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House of Commons

Wednesday 6 May 1992

The House met at twenty-five minutes pastEleven o'clock

PRAYERS

[Madam Speaker-- in the Chair ]

Message to attend Her Majesty :

The House went ; and having returned :

The sitting was suspended until fifteen minutes past Two o'clock, and then resumed.

Members Sworn

The following Members took and subscribed the Oath, or made and subscribed the Affirmation required by Law :

Robert Adam Ross Maclennan, esquire, Caithness and Sutherland.Tam Dalyell, esquire, Linlithgow.Colin Ryley Shepherd, esquire, Hereford.Anthony David Steen, esquire, South Hams.Spencer Lee Batiste, esquire, Elmet.

2.17 pm

Sitting suspended.

2.30 pm

On resuming --

SESSIONAL ORDERS

Elections

Ordered,

That all Members who are returned for two or more places in any part of the United Kingdom to make their Election for which of the places they will serve, within one week after it shall appear that there is no question upon the Return for that place ; and if anything shall come in question touching the Return or Election of any Member, he is to withdraw during the time the matter is in debate ; and that all Members returned upon double Returns do withdraw till their Returns are determined.

Resolved,

That no Peer of the Realm, except a Peer of Ireland, hath any right to give his vote in the Election of any Member to serve in Parliament.

Resolved,

That if it shall appear that any person hath been elected or returned a Member of this House, or endeavoured so to be, by Bribery or any other corrupt practices, this House will proceed with the utmost severity against all such persons as shall have been wilfully concerned in such Bribery or other corrupt practices.

Witnesses

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That if shall appear that any person hath been tampering with any Witness, in respect of his evidence to be given to this House, or any Committee thereof, or directly or indirectly hath endeavoured to deter or hinder any person from appearing or giving evidence the same is declared to be a high crime and misdemeanour ; and this House will proceed with the utmost severity against such offender.


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That if it shall appear that any person hath given false evidence in any case before this House, or any Committee thereof, this House will proceed with the utmost severity against such offender. 2.32 pm

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South) : Over many years, the House has passed this order, which relates to tampering with witnesses appearing before the House and Select Committees. However, when such tampering has occurred nothing has been done about it. It is not unknown for people to lose their jobs because they have given evidence to a Select Committee, yet when the matter has been raised in the House nothing has been done about it.

I wish briefly to draw your attention, Madam Speaker, to the report by the Select Committee on Trade and Industry on project Babylon--the sale of a supergun to Iraq. It is worth pointing out that the Committee was told by several witnesses that it would not be allowed to investigate, interrogate or question members of the secret services--MI5 and MI6.

The House will note that the order is not qualified. If the Government want to exclude members of the secret services from scrutiny by Committees of this House, they should table a motion to that effect. They have not done so. When the House passes this order, if a Select Committee wishes to interrogate members of the secret services who were up to their necks in the export of weaponry to Iraq, it will have the right to do so. No witness should be able to determine what a Select Committee can do. No Ministers should intimidate witnesses or say that they should not appear.

The Attorney-General, who is present today, is well aware of the problem. When Customs and Excise representatives were asked to give evidence to a Select Committee, they went first to the

Attorney-General and then to the Leader of the House. They entered into a collusive arrangement not to give the full information. That was in breach of this order.

We must make it clear that, when Government Members nod their heads to this order, it will provide protection for people giving evidence--whether they are members of the Government, of the secret services, of special branch, or whatever. Such witnesses will have the protection of this order, and the Government had better take note of that.

Madam Speaker : The hon. Gentleman has made his point clear. Question put and agreed to.

Metropolitan Police

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis do take care that during the Session of Parliament the passages through the streets leading to the House be kept free and open and that no obstruction be permitted to hinder the passage of Members to and from this House, and that no disorder be allowed in Westminster Hall, or in the passages leading to this House, during the Sitting of Parliament, and that there be no annoyance therein or thereabouts ; and that the Serjeant at Arms attending this House do communicate this Order to the Commissioner aforesaid.

2.35 pm

Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch) : I submit to you, Madam Speaker--as I did to your predecessor--that it is impossible for this order to be enforced unless and until


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somebody, I hope with your guidance, prevents coaches from parking in and around Parliament square. Coach companies show an arrogant disregard of this Sessional Order. They ignore parking restrictions, flout security precautions, create congestion and generate pollution.

May I therefore yet again ask you, Madam Speaker, as I asked your predecessor, to have discussions with the Metropolitan police to determine whether this Sessional Order can be enforced? If it is not, it is not worth the paper on which it is written.

Madam Speaker : I attach great significance to this Sessional Order because it is of constitutional importance that there should be unimpeded access to this place. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the order relates to the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will give me the opportunity to ensure that his points are made known to the commissioner.

Question put and agreed to.

Votes and Proceedings

Ordered,

That the Votes and Proceedings of this House be printed, being first perused by Madam Speaker ; and that she do appoint the printing thereof ; and that no person but such as she shall appoint do presume to print the same.

Outlawries

Bill for the more effectual preventing Clandestine Outlawries ; read the First time ; to be read a Second time.

Journal

Ordered,

That the Journal of this House, from the end of the last Session to the end of the present Session, with an index thereto, be printed. Ordered,

That the said Journal and Index be printed by the appointment and under the direction of Sir Clifford John Boulton, KCB, the Clerk of this House.

Ordered,

That the said Journal and Index be printed by such person as shall be licensed by Madam Speaker, and that no other person do presume to print the same.

Chairman and Deputy Chairmen of Ways and Means

Ordered,

That Mr. Michael Morris be Chairman of Ways and Means, and that Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse and Dame Janet Fookes be First and Second Deputy Chairmen of Ways and Means.-- [Mr. Newton.]


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Queen's Speech

Madam Speaker : I have to acquaint the House that this House has this day attended Her Majesty in the House of Peers, and that Her Majesty was pleased to make a Most Gracious Speech from the Throne to both Houses of Parliament, of which I have, for greater accuracy, obtained a copy.

I shall direct that the terms of the Gracious Speech be printed at the appropriate place in the Votes and Proceedings. Copies are available in the Vote Office.

The Gracious Speech was as follows :

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons

I look forward with great pleasure to receiving the State Visits of His Majesty the Sultan of Brunei and Her Majesty the Raja Isteri in November, and His Excellency the President of the Portuguese Republic and Senhora Soares in 1993.

I look forward to my forthcoming visit to the European Parliament and the Council of Europe at Strasbourg, and to my visits to Malta later this month, France and Canada in June and Germany in October. My Government attach the highest importance to national security. They will continue to give full support to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, and will work with our allies to adapt it to changing risks. They will aim to develop the Western European Union as a means of strengthening the European pillar of the Alliance and the defence component of the European Union. The United Kingdom's armed forces are being restructured to reflect these changes. Britain's minimum nuclear deterrent will be maintained.

My Government will work for a comprehensive and verifiable ban on chemical weapons, to prevent the proliferation of biological weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, and to encourage greater international responsibility in conventional arms transfers. They will help the Russian Federation in the task of dismantling surplus nuclear weapons.

My Government will work to strengthen the United Nations. They will require full Iraqi compliance with Security Council resolutions. They will work for a peaceful settlement in Yugoslavia. They will support moves to bring lasting peace to the middle east.

They will lay before Parliament the treaty of Maastricht and introduce a Bill to implement it.

My Government look forward to welcoming the European Council at our palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh towards the end of the United Kingdom's Presidency of the Community in December. During the Presidency, my Government will attach particular priority to enlargement of the Community and completion of the single market. They will promote sound finance and budgetary discipline. With our Community partners they will continue to strive for a successful conclusion to the GATT trade negotiations, and to press for changes in the common agricultural policy.

My Government will encourage Community agreements with central and eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, and will support democratic reform there.

They will maintain the fight against terrorism in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.

They will energetically pursue policies to combat the trafficking and misuse of drugs.


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My Government will play an active part in the Commonwealth. They will support efforts to build a democratic society in South Africa. My Government will maintain a substantial aid programme to reduce poverty in developing countries. Its objectives will include promoting good government, sensible economic policies and respect for human rights. They will continue to press creditor countries for a further reduction in the official debt of the poorest countries. The United Kingdom will work for a successful outcome to the United Nations conference on environment and development.

My Government will continue to administer Hong Kong justly and efficiently, in the interests of its people, and to co-operate with China on the basis of the Sino-British joint declaration to promote the political and economic development of the territory.

Members of the House of Commons

Estimates for the public service will be laid before you. My Lords and Members of the House of Commons

My Government will pursue, within the framework of the exchange rate mechanism, firm financial policies designed to achieve price stability and maintain the conditions necessary for sustained growth. They will set policy in the medium term to ensure that the United Kingdom meets the convergence criteria set out in the Maastricht treaty. They will reduce the share of national income taken by the public sector and balance the budget over the medium term, reducing taxes when it is prudent to do so. They will promote market mechanisms and incentives and improve the working of the economy. To help business, legislation will be introduced to amend the non- domestic rate transitional arrangements.

A Bill will be introduced to improve further the law on industrial relations.

My Government will pursue vigorously their programme of privatisation. Legislation will be introduced to return British Coal to the private sector.

My Government are committed to increasing the role of the railways in meeting the country's transport needs. Legislation will be introduced to enable the private sector to operate rail services. My Government will give priority to improving public services through the Citizen's Charter which will be at the centre of decision-making. Steps will be taken to apply charter principles throughout the public service.

My Government will continue to work to raise standards at all levels of education, to promote vocational training for


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young people and adults, and to improve teacher training. A Bill will be introduced to extend choice and diversity in education. Action will be taken to combat crime and promote law and order. A Bill will be presented to enable applications for asylum in the United Kingdom to be determined quickly and effectively.

Legislation will be presented to facilitate the work of the Parliamentary Boundary Commissions.

My Government will work to enhance the quality of life provided by our nation's cultural and sporting heritage. A Bill will be introduced to establish a national lottery to raise money for good causes.

My Government will continue to improve the quality of the national health service and community care and their responsiveness to patients' needs.

My Government will work both at home and abroad to protect the environment. They will ensure that the environment remains a key issue in all policy- making and will continue to publish annual reports.

Measures will be introduced to enhance the rights of local authority tenants in England and Wales and in Scotland, to establish an urban regeneration agency, and to enable leaseholders either to acquire the freehold or to extend the lease.

My Government will continue to improve and modernise the social security system with sustained emphasis on those groups with the greatest need. Legislation will be introduced to maintain an additional rebate for holders of personal pensions aged 30 or over. Legislation will be introduced to promote improvements in agricultural marketing.

A Bill will be presented to promote the Welsh language. For Scotland, legislation will be introduced to amend the laws relating to bankruptcy and early release of prisoners.

In Northern Ireland, my Government will continue their efforts to eliminate terrorism through resolute enforcement of the law, combined with progressive economic, social and political policies. They will promote the re-establishment of stable institutions of government, within a framework of positive relations with the Republic of Ireland.

Other measures will be laid before you.

My Lords and Members of the House of Commons

I pray that the blessing of Almighty God may rest upon your counsels.


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Debate on the Address

[First Day]

Madam Speaker : Before I call the proposer and the seconder of the motion on the Loyal Address, it may be for the convenience of the House if I announce the proposed subjects for the various debates. Thursday 7 May, public expenditure ; Friday 8 May, foreign affairs ; Monday 11 May, privatisation ; Tuesday 12 May, environment, local government and education ; Wednesday 13 May, the economy.

2.40 pm

Mr. Kenneth Baker (Mole Valley) : I beg to move,

That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows : Most Gracious Sovereign,

We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.

Those hon. Members who were in the House back in 1979 may have a short and lingering memory of the Loyal Address on that occasion. It was the first speech that was sound broadcast in the House of Commons, which shows the extent of the changes that have occurred during the past 13 years. On that occasion, I had the great honour on behalf of my constituents in Mole Valley to second the motion on the Loyal Address, and now, some 13 years later, I have been given the extra honour of proposing the motion.

Much has happened in the past 13 years to us all and I must not make this a habit. I suspect that one of the reasons that I was invited to make this speech was that my speech some 13 years ago was followed by 13 years of uninterrupted Conservative rule. Before my hon. Friends are too triumphalist, they should remember that, after 18 months, Mrs. Thatcher's Government had become the most unpopular Government of recent history ; she was a one-term Prime Minister of a one-term Government and, according to the opinion polls, which in those days we respected, we were 20 points behind. At that very nadir of the Government's fortunes, Mrs. Thatcher asked me to become a Minister and from then on things looked up, so my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Mr. Mitchell) should watch out.

I begin by congratulating--as I did 13 years ago--my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on his success in the general election. Some four weeks ago hon. Members on both sides of the House were candidates and, as we ran up to polling day, there were not many who believed that the eventual outcome would take place. [Interruption.] I was one who did, but there were many who did not. The political journalists and the political commentators who now look down upon our proceedings almost to a man and a woman had decided on the Sunday and Monday that we were finished. They wrote our political obituaries ; they summoned the mourners ; they invited the people to the wake ; they even dug the grave. But my right hon. Friend refused to die, and a funeral without a corpse is a glum affair.

All new hon. Members will get to know many political journalists during the course of their political lives in the House, and they will discover that political journalists have no appetite for humble pie, even if it is served at their proprietors' cost in the best restaurants.


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One of the things that new hon. Members will come to terms with is the political lobby. As you know, Madam Speaker, that takes place not in the Chamber but in the corridors and other parts of the House. The political lobby consists of Members of Parliament who gossip to other Members of Parliament, who gossip to journalists, who gossip to other journalists, who then go back to their editors, where they gossip again. Then they write their articles which are read by journalists and Members of Parliament as if they were written on tablets of stone. It is the most perfect system yet devised by man for the recycling of rubbish.

Before I come to the Queen's Speech, I have one thing to say to the Leader of the Opposition. We have both been in the House for approximately the same number of years. I was elected in 1968, he in 1970, and our paths have crossed several times, as Back Benchers and Front-Bench spokesmen and in other capacities. Since 1973, he has been the leader of the Labour party and he has conducted himself in that position with great courage and determination and has salvaged the fortunes of his party. I believe that history will be a great deal kinder and more generous to him than many current commentators. I do not know whether he will join us on the Back Benches, but I suspect that whatever role he has will be significant for the future of the Labour party.

The Opposition are going through the process of finding a new leader. I have been through that process on three occasions during my life in the House. It is never an easy process ; it is always a bit difficult. But the process that the Labour party has adopted is not so much an election as an exercise in collective group therapy. The purpose of group therapy is to admit guilt and rectify the fault, and I wish the Opposition luck.

The leader of the Liberal Democrats must be a disappointed man at this moment. He hoped to have the balance of power, but he has finished one Member of Parliament down. [Interruption.] I am told that he is one up--

"small choice in rotten apples".

He does not have the balance of seats in the House, but no doubt he will argue that he has the balance of votes in the country. [Interruption.] The Liberal Democrats are at it already. They will no doubt be strongly advocating proportional representation during the lifetime of this Parliament. If the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown) tries to persuade the British people that that is a better system, I hope that he will explain how it will avoid the problems of Italy which, as a result of proportional representation, has no Prime Minister and no President ; or the problems of Belgium, which has had no Government for 12 weeks ; or the problems of the local assemblies in Germany where fascists have been elected ; or the problems of the German Government where the new Foreign Secretary, as a result of being a member of a minority party, has acquired that office without standing for elective office. Therefore, if the leader of the Liberal party advocates proportional representation, he will find many on the Conservative Benches and, I suspect, some on the Opposition Benches strongly defending our present electoral system.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey) : Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Baker : The hon. Gentleman will have plenty of time to make his points.


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I welcome strongly in the Queen's Speech the Government's commitment to continue with the education reforms which I had the privilege to put on the statute book four years ago. The national curriculum, testing, delegated budgets, grant-maintained schools and the expansion of further and higher education must remain the Government's highest priority and be pursued with vigour. Secondly, I welcome in the Queen's Speech the commitment to bring competition and private capital into British Rail and British Coal. Those Bills follow upon the privatisation of the utilities in the 1980s. I remember taking two Bills through the House to privatise British Telecom and, as a result, the utility had access to the private capital markets instead of depending on the taxpayer. Thirdly, I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on putting into his first Queen's Speech the determination to put on the statute book as quickly as possible a Bill to establish a national lottery. I published the details of that a few days before the election, and I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage, the new Minister in the new Department, will establish a national lottery as soon as possible, otherwise there will not be much fun for him. We cannot have the circuses without the bread.

Fourthly, I welcome the fact that the Government are to reintroduce the Asylum Bill to deal with one of the most pressing problems that affect western Europe.

Given the range of responsibilities involved, and the outline of the Queen's Speech, there is no doubt that we on the Back Benches will be very busy indeed. Thirteen years ago, I gave some advice to Conservative Back Benchers. I told them that, if they wanted to get on, they would have to find a foothold on that narrow strip of land that lies between rebellion and sycophancy. I must congratulate my right hon. Friends in the Cabinet who have pursued that advice so vigorously.

Let me give some more advice to new Members on both sides of the House. They are naturally proud to be joining the best debating chamber in the world--for this is the best debating chamber in the world--but they will find themselves having to attend many debates that are tedious and not well attended, and to continue to address the great empty green Benches. Then they will meet the parliamentary twins, humdrum and humbug. If they can endure humdrum, and occasionally engage in humbug, they will be the darlings of the Whips' Office and no post will be beyond their grasp. One of them may actually end up as Chief Whip--a post which, according to Sir Robert Peel, required all the qualities of a gentleman, but unfortunately no gentleman would ever accept it. Let me say to my right hon. Friend the present Chief Whip that I expect to be paired a little during this Parliament!

The most important Bill with which we shall deal before the summer recess is the European Bill on Maastricht. The situation in Europe has changed dramatically since my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister negotiated that treaty. At Maastricht, we were the underdog ; we were the country that was being bullied. Now the position is entirely different. Since Maastricht, the situation in Europe has been transformed. Britain now has the stablest Government in Europe ; it has a strong currency, and we are coming out of the recession. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will be able to use those strengths and advantages to secure his vision for Europe


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