Home Page

Column 451

Business of the House

3.30 pm

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

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

Monday 11 July----Second Reading of the European Union (Accessions) Bill.

Motion relating to Scottish Standing Orders.

Tuesday 12 July----Opposition Day (18th allotted day) There will be a debate on "The Case for a Public Post Office" on an Opposition motion.

Debate on Procedure Committee reports and Catering Committee reports.

Wednesday 13 July----Committee and remaining stages of the European Union (Accessions) Bill.

Debate on resolutions on Members' allowances and Members' interests.

Thursday 14 July----Motion on the Fishing Vessels (Decommissioning) Scheme.

The Chairman of Ways and Means has named opposed private business for consideration at Seven o'clock.

Friday 15 July----Private Members' Bills.

Monday 18 July----Debate on the economy on a Government motion. Motion on the Railways Pensions (Transfer and Miscellaneous Provisions) order.

At Ten o'clock, the House will be asked to agree the estimates and supplementary estimates for 1994-95. The House may also be asked to consider any Lords messages which may be received.

The House will also wish to know that European Standing Committee B will meet at 10.30 am to consider European Community documents as follows : Tuesday 12 July--document No. 11141/93 relating to consumer disputes. Wednesday 13 July--document No. 7390/92 relating to the development of the single market for postal services, and document No. 7133/93 relating to postal services.

[Tuesday 12 July :

European Standing Committee B--European Community document : 11141/93, Consumer Disputes. Relevant European Legislation Committee Report : HC 48- vi (1993-94), HC 48-xiv (1992-93), HC 48-xv (1993-94), HC 48-xxi (1993-94), HC 48-xxii (1993-94) and HC 48-xxiv (1993-94). Debate on Procedure Committee Reports and Catering Committee Reports. Relevant Documents : The Procedure Committee Reports entitled "Printing of Private Members' Bills ; Presentation of Private Members' Bills ; and Timing of Divisions" (HC 880). The Catering Committee Reports entitled "Refreshment Provision for Line of Route Visitors" (HC 307) and "Refreshment Services for the House of Commons" (HC 75).

Wednesday 13 July :

European Standing Committee B--European Community documents : a) 7390/92 Postal Services, b) 7133/93 Postal Services. Relevant European Legislation Committee Reports : a) HC 79-vi (1992-93), HC 79-xxxvii (1992-93) b) HC 79- xxxvii (1992-93).

Column 452

Debate on Resolutions on Members' Allowances and Members' Interests. Relevant Documents : The Report of Select Committee on Members' Interests entitled "Registration of Lloyd's Syndicates" (HC 353).

Monday 18 July :

Debate on the Economy. Relevant Document : "Summer Economic Forecast 1994".]

I was going to conclude by thanking the many hon. Members who have taken the trouble to keep me abreast of their family diaries for the forthcoming weeks and ask them to accept, by way of collective response, the announcement that it may be for the convenience of the House to know that, subject to the progress of business, it will be proposed that the House should rise for the summer Adjournment on Thursday 21 July until Monday 17 October.

Mr. Brown : I thank the Leader of the House for his statement, for the Opposition days, for finally telling us the date of the summer recess and, indeed, for granting us the summer economic debate, which I understand is intended to become a permanent part of the parliamentary calendar. [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker : Order. May I have the attention of the House ? I ask hon. Members to leave quickly and quietly.

Mr. Brown : I am sorry that deep divisions on the Conservative side over Europe have necessitated the last-minute rearrangement of business and important House of Commons matters having to be debated after Ten o'clock. I had hoped that in the new and more enlightened era which we hope the House is travelling towards, it would not be necessary to take business of that sort after Ten o'clock. Can the Leader of the House respond to that point ?

Will the Leader of the House arrange for the House to have an opportunity to discuss the Consumers Association report on the post-privatisation profiteering of the water industry ? In such a debate, we could discuss the massive salary gains that chief executives have made in the water industry and their share option schemes.

Lastly, will the Leader of the House arrange before the recess for a debate in Government time on the national health service, in particular on the role of medical advice in deciding whether frail, elderly patients are to be discharged from hospital ? If it is the Government's view that those decisions should not be taken on a medical basis, but that other opinions should prevail, perhaps he could arrange for the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, rather than the Secretary of State for Health, to reply to the debate.

Mr. Newton : Apart from the initial thanks, which I accept with gratitude, that was a pretty mischievous set of questions, to which largely I need make no substantial response. Manifestly, I am not in a position to promise a great range of further debates, as I have just announced the date of the summer recess to, I gather, some enthusiasm on both sides of the House.

I can confirm that the summer economic debate that I have announced for Monday week is intended to be a precursor of a regular debate at about this time in future years, following the move to the unified Budget. While House of Commons matters such as those to which the hon. Gentleman referred have usually been debated late at

Column 453

night, we should all like to move to a different position. That, of course, is the purpose of the discussions that he and I are having. We have made a great deal of progress towards the Jopling objectives in practice in recent months, but we shall not be able to achieve perfection until the hon. Gentleman and I can reach agreement.

Mr. William Cash (Stafford) : Will my right hon. Friend accept congratulations from Conservative Members who were worried that we might have been bounced into one day on the accession treaty for enlargement ?

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South) : Speak for yourself.

Mr. Cash : I certainly will speak for myself, and for many others. We believe that it is an important step forward that we can have a proper discussion on this important matter. After all, originally the European Parliament was merely to be in association with the proposals for enlargement. Now it is to be in participation.

Mr. Newton : Unaccustomed as I am to congratulations from that quarter, I accept them with gratitude. It was certainly never the intention to bounce anyone into anything. I hope that we have shown that, just as we always respond to representations through the usual channels, we are also capable of responding to representations through unusual channels.

Sir David Steel (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale) : The Leader of the House knows, of course, that the Foreign Secretary has been in Geneva attempting to assist with others the securing of a peace plan for Bosnia. He also knows that the carnage continues and the refugee problems are growing in Rwanda. Will he assure the House that there will be an opportunity for the Foreign Secretary to report to the House on those matters before we rise for the summer recess so that we can press him on what has happened to the proposal for a rapid deployment force made to the Security Council by the

Secretary-General of the United Nations some time ago ? Such a force could have greatly helped, at any rate in the case of Rwanda.

Mr. Newton : I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will acknowledge that I have several times assured the House that if there were clearly a case for a statement to be made on developments in such matters, I would seek to arrange it. While I can give no undertakings at this moment, partly because I am not sure that at this moment there is a case for such a statement, my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary will be here to answer questions next Wednesday.

Dr. John G. Blackburn (Dudley, West) : Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to pay a warm and generous tribute to the outstanding work of the Select Committee on National Heritage, particularly for its report on the BBC ? Will he give an assurance to the House that the White Paper on the BBC will be the subject of a full debate in the future ?

Mr. Newton : I am sure that I would want to consider the request for a debate on the White Paper in due course at some appropriate time. I cannot give any undertaking at this moment and I certainly cannot do so before the recess. However, I note my hon. Friend's other remarks and I have

Column 454

also noted the tribute paid by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage to the Select Committee in his remarks yesterday afternoon.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) : Will the Leader of the House reconsider his statement ? Now that there will be 88 days in which Parliament will not be in session, as a result of his announcement on the recess, will he take into account the fact that it is inconceivable, and would not be understood by people outside, especially the disabled, that there will not be the time to debate the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill and allow it to reach its final stages ? There are 6.5 million disabled people out there--people who believe that they have every right to the same justice and opportunities as other individuals in society. Surely it is possible to find one extra day. Cut that recess from 88 days to 87 and let us give those people a chance like everyone else.

Mr. Newton : There are two points really. First, as I have said on a number of occasions, the time available for private Members' Bills is determined by the House, under an order passed at the beginning of the Session. There is a further day for private Members' Bills, which I announced--Friday 15 July.

More important, I remind the hon. Gentleman that my right hon. Friend-- indeed, many of my right hon. Friends, including myself--are working vigorously towards a substantial statement of the proposals that the Government think workable and practicable to advance the interests of disabled people in a number of areas.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South) : Does my right hon. Friend expect the House to complete consideration of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill before, or after, the recess ?

Mr. Newton : I would not wish to encourage expectation that we shall be able to complete consideration of that Bill, which is still in another place, before the recess.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington) : The Leader of the House will know that in recent years, following reshuffles, some Ministers have taken senior positions on the boards of companies that were set up following the implementation of privatisation plans by their Departments. Can he give an assurance at the Dispatch Box next week that, when the next reshuffle takes place, no Minister who is in the Government will be allowed --for the rest of the life of this Parliament--to sit on the board of a company that he or she has been responsible for privatising during this Parliament ?

Mr. Newton : I am obviously not going to get involved in any of the speculation underlying the hon. Gentleman's remarks. As to his question, I can safely assure him that all my colleagues--Ministers or otherwise--will always act in accordance with the guidance to Ministers and, indeed, considerations of general propriety.

Mr. Peter Luff (Worcester) : Will my right hon. Friend find time for a debate before we rise for the recess on the Christian values underpinning British society ? Does he agree that such a debate would provide an opportunity to demonstrate to the Bishop of Birmingham the fact that increasing the resources and efficiency of the health service, and the number of patients treated by it, is a

Column 455

profoundly Christian approach to that service, and contrasts sadly with the financial affairs of--and the numbers using--the Church of England ?

Mr. Newton : Being ex officio a Church Commissioner, I had better be cautious about venturing into the latter part of the question. On the first part, yes, I certainly see our achievements in the health service, including those demonstrated by the figures that my right hon. Friend used at Prime Minister's Question Time, as illustrating a very caring approach, which is improving the amount of care that we offer through that service.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) : Should not there be a statement next week on the cross-ownership of the media ? Do the Government think it right that Mr. Murdoch's pots of gold--acquired from television and in other ways --should be used to subsidise The Times and pose a threat to The Independent and The Daily Telegraph ? Are the Government at least concerned that the quality press in this country may be in a very different position in 90 days or so ? Ought there not to be an urgent statement on the Government's attitude to allowing a situation to develop in which Mr. Murdoch might have to choose between having television or broadsheet quality newspapers, which is the position in the United States ?

Mr. Newton : Not for the first time, the hon. Gentleman raises an important and controversial subject, on which he would not expect me to make a statement now. The matter is fairly and squarely in the territory of the Secretary of State for National Heritage. As it happens, my right hon. Friend was here yesterday on matters not totally distant from those raised by the hon. Gentleman, and he will be here to answer questions on Monday.

Mr. Paul Channon (Southend, West) : Is my right hon. Friend aware of the outdated and ridiculous rule that Select Committees cannot travel during prorogation ? Does he accept that, while the rule still exists, it is extremely difficult for Select Committees to plan any proposed travel ? While I know that he will not want to tell us the date of prorogation, may we at least be told when the Queen's Speech and the opening of Parliament will be announced, as that must be decided many months in advance ?

Mr. Newton : I am not in a position either to give the date of prorogation or the date of the Queen's Speech at the moment. My right hon. Friend's is the second representation which I have received about the position of Select Committees during the period between the two, and I am looking into the matter to see whether there is anything that I can do to help.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan) : Does the Leader of the House consider that, a year or so after the "Taking Stock" announcement and with the Conservative party getting anything between 2 and 12 per cent. in Scottish elections, the minor procedural measures that are to be debated on Monday have been overtaken by events ? Does he really consider that, with the Rosyth naval base set for closure, tinkering with the Scottish Grand Committee will save Tory skins in Scotland ?

Mr. Newton : I do not in any way think that the proposals for changes in the Scottish Standing Orders,

Column 456

which will be debated on Monday, have been overtaken by developments of any kind. They are a sensible improvement of the procedures of the House in relation to Scottish business, and I hope that the House will endorse them accordingly.

Sir Roger Moate (Faversham) : Can my right hon. Friend find a way during business next week for the House to consider early-day motion 1411 ?

[ That this House recognises the importance of the fullest co-operation with the United States of America in matters of extradition ; is concerned however that in the case of Sally Croft and Susan Hagan, the offence for which they have been charged is supposed to have taken place in Oregon in 1985, five years before the US Justice Department commenced proceedings in 1990 ; is further concerned that the supposed evidence was obtained entirely through plea-bargaining and is unreliable in a number of other respects ; recognises that there are other exceptional features of this case ; and therefore calls upon the present Home Secretary, in the interests of justice, to re-examine the case with a view to exercising his discretion to prevent the extradition of these two British subjects. ]

The motion stands in my name and the names of 71 other hon. Members from both sides of the House. It concerns the imminent extradition of two British subjects to face rather bizarre charges in the United States.

If time cannot be found to debate the matter, will my right hon. Friend find some way of drawing it to the attention of the Home Secretary ? After all, it is a matter of political judgment and discretion, and the concerns are shared on both sides of the House. Will my right hon. Friend to try to get the Home Secretary to re-examine the case, so that the two ladies are not extradited before the House has had time to consider the full implications ?

Mr. Newton : I can safely assure my hon. Friend that my right hon. and learned Friend is well aware of the points that he and others have made. I understand that the cases are the subject of further judicial review proceedings which are due to be heard on 26 July. My hon. Friend will understand that I certainly cannot comment further.

Mr. Dennis Canavan (Falkirk, West) : Now that another reshuffle of Ministers seems to be on the way, may we have a statement next week about the latest reshuffle of ex-Ministers ? Michael Fallon and Francis Maude have been appointed to the deregulation task force along with an administrator of the trust of the Sainsbury family, one of whose members is a Minister at the Department of Trade and Industry. Is not it absolutely deplorable that Ministers should use or abuse their patronage powers to set up a job creation scheme for their pals and former ministerial colleagues who were kicked out by the electorate at the general election ?

Mr. Newton : I see nothing improper or in any way wrong in using the experience of people who, as it happens in this case, have been colleagues in the House and to make use of their experience to advance a sensible policy.

Mr. James Pawsey (Rugby and Kenilworth) : My right hon. Friend will have noticed the considerable interest displayed during Prime Minister's Question Time on the report submitted by the health service ombudsman. Given that great interest, will my right hon. Friend therefore

Column 457

consider having an early debate to discuss the reports of the Health Service Commissioner and the Parliamentary Commissioner ?

Mr. Newton : I am conscious of my hon. Friend's role as Chairman of the Select Committee, and of his concern that there should be a debate. In the light of the exchanges during Prime Minister's Question Time, I perhaps have some further encouragement in that direction, but I am afraid that I cannot at this stage give an undertaking.

Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West) : Will the right hon. Gentleman please assure the House that if the rail dispute is not settled before the House rises, we will have an opportunity to discuss the principles involved ? On Tuesday, the chairman of Railtrack told the Employment Select Committee not only that the Government are 100 per cent. shareholders in Railtrack, but that the Secretary of State for Transport sets the parameters within which he must negotiate. In those circumstances, should the Secretary of State for Transport come not merely to the Employment Select Committee, as he will do next week, but to the House and answer to the entire country for the way in which the Government have caused the mishandling of this issue ?

Mr. Newton : First, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport is frequently in the House. Secondly, I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will consider how far it is right to use his position as Chairman of the Select Committee in relation to this kind of controversy when negotiations are going on.

Mr. Bob Dunn (Dartford) : May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day motion 1442, which is in the names of my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South-West (Mr. Butcher) and others, including myself ?

[ That this House notes with sadness the failure of the Church of England in Birmingham to attract more than two per cent. of the city's population to its churches on a Sunday and that the management of the Birmingham Diocese has failed to reverse the decline of the church in Birmingham inner city ; regrets that the church has been marginalised at a time when its influence in spiritual and moral matters is sorely needed ; and concludes that the Bishop of Birmingham's authority to speak out on public issues would be greatly enhanced if, instead of supervising decline, he was able to demonstrate that by saving more souls and filling more churches he had restored the Anglican Church in Birmingham to its rightful place as a leading influence in the day-to-day lives of the citizens of Birmingham. ]

Would it be possible to have an urgent debate on this matter in the House soon, so that we can advise the Bishop of Birmingham on how best to be a bishop and to leave politics to people like us, who are elected to talk on the subject ?

Mr. Newton : One of my hon. Friends has already referred to the bishop's remarks and I made some comment on that. Beyond that, as I have said on a number of earlier occasions, I would not wish to get involved too much in ecclesiastical affairs.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) : If we are to break up in the week mentioned by the Leader of the House, why are we not breaking up on 22 July, so that at least on 21 July we could have Question Time and Prime

Column 458

Minister's Question Time ? Is not it a fact that the Government are in such a sorry position that they simply do not want the newly elected Leader of the Opposition to be in a position to put questions ? [Interruption.] No matter how much Tory Members heckle now, the public know how fearful the Government are of a newly elected Leader of the Opposition.

Mr. Newton : In view of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's complete dominance at Question Time, I can only say that if the hon. Gentleman believes that, he will believe anything.

Mr. David Sumberg (Bury, South) : May we have a debate next week on the workings of the legal aid system so that I can highlight the fact that a number of my constituents are having to pay a great deal of money back to the Legal Aid Board, while someone who is not even a British citizen is collecting more than £4 million to assist his case ?

Mr. Newton : As it happens, I was asked a question about that, as my hon. Friend may recall, when I was answering for my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on Tuesday. I undertook to bring those concerns to the attention, once again, of my right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor and that is being done.

Mr. Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield) : Will the Leader of the House find time next week for a debate on lack of accountability in the water industry ? Does he agree that the need for such a debate was emphasised this week by the revelation that a prominent Conservative party supporter and former chair of Severn Trent Water has just received a pay- off of £500,000 ? Does he agree that that is a matter of legitimate public concern, particularly when pensioners and low-income families find it so difficult to pay their water bills ? Does he agree that we urgently need a debate on the lack of accountability in our water industry ?

Mr. Newton : The hon. Gentleman will be aware that pay and other forms of remuneration in the private sector, whether in the water industry or elsewhere, are matters for those companies and their shareholders. It is certainly our view, however, that the shareholders of the water companies should follow the lead that the Government have set for the public sector and exercise restraint in agreeing remuneration in any form for their directors and senior managers.

Mr. James Clappison (Hertsmere) : Is my right hon. Friend aware of the widespread support for an annual summer debate on the economy ? This year, can my right hon. Friend think of an appropriate title for that debate, which might tempt the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) to come to the House to explain his plans for improving the supply side of the economy ? He could also explain how he reconciles those plans with the imposition of a minimum wage, imposition of the social chapter and the imposition of higher taxes on businesses as well as a massive hike in state spending. I can suggest a title that might fit the hon. Gentleman's plans ; how about, " The white heat of technology--mark 2" ?

Mr. Newton : My hon. Friend obviously has a good memory. He also has an irrepressible optimism because I

Column 459

suspect that even if the hon. Member for Sedgefield took part in such a debate, we would get no clearer explanation inside the House than we have had outside it.

Mr. John Spellar (Warley, West) : Will the Leader of the House accept that, given the considerable number of problems still to be discussed, the three months' recess will not be received with universal acclamation in the House or outside ? May I draw his attention to the fact that the wheel clamping consultation was supposed to finish in May last year ? Now it will not have an opportunity to be discussed further until October. Will he get on to the Home Office and try to get some urgency into that Department in order to resolve that disgraceful situation, as it is causing considerable misery around the country ?

Mr. Newton : I will certainly bring to my right hon. and learned Friend's attention the fact that the hon. Gentleman has raised that matter again.

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) : Will my right hon. Friend find time next week to discuss the single market and the impact that it is having on cheap beer imports into the country, which are running at 1 million pints a day ? Last week, I went to Calais with other hon. Members and saw the amount of beer being imported, not just in Transits and ordinary cars but on HGV lorries. It is having a massive impact on the hundreds of thousands of jobs in pubs, clubs and the brewing industry in this country.

Mr. Newton : I believe that it will be within my hon. Friend's knowledge--I remember seeing details of a substantial court case during the week--that Her Majesty's Customs and Excise are vigorously pursuing cases where importation is clearly outside the rules.

Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West) : When can we debate the new guidelines issued by the Charity Commission, which prevent charities from lobbying hon. Members in the traditional way by stopping them writing pro forma letters to us ? While other organisations lobby for less worthy causes and offer hon. Members sumptuous invitations to junkets, Calais and other exotic spots, worthy organisations that support good causes are being restricted in that unfair way.

Mr. Newton : Well, of course I will bring those observations to my right hon. Friend's attention, but it must be recognised that, alongside the advantages of charitable status, there must be rules about what is and is not proper under charitable status.

Dr. Liam Fox (Woodspring) : Can my right hon. Friend find time for a debate on trade union and labour law reform ? Given the transformation of our industrial relations landscape, with the timely reminder of the rail dispute, both sides of the House, particularly Opposition Front-Bench Members, would have a chance to say which part of the horrendous 1970 labour laws they would like to see revisited on the public.

Mr. Newton : I will certainly look for an opportunity to tease those matters out, but it is another area in which, however many questions are asked, we get few answers.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West) : Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Secretary of State to make a

Column 460

statement explaining what remedies local communities have when community health trusts issue consultation documents prior to the establishment of secure units for mental hospital patients, which are deliberately designed to mislead and deceive those local communities about the nature of offenders who will be held in those secure units ?

Mr. Newton : As the hon. Gentleman clearly has a particular case in mind and is effectively making an allegation of a public body "misleading" the public, his appropriate course would be to bring forward the evidence and ask my right hon. Friend to look at it.

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset) : Can my right hon. Friend tell us what the format of business will be on Wednesday 20 July ? He will know that the tall ships race is to leave Weymouth harbour on that day, and many hon. Members with maritime and heritage interests or who just love seeing tall ships would love to be there between 11 am and 3 pm to see that wonderful sight, which is great for tourism, for Britain and, of course, for Dorset, and get back in good time to participate in the business of the House.

Mr. Newton : If, as my hon. Friend said, the race takes place between 11 am and 3 pm, he should at least be able to see the start of it and get back in time.

Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) : Will my right hon. Friend look seriously at the timetable for the House and consider having a debate on the space industry ? There has not been a debate in the House on the UK space industry since February 1988 ; nor has there been a debate since the European Space Agency ministerial meeting last year, which made important decisions on space. As the European Space Agency will be present at Farnborough this year--the first time for 15 years--the matter needs to be discussed in the House because our UK industries believe that our levels of funding are falling below those necessary to make our industries successful and competitive.

Mr. Newton : Perhaps I may take this opportunity once again to recognise the excellent interest that my hon. Friend takes in those matters, which are perhaps not always as widely discussed as we should like. That said, I cannot promise a debate, but I could perhaps encourage her to seek to be fortunate, for example, Madam Speaker, as regards your choices about the Adjournment debates that will preface the recess.

Next Section

  Home Page