Madam Speaker: I have a short statement to make.A ceremony is to be held in Westminster Hall to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of world war two. Both Houses will attend and addresses will be presented to Her Majesty the Queen.
The date and time of the event is Friday 5 May at noon. It is proposed that a short reception be held in the Hall after the ceremony.
It is the wish of the Lord Chancellor and myself that as many Members of both Houses as possible should participate. It is intended that spouses and other family members will be able to accompany them. Representatives of veterans and other organisations will also receive invitations.
In order to assist with the planning of this event, I shall be writing to all Members of the House in the next few days, asking them to indicate whether they themselves will be attending the ceremony and whether they would like members of their families also to be invited. If demand for places is very high, there may have to be a ballot for families. I shall be asking all recipients of my letter to fill in the reply slip and return it to my office quickly. I know that all Members will wish to co-operate in this and to make the ceremony a memorable one for all who participate.
The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Tony Newton): First, may I say on behalf of the whole House that I am sure that we all welcome your announcement, Madam Speaker, that the House is to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of the second world war?
The business for next week will be as follows:
Monday 20 February----Opposition Day (7th allotted day). Until about 7 o'clock there will be a debate entitled "The Continuing Crisis of Healthcare in London", followed by a debate entitled "The Future Ownership, Control and Regulation of Regional Electricity Companies". Both debates will arise on Opposition motions.
Tuesday 21 February----Remaining stages of the Health Authorities Bill.
Wednesday 22 February----Until 2.30 pm, debates on the motion for the Adjournment of the House, then motions on the Value Added Tax (Buildings and Land) Order, the Value Added Tax (Construction of Buildings) Order, the Value Added Tax (Protected Buildings) Order, the Value Added Tax (Input Tax) (Amendment) Order and the Value Added Tax (Payments on Account) (Amendment) Order.
Motion on the Avon (Structural Change) order.
Motions relating to the Education (Mandatory Awards) and the Education (Student Loans) regulations.
Thursday 23 February----Debate on the Army, on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.
Friday 24 February----Private Members' Bills.
The House will also wish to know that European Standing Committee B will meet on Wednesday 22 February at 10.30 to consider EC document No. 7854/94 relating to budgetising the European Development Fund.
European Standing Committee B--Relevant European Community document: 7854/94 European Development Fund. Relevant European Legislation Committee Report: HC 48-xxvi (1993-94).]
In the following week, I expect to provide, on Monday 27 February, for the Second Reading of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill [Lords] , and, as I told the House last week, to have the annual debate on Welsh affairs on a motion for the Adjournment on the Thursday, which I can confirm is 2 March, not 3 March as I inadvertently said last week.
Column 1133taking part in the commemoration of the anniversary of the end of world war two? I cannot associate myself with the word "budgetising"; I am sure that the House would like to be told what it really means on some other occasion.
May I ask the Leader of the House three questions? First, has any progress been made in arranging for an Adjournment debate to take place on the last Wednesday morning sitting of each term, to which he will reply? That would be comparable to the arrangements that existed before we embarked on the current experiment. Secondly, will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the Boundary Commission report on parliamentary constituencies, which was due in December, has not yet been submitted to the Home Secretary? When can we expect the final recommendations to be made, and when will the necessary change to regulations in connection with the new constituencies be put before Parliament?
Thirdly and, perhaps, most important, does the Leader of the House accept that there is much regret and anger in the House about the fact that Ministers have chosen not to make a statement today about last night's events at the England-Ireland football match in Dublin? Will the right hon. Gentleman promise a debate as soon as possible, so that those of us who feel that football was the victim can be assured that those who are guilty of having committed offences in Ireland last night will be subject to exclusion orders barring them from all football grounds in Britain? Such a debate would also enable us to discover what the Government intend to do to support those involved in football who are keen to strengthen security arrangements for Euro `96, and in particular to eradicate the menace of right-wing extremism which is in danger of destroying football?
Whether a statement is made on such unhappy incidents as occurred at yesterday's football match is obviously a matter of judgment, but the hon. Lady will know that at least one factor in the making of such judgments is whether a statement in the House would add to the publicity that is often the aim of those who act in this way. I note her concern, however. She will have heard what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said a few moments ago at Question Time about the view that the Government take--which I know the Opposition share--on the kind of behaviour about which she is rightly concerned, and the Government's determination to work with the Irish authorities to try to bring those responsible to book. I know that we shall have the hon. Lady's support in that regard. I shall, of course, bear her comments in mind should any similar incident occur in future; obviously, we hope that it will not.
The hon. Lady asked me about the Boundary Commission reports for England. I believe that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has not yet received the final report, and I am afraid that I am not yet in a position to resolve all the uncertainties about timing that the hon. Lady mentioned.
I welcomed the first of the hon. Lady's questions. I thank her--and, indeed, others involved in the usual channels--for the co-operative discussions that have enabled me to say that we propose to table a motion providing for a three-hour debate on the Wednesday morning before each recess, in which hon. Members will
Column 1134be able to raise a variety of issues without having to give notice. That restores an opportunity that used to be provided by the motion fixing the dates of recesses. I would expect to be present to answer such debates, as previous Leaders of the House and indeed I have done in the case of the previous procedure.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery), the Chairman of the Procedure Committee, who originally made the suggestion. It is clearly supported by hon. Members on both sides of the House.
Mr. Tim Rathbone (Lewes): May I ask you, Madam Speaker, through the Leader of the House, whether you would consider extending the invitation that you are sending to all hon. Members to Members of Parliament who served in the House during the second world war? I do not suppose that that would be a large number.
Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire): May I associate my colleagues with the decision to commemorate the second world war ceremonies which you, Madam Speaker, have announced? It is particularly appropriate that we can bring our families to those celebrations. We all appreciate that gesture.
Is the Leader of the House aware of the mounting pressure on the Rail Regulator and rail authorities generally because of the continued uncertainty about a formal consultation process on the proposal to curtail sleeper services to Carlisle and Fort William, and Motorail services north of the border? Given that British Rail is due to publish its spring timetable early in March, will he ask the Secretary of State for Transport to come to the House next week and clear up those matters either in a debate or, more appropriately, a statement announcing a formal consultation process on the proposed closures under the Railways Act 1993?
Mr. Newton: The hon. Gentleman and the House will know that there have recently been several opportunities to discuss matters related to railway privatisation, so I shall resist some of the implications of the hon. Gentleman's question. I shall bring his request to the attention of my right hon. Friend.
Mr. Nick Hawkins (Blackpool, South): In the light of the Government's continued commitment to cutting red tape, will my right hon. Friend tell the House the reasons for the delay in setting up the Deregulation Committee, about which my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough (Mr. Sykes) and I, and many other Conservative Members, are so anxious? Will he confirm that Opposition Members are causing that delay? May we have a debate on that matter at the earliest opportunity?
Does my right hon. Friend further agree that we should have a debate on the continuing opposition of Labour Members to the tough law and order penalties that are needed to deal with the football thugs who ruined an international match last night?
Mr. Newton: I am well aware that a number of hon. Members, including my hon. Friend, are anxious to see the Committee under the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 set up as soon as possible, as are the Government. He will understand that it is not normal practice to refer at length or in detail to discussions in the
Column 1135usual channels, but I hope that the Opposition will soon be able to say who they wish to nominate for that Committee. At the moment, it would not be appropriate to provide time for a debate.
Mr. Joseph Ashton (Bassetlaw): Is the Leader of the House aware that we should have an urgent debate on the act of terrorism in Dublin last night, which was carried out by National Front thugs, not football fans, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) said? The football national intelligence unit at Scotland Yard knew the names, addresses, backgrounds and convictions of every thug who was travelling. It knew every item on their records but could not divulge the information because of the Data Protection Act 1988. Will he ask the Home Secretary to come to the House and say why the Data Protection Act stops that information being given to stadiums, clubs and organisers of the game so that they can draw up blacklists? Just as people have their credit cards stopped and are banned from clubs, exclusion orders could be issued against those thugs. Although that information may have been given to the Gardai, it was not given to the people on the ground who could have identified those people with photographs and stopped the trouble at its source. We need a debate to go into those details so that the problem does not arise again.
Mr. Newton: My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, to whom I have already referred in this context, and my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary have, in various ways, made it clear that they want to do anything possible to bring those people to book and stop that kind of violence happening again. I am sure that they will want to look carefully at any constructive suggestion for securing that.
Sir Ivan Lawrence (Burton): Will my right hon. Friend find time for an early debate on border controls, so that our European colleagues know that the strength of feeling on the matter is not confined to the Government, that it is found among all parties in the House, that when the Prime Minister says no, he means no, and that he has the backing of all the British people?
Mr. Newton: Again, I can refer to what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and others have said on a number of occasions about our determination to maintain the controls to which my hon. and learned Friend refers.
Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover): If we have a statement or a debate on the events at Lansdowne Road last night, and on the fact that the British police and intelligence authorities were seemingly unable to deal with those right-wing fascists, will the Leader of the House compare that with the fact that in 1984 and 1985, when people were going about their duty in the middle of the pit strike, thousands of police not only collared the pickets, but picked up many people who were in the vicinity? If they could do that in an industrial dispute in 1984 and 1985, when Lady Thatcher called the miners "the enemy within", why could not they deal with those 400 last night?
Mr. Bob Dunn (Dartford): Will the Leader of the House find time for an urgent early debate on the implications of Labour party policy for regional government in the county of Kent, given that that party proposes to extend the boundaries of a new authority of London to the M25? That would mean that my Dartford constituency would be part of London, which is not what the people want.
Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington): Do not a number of events that have occurred nationally and in Europe in the past few weeks point to the need for a national identity card scheme? If so, why do not we have a debate on the matter?
Mr. Newton: It is highly likely that it may be appropriate to arrange for a debate on that subject, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has made it clear that he will introduce a Green Paper on the matter. I am sure that the House will wish to discuss it.
Mr. John Butcher (Coventry, South-West): May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the recent comments of Sir Leon Brittan and Geoffrey Garton, the American Secretary of Commerce, and ask for an early debate on trade policy? It appears that those two well-respected gentlemen are opening a dialogue on the possibility of creating a free-trade area between the United States of America and Europe. I am sure that my right hon. Friend would agree that, if we were to decide in such a debate that that initiative should be pursued with the full vigour and support of the House and the country, an opportunity may be turned into a truly historic moment.
Ms Angela Eagle (Wallasey): Will the Leader of the House find time next week for a debate on executive pay, especially as the three directors of MANWEB in the north-west region cashed in £333,000 worth of executive share options yesterday? Values were put up by 54p a share in a day because of speculation in the aftermath of the President of the Board of Trade allowing the Trafalgar House bid for Northern Electric to go ahead without referral to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission.
Mr. Newton: The motion that the Opposition have tabled for the second half of next Monday would allow the hon. Lady, should she catch your eye, Madam Speaker, to make those points. It would be helpful, however, if she could answer the questions put by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Corporate Affairs, in replying to the private notice question yesterday. He sought an explanation of the fact that the Labour party is, at one and the same time, complaining about some of the
Column 1137things that happen in these companies, and seeking to protect them from the ordinary operation of the market in respect of bids, for example.
Mr. John Sykes (Scarborough): It is a shame that we cannot have a debate on deregulation because it is of overwhelming importance to jobs and prosperity in my constituency and many others. Why is the Labour party holding up the Deregulation Committee? Is not it a disgrace that Labour Members complain about joblessness but do nothing about it?
Mr. Newton: With what I will call the beady eye of the Opposition Deputy Chief Whip upon me, I will not go further into the operation of the usual channels. However, I am sure that he will have heard and noted my hon. Friend's plea.
Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South): Will the Leader of the House initiate a debate on the prison system, bearing in mind Judge Tumim's report on Leeds, which he described as disgraceful, the report on the Wolds prison where things seem to be breaking down, the riot at Everthorpe and numerous other matters? When the prison population is increasing steadily, the number of people employed is decreasing steadily and trouble is everywhere, is not it time that the House debated the subject?
Mr. Newton: This point was put to me a week or two ago when I said that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has made several substantial statements on some of the things to which the hon. Gentleman referred and has commissioned some substantial further investigations. When we have the outcome of all those investigations and reports it might be appropriate to consider a debate.
Mr. Matthew Banks (Southport): My right hon. Friend will be aware of the strong lead that I have given to ensure that the metropolitan areas in which there is a strong desire for change in the structure of local government should have the opportunity of having their case heard by the Local Government Commission. In view of the assurances given in the House by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, will my right hon. Friend try to find time for a debate so that we can discuss the matter further and ensure that Southport in particular is referred to the Local Government Commission in 1995?
Mr. Newton: I cannot promise a further debate in that specific respect. I have announced a debate next week on a local authority structural change order for Avon, but I doubt whether my hon. Friend's concerns would be in order there. My hon. Friend will know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment is looking carefully at all the representations that he receives and I will ensure that his attention is drawn to this further representation from my hon. Friend.
Mr. Peter Hardy (Wentworth): The Leader of the House will have noted that the House was greatly obliged to you, Madam Speaker, for your statement about the second world war. Since history repeats itself, would not it be a good idea for the date to be changed to a little nearer August, when the second world war ended and a Labour Government were in power?
Column 1138too much detail about the considerations that a number of us have given to this. It is obvious that the House will not be sitting in August--at least I hope that it will not be sitting, and that hope will be shared in other parts of the House--and those of us who have given some thought to the matter believed that the most appropriate time to do it was immediately before the national weekend of events connected with VE day, which begins on 6 May.
Mr. Jacques Arnold (Gravesham): May we have another debate next week on the funding of teachers' pay, because we could then highlight the proposal of the Conservatives on Kent county council to fund in full the teachers' pay increase, which has been opposed by the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats on that council? In the process, we could say that we bitterly resent teachers being bashed for party political purposes at the expense of our schools.
[ That this House notes that the second reading of the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill on Friday 10th February 1995 is an historic opportunity to introduce full citizenship rights for the United Kingdom's 6.5 million people with disabilities; further notes that the Bill has the sponsorship of Right honourable and honourable Members from nine political groups in the House; recognises the support the Bill also has from the Rights Now Consortium, the TUC and many other groups and individuals; welcomes the Bill's inclusion of a Disability Rights Commission so that comprehensive
anti-discrimination provisions can be activated and advanced on the same basis as those designed to tackle discrimination on the grounds of gender and race; and further welcomes the Bill's measures aimed at increasing accessibility to voting and to polling stations as the vote is the fundamental building block for the operation of democracy and civil rights. ]
A total of 250 hon. Members have signed that motion in support of the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill, which was carried by 175 votes compared with the Government's alternative Bill, which was carried by only 27 votes. In those circumstances should not the Government be acting as a facilitator to allow the House to decide between the two alternative measures rather than as a persuader for their own position?
Mr. Newton: My hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security and Disabled people made the Government's position quite clear in the debate on Friday. Although the hon. Gentleman has made his points, he will be well aware that significantly more people voted for the Government's Bill than for his Bill.
Mr. Nigel Forman (Carshalton and Wallington): Both you in your statement, Madam Speaker, and the Leader of the House have made it clear that the very welcome and timely ceremony on 5 May is to commemorate VE day. Taking up the point made by the hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy), who is no longer in his place, will my right hon. Friend confirm that due thought has been or will be given to the role of all those who fought
Column 1139against the Japanese? I must declare an interest as my father fought against the Japanese for four years in the Burmese jungle. My right hon. Friend will know that many people feel that that was a neglected aspect of second world war heroism and campaigns and that some account should be taken of it in the arrangements.
Mr. Newton: Perhaps I might on your behalf, and subject to correction by you, Madam Speaker, make two points. First, there will be national events to mark VJ day, subsequent to those to mark VE day. Secondly--this is the point that you have in mind, Madam Speaker, and I hope that my hon. Friend will note it when he reads your statement in Hansard --you specifically said that the event on 5 May was to commemorate not VE day but the end of world war two. It will certainly be the case that, in addition to those to whom my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone) referred--hon. Members who contributed to the war effort--many invitations will be sent to a range of ex-service organisations.
Mr. Derek Enright (Hemsworth): May I back the proposal made by the hon. Member for Gravesham (Mr. Arnold) that we should have a rerun of the debate on the funding of teachers' pay? While we are about it, can we consider what Jonathan Taylor, the Tory education chairman in Trafford, had to say? He said that it was impossible for local authorities to fund teachers' pay and, indeed, called the Chancellor "smug, complacent and stupid"--and he is a Tory.
Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North): As a member of the all-party football committee, may I support the call of the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) for a full debate on the disgraceful behaviour of the thugs in Dublin last night? But could the debate be extended to cover plans for the European championship next year so that the House and the country might be assured that there are proper safeguards to ensure that that important competition goes ahead? The whole country is looking forward to it and would be very disappointed if, for any reason, it did not happen.
Mr. Newton: I have already made some reference to this matter, but add simply that, as well as trying to ensure that such violence does not happen anywhere, my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary and, indeed, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage, will certainly want to examine ways to ensure that it does not in any way inhibit, or occur during, the European championships being held here.
Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham): The Leader of the House will be aware that the Confederation of Construction Specialists, which represents some 400 small building firms, is seeking to refer to the Office of Fair Trading the fact that Alfred McAlpine is delaying
Column 1140payment of its bills. May we have an early debate on the quasi-monopoly position of Alfred McAlpine and the fact that the Office of Fair Trading has to refer the matter to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission whose chairman, until 18 months ago, was the chief executive of Alfred McAlpine? Although Alfred McAlpine has plenty of money for the Conservative party, it has none to pay its sub-contractors for their work. Is not that an example of the sleaze state that is now the hallmark of modern Conservative Britain?
Mr. Newton: The last part of that question is pretty far-fetched. Frankly, it is below the standard that I have come to expect from the hon. Gentleman and it has effectively absolved me from answering the first part of his question.
Dr. Robert Spink (Castle Point): Will my right hon. Friend find time next week for a debate about further education on Canvey island? He may be aware that there are no facilities whatsoever for 16 to 18-year-olds on the island, although there are 36,000 residents. The absence of facilities results in an extremely low staying-on rate among young people, which is betraying not only them but local businesses and industry.
Mr. Newton: Perhaps I should admit to my hon. Friend that since my part of Essex is quite a distance from his, I was not familiar with that situation on Canvey Island. However, I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and, indeed, Essex county council--I hope--will consider carefully what my hon. Friend has said.
Mr. Michael Clapham (Barnsley, West and Penistone): In the light of figures recently released by the Department of the Environment which show that the number of construction orders fell by one third in the last three months of 1994 compared with the last three months of 1993, will the Leader of the House ensure that the Secretary of State for the Environment makes a statement on that worrying trend?
Mr. William O'Brien (Normanton): Will the Leader of the House provide time for an early debate on businesses, especially those in west Yorkshire, which have received rates demands that have increased by between 34 and 40 per cent? The Government have suggested that those businesses should have to pay no more than a 10 per cent. increase in rates. Businesses in west Yorkshire are operating at a competitive disadvantage because they have to pay more rates than businesses in many other parts of the country. Therefore, in fairness to those businesses, especially small businesses, will the Leader of the House arrange an early debate so that we may regularise business rate increases?
Mr. Newton: There seems to be a growing list of points that I need to bring to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment. I shall add the hon. Gentleman's question to the list.
Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West): Many people outside the House will find it strange that we have not had a statement on the appalling events in Dublin last night. We need to have an early debate on the issue, if
Column 1141only to send a message to the European football authorities, which may at this very moment be considering excluding England from hosting the European championships. We need a debate so that we may discuss the issue and send a message from the House that such thuggish minority behaviour will not be tolerated.
Mr. Newton: I am grateful for and associate myself with, as I am sure would everybody, the comments in the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's remarks. With regard to a statement, I need hardly say that I have noted the many representations that have been made in today's business questions and I shall reflect on them, at the very least, for the future, even if I cannot promise a statement now.
Ms Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate): The Leader of the House will be aware of yesterday's lobby of the House by teachers concerned at the proposed reduction in section 11 funding. Could time be found for an early debate on that issue? The threatened cuts impact not only on the education of British children who do not speak English as their first language, but create wider implications of possible social unrest.
Mr. Newton: I am aware of the meetings about section 11 funding to which the hon. Lady refers. She will know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education is due to answer questions on Tuesday, which may provide an opportunity for raising the matter. However, I shall also bring the hon. Lady's question to the attention of my other right hon. Friends who are concerned with such matters.
Mr. Alan Simpson (Nottingham, South): When the Leader of the House has had an opportunity to look at a copy of today's edition of Today and the article concerning comments made by the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel), would he consider arranging an urgent debate on allotments? Even if allotments are not to be the centrepiece of the Government's new economic policies and even though their policies on unemployment have done little more than pour fertiliser over the lives of the unemployed for the past 15 years, many Conservative Members may at least want to dissociate themselves from any suggestion that a solution to poverty would be to encourage the poor and the unemployed to welcome fertiliser and to grow their own vegetables from it.