Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Business of the House

3.31 pm

Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr): Will the Leader of the House please set out the business for next week and the week after?

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 10 June--Remaining stages of the Community Care (Direct Payments) Bill [Lords].

Remaining stages of the Arbitration Bill [Lords].

Tuesday 11 June--Opposition Day [14th allotted day].

Until about 7 o'clock, there will be a debate on standards in education, followed by a debate on the prior options review. Both debates will arise on Opposition motions.

Wednesday 12 June--Until 2 o'clock, there will be debates on the motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Remaining stages of the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Bill [Lords].

Thursday 13 June--Consideration of Lords amendments to the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Bill.

Motion on the Appropriation (No. 2) (Northern Ireland) Order.

Friday 14 June--The House will not be sitting.

Provisionally, the business for the following week will be as follows:

Monday 17 June--Remaining stages of the Family Law Bill [Lords].

Tuesday 18 June--Opposition Day [15th allotted day].

There will be a debate on an Opposition motion, subject to be announced.

Wednesday 19 June--Until 2 o'clock, there will be debates on the motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Until about 7 o'clock, there will be a debate on sentencing policy on a Government motion, followed by a motion on the Northern Ireland Act 1974 (Interim Period Extension) Order.

Thursday 20 June--A debate on the European Union--the usual six-monthly debate--on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Friday 21 June--A debate on a motion for the Adjournment of the House, subject not decided.

The House will also wish to know that on Wednesday 12 June, there will be a debate in European Standing Committee A on the conservation of wetlands.

[Wednesday 12 June: European Standing Committee A--European Community Document: 8564/95, Conservation of Wetlands. Relevant European Legislation Committee Reports: HC 51-xiii (1995-96) and HC 51-i (1995-96).]

Mr. Rooker: I thank the Leader of the House for outlining two full weeks' business. That is very helpful.

Consideration of the remaining stages of the Family Law Bill is set down for Monday 17 June. First, I plead with the Leader of the House to help hon. Members to

6 Jun 1996 : Column 720

take a considered view of that legislation. It will have a very direct and personal effect on our fellow citizens and we owe it to them and to their families to consider it in a grown-up manner. I ask the Leader of the House to arrange for a note to be placed in the Vote Office listing all the amendments that the Government seek to maintain or to overturn, along with any Government amendments for the Report stage.

It would be quite wrong to publish amendments only on the Friday--which is a non-sitting Friday--before a key debate on the following Monday. In the normal course of events, those amendments would not be put down until Thursday and then published on Friday. That is quite unacceptable in this case, and the House should receive advance notice of the Government's views.

Secondly, does the Leader of the House accept that the 58,000 families living in Ministry of Defence married quarters have a legitimate interest in knowing the nationality of the would-be purchasers whom Defence Ministers are lining up to buy their homes for lease back? As it will not affect commercial confidentiality, will the Leader of the House arrange for a Ministry of Defence statement about the nationality of the unknown bidders--information that was yesterday refused to the Defence Committee?

Finally, I refer to an issue that was mentioned in passing during Prime Minister's questions. Has the Leader of the House noticed the community interest in the proceedings of the House next Tuesday as evidenced by the extensive advertising in today's newspapers regarding the ten-minute Bill, the Referendum Bill? While not wishing to discuss the pros and cons of that proposal, I ask the Leader of the House to arrange for a debate about the need to set financial limits on national political advertising.

It cannot be right that people such as Sir James Goldsmith can seek to invent a political party, buy up a democracy and spend a fortune either trying to influence or to replace hon. Members outside the financial limits that are imposed by the Representation of the People Act 1989. There is no legal limit on national political advertising, and the House should address that matter.

Mr. Newton: On the last point, it is difficult to see how the hon. Gentleman's proposal would work in practice. I add also--I hope without too much barb--that, in the light of the amount of trade union advertising that sometimes appears during general election campaigns, it is a rather odd point for an Opposition Front Bencher to raise.

As to the hon. Gentleman's second point about the Ministry of Defence houses, I cannot add to what was said or not said during the recent meeting of the Select Committee. However, I draw the hon. Gentleman's attention to the fact that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence is due to answer questions on Tuesday.

As to the hon. Gentleman's first point--which he made in a serious and a considered way--I shall ensure that it receives the serious consideration that it deserves from my right hon. and noble Friend the Lord Chancellor and those concerned with the Bill in the House.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood): When my right hon. Friend considers whether Ministers should

6 Jun 1996 : Column 721

make ministerial statements to the House in the next two weeks, will he bear it in mind that a great opportunity has been missed in not announcing the success of British diplomacy at the recent North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ministerial council, in enabling France to rejoin the military organisation of NATO? Therefore, can we have a wide-ranging debate on foreign affairs at the earliest possible date or, alternatively, a ministerial statement to rectify that rather sad omission?

Mr. Newton: I cannot promise either a debate--certainly not of a dedicated kind--at an early stage or a statement. I draw attention once again to the fact that the matter could be raised during Defence questions next Tuesday and Foreign Office questions next Wednesday. There will be the usual debate on defence estimates later in the Session, but I cannot predict when that might occur.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey): May I also thank the Leader of the House for giving us two weeks' business, and associate myself with the points made by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) about the Family Law Bill and the need for proper consideration of any amendments to what is clearly a controversial measure? On the debate that the Leader of the House has announced for a fortnight today, which he describes as the routine six-monthly debate on the European Union, why, for the third time in a row, are the Government not willing to have a debate on anything controversial on anything other than a motion for the Adjournment of the House? We had such a debate on the common agricultural policy and the Scott report, and we still have not debated the big European issue--the Government's non-co-operation policy. Why cannot we have a debate on a substantive motion so that the House can declare its view on whether Parliament supports the Government's policy?

Mr. Newton: On the points about the intergovernmental conference and the Scott report, I have been over the arguments endlessly in the House and elsewhere. On the normal six-monthly debate on the European Union that the House expects to take place before each European Council meeting--there is nothing new about that--I can say only that, since 1993, all such debates have been on a motion for the Adjournment. Of the six that I have looked at, four have been on motions for the Adjournment. It is the sensible and normal way to consider such matters.

Mr. Bob Dunn (Dartford): Could we arrange for an early and urgent debate on the impending postal strike? Many of us may wish to have the opportunity to condemn the damage that such a strike would cause our constituents privately, commercially and industrially. We would condemn the strike from the Conservative Benches, but would expect silence from the Labour party.

Mr. Newton: I hope that my hon. Friend will understand that the Government still very much hope that a strike can be avoided. It would clearly be damaging to industry and to the Post Office itself. I was the Minister at the time of the last such strike, which was undoubtedly damaging to the Post Office. The Post Office management has made it clear that it sees scope for further progress through negotiation, and I would prefer to concentrate on whether that negotiation will be successful.

6 Jun 1996 : Column 722

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North): May we have a statement next week on the latest position in respect of the millennium festival? In that statement, will the Minister explain to the House why, regardless of the difficulties in Greenwich, under no circumstances will Birmingham be able to stage the festival? Why are the Government waging a persistent vendetta against the west midlands? People in the west midlands will certainly have their say about that at the next election.

Next Section

IndexHome Page