|Previous Section||Home Page|
Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West) : May we have an early debate on the resurgence of fascism and racism in this country--not least in the light of the filthy literature put out by Combat 18, which calls for the repatriation of non-whites, in body bags or alive, and the weeding out and execution of Jews ? Can the Attorney-General please be given an opportunity to tell the House why such people are not being prosecuted ? If it is because the law is too weak, will he tell us when we can expect a change in the law ?
Mr. Newton : My right hon. and learned Friend theAttorney-General will be here to answer questions next Monday, but I will, in any event, draw the matter to his attention. From the sound of the publication, no one on either side of the House would wish to defend it for one moment.
Sir Peter Tapsell (East Lindsey) : May I put it to my right hon. Friend, as Leader of the House of Commons, that I for one have the greatest respect for the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), and that, if we do not stop these guttersnipe attacks on one another, the whole House of Commons will be brought into disrepute ?
Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr) : Will the Leader of the House create time for a debate on the standards of conduct in public life and public administration as they affect local government ? Will he especially have the debate held around early-day motion 363? [ That this House notes that the Conservative Mayor of Stourport-on-Severn, Councillor Patrick Duffy, forged an election candidate's nomination form in order to split the vote ; considers that the use of bogus candidates to split the vote is a squalid manipulation of the election process ; and calls on the Conservative Party leadership to issue a statement disowning Councillor Duffy, who continues as Mayor of Stourport-on-Severn. ]
That will enable Conservative Members, and the Government especially, to explain to the House why Councillor Patrick Duffy remains the Conservative chair of Stourport-on-Severn after having admitted forging an election nomination paper, and remains the mayor, and why there has been no condemnation from Tory central office of that attempt to manipulate the electoral process. It is not good enough for the judges to say that there is a technical deficiency in the law : it is outrageous, and it should be condemned.
Mr. Michael Bates (Langbaurgh) : Has my right hon. Friend had any request from the Labour party to use one of its Supply days to outline its taxation and spending policies, when perhaps the shadow Chancellor, who claims that the Labour party has no spending commitments, could hear from the shadow Health spokesman, who intends to abolish compulsory competitive tendering in the health service, at a cost of £140 million ?
Mr. Newton : That is another point that, with minimum ingenuity, could be got in order next Wednesday, since nothing is clearer than that those spending commitments would mean new burdens on British industry.
Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East) : Many hon. Members make use of early-day motions during questions on the business statement, and use them fruitfully. However, in some quarters of the House people are criticising early-day motions, and want them controlled and restricted. Should we have a debate about early-day motions and the use, as well as occasional abuse, to which they can be put ? Abuse has to be controlled by voluntary action, as we should have seen at Question Time today.
Column 443on the Isle of Wight. I wonder whether he would be so kind, when he replies to my letter, as to consider the opportunity for the order to jump the queue that has been caused by the logjam created by the present impasse in Parliament, as the employees of all three local authorities on the Isle of Wight are worried about their job prospects and we want to make a start ? As my right hon. Friend knows, we are the first unitary authority in the United Kingdom.
Mr. Thomas Graham (Renfrew, West and Inverclyde) : Will the Leader of the House arrange an urgent statement by the Secretary of State for Scotland about the ecological disaster around the coast of Scotland, where more than 55,000 sea birds have been washed up ? The reason they died is totally unknown. Does he realise the urgency of the matter, and the extent of the concern among bird lovers in this country--there are a million of us --who are demanding an urgent scientific investigation and an explanation to ensure that the wildlife of Great Britain remains living and not washed up dead on the shores ?
Mr. Newton : I cannot, as I think that the hon. Gentleman will understand, promise an early debate on that specific matter, but I have no doubt that my right hon. Friends, including the Secretary of State for Scotland, will carefully look into what he has said.
Mr. James Clappison (Hertsmere) : I support the request by my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye (Mrs. Lait) for a debate on early- day motion 618 so that we can have the opportunity to identify what, if anything, will be left of our national democracy after the Liberal party has finished handing over powers to Europe and down to expensive, unwanted and unnecessary regional assemblies.
Mr. Newton : With the growing chorus of demand for a debate on those matters, I must necessarily give it consideration. I just wish that I thought that it would encourage the Liberal Democrats to give consideration to their policies.
Mr. Gareth Wardell (Gower) : In view of the fact that the Sessional Orders were blatantly ignored on Monday evening when a demonstration took place outside the House, will the Leader of the House arrange for the Home Secretary to make a statement to assure us that he will ensure that no such illegal demonstration takes place again, and that, should it happen again, the Metropolitan police commissioner will be able to move in quickly and ensure that the situation does not get out of hand ?
Mr. Newton : I shall bring the hon. Gentleman's question to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend, but I think I am right in saying that the Serjeant at Arms has written to the commissioner in the wake of Monday's events, and that you, Madam Speaker, made some observations on the subject on Monday night.
Column 444debate on the planning regime for opencast mining before the present consultation period on the mineral planning guidance 3 expires ?
Mr. Eddie Loyden (Liverpool, Garston) : Will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate, if not next week, some time in the near future, on thalidomide victims ? He will be aware that the child victims are now parents themselves and householders, so their situation has changed. There is now a need for a review to see what the Government can do to assist those people.
Mr. Newton : The right course would be for me to bring the hon. Gentleman's question to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health. Having been Minister of State for Health a number of years ago and involved in some aspects of this tragedy over the years, I well understand the concern that the hon. Gentleman has expressed.
Mr. Alan Meale (Mansfield) : To return to an earlier subject, will the Leader of the House take the time and use his position to try to influence hon. Members, but especially Conservative Members ? The intrusions into people's private lives that we have seen in the past few weeks have been outrageous, and I am thinking particularly of what has happened in the past week to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). Will he use his influence--I know that my colleagues will do the same--to try to stop this nonsense and allow people to lead a normal existence ?
Mr. Newton : I do not think that it would be right to relate any comment of mine to a particular case, but the hon. Gentleman's remarks, like those of my hon. Friend the Member for East Lindsey (Sir P. Tapsell), will have been noted and heard with respect by all hon. Members.
[ That this House is deeply concerned at the BBC's decision to cease broadcasting Today in Parliament' on Radio 4 FM from 28th March ; believes this seriously questions its Charter obligation to broadcast an impartial account day by day' of proceedings in both Houses of the United Kingdom Parliament ; and calls upon the Director-General of the BBC to immediately reverse this decision, which will deny an estimated 135,000 daily listeners to the programme access to it on FM. ]
It is an all-party motion which reflects the strong feeling in the House that the BBC could be breaching its obligations to report Parliament properly if it were to go ahead with the plan to stop broadcasting Radio 4's "Today in Parliament" on FM. Bearing in mind the fact that the serious newspapers no longer report Parliament's daily proceedings, is there not an even greater responsibility on the BBC to continue to report Parliament ? Would it not be most unfortunate if that were changed ?
Ms Liz Lynne (Rochdale) : Will the Leader of the House tell us whether the Secretary of State for Health is prepared to make a statement about the report of the inquiry into the Christopher Clunis case and the murder of Jonathan Zito so that we can question her on what she is going to do about that excellent but damaging inquiry and what action she will take ?
Mr. Newton : I shall bring the hon. Lady's request to my hon. Friend's attention but, for the moment, I do not intend to add to what I said a few moments ago and what my right hon. Friend said during Prime Minister's Question Time.
Mr. Michael Connarty (Falkirk, East) : I wonder whether the Leader of the House could find time in the business of the House to debate the possibility of legalising the supply of cannabis for people who have multiple sclerosis ? While he is at it, could he also consider the possibility of debating early-day motions 280 and 432 ? [ That this House calls for the establishment of a Royal Commission to review the prohibition of the use of cannabis and to examine alternative options for control of the drug within the law ; notes that millions of British citizens use cannabis for recreational and therapeutic purposes every year and that notwithstanding the enormous resources devoted by law enforcement agencies its popularity and availability continues to increase throughout all parts of the United Kingdom and across all sections of society ; also notes the growing body of evidence which testifies to the medicinal and therapeutic properties of cannabis and its relative safety compared with other legalised drugs ; and believes that the prosecution of thousands of otherwise law abiding citizens every year is both hypocritical and an affront to individual civil and human rights and that these resources would be better spent on improved drug education, health and welfare programmes. ]
Mr. Newton : Such is the number of early-day motions that I am unsighted on the content of the two that the hon. Gentleman mentioned, but I shall of course consider them and his request carefully. As for the specific point he made, it is obviously very much a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, but it would need very careful consideration indeed.
Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South) : In view of the Prime Minister's recent and welcome interest in the British film industry, could we have a debate as early as possible on that industry because of the difficulties it faces ? May we debate, for example, the potential closure of the Elstree studios and the potential closure of the BBC studios at Elstree, so that we can regain our position as one of the leading film-making countries in the world ? A debate is important, because it is an industry which is too often ignored.
Mr. Newton : As a result of the most interesting exchanges at Prime Minister's Question Time, that matter has already had more public exposure in the past hour than it has had for quite a long time. At the moment, I cannot promise a debate as well.
Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West) : Does the Leader of the House realise that there will be anger about the postponement of the St David's day debate, which will be held on the saint's day of St Winwaloe--a Cornish saint
Column 446who has several churches dedicated to him in one Liberal Democrat constituency ? Why cannot the Liberal Democrats have a Winwaloe's day and allow the Welsh to have St David's day ? In the past, there have been serious reasons for changing that date, but there is none in the current year. Will the Leader of the House make amends by ensuring that, in the St David's day debate, we can address the House in both the languages of Wales ?
Mr. Newton : The latter question is a matter for you, Madam Speaker, rather than for me. I am glad that the debate did not end up on the day of a Scottish saint, which would have left me in even more trouble.
Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West) : May I underline the point made to the Leader of the House by my hon. Friend the Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Connarty) about the possible legalisation of cannabis ? I refer him to early-day motion 280, which I have tabled. [ That this House calls for the establishment of a Royal Commission to review the prohibition of the use of cannabis and to examine alternative options for control of the drug within the law ; notes that millions of British citizens use cannabis for recreational and therapeutic purposes every year and that notwithstanding the enormous resources devoted by law enforcement agencies its popularity and availability continues to increase throughout all parts of the United Kingdom and across all sections of society ; also notes the growing body of evidence which testifies to the medicinal and therapeutic properties of cannabis and its relative safety compared with other legalised drugs ; and believes that the prosecution of thousands of otherwise law abiding citizens every year is both hypocritical and an affront to individual civil and human rights and that these resources would be better spent on improved drug education, health and welfare programmes. ]
An important debate is taking place on that issue outside the House, which involves not only aging hippies, but a large number of bodies such as police enforcement agencies, magistrates and doctors, and we should also have that debate here.
Mr. Newton : The hon. Member for Falkirk, East raised the point in respect of sufferers from a particular disease, where the issues raised were somewhat different, if I may say so. The hon. Gentleman has raised it in a more general sense, and he knows well that the Government believe that what he is proposing would send out the wrong message to society about our attitude to drugs.
Mr. Kevin Barron (Rother Valley) : Will the Leader of the House ask his hon. Friend the Minister for Energy to make a statement on what lies behind the Government's decision, conveyed to me yesterday in a written answer, that the enhanced redundancy payments which are currently being made to redundant mineworkers will end in April ? Such a statement would give hon. Members on both sides of the House the opportunity to ask questions on why the Government are breaking their promise to Conservative Members, which they made to get them out of difficulties during the pit closure campaign 18 months ago.
Sir Anthony Grant (Cambridgeshire, South-West) : On a point of order, Madam Speaker. In my question to the Leader of the House, I wrongly referred to the Opposition deputy Chief Whip as having signed an early-day motion. I had confused him with another Don, who is a Liberal. I would never accuse the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Dixon) of being a Liberal. May I correct the record and unreservedly apologise to the hon. Gentleman ?
Mr. Bottomley : On a point of order, Madam Speaker. You made a statement about the way in which questions and answers should be given. There was a time when Members who had tabled a question were able, on occasion, to be called for a second supplementary question. May I direct your attention to that, not so that you make a statement, but to consider that there may be times when that would be appropriate again in the future ?
Madam Speaker : I was attempting--I think I had the support of the House--to implement a decision of the House. I want to see Question Time improved, and I want Back Benchers to be able to put their questions and more questions that are tabled to be reached. I tried to be helpful to the House. Of course I shall consider what the hon. Gentleman says. I am always open to suggestions.
Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington) : Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. I am sorry to press the matter, but, as you know because you have been in the House for many years, some Members assiduously attend all Question Times, and they are not numerous. I hope that, in the way in which you intend to manage the House, you will take into account those regular attenders, and recognise that some of us are concerned that, if the House became no more than a place where one came to table questions in the hope that one of them would come up in a ballot, the very character of Question Time, which has been built up over many decades, would change. I am sure that you would have grave reservations about that.
Several hon. Members rose
In answer, I would simply say that I am also concerned about Members who assiduously table questions but who, because of the luck of the draw, do not get a place high on the Order Paper. I notice them ; I spend a whole morning doing research on the subject, and I am concerned about those Members, too. But of course
Madam Speaker : No, wait. I very seldom have things to say in the House. A little patience from the hon. Gentleman, please. I must inform the House that of course I am not giving up the discretion that I have as Speaker. What I read out to the House today was in accordance with a report that has received the approval of the House, and I want to be helpful to all Members in it.
Several hon. Members rose
Mr. Banks rose
Mr. Michael Connarty (Falkirk, East) rose
Mr. Connarty : Yes, this is on a different matter. I have noticed the way in which the ballots go and, as you know, Madam Speaker, I have been fortunate in coming up early. However, my son is a computer student at university and he tells me that it would be possible to have a weighted computer system whereby people who come up early are weighted so that there is a chance for other people to come up in the ballot in a more sensible way, rather than the
Column 450random selection every day, which makes a bit of a nonsense of putting one's name in. Would it be possible to do that with the computer system in the House ?
Mr. Banks : On a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is not only the names that appear on the Order Paper that signify Members' attentiveness in submitting questions. Now that the procedures here have been changed, questions beyond a certain number do not appear, so many people put in questions that never appear on the Order Paper. If you intend to study the Order Paper, may I suggest that you study the computer printout, so that you also know who has tabled questions ?
Madam Speaker : If hon. Members were to examine my statement and reflect on it, they would find it extremely helpful. I made the point that there will always be subjects of topical interest or controversy, on which an extended line of questioning would be appropriate. The House has to have confidence in me to ensure that hon. Members are allowed to continue that line of questioning. It is important that the Executive are answerable to the House, and I want to see that that is the case.
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) : On a point of order, Madam Speaker. If there is to be an extended line of questioning, can you be more generous in allocating it when private notice questions are requested ?
Madam Speaker : I thought that I was always very generous with private notice questions. However, the hon. Gentleman has been a Member of the House for a long time, and he will appreciate that they have to meet certain criteria. If they do, they are accepted. We shall now move on to the Opposition day motion.
That this House condemns the rapid growth in expenditure by quangos and in the use of contractors to provide public services ; notes that these organisations are not publicly accountable to elected representatives ; is concerned that their proliferation has been accompanied by a loss in the quality of public services, by increased fraud and waste, and by falling standards in public life ; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to review the progression towards an unelected state.
When the Government came to office one of the key elements in their programme was the winding down of the state. What was not made clear at the time was that the Government were just as committed as any other Government to control of the state, but they wanted the control to be vested in their own fiefdom and removed as far as possible from any democratic influences.
The result is that today patronage is playing a bigger underhand role in British society than at any time since the days of Lloyd George. The public, constitutional and democratic power structure based on elections and votes has been steadily whittled away and replaced by a private, unconstitutional and undemocratic power structure based on patronage and money.
The scale of this process has not been fully recognised. It goes a great deal wider than honours and quangos. Certainly the Tories have handed out gongs and chairmanships of quangos aplenty in exchange directly or indirectly for money. It is much less realised that the Tory Government's opening of lucrative new markets through market testing and privatisation of public services, and the award of major contracts abroad without tender to their corporate friends, is clearly associated with donations to the Tory party.
The general message is clear : the more one serves the Tory party's interests and preferably contributes to its coffers, the more likely one is to get an honour, a key position in the new magistracy and favourable access to contracts.
The more one gets an honour, power or contracts, the more likely one is to reward the hand that feeds one, and that is Tory patronage written today.
Mr. Tracey : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way so early. At this early stage of his speech, it is important for him to say something about the situation in Monklands council, which has been extremely well researched by the media and where, clearly, there are serious examples of the sort of thing that he is seeking to criticise. Let us not have Labour Members standing on a pedestal, which should be giving way underneath them.
Mr. Meacher : I shall answer the question. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith) has fully answered this point. He wrote to the Secretary of State for Scotland--I am glad to see the Secretary of State here--on 1 February. As the point has been predictably raised, I shall read what my right hon. and learned Friend said :
"As you will be aware allegations of impropriety of various kinds have been made against Monklands District Council by, among others, Conservative Members of Parliament. So far as I am aware none of these allegations have been substantiated by any appropriate authority.
However, I was much concerned to read in the Scottish press that your Ministerial colleague, Allan Stewart, who is responsible for local government in Scotland, has made allegations of financial irregularity and political corruption. This creates an entirely new situation. Allegations made by a Minister of the Crown--especially a Minister responsible for local government--cannot remain uninvestigated. They must either be substantiated or withdrawn." That is the key point.
The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Ian Lang) rose
that is, the Secretary of State--
"to exercise your powers under the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, section 211 to cause a local enquiry to be made into the matters raised by your colleague. I ask you either to take this action or to invite him to withdraw his allegation."
If the right hon. Gentleman would like to tell us which he is doing, I shall be glad to give way.