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Business of the House

3.30 pm

Mrs. Margaret Beckett (Derby, South) : 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 (Mr. Tony Newton) : Yes, Madam. The business for next week will be as follows :

Monday-- 24 January----Second Reading of the Social Security (Incapacity for Work) Bill.

Tuesday-- 25 January----Second Reading of the Finance Bill. Wednesday-- 26 January----Opposition Day (second allotted day). There will be a debate on housing on an Opposition motion. Thursday-- 27 January----There will be a debate on the Royal Air Force on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Friday-- 28 January----Private Members' Bills.

Monday-- 31 January----Consideration in Committee of the Finance Bill.

Madam Speaker, the House will also wish to know that European Standing Committee B' will meet on Wednesday 26 January at 10.30 am to consider unnumbered explanatory memoranda from the Department of Employment relating to parental and family leave and to part-time and temporary work.

[Wednesday 26 January :

European Standing Committee B

European Community Documents

a) Unnumbered Parental and family leave

b) Unnumbered Part-time and temporary work

Relevant European Legislation Committee Reports

a) HC 79 xxxvii (1992 93) and HC 48 ii (1993 94)

b) HC 79 xxxviii (1992 93) HC 48 i (1993-94) HC 48 iv (1993 94)]

Mrs. Beckett : May I press the Leader of the House again to find Government time for a full debate on the Child Support Agency? Opposition Members recognise that there will at some stage be an opportunity for debate on the orders that the Government have tabled, but I hope that the Leader of the House recognises that Members on both sides of the House will feel that an hour and a half, very probably, as it means embarrassment for the Government after 10 o'clock, will not be sufficient to explore the many concerns about the matter, especially as such a debate would be only on orders that could not be amended. I therefore press him to find time for a general debate on the matter in advance of the specific orders. Secondly, can the Leader of the House find time for a debate about the waste of public money? I think that he will recognise that examples of waste, such as the spending of £500 million as a result of the Government's mismanagement of the process of introducing the national curriculum when funds for school building are being cut, are again causing great concern on both sides of the House. We would like the opportunity to explore that in Government time.

Thirdly, will the Leader of the House give serious consideration to increasing the amount of time that is available to the Opposition for debates? As the only debates that we have had about housing or health since the

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general election have been in Opposition time, obviously it is necessary to increase the time if we are to debate the wide range of issues that concern the country.

Mr. Newton : The Government have provided the House with ample opportunity to debate a wide range of important issues, but the most appropriate comment that I can make, both on the right hon. Lady's first question and on her last, is that it would be a good deal easier to know how best to please her if we could have sensible discussions in the usual channels. The sooner she returns to that the better.

As for the suggestion about the waste of public money, I am quite tempted by that thought, as most of the expertise in the world rests on the Opposition Benches.

Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockton, South) : May we have an early debate on today's report by the Northern Development Company, which says that home sales and export sales are both up, profits have risen, home orders have recovered, export orders have bounced back, and plant and machinery investment has improved? I am sure that many Conservative Members would like to tell the Opposition about all that.

Mr. Newton : I do not know whether all that would be in order on Second Reading of the Finance Bill, but with ingenuity it might possibly be. However, my hon. Friend would find it difficult to make a better speech more crisply than the one that he has just made.

Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall) : May I remind the Leader of the House that our usual channels are still open? Does he recall that he gave the House an assurance more than a month ago, before the Christmas recess, that he would seek time for a debate on early-day motion 134, which refers to the hill livestock compensatory allowances.

[That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Hill Livestock (Compensatory Allowances) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 1993 (S.I., 1993, No. 2924), dated 29th November 1993, a copy of which was laid before this House on 30th November, be annulled.]

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that since then the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has issued a press release giving full details of the scheme, before it has come before the House? Does he agree that that is yet another example of government by press release, which is due to contempt for the House?

Mr. Newton : I shall, of course, continue to bear the hon. Gentleman's request in mind, especially in view of what he has said about it being easier at present to do business with him than with the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett).

Sir Peter Emery (Honiton) : Will my right hon. Friend consider introducing next week certain recommendations made by the Procedure Committee since 1984--a process that culminated in the Jopling report--[ Hon. Members :-- "Hear, hear"]--covering the immediate reference to Committee of all affirmative statutory instruments, voting on Ways and Means and money resolutions without debate after a Second Reading, restricting statutory instrument debates started before 10 o'clock to 90 minutes, and--this is perhaps as important as anything--the automatic programming of Bills in Committee so that we can get them through sensibly and properly debated?

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Mr. Newton : The reception of my right hon. Friend's remarks by my right hon. and hon. Friends may bring home to others in the House the fact that some of the disruption that the Opposition are seeking to bring about, even if it is aimed at the Government, is actually aimed at, and is beginning to affect, the effective working of Parliament. The Opposition should think about that.

Several hon. Members rose --

Madam Speaker : Order. I now make a plea for brisk questions and brisk answers, please. I hope that it does not fall on deaf ears.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray) : As the Leader of the House clearly understands the importance attached in Scotland to our distinctive legal system, will there be an early opportunity to consider how the House deals with separate Scottish legislation, given the fact that we are apparently not allowed to debate the orders pertaining to costs in sheriff courts for civil actions, and that much of the Scottish legal process is being tagged on to Bills with United Kingdom implications, and we are not fully represented on the Committees on such Bills?

Mr. Newton : The hon. Lady will know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has been considering various matters, and I am sure that he will consider her requests, along with many others.

Mr. William Powell (Corby) : Will my right hon. Friend make time available to debate early-day motion 358, dealing with the explosion in organised professional crime involving heavy goods vehicles, trailers and cargoes?

[That this House is alarmed at the ever increasing number of thefts of and from heavy goods vehicles and other commercial vehicles and trailers and from associated warehouses ; notes the consequential increases to insurance premiums which are now being charged to hauliers in order to meet the cost of such criminal enterprises ; is appalled at the general damage to commerce which results and deplores the reduction in the number of police officers and the Metropolitan Police Serious Stolen Motor Vehicles Investigation Squad, SO1 (6) ; and calls for a national campaign to be co- ordinated by the Home Office and to involve all police forces as well as representatives from insurance companies and the road haulage industry in order to defeat this most serious explosion of organised, international crime.]

That epidemic is taking on the most serious proportions for the commerce of our country.

Mr. Newton : The importance that the Government attach to reducing and fighting crime was made clear in the Bill which was debated last week. I have no doubt that further proceedings on that Bill will give my hon. Friend an opportunity to expand on what he has said.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington) : Has the Leader of the House been approached by the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan) asking to be given the right to make a personal statement telling the House

Madam Speaker : Order. Personal statements have nothing whatever to do with the Leader of the House. They

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are my responsibility. If the hon. Member for Workington has a question for the Leader of the House, I shall be prepared to hear it.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : --asking whether an opportunity might be given to the hon. Gentleman to tell the House that he may be intending to repay to Westminster council ratepayers the £50,000--

Mr. David Shaw (Dover) : Did you tell him?

Mr. Campbell-Savours : Yes. I am talking about the £50,000 profit that the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton made by buying the council house next door at a discount. I tell the Leader of the House that I intend to keep raising this issue because I believe that it is fundamentally important.

Mr. Newton : My hon. Friend has clearly explained what occurred. I do not propose to add to what I said when I last answered on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

Mr. Richard Alexander (Newark) : May I press my right hon. Friend for a debate on the Child Support Agency? Has he not had representations from his constituents, as I have, that the formula for assessing income does not leave a person enough money to deal with present commitments? Unless we are to have a resentful underclass in the country, should not we fully debate the operation of the agency, because there is great resentment among all sections of the community?

Mr. Newton : My hon. Friend is of course right. Like other right hon. and hon. Members, I have had representations that I have passed on to my right hon. and hon. Friends. He will be aware of their responses to those representations which have led to regulations, which, as the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) said, we shall be debating relatively soon.

Mr. John Spellar (Warley, West) : Following on from the question about government by press release, will the Leader of the House arrange for statements to be made when press releases are issued during the holidays? Will he especially ask the Secretary of State for Employment to make a statement on public holidays and the possible replacement of May day, and tell us why Trafalgar day has been ruled out? Some of us suspect that Lord Nelson failed to meet the criteria of "back to basics".

Mr. Newton : At least I can reject the hon. Gentleman's ingenious explanation. As for the rest of his question, I shall bring it to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment.

Mr. John Denham (Southampton, Itchen) : Is the Leader of the House aware that the past week has been extremely bad for industrial jobs in the Southampton area, with 200 job losses at Aerostructures at Hamble and 200 job losses at British Rail Maintenance Ltd, which both employ many of my constituents? May I remind the right hon. Gentleman of the repeated requests from Members on both sides of the House for a debate on the future of the aerospace industry, which is at the heart of our manufacturing base and which has suffered more than 100, 000 job losses in recent years? In pressing for that debate--

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Madam Speaker : Order. I have asked for brisk questions as many hon. Members wish to ask questions. We shall by no means cover all of those who want to speak if we have long statements. A brisk question is required.

Mr. Denham : I wish to raise the plight of the rail industry as well --both industries are in a serious state--but I think that I have made my point.

Madam Speaker : Well done. I am sure that you have.

Mr. Newton : That is a better answer, Madam Speaker, than any that I can give.

Mr. Bob Dunn (Dartford) : Is it possible to have an early debate on the senior appointments which have been made by left-wing Labour councils in the light of the announcement yesterday of the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) that at least one senior education officer was appointed to his post because he was a member of the Labour party?

Mr. Newton : As with the request of the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) for a debate on waste, I am sympathetic to my hon. Friend's request.

Mr. Patrick Thompson (Norwich, North) : Bearing in mind the fact that concern has already been expressed about the best use of parliamentary time, will my right hon. Friend support all those in the House, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery), who wish to have an early debate on the Jopling report? The time has come to debate that vital issue.

Mr. Newton : That, too, is a request which I will bear in mind.

Mr. Lawrence Cunliffe (Leigh) : I refer to early-day motion 387. [That this House is concerned that if the European Commission accept the standard Euro two pin plug as proposed by CENELEC as part of the European plug and socket harmonisation programme the result would be that of scrapping the safest domestic power system in Europe ; notes that the cost of such a change is estimated at £20 billion or £1,000 per household and that United Kingdom manufacturers are faced with massive re- tooling and plant replacement costs compared with our competitors on the European mainland and a large proportion of 20,000 United Kingdom citizens would be put at risk ; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to reject the proposals.]

Will the Leader of the House arrange for an early debate on the European Commission's attempt to impose on Britain a domestic plug, called the Europlug, for use in an electrical system that will cost about £20 billion in conversion costs? Its use will endanger practically all the 20,000 jobs in the related industries and will destroy what is fundamentally the best and most safe domestic electrical system of lighting in Europe. Does the Leader of the House agree that, time and again, whacky bureaucrats in Brussels attempt to impose totally unacceptable conditions which pose a great risk to jobs and safety?

Mr. Newton : There is no such standard at the moment, of course. If one were to emerge, we would have to decide whether to seek a derogation, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's points would be kept in mind.

Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West) : Will my right hon. Friend undertake that, on Friday next

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week, the Government will not block the Bank of England (Amendment) Bill? Does he agree that, if the Government did so, it would be widely resented in the House as an attempt to prevent a useful small measure that would give parliamentary accountability for monetary policy, and that it would be even more widely misunderstood by those who will be asked to lend the Government £1 billion every week?

Mr. Newton : I will draw my hon. Friend's remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Chief Whip. Of course, it is the fate of the Government that they are often misunderstood.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) : Will the Leader of the House ask the President of the Board of Trade and the Attorney-General to make statements on the intriguing affair regarding Venables and his companies? Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the Government will not ask the Serious Fraud Office to get rid of some of the charges that it is investigating and that the Department of Trade and Industry will not drop the serious charges against another Venables company, because Alan Sugar, the Tory business man, is trying to concoct a deal in which he backs Venables, provided that the dogs are called off in the inquiry into Tottenham? There has been a lot of sleaze in Britain of late, surely--

Madam Speaker : Order.

Mr. Newton : The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that I could not possibly begin to comment on such a matter. In my view, that is not the way in which the hon. Gentleman should use the Chamber.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North) : Will my right hon. Friend say whether the amendment to the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill which was tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) will be debated on a free vote on the Floor of the House? If it is, may we also have a debate on a free vote, as I asked my right hon. Friend last week, on an amendment tabled by more than 30 colleagues on the subject of corporal punishment for young offenders as an alternative to imprisonment? I am sure that most of my right hon. Friend's constituents and my constituents would regard that amendment as being more in tune with "back to basics" than the previous amendment.

Mr. Newton : I cannot add to what I said to my hon. Friend last week.

Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley) : Is the Leader of the House aware that the First Scottish Standing Committee will not meet next week because the Government are trying to gerrymander that Committee in the same way as they are gerrymandering local government in Scotland? Will he think again about that matter? The arithmetic favours the Opposition's case, which is supported by the Liberal Democrats. Such arrogance by the Government has caused the breakdown in the usual channels.

Mr. Newton : That is a matter for the Committee of Selection.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross) : Will my right hon. Friend arrange an urgent debate on proposed changes to the charging of fees in sheriff courts in

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Scotland? Civil litigants will have to pay for judges' salaries and many people will be prevented from litigating their just rights.

Mr. Newton : I do not think that I can promise a debate on that matter. Of course, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will be present at Question Time on Wednesday.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West) : Will the Leader of the House undertake to arrange a debate in Government time on a Government motion before Her Majesty's Government give formal or informal support to any withdrawal of United Nations forces, including British forces, from Bosnia? Mr. Newton : I am sure that there will be further opportunities for debate on Bosnia, whatever the circumstances. I will bear the hon. Gentleman's point in mind.

Mr. Spencer Batiste (Elmet) : My right hon. Friend will be aware of the current public consultation process in regard to opencast mining and its effect on the environment, under the review of mineral planning guidance 3. That matter is particularly important with respect to the coal privatisation Bill. Can my right hon. Friend give an assurance that there will be an opportunity to debate that subject, which is of great importance to many constituencies?

Mr. Newton : My hon. Friend will be aware that the Coal Industry Bill is currently before the House, which will give many opportunities to raise such matters.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South) : May we have a debate next week on GATT? Is the Leader of the House aware that some leaders of the textile industry are saying in private that the Government negotiations have sold the industry down the river? I have 11,000 textile workers in my constituency in the city of Bradford. It is an important industry. Tariffs work very much against the industry. In India, for example, they are set at 100 per cent. and in Turkey at 21 per cent. We need clarification of the Government's negotiations.

Mr. Newton : The Government intend to present to the House a White Paper on the results of the GATT round later this year. That will be the appropriate time to consider the possibility of a debate.

Mrs. Angela Knight (Erewash) : Will my right hon. Friend consider initiating an early debate on councillors' allowances? Is he aware that the former deputy leader of Derbyshire county council has been gaoled for defrauding the council on his expenses and is currently serving his sentence in prison, yet is still receiving his council allowances? Does not my right hon. Friend consider that to be a shocking state of affairs and that it should be prevented?

Mr. Newton : I have seen those reports. I am not sure whether the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) has seen fit to coment on them or, indeed, whether the district auditor is involved. My hon. Friend may wish to consider that.

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Dr. Joe Hendron (Belfast, West) : Will the Leader of the House make time available soon for a debate on extradition, bearing in mind that any citizen of this country can be sent to anywhere in the Community by a court without at any time having been questioned by the police?

Mr. Newton : I shall bring that point to the attention of my right hon. Friends who have responsibility for such matters.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood) : In the absence of a much- needed debate on foreign affairs, will my right hon. Friend ask our right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to make a statement on the Government's attitude to the situation in the Balkans, and in Bosnia in particular, when he returns from Turkey and Bosnia next week?

Mr. Newton : I shall bring that request to the attention of my right hon. Friend on his return. I note the introduction to my hon. Friend's question, but I point out to him that he will have the opportunity to speak in the debate on the Royal Air Force next week.

Mr. Bill Olner (Nuneaton) : Will the Leader of the House reconsider holding a debate on the Child Support Agency, which is causing tremendous difficulty, pain and hardship to many constituents of hon. Members on both sides of the House? I urge him to allow a full discussion on the matter.

Mr. Newton : I note the hon. Gentleman's request, but I cannot add to what I said on the subject on a couple of earlier occasions.

Mr. Richard Spring (Bury St. Edmunds) : Will my right hon. Friend urgently consider having an early debate on Iraq and its leader, the dictator Saddam Hussein, so that public opinion can be satisfied that there is very little support for the scandalous views of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galloway)?

Mr. Newton : My hon. Friend perhaps understates his case. We do not need a debate to know that there is no support whatever for the sentiments that are said to have been expressed.

Dr. Tony Wright (Cannock and Burntwood) : Has the Leader of the House had a chance to read early-day motion 389 on double summer time?

[That this House recognises the enormous advantages for all the people of this country in moving Britain's clocks forward by one hour throughout the year, thereby matching daylight and waking hours more effectively ; notes that the move is supported by the Royal Society for the Prevention of accidents and the Police Federation because, according to Transport Research Laboratory calculations, the result of such a move would be 140 fewer fatalities and 520 fewer serious injuries on the roads every year, with the Scots benefiting proportionately more than others ; further notes that an extra hour of evening daylight would benefit children, working women, and elderly people, who are disadvantaged and threatened by the early dusk and darkness, as well as cutting energy costs by £260 million per year ; recognises the benefits that extra evening light would have on the health and life style of the British people, and the £1 billion increase in tourism revenues that the consequently longer holiday season would provide ; similarly recognises the greater convenience to all business people

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communicating with and travelling to and from Europe ; welcomes the European Commission's review of summer time arrangements in the Community which has now resulted in the adoption of a Directive to ensure that all EU members end summer time along with Britain in October ; and therefore calls on the Government to allow Parliament to decide on Britain's move to single/double summer time at the earliest opportunity.]

Does he accept that it is time that the House came to a view on that matter, that the issue has dragged on for long enough, that the motion has widespread support throughout the House and the country and that it is time for the Government to bring a little extra daylight into people's lives?

Mr. Newton : The hon. Gentleman will know that, while there is support for the early-day motion, a number of people have expressed serious reservations about it. A balance has to be struck and the Government are considering that.

Mr. Barry Field (Isle of Wight) : My right hon. Friend kindly wrote to me and said that the order giving effect to a unitary authority on the Isle of Wight would be laid before the House. Will he reassure me and all other hon. Members that the delay that has occurred so far has not been occasioned by the Liberal Democrats' activists handbook, which is full of racist comments about minority dialects such as that of my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Malone), who has taken considerable offence? Will my right hon. Friend reassure me that the order will be laid before the House before long?

Mr. Newton : I can certainly assure my hon. Friend that there is no connection between the two points that he raised. I shall communicate with him further about the timing of the debate.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South) : The Leader of the House will have seen that the draft Ports (Northern Ireland) Order was laid yesterday. Will he consult the Secretary of State through the usual channels with the idea of having a grand Committee examine it, or possibly having a debate on the Floor of the House with extended time, bearing in mind the importance of the order to the whole Northern Ireland economy?

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