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Business of the House

3.30 pm

Mr. Nicholas Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne, East) : Will the Leader of the House please state the forthcoming business of the House ?

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Tony Newton) : The business for next week will be as follows :

Monday 20 June----Opposition Day (13th allotted day) (1st part). Until Seven o'clock, there will be a debate on "Reform of Parliamentary Procedure" on a motion in the name of the Liberal Democrats, followed by remaining stages of the Trade Marks Bill [ Lords ].

Motion on the Insurance Companies (Third Insurance Directives) Regulations.

Tuesday 21 June----Consideration of Lords amendments to the Social Security (Incapacity for Work) Bill.

Consideration of Lords amendments to the Sunday Trading Bill. Wednesday 22 June----Opposition Day (14th allotted day). There will be a debate entitled "Failure of Her Majesty's Government on Overseas Aid and Development Policies" on an Opposition motion.

Thursday 23 June----Debate on "Opportunities for UK Exporters" on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Friday 24 June----Private Members' motions.

Monday 27 June----Until Seven o'clock, motions on the Ports (Northern Ireland) Order and the Ports (Northern Ireland Consequential Provisions) Order.

Motion on the Appropriation (No.2) (Northern Ireland) Order. The House will also wish to know that European Standing Committee B will meet at 10.30 am on Wednesday 22 June to consider European Community document No. 10635/93 relating to guarantees for consumer goods and after sales services.

[Wednesday 22 June :

European Standing Committee B--Relevant European Community document : 10635/93, Guarantees for Consumer Goods and After Sales Service. Relevant reports of the European Legislation Committee : HC 48-iv (1993-94) and HC 48-xxi (1993-94).]

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West) : When is the summer recess ?

Mr. Brown : I thank the Leader of the House for his statement and for the Opposition days. I appreciate that it will be possible for us to raise the question of Rwanda during the Opposition day debate, but it would be more appropriate if there were to be a debate on that in Government time. Is the Leader of the House able to tell us that, as things develop in Rwanda, he will be willing to allocate Government time to discuss that ?

Is the Leader of the House yet able to give the House assurances about the two key economic debates that are required by the unified Budget process before the House rises for the summer recess ? The House will need to know when we can expect the publication of the second set of Industry Act forecasts and we should like to know that we will have a one-day debate in Government time on those forecasts.

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When will the Leader of the House be able to announce the date for the one-day debate on individual departmental expenditure plans ? We have not had such a debate since 1991.

Finally, when will the Leader of the House be in a position to announce the date of the summer recess ?

Mr. Newton : I saw some tension between the hon. Gentleman's opening question and the clearly heard sedentary intervention of the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) who asked about the date of the recess. I also saw tension between all the demands for debates and the demands for, no doubt, an early announcement of an early date for the recess.

Although I acknowledge that there is a clear commitment to an economic debate arising from the understanding at the time of the unified Budget, the more that I respond to the requests for debates, the more difficult it will be for me to respond to the last of the hon. Gentleman's requests and the longer into July we will sit. Of course, I shall bear his requests in mind.

Mr. Michael Stephen (Shoreham) : Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on the powers and immunities of police officers when dealing with teenage criminals, because many of us believe that it would be far better if police officers had the same powers as parents to administer reasonable corporal punishment, rather than having to drag the young offender before a magistrates court, which hands him over to a probation officer or a social worker, who tells him not to be naughty and gives him a free holiday ?

Mr. Newton : I understand why my hon. Friend raises that point and I am sure that, in doing so, he responds to quite a significant amount of public concern that one has heard expressed. However, I am sure that he will understand that I would not feel it appropriate to comment, as a Minister from the Dispatch Box, on the decision taken by the magistrates in the case that he has in mind.

Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire) : Will the Leader of the House confirm that there are one or two important outstanding obligations in our relationship with the European Union ? Having regard to the recent Government performance in European elections, when will we have debates on the accession Bill, which is required, and the own resources Bill ? It may be of some interest to hon. Members sitting behind him.

Mr. Newton : I am not in a position, I am afraid, to give a definite and specific response to that particular request at the moment, although I am aware of the interest in those matters. I shall merely observe in passing that, in view of the results of the elections on Thursday, revealed on Sunday, I am slightly astonished that that point is raised from the Liberal Democrat Benches. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman can confirm whether he, too, took a bet on the matter.

Sir Teddy Taylor (Southend, East) : Instead of passing more legislation next week, which may be repealed or amended or scrapped by the EC Commission in five or 10 years' time, at great cost to the British taxpayer, will the Minister instead arrange a day's debate on early-day motion 1336 ? [ That this House, wishing to maintain its tradition of keeping its procedures up to date, and recognising the legal and consequential costs of European Court judgements which oblige the United

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Kingdom to amend or effectively to scrap legislation passed years ago, and accepting the implications of the fact that loosely worded European legislation does not achieve real clarity until the European Commission invites the Court to determine its precise meaning, believes that it would be in the public and the taxpayers' interest to submit all new Parliamentary legislation before the House of Lords stage to the officials of the Commission of the European Union to establish whether they consider that its contents are in keeping with the various treaties approved by Parliament. ]

It suggests that, to save a great deal of money for the taxpayer and trouble and inconvenience, every piece of legislation passed through the House should be sent to the officials in Brussels, to receive their stamp of approval, in order to avoid such ridiculous and costly burdens on the taxpayer as a consequence of the treaties, to which we have foolishly agreed.

Mr. Newton : I always listen with close attentiveness to my hon. Friend, a fellow Member for the county of Essex. However, if he has in mind the accession treaty, I must say that it is a virtually universal desire of hon. Members to see the European Union enlarged in the way allowed for by the treaty.

Mr. Peter Mandelson (Hartlepool) : Will the Lord President accept that there will be great disappointment among my constituents that the order implementing the Government's proposals for the reorganisation of local government in Cleveland does not feature in next week's business ? Will he give an undertaking that, when the matter has cleared its judicial review, which I hope will be very soon, the Government will use all their best endeavours to bring the order before the House so that the matter may be resolved and proceeded with before the summer recess ?

Mr. Newton : I certainly undertake to bear in mind the hon. Gentleman's representations and, indeed, no doubt, those of others as well. However, I can give no commitment on an exact date at the moment. In a sense, he half-answered his own question by referring to judicial review. It would clearly be inappropriate to proceed while that is going on.

Mr. David Lidington (Aylesbury) : Will my right hon. Friend find time next week for a debate on early-day motion 1330 ? [ That this House congratulates the staff and management of the Chiltern Line for maintaining rail services to passengers during the RMT strike on Wednesday 15th June. ]

It stands in the names of myself and my hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan). A debate would enable hon. Members on both sides of the House to salute the dedication and professionalism of the railwaymen who, yesterday, kept the Chiltern line open to travellers, allowing myself and hundreds of my constituents to go about their normal business and meant that, encouraged by their professionalism, many more people used the trains, rather than took their cars to the roads, which would be the unfortunate consequence of the strike-happy attitude of so many Opposition Members.

Mr. Newton : I very much agree with my hon. Friend and I recognise the efforts of the staff on his railway line to whom he referred and also of those who ensured that trains were also running on a number of other lines, including, I understand, those affecting Southend, Barking, Oxford and Worcester.

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Mr. George Stevenson (Stoke-on-Trent, South) : Will the Leader of the House arrange next week for the President of the Board of Trade to make a statement about one of the most well-known British companies--Wedgwood-- which is embarking on the expansion of its production facilities in another country ? Does not such action fly in the face of the Government's claim that the climate in this country now favours investment ? Does not he realise that it is also a savage blow to the economy of north Staffordshire ?

Mr. Newton : As it happens, my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade will be here to answer questions next Wednesday ; perhaps the hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity to make his point then. For the moment, I can say only that, although the climate for investment in this country--including investment from overseas--has undoubtedly been greatly improved over the past 15 years, it is also important that our firms should be in a position to do business overseas.

Sir Anthony Grant (Cambridgeshire, South-West) : Will the terms of the motion for Monday's business be sufficiently widely drawn to enable us to discuss the farce of Prime Minister's Question Time which, after all, only started as recently as the regime of Lord Wilson of Rievaulx ?

Mr. Newton : Clearly, I cannot tell my hon. Friend what the terms of the motion will be, because that is in the hands of the Opposition. However, he will be aware of what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said on these matters and that it appeared to win considerable approval from all parties. I also believe that the Procedure Committee gave some consideration to these issues yesterday and has decided to seek evidence from me and my opposite numbers in the House.

Mr. George Galloway (Glasgow, Hillhead) : May I draw to the attention of the Leader of the House early-day motion 1276, which is entitled "Atrocity in Kuwait City" ? [ That this House welcomes the forthcoming visit to Parliament of U.S. citizen Naim Farhat, whose father and younger brother were brutally murdered in Kuwait City on 2nd March 1991, six days after the allied Liberation of Kuwait, and whose sister Naimat was raped, shot in the head and left for dead ; notes that after intense U.S. congressional pressure the Kuwaiti Emirate eventually tried a Kuwaiti police officer, finding him guilty of the double murder and Naimat's attempted murder but insisting that the young woman invented' the rape accusation to whip up anti-Kuwaiti feelings' ; and joins U.S. and international womens and human rights activists in calling for the withdrawal of the smear of false rape allegations against Naimat, the prosecution of the still unpunished accomplices, some of whom are connected to high Kuwaiti personages, full compensation to the family for their horrific ordeal, the disinternment of the dead victims and their re-burial in their home country of Lebanon. ]

It concerns the murder of the father and brother, and her attempted murder and rape, of Naim Farhat, who is in the House this afternoon. She is now living with a brother in the United States. Given that the family have alleged that the son of the Foreign Minister of Kuwait, Nasser Sabah al- Ahmed, and the crown prince of Kuwait, Saad Abdullah al-Sabah--both members of a Government returned to power at the point of British guns--are personally involved in the commission and cover-up of the crime, would not it be appropriate for the House to debate next week Britain's close and cordial relations with Kuwait so that justice may be won for this tragically afflicted family ?

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Mr. Newton : I think that the hon. Gentleman will understand that the appropriate response is for me to say that the investigation of any such alleged crime is the responsibility of the Kuwaiti authorities, but we have certainly encouraged them in their efforts to bring those responsible to justice.

Mr. Bob Dunn (Dartford) : Will the Leader of the House arrange for an urgent debate on education in Kent, in view of the fact that, earlier this week, the Labour and Liberal parties voted to remove representatives of the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church from the education resources sub-committee, thus denying the major spiritual influences in Kent access to influence the economic activity of the education authority ?

Mr. Newton : I cannot promise to make time for a debate on precisely that matter next week, but I hope that my hon. Friend's words will be considered by those at whom they are directed.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray) : We are to have a debate on Tuesday on one fairly contentious aspect of social security legislation, but would it be possible to extend it to reconsider benefits for 16 and 17-year-olds in light of the Prime Minister's disgraceful comments about young people begging in our streets, which he made during the European election campaign ? Could it also be extended to cover civil rights for disabled people ? Both topics emerged as major issues in the run-up to the election, and there is surely a need for the House to debate them.

Mr. Newton : The hon. Lady well knows that, despite the ingenious way in which she has managed to ask her questions without incurring your displeasure, Madam Speaker, there is no scope for enlarging consideration of Lords amendments to the Social Security (Incapacity for Work) Bill to include such issues.

As for the first part of the hon. Lady's question, it would be interesting to get some answers from elsewhere as to whether Opposition parties intend to return to a regime that would discourage youngsters of 16 and 17 from either staying at school or taking training that is offered to them.

Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North) : Can my right hon. Friend find time for an early debate on the conduct of Scottish local government ? He will be aware that, under the unusual procedure used to move the writ for the Monklands, East by-election, it will not be possible to raise matters relating to Monklands in the normal course of events because of the way in which we carry out our business.

Mr. Newton : I do not think that I can undertake to provide time for an early debate in view of the amount of time that has already been spent on debating local government in Scotland ; no doubt there may be further opportunities in due course. I will certainly consider my hon. Friend's concern that the matters about which he is concerned should be further exposed in the House.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) : Will the Leader of the House agree that there is not a great deal of business left for next week and the remaining weeks in the run-up to the recess ? In view of that, would it be a good idea to allocate a day or two for the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill, especially in view of the fact that when the House was in recess the Government, the Prime Minister and other Ministers went to Normandy and praised the disabled

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people who hobbled along the beaches at Normandy and Arromanches ? Could there be a more sickening, hypocritical sight than that of a Government praising the veterans of D-day and at the same time kicking their crutches away ?

Mr. Newton : I have made comments, as have many others, about the allocation of time and the fact that the House decided the allocation of time for private Members' Bills many months ago, and I do not propose to add to that this afternoon.

Mr. Bernard Jenkin (Colchester, North) : Given the huge importance that the presidency of the Commission now has in the national lives of all the EC member states, and given the declaration at the end of the Maastricht treaty committing our partners to a bigger role for national Parliaments, what role will this Parliament have in the appointment of the President of the Commission ?

Mr. Newton : My hon. Friend is perhaps implying a view ; a view was also expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Thames (Mr. Lamont) during Prime Minister's questions. I think that my hon. Friends are capable of finding ways of expressing their view--and, indeed, have done so.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) : May I ask the Lord President a question of which I gave his office notice this morning ? Is there any chance of a statement next week either from the Foreign Office or--better still--the Crown Office about the statements in the court in Beirut of Youseff Shaban to the effect that he put the bomb on Pan-Am flight 103 which blew up over Lockerbie ? Can he ask what the Government's response is to that statement, which some of us take with a pinch of salt ? Can he also take into account the fact that distinguished Scottish lawyers have said that the whole Crown Office approach to Lockerbie is much too simplistic ?

Mr. Newton : My noble and learned Friend the Lord Advocate is satisfied that the evidence available supports the charges against the two Libyan suspects. He has not seen any evidence relating to involvement in the Lockerbie disaster by Youseff Shaban. We understand from the Lebanese judicial authorities that Mr. Shaban made no confession of responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing prior to his reported outburst in court. Therefore, the situation is--I say this straightforwardly to the hon. Gentleman, acknowledging, if I may, his courtesy--that we are seeking further details of that report. If it proves to be relevant, it will of course be investigated. But it will be for the Crown Office and Dumfries and Galloway police to determine what investigation is necessary.

Mr. Oliver Heald (Hertfordshire, North) : In considering the earlier request for a debate on industrial relations, will my right hon. Friend see whether it is possible to have wording that is wide enough to deal with not only the unnecessary rail strike but unemployment ? This week, we had the good news of another fall in unemployment and the report from Manpower that we have the best employment prospects for four years. All the comments that are constantly being made by Labour Members about full employment suggest that bringing in the social chapter and a minimum statutory wage would be some sort of helpful approach.

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Mr. Newton : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his suggestion. It is certainly very striking that, of all the subjects that the Opposition could have chosen for debate on their day next Wednesday, they chose the one that they did. Perhaps it demonstrates even more clearly than before their reluctance to discuss unemployment simply because it is falling and-- perhaps even more strikingly--the unwillingness of anyone whose name has been mentioned in connection with the Labour leadership election to utter a word of condemnation, or almost a word of any kind, about the present rail strike.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington) : May we have a debate on election law in the light of the fact that the election was abused in the west country when a Literal Democrat candidate stood ? Does not that have implications for the Liberal Democrats on this occasion, but also for other political parties ? Surely the matter should be sorted out.

Mr. Skinner : It got the hon. Member for Ross, Cromarty and Skye (Mr. Kennedy) £2,500.

Mr. Newton : It is fairly rare that the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) is helpful to me, but I shall express my gratitude, take his good will and sit down again.

Mr. Simon Burns (Chelmsford) : Given that it is a well-known fact that the Liberal Democrats are all things to all people, can my right hon. Friend confirm that the debate on Monday will be a very wide-ranging one on parliamentary procedures ? Will it include the procedures for being elected to Parliament, so that we can look into the problems when someone such as Mr. Alec Kellaway changes party on the eve of a poll ? Perhaps it could also give members of the Liberal Democrat party the opportunity to explain their position to the House, as there are rumours that one of them is possibly considering joining Mr. Kellaway in the Labour party.

Mr. Newton : I am beginning to think that there might be a range of interesting issues to be discussed, were I able to make time available. Perhaps that will be of some comfort to the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours), whose question I did not mean to be quite so dismissive with. It was just that I was left virtually open-mouthed by the friendliness from below the Gangway.

Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East) : The business that the House wishes to discuss and complete before the recess more than any other is the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill. Time after time, the House has made its opinion clear through a number of different avenues. If Members cannot decide that we will control our business through this House, where are we at ? What is stopping us from doing what we want ? The Leader of the House should respond to the feeling expressed by masses of hon. Members and should give us the chance to vote through the matter, one way or the other.

Mr. Newton : As I have said on a number of occasions, the House controls the time available for proceedings in such matters and did so through the Sessional Orders that it passed last autumn, at the beginning of the Session. For my part, the appropriate course is for the Government to concentrate, as they are doing very firmly, on introducing what they believe to be practical and workable proposals

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--unlike those in the Bill--to achieve the aim that we all share, which is to advance further the rights of disabled people.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North) : May we have a debate next week on the RMT strike last Wednesday and the possibility of another next Wednesday and more to follow, bearing in mind the intense suffering that the strike meant for my constituents, including children who needed to travel by train to take public examinations, whose future depended on their performance that day and about whom the Labour party and others do not seem to care at all ?

Mr. Newton : While I cannot undertake to provide time for a debate, I certainly endorse my hon. Friend's remarks about the inconvenience, indeed hardship, caused to many people. In my judgment, like that of all Conservative Members and, probably, privately of many Opposition Members, it is extremely irresponsible of the unions to undertake a series of strikes about an 11 per cent. pay claim.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) : Reverting to what the right hon. Gentleman said earlier regarding the summer recess, is he aware that Opposition Members are increasingly concerned that we are drifting almost to a part-time House of Commons, with more recesses--not holidays--than are really necessary ? We believe that Parliament, or the House of Commons certainly, should remain a full-time place and I would deplore a three- month break. If the right hon. Gentleman is a victim of the reshuffle, will he pass the message on to his successor ?

Mr. Newton : I will readily receive the message directed to myself. If what I said earlier was not clear, I shall say that some of the suggestions that I have seen in newspapers about the early date of the recess are far-fetched indeed, and I hope that nobody has booked tickets on the basis of them.

Mr. Rod Richards (Clwyd, North-West) : Will my right hon. Friend find time for a wide-ranging debate on the economy so that the three contenders in the Opposition's jumble sale can tell the House what minimum wage rate is consistent with their concepts of full employment ?

Mr. Newton : I should be happy to see whether I could find time for such a debate. The hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Brown) is urging me to find time for a wide-ranging debate on the economy, which we will certainly seek to do. There are a number of questions, alongside the one that my hon. Friend has asked, which we should like to see answered-- not least, which of the Government's trade union reforms they would reverse, whether they would ever oppose any strike and what they have to say about the current rail strike.

Mr. Peter Hain (Neath) : In view of the briefing from 10 Downing street at the weekend, contradicting the President of the Board of Trade's statement to the House on the Post Office privatisation, could the Leader of the House find time for an early debate on the matter so that we can clarify the Government's policy ? We could also take the opportunity to condemn the statements and the behaviour of the chief executive of the Post Office, a public servant who has openly adopted a political stance favouring the privatisation of the Post Office in conspiracy with the President of the Board of Trade, possibly against the Prime Minister.

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Mr. Newton : We shall be publishing the Green Paper as soon as we can, and the hon. Gentleman might wish to hold his fire until then.

Mr. Jacques Arnold (Gravesham) : May we have a debate next week on the important subject of literal democracy ? During that debate, we could consider the personal impact made on the people of Devon and East Plymouth in the European elections by the Liberal Democrat candidate, Mr.-- [Interruption.] -- he obviously did not make an impact on Liberal Democrat Members here either. We are told by the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Taylor) that if people in that European constituency wished to identify the Liberal Democrat candidate, they had to crawl all over the small print on the ballot paper.

Mr. Newton : I shall take that as another interesting suggestion for the debate sought by the hon. Member for Workington.

Mr. Eddie Loyden (Liverpool, Garston) : Could the Leader of the House arrange next week for the Prime Minister to respond to early-day motion 1287 ? [ That this House applauds the efforts of the Rail and Marine Workers Union and the International Transport Workers Federation for financing and undertaking a marine search for the MV Derbyshire' that sank in the China Sea with the loss of all her crew ; and wishes them every success in their endeavours that will be welcomed by seafarers worldwide, and in particular the bereaved families of the MV Derbyshire's crew who have waited for far too long for a reopening of the inquiry into the tragic loss of the Derbyshire' that casts serious doubts on the safety and seaworthiness of this type of bulk carrier. ]

That motion and early-day motions 1310 and 1317 refer to the MV Derbyshire and the recent events concerning the sinking of the vessel. They propose that the House address the question not only of the Derbyshire, but of bulk carriers in general.

Will the Leader of the House ask his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport to state next week that he supports the view that the Derbyshire families are entitled at this stage to an inquiry and to demand that the Government should now take responsibility for furthering the investigation to establish the cause of the loss of that vessel and its 44 crew ?

Mr. Newton : As I am sure the hon. Gentleman will understand, the Government share the sympathy which he has expressed to the families of those lost on the Derbyshire, and we understand the renewed concern following the discovery of the wreck. The chief inspector of marine accidents will advise my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport in due course whether there is any justification to reopen the investigation.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster) : Can my right hon. Friend find time next week for a debate on Members' interests so that the practice of Liberal Democrat Members of using private polls for personal gain can be thoroughly examined ? Would not that also give us an opportunity to recall that the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) spoke for three hours one Friday morning, thus talking out Enoch Powell's abortion Bill ?

Mr. Newton : My hon. Friend will be aware that the Select Committee on the Register of Members' Interests, as shown in today's Votes and Proceedings, has agreed a report. I cannot yet be sure whether that will require a debate, but I will bear it in mind.

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Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East) : According to news reports this morning, President Clinton has praised the city of Houston in Texas for its recent record in reducing crime. That city has encouraged householders to arm themselves and shoot strangers who approach their houses, and an innocent British citizen, Andrew de Vries, was recently gunned down by a householder in Houston. May we, therefore, have an early statement from the Foreign Office about the advice that it is issuing to British citizens who go to Houston and, more important, about the assistance that it will provide to British citizens who, tragically, fall foul of a gun law under which people shoot first and ask questions later ?

Mr. Newton : I will certainly bring that question to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.

Mr. Michael Bates (Langbaurgh) : Has the Labour party approached my right hon. Friend to use one of its Opposition supply days to debate early- day motion 457 ? [ That this House, noting the grossly unfair distribution of wealth in Britain under capitalism and the widening gap between rich and poor that has taken place over the last 15 years and recalling that the present Budget deficit is entirely attributable to tax reductions given to the richest taxpayers, and the cost of unemployment that was deliberately created, is convinced that the burden of military expenditure is far higher than can be justified and that other Government policies have been wasteful and inefficient ; believes that the imposition of higher levels of VAT and its extension to fuel imposes a heavy burden on those least able to pay, as do other increases in taxation imposed in the recent Budget ; rejects arguments that all reductions in taxation are necessarily desirable regardless of the purpose for which the tax is raised and the social consequences that would follow ; affirms that the recovery of full employment, planned defence diversification, the rebuilding of our infrastructure, the extension of essential public services and the regeneration of British industry will require massive public investment, the harnessing of the nation's savings and taxation fairly shared and assessed on the ability to pay ; and calls for a clear socialist commitment to be made now, about future economic, fiscal, industrial and social policies to secure these objectives. ]

The motion calls for a clear socialist commitment to massive public spending and has been signed by 50 Labour Members. Should that debate take place, may an opportunity be given to the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) to come to the Dispatch Box and say whether he agrees with that sizeable chunk of Labour's electoral college ?

Mr. Newton : I need hardly say that I have had no such request for a debate ; nor do I expect one. Indeed, on the form of the last few days, even if I were to find time for such a debate, I doubt whether we would get any answers from Opposition Front-Bench Members.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West) : May we have a debate next week on football in this country, not simply because I should like to have a whinge on how Chelsea was robbed blind in the cup final by a strutting pedant from a public school who was purporting to be a referee but so that we could discuss the allocation of cup final tickets, the activity of touts outside Wembley stadium on the day, and the Football Association's decision to impose some horrendous penalties on Tottenham Hotspur ? Those matters need to be discussed in the House because our constituents are discussing them outside.

Mr. Newton : I understand the hon. Gentleman's unhappiness about the outcome of the cup final. There may be one or two hon. Members from Manchester here. I had better not express my view-- [Interruption.] I shall be

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cautious about getting involved in the matter between Chelsea and Manchester. It was an interesting game. The hon. Gentleman's last point is a matter for the Football Association and, again, the Government would not wish to get involved in it.

Mr. Cynog Dafis (Ceredigion and Pembroke, North) : May we have a debate on the serious issue of the import of Brazilian mahogany into Britain, given the serious damage done to both the ecology and the lives of indigenous people by the extraction of that mahogany ? Although most of the imports of mahogany are illegal, the authorities here have failed to investigate the matter or take legal action.

Mr. Newton : As the hon. Gentleman is alleging a failure properly to enforce the law on imports into this country--in this case, of certain forms of timber--my right course is to draw the matter to the attention of the relevant enforcement authorities.

Points of Order

4.2 pm

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) : On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I wonder whether you would consider helping the Scots. As you know, every third Monday, the Attorney-General answers questions in the House. Alas, the Lord Advocate representing the Crown Office has no opportunity to do so.

I understand that the Chair is involved in discussions about how the Lord Advocate can report directly to the House of Commons. This afternoon, we had an example of that when I asked the Leader of the House a question about Lockerbie, which, after all, was the biggest crime against civilians in the western world since 1945. The Lord Advocate has been making dismissive statements about a proper investigation of extraordinary statements that have been made in middle east courts. I do not know whether those statements are valid, but some of us want to know what the Government intend to do to ascertain whether what is going on in the Beirut courts, with individuals claiming responsibility for the crime, will be properly investigated. The only way in which we could do that is to ask the Lord Advocate questions either upstairs in some Scottish Grand Committee procedure or if he could come to some other Committee established by Parliament.

As I understand it, there are discussions taking place, but they have been going on for some time on that matter and I wondered whether they were going to be brought to a head.

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