Monday 21 February----Consideration in Committee of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill.
Tuesday 22 February----Second Reading of the Intelligence Services Bill [ Lords ].
Wednesday 23 February----Remaining stages of the Sunday Trading Bill.
Thursday 24 February----Opposition day (4th allotted day). There will be a debate entitled "The Unelected State" on an Opposition motion.
Friday 25 February----Private Members' Bills.
Monday 28 February----Opposition day (5th allotted day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion. Subject to be announced. Motion on the Building Societies (EFTA states) Order.
Motions on the Scottish Revenue Support Grant Reports.
Mr. Nicholas Brown : I thank the Leader of the House for that statement and for the Opposition day, which I am sure we are all looking forward to. In view of the Prime Minister's statement during Question Time, can the Leader of the House arrange for a statement or a debate on Bosnia in Government time at the earliest possible opportunity ?
Was not the Security Service Bill taken on the Floor of the House in its entirety in 1988, and if so, did not that set a precedent for the Intelligence Services Bill ? Will the Leader of the House confirm that the Government intend to take the whole of that legislation on the Floor of the House ?
In view of the decisions and arrangements being made in another place concerning the Police and Magistrates' Courts Bill, will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Home Secretary to come to the House of Commons and tell us what is going on, rather than all the statements, changes and announcements being made either in another place or in the newspapers ?
May we also have an early debate on overseas arms contracts and the illegal hidden subsidies provided by the much put-upon British taxpayer ?
Finally, will the right hon. Gentleman raise with the BBC, on behalf of us all, the question of "Today in Parliament" being moved to long wave alone ? Many of our constituents enjoy listening to us on FM, and at least they know where we are.
Mr. Newton : The whole House thought that the hon. Gentleman was chancing his arm a bit with that last remark--but I will ensure that his concern, which may be shared by others, is drawn to the attention of the authorities at the BBC.
On overseas arms contracts, the hon. Gentleman will be aware of the statements that have been made and inquiries that are under way in a Select Committee. I do not think that a debate is appropriate at the moment.
As for the Police and Magistrates' Courts Bill, it seems to be entirely appropriate that when legislation is under
Column 1066discussion in another place, statements relating to that process of discussion should be made in another place. Certainly, if it were under discussion here, grave exception would be taken by the Opposition Front Bench to comments being made in another place. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that it is not our intention to propose that the Intelligence Services Bill should be taken in Committee on the Floor of the House. I simply make the point that there is beginning to be a gathering inconsistency between the demands made on me, not least by Her Majesty's Opposition, for additional time to be taken on the Floor of the House, and the demands made on me to respond to the Jopling report. The House will have to decide whether it wants to move in one direction or the other.
As to Bosnia, of course I will undertake in general terms that, in a developing situation, and especially looking ahead over the next few days, I will ensure that statements are made when that seems to be appropriate, and we will keep under close review the possible need for a debate.
Sir Teddy Taylor (Southend, East) : In view of the growing public concern about the suffering of live animals being transported to the continent, and the growing frustration in Parliament that there is absolutely nothing that we can do about it, may we have a debate next week to enable the House to express an opinion on whether the Government should put a proposal to the EC that member states could ban the export of live cattle ?
Mr. Newton : My hon. Friend has taken a long and honourable interest in these matters, which I respect. I cannot promise a debate. However, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will be here to answer questions on Thursday, and that sounds like a point which my hon. Friend may well seek to raise.
Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire) : Will the Leader of the House acknowledge that, having regard to the indefinite war of procedural attrition that is being waged by the official Opposition, by next week they will have had five Supply days devoted to subjects of their choosing and the previous minority party Supply day was in October last year ? Having regard to the fact that all the minority parties get only three Supply days in a parliamentary year, will he give us an assurance that an early day will be allocated to the minority parties' subject ?
Mr. Newton : That is a reasonable request and I will certainly look at it sympathetically, although I cannot make a specific promise at the moment. At least we are in a position to talk to the hon. Gentleman in the normal way.
Sir Anthony Grant (Cambridgeshire, South-West) : On the question of the Jopling report, will my right hon. Friend seek an early meeting with the Leader of the Opposition and ask him whether he agrees with the views of his Parliamentary Private Secretary, the hon. Member for Durham, North- West (Ms Armstrong), that sitting all hours available is not the best form of parliamentary democracy ? Is my right hon. Friend aware that he will have the support of the public and, indeed, a majority of the House if he presses ahead with reforms, with or without the dinosaurs of the Labour party ?
Column 1067hon. Friend's remarks. It is certainly the case that the right hon. and learned Gentleman's PPS made remarks at the time, to which my hon. Friend referred, which are totally inconsistent with the way in which Her Majesty's Opposition are behaving.
Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West) : May we please have an early debate on the closure of old people's homes and the awful effect that has on the people living in them, for whom these are their homes ? Is he aware that the shortage of funds for local authorities such as mine causes terrible anguish for people in Bewcastle house in my constituency, which is under threat, and for old people's homes all over the country ? Will the Government show some compassion and help these homes to stay open, and recognise that the people in them need to live there ?
Mr. Newton : The hon. and learned Gentleman will realise that I am not in a position to comment on the specific case that he raises. I have no doubt, and I certainly hope, that he has raised it directly with his local authority because he may well be accurately reflecting its concern.
Mrs. Angela Knight (Erewash) : Will my right hon. Friend consider providing time for an early debate on political correctness in local government, with particular reference to Labour-controlled Dudley council ? Extraordinarily, that council has branded Thomas the Tank Engine, Super Ted, Fireman Sam and Postman Pat as sexist male stereotypes--characters that are enjoyed by tens of thousands of children, including my own.
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) : Would not it be helpful if the Treasury appended a note to the Scottish Revenue Support Grant Report, which is to be debated on Monday week, giving its response to the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities' calculation that the transition costs of Scottish local government reform will be at least £720 million and that there is no money available ? Will the Treasury make a serious response to the COSLA figures ? Will he raise the matter with the Chancellor of the Exchequer ?
Mr. Newton : As always, I will bring the hon. Gentleman's question to the attention of my right hon. Friends, but I remind him that Scottish local government will be discussed in the debate that I announced today and in the Standing Committee on the Local Government etc. (Scotland) Bill. I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman is a member of the Committee, but there are ample opportunities to raise the matter.
Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East) : As my right hon. Friend is a sagacious, restrained, well-balanced and realistic Leader of the House, does he agree that Select Committees do not exist at the behest of hon. Members who are not numbered among their members ? The Committees have a parliamentary existence that is separate from interference from the Leader of the Opposition or any other politician, and that includes legitimate requests for trips abroad.
Mr. Newton : Even without my hon. Friend's kind words, for which I express gratitude, I would have had no difficulty in agreeing with him. The sillier aspects of current events underline the point that I have made several times : the actions of her Majesty's Opposition do not damage the Government but Parliament.
Several hon. Members rose
Madam Speaker : Order. The hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) may have offered the Leader of the House kind words, but they had nothing to do with next week's business, with which, I remind Members, we are now dealing.
Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington) : Will the Leader of the House give an assurance that the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Mr. Duncan) will be allowed to become a member of the Select Committee on Procedure only following a Division of the House of Commons, which means that the motion will have to be moved before 10 o'clock at night ?
Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West) : Before the House debates the important question of Bosnia, will my right hon. Friend undertake that someone in the Government--preferably the Prime Minister-- will ask President Clinton why, if Bosnia is so important to the United States, the United States does not commit ground troops to Bosnia ?
Mr. Newton : I will bring the point to the attention of my right hon. Friend, who I think will meet President Clinton before too long. It would perhaps be fair to say that all countries make contributions in various ways to various peacekeeping operations and that very few countries are in a position to contribute to all of them.
Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich) : Before the beginning of next week's business, will the Leader of the House hold serious discussions with the Prime Minister on his growing habit of coming to the Dispatch Box and making serious statements in such a way that he cannot be questioned in detail ? I instance as evidence today's statement on Bosnia. It is of great concern to every Back-Bench Member who is likely to have soldiers from regiments in their constituency committed to Bosnia. It is not a matter for light treatment. I seriously ask the Leader of the House to protect the interests of our constituents.
Mr. Newton : I know full well that my right hon. Friend did not in any way intend to treat the House lightly, and he did not do so. If the House was treated lightly, it was because the Opposition did not listen to an important reply that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister gave in the way that they might have been expected to--I sense that you, too, Madam Speaker, felt that. Relatively minor adjustments to force levels are made frequently. We have made a small but useful addition to the capabilities of General Rose in Sarajevo. We have not adjusted our policy in any way that would necessitate a statement to the House.
Column 1069--particularly the Labour party ? Over the past two weeks, the Labour party has made further commitments which run into billions of pounds. As it is a matter of great urgency, may we have such a debate next week ?
Mr. Newton : With a bit of ingenuity, my hon. Friend might manage to get those points into the debate under the rather curious title "The Unelected State". It certainly would be helpful if the Opposition were to come clean on their incredible spending pledges.
Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon) : Will the Leader of the House find time next week, or at an early date, for a debate on the failure of the national health service to provide dental treatment in all parts of these islands ? Is he aware that, in my constituency, in many other parts of Gwynedd and Clwyd and no doubt elsewhere, people are unable to get on to dentists' lists because the dentists will only take people on a private basis ? Will the right hon. Gentleman please arrange a debate on that important matter ?
Mr. Newton : I have heard that suggestion being made more often than I have seen clear evidence of it. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health is due to be here to answer questions next Tuesday.
Mr. Gerald Malone (Winchester) : Perhaps my right hon. Friend will note that there has been disappointment in the House that we have not been provided with an opportunity next week to debate the interesting policy of cutting pensions for pensioners and benefits for the poor that we saw last night. He may also note that, in a helpful way, I have written to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar), asking him to outline that new policy and hoping that he may come to the House to explain it further. Will my right hon. Friend provide an opportunity for the House to go into it in depth ? Perhaps it is a leaked report from the Social Justice Commission ; if so, the House needs to debate it.
Mr. Newton : Perhaps the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Brown), who is deputising today on the Opposition Front Bench, will pass on that suggestion as a possibility for the Opposition motion on Monday 28 February, along with the suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wyre (Mr. Mans). Having been Secretary of State for Social Security, I cannot recall an occasion when the Opposition--or some significant number of them--felt it right to vote against the pensions increase. I hope that the constituents of those who voted last night against the increase will have that fact drawn to their attention.
Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) : When will the Government make a statement on the abandonment of the local government review throughout Britain ? The House heard the exchanges between the right hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) regarding Scotland, where local government reorganisation will cost about £700 million. It is estimated that, for England and Wales, we are talking about another £1.5 billion, and it is reckoned that we do not have that money in the country. Nearly every county association, including many Tory associations, is against the review. It is no good saying that individual orders will be brought before the House. We want the whole policy to be put in the political dustbin.
Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South) : As the ultimatum to the Serbs expires at midnight on Sunday, will my right hon. Friend ensure that, whatever happens, there is a statement in the House on Monday ?
Mr. Newton : My hon. Friend knows the way in which I have responded on those matters in the past, and he knows that I have done so in good faith. I will not seek at the moment to add to my remarks on the subject earlier. I will, of course, bear my hon. Friend's remarks in mind.
Mr. Jack Thompson (Wansbeck) : Will the Leader of the House consider having an early debate on the economic situation in the northern region ? Despite the comments made by the hon. Member for Langbaurgh (Mr. Bates) in Prime Minister's Question Time, the situation in the northern region is not as rosy as he has painted. For instance, my constituency lost 1,100 jobs last week, when one mine closed. There are other examples of that in the northern region, where we have lost the major industries of shipbuilding and coal mining. In my view, the subject is worthy of a day's debate.
Mr. Newton : I am, of course, well aware of some of the difficulties that have been experienced in the north-east and in other parts of the country during the difficult period of the recession and, indeed, earlier. I am also aware of the new opportunities that have been brought to the area by the policies that we have pursued, not least in the modern electronics industry as represented by Fujitsu and in the motor industry as represented by Nissan.
Mr. John Butcher (Coventry, South-West) : Does my right hon. Friend share the fear that I expressed to my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary before Christmas that the killers of PC Patrick Dunne may never be brought to justice ? May we have a debate on the effects of drugs and violent crime on civil disorder in our cities, particularly the growing practice of witness intimidation and the imposition of the code of silence ? There is a growing fear in the House and outside that a particular category of vicious drugs barons is now above the law. If a brave and popular policeman can be gunned down and if others in future may be gunned down and their killers cannot be brought to justice, we shall have reached a serious situation and we should debate it.
Mr. Newton : There are many who will sympathise with my hon. Friend's concern and they will certainly include my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary. As my hon. Friend will know, the Government are acting in many ways to tackle the problem that he describes. I will certainly bring his remarks to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend.
Mr. John Austin-Walker (Woolwich) : Has the Leader of the House had time to study the report from the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology on breathing in our cities, which points to the link between vehicle emissions and respiratory illness ? May I draw his attention to the recommendations, which point to the need for a reduction in vehicle usage ? As that flies in the face of current Government policy, as evidenced this week by the events in Wanstead and the lunatic proposals of the Department of Transport to drive an urban motorway
Column 1071through Woolwich, will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for an early debate on the Government's transport policies so that we can discuss that serious issue ?
Mr. Newton : I have two points to make in response to the hon. Gentleman. First, in response to his point about Wanstead, which is in the direction of my part of the country and which I pass fairly frequently, nothing is more damaging or raises the level of emissions in the atmosphere more than stationary traffic stuck in traffic jams. That point is sometimes underestimated. Secondly, my right hon. Friends have made their approach clear in various ways, including what has been said and done about road fuel taxation, not often, I have to say, with the support of Opposition Members.
Mr. Roy Thomason (Bromsgrove) : Could my right hon. Friend arrange for an early debate on employment so that the House can have the opportunity to discuss the impact on employment prospects of a national minimum wage and of the payroll tax proposed by the Labour party ?
Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East) : We have already had two statements on Bosnia today : one by the Prime Minister during Prime Minister's Question Time and a short one by the Leader of the House in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody). The statement made by the Leader of the House had nothing to do with business questions. As we have had statements, should not we have the opportunity that normally follows statements to question the people who make them ? The Prime Minister should be brought back to the House later today so that questioning can take place and all of us can be involved in it. There was little time in Prime Minister's questions to ask questions on the matter.
Mr. Newton : All I have been seeking to do is respond to questions that were put to me. I did not add to what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, and I certainly do not intend to do so now. But I have outlined the approach that we shall adopt to the possibility of statements and, indeed, debates at future times.
Mr. Peter Luff (Worcester) : May I urge my right hon. Friend once again to arrange for an early debate on waste and corruption in local government ? Does he agree that such a debate would provide an excellent opportunity for the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Ms Hoey) to expand on her remarks in The Times that Lambeth
"is falling to bits with corruption" ?
Mr. Newton : That is another point which may well, with minimum ingenuity, be in order in next Thursday's debate. I imagine that part of the target of next Thursday's debate will be those activities that local authorities have contracted out to get them done more efficiently. One could turn the point round. Perhaps my hon. Friend takes my point.
Column 1072us that the charges imposed by Railtrack would be 50 per cent. higher than the charges imposed at that time. We now know that the increase is 300 per cent. May we have a statement from the Minister for Public Transport on the reasons for the increased cost so that we can be sure that it does not all go into the pockets of private operators ?
Mr. Newton : In a written answer yesterday, my right hon. Friend simply reported the latest progress made by Railtrack in producing charges for access to the rail network. I think that the hon. Gentleman is reading too much into that statement.
Mr. Jacques Arnold (Gravesham) : Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the Leader of the Opposition's campaign of non-cooperation in the House ? Can we have a debate on that subject tomorrow-- [Hon. Members :- - "Tomorrow ?"] I mean, next week. We should note that the Leader of the Opposition voted in only three of this year's debates after 10 pm. My right hon. Friend will remember that the Duke of Plaza Toro
"led his regiment from behind
He found it less exciting."
We should reflect on the fact that the Leader of the Opposition is leading his troops in the evenings from his bed-- [Interruption.]
Mr. Newton : The reaction of Opposition Members shows that my hon. Friend's comments come as something of a surprise to them, and I think that they may care to look into the subject, which is interesting. I would hesitate to inform my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Liddington), whose private Member's Bill--in which I have an interest--is due to be discussed tomorrow, that debate is to be overtaken in the way suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham (Mr. Arnold).
Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South) : May we have a debate next week on the progress of work in the Select Committees ? That would give Tory Members an opportunity to explain how angry they are at the fact that the extensive travel programme in which they all propose to participate is being brought to a halt. The £100,000 that has so far been spent by Select Committee members going on fact-finding tours to every part of the world by club-class travel could be devoted to the staff of this place. The results of those tours rarely emerge on the Floor of the House.
The money saved could be used to provide cars for the staff of the House after 10 pm instead of after 10.30 pm. That would prevent employees, many of whom are women, going into the night and travelling potentially dangerous journeys of up to one and a half hours after serving this place perfectly well.
Mr. Newton : I will respond to the hon. Gentleman as his question seems to invite only when he assures me that Labour Members intend to undertake a permanent self-denying ordinance not to go on any Select Committee visits abroad.
Dr. Liam Fox (Woodspring) : Will my right hon. Friend allow time next week for a debate on the business environment to ascertain whether the Government intend to incorporate in their policy any aspects of Labour's second business plan ? Labour's first business plan, otherwise known as the shadow Budget, bombed disastrously at the 1992 election, so we should perhaps call the debate the "state of the unelected".
Mr. Newton : My hon. Friend has ingeniously worked his remarks into a context that would be relevant to next Thursday's debate. Labour's business plan for Britain shows every sign of being a plan for a bankrupt Britain.
Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South) : We understand that the Leader of the House is a fair-minded person, so will he find time next week to debate a motion setting up the Select Committee on Northern Ireland ? Three years ago, there was unanimity on that subject, so why has there been a delay ? Will we have to wait until the next leap year ?
Mr. Newton : I suspect that the hon. Gentleman knows that discussions are proceeding actively among the interested parties. I cannot give him a date, but I think that he knows full well that I am seeking to make progress as soon as possible.
Dr. Robert Spink (Castle Point) : Will my right hon. Friend find time next week to consider the magazine entitled "The Best Sex Guide", published by the Health Education Authority, which so many hon. Members have received with great consternation ? We should debate the editorial content and method of distribution to our children of that magazine.
Mr. Newton : I do not think that I can promise a debate next week on that subject. The magazine sounds like a document which most of us would be fairly cautious about being seen with in the present circumstances. I will bring the matter to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health, who will be here to answer questions next week.
Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) : Despite the answer that the Leader of the House has given to some of his hon. Friends, would it not be useful, on reflection, for the Government to make a statement next week to make it clear that they fully apologise, and will make amends, for the contemptible way in which they have treated Parliament, which has led to the present position of non-co-operation ? Is it not clear to the Leader of the House that, since that policy has been in effect, the Opposition have shown that we are here to defend parliamentary democracy and that we cannot be treated with contempt, such as the guillotining of two Bills even before their Second Reading ? Unless the Government recognise that it is time that they made a full apology, our non-co-operation policy will continue well into the summer.
Mr. Newton : Even on more reflection than I have had while listening to the hon. Gentleman, I would not go down that path. As I have said several times, if the hon. Gentleman looks at what I said in justification of the motions to take action to implement policies on statutory sick pay and national insurance contributions by April, he will find that everything that I said has turned out to be right.
Mr. Rupert Allason (Torbay) : Is my right hon. Friend aware of the widespread dismay in the tourist industry regarding the European Union's draft directive on distance selling ? May we have an urgent debate next week on that topic and, in particular, an opportunity to tell the European Commission to get lost with its absurd suggestion of putting up black flags on beaches that are alleged to be unsafe ? Mr. Newton : I cannot promise a debate of that kind next week, but I promise to bring my hon. Friend's question to the attention of my right hon. Friends.
Dr. Tony Wright (Cannock and Burntwood) : Will the right hon. Gentleman simply tell the House how long the farce over the Jopling report will continue ? Is he aware that it will be two years to the day tomorrow since the Jopling report was issued ? It was in the Tory party manifesto for the 1992 election and the Queen's Speech following that election. Does he understand that the failure to act has nothing to do with the present policy of non co-operation ? It is a long-standing failure, which depends on the Leader of the House coming forward with proposals that will commend themselves to wide sections of the House. When will he do that ?
Mr. Newton : I make no complaint about the fact that the hon. Gentleman asked effectively the same question last week, although, confusingly, from a different corner of the Chamber. From whichever corner of the House he asks it, his fire should be directed about five yards in front of me.
Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay) : Will my right hon. Friend find time in the near future to debate the contentious issue of begging in our streets, which does so much to besmirch this country's image with visitors from abroad ? There have been reports today of bogus beggars with L- registered Vauxhalls on the streets of Sheffield, drawing motability, invalidity and, I dare say, gullibility allowances at the expense of the British public. Should not we debate tightening up social security, and should not the Opposition support us ?
Mr. Newton : I have seen those reports. I have no doubt that the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Social Security have also seen them and will consider them, along with my hon. Friend's comments.
Mr. Dennis Canavan (Falkirk, West) : May we have a ministerial statement condemning the excesses of cheque-book journalism, whereby certain newspapers could offer a £40,000 inducement to a woman to sell her story when she was rescued from the Cairngorm mountains earlier this week ? Given that 151 rescue workers from the RAF and voluntary rescue teams risked their lives, and in some cases, suffered loss of wages to save that woman's life in a two-day rescue operation which cost £120,000, is it not time that the Government stepped in to stop such mercenary malpractice by certain newspapers ?
Mr. Newton : The hon. Gentleman will probably acknowledge that the scope for the Government to intervene as he suggests contains some dangers, as well as the advantages that he sees. Equally, the whole House will understand why he has raised the matter and will respect his comments.
Mr. David Shaw (Dover) : Will it be in order in next Thursday's Opposition day debate to raise the issue of the 40 councillors' wives, children and close relatives employed on Monklands district council, which appears to be an unelected state--
Madam Speaker : Order. Is the hon. Gentleman asking a direct question about business next week ? If he is, he should get on with it. [Interruption.] Order. Is the Government Whip seeking to catch my eye ?