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Mr. Newton: I greatly respect the interest that my hon. Friend has taken in those matters over many years. As he has referred to the letter that he wrote to me, he will recall that I have indicated to him informally that I thought that a Wednesday morning application might be the best way. I ought to admit that I have some slight reservations about whether this is an appropriate time for such a debate, while there is such a large and important inquiry into such matters going on in Wales. It may be that when that report appears--it certainly will not be in this Parliament--would be a more appropriate time for a debate.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey): If I was right to think that the House might sit until Maundy Thursday and that we might come back for two days on 7 and 8 April to fit in for a 1 May election, would the Leader of the House consider whether we might use that time to the full and pick up the debates that we normally have before the end of the Session, but which we have not yet had? Those debates are: foreign affairs, especially with Hong Kong issues on people's minds; Northern Ireland, in the light of the ending of the talks yesterday; women's issues, which we had last year; and London, which we are promised every year.

Mr. Newton: All I can say is that, were the hon. Gentleman's speculation to become reality, I would consider his and other suggestions.

Sir Ivan Lawrence (Burton): My right hon. Friend will be aware of the disgraceful way in which two members of the Labour party tried to destroy the Jurisdiction (Conspiracy and Incitement) Bill, which was promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Waterson). In view of the fact that the House has been rising early recently and given that it will doubtless continue to do so on some evenings in the future, will he consider the possibility of the Government taking over the Bill, which the Government have backed and which would have the overwhelming support of anybody in this country who wants to stop Britain becoming a haven for the most serious international criminals?

Mr. Newton: Of course, I understand my hon. and learned Friend's point and I note his suggestion; but he

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will be aware that it has been settled policy, not only in my time, but over the past nearly 18 years, that the Government--however strongly they approve of proposals in private Members' Bills--have hesitated, to put it mildly, before picking and choosing about providing Government time for one Bill rather than another.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover): Does the Leader of the House accept that, if the Government did change their mind and bring forward that Bill and give it time, they would be giving time to the Government's own Bill, which they handed to a Back Bencher to promote on a Friday? Will he bear it in mind that, if they did that, it would give some of us a chance to explain that we were not against the provisions on drugs or certain other aspects of the Bill, but against the part of the Bill that deals with freedom fighters and that would land them in gaol at the whim of the Attorney-General? If that part of the Bill were taken out, he could have a guarantee from me and other Labour Members that we would give the Bill a clear run.

The Government could not find more than 20 Members last Friday. Within hours of that wonderful Wirral by-election success for Labour, the dispirited forces on the Conservative Benches were apparent to all and, at twenty minutes to 10, this lousy, rotten Government did not even have more than 20 people to carry their legislation through.

Why do not the Government resign?

Mr. Newton: I take it that the hon. Gentleman has just delivered the speech that he would have delivered last Friday, had he not deprived himself of the opportunity to make a speech by the procedural device that was employed. I cannot say that I am happy to have done so, but I have listened--enthralled, as always--to what the hon. Gentleman has said.

Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West): Has my right hon. Friend seen the results of a recent MORI poll, commissioned by Zee television, an Asian network, which show that 62 per cent. of the Asian residents of this country who were polled by MORI held the view that the current immigration and asylum regulations were too lenient?

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that we owe it to the whole nation--including the Asian community, which has been so successful here--to have a proper debate and discussion about the Opposition's proposals fundamentally to relax the immigration rules, and especially the primary purpose rule? Do we not owe it to everyone to use the House to discuss something that is of real importance and concern?

Mr. Newton: It is certainly the case that we regard the primary purpose rule as an essential safeguard to prevent abuse by people using marriage as a means of obtaining settlement in this country but, beyond that, I would want to emphasise, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister did in responding to my hon. Friend on Tuesday, that our approach rests very much on pursuing calmly and

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dispassionately, in as non-partisan a way as possible, the firm but fair immigration policies that underpin the improvement in race relations in this country.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich): Would the Leader of the House like to come to the House next week with his colleagues from the Department of Transport to make a statement about the reasons for the marked lack of urgency in their approach to ferry safety? It will soon be Easter, which is usually regarded as the beginning of the holiday season, when many people will travel on ferries without being certain that safety standards are being maintained that would prevent a repetition of the appalling Zeebrugge accident. May we have some urgent action on that matter?

Mr. Newton: The hon. Lady, who is expert in those matters, knows that a great deal of action has taken place; as it happens, regulations to introduce a higher survivability standard for roll on/roll off passenger ferries will come into force next month.

Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury): Following the earlier question by my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen), may I urge my right hon. Friend to hold a debate on the workings of the new law that we sensibly introduced, to require employers to check that their employees have valid work permits or some other legal reason for working if they are not British citizens? I further urge on him that there is a very grave danger that, were that law to be repealed at the moment when the minimum wage was introduced, we could have what several of our continental partners have experienced--spiralling domestic unemployment on one hand and, on the other, an ugly growth of illegal and dangerous sweatshops, where illegal immigrants were exploited by unscrupulous employers wanting to undercut that wage rate.

Mr. Newton: My hon. Friend makes several additional points and comparisons with what is happening elsewhere, but I cannot sensibly seek to add to what I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) a few moments ago.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): Forgive me for intruding into a Front Benches' china shop and, I suspect, a legal mire, but I raised with the Leader of the House a month ago the statements on television, so far unchallenged, of Mr. Mohammed Al-Fayed who said, parading banknotes, that Members of Parliament could be hired like London taxis. Although I do not doubt the good faith of the Front-Bench negotiations and the legal difficulties, the House of Commons is in some difficulty. As we go into an election, people see that the statements from Mohammed Al-Fayed, which are deeply damaging to Parliament, are unchallenged. May we have an assurance that an attempt will be made to resolve the matter? The Standards and Privileges Committee can meet during the recess, but is unlikely to do so, for understandable reasons.

Mr. Newton: The hon. Gentleman referred to negotiations as if that was a usual channels matter between the two principal parties in the House, but it has nothing to do with that. The hon. Member for Dewsbury

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(Mrs. Taylor) and I speak to each other, as we are both members of the Standards and Privileges Committee, but much of the material relevant to the hon. Gentleman's comments is currently under examination by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, who will produce a report. I have no doubt that he is working as hard as he can.

On a related matter, the hon. Gentleman may not yet be aware of the fact that a substantial report by the Parliamentary Commissioner, also connected with suggestions made by Mr. Al-Fayed, in this case relating to the Home Secretary, was published one hour and 10 minutes ago. The hon. Gentleman might wish to look at it.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood): Will my right hon. Friend initiate an early debate on the terms of reference and competencies of the local government ombudsman? That would enable the Secretary of State for the Environment to judge the strong arguments in favour of strengthening the power of redress of the ombudsman against such malpractices as the advertisement--three months in advance of the public inquiry, let alone the granting of planning permission--of a tender worth £3 million for the construction of social housing on a recreation ground on green chain land in my constituency.

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