Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Sir Patrick Cormack: I thank the right hon. Lady for giving us the business for the next two weeks. We appreciate that. I thank her particularly for responding to the Leader of the Opposition's offer and providing Friday 10 July for consideration of the Landmines Bill. I reiterate that she will have the Opposition's co-operation on that measure. I thank her also for providing time to debate the Social Security Amendment (Lone Parents) Regulations on Tuesday next and for at last providing the debate that we requested on North Atlantic Treaty Organisation enlargement.

I draw the right hon. Lady's attention to the matter that the Opposition have chosen to debate on Tuesday next week and, in particular, to paragraph 6 of the second special report of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, which states:

Is the right hon. Lady aware that our motion on Tuesday will reflect those words and that the Opposition will allow a free vote, treating this issue--as it should be treated--

2 Jul 1998 : Column 523

as a House of Commons matter? Will the right hon. Lady respond in like spirit and ensure that, as the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay) has requested publicly, a free vote is held in the House on that matter?

Is the right hon. Lady in a position to tell us when we can expect statements on the strategic defence review, the comprehensive spending review and the integrated transport White Paper? Much concern is being caused in relation to the latter issue, and I would argue, with great respect, that the Deputy Prime Minister's kite flying is no substitute for a statement on integrated transport policy. Is the right hon. Lady aware that rumours are circulating that the Government's proposals for the North sea oil tax regime will be announced by means of a written reply to a written question? Can she assure me that that is not the case and that there will be a statement about that matter on the Floor of the House?

The right hon. Lady has circulated--as she properly should--her proposals for possible reform of the hours of the House, which she will put before the Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons. I understand, Madam Speaker, that you have made your views known about the matter. Will the right hon. Lady seek your permission to make those views known to all hon. Members--not just those who serve on the Select Committee--so that there may be full consultation and people may know exactly what you think, as well as what the Leader of the House is proposing?

Is the Leader of the House yet in a position to say--I ask on behalf of the staff of the House who serve us so well and so selflessly--whether we shall sit in August?

Mrs. Taylor: The hon. Gentleman raised a number of issues, with which I shall deal in turn.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the Landmines Bill. I am pleased that we have received sufficient co-operation to make progress on that legislation. There have been discussions through the usual channels with all parties in the House and I hope that we shall continue to make progress. We said all along that we were keen to move on that matter as soon as possible. Many hon. Members on both sides of the House suggested various non-sitting days on which we might consider the measure, and I am glad that we have agreed to use Friday 10 July.

I am pleased also that the hon. Gentleman acknowledges that we have been able to meet the requests for debate on the Social Security Amendment (Lone Parents) Regulations. I said some time ago that we were likely to debate NATO enlargement in July.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned some of the words that might appear in the Opposition's motion on Tuesday. I cannot possibly comment on that motion until I have seen it; although I am responsible for many things, I am, fortunately, not responsible for whipping arrangements. No one would discuss whipping arrangements before knowing what any particular motion said, although I might want to amend the Opposition's motion.

The hon. Gentleman asked about dates for various statements that may be made in the near future. I do not normally give dates of statements in advance, but there has been great speculation about certain important statements. I can confirm that some dates are pencilled in provisionally--the strategic defence review for Wednesday 8 July and the comprehensive spending review for the week after--although events sometimes

2 Jul 1998 : Column 524

mean that we have to alter the dates that we have in mind. The integrated transport White Paper is expected later this month, and I anticipate a statement being made to the House. I have not considered North sea oil tax revenues, so I cannot answer the hon. Gentleman on that point; at the moment, I do not have provisional plans for a statement on that before me.

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has drawn attention to the memorandum that has been submitted to the Modernisation Committee. The Committee is in the early stages of drawing up ideas on potential changes to the parliamentary calendar and, as a whole, is anxious that all hon. Members should make their views known. We are taking steps to ensure that people are aware of that opportunity. I should be more than happy to make sure, with Madam Speaker's permission, that her views were available, and that is something that we can pursue.

Everyone is anxious to know when the recess will be, and, had I been able to announce the precise dates today, I should have been pleased. The most that I can say is that it is clear that the House will not rise before the end of July.

Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle): May we have an early debate on how insider dealing investigations are dealt with by the Department of Trade and Industry? May I say that, for a fact, Sir Nicholas Lloyd, has never been interviewed by Department of Trade and Industry inspectors in connection with the 1994 investigation concerning insider dealing in Anglia Television shares? Do we not need an early debate on that matter, because Sir Nicholas Lloyd has been held out publicly as the source of the tip to a certain well-known individual who traded in shares in January 1994 and made £77,000? We need an explanation.

Mrs. Taylor: My hon. Friend has been assiduous in raising issues of that kind at various Question Times. I am afraid that I cannot promise him the debate that he wants in Government time, but perhaps he will be fortunate and obtain an Adjournment debate.

Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall): I hope that, if I add my felicitations on her birthday, the right hon. Lady will be even more co-operative than she has been on private Members' Bills. In the light of what she said last Thursday, is there any way to assist non-controversial private Members' Bill with all-party support not only to complete their passage through this House, but, if they are amended in the House of Lords, to complete their passage in the spillover section when they come back?

Will there be room in the next couple of weeks, or soon thereafter, for a comprehensive debate on arms sales? There is a general view that the Foreign Secretary's views on the Scott report are not fully reflected in the report on strategic export controls published yesterday. It is a timid report, and I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will have an opportunity to examine it.

Before next Thursday's debate on the national health service, will the Leader of the House ensure that there is an opportunity for the Prime Minister to correct the no doubt unfortunate and unintentional, but considerable, mistake that he made in his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Winchester (Mr. Oaten) yesterday? The Leader of the House will recall that my hon. Friend asked

2 Jul 1998 : Column 525

what the Prime Minister would do about the severe deterioration in the recruitment position of doctors, and the Prime Minister said:

    "medical students are exempt from the new provisions on student finance."---[Official Report, 1 July 1998; Vol. 315, c. 355.]

That is simply untrue and I am sure that the Prime Minister will want an early opportunity to put the record straight. Under the new regime, medical, veterinary and dental students will have to pay extensive sums to support their studies in the first three years. An absurd anomaly is that in Scotland they will have to do so for the fourth year as well. Will the Leader of the House give an absolute undertaking that the Prime Minister will correct the record before next Thursday's debate?

Mrs. Taylor: I will check the hon. Gentleman's last point and get in touch with him about it.

On the two substantive points that the hon. Gentleman raised on private Members' Bills, I hope that some of the Bills before the House tomorrow will make progress. Many people think that they are important measures that command widespread support. As I pointed out last week, the House itself decides at the beginning of each Session how much time to give private Members' Bills, but some interesting suggestions have been made about how we could deal with private Members' Bills that need only a vote rather than further debate. The Modernisation Committee will look at that matter in due course. I am open-minded about what we might be able to do and will watch what happens to individual Bills.

I think that the hon. Gentleman was somewhat churlish in saying that no progress had been made on arms sales. The White Paper published yesterday is for consultation, and it takes us further forward. We are willing to listen to further suggestions on how the position might be improved. At the moment, there is clearly no time for a debate on that matter, but views are being sought and will be taken into account.

Next Section

IndexHome Page