Home Page

Column 335

Business of the House

3.30 pm

Mr. Nicholas Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne, East) : May I invite the Leader of the House to state the business for the first week after the recess ?

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Tony Newton) : Before I list the business itself, may Isay that, given that counting in the European elections will not take place until late on Sunday 12 June and, in some seats, not until Monday 13 June, we have concluded that it will be for the general convenience of hon. Members if the House were to resume on Tuesday 14 June, rather than Monday 13 June as earlier proposed. I have had strong representations to that effect from the right hon. Member for Lagan Valley (Mr.Molyneaux) and the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood), who had the assent of other minority parties.

In the light of that, the business for the first week after the Spring Adjournment will be as follows :

Tuesday 14 June----Debate on the GATT on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Wednesday 15 June----Report stage of the Local Government (Wales) Bill [Lords] .

Thursday 16 June----Until about seven o'clock, Third Reading of the Local Government (Wales) Bill [ Lords ].

Motion on the Care of Cathedrals (Supplementary Provisions) Measure. [Hon. Members :-- "Hear, hear."] I see that the House is already in holiday mood.

Friday 17 June----Private Members' motions.

The House will also wish to know that European Standing Committee B will meet at 10.30 am on Wednesday 15 June to consider European Community document No. 4187/94 relating to vocational training policy and any further documents relating to vocational training policy recommended by the European Legislation Committee for debate. [Wednesday 15 June :

European Standing Committee B--Relevant European Community document : 4187/94, Vocational Training (Leonardo da Vinci programme). Relevant reports of the European Legislation Committee : HC 48-xiv (1993-94) and HC 48-xvii (1993-94).]

Mr. Brown : I thank the Leader of the House for his distinctly populist business statement. However, I am disturbed to see that there is no Opposition day. It is difficult to see how the full complement of Opposition days--the number that we are required to have under Standing Orders--will be given in the time that remains available to us. Is not the problem compounded by the fact that we are still due a further three days in Government time to debate economic affairs following the unified Budget process ?

There is still a great deal of anger in the House and, indeed, the country about how the Government have used civil service time to sabotage private Members' Bills. The letter from Sir Robin Butler to my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher), dated 13 May, does not provide an adequate response. We want an opportunity in Government time to debate the underlying principles involved in that series of issues.

Is the Leader of the House now in a position to respond to the point that I made to him last week about a debate, again in Government time, on the Child Support Agency ?

Column 336

Mr. Newton : I am not in a position to respond at this stage to the last of those requests. However, I note--I accept that it is not a complete answer to what the hon. Gentleman has said--that one of the longer Adjournment debates scheduled for tomorrow is on the Child Support Agency. That will provide at least some opportunity to air the relevant points. I will, of course, continue to bear the request in mind.

I simply do not accept what the hon. Gentleman said about amendments and the Cabinet Secretary's letter, which seems to me to cover the point fully and to which I do not propose to add at the moment.

I note the hon. Gentleman's comments about Opposition days and economic days and, as always, I will consider them as sympathetically as circumstances allow. Obviously, my sympathy cannot secure anything next week, but I hope that we shall have some Opposition days reasonably soon after the recess.

Dr. John G. Blackburn (Dudley, West) : In view of today's announcement of the award of the contract for the national lottery, will my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage give consideration to an early debate about the national lottery ?

Mr. Newton : I will certainly give the matter consideration, but I do not wish to excite too much hope.

Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire) : I am grateful to the Leader of the House for making a concession to enable Parliament to return a day later after counting has been completed in all seats for the European elections. That will certainly go down well in the Sabbatarian areas of northern Scotland.

In a similar vein, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the difficulties of the Scots with regard to school holidays and, soon after we come back, say when the summer recess may occur ? Is the right hon. Gentleman in a position to bring forward the necessary amendments so that the House can come to an early resolution about amendments to procedures in the House ?

Mr. Newton : On the latter point, I do not think that the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Brown) would mind my saying that I had a useful and constructive conversation with him yesterday which I hope will pave the way for further progress before too long. I also hope to have some opportunities to talk to the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood).

On the first of the hon. Gentleman's points, for the moment I must simply say let us wait and see how things go. Obviously I should like the House to get up at a reasonable time for the summer recess, but we have quite a lot of business to consider.

Mr. John Biffen (Shropshire, North) : Notwithstanding the prestigious nature of those who have twisted the arm of my right hon. Friend about the date on which we are to return from the Whitsun recess, I remind him that this country is full of more than enough injustice that is required to be debated by this place. The House should show a sense of priority and judgment, rather than indulging in this gimmick of a 24-hour postponement because of the counting of votes in the European elections.

Column 337

Mr. Newton : I note my right hon. Friend's observations, but I do not think that it was unreasonable--indeed, I think it was right--to take account of serious representations from serious people who felt that they would experience problems in their parts of the country in fulfilling their political duties.

Mr. Roger Berry (Kingswood) : Is the Leader of the House aware that the assistant chief executive of the London borough of Sutton received a letter from the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Forman) about the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill ? It said :

"the Government has undertaken to provide sufficient time for the remaining stages of this Bill to be completed."

Can the Leader of the House tell us when the Government made that commitment ?

Mr. Newton : The answer to the hon. Gentleman's question is no. I am not aware of the letter and I certainly do not propose to comment about it off the cuff.

Mr. Spencer Batiste (Elmet) : When does my right hon. Friend think that there will be time for a debate about the Information Committee's report on the parliamentary data and video network system ?

Mr. Newton : I certainly hope to be able to provide time for such a debate before the summer recess, but I cannot promise a specific date at the moment.

Mr. John Spellar (Warley, West) : I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day motion 1294.

[ That this House notes that it is a year since responses to the Government's consultation Paper on wheelclamping had to be received ; deplores the failure of the Home Office to produce proposals on private wheelclamping ; and calls for urgent action by Government to put an end to this menace. ]

Does he not agree that it is outrageous that it is now more than a year since replies to the Government's consultation document about wheel- clamping had to be received ? Will he urge his right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary to bring proposals to the House at a very early stage so that we can put an end to the scandal once and for all ?

Mr. Newton : I will certainly bring the question to my right hon. and learned Friend's attention. Clearly, it is a difficult issue which does not permit any quick and easy solution, but we shall make our conclusions known as soon as possible.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South) : How does my right hon. Friend justify his continued refusal to have a debate on the Balkans ?

Mr. Newton : The situation in the Balkans is one on which, as my hon. Friend knows, I have repeatedly made it clear that the Government would make judgments about statements and debates as circumstances developed. I have not judged it right in recent weeks to provide time for such a debate. Obviously, if I judge that it is necessary, I shall.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) : Surely we cannot keep hearing talk about longer and longer holidays for Members of Parliament. The Leader of the House has just announced another one today. Is he aware that chances are that in this year Parliament will have been in session less than seven months and will have had more than five months' holidays while we cannot find Government or

Column 338

parliamentary time to debate the Bill for 6.5 million disabled people ? It really is a scandal. Instead of having an extra day to count the tinpot results from the Common Market, we should sit in here until the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill is passed.

Mr. Newton : Despite what the hon. Gentleman has said, the number of days that the House has sat in recent parliamentary Sessions, and is likely in this one, is not very different from what it has been for many previous years.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South) : May I thank the Leader of the House for extending the recess, given that the House inflicted on Northern Ireland proportional representation, which takes three times as long to count ?

On the day when the Carers National Association is having a Lobby in the House, may I draw the Leader of the House's attention to early-day motion 1176 which was signed by more than 70 hon. Members ?

[ That this House welcomes the publication of the Carers National Association report Community Care-Just a Fairy Tale ?' ; and calls upon the Secretary of State for Health to introduce assessment for carers, along with a sitting service and respite care, so that the expectations of the community care system may be fulfilled. ] Will he find time for an early debate on care of the carers as well as care of cathedrals ?

Mr. Newton : I was aware of the reception this evening. Indeed, I had hoped to attend, though I suspect that I shall be tied up on the Floor of the House with the Spring Adjournment motion. However, I send it my best wishes and take note of the hon. Gentleman's request for a debate.

Sir Ivan Lawrence (Burton) : Some heat has been generated today about the fact that we are not to be allowed to resume the activities of the House on Monday 13 June. Is my right hon. Friend aware that there was a whole period of the House's sitting when we were not able to leave the place because we could not get a taxi ? Some well-meaning person had apparently complained about the noise of the bell that summons taxis and, as a result, the Serjeant at Arms apparently issued an order to the engineers department to cut off the bell so that we could not leave the Members' entrance to get a taxi. That may have come to an end, but can my right hon. Friend give an undertaking to the House that we will in future be able to call taxis in the time-honoured tradition of this place ?

Mr. Newton : I do not think that it is quite in my power to give such an undertaking on my own authority, but I certainly hope that my hon. and learned Friend's request will have been heard by those who have that power.

Dr. Robert Spink (Castle Point) : Will my right hon. Friend find time after the recess to debate the collapse into receivership of part of Peter de Savary's empire and the impact that it will have on the ability of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment to enter into a section 106 agreement with Peter de Savary's empire regarding land on Canvey Island in my constituency ?

Mr. Newton : I well understand why my hon. Friend raised the matter, in view of his constituency concern. My proper response is to undertake to draw that point to the attention of my right hon. Friend.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington) : The Leader of the House will recall that Madam Speaker felt

Column 339

unable to give precedence to a motion referring the Scott complaint to the Committee of Privileges. As I understand the rules of the House, the Minister does not need that to trigger a reference being made to the Committee of Privileges. He himself can move that motion. Will he do so in the week that we return ?

Mr. Newton : I have no intention whatever of doing so. I would wish to pay greater heed to the ruling of Madam Speaker on the matter and her attitude to my right hon. Friend's personal statement than the hon. Gentleman does.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North) : May we have an immediate debate on the administrative arrangements for the European elections ? I wish to draw to the attention of the House the fact that most of my constituents and people in the rest of Ealing which does not fall in my constituency still have no polling cards--or where they do, they are usually given the wrong polling station

Madam Speaker : Order. Are we on next week's business ?

Mr. Greenway : We are, Madam Speaker ; I have asked for a debate on this matter.

Madam Speaker : Well, get on with it then.

Mr. Greenway : There has been the most almighty cock-up by the new Ealing Labour council and this House should hear about it.

Mr. Newton : I am not sure that I would care simply to repeat my hon. Friend's graphic description of what has happened, but I hope that his words will be noted. For my part, I have enough problems without becoming a returning officer in the European elections.

Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West) : May we please have an early debate on the awful and continuing menace of vandalism in schools, especially in my constituency where I visited six schools last week ? Will the right hon. Gentleman please ask the Secretary of State for Education to recognise the seriousness of this matter for schools whose budgets are already overstretched ? Rather than just pay tribute with me, as I am sure the right hon. Gentleman would, to the schools, the staff and the police, will he look at ways in which they can really be helped in such very difficult times and in dealing with such an awful plague ?

Mr. Newton : I am sure that my right hon. Friend would wish to acknowledge the seriousness of the problem--another one to which there is no simple answer. I am sure that he will consider what the hon. and learned Gentleman has said.

Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East) : In view of the appalling circumstances-- [Interruption.] If one or two of the rest of us could get a word in uninterrupted!

In view of the appalling circumstances in the former Yugoslavia, and in view of the admirable services rendered by our military chaps over there, is not it time that the House had an opportunity to debate these matters and to back up our military chaps against the very adverse circumstances they face because of the decisions of other parties outside this House ?

Column 340

Mr. Newton : I have already made some comment on the question of debate here and obviously I will bear the hon. Gentleman's representations in mind.

Mr. Bruce Grocott (The Wrekin) : As the recess will include a statutory bank holiday, which we all hope will be enjoyed, as usual, by millions of people, will a Minister come to the House to reassure hon. Members that there is no Government plan to scrap this bank holiday as there was to scrap the popular May day bank holiday ? When will the Government acknowledge that they got it hopelessly wrong and had to do a U- turn, for which we are all grateful ?

While he is about it, could that Minister explain why Britain has fewer statutory bank holidays than any other country in the European Community-- [Interruption.] I am referring to statutory bank holidays. As Conservative Back Benchers get very confused over simple matters, shall we distinguish between recesses and statutory bank holidays ? I am asking the right hon. Gentleman about statutory bank holidays and about what reassurance the Government will give us that there is no plan to attack the remaining bank holidays.

Mr. Newton : The hon. Gentleman may draw such a distinction, but the net result would be another parliamentary day off. My right course might be to put him in touch with his hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner).

Mr. David Jamieson (Plymouth, Devonport) : Can the right hon. Gentleman find time after the recess for a debate about the way in which competitive tendering of local authority services is operating ? This week, the way in which contracts have been awarded for school meals in Cornwall has thrown very serious doubt on the competence and integrity of the ruling Liberal Democrats in Cornwall, who will put more than 1,000 people's jobs at risk.

Mr. Newton : I sometimes feel that the European elections are being fought with me in the middle of the battlefield. I shall not comment on the case raised by the hon. Gentleman, but I am sure that it will be noted by those at whom it is directed.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross) : On the question of bank holidays, is my right hon. Friend aware that when the late leader of the Labour party, Mr. Michael Foot-- [Interruption.] --the ex-leader, introduced May day as a bank holiday it was called Union day ? But what was not known was that that was the date when Scotland and England were united under the Act of Union. That is how it should be celebrated.

Mr. Newton : I do not think that I can better that. I am grateful for that additional piece of learning. My own recollection of the right hon. Gentleman, who is a former Leader of the Opposition and former Leader of the House, is of his record in announcing five guillotines on one day.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West) : Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Foreign Secretary to make a statement as soon as possible confirming or denying that instructions have been sent to all British overseas posts saying that, in future, those who require a visa to visit the United Kingdom shall only be able to visit for a much shorter period than the current six months ? If those reports are true, will the Leader of the House understand that they contrast very ill with this week's announcement that, in

Column 341

future, millionaires, however dodgy, and however unsavoury the source of their income, will be able to settle and live in this country with the greatest of ease ?

Mr. Newton : I do not accept the linkage that the hon. Gentleman seeks to make. I shall bring the substantive part of his question to my right hon. Friend's attention, and I make the point that my right hon. Friend is here to answer questions on the first Wednesday that we are back.

Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones (Ynys Mo n) : Is the Leader of the House aware that I am pleased that he was able to tell the House this afternoon about the progress that is being made in discussions between himself and the Labour party, and possibly the Liberal party, about the Procedure Committee report on changing the procedure in the House ? Is he further aware that there is tremendous support for those changes on these Benches ? In view of the progress that is being made, may I push him a little and ask him when he thinks that he might be able to come back to the House to report progress ?

Mr. Newton : I do not think that the hon. Gentleman can push me very far. What I said was that I had had a constructive conversation with the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Brown) yesterday. Both of us would hope to be able to make some progress in the next couple of months, but that will depend on how those conversations go. That would be what we would like if we can achieve it. As to the support from the hon. Gentleman's Benches, I wish that he could spread it two Benches in front of him.

Ms Liz Lynne (Rochdale) : May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day motion 1190 in my name ?

[ That this House condemns the actions of the honourable Members for Sutton and Cheam, Hertsmere, Bristol North West, Gainsborough and Horncastle and Bury St. Edmunds, who, in collusion with the Government, very seriously delayed the progress on the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill, against the wishes of this House and the over six million disabled people of Britain ; calls upon the honourable Members to withdraw the remaining amendments tabled in their names but drafted by the Government ; calls on the Government to end the practice of giving selected backbenchers the support of Parliamentary Counsel in order to derail Bills ; and further calls for measures to be taken to ensure that the wishes of this House cannot be overridden by an overmighty executive or by the filibustering of individual honourable Members. ]

May we have a debate on that subject as soon as possible after the recess, as well as a debate on the legislation on civil rights for disabled persons which the Government so disgracefully talked out last Friday ?

Mr. Newton : I have made a number of comments on that matter, both today and on earlier occasions. I really do not think that I can usefully add to what I have said.

Mr. Mike Gapes (Ilford, South) : Will the Leader of the House talk to the Secretary of State for Transport and arrange for an early debate on the appalling and

Column 342

deteriorating transport system in Greater London ? In particular, I draw attention to the contrast between the situation in London and that in other European capital cities that have a strategic authority, such as Paris, and other places where there is coherent planning ?

Mr. Newton : As the hon. Gentleman will have heard, some of my hon. Friends were commenting during his remarks. He might in the first instance talk to those of his colleagues who did not share his objectives in relation to the Crossrail Bill.

Hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam

3.53 pm

Madam Speaker : I have a statement to make. On 9 May, the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Lady Olga Maitland) rose on a point of order and said, in relation to amendments in her name to the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill :

"I would like to make it abundantly clear that I raise my own amendments. I sought consultation, but it would be totally unfair to suggest that they came from any other source."--[ Official Report , 9 May 1994 ; Vol. 243, c. 23.]

The hon. Lady has now written to me to say that she was anxious to accept personal responsibility for the amendments in her name, and that she did not intend to imply that they had not been drafted by others in the first instance.

I cannot accept that the words

"it would be totally unfair to suggest that they came from any other source"

did not amount to a denial that the amendments had been drafted by others. At the time the hon. Lady volunteered her disclaimer, the House had already been told that the amendments had been drafted by parliamentary counsel. Her statement did not so much mislead the House as exasperate it.

In this respect, I believe that the hon. Lady's statement fell below the standards that the House is entitled to expect from its Members. I strongly rebuke her for her conduct on that occasion.

Lady Olga Maitland (Sutton and Cheam) : In the light of your statement, Madam Speaker, may I make an unreserved apology to you and the House ?

BALLOT FOR NOTICES OF MOTIONS FOR FRIDAY 24 JUNE -- Members successful in the ballot were :

Mr. Simon Coombs

Mr. Tony Banks

Sir Gerard Vaughan


Health Care


Motion made, and Question put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No 98 (5) (Welsh Grand Committee) ,

That the Matter of health care in Wales, being a Matter relating exclusively to Wales, be referred to the Welsh Grand Committee for its consideration.--[ Mr. Kirkhope .]

Column 343

Next Section

  Home Page