Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Forsyth: Not just the parents, but the children in the school as well, who will have been traumatised by this experience.

Of course resources will be made available. Yesterday, when the hon. Member for Hamilton and I were in Dunblane, we had an opportunity to discuss these matters with the local authorities and others. They have been overwhelmed by offers of support and help, and of course we shall ensure that the resources are available for that.

All the evidence is that the counselling has already begun, and people are doing everything they can to lend help and support. But, if I may say so, I think that it is a mistake to believe that counselling can wipe things away or undo the harm that has been done. It is an important prop. It is an aid. When we visited the school yesterday, people were already very much involved in that.

I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his offer of Celtic support from Wales. We Scots and the Welsh have much in common and the hon. Gentleman's words will be very much appreciated in Scotland.

Madam Speaker: I wish to call one more hon. Member. Mr. Martyn Jones.

Mr. Martyn Jones (Clwyd, South-West): As a lay member of the Firearms Consultative Committee, which by pure chance met this morning, I wish to convey its great concern over this incredibly evil act. We have heard so many hon. Members in the Chamber expressing views that, in truth, are inexpressible.

I am pleased, as I know is the Firearms Consultative Committee, that a full inquiry is being instituted. If there is any chance that something has gone wrong in administration, or if the committee could suggest further legislation, will Government time be given for that at the earliest opportunity?

Mr. Forsyth: As the hon. Gentleman knows, I cannot commit legislation without having a specific proposal, and without the support and agreement of my right hon. Friends. But what I can say is that the committee is there in order to keep the firearms legislation under review, and I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary and I would consider carefully any proposals that are put forward in the light of consideration of the circumstances and any recommendations which might come from the inquiry.

14 Mar 1996 : Column 1117

Business of the House

4.8 pm

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Tony Newton): I would like to make a statement about the business for next week.

Monday 18 March--Opposition Day (7th allotted day). Until 7 o'clock, there will be a debate entitled "The Government's Threatened Withdrawal of Employment Rights", followed by a debate on the proposed privatisation of HMSO. Both debates will arise on Opposition motions.

Motion relating to the Education (School Premises) Regulations.

Tuesday 19 March--Remaining stages of the Nursery Education and Grant-Maintained Schools Bill.

Wednesday 20 March--Until 2 o'clock, there will be debates on the motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Second Reading of the Reserve Forces Bill [Lords].

Motion on the Food Protection (Emergency Prohibitions) (Oil and Chemical Pollution of Fish and Plants) Order.

The Chairman of Ways and Means has named opposed private business for consideration at 7 o'clock.

Thursday 21 March--Debate on the forthcoming intergovernmental conference on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Friday 22 March--Private Members' Bills.

The House will also wish to know that European Standing Committee B will meet at 10.30 am on Wednesday 20 March to consider European Community document No. COM(95)541 relating to co-operation with Gulf states.

The House might also find it helpful to know that, on a provisional basis, I anticipate that the business for the following week will be as follows:

Monday 25 March--Second Reading of the Family Law Bill [Lords].

Tuesday 26 March--Opposition Day (8th allotted day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion. Subject to be announced.

Wednesday 27 March--Until 2 o'clock, there will be debates on the motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Progress on remaining stages of the Finance Bill.

Thursday 28 March--Until about 7 o'clock, conclusion of remaining stages of the Finance Bill.

Friday 29 March--Private Members' Bills.

[Wednesday 20 March:

European Standing Committee B--European Community document: COM(95)541, Co-operation with Gulf States. Relevant European Legislation Report: HC 51-vi (1995-96).]

Mrs. Ann Taylor (Dewsbury): I thank the Leader of the House for that information and for arranging yesterday's brief statement. I also thank him for today's statement on the Dunblane incident. I am sure that he will ensure that the House is kept informed of any developments following the inquiry into that incident.I assure him that if the inquiry concludes that changes in

14 Mar 1996 : Column 1118

legislation are required, Opposition Members will do all that we can to facilitate the passage of any legislation that is judged necessary.

I come now to next week's business. Is the Leader of the House willing to reconsider, even at this late stage, the decision for next Thursday's debate to take place on a motion for the Adjournment? It appears that the Government persist in hiding behind a procedural device rather than presenting the House with a substantive motion, which could be amended and which could ensure that the Government were left in no doubt whatever about the feelings of the House on the vital issues that surround discussions on the intergovernmental conference.

On a different issue, will the Leader of the House find Government time for a debate on cold weather payments, and in particular the refusal of the Department of Social Security to provide basic information about the number of claimants who have received one, two, three or four payments this winter? If such simple information cannot be provided, how can our constituents have any confidence whatever in the system? If that confidence is not there, surely the House should debate the matter.

Will the Leader of the House find time to debate today's report of the parliamentary ombudsman on the efficiency--or lack of it--of the Child Support Agency, and specifically his proposal for an independent complaints adjudicator; a proposal which was first made in May this year and which he repeated today? He has made it clear that the CSA's performance is still far from adequate, and many hon. Members must have had the same experience as me, of not being able to obtain proper replies from the CSA unless parliamentary questions are tabled. As the ombudsman has stated that the CSA accounts for one third of all the complaints that he receives about all Government Departments, surely the Leader of the House must acknowledge that the time is drawing near when another debate would be appropriate.

Finally, I remind the Leader of the House of our request for a statement when the Dearing report on the education of 16 to 19-year-olds is published. It would be appropriate to have a statement in the House as well as outside.

Mr. Newton: I thank the hon. Lady for what she said about Dunblane, and any action that might be required in the light of the inquiry announced just now by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. I was grateful to her, and others, for the co-operation between the usual channels that enabled us to make our own short statements yesterday, and to agree on an appropriate way of handling this awful matter.

I note the hon. Lady's request in regard to the debate on the intergovernmental conference, but precedents have been set for some little time. Wide-ranging debates in advance of European Council meetings have taken place on motions for the Adjournment, and I consider that course appropriate in relation to Turin--particularly as the debate is intended to deal with the IGC as a whole, to which the White Paper is relevant, rather than being limited to the subject of the White Paper as such.

I cannot promise a debate on cold weather payments, but I shall certainly bring the hon. Lady's remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security.

The parliamentary ombudsman's report on the Child Support Agency deals with 195 cases; the agency is currently dealing with over 1 million. That is not to

14 Mar 1996 : Column 1119

minimise the problems that arise when any individual case goes wrong, but merely to put the position into perspective. As the hon. Lady knows, the difficulties in the workings of the CSA have frequently been acknowledged, and a good deal of action has been taken--with considerable success--to improve the situation.As for the hon. Lady's specific question, the CSA is examining the practicalities of introducing an independent complaints examiner, and Ministers are considering a number of options.

I think that I can safely tell the hon. Lady that I, too, think that a statement to the House about the Dearing report would be appropriate. I hope that it will be possible for such a statement to be made before the end of the month.

Mr. Nigel Forman (Carshalton and Wallington): Is my right hon. Friend aware that many Conservative Members believe that his decision to hold Thursday's debate on Europe on a motion for the Adjournment was right? Is it not sensible to have a debate of that kind at this stage, while keeping open the possibility of a longer and more substantial debate, perhaps on a substantive motion, at a later stage, when the House is aware of the outcome--if any--of the intergovernmental conference?

Next Section

IndexHome Page