§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Wakeham)
Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be as follows:
MONDAY 25 APRIL—Completion of remaining stages of the Local Government Finance Bill [5th Allotted Day].
Motion relating to the Local Government (Prescribed Expenditure) (Amendment) Regulations.
TUESDAY 26 APRIL—Second Reading of the Finance (No. 2) Bill.
Motion on the Treaty on the Elimination of Intermediate-range and Shorter-range Missiles (Inspections) (Privileges and Immunities) Order.
WEDNESDAY 27 APRIL—Opposition day (10th Allotted Day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion entitled "The hardship caused by the house benefit changes".
Consideration of Lords Amendments to the Licensing Bill.
The Chairman of Ways and Means has named opposed private business for consideration at Seven o'clock.
THURSDAY 28 APRIL—Second Reading of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Bill [Lords].
Motion on the Summer Time Order. Details of the EC document relevant to the debate will be given in the Official Report.
FRIDAY 29 APRIL—Private Members' Bills.
§ [Debate on Thursday 28 April: Relevant European Community Document: 9584/87, Summer Time; Relevant report of European Legislation Committee: HC 43-xv (1987–88), para 4.]
§ Mr. Kinnock
I am grateful to the Leader of the House for his statement. We shall have a short debate in Opposition time next week on the hardship caused by the loss of housing benefit, which is just one of the sources of great anxiety and poverty arising from this month's social security changes.
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether he will provide shortly a whole day of Government time for a debate on the changes, now that they are in being and already showing tragic effects, which even most of the Government could not have intended?
Following the report this week on teachers' pay, which reveals great problems of recruitment and supply of trained and qualified teachers in vital subjects including maths, sciences and computing, will the Leader of the House make arrangements for an urgent debate on the whole question of teachers' pay, conditions and qualifications?
In view of the annual report that was published yesterday by Her Majesty's chief inspector of prisons, which graphically illustrated the unprecedented crisis in our prisons, described by the chief inspector himself as, "bordering on the intolerable", may we have a full debate in the near future on the situation in the prison service?
When can we expect the promised debate in Government time on the future of the Rover Group? Will the right hon. Gentleman also arrange for an urgent full day's debate on the future of community care, covering the Griffiths and Wagner reports?
990 Given the anxiety being expressed over the Government's internal review of child benefit, can we have an urgent statement on the nature of the review, its terms of reference and whether the Government are considering taxing or means-testing that method of help for families, which, as the Leader of the House knows, is regarded as vital by people in all parties.
In view of the implications for the future of workers and skills at Govan Shipbuilders and the rest of British Shipbuilders, which will arise from the sale of Govan Shipbuilders to Kvaerner Industries of Norway and because of the urgent need to clarify arrangements relating to the building of type 23 frigates, can the Leader of the House assure us that there will be a full day's debate on shipbuilding at the earliest possible time?
§ Mr. Wakeham
The right hon. Gentleman has asked seven questions and I shall do my best to answer him. He asked for a full day's debate on the social security changes. There is an Opposition day next week and they have chosen to debate the aspect that they consider to be most important. I recognise that there are other matters that they wish to discuss, but I cannot promise an early debate on that matter.
We have had a number of debates about teachers' pay. There are implementations of the award that has just been announced, and obviously, it is a matter to which we will have to return. Again, I cannot promise an early debate.
There was an announcement by the Home Secretary recently on the condition of prisons. I said then that I hoped that there would be an opportunity for a debate in the near future. That is something we can discuss through the usual channels. Indeed, that was much the same as I said the day before on the question of the Rover Group and the arrangements that have been made there.
The right hon. Gentleman also asked about community care. There are two reports, the Griffiths report and Lady Wagner's report, both of which are being studied. That is the best way to proceed at the moment. I shall pass on to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services the question about the review of child benefit. I am sure that a statement will be made at the appropriate time when the review has been completed. However, I cannot promise a debate in the near future.
On the matter of Govan shipyard, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said earlier this week, the negotiations have only just started. He undertook to keep the House fully informed of any developments. The necessity for a debate may well arise. I shall certainly discuss that through the usual channels.
§ Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockton, South)
Could we have an early debate on the procedure of the House in view of the difficulty that many Back Benchers are experiencing in being called during major debates? Certain parliamentary conventions mean that the same people are called time and time again simply because they are Privy Councillors.
§ Mr. Wakeham
The question of who is called in a debate is not a matter for me. I know, Mr. Speaker, that you go to a great deal of trouble to ensure that you call as many hon. Members as possible in a debate and from as wide a cross-section of opinion as possible. As my hon. Friend will know, I have tabled a motion to make 991 arrangements for reducing speeches to 10 minutes on certain occasions. I hope that we can proceed with that in the near future.
§ Mr. David Steel (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale)
A few minutes ago the Prime Minister did not quote those sections of the speech of the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit) which managed to be offensive to the racial majority in South Africa and the racial minority in this country at the same time. Will the Leader of the House recognise that when the right hon. Gentleman is such a recent member of the Cabinet and chairman of the governing party, there is a responsibility on the Government to distance themselves from those repulsive remarks? Will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for that to be done?
§ Mr. Wakeham
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman has read the speech in full. I have not read it in full, but my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has. I thought that she quoted some important parts of it and I do not think that I have anything to add to what she said.
§ Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury)
May I allude to another motion standing in my right hon. Friend's name which is welcome to many Members on both sides of the House—namely, the motion dealing with the presentation of petitions? I want to ask whether it would be possible for this motion to be debated before 6 May, as a number of us on both sides of the House are concerned that another attempt may be made to defeat the Abortion (Amendment) Bill procedurally rather than allowing the House to decide properly what its will is. I believe that, after last night, many people feel that the House's standing in the country is not all that great at the moment, and it would he regarded as a tremendous shame if this Bill were not brought to a proper democratic vote because of procedural wrangles.
§ Mr. Wakeham
As my hon. Friend knows, I have also tabled a motion to deal with that recommendation of the Select Committee on Procedure, and I would like to proceed with that as soon as possible. I believe that there would be a great deal of anger in the House if anybody sought to promote a case by procedural means rather than proper arguments. Whether or not we find time, I certainly hope that that method will not be used on that occasion.
§ Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
Would the Leader of the House invite the Secretary of State for Social Services to make a statement on the Social Security Advisory Committee's recommendations regarding the need for emphysema, bronchitis and associated diseases to be prescribed diseases? Is he aware that thousands of miners and others in associated industries are affected by these diseases and that, despite all the Bills that have been brought before Parliament in recent years, they have been rejected? Would he ask the Secretary of State for Social Services to come along, complete with his preacher's voice and all the rest of it, so that we can examine and question him on the need to get this made law?
§ Mr. Wakeham
Even when the hon. Gentleman has a good or arguable case, he does not always present it in the most persuasive way. Nevertheless, I recognise that there is a serious question there and I will certainly refer it to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.
§ Mr Quentin Davies (Stamford and Spalding)
M} right hon. Friend will recall that I asked him a few weeks ago whether he would urgently consider the possibility of allowing time for a debate on agriculture since that industry is at present in a state of demoralisation and crisis and the only debate that we have supposedly had on that subject in this Session was taken up entirely with discussion of a single Brussels summit. May I ask my right hon. Friend where he now stands in his deliberations on that matter?
§ Mr. Wakeham
My spirit is as willing as it ever was, and I intend to have a debate on agriculture as soon as I can, but, as my hon. Friend will recognise, we have had a number of important debates recently and finding time for it is not as easy as I would like.
§ Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)
I support the request by the Leader of the Opposition for a debate on shipbuilding. Will the Leader of the House recognise that the order for the super cruise liner is good news for a British shipyard and for the United Kingdom as a whole, as well as for Harland and Wolff? Might the House therefore be given an opportunity to express its view on the order, in the light of the suggestions that any public finance involved would have to come from the Northern Ireland block grant, when over 50 per cent. of the expenditure will be going to British companies in Great Britain?
§ Mr. Wakeham
I certainly recognise the hon. Gentleman's concern with shipbuilding and with Harland and Wolff: I know about this interesting project, which is based upon a novel design, but it is too soon to make a Government commitment to support it. No costings have yet been received by the Government. When they are received, they will be fully assessed. The question of a debate is perhaps a bit premature.
§ Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)
My right hon. Friend will remember that last week I asked him whether he could find time for a debate on terrorism. In view of the fact that the hijackers in Algiers have got away absolutely scot-free, is not the need for a debate even more urgent now than it was before?
§ Mr. Wakeham
I recognise that this is a very serious subject and that it could well be helpful to have a debate, but, as I am sure my hon. Friend will recognise, there is a great deal of pressure on time at the moment for various debates, particularly on Government legislation, and I am afraid that I cannot offer him time immediately.
§ Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)
Is the Leader of the House aware that yesterday the London boroughs grants scheme launched a report called "London Under Pressure" which emphasised the problems that many people and organisations in London face since the demise of the GLC? Is he also aware that health cuts are continuing very rapidly in London and that as a result many health authorities are seeking amalgamation with neighbouring health authorities, which is leading to further potential job losses and hospital and ward closures?
In the circumstances, does not the Leader of the House think that it is important to have a special debate on the needs of London, the needs of the Health Service in London and the attitude of central Government, which is 993 nothing but contemptuous towards the needs of the many poor people in London who are suffering under the Government's policies?
§ Mr. Wakeham
I do not accept much of what the hon. Gentleman has said, except that he touched upon a number of important issues. As he rightly said, a report was published yesterday. We should read and study it before we consider whether it is right and proper to have a debate on the subject. Certainly his request for a debate on London is reasonable and I shall bear it in mind.
§ Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)
Since, during the last five suspensions of Labour Members of Parliament from the House, excluding last night, some 260 Labour Members, including the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition, three Labour Whips and at least 10 Labour Front Benchers voted against the recommendation of the Chair and only 68 voted in favour, many of us were not totally convinced by the stance of the Opposition Front Bench yesterday. This has been reinforced by the fact that two Labour Whips deliberately abstained in the vote last night. Will my right hon. Friend say what discussions he has had about that through the normal channels?
§ Mr. Wakeham
I thought that the debate last night, with the substantial support which the motion which I tabled received from the House, recognised how important the authority of the Chair is to the good running of Parliament. I was very pleased indeed that it was demonstrated in the way it was. The activities of members of the Opposition and the way they vote are a problem which I can refer to the Opposition Chief Whip. I do not want to add to his burdens, but that is his problem, not mine.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. May I draw attention to what I said last week? Business questions should be related to the business for the following week.
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)
When we have a debate on the Rover Group, will the Leader of the House make it clear who will respond on behalf of the Government—whether it will be the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster or the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit), because the position is not clear?
Can we have an early statement at long last about the Settle-Carlisle line? The Leader of the House will know that the local authorities have agreed to advance several hundred thousand pounds to support the line. They have asked for certain criteria from the Government, such as a guarantee for a number of years of operation of the line. All the criteria are reasonable. The Government have still not come to the House with a statement about keeping the line. Now that the local authorities have yielded to a great deal of pressure and blackmail by the Government to support the line, is it not time that the Government came up with their own support to make sure that we save this magnificent 80-mile railway?
§ Mr. Wakeham
When the Rover Group debate is arranged, it is not a matter for me who will be called to speak. I do not want to disturb the hon. Gentleman, but under the nresent arraneements it seems he might have to 994 deal with speeches from my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and from my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit). I hope that that does not disturb him too much.
I recognise the hon. Gentleman's long concern and interest in the Settle railway. He knows that it is being considered by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport. An announcement will be made when my right hon. Friend has made up his mind how best to proceed.
§ Mr. James Kilfedder (North Down)
The Government have stated time after time that the community charge legislation is essential for the well-being of the people of Scotland, Wales and England. When will the Government introduce similar legislation for Northern Ireland?
§ Mr. Wakeham
I have to say to my hon. Friend, not next week. I will refer the matter to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, but I know of no plans to do so immediately.
§ Mr. Andrew Welsh (Angus, East)
Is it not a disgrace that the Scottish Office, with 12,000 civil servants and a £9 billion annual budget, alone among the major Departments of State does not have a Select Committee to scrutinise its affairs? Will the Leader of the House advise the Committee of Selection that if the problem is that it cannot get Scottish hon. Members to serve on it, there is no problem? I can volunteer three for him. Will he promise the House a debate on this whole sorry affair?
§ Mr. Wakeham
I know of the interest in the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs. I understand that the Chairman of the Committee of Selection, whose responsibility it is, will be writing to me later today, and I think the position might best be reviewed when I have received that letter.
§ Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, North)
Does my right hon. Friend recall that some months ago he promised the House a debate on sport? In the light of the blackmailing tactics and, in the words of Daley Thompson, the cheating tactics now being employed by the International Amateur Athletics Federation against Miss Zola Budd and the British Amateur Athletics Board, would it not be a good idea to have a debate on sport to get rid of the hypocrisy and bigotry of those who are far more interested in politics than sport? May I recommend to my right hon. Friend early-day motion 973, standing in my name, which has more than 150 signatures in favour of its spirit?
§ [That this House urges the British Amateur Athletics Board to reject the International Amateur Athletics Federation's recommendation that Miss Zola Budd be suspended from international competition; and believes that each governing body of sport should be able to select any competitor free from political or outside pressure, particularly when that athlete is proved innocent of any offence under international rules.]
§ Mr. Wakeham
I recognise that a debate on sport is desired in a number of quarters in the House, and I would arrange one if I could see time for it, but I do not see that in the immediate future. However, I shall certainly bear it in mind. The Government remain committed to the Gleneagles agreement. The position of Miss Budd is, of course, a matter for the British Amateur Athletics Board and the International Amateur Athletics Federation.
§ Mr. Doug Henderson (Newcastle upon Tyne, North)
The Leader of the House will recall that, at Question time on Tuesday, the Prime Minister referred to those who are putting pressure on the British Amateur Athletics Board to consider the eligibility of Miss Budd as "rather repugnant"? Was the Prime Minister aware that 23 countries had unanimously agreed that decision of the IAAF, including the United States and West Germany? May we have a debate specifically on the Gleneagles agreement so that the House can once again reaffirm its commitment and reassure the rest of the world?
§ Mr. Wakeham
I cannot be more forthcoming to the hon. Gentleman than I was to my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle). As to what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said on Tuesday, when she makes a statement from the Dispatch Box she says what she believes to be right and not always necessarily what other nations think is comfortable to hear.
§ Mr. Terence L. Higgins (Worthing)
In the case of Miss Budd, will my right hon. Friend accept that I may be a little prejudiced, as the only South African to get to the tape ahead of me in a Commonwealth games was disqualified for cheating? Be that as it may, will he accept that it is inconceivable, after all the controversy over the years about Miss Budd, that she returned to South Africa and attended an athletics meeting—where she was bound to be greeted as a celebrity by those in favour of apartheid—without realising that that was bound to create real problems for herself and for British athletes generally? Is my right hon. Friend aware that many British athletes regard that as a deliberate and extremely selfish act?
§ Mr. Wakeham
My right hon. Friend has followed these matters over many years since the days, not so long ago, when he was a distinguished athlete himself. What he says is what he believes to be true. All I can say is that, listening to the arguments, there seems to be a considerable amount of controversy about this case; but I must repeat that this is a matter for the British Amateur Athletics Board and the International Amateur Athletics Federation, and not a matter for the Government to resolve.
§ Mr. Harry Ewing (Falkirk, East)
To return to the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs, may I advise the Leader of the House not to take the offer from the Scottish National party too seriously? During the last Parliament, when the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs was sitting, it was difficult to get SNP hon. Members to sit on that Committee or, indeed, on any other.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is deep discontent that the only Department of Government that is not subject to the scrutiny of a Select Committee is the Scottish Office? The Leader of the House is under an obligation by resolution of the House to set up that Committee. Will he accept that he has a duty to come to the House and make a statement as soon as he receives the letter from the Chairman of the Committee of Selection so that we can question him closely and ensure that the Committee is set up?
§ Mr. Wakeham
The hon. Gentleman will have heard me say that I do not propose to say any more on that subject until I have received a letter from my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Sir M. Fox) who is the Chairman of the Committee of Selection. When I have received that 996 letter, I shall consider what it says and decide how best to proceed. If there is a question about the need for a debate, it can be discussed through the usual channels.
§ Mr. Allan Stewart (Eastwood)
Further to the questions from the hon. Members for Angus, East (Mr. Welsh) and for Falkirk, East (Mr. Ewing), does my right hon. Friend agree that a debate on the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs would be welcome on the Conservative Benches so that, for example, I could explain that I do not propose to waste my time in that Select Committee, but prefer to defend my constituents against the absolute arrogance of the leader of the Strathclyde regional council in writing abusive letters to local ministers and making it clear that he will not reply to letters from my constituents about school reorganisation?
§ Mr. Wakeham
My hon. Friend adds weight to the demands of which the usual channels will have to take note when deciding whether there is a need for a debate on that matter. One thing is certain: that we do not need to have a debate on the merits in business questions.
§ Mrs. Ray Michie (Argyll and Bute)
Will the Leader of the House please find time for a debate as soon as possible on a matter that is important to my constituency and, indeed, to other parts of Scotland—the proposed increase in the weekly closing time for salmon net fishermen? We should really like to debate that because it is due to come into effect at the beginning of May and will be enormously damaging to that industry.
§ Mr. Wakeham
I cannot promise an early debate on that subject, although I recognise its importance. However, I remind the hon. Lady that there are Scottish questions on Wednesday and she could question my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland on that subject, if that would be of any help.
§ Mr. Richard Holt (Langbaurgh)
My right hon. Friend will know that yesterday my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport announced an inquiry into the workings of the M25—or, to be precise, its inadequacies. In view of the representations that have been made by north-east Members of Parliament of all persuasions on the need for a motorway on the east of England from the south to the north, will my right hon. Friend make it his business to see that we have an urgent debate on the subject, and that the Minister is not advised by the same stupid civil servants who gave him advice on the M25 but listens to some of the business men and representatives from the north-east of England who know how much that would mean to regional policy and how much better it would be than some of the projects on which money has been wasted over many years?
§ Mr. Wakeham
I am sure that my hon. Friend would want to be fair. The advice on how to build the M25, its size and so on, was taken long before the present Secretary of State for Transport was in the House, when others had responsibility for the matter. However, I recognise my hon. Friend's concern. I shall refer the matter to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport but I regret that I connot promise an early debate on the subject.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Lofthouse (Pontyfract and Castleford)
May I refer the Minister to his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) on emphysema among mineworkers? Is he aware that I have 997 letter from the Secretary of State for Social Services informing me that the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council has reported to him that it is not recommending that the disease should be prescribed? Will he request the Secretary of State to publish that report and provide time in the House for a debate on it so that we can ascertain why?
§ Mr. Wakeham
I recognise the hon. Gentleman's concern and I shall certainly refer the matter and the question of publishing the report—if that is normal practice—to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services. I shall certainly see what can be done so that the hon. Gentleman will know more about the advice that my right hon. Friend has received.
§ Mr. Latham
With regard to next Thursday's debate on summer time, will the Minister in charge of that order make it clear that he has no intention of asking the House to go back to all-year-round summer time, which was abandoned in 1971, since that would be disastrous for the building industry, for farmers and for many people in industry in the north and in Scotland? Will he tell those yuppies who want to ring Europe that they can get up an hour earlier and use their car telephones at Virginia Water station?
§ Mr. Wakeham
My hon. Friend makes his point well, but I fear that the order that we shall be discussing is of somewhat more limited scope; it refers to British summer time beginning on 26 March 1989 and ending on 29 October 1989, although the wider issues may well arise in the debate, subject to your ruling, Mr. Speaker.
§ Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)
Will the Leader of the House consider getting either the Secretary of State for Scotland or the Secretary of State for Energy to comment on the reductions in employment in the headquarters of the coal industry in Scotland? Could he perusade them to give us some further information regarding the state of negotiations between the South of Scotland electricity board and British Coal about the coal uptake for power station consumption in Scotland? Does he accept that right now, because of the perhaps understandable cuts in manpower, morale in the Scottish coalfield is extremely low and we need an urgent statement and a clear indication that the SSEB intends to burn coal produced in Scotland in Scottish power stations?
§ Mr. Wakeham
I shall certainly refer the matter to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy and my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. We have long regarded it as a priority that the nation's coal consumers should have access to reliable and economically produced supplies of coal, from whatever source. Provided that British Coal can get costs down, it has every chance of remaining the supplier of choice.
§ Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington)
A clause in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Bill [Lords] would have the effect of depriving this House of one of its most important, ancient and hallowed privileges, namely, the control of its domestic affairs—in this case the control of its recorded, filmed, televised and photographed events. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that on Second Reading on Thursday a Minister justifies this proposal that we should give up our ancient rights?
§ Mr. Wakeham
My hon. Friend and I have had some correspondence about this matter. I shall certainly refer it to my right hon. Friend before the debate next Thursday so that he can make the position clear in that debate, and it may well be debated during the passage of the Bill.
§ Mr. Nigel Griffiths (Edinburgh, South)
Will the Leader of the House make time next week for a statement from the Secretary of State for Education and Science about the severe threat felt by medical research charities such as the Friedrich's Ataxia Group, which feel that the imposition of overhead costs on them by the universities, which are themselves threatened with financial crisis, would do much to destroy the valuable research work that they do?
§ Mr. Wakeham
I can only say that I shall refer this matter to my right hon. Friend and if he thinks it appropriate to make a statement, I am sure that he will.
§ Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)
Will my right hon. Friend arrange an early debate on the dignity of man, having regard to the continuing and unpleasant practice of paupers' graves? Is he aware that at this moment there are two open graves in the Hanwell cemetery on the edge of my constituency, which will take five or six people with 6 in of soil between them? That causes great distress and has done for many years. Is it not time that the practice was ended? In view of the local authority's remit in this, would my right hon. Friend help me to secure money from Ealing council by stopping its proposed spending of ?980 on an evening for lesbians on 7 May and put that money into a dignified burial for our citizens?
§ Mr. Wakeham
I will give my hon. Friend any help that I properly can to pursue the matter but I cannot promise him a debate on it next week.
§ Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West)
May we have a debate on the Government's unworthy policy of keeping secret many documents more than 40 years old concerning the deaths of British service men and prisoners of war? Why is it that the three Government investigations taking place at the moment are all secret? One of them concerns war criminals who live in this country, one concerns the involvement of President Waldheim in the deaths of prisoners of war and the third, announced today, concerns the alleged mass murderer General Mohnke? Why should they be secret? Why are the documents not available? What are the Government covering up, and should we not have a debate on the matter?
§ Mr. Wakeham
I am sorry that I cannot promise the hon. and learned Gentleman a debate. Decisions about what should be secret and what should be made public are based on long-standing conventions and rules in this place and I am not in a position to change them. I shall certainly refer the hon. and learned Gentleman's remarks to the 999 appropriate quarter but I can see an important case for conducting such inquiries in private to avoid the possibility of injustice.
§ Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)
When my right hon. Friend receives the report from the Chairman of the Committee of Selection, will he bear in mind the fact that I have been accused by the Scottish National party of having cheated the electorate at the general election? In fact, I made it quite clear that I would not serve on the Committee and I gave my reasons. I would welcome the opportunity of a debate to draw attention to the inconsistency of the SNP on these matters and to make it quite clear why I and others need time to defend our interests against the lies put out about us in our constituencies.
§ Mr. Wakeham
I have no doubt that if my hon. Friend should catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, he will make his point clearly. I would certainly acquit him of any charge of cheating or of not making his own position abundantly clear to anybody who would listen to him.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)
My question arises from the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) earlier today. Do the Government accept that there is an obligation on any British Administration to ensure that those held responsible for atrocities against British troops in the last war are brought to justice? Will there be a statement about the person named by my hon. Friend? Why should a notorious Nazi mass killer and Hitler pimp be allowed to go scot-free and live in comfort in Germany instead of being brought to justice?
§ Mr. Wakeham
I do not think that I can add to what was said earlier. I understand that the House was told by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that the material in the possession of the Ministry of Defence is being urgently re-examined following the representations made by the hon. Member for Perry Barr. That would seem to me to be the right way to proceed, and I do not think that I can add anything further.
§ Mr. Kenneth Hind (Lancashire, West)
My right hon. Friend will have noted the substantial falls in unemployment in the north of England. Has he also noted that councils such as Lancashire are increasing their rates by 18 per cent.? That is causing a great deal of concern as it is feared that employment prospects will be much reduced. Will he give time in the near future for a debate on industrial development in the north of England as we have not had such a debate for some time?
§ Mr. Wakeham
I recognise that this is an important subject. I note my hon. Friend's concern about the policies of certain county councils, and he makes the point very well.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)
In view of early-day motions 228, 253, 272, 273, 279, 286, 622 and 627, and as, for some strange unfathomable reason, the Prime Minister will not be answering the Adjournment debate tomorrow on the conduct of her private office, could we have an assurance that the Minister answering for the Civil Service will have been fully and frankly briefed by Mr. Ingham and Mr. Powell about their total role in the Westland affair?
§ [That this House notes in the book, Campaign, by 1000 Rodney Tyler, the Selling of the Prime Minister: from behind the doors of Downing Street and Conservative Central Office—A unique inside account of the Battle for Power that the author on page 1, chapter 1, paragraph 1, sentence 1, states 'It was an extraordinary turnaround in fortunes from the moment on 27th January 1986 when Mrs. Thatcher secretly confided to a close associate that she might have to resign …' and on page 3 that 'On the eve of the crucial Westland debate she herself felt shaky enough to doubt her future' though some around her later sought to dismiss this as late evening anxieties of the sort that had disappeared the following morning. It is certainly true that if Leon Brittan had chosen to, he could have brought her to the brink of downfall, by naming the real culprits inside Number 10. Instead, he chose to remain silent', and calls on the Prime Minister to give a full account of what transpired between 3rd January and 27th January 1986, at Number 10 Downing Street, in relation to the selectively leaked Law Officer's letter concerning the Westland Affair.]
[That this House notes that the Member for Aldershot on page 136 of his book Heseltine: the unauthorised Biography, states in relation to the Westland Affair that 'John Wakeham issued an order of the day which contained the trite, if effective message, that it was time for all good men to come to the aid of the party'. We did and calls on the Leader of the House, The Right Honourable Member for South Colchester and Maldon, to explain when he first knew the role of the then Trade and Industry Secretary, The Right Honourable Member for Richmond, Yorks, in the matter of the disclosure of a selectively leaked Law Officer's letter.]
[That this House notes that in his book Mrs. Thatcher's Revolution, published this week by Jonathan Cape and Co., Mr. Peter Jenkins writes, on page 200 'Brittan himself refused to enlighten the Select Committee on any point of substance. However, he is reputed to have told close friends subsequently that not only has she known perfectly well what had happened but that, on the day following the leak, had expressed her satisfaction to him at the way things had been handled. However at that time, the downfall of Heseltine had not been achieved.… He ( Mr. Brittan) might point the finger at her ( Mrs. Thatcher). Potentially he now had the power to destroy her'; and calls on the Prime Minister to give the House a full account of her conversations with the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, the Right Honourable Member for Richmond, Yorks, over the period from 3rd January and 27th January 1986, in relation to the selectively leaked Law Officer's letter concerning the Westland Affair.]
[That this House notes that in The Thatcher Years—A decade of Revolution in British Politics, published by BBC Books, Mr. John Cole, on page 170, considering the selectively leaked Law Officer's letter in the Westland Affair, writes 'why did he ( Sir Robert Armstrong) not give her a quick interim report when he discovered that the leak was an inside job, authorised by her office? Why did Leon Brittan not tell her? Or the private secretary concerned? Or his chief, who sits in the same room? Or her press secretary? And why did she never ask?'; and calls on the Prime Minister to inform the House of the answers to these questions.]
[That this House notes that, in the book 'Not with Honour—The Inside Story of the Westland Scandal', on page 142, Magnus Linklater and David Leigh write that 'Instead, following Havers's complaint, she spoke privately to Brittan about the leak. Although this is something the Prime Minister has failed to disclose, to widespread disbelief, the evidence comes from an authoritative source,
1001 who told us: "The Prime Minister knew about the leak. She was pleased it had been done. There was a meeting between Brittan and her after the complaint from Mayhew. Only the two of them were present … Brittan assumed she knew of [the leak's] origins. You must draw your own conclusions." ' One of Brittan's friends adds, "Nobody thought it was a problem. The complaints were out of the public domain and any inquiry was expected to be a formality. Leon wasn't worried at all about it."; and calls on the Prime Minister to give a full account to the House of the meeting between herself and Right Honourable Member for Richmond, Yorks, referred to therein.]
[That this House notes that in an article by Mr. Paul Foot in the Daily Mirror, dated 28th January, a Ministry of Defence official, Mr. Paul Newbigin, is quoted as having admitted witnessing the shredding and incinerating of the log book of HMS Vonqueror'; is concerned that if this statement is true, the Ministry of Defence is guilty of having established an entirely bogus investigation into the disappearance of the log book when the facts of its deliberate destruction were already known; further notes the parallel between this case and that of the leaked Solicitor General's letter in the Westland Affair, when a similar investigation was launched despite the availability in advance of all the salient facts; and calls upon the Secretary of State for Defence to set up an immediate inquiry with the genuine purpose of furnishing Parliament with a full explanation of this bizarre series of events.]
[That this House calls for a debate on the conduct of honourable and right honourable Members of the House, considering the position of back bench members who resort to unparliamentary language and Heads of Government who misuse Law Officer's letters and then display lack of conduct about what they have done.]
Could we have an up-to-date report on a matter about which I have written to the Prime Minister—the progress of the leak inquiries in relation to the contact between her own office and the Secretary of State for Education on school testing, the Scottish Office on opting out and the latest difficulty over the poll tax with the Department of the Environment?
§ Mr. Wakeham
I doubt whether the hon. Gentleman will get all that in answer to tomorrow's debate—whoever answers it. The Minister who replies to the debate tomorrow will be well briefed and will give a very good answer, but it may not satisfy the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)
The Leader of the House will be aware that over two days next week the NATO Nuclear Planning Group meeting will be held in Kolding in Denmark. On the agenda will be a proposal from the Government for lots of new nuclear weapons. After Nuclear Planning Group meetings in the past, the Government have not been particularly honest with the House or with the electorate. Will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement at an early and convenient time about the result of this meeting?
§ Mr. Wakeham
To make allegations of that sort, which I totally repudiate, is not the way to try to get me to arrange a debate on the subject. Nevertheless, I shall forgive the hon. Gentleman for that lapse from his usual 1002 standards and refer to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence the hon. Gentleman's concern that there should be a statement, but I cannot promise one.
§ Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)
Is the Leader of the House aware of the great disappointment felt in all parts of the House when the arts debate that we were to have on 25 May was cancelled? When are we to have a debate on the arts? Among the things that we could discuss is the giving of advice to Lady Soames. Indeed, we could possibly discuss the possibility of an Arts Council grant for the colourful socks of the hon. Member for Crawley (Mr. Soames). Will the right hon. Gentleman say that if we have such a debate it will not be held on the day of the local government elections? That has happened in the past and it is not satisfactory and would disappoint many hon. Members.
§ Mr. Wakeham
I am delighted to see the hon. Gentleman here. He was here at the beginning of last night's debate but then he disappeared and I thought that he might have been taken ill. I recognise his interest in the arts and his possessive attitude to some art trinkets. I hope to arrange a debate at the earliest opportunity and I recognise the hon. Gentleman's desire that it should not take place on the day of the local government elections.
§ Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South)
May I join those hon. Members who have pressed the Leader of the House for a debate on the shipbuilding industry—or on what remains of it? It is not just a question of the recent developments at Govan, but also of the knock-on effect on many of my constituents. In Sunderland, nearly 3,000 people are employed in the shipbuilding industry. There have been recent reports, apparently well-sourced, that the Government intend to end the public subsidy to shipbuilding. May we have an opportunity to debate that before the decision is made? Such a debate could have some influence on the decision and would be better than just hearing about the decision afterwards.
§ Mr. Wakeham
I cannot be any more forthcoming than I was earlier in answer to the hon. Gentleman's right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. I recognise that there may well be need for a debate on shipbuilding. We will see how we get on. I appreciate that the concern is not restricted to Govan, and that Sunderland is also concerned about these matters. I hope that the hon. Gentleman takes into account the concern of his hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Clay) that hon. Members do not spread rumours that cause undue anxiety in what is obviously a difficult situation.
§ Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East)
Will the Leader of the House try to understand that his complacency about the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs is wholly unacceptable to the vast majority of Scottish Members? For example, it is no secret that the letter that he awaits from the Chairman of the Committee of Selection will simply confirm the failure to find, from more than 370 Conservative Members of this unitary Parliament, five who are sufficiently interested in Scotland to man the Government side of this important Select Committee. Will the right hon. Gentleman stop dodging the question and give the House a guarantee that there will be an opportunity for a full debate on his abysmal failure in this important matter?
§ Mr. Wakeham
I have to tell the hon. Gentleman that it is not a sign of complacency not to comment on a letter until one has received it. Perhaps if the hon. Gentleman has received a letter meant for me he would send it round to me so that I may read it.
§ Mr. Bob Clay (Sunderland, North)
Returning to the question of merchant shipbuilding, may I say to the Leader of the House that he does not seem to understand the urgency of the situation? He talks about people spreading rumours. The most serious rumour being spread at the moment is the one that the Government persistently spread when they claim that if things are in crisis it has nothing to do with them and there is nothing that they can do about it.
We need a debate in order to point to policies that could be undertaken. For instance, at the moment there is a real prospect of a substantial order from Cuba and it is about time that the Department of Trade and Industry decided what it could do to assist. That would be better than the continual knocking campaign against North East Shipbuilders Ltd.
While the negotiations take place at Govan it is not just 3,000 jobs in Sunderland that are at stake: it is 10,000, because for every one of the 3,000 people employed directly by British Shipbuilders, there are another three dependent jobs. The situation is urgent and the Government have a responsibility and should allow a debate no later than next week.
§ Mr. Wakeham
Remarks like that do not help to deal with a difficult situation. The situation on the ground is about people and jobs, and words such as those used by the hon. Gentleman totally ignore the substantial sums of money, verging on £2 billion, put into the shipbuilding industry over the years by various Governments. It is incorrect to pretend that nothing has been done. This is a serious problem that merits serious interventions and will not be helped by remarks such as those of the hon. Gentleman.