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I cannot hold out the prospect of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security making a further statement on the Child Support Agency before the break. Only a little over a week ago, we had a debate in which my right hon. Friend made a substantial speech.
As for announcements, there is no plot to hold things back. As one discovers in Government, timing can always slip, but we are planning to make one or two announcements before the recess, in a sensible and orderly way.
The hon. Gentleman will have heard what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said on air pollution and associated matters at Prime Minister's questions, although I acknowledge that he did not touch on the Bill. I would not wish to hold out any prospect of us trying to pass the paving Bill on the environment protection agency before the summer recess. We are looking carefully at that subject, as we are making such good progress on the main Bill.
Sir Peter Emery (Honiton) : Does my right hon. Friend realise that the Select Committee on Procedure is pressing forward with consideration of Prime Minister's questions, about which there has been quite a lot of publicity ? I thank my right hon. Friend for the evidence that he sent to us. Will he press other hon. Members on their ideas as, although there has been a great deal of heat, the Committee has received little other evidence of how we can improve the situation ?
Mr. Newton : I am not sure now whether I should upset you, Madam Speaker, by saying something or upset my right hon. Friend by saying nothing. I am sure that those present in the Chamber will have noted your remarks, and those of my right hon. Friend.
Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) : Does the Leader of the House accept that one statement that needs to be made before we rise for the recess is the long-awaited announcement on the future of the Forestry Commission ? Does he agree that those who work in forests or are economically dependent on them, and those who enjoy public access to them during the summer holidays, need to know that the commission's future and its work will be secure ?
Mr. Newton : I shall just say delicately that there is an inter- relationship between that question and my reply to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Brown) about possibilities before the recess.
Mr. David Nicholson (Taunton) : I believe that a Green Paper has been published this afternoon about the future of the dental service and charging for it. My right hon. Friend will be aware that there is great interest and concern about the subject, about which there has long been dispute in our constituencies. We have been waiting for a long time for the Government to make up their mind about the Bloomfield report. Will there be an opportunity to debate that important subject next week ?
Mr. Newton : There will a number of opportunities to raise various topics next week, but I cannot promise a dedicated debate. My recollection is that my hon. Friend is an assiduous attender of the recess Adjournment debates, so I think that I can predict one topic that may come up. The document published today is a consultative document and a Green Paper, and the views of hon. Members and others will be welcome.
Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe) : We have just been discussing the concerns of the service people of today ; but what about the boys of the old brigade, their widows and other dependants ? The right hon. Gentleman will know from its organisations in Essex that the ex-service community is impatient for full implementation of the resolution approved by the House on 1 July about its problems and needs. May we have an oral statement next week about the steps the Government are taking to give full effect to that important resolution ?
Mr. Newton : I was present that day and the right hon. Gentleman is right in thinking that I have had representations from my constituents--I discussed the subject with one of them only last weekend. I do not think that I can promise a statement or add to what my hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence Procurement said at the time.
Mr. Jonathan Evans (Brecon and Radnor) : Can my right hon. Friend confirm that his statement in relation to forthcoming business in October effectively means that my constituents, who have been waiting for the legislation contained in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill,
Column 1194will not see it enacted during the summer and will therefore have to suffer the activities of new age travellers, summer raves and juvenile crime--all of which the measure was directed towards ? If that is the case, will my right hon. Friend, through the usual channels, convey to those in the other place the concern of my constituents about the effect of the amendments passed this week ?
Mr. Newton : I must confirm that my statement means that I do not anticipate the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill becoming law before the summer recess. I understand my hon. Friend's concern, and I shall certainly see that a message along the lines that he has set out is sent on his behalf. I would add that it is the usual--although not the invariable-- practice for legislation to come into force only some months after it is enacted, to allow time for preparation, so I am not sure that the effect will be quite as dramatic as my hon. Friend suggests.
Ms Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate) : Is the Leader of the House aware that the chief executive of the Royal Free hospital trust in my constituency has stated that, from September this year, patients with GPs in one geographic area of my
constituency--Highgate--will no longer be accepted for treatment at that hospital as a result of Government cuts of £30 million in the district health authority's budget ? As that action totally refutes the Government's oft-stated claim that the NHS reforms are working, not least in treating more patients, if the right hon. Gentleman cannot find time to debate the issue next week, will he at least find time to ask the Secretary of State for Health to come to the House to deliver a statement ?
Mr. Newton : This is probably the second or third time that the hon. Lady has raised that point--I have certainly heard it once before. As I cannot promise a statement, the right course for me to follow is to make sure that her remarks are drawn quickly and specifically to my right hon. Friend's attention.
Mr. James Clappison (Hertsmere) : I support the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Evans) and invite my right hon. Friend to consider whether it would be possible to save some of the time being set aside in October for consideration of Lords amendments by expressing to the other place the full force of our constituents' concerns about the mischiefs that the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill would remedy ? Perhaps their Lordships, who do not always have the chance to consider the full force of our constituents' feelings, should bear in mind the extent of the latter's anxieties and their wish to support the good work being done by the police, whose success in reducing crime can only be enhanced by the necessary provisions of the Bill.
Mr. Newton : I have said that I very much understand the concerns of colleagues on both sides of the House who have experience of the problem, and the importance of tackling it. I shall, of course, add my hon. Friend's representations to those made a moment ago by my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Evans).
Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East) : The business for next week is obviously affected by the coming three-month recess. Is not a Member without a Parliament rather like a consultant without a hospital, a naval base without ships, or a miner without a pit--redundant ?
Mr. Newton : I rather think that constituencies--not just Parliament, which is certainly an important part of a Member's work--come into this point as well. The hon. Gentleman has had a running difference of opinion with me and the vast majority of hon. Members about that matter. A balance must be struck between people's ability to spend time in their constituencies and their ability to spend time here. We shall have to agree to differ about the length of the recess.
Dr. Liam Fox (Woodspring) : Will my right hon. Friend arrange time for a debate on heart disease in the United Kingdom, given last week's report which shows our relatively poor national performance, particularly the rising prevalence of smoking among women ? It would be nice if hon. Members on both sides could use our parliamentary time and our media coverage to send out a positive message to the whole of society.
Mr. Newton : I share my hon. Friend's view of the importance of the problem and the message. Even so, I am afraid that I cannot find time for a debate next week--although my hon. Friend might find a crevice in one of the debates that we are holding.
[ That this House deplores the failure of Railtrack over many weeks to respond to approaches from Gorton residents and from the Right honourable Member for Manchester, Gorton, regarding the need to provide safety fencing adjacent to Abbey Hey Amateur Football Ground and to secure the sub-station at Vine Street ; notes that the failure of Railtrack to make any satisfactory response to such approaches, let alone to carry out urgently the required work, could place in jeopardy the lives of children and other local residents ; is concerned to note this lack of concern about such safety issues displayed by this new and unaccountable organisation ; and calls on Railtrack, instead of sending out wasteful and silly propaganda folders to honourable Members, to take speedy action to deal with what are, literally, vital matters. ]
It seeks to ban bull bars, which research has shown have almost certainly led to 34 avoidable deaths--mostly of children--in collisions. Is it not disturbing that the Transport Research Laboratory has said that it cannot carry out any more research on the subject because it does not have a sponsor ? Is it not a reflection on what is unprivatisable in our society when an organisation such as the Transport Research Laboratory cannot fund such research, because no one has a vested financial interest in child safety ?
Mr. Newton : I am afraid that my total recall of nearly 1,500 early- day motions has broken down on this occasion-- [Interruption.] There seems to be a view that the hon. Gentleman may have given us the wrong number for the EDM. I shall take refuge in saying that I shall examine his words and consider what action I might take.
Mr. Oliver Heald (Hertfordshire, North) : Will my right hon. Friend find time for an urgent debate next week on the rail dispute, which is continuing to cause concern to my constituents ? That would give Conservative Members a chance to criticise a pay demand that is four times the rate of inflation and give Opposition Members, especially those
Column 1196sponsored by the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, the opportunity to explain why a restructuring package that could deliver 22 per cent. increases in basic pay is not even being discussed.
Mr. Newton : That is helpful, Madam Speaker, but as my hon. Friend says, he is concerned precisely because the situation this week is the same. There is still a strike in pursuit of an 11 per cent. pay rise with no productivity or restructuring. Those pursuing it should reconsider.
Even without a debate, there is, as it happens, an opportunity to consider the matter on Monday, because my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport is due to be here to answer questions.
[ That this House condemns the Right honourable Member for Copeland for stating during the second reading of the European Union (Accessions) Bill that he had shown constant support for the European Union', Official Report, column 700, and that whilst the Labour Party had changed on Europe his position had never changed ; and notes that in October 1971 he voted against the principle of Britain's entry to the EEC when 69 of his honourable Friends, including the late John Smith, defied the Labour whip and voted in favour, that in February 1972 he voted against the European Communities Bill and that in April 1986 he voted against the Single European Act, along with the honourable Member for Sedgefield. ] It highlights the extraordinary statement by the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), made in the House this week, that he had never changed his mind on Europe. A debate would give us the opportunity to remind the House that the right hon. Gentleman voted against the European Community in 1971 and 1972, and voted against the Single European Act in 1986, yet now wants to persuade the House that European monetary union and the surrender of the British veto in Europe represent a sensible and consistent policy.
Mr. Newton : My total recall system has now recovered, and has put into my mind the fact that, on top of what my hon. Friend says, the right hon. Gentleman presumably stood on the Labour manifesto for the 1983 general election, which stated :
"British withdrawal from the Community is the right policy for Britain--to be completed within the lifetime of the parliament".
Mr. Jacques Arnold (Gravesham) : May we have an urgent debate on the plight of rail commuters ? The situation is not the same as last week's since, thanks to the selfishness of the union, long-suffering commuters will face two days a week of disruption in pursuit of an 11 per cent. no- strings-attached pay claim--this to be financed by commuting constituents whose commuting costs have already risen by 6 per cent. Those constituents have noted the decisive decision to make no comment on the dispute affecting them by the three contenders for the Labour party leadership.
Mr. Newton : I hope that the public have duly noted my hon. Friend's last point. I share his view that it is quite unjustified to hold the travelling public to ransom for the sort of increase being demanded.
Madam Speaker : I have announcements to make about arrangements for the debate on the motion for the Adjournment which will follow the passing of the Consolidated Fund Bill on Wednesday 20 July. Members should submit their subjects to my office not later than 10 pm on Monday 18 July. A list showing the subjects and times will be published the following day. Normally the time allotted will not exceed one and a half hours, but I propose to exercise discretion to allow one or two debates to continue for rather longer, up to a maximum of three hours. Where identical or similar subjects have been entered by different Members whose names are drawn in the ballot, only the first name will be shown on the list.
As some debates may not last the full time allotted to them, it is the responsibility of Members to keep in touch with developments if they are not to miss their turn.
I also remind hon. Members that, on the motion for the Adjournment of the House on Thursday 21 July, up to nine Members may raise with Ministers subjects of their choice. Applications should reach my office by 10 pm on Monday next. A ballot will be held on Tuesday morning and the result made known as soon as possible thereafter.
Mr. Roger Knapman (Stroud) : On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have given notice of this point of order to the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Hain). Sadly, as you know, Madam Speaker, the hon. Gentleman cannot be present.
You will recall, Madam Speaker--who could forget ?--the speech by the hon. Member for Neath last night. I draw attention to column 1124 of Hansard , where you, Madam Speaker, said :
"The hon. Member for Neath said that he would mention names, but that he had already let the Members concerned know that he was going to raise the matter. Is that quite clear ? I have already been deceived once today in this House on that matter. Do I understand that the hon. Gentleman has informed Members ?
Mr. Hain : I certainly have, Madam Speaker.
Madam Speaker : Thank you."
Shortly after that, the hon. Member for Neath mentioned my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Evennett), who, on a point of order, said :
"I was not advised by the hon. Gentleman that he would mention my situation. I think that he has breached the protocol of the House. Madam Speaker : When did the hon. Member for Neath put the notices on the board ?
Mr. Hain : I think that it was just after 10 o'clock, Madam Speaker.
Madam Speaker : The hon. Member has been long enough in the House to know that the board closes at 10 o'clock.
Mr. Hain : I put them on the board. I was not sure when the debate was coming up. I put them on the board at the earliest opportunity that I had."
By column 1129, the situation was slightly different. The hon. Member for Neath said :
"It is my fault that I did not put notice on the board until just after 10 o'clock. Although I have been a Member for three years, I was not aware that there was a rigid rule that the board closed at 10 o'clock. That is my fault. I came in and presented the notice to the board and found that it was closed."--[ Official Report , 13 July 1994 ; Vol. 246, c. 1124- 29.]
Those are two different versions, and it is difficult to see how both can be entirely correct.
Thanks to the diligence of our messengers, the board was open until 10.30 pm last night. If the hon. Gentleman's first statement was true and he went to the board at 10 pm, he could have presented his letters and they would have been stamped.
I have one of the envelopes, but I believe that the others are similar. It shows that it was stamped, not at the board but in the post office, at 1 am. Similarly, if the messengers say that they maintained the board until 10.30 pm, the statement that the hon. Member for Neath went there at 10 pm and found it closed also needs closer examination.
There is a distinct possibility that you, Madam Speaker, and the House deserve an apology from the hon. Member for Neath. I should be most grateful if you would look into the matter.
Madam Speaker : I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising that point. The entire House knows how anxious I am that right hon. and hon. Members inform other hon. Members about whom they propose to comment. I was most concerned by last night's exchanges and I will look into the matter that the hon. Gentleman raised.
Column 1199During business questions, the hon. Member for Wyre Forest (Mr. Coombs) made a remark about the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham). I take it that he notified the right hon. Gentleman that he intended to do so ?
Madam Speaker : I take this opportunity to remind the House that I am proud to defend the robustness of exchanges in the House but I despair sometimes at the bad parliamentary manners and behaviour displayed by some hon. Members in all parts of the House. There is another week to go before the summer recess. I hope that, come Monday, I shall see some improvement.
Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West) : On a point of order, Madam Speaker. You will recall the frequent attempts to establish better facilities for Line of Route visitors. One suggestion is that they could use some of the facilities available in the banqueting rooms. Yesterday, the serious allegation was made that a Member of Parliament was offered a sum in excess of £10,000 a year to book banqueting rooms in the name of an unidentified body.
In the past, I have tabled parliamentary questions asking for lists of all companies that use the banqueting rooms in the names of hon. Members. That information has always been denied to me and to other hon. Members. In view of the seriousness of the allegation made yesterday and of another--that American visitors were buying places at banqueting room functions--will your office, Madam Speaker, undertake to publish the details that I have sought to ensure transparency and so that we all know what is happening in respect of banqueting room bookings ?
Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East) : Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. During business questions, my hon. Friend the Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn), asked a question about bull bars. Today, in the European Legislation Sub-Committee on Road Safety, the Minister for Roads and Traffic gave the clearest sign that a statement about various traffic matters that is likely to include provisions relating to bull bars will be made next week. I am afraid that I did not get permission to mention his name.
-- Mr. Barry Jones, supported by Mr. Alfred Morris, Mr. Alex Carlile, Mr. Dafydd Wigley, Mr. Neil Kinnock, Mr. Ray Powell, Mr. Donald Anderson, Mr. Gareth Wardell, Dr. John Marek, Mr. David Hanson, Mr. Roy Hughes and Mr. Martyn Jones, presented a Bill to prohibit, in Wales, discrimination against disabled persons on the grounds of their disability ; and for connected purposes : And the same was read the First time ; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 21 October, and to be printed. [Bill 153.]
That the Fishing Vessels (Decommissioning) Scheme 1994 (S.I., 1994, No. 1568), a copy of which was laid before this House on 15th June, be approved.
It has become something of a modest tradition that, whenever I rise to speak on fishing matters, others seek to intervene to make their points. I shall be happy to give way to right hon. and hon. Members during the course of my remarks, provided that they will do me the courtesy of not attacking me at the end of the debate if there is not sufficient time for their own contributions.
Commercial fishing is an important industry. Last year, landings in the United Kingdom and abroad were worth £517 million. Its activities help to support our coastal communities through the direct provision of employment and indirectly, through processing, harbour and related industries. That income also helps to maintain the infrastructure and sheer attractiveness of many of our coastal areas.
Everyone connected with the fishing industry knows that its long-term future and viability are closely linked to the need to achieve a proper balance between the fishing effort represented by our current fleet and stocks of fish in the sea. The problem was brought home most graphically to me when I prepared recently for a Radio 4 interview on the state of fish stocks in the North sea. Probed by the interviewer, I was able to tell him that over the last decade the spawning stock of cod had dropped 58 per cent. and catch levels by 40 per cent., while fishing effort remained about the same. That emphasises all too clearly the problems that we face with all the main white fish stocks.
Mr. David Harris (St. Ives) : Does my hon. Friend have any comment to make on press reports of European Commission proposals, particularly in relation to Spain and Portugal ? All sorts of disturbing stories are flying around.
Mr. Jack : My hon. Friend anticipates my further comments on control of fishing effort. Only today we received by fax from Brussels detailed information on the Commission's proposals. Those details were presented to a technical committee meeting in Brussels this morning. Some comment has been premature, to say the least, and ill informed. I am an assiduous reader of Fishing News , and draw my hon. Friend's attention to a most statesmanlike and considered comment by Mr. Bob Allan, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation. Fishing News reported that he
"was concerned at the proposals but stressed that as yet no detailed document had been issued. Caution was necessary until the full details and their likely effects could be evaluated, although the likelihood of an across the board days at sea regime being introduced had been foreshadowed at the April Council meeting on Spanish access."
I think that that is a very proper stance. Mr. Allan was right to caution us against jumping to conclusions : these are very early days.
The proposals respond to the wider issue of the control of the effort represented by the Spanish fishing fleet in the light of the removal, under the accession treaty, of the basic and periodic list system. They cover waters from the Shetland islands all the way around the western
Column 1201approaches, including the area known as the Irish box, and through to the English channel. They constitute a comprehensive package, but we shall want to examine them in the utmost detail. To that end, we have already arranged a meeting with the industry next Thursday, 21 July. It is unlikely that the Fisheries Council will discuss the matter in detail until its meeting on 23 November, so everyone will have ample opportunity to consider it.
Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray) : Will all the papers be available to hon. Members representing maritime constituencies ? These matters are of great concern to us all, and we should like to study them in detail before making our own responses.
May I ask the Minister, in his meetings with the Scottish Fishermen's Federation or any other organisation representing the industry, to ensure a faster response than that given by the federation in September 1993 in regard to reducing the fishing effort ? In fact, no official response has yet been received.
Mr. Jack : I apologise for that. I have certainly done my best to keep the Scottish industry informed of developments. I assure the hon. Lady, and other hon. Members with fishing constituencies, that I shall be happy to discuss the proposals once we have had an opportunity to study them in depth. My door will be open. It is important for the proposals to be properly understood ; when hon. Members have had time to consider them, they will be able to register their views on how their constituents will be affected with me and with my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro), the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland with responsibility for agriculture and the environment.
Mr. John D. Taylor (Strangford) : The Minister said that he would meet representatives of the industry next Thursday. There is currently great concern in the port of Portavogie, which the Minister visited last year, about the reported decisions being made in Brussels. As the Minister said, these are still only proposals and we do not know the details, but can he assure me that the Northern Ireland fishing industry will be represented at that meeting as its representatives were clearly not aware of it when I spoke to them today ?
Mr. Jack : At this very early stage, I shall be discussing the proposals with my officials. Representatives of the industry are not coming to see me yet, but I am sure that they will want to come and knock on my door--which, as always, will be opened with pleasure. I note what the hon. Gentleman has said, however, and I shall ensure that the views of Northern Ireland fishermen are taken into account. I am, of course, aware that the proposals are as important to people north of the border as they are to those south of the border, and to all who fish the waters of the western approaches. I should point out to the hon. Gentleman that the door has been kept firmly shut in the past, certainly in regard to Spain and Portugal and the North sea. That has caused concern to many hon. Members, and the change of policy is, in its own way, good news.
Column 1202Fishermen in the south-west fear that Portugal and Spain will always do better than Britain. Will my hon. Friend ensure that our industry in the south-west is properly protected ?
Mr. Jack : My right hon. Friend has raised an important aspect of the whole question of effort control. Ours are Community-wide proposals, which will apply to all member states with rights to fish in the waters concerned. Underlying that issue is the question of enforcement. I am acutely aware of the sensitivities aroused, especially in the south-west, by the many reports of rule-breaking by other Community states. I give my hon. Friend this undertaking : along with the Commissioner, I will continue to press the point that, unless we have credible, uniform enforcement of the common fisheries policy, the policy itself will not be credible.
Mr. Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby) : The Minister gave us a categorical assurance that Spanish vessels would not be allowed into the North sea. Does that mean that they will not be able to fish for either pressure or non-pressure stocks ? The Minister's approach has been to concede the principle of full Spanish accession before the details have been worked out ; from a negotiating point of view, that is barmy.
Mr. Jack : The hon. Gentleman made that point to me yesterday, with a smile on his face, when he came to see my right hon. Friend the Minister and me. I pointed out to him that when we discussed the point in the December Fisheries Council it was as a result of the United Kingdom's stalwart stand that the original Commission proposal was not implemented. That would have been a blank-cheque approach : it would have removed all controls. We did not have an iota of detailed information about what would have replaced the present measures to control access to waters around our shores. If it were not for the United Kingdom, we would not now be considering an excellent effort-controlling measure.
The hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) can smile as much as he likes, but the accession treaty has made it absolutely clear that at the end of 1995 the area known as the Irish box would go. To do nothing about that would have been a dereliction of duty. The hon. Gentleman should know me better. I felt that it was very important for us to press on to secure an agreement on the principles, which would then guide the Commission in working out the details before there could be any backsliding to weaken the controls that had been proposed to deal with the effort represented by the Spanish fleet. This is a very sensitive matter. I think that we obtained an extremely good deal in the end, and I am glad to say that the United Kingdom took the lead in obtaining it.
Several hon. Members rose
Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes) : Order. The debate seems to be going very wide of the scheme and the provision of grants for the decommissioning of vessels. Someone will have to explain to me very convincingly how the exchange that has just taken place relates to that subject.
Mr. Jack : The measures clearly relate to the way in which the remaining fishing effort of the fleet will be deployed after the decommissioning scheme has had its effect. I think that hon. Members have been probing to find