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Business of the House

3.30 pm

Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland) : Will the Leader of the House state the business for next week?

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Sir Geoffrey Howe) : Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be as follows :

Monday 5 February----There will be a debate on the Royal Navy on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Tuesday 6 February----There will be a debate on agriculture on a motion to take note of EC documents, details of which will be given in the Official Report.

Wednesday 7 February----Until seven o'clock, motions on social security benefit uprating orders and regulations. Afterwards motions on other social security regulations. Details will be given in the Official Report.

Thursday 8 February----Opposition day (6th Alloted Day). Until seven o'clock there will be a debate on an Opposition motion entitled "The Scottish Economy".

Motion to take note of EC documents relating to rights of residence. Details will be given in the Official Report. The Chairman of Ways and Means has named opposed private business for consideration at seven o'clock.

Friday 9 February----Private Members' Bills.

Monday 12 February----Until seven o'clock private Members' motions. Remaining stages of the Property Services Agency and Crown Suppliers Bill.

It may be for the convenience of the House Mr. Speaker, to know that, subject to the progress of business, it will be proposed that the House will rise for the Easter recess on Thursday 5 April until Wednesday 18 April.

[Tuesday 6 February

Relevant European Community Documents

(a) COM(89)660 Agricultural Price Proposals 1990-91

(b) 7010/89 Adjustments of agricultural structures


(d) 8309/89


Milk Quotas

(e) OJ C128 Agrimonetary System (Court of Auditors Special Report No. 1/89)

(f) Un-numbered Non-food Agricultural Commodities

(g) SEC(89)2097 Agricultural Situation : 1989 Report

(h) 8076/89 Set-aside of arable land

(i) 10912/89 Sheepmeat Regime : heavy lambs

(j) 7548/89 Monitoring of export refunds


(l) 7549/89


Scrutiny of European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (Guarantee Section) expenditure

(m) 7566/89 Physical inventory checks for intervention stocks (n) Un- numbered Sheepmeat and goatmeat Regime

Relevant Reports of European Legislation Committee

(a) HC 11-vii (1989-90) para 6 and

HC 11-viii (1989-90) para 1

(b) HC 11-v (1989-90) para 2

(c) HC 15-xxxii (1988-89) para 5 and

HC 11-iii (1989-90) para 2

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(d) HC 15-xxxvii (1988-89) para 4

(e) HC 15-xxvi (1988-89) para 2

(f) HC 11-vii (1989-90) para 5

(g) HC 11-viii (1989-90) para 8

(h) HC 15-xxx (1988-89) para 5

(i) HC 11-v (1989-90) para 9

(j) HC 15-xxix (1988-89) para 5

(k) HC 15-xxix (1988-89) para 5

(l) HC 11-vi (1989-90) para 5

(m) HC 15-xxviii (1988-89) para 6

(n) HC 15-xxxiv (1988-89) para 19

Wednesday 7 February

Until about Seven o'clock :

Social Security (Contributions) (Re-rating) Order

Social Security Benefits Up-rating Order

Guaranteed Minimum Pensions Increase Order

Statutory Sick Pay (Rate of Payment) Regulations

Afterwards :

Social Security (Industrial Injuries) (Regular Employment) Regulations

Social Security (Recoupment) Regulations

Social Security (Industrial Injuries and Diseases) Miscellaneous Provisions (Amendment) Regulations (Opposition prayer EDM 424) Income Support (Transitional) Amendment (No. 2) Regulations (Opposition prayer EDM 422)

Social Fund Cold Weather Payments (General) Amendment Regulations (Opposition prayer EDM 256)

Thursday 8 February

Relevant European Community Document

7706/89 Rights of Residence

Relevant Reports of European Legislation Committee

HC. 15-xxxv (1988-89) para 1, HC 11-v (1989-90) para 1 and HC 11-vii (1989- 90) para 1]

Dr. Cunningham : In view of the importance of public expenditure to all of us and our constituents, is the Leader of the House yet able to tell us when we can have a debate on the Government's public expenditure White Paper?

Given the widely reported news that the Top Salaries Review Body is recommending that judges, senior civil servants and officers in the armed forces are to be given salary increases of 13 per cent., will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement to be made by the Secretary of State for Health to explain why people on high salaries are to be given such large increases, for which taxpayers will be obliged to pay, while the taxpayers themselves are denied the opportunity to fund a more generous settlement for ambulance personnel--something which they would be very happy indeed to do? Are not we entitled to an explanation of the perversity of Government decisions and of the unfairness of Government decisions in respect of ambulance workers?

Given the Prime Minister's very serious admission this week that she and other Ministers, albeit unwittingly, had given the House of Commons false information in respect of the Colin Wallace affair, is not it now clear that we in the Labour party have always been right in demanding that the security services be made accountable to Parliament? Is not it now obvious that we need greater accountability on the part of the security services to this House? Will the Leader of the House arrange for an early debate on this important matter?

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Sir Geoffrey Howe : As I have already told the House in answer to an earlier question from the hon. Gentleman, I hope to arrange a debate on the public expenditure White Paper in the relatively near future. Obviously, the precise planning will have to be left to the usual channels.

The hon. Gentleman's second point concerned the announcement being made today of the Government's reaction to the reports of the various review bodies. He will know that that announcement is being made in accordance with practice established over many years : in the form of a written answer --indeed, I think, more than one. If the hon. Gentleman studies those matters carefully--and they deserve careful study--he will find that they relate to the levels of pay and remuneration for the financial year that has not yet started. He will recollect that the ambulance workers' pay claim relates to a year in which virtually every other group of workers in the National Health Service has settled. Virtually all the ambulance workers' colleagues have already settled at substantially lower figures. That is the point that needs to be taken into account.

On the hon. Gentleman's last point, may I say that there will no doubt be a number of further discussions about the matters arising from the statement made earlier this week, and the statement that will be made later this afternoon. There will also be two Adjournment debates on related topics in the week ahead.

Several Hon. Members rose--

Mr. Speaker : Order. The whole House knows that we are to have a very important statement. May I urge hon. Members who could keep their questions for another time to do so? I should like to get on to the statement by about 4 o'clock.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North) : If my right hon. and learned Friend saw "Newsnight" last night he will be aware that the Government's proposal to go back on their election commitment not to open up more immigration to this country is rejected by two people out of three. Will he arrange an early debate so that the people of Hong Kong may realise that the commitment erroneously given by the Government will not be sustained by the House of Commons?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : That question will have to be judged when the matter comes before the House in the appropriate fashion. My hon. Friend will know that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made a very full statement on this matter after his return from Hong Kong. It is my impression that that statement was very widely supported on both sides of the House.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland) : I thank the Leader of the House for announcing the dates of the Easter recess. Those of us who try to combine something of a family life with our parliamentary duties welcome his early announcement and hope that we can encourage him in this practice.

Has he had an opportunity to look at early-day motion 415 on drugs in sport?

[That this House notes with dismay and alarm events at the Commonwealth Games in Auckland which have resulted in competitors from the United Kingdom being tested positively for drugs ; expresses its concern at the failure of Her Majesty's Government to bring anabolic steriods within the scope of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and to make their

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possession and supply criminal offences ; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to cease its procrastination and either to introduce legislation for this purpose or to endorse the private Member's Bill of the hon. Member for Fife, North-East due for Second Reading on Friday 2 March, which is to the same effect.]

I am sure that he shares the dismay felt by hon. Members on both sides of the House at the fact that these Commonwealth Games, like the Olympics before them--which ought to have been celebrations of excellence--have been marred by the cheating of drug taking. Can he give an undertaking that the Government will make an early announcement that they will bring in their own provisions to outlaw the taking of anabolic steroids or, alternatively, that they will support the private Member's Bill of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell)?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his welcome of my announcement about the Easter recess. It is clearly desirable to proceed as far as is possible in the direction of giving people a greater assurance about such arrangements as far ahead as we can.

The hon. Gentleman is right to draw attention to the concern that is widely felt about the evidence of drug taking in sporting activities. The importation and supply of anabolic steroids and similar drugs are subject to controls under the Medicines Act 1968. The Government are considering whether those controls should be strengthened.

Mr. Ian Taylor (Esher) : Will my right hon. and learned Friend give urgent consideration to providing the Opposition with an extra Supply day so that they can bring forward for discussion their tax proposals which, as The Independent has shown this morning, could well mean that over a period of time taxpayers who earn between £18,000 and £30,000 might be charged an extra £4,000 per annum in tax?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing attention to that important evidence about the high tax policies that are now being canvassed by the Labour party. We should be grateful to The Independent, whose birth is owed to the greater prosperity of that industry under this Government, for giving clear publicity to such important information.

Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield) : Two questions : first, are the Church measures coming forward soon ; and secondly

Hon. Members : No--one.

Mr. Speaker : Order. Hon. Members should ask only one question at business questions.

Mr. Benn : In that case, I shall leave that question.

Is the Leader of the House aware that there is a widespread feeling across the House that a Select Committee of the House--preferably the Select Committee on Privileges--should be allowed to hear the evidence submitted by Colin Wallace? As this point has been taken up by the Opposition, and as the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows that it is a matter on which I wrote to you, Mr. Speaker, on Tuesday, can he say when he will be bringing forward a motion to permit that reference to be made?

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Sir Geoffrey Howe : The right hon. Gentleman understands, I think, that questions of privilege are submitted in the first instance to you, Mr. Speaker, for your determination, before I can take any action whatsoever. The right hon. Gentleman also knows that he will have the opportunity of raising the very case with which he is concerned on the Adjournment debate on Monday week. He can develop his case then.

Sir Philip Goodhart (Beckenham) : Following last week's inconclusive conference at Geneva on the Vietnamese boat people, will my right hon. and learned Friend arrange for the Foreign Secretary to come to the House next week to tell us what steps he is taking to improve conditions in the camps, to improve the screening procedure for the boat people in Hong Kong, and to set up an adequate monitoring service in Vietnam to look after the returned boat people?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : My hon. Friend will understand that considerable progress was made at last week's conference to complete international agreement. All the participating countries, with the exceptions of the United States and Vietnam, agreed that the mandatory repatriation of non- refugees would start on 1 July 1990, with full international monitoring. I shall bring my hon. Friend's additional points to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary who may consider the points that he has made.

Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe) : Is the Leader of the House aware that 13 people infected with AIDS due to routine blood transfusions have now died and that others face early death? Is he also aware that the ex gratia payment of £20,000 given to people infected with AIDS by blood products is not paid in transfusion cases? In view of the recent announcement by Canada's Health Minister that his Government will treat both cases equally for compensation, may we have a statement next week, hopefully, one that follows Canada's lead?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : I cannot offer an immediate answer to the points raised by the right hon. Gentleman, but I shall certainly bring it to the attention of my right hon. Friends at the Department of Health.

Mr. James Pawsey (Rugby and Kenilworth) : Does my right hon. and learned Friend have any detailed knowledge of the reports of the Parliamentary Commissioner and of the Select Committee covering the Parliamentary Commissioner? Does he agree that there would be a substantial benefit if the reports of the Parliamentary Commissioner and of the Select Committee were debated on the Floor of the House?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : As my hon. Friend knows, I have discussed that point with the Select Committee on the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration. The usual pattern is that particular cases and reports that deserve attention are dealt with on the Floor of the House in the way that my hon. Friend describes. So far, there has not been a pattern of providing regular debates on matters dealt with by that Select Committee.

Mr. John D. Taylor (Strangford) : It is becoming increasingly obvious that there is division within the Government on devolution, as borne out by the recent speech by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in favour of it and another speech by the hon. Member for

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Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) which dismissed devolution as constitutional nonsense. Will the Leader of the House bring forward a motion as soon as possible to outline the Government's policy towards devolution throughout the United Kingdom?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : That point was dealt with in the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland a while ago. He said that all members of the Government, particularly those affected by devolution matters are in continuous consultation on devolution in different parts of the Kingdom. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues will study with care my right hon. Friend's speech, which received widespread commendation although the right hon. Gentleman may not have been quite so optimistic about it.

Rev. William McCrea (Mid-Ulster) : Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on the deteriorating security situation in the Province? In the first few days of this year in my constituency, a young business man and part-time member of the Ulster Defence Regiment has been murdered, two young men are in intensive care having lost their legs in a terrorist bomb attack--both were members of the UDR--the village of Sion Mills in my constituency has been flattened in a matter of days and one of my colleagues on the Magherafelt district council has been the subject of an attempted murder. Does not that merit a full-scale debate in Government time?

Sir Geoffrey Howe : I fully understand why the hon. Gentleman emphasises the impact of terrorism on his constituency. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and all members of the Government are aware of the importance of that. That is why we continue to maintain our campaign against terrorism as vigorously as possible. I shall take into account what the hon. Gentleman said in considering the programme for the weeks ahead.

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