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Ms. Abbott : Given the disquiet about the fact that in the end information about a food safety issue had to be put out by the manufacturers rather than by the Ministry, will the Leader-- Mr. Speaker : Order. The hon. Lady is going through the arguments that were raised yesterday at some length. She must ask for a debate.
Sir Geoffrey Howe : The fact is that, on Monday 4 December, a report published by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food drew attention to tests on microwave ovens of this kind, and within three days of that, it was the subject of a statement to the House yesterday by my right hon. Friend, who answered all the questions effectively. We have therefore taken action with extreme promptitude to meet the hon. Lady's point.
Column 480(Dr. Cunningham) for a debate on the subject of Rover and British Aerospace, so that we can find out from the superannuated student leader who speaks for the Opposition on this subject what it is that the Opposition really want? Do they want to renationalise Rover, thereby spending thousands of millions of pounds of public money on policies acceptable to their trade union paymasters, or do they want to sell it off to foreigners on the basis that Rover can be closed down, we shall have no car manufacturing left in this country and thousands of jobs will be lost?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : My hon. Friend gives some reasons why he might be expected to take a prominent part in any debate of that kind. Such a debate should await the report of the Select Committee that is investigating.
Mr. Terry Davis (Birmingham, Hodge Hill) : In view of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's suggestion that the House should await the report from the Public Accounts Committee about the acquisition of the Rover Group by British Aerospace before debating the issue, will he assure us that in due course there will be a specific debate on that report, especially as it is now crystal clear that the Government's contribution of £9.5 million towards the acquisition of the minority shareholding was deliberately fixed at that level to avoid the need for a debate in the House?
Mr. Michael Latham (Rutland and Melton) : Regarding next Tuesday's Adjournment debate on the desperate state of the Leicestershire knitwear industry--in which, subject to your permission Mr. Speaker, I shall ask all Leicestershire Members to take part if they so wish--will my right hon. and learned Friend do his best to stress to the Minister responsible for trade that he should come to the House and give a positive response to concerns about the desperate state that the industry is facing?
Mr. Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) : Could we have a ministerial statement on the present operation of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board? Is the Leader of the House aware that currently there is a backlog of 85,000 cases and that three quarters of those people have been waiting for over a year? Does he agree that it is a tremendously onerous burden on those who have been waiting for compensation, some of whom have suffered from crimes of violence, that they should have to wait for over a year to get compensation from the board? Will he ask the Home Secretary to make a statement to the House on this important matter?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : Since I think that I can claim that the board was established following the passage of a resolution at the Conservative party conference in Brighton in 1962 that I had the honour to propose, I certainly do not need to be reminded about the importance of the work of the board. I shall bring the matter to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary.
Column 481Mr. David Madel (Bedfordshire, South-West) : On the highly contentious matter of the war crimes debate, may we take it that one of the Front-Bench speakers will be the Attorney-General who can give us his opinion as a Law Officer of the Crown about whether we should proceed? Secondly, may we also take it that Ministers will give us information about this matter additional to what has already been published?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : I cannot give any undertaking of that kind on behalf of my right hon. and learned Friend. I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary will speak if he catches your eye, Mr. Speaker, in that debate. I shall draw my hon. Friend's point to his attention.
Mr. Allen Adams (Paisley, North) : I am sure that the Leader of the House is familiar with yesterday's edition of the Glasgow Evening Times, in which it is alleged by a Dr. Matthew Dunnigan that some patients in a psychiatric hospital in Glasgow have starved to death because there was not enough staff to feed them. If that has happened in Glasgow, I am sure that it happens in Manchester, London and Birmingham. Is that not important enough to initiate an emergency debate next week on the treatment of patients in psychiatric hospitals?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : I cannot claim to be immediately familiar with the important organ to which the hon. Gentleman draws attention, nor, therefore, with the facts or allegations contained in the report. However, I shall draw the matter to the attention of my right hon. Friends.
Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West) : May we have a debate before Christmas on the conduct of local government in Bradford, which is characterised by extreme Right-wing political prejudice and administrative incompetence, the latest examples of which are highlighted in early-day motions 139 and 165?
[That this House calls upon Conservative-controlled Bradford Metropolitan District Council to fund the following voluntary organisations : Bradford Council for Voluntary Service, Bradford Law Centre, Bradford Resource Centre ; Bradford Community Arts Association, Acorn Video, Playspace, Community Health Project, Relate, Keighley Local Enterprise Agency, Asian Family Counselling, Afro Caribbean Women's Association and the Federation of Voluntary Management Committees, and believes it vital that Bradford's Voluntary Sector is maintained so that it may give support, help and advice and confidence to the poorest and weakest people in the district.]
Is it not extraordinary that the hard-faced and hard-hearted Conservative leaders of Bradford city council are much less prepared to consider the social implications of their policies than was the Prince of Wales on his welcome visit to the city today? He listened to protesters against cuts in council services, accepted a letter explaining the reasons for their protest, and clearly showed much more compassion and concern than the Conservative leaders who caused all the trouble in the first place.
Sir Geoffrey Howe : The hon. Gentleman can put his own gloss on the facts as he pleases. It is those Conservative leaders who have listened to the voices and the advice of the electorate of Bradford who have been elected to run the council there, and who are doing so with considerable success.
Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne) : At the risk of being misunderstood, I wish to make it known that I agree with one of the comments of the hon. Member for Coventry, South-east (Mr. Nellist). I believe that the House should have a chance to debate the ambulance dispute. I ask my right hon. and learned Friend to find time to allow a debate on early-day motion 152.
[That this House agrees the urgent need to solve the ambulancemen's dispute ; notes the differing levels of skill deployed ; and believes that while paramedics should be rewarded for their special training, most ambulance journeys are routine transport functions which could be carried out by taxis or otherwise sub-contracted at great saving, which could be used to pay better wages to those who merit it.]
The motion observes that those with paramedical skills deserve more money and could be paid more money if those who provide the taxi service were subjected to competitive tender. The money saved could be paid to those with extra skills.
Sir Geoffrey Howe : The House has already had an opportunity to discuss the ambulance dispute on more than one occasion. The Opposition have not taken advantage of the day available to them next week to discuss it. I shall draw the point made by my hon. Friend to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Health.
Mr. Tony Banks : Is the Leader of the House aware that, this week, a Japanese whaling fleet will set about the slaughter of about 200 minke whales in the Antartic? Will he please arrange for an urgent debate on this subject so that the detestation of the House can be conveyed in a direct form to the Japanese Government? The slaughter will be carried out in the name of scientific whaling. It is rather surprising that whale meat turns up in Tokyo restaurants and costs about £70 per pound. The actions of the Japanese are disgraceful and disgusting, and the House must have an opportunity to say so.
Sir Geoffrey Howe : The hon. Gentleman has had the opportunity to make an important point on an important subject. He is right to say that Her Majesty's Government and the House are concerned about the general issue to which he draws attention. I cannot comment on the particular point which he has raised, but I shall bring it to the attention of my right hon. Friend.
Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington) : Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that it is disgraceful that he should have allocated only three hours for discussion of a war crimes motion? Is his political judgment so poor-- [ Hon. Members :-- "Shame."]--that he thinks it possible to deal with a subject that is so fundamentally important to our criminal justice system so briefly? Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware also that the other place debated the matter for a whole day and that most of those who contributed to the debate were against the proposals set out in the report of the war crimes inquiry, yet they were not called upon to come to a decision?
Column 483My right hon. and learned Friend is asking this place to come to a decision when an inadequate time has been provided for a debate. Surely we must have a much longer period to discuss a matter of fundamental importance to our criminal justice system.
Sir Geoffrey Howe : I do not accept my hon. Friend's judgment upon my judgment. It must be said that the debate which took place in another place did not take up the whole parliamentary day. The recommended time available for the debate has been arranged after quite wide discussion and consideration.
Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish) : I thank the Leader of the House for finding two and a half hours to discuss the Census Order 1989. As it has been decided to discuss it in Committee, will the right hon. and learned Gentleman consider the problems of voting that will arise? Many people are concerned that census information is to be published on the basis of postal codes, with the implications that we shall get far more junk mail and that there will be redlining by building societies and insurance companies. The voting procedure will be extremely complicated if there has been a debate in Committee. Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman ensure that the amendments to the order can be voted on by the whole House?
Sir Geofrey Howe : The hon. Gentleman made so many points in such a short time that I cannot undertake to accept any of them. I have no doubt that he will have the opportunity of advancing them in the Committee to which the order has been referred.
Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) : When will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement to be made on the erection of gates outside No. 10 Downing street? When are we to know exactly why the Prime Minister is building a Berlin wall-type monument? Why do we not open up No. 10 Downing street like Wenceslas square? Let the ambulance workers come and protest. Let those who are living in the cardboard society protest outside No. 10. If it is good enough for those in east Europe, it should be good enough here.
Mr. Ian Bruce (Dorset, South) : Will my right hon. and learned Friend consider having an early debate on the subject of salmonella in eggs? He will recall that a year ago it was a crisis issue. British farmers have to comply with stringent regulations to ensure that no salmonella gets to the consumer, yet imported eggs, despite the common agricultural policy, are not subject to such regulations. I feel that we should have an early debate on the matter.
Column 484Health Service reforms, may I ask him to apply the same standards to the Scottish fishing industry? Does he accept that the three hours per year allocated by the Government are not adequate to consider an industry that is responsible for 30,000 jobs in Scotland? Is it possible to have a full day's debate on that matter?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her opening remark, and I am sorry that I cannot respond with similar generosity to her main point. It is necessary to discuss the matter on the basis of the documents that underlie the debate, and it is the right procedure to conduct matters in this way.
Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North) : May we have a debate next week on local government expenditure, so that I can put the worries of my constituents before the House? Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that the Ealing Labour council has doubled the rates in two years and cut expenditure on education by £2.5 million this year, with reductions also in street cleaning and refuse collection? Is he further aware that, at the same time, the council has made provision for an annual expenditure of £3,000 for the removal of unwanted body hair from women?
Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East) : Can we have a debate on Northern Ireland in prime time? It appears that Northern Ireland is dealt with badly in this House. There should be a debate about its social and economic development. Appropriations were discussed earlier this week and hon. Members from the four Northern Ireland parties and the Labour party suggested that more money should be spent on social welfare. Can we debate that matter when the House is full so that other hon. Members can be involved in the debate, not just those from Northern Ireland and Opposition Front Bench spokesmen?
Sir Geoffrey Howe : I cannot promise an affirmative answer, but the hon. Gentleman will recall that more than half the parliamentary representatives of Northern Ireland had the opportunity to speak during the debate in response to the Gracious Speech.
Mr. Tony Favell (Stockport) : During Home Office questions this afternoon, it was announced that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary would introduce regulations to tighten the law on gun clubs following two incidents in Greater Manchester, and in particular the murder of two people in Stockport by a temporary member of a gun club.
Can my right hon. and learned Friend say whether there will be a debate on the Floor of the House, especially in view of the fact that since that incident, a journalist has managed to get into that gun centre and use a .22 pistol without holding a firearms certificate? Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that there is widespread aversion to the use by many gun clubs of targets that depict human beings? That is forbidden in Germany and Belgium and, quite honestly, my constituents and I consider it to be a sick practice for people to shoot at human-shaped targets for sport.
Column 485importance, but I cannot at this stage do more than promise to bring it to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary.
Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) : Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Home Secretary to make a statement next week on the treatment by police of the Guildford Four, who were released by the Court of Appeal last month? Is he aware that, four days after being released, Gerard Conlan was harassed and held in a police car by the Royal Ulster Constabulary in Belfast, and that, two days ago, Paul Hill, while on his way to Dublin by Aer Lingus, was stopped at Heathrow airport, held for 25 minutes and questioned by officers of the Metropolitan police?
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that many people believe that that amounts to the harassment of four innocent people? From the tenor of the conversation between the police and Paul Hill during his interrogation at Heathrow airport, it is apparent that they are under police surveillance at all times.
Sir Geoffrey Howe : I have no means of corroborating, one way or the other, the hon. Gentleman's allegations. All that I can do is to draw them to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary.
Mr. Roland Boyes (Houghton and Washington) : I thank the Leader of the House for his letter of 28 November 1989, in which he disappointingly rejected the opportunity for a still photographer to work in the House. It is incredible that eight television cameras can be beaming what is happening in the House all around the world, but we cannot have a proper historical record of what happens here through the use of a still photographer. Will the Leader of the House make a statement on this, so that hon. Members can express an opinion about it? We are losing a great and important historical opportunity by turning this suggestion down.
Sir Geoffrey Howe : I know that the hon. Member takes an enthusiastic interest in photography, and I am glad that he was able to make this point to me. The matter has been considered by the broadcasting Select Committee. As a result of modern technology, it is possible for the feed going out on the television cameras to be used to produce still photographs by means of freezing frames. It is possible for any others who have access to that feed to do the same on the equipment that they use, so potentially a number of people are in a position to take still photographs from that source. The Select Committee has concluded that that is the right way at the moment.
Several Hon. Members On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East) : I rise to ask about a point arising out of the answers from the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House on the privatisation of the Rover group. Mr. Speaker, are you now prepared to accept a motion for the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 20 for an emergency debate on the letters from 6 to 12 July 1988 between Lord Young and the chairman of British Aerospace over the graft, sleaze and corruption that were involved in that privatisation deal?
Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. During business questions, my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) asked a question that involved him mentioning two early- day motions, and you ruled that he could mention only one. Is that the practice? My hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), in earlier business questions, reeled off several early-day motions attacking the Prime Minister. Is it all right to quote several early-day motions to attack the Prime Minister, but not to use several in relation to Bradford?
Mr. Speaker : Obviously, the hon. Gentleman was not in the House when I made a statement, following that incident, about the number of early -day motions to be mentioned at business questions. If he will come to me later, I will give him the reference and he will be able to look at it himself.
Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Last night, in the debate, I drew attention to the allegations that the Government were in breach of European Community directives in respect of contracts given by the Crown Suppliers to its contractors. These contracts covered tens of millions of pounds-worth of business. In the debate, the Secretary of State gave an undertaking to the House that those allegations would be dealt with "comprehensively" in the reply from the Under-Secretary. Despite being pressed, the Under-Secretary refused to comment on those matters in his wind-up speech. Will you deprecate the actions of the Secretary of State, who gave solemn undertakings that replies would be given but, when the chance came and the Under-Secretary gave his reply, no reference was made to those matters because the Government wish to hide them under the carpet?
Column 487Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockton, South) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Each day, four tonnes of waste paper are taken away from the House. Will you tell those who compile the vote each afternoon that it is only necessary to list, say, the first 20 questions on each subject? There is no need to tell me that my question to the Prime Minister is No. 156.
That the Civil Aviation Authority (Borrowing Powers) Bill be referred to a Second Reading Committee.-- [Mr. Chapman.]
National Health Service and Community Care Bill
Order for Second Reading read.
[Relevant documents : Eighth Report from the Social Services Committee, Session 1988-89, Resourcing the National Health Service : the Government's plans for the future of the National Health Service, (House of Commons Paper No. 214-III, 1988-89), the Government's reply to that Report (Cm. 851), the Second Report from the Social Services Committee, Session 1984- 85, "Community Care with special reference to adult mentally ill and mentally handicapped people" (House of Commons Paper No. 13-I 1984-85), the Government's reply to that Report (Cmnd. 9674), "Community Care : Agenda for Action" (1988 HMSO), and the White Paper "Caring for People : Community Care in the next decade and beyond" (Cm. 849).]
Mr. Speaker : Before I call upon the Secretary of State, I must tell the House that the instruction in the name of the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) and other hon. Members is not in order. However, it will be in order to advocate the specific grants referred to in the instruction in the course of the debate.
There is great demand to speak in this debate and on Monday, so I propose to limit speeches to 10 minutes this evening between 7 o'clock and 9 o'clock.
Miss Ann Widdecombe (Maidstone) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In addition to the instruction on the Order Paper to which you have referred, there is also a motion in the name of the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) and other hon. Members. My name appears as a signatory to that motion. I am not a signatory to that motion. I do not in any way approve of it, and I would ask you to rule it to be invalid because the House has been misled.
Several Hon. Members rose --
Mr. Speaker : Order. Let me deal with one thing at a time. I understand that the hon. Lady's name was included with a number of others when the motion was handed in to the Table Office. It was accepted in good faith, but if it was included by mistake, I shall have the matter looked into.
Mr. Gerry Hayes (Harlow) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am a member of the Select Committee on Social Services and I was present at the meeting when the decision was made. I support what my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Miss Widdecombe) said. There was no malice or dishonesty on the part of the Select Committee, but it may be a matter for the Select Committee on Procedure to consider. It cannot be right for hon. Members to have their names included because a course of action has been decided upon. I was able to have my name removed yesterday because I could prove that it should not have been included, but because my hon. Friend could not be present, she was unable to do so. That cannot be a satisfactory practice.
Mr. David Sumberg (Berwick, South) rose --
Column 489Mr. Speaker : If the point of order refers to the same matter, I will take it, but it will delay matters.
Mr. Sumberg : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. This is a serious matter for my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Miss Widdecombe). She is an assiduous Member of the House and attends regularly, but if she had not seen today's Order Paper she would have been put in an embarrassing position. Will you look at this serious matter to prevent it happening again?
Mr. Speaker : This has been going on for many years. When the motion was submitted by the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) it included the names now on the Order Paper. The disagreement should be taken up with the hon. Gentleman, not with the Table Office, which accepted it in good faith.
Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I think that I have got to the bottom of this. Select Committees tend to be consensus-minded and there is a tendency for whoever is in charge to say, "Well, I will stick all the names in because we agree on everything else." The nods and the winks took place, all the names went down and then the Tory Members, realising that they would embarrass the Government, tried to run away from their responsibilities. That is the top and bottom of it. One had the nous to get his name off in time and the other did not turn up to get it off.
This debate is an important stage in the bold reforms of the National Health Service on which the Government have embarked. Those reforms were inspired by a vision of what a good public service ought to be like in the 1990s, and I believe that when we pass the Bill we shall indeed have produced a better Health Service for the next generation.
There is, I think, a broad measure of agreement between us, and certainly among the public, about the kind of NHS that we want for the 1990s. Such a service should, in our view, be based on the fundamental principle--adhered to by all parties in the House--that free medical treatment should be provided regardless of means and financed largely by general taxation. The service should be well funded, which is why we have been putting such substantial additional resources into it : the two most recent public spending round settlements have increased the cash available to it by more than 20 per cent., or over £5 billion. At the same time, it is important for a modern public service to be efficient, and to avoid waste wherever that is practicable. No one can really be committed to a caring service without being committed also to raising efficiency levels whenever possible.
We believe that the service should be well led locally by people who are respected in their own communities--and led in a way that enables people to make clear decisions about priorities that reflect the wishes and choices of the local population. We want staff to be well motivated, knowing what their respective clinical units are expected to deliver to the NHS and what resources are available for the
Column 490purpose. Much of the low morale of recent years has arisen because many staff are frustrated by the muddle that often features in NHS decision-making and objectives.
Above all, we want a service that will be responsive to the patients that it serves, delivering high-quality, caring and friendly personal service.
I trust that we all hope and believe that we can create that kind of first- class public service by building on the foundations of our present National Health Service. Nevertheless, we believe that there is much room for improvement in the way in which the service is run, and in the quality of the care that it delivers. We all respect the NHS as one of the great British institutions--indeed, we probably all love it for being an old, traditional, national institution--but, if it is to remain a great public service in the forefront of the world's health care systems, we must raise standards everywhere to the highest level ; and we must be prepared to contemplate change when that change is for the better. Certainly, when we are devoting ever more huge sums of public money to the service, we have a duty to ensure that that money is spent in the most effective way possible. All hon. Members are constantly reminded by their constituents of the highest-quality care that is often--indeed, usually--received by patients seeking treatment of all kinds. We need not look far, however, to see wide variations in performance between different parts of the service, leading to equally wide variations in the quality of care that patients can expect. I sometimes think that patients do not complain enough about the chance factors that can determine whether the locality in which they live can provide a good standard of family practitioner service, for instance. Such services are much better in the prosperous rural and suburban parts of the country than in many of our poorer inner-city areas.
Patients also tolerate variations in the times for which they must wait for treatment, and in the standards of care or even facilities available in different areas. Most people are familiar with the variations in the effectiveness of prescribing practice, and in the extent to which it is prudent and careful, avoiding waste of money or even risk to patients. I have already mentioned in previous speeches the 2.5 tonnes of drugs that were handed in in Yorkshire during our three-week campaign, and 1 million tablets were handed in in the space of two weeks in the counties of Avon and Somerset. My private office was recently sent 22 vials of a drug costing £9.50 per vial, which had been returned to a pharmacist in Newton-le-Willows. They had been prescribed on a twice-monthly basis, but the patient had not got around to taking the drug or opening the vials.
Prescribing costs vary considerably. One practice with a list of 7, 000 patients, only an average proportion of whom are elderly, is currently spending about £800,000 a year on drugs : that is 185 per cent. above the average for its family practitioner committee area. The phrase "above the average" is a little misleading. That practice is so out of line with all its neighbours that every other practice in the family practitioner committee is at least 5 per cent. below the average for the FPC because that practice is spending so much more than the others.
Mr. Gareth Wardell (Gower) : Is it not important that drugs that are prescribed for elderly people in particular should be taken? Drugs that are prescribed are often not taken because there is no adequate supervision at home.