--Japan trade
(b) 5395/88 Relations between the Community and Japan
Relevant Reports of European Legislation Committee
(a) HC 22-xix (1986-87), para 4
(b) HC 43-xxiii (1987-88), para 2.]
Mr. Dobson : As the right hon. and learned Gentleman's reception has been rather more subdued than on the previous occasion when we considered business questions, I start by thanking him for providing time for the Opposition day debate on the failures of the Government's economic policy.
When are we likely to get the opportunity to debate the imposition of the general practitioners' contract? The Secretary of State for Health himself has described the contract as a most contentious matter, so I hope that the Leader of the House will recognise that and agree that the debate on the contract should take place in prime time and not just for an hour and a half in the dead of night. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows, I raised with him immediately after his appointment the pressing need to establish the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs. I hope that he will be able to report to the House that there has been some progress towards its establishment.
Column 268Are any hon. Members to be invited to help with the monitoring of the forthcoming elections in Namibia? If they are, we will have to start making the arrangements.
When will we have a debate on the Delors report on economic and monetary union? If we are to have one, can he ensure that it will take place before the Strasbourg summit?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his calm reception of my less than earthshaking announcement. I am glad to be able to tell him that the Government will welcome a debate on general practitioners' contracts. We shall seek an early opportunity through the usual channels to have a debate and we will take note of what he said about the timing and pattern for it.
I have taken the opportunity of the recess to study some of the factors involved in the complex question of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee. I have not reached any firm conclusions that I can disclose to the House.
We attach importance to the Namibian elections. They are being observed officially by the United Nations and we look to the UN to do the official monitoring, not just because we are one of the five permanent members of the Security Council, but because we are sending 50 official election monitors as part of the UN team. That does not directly answer the hon. Gentleman's question, but I shall give it some consideration without making any commitment whatsoever. The hon. Gentleman asked about the Delors report on the financial future of the Community. Obviously there is widespread interest in that. I can undertake to arrange a debate on it in the relatively near future, once again leaving the precise timing to the usual channels.
The House will be aware that I attempt to call as many hon. Members as possible to ask business questions. I am bound, however, to have regard to the business already set down on a Thursday and also to the purpose of business questions, which is not to make the speech that hon. Members hope to make on the subject of their choice, or to obtain an instant ministerial reply, but to ask for a debate and to state briefly why this should be granted.
To enable me to continue to be generous in calling hon. Members to ask supplementaries to the business question, I ask hon. Members to confine themselves to one question each and not to make a speech or to expect a detailed reply.
Secondly, I should like to refer to early-day motions at business questions. Hon. Members will be aware that it is the practice to reproduce such motions in the Official Report . This has resulted in as many as 13 motions being printed as a consequence of one supplementary question. I have directed that in future, only one early-day motion will be reproduced per supplementary question.
Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe) : On a day when we have all been very much concerned with the quality of justice in this country, is the Leader of the House aware of the tragic cases of people with haemophilia who have been contaminated with the AIDS virus by imported blood products supplied under the National Health Service? Is he aware that many of the victims have scant prospect of living to see a court settlement of their claims for compensation?
he Leader of the House arrange for a debate next week, or a statement from the Secretary of State for Health, so that we can press him for an out -of-court settlement and make the point that posthumous justice is not justice at all? Sir Geoffrey Howe : I understand, of course, why the right hon. Gentleman is concerned about a particular tragic case and I shall bring his remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health.
Sir Patrick McNair-Wilson (New Forest) : Has my right hon. and learned Friend yet had time to reflect on the assurances given by his predecessor about finding time for a debate to consider the Government's response to the recommendations of the Joint Select Committee on Private Bill Procedure? The report was published 12 months ago and, although there has been one short debate, we are now awaiting the Government's response. If we cannot have a debate before the State Opening, may we be assured that it will take place early in the next Session?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : I have devoted a lot of time to the study of that complex subject in which I know that several hon. Members of all parties are seriously and understandably interested. I would not pretend that I have yet come close to a conclusion about it, but I understand the continuing interest of the House in that matter. I have discussed it with a number of hon. Members and recognise the importance of the points raised by my hon. Friend.
Mr. Jack Ashley (Stoke-on-Trent, South) : Does the Leader of the House recognise that haemophiliacs have been condemned to death by an error of the British Government and that it is inconceivable that the Government should not accept moral responsibility for them? Last week I received a moving and well-written letter from a man who is going to die. He said, "I now have to fight for my family after I am dead, but I cannot because I have no money with which to take legal action and there is no legal aid. By the terms of the Government's allowance, I am prohibited from using it for legal aid." He cannot receive money from the Government and cannot get legal aid because of the rules. May we have a debate?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : I cannot follow all the nuances of the point raised so eloquently by the right hon. Gentleman, but I understand the importance of the general case that he is making. As I have said, I will draw to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Health the right hon. Gentleman's concern as well as that of his right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris). At this stage, I cannot do more than that.
Mr. Michael Colvin (Romsey and Waterside) : Will my right hon. and learned Friend set aside time soon for a debate on southern Africa? Because of the increasing momentum of the process of reform in the Republic of South Africa and the need for the Government to decide their specific response to each of the steps in that reform process, it is important that the House should have a chance to express its views on the British Government's possible response in advance of any such moves. It would be regrettable if such a debate was submerged in the general debate on foreign affairs that is likely to follow the Queen's Speech. Sir Geoffrey Howe : I understand the interest of my hon. Friend and of many other colleagues in the future of South Africa. In my experience, during the past half a dozen years that topic has not found difficulty in making its way to the Floor of the House on many occasions. As my hon. Friend said, it can certainly be raised during the debate on the Queen's Speech. However, I do not know whether I shall find it any easier than my predecessor to find additional space for specific debates on foreign policy topics such as my hon. Friend has in mind, but I certainly do not need to be reminded of the case for them.
Mr. James Lamond (Oldham, Central and Royton) : Will the Leader of the House bear in mind the need for a debate on the recently published report on the future of the multi-fibre arrangement by Professor Silberston? As the report draws conclusions that are likely to lead to the loss of many thousands of jobs in the textile industry, which would hit the north-west particularly hard, it should not be brought before the House in answer to a written question, as I think will be the case this afternoon.
Sir Geoffrey Howe : I do not know precisely the total intended reaction to that report. Of course, I understand that a number of hon. Members are concerned about the impact of the MFA and its changes within the textile industry. I shall bring the point raised by the hon. Gentleman to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.
Sir John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge) : In view of the tremendous events that are occurring almost every day in eastern Europe, with profound effects throughout the world, will there soon be an opportunity for the House to discuss foreign affairs?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : I have already said that there will be such an opportunity, which will arise in the course of the general debate on the Queen's Speech. I understand the importance of the case made by my hon. Friend, supported by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, whose Chairman I see perched alertly in his place, for additional opportunities for a debate. I shall bear the point in mind, but I cannot promise to deliver.
Mr. Michael J. Martin (Glasgow, Springburn) : Next week will the Leader of the House consider time for a debate on dangerous dogs? In the past year children have been killed and people have been maimed. In a city such as Glasgow, which has a lot of tenement property, many neighbours are frightened to come and go from their homes because an irresponsible person has an aggressive dog. Surely the Government should be taking action.
Column 271pre-summer session. I understand the anxiety that this topic causes many people. I cannot promise a debate next week, but I shall certainly bear the point in mind.
Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South) : Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that when my right hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, Central (Mr. Moore) was Secretary of State for Health and Social Services he demonstrated that the Government had no real sympathy for haemophiliac AIDS victims? Does he accept that an early statement on this would be welcomed in all parts of the House?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : The fact that that point has already been made twice by Opposition Members and is now supported by my hon. Friend adds to my awareness of its importance. I shall draw all those matters to the attention of the Secretary of State.
Mr. Jim Sillars (Glasgow, Govan) : May we have a debate on the subject of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs so that we can test the astonishing assertion by the Leader of the House that this is a complex matter? The Standing Orders are perfectly plain that a Select Committee should be established. There are many problems in Scotland that are not being addressed because there is no Select Committee. Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that one problem causing grave public disquiet is the combination of functions undertaken by the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) as chairman of the Tory party in Scotland and as a functional Minister inside the Scottish Office? There has been a blurring of distinction between the two functions. Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that it would be unacceptable if we did not have a Select Committee on Scottish Affairs in the next Session?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : I will not comment on the hon. Gentleman's attempt to link a number of points in the course of asking a question during business questions ; I leave him to raise those matters in debate as they have no place here. The question of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs has remained unresolved for some time and I cannot promise to come to an answer at high speed.
Mr. Nicholas Soames (Crawley) : Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware of the considerable concern felt on both sides of the House about the destruction of the atmosphere in the Chamber caused by the current appalling lighting arrangements? Will he see whether it is possible to arrange time for an early debate about this to see if we can curtail this bad experiment before it goes any further?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : I am sorry that my hon. Friend does not have overwhelming enthusiasm for this aspect of the experiment to which the House is committed. As he knows, arrangements for the experimental period were carefully considered by the Select Committee. The Committee has already met once this week under my chairmanship, for what that is worth. If my hon. Friend has any points to raise in connection with the experiment, he should draw them to the attention of the Committee.
The Committee is certainly anxious to secure the best possible conditions. We responded to the anxieties expressed about the high temperature which was causing Mr. Speaker to lose his cool, or so he told the House. As
Column 272a result of that, we were able to secure a substantial reduction in the ambient temperature. We shall try to achieve improvement, within the limits of what is possible.
Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) : Will the Leader of the House have a word with the Secretary of State for the Environment and tell him to come to the House to make a statement about altering planning arrangements for opencast mining? This matter is especially important in my constituency because this new and so-called "green and friendly" Environment Minister has, during his first week in office, overturned a decision of the previous Secretary of State for the Environment who stopped the opencast mining at Barlborough and Clowne. My constituents want him to come to the Dispatch Box to explain himself because he will not answer the letters that I keep sending him.
Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent) : My right hon. and learned Friend will be aware that there is a faint chance that a private Bill will be introduced in November for the construction of a railway line. He will also be aware that, if it is introduced, there will be a large number of petitioners. Given that four hon. Members will have to devote probably a year or two of their parliamentary lives to dealing with the petitions, will he arrange for a debate so that we can ascertain the rules? I understand that it will be possible for British Rail to introduce this Bill even if it does not have the money to pay for it.
Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington) : In the light of the unprecedented development of the Chancellor of the Exchequer writing to two women in Swindon to apologise for the fact that Inland Revenue officers allowed themselves to be used by the police to prise private information from a computer on the women's personal affairs, should not a statement be made to the House about the role of the police in the affair so that the rules governing police conduct in such matters can be clearly set out before the public?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : I am not sure that would be the right way of reacting to the several factors raised by the hon. Gentleman. They appear to arise within the jurisdiction of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, to whose attention I shall draw the hon. Gentleman's point.
Mr. David Madel (Bedfordshire, South-West) : Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that there is considerable anxiety among management and employees in British Rail about the future ownership of their industry? Before the Government make a decision on that subject, will there be a long period of thought and consultation? Obviously that should include a general debate in the House so that the Government can take into account what we all think as individual Back-Bench Members before they make any change.
Sir Geoffrey Howe : My hon. Friend raises a point of wider importance. He is right to understand that this matter needs full consideration. No decisions have been taken on this topic. A number of different approaches are possible which all need careful consideration, and it would be desirable for the House to have an opportunity of considering them, if possible.
Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish) : I wish to press the Leader of the House on the matter of private business and draw his attention to the amount that has been set down today, the amount that is blocked and the likelihood that over the next two or three weeks there will have to be debates on carry-over motions. Would it not be far better for the Leader of the House to come forward with proposals to implement the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Private Bill Procedure as soon as possible so that we can make sensible legislation, rather than having the present continual farce of private business in the House?
recommendations. It is equally clear that the House is not in a position to take steps to change those rules at this stage in the remaining weeks of this Session. Therefore, I hope that people will not react by accepting or condoning the obstruction of the business which is already before the House. We need to operate within our existing rules as expeditiously and sensibly as we can, while also considering how these questions should be looked at in the future. I am addressing my mind to that point, and I hope that we can allow the exising rules to operate as generously as possible.
Mr. Christopher Gill (Ludlow) : As the former Foreign Secretary, my right hon. and learned Friend will be more aware than most of the importance of transmitting the right message from this House about Britain's role in Europe both to the people of this country and those of continental Europe. Therefore, will he assure the House that we will be given an early opportunity to debate measures which would accord the same status in the parliamentary timetable to European matters as are accorded to other subjects?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : As my hon. Friend knows, this topic is being considered by the Procedure Committee, and the House awaits its report with considerable interest so that we can study the matter further.
Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South) : The Leader of the House said that he would refer a query about a textile industry debate to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, but does he accept that he has a part to play in providing time for such a debate, especially in view of today's publication of the Silberston report on the textile industries, of the apprehension about increased costs due to the forthcoming privatisation of water, and of the punitive level of interest rates which the Government have created? As each day passes, the need for a debate about the textile industry, which is one of the largest employers in the country, employing 16,000 people in Bradford alone, is becoming increasingly urgent. I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman can be more positive and will not shuffle the responsibility off to the Department of Trade and Industry.
Sir Geoffrey Howe : The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that I am not shuffling it off to anyone. It is not for me, when answering business questions, to produce a solution to the real anxieties of the textile industry. Of course these problems qualify for further consideration by the House at an appropriate stage, but, either way, the prospects for the textile industry are a great deal more prosperous under this Government, who are determined to sustain sensible economic policies, than they would be under the alternative--the Labour party.
Mr. Gary Waller (Keighley) : Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that interest in the future of the textile industry and in Professor Silberston's report is not confined to one side of the House but is widespread? The textile and clothing industry is one of our largest and employs as many as 500,000 people in this country. Will my right hon. and learned Friend do his best to find time for debate so that hon. Members on both sides can draw attention to the problems of our exporters? They have been doing a good job, but they face severe barriers in some parts of the world to their efforts to ensure that our textile exports find a ready market.
Sir Geoffrey Howe : The fact that two Members representing the constituency of Keighley, one from either side of the House, have both raised this question, and my hon. Friend's close interest in it, underlines the importance of the topic, but I cannot say when and where precisely a discussion of it will fit into the parliamentary programme.
Mr. William McKelvey (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) : May I advise the Leader of the House that the last thing we need is time for a debate on the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs? It has been well debated, the argument has been won, and the fact remains that there should be a Select Committee on Scottish Affairs. Scottish Labour Members will not accept the complacent policy of sustained neglect of this matter. The right hon. and learned Gentleman should show some alacrity and set about resolving the question at the earliest opportunity.
Sir Geoffrey Howe : I noted that two directly opposing views have been expressed from the other side of the House--albeit from different parties--about the desirability of a debate about this matter. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that there is no question of neglect by the Government of the interests of the people of Scotland. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and his colleagues are paying great attention to ensuring that.
Mr. John Bowis (Battersea) : May I draw the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend to the fact that we are approaching the season of light--not the lights over our heads, but those of Oxford street and Regent street which, last year, proved to be one of the last straws for London's traffic? Will he invite our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport to make a statement on how he intends to deal with London's traffic problems and to announce his abandonment of the road study proposals and the adoption of plans for increased expenditure on public transport?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : I shall certainly bring the points raised by my hon. Friend to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, but whether the House can discuss them before Christmas I cannot say.
Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West) : I wish to press the Leader of the House further for an early debate on the textile and clothing industry. I have here the report by Professor Silberston, which has already been referred to several times. Is it not extraordinary that a major report which fundamentally affects the fourth largest manufacturing industry in this country is met by the Government with a reply to a written question? The report suggests the phasing out of the multi-fibre arrangement, which would result in a trade-off of 30, 000 to 40,000 jobs of men and women in British textiles for some very modest and possibly hypothetical consumer benefits.
I urge the Leader of the House to arrange an early debate so that the Secretary of State can hear our views on these matters, especially bearing in mind that the Minister responsible for the policy governing textiles and clothing is in the House of Lords and that it is very difficult to get at him.
Sir Geoffrey Howe : I know from my experience in the Department of Trade and Industry just how important the textile industry has been and remains for the economic well-being of many parts of the country. That is why it is clearly important that the report should have been made available to the House at this time. Clearly it is a topic that will need to be brought to the attention of the Government, and I shall certainly do that. I cannot say more than that at this stage. The hon. Gentleman is quite right to say that the textile industry and its future is a topic that the House does not long neglect, nor should it.
Mr. Tony Baldry (Banbury) : Could my right hon. and learned Friend arrange for next week a debate on the Standing Order No. 20 procedure? One of the consequences of televising the House might be a succession of Opposition spokesmen coming to the Dispatch Box at 3.30 and wanting three minutes of unrebutted time targeted at the 6 o'clock and early regional news. While the House would not wish in any way to curtail the discretion of Mr. Speaker, it must be right to provide opportunities to rebut some of the assertions made in Standing Order No. 20 applications.
Sir Geoffrey Howe : My hon. Friend draws attention to one of the topics to which we shall return fairly often, I suspect--the extent to which the House's behaviour reacts to television, or television's behaviour reacts to the House. We shall all have to watch that with some attention.
Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South) : Will the Leader of the House find time to ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to come to the House to explain, and perhaps debate, the question of the registration of chemicals that are stored at various sites in the United Kingdom? I ask that following a recent incident at Rainhill in my constituency when a company managed to have the wrong chemical put into the wrong tank which led to a cyanide-type gas discharge. Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that unless we know exactly which chemicals, especially imported chemicals, are stored where, we shall put many people at grave risk?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : I have no doubt that it is possible for grave risks to arise in many ways as a result of the handling and mishandling of chemicals. I am sorry to hear that that occurred in the hon. Gentleman's constituency. I
Column 276am not sure that is necessarily follows that a wide-ranging debate could resolve all the problems, but I shall certainly take note of the points that he makes.
Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South) : Can the Leader of the House say when he expects to be able to arrange a debate on the Hetherington report? May we have an assurance that the debate will take place before the Queen's Speech?
Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South) : Will the Leader of the House confirm that the otherwise innocuous sounding Merchant Shipping Act 1988 (Amendment) Order, which is to come before the House on Wednesday, is the result of an important decision by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, that it relates to the ownership of British firms, of British ships flying British flags and to the quota of fish for this country and other members of the EEC? Will he also confirm that if the House does not pass the order it will be in breach of the treaty of Rome?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : This is not the time or the place for me to begin rejoining with the hon. Gentleman in a long debate about such implications. However, he is quite right to identify the order as one which will have the effect of suspending the application of the nationality requirement of the 1988 Act pending the final decision of the European Court of Justice. It is intended to give effect to the interim order of the European Court of Justice so far issued.
Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale) : Will the Leader of the House find time in the parliamentary calendar for a debate on the sheep industry? He will know that at the end of July agreement was reached in the farm council on the broad outline of the new European sheepmeat regime. That agreement leaves many questions of detail unanswered, and that is causing considerable uncertainty among sheep producers. The difficulties are added to by the long summer drought, and many of our sheep farmers face a grim winter. The House should reflect those concerns through a debate.
Sir Geoffrey Howe : I am not sure whether that qualifies for treatment in a full debate, but it certainly qualifies for being drawn carefully to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, who is, of course, aware of the problem. I shall acquaint him with my hon. Friend's concerns.
Ms Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North) : May I draw to the attention of the Leader of the House a Bill that I have introduced to remove Crown immunity from the Palace of Westminster? Will he find time to discuss on the Floor of the House the many changes that need to be made to the working conditions not only of hon. Members but of our employees? Will he also look into the report in the Sunday Mirror that the new building is now behind time? Is that report correct? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman come forward with some radical proposals so that hon. Members can get on with the business that they were elected to do?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : I have held my present office long enough to have been reminded of the extent of the manifest shortcomings in the accommodation available to hon. Members on both sides of the House, and also of the immense difficulty of the task of securing effective improvement in those conditions, given the central and minute location of the premises in which we work. I reflect with envy on at least some aspects of the conditions of Australian parliamentarians, who can spend $1 billion on a green-field site in the middle of a continent. That is not our position, and I suspect that, given our different history, there will be a certain reluctance to embark on changes on quite that scale.
Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East) : The remaining stages of the Football Spectators Bill are due to be dealt with on 30 October. I am not sure whether that is the sole day on which they are to be taken, but, in the light of the interim report into the Hillsborough disaster--which will lead to the tabling of a host of
amendments--should not extra time be provided on that one day, and is there not a case for returning the whole matter to Committee so that it can be investigated fully?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : The arrangements being made for the handling of the Bill during this session do indeed involve debate of the remaining stages on Monday 30 October, in accordance with the timetable motion already in place, but there will of course be further opportunities to consider the implications of the Taylor report when the Bill comes to be implemented.