HC Deb 10 November 1988 vol 140 cc485-97 3.30 pm
Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras)

Will the Leader of the House tell us the business of the House for tomorrow and next week?

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Wakeham)

It may be for the convenience of the House if I announce the rearranged business for tomorrow at the same time as the business for next week:

FRIDAY 11 NOVEMBER—Timetable motion on the School Boards (Scotland) Bill and the Housing Bill, followed by consideration of Lords amendments to the School Boards (Scotland) Bill and conclusion of consideration of Lords amendments to the Housing Bill.

MONDAY 14 NOVEMBER Remaining stages of the Road Traffic Bill [Lords], the Road Traffic (Consequential Provisions) Bill [Lords] and the Road Traffic Offenders Bill [Lords], which are consolidation measures.

Afterwards there will be debates on motions to take note of EC documents on:

—safety in the workplace and personal protective equipment;

—on risks to workers from biological agents, the control of genetically modified organisms and the regulation of biotechnology;

—on tar yields of cigarettes and the labelling of tobacco products;

—on waste from the titanium dioxide industry; and

—on dimensions of articulated vehicles.

Details of the EC documents concerned will be given in the Official Report.

TUESDAY 15 NOVEMBER—Subject to the progress of business it will be proposed that the House will meet for prorogation at 9.30 am.

Mr. Speaker, the House may be asked to consider any Lords messages and other business as necessary.

The new Session will be opened on Tuesday 22 November.

[Monday 14 November 1988 ( 5 separate debates):

Relevant European Community Documents (a) 5211/88 Health and safety in the workplace (b) 5762/88 Personal protective equipment (c) 5836/88 Risks to workers from exposure to biological agents (d) 6397/88 Control of biotechnology (e) 10399/86 Community Regulation of biotechnology (f) 9444/87 Biotechnology Research (g) 4192/88 Labelling of tobacco products (h) 4193/88 Control of maximum tar yield of cigarettes (i) 6387/83 Titanium dioxide industry wastes (j) 7733/84 Titanium dioxide waste pollution (k) 6882/88 Dimensions of articulated vehicles.

Relevant Reports of European Legislation Committee (a) HC 43–xxiv ( 1987–88) paragraph 3 (b) HC 43–xxxiv ( 1987–88) paragraph 2 (c) HC 43–xxx ( 1987–88) paragraph 2 (d) HC 43–xxxii (1987–88) paragraph 3 and HC 43–xxxix (1987–88) paragraph 3 (e) HC 22–vii (1987–88) paragraph 7 (f) HC 43–xii (1987–88) paragraph 3 (g) HC 43–xix (1987–88) paragraph 1 and HC 43–xxxix paragraph 1 (h) HC 43–xix (1987–88) paragraph 2 (i) HC 78–viii ( 1983–84) paragraph 6 (j) HC 78–xxxiv (1983–84) paragraph 3, HC 43–xxxiv (1987–88) paragraph 1 and HC 43–xxxv (1987–88) paragraph 1 (k) HC 43–xxxiv (1987–88) paragraph 3.]

Mr. Dobson

It would probably be kinder not to comment on the business shambles proposed for tomorrow—[Interruption.]—but as the Chancellor of the Exchequer is apparently prepared to defend himself on television and radio and to give partial information to newspapers about what he did or did not say last Friday, why have the Cabinet refused to provide time to debate the motion criticising the Chancellor which has been tabled in the names of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and others? Is it that the Chancellor is afraid to come and face the music, or are the rest of the Cabinet afraid what he might let slip when trying to defend what he said he did not say? It is not unusual for the Opposition to call for a vote of no confidence in a Chancellor, but it is a rare event for a Cabinet to pass one, yet that is what we have seen today.

Will the Leader of the House therefore reconsider his decision, or try to get his Cabinet colleagues to reconsider their decision, so that we can debate this important motion, because this matter will not go away? Whatever happens before the Queen's Speech, this issue will not be allowed to rest by us. We believe that the Leader of the House owes it to the Chancellor, to the pensioners who are perturbed about the threat of means testing and to the journalists involved, whose integrity has been thrown into question by the Chancellor, to have that debate, and to have it soon.

Mr. Wakeham

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has answered a private notice question in the House and spoken about events outside the House, but I have considered the early-day motion in the name of the Leader of the Opposition. As Leader of the House I must have regard for the views of the whole House. The business that I have announced for Monday is important, and many hon. Members have an interest in it. If the Opposition wish to pursue the question of a debate on their early-day motion, there will be opportunities in the new Session for them to do so.

I do not accept for a moment what the hon. Gentleman said about the guillotine motion or the Government's legislative programme. As Leader of the House I have to take into account the views of all hon. Members, and it was clear last night that the arrangements between the Government and the official Opposition for dealing with the Housing Bill were not acceptable to the House as a whole. In those circumstances, I was doubtful whether the proposal to take the School Boards (Scotland) Bill would be generally acceptable. That is why I have arranged for the House to have an opportunity tomorrow to debate and reach a final decision on the future handling of both those Bills.

What the hon. Gentleman said about the Government's legislative programme is complete nonsense. Thirty-four pieces of Government legislation have already received Royal Assent this Session and another two have completed all their stages. The fact is that this Government have succeeded far better than the Labour Government ever did in bringing to completion an extensive and popular legislative programme, and Opposition Members do not like it.

Mr. Michael Jopling (Westmorland and Lonsdale)

When my right hon. Friend moves the timetable motion tomorrow and listens to the synthetic indignation from the Opposition, will he take care to remind the House that he has never yet come within sight of breaking the record of the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot), who as Leader of the House moved five guillotine motions in one day?

Mr. Wakeham

My right hon. Friend is right. There have been many worse occasions than what will happen tomorrow. I regret that we have to debate a guillotine motion on a Friday, but we have the record of the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) as a precedent, which we hope never to repeat.

Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, East)

Is the Leader of the House aware that many people consider that the Chancellor of the Exchequer misled the House by his statement last week? The only way to clear up that matter is by a debate in this House. Why have the Government shirked such a debate on Monday?

Mr. Wakeham

I have already dealt with that in answer to the right hon. Gentleman's hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson). I am acting entirely in accordance with precedent.

Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)

Will my right hon. Friend confirm the remarks of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, reported in The Independent today, that the only test of a Conservative is whether he supports the Anglo-Irish Agreement? If, as a result of our right hon. Friend's suggestion to the national union, the North Down Conservative Association is not allowed to join the national union, will my right hon. Friend confirm—for the Government are well known for their consistency—that he will recommend that all Conservative associations which do not support the Anglo-Irish Agreement are expelled and, what is more, that all Conservative Members of Parliament who do not support the Anglo-Irish Agreement have the Whip withdrawn?

Mr. Wakeham

My hon. Friend tempts me, but I shall restrict my remarks to Government business. The overwhelming bulk of hon. Members on both sides of the House believe that the Anglo-Irish Agreement is a worthwhile initiative and should produce substantial benefits to the people of Ireland, both in the North and in the Republic. I have long since learnt not to talk about Whipping matters, and I do not believe that it is appropriate for me to make any comment about the Conservative party from the Dispatch Box.

Mr. Michael Foot (Blaenau Gwent)

As the matter of previous guillotines has been raised, may I make a proposition to the Leader of the House which may help him out of some of his difficulties, although, particularly with a majority of well over 100, I have never seen such a legislative shambles as that which he presides over? May I make him a fair bargain to settle the matter once and for all? If I agree to a debate on the merits of my five guillotine motions in the next two or three days, will the right hon. Gentleman agree to find time to debate our motion on the Chancellor of the Exchequer? Let us have debates on both matters. Or is the right hon. Gentleman really going to run away from the challenge of a debate about the performance of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the House a few days ago?

Mr. Wakeham

Perhaps I was a little unfair to the hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent, and that caused him to rise to his feet. I should have explained to the House that the reason why he was forced to table five guillotine motions on one day was that there was no other way in which he could have got his business through the House by the necessary date.

Mr. Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)

As Hansard revealed on Tuesday, the EEC management committee, on which the Government are represented, is now selling substantial quantities of butter at 2½p per pound, compared with £1 a pound in this country. Will my right hon. Friend try to allow some time for us to discuss the implications for the British taxpayer and consumer of those developments? Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the EEC is spending more money every three days on the dumping and destruction of food than the yearly amount that will be received from the charges for sight tests and dental tests?

Mr. Wakeham

I recognise my hon. Friend's concern about these matters. Debates on the European Community and its various activities are important, and I have announced a number of such debates for next week. I shall bear in mind what my hon. Friend has said, in the hope that there will be a more general debate in the not too distant future.

Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill)

Has the Leader of the House had a chance to consider reports in the press in the past two days that the emission of radio nuclides into the atmosphere over the weekend 28–29 October in the Greater Liverpool and Greater Manchester areas was the equivalent of three to nine times higher than the normal levels of background radiation? Does he agree that that justifies a Minister coming to the House to explain what led to those levels and why the local authorities were not notified of what had happened?

Mr. Wakeham

I have to tell the hon. Gentleman that the Department has not been notified of any release of radioactive material within the United Kingdom or of any overseas nuclear incident. I shall refer the hon. Gentleman's request to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.

Mr. James Kilfedder (North Down)

Next Tuesday is the anniversary of the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, which the majority of people in Northern Ireland regard as a great betrayal because their elected representatives were not consulted, although the elected representatives of the minority were consulted. May we have a debate next Tuesday so that the Government can put forward evidence to show that the agreement has achieved its aims of peace and reconciliation? As the Member of Parliament for North Down, a constituency that has been mentioned in the House, may I say that I do not mind what candidates come forward against me in the next election?

Mr. Wakeham

I am glad to hear that my hon. Friend is as confident as ever.

I cannot arrange a debate next week on Northern Ireland, although I recognise that there is a demand for a debate in the House on that subject. The appropriate time to have such a debate is a matter for discussion. I shall bear my hon. Friend's suggestion in mind.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish)

The Leader of the House will recall that there has been growing disquiet about private business. He will also recall that the Joint Committee on Private Bill Procedure, which was set up by this House and the House of Lords, has produced an excellent report. Will the Leader of the House give us some idea of how soon that report will be discussed in the House and an opportunity provided for us to vote on it? On Tuesday there were once again illustrations of the unsatisfactory problems of private business, and there may be problems again tonight.

Mr. Wakeham

I know that the hon. Gentleman takes a great interest in these matters and has great knowledge of them. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest (Mr. McNair-Wilson) and to the other members of the Committee, who have produced a valuable report. Private business is a complex subject, in which there are many aspects to be addressed. I appreciate the considerable interest of hon. Members and I hope that, unusually, it will be possible to arrange a debate before the Government have responded to the Committee's recommendations in the normal way, so that we can hear the views of the House.

Mr. Roger Sims (Chislehurst)

The European Community documents that we shall be discussing on Monday cover several different subjects. Is it proposed that we should have an umbrella debate on all of them, or a separate debate on each? If the latter, will the debates be timed to ensure that each subject is adequately discussed?

Mr. Wakeham

As a result of representations that we have received, we have decided to proceed in the normal fashion. The debates will follow one after the other and the normal Standing Orders of the House will apply.

Mr. Jack Ashley (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

Is the Leader of the House aware that many people were interested in the reports of eminent journalists last weekend and that, as a consequence, they now want a straight answer to a simple question? Will old-age pensioners be guaranteed free prescriptions while the Government are in office? Can the Leader of the House give us that guarantee, or a debate on the subject?

Mr. Wakeham

I am afraid that I was not present at that party. I have nothing to add to anything that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor or my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister have said on the subject.

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross)

Will my right hon. Friend note that important Scottish legislation, which the Scottish people are anxious should reach the statute book—the School Boards (Scotland) Bill—has once again been threatened and compromised by the activities of Left-wing London Members? Will he view with extreme scepticism any request by the Opposition for the establishment of a Select Committee on Scottish Affairs, in which they have no interest, given that the Scottish Office has given evidence to Select Committees of the House on 23 occasions?

Mr. Wakeham

I know that my hon. and learned Friend takes a great deal of interest in the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs. I have indicated that we shall arrange a debate to discuss the matter, and I have nothing further to add until that debate.

Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)

Has the Leader of the House looked at the outstanding Lords amendments to the deeply resented School Boards (Scotland) Bill? Will he confirm that this is the first time in history that a Government have moved a guillotine motion on a handful of minor and technical amendments? Is it a sign of panic?

Mr. Wakeham

No. I know that the Opposition suggested that they would like the amendments to be taken formally, and I shall certainly take that into account when drawing up the timetable motion. I hope that it will be possible to arrange matters so that if the House does not wish to spend the time provided on the School Boards (Scotland) Bill, additional time can be spent on the Housing Bill, if that is what the House wishes.

Mr. Phillip Oppenheim (Amber Valley)

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that this week's business, as originally announced, was agreed through the usual channels? Does he know what went wrong with the Opposition last night?

Mr. Wakeham

If anything went wrong last night, I do not suppose that the Opposition would tell me about it. I do not think that discussions through the usual channels are best ventilated on the Floor of the House. We do our best.

Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Cromarty and Skye)

The Leader of the House has said umpteen times during business questions that he hopes to have a debate on the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs by the end of the Session. We have reached the end of the Session, and we are not to have a debate. The continuing lack of discussion of the absence of a Select Committee on Scottish Affairs is nothing short of an insult to Scottish politics. When in the next Session does the right hon. Gentleman propose to have a debate?

Mr. Wakeham

I do not think that I said quite what the hon. Gentleman suggests. I said that I had put certain proposals to the Opposition which were unfortunately unacceptable to them. If those proposals had been accepted, the Select Committee could have been set up a long time ago. I regret that that did not happen. I have said that we shall organise a debate, and the timing of that debate is best discussed through the usual channels. I had hoped to arrange it before now, but there has been substantial pressure on business, and I regret that it will now not be possible to have a debate before the end of this Session.

Mr. Richard Holt (Langbaurgh)

My right hon. Friend will recall that throughout this Session one matter has dominated press reports—the Cleveland child sex abuse issue which has not been debated in the Chamber. It is remiss of both the Government and the Opposition to fail to find time to debate the matter. Will my right hon. Friend give the need for such a debate urgent consideration in the new Session?

Mr. Wakeham

My hon. Friend has been very forthright in expressing his views and calling for a debate. I am sorry that I have not been able to arrange one, and I hope that we will be able to make some progress in the new Session.

Ms. Dawn Primarolo (Bristol, South)

Will the Leader of the House arrange for an emergency debate on Monday on the Hinkley Point C inquiry? The inquiry is proceeding with a great deal of haste, which is denying objectors their rights to submit proofs of evidence. The inspector has announced that the closure date for submitting proofs of evidence will be in the next week or so, yet objectors are expected to comment both on economic evaluations for nuclear power and fossil fuels and on the Government's proposed legislation for the privatisation of the electricity industry. There is great worry in the country, especially in the west country, about nuclear power. It seems appropriate that the Minister should make a statement that the inquiry will stand adjourned until after the Government have announced their proposals for the privatisation of electricity.

Mr. Wakeham

I am sorry to disappoint the hon. Lady. I realise that it is an important matter and that constituency interests are involved, but I cannot arrange such a debate. Instead of seeking to get a statement in the House when a public inquiry does not entirely meet her requirements, I suggest that in the week's recess the hon. Lady reads the report of the Joint Committee on Private Bill Procedure and recognise that some of her arguments must be considered in the light of the way in which we proceed in the House.

Mr. Tim Smith (Beaconsfield)

If we are to have a debate on a matter of historical interest, as the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) suggested, would we not be better off having a debate on the winter of discontent, whose 10th anniversary is fast approaching, so that people can be reminded of just how unpleasant life was under a Labour Government'?

Mr. Wakeham

I cannot believe that my hon. Friend is serious. This Parliament and this Government are about things for the future, not about harking back to unpleasant days.

Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)

May I, through the right hon. Gentleman, extend my thanks to his secretary, who was kind enough to drop me at my flat in a somewhat exhausted condition at about 3.30 this morning? I might add that I was exhausted, not she. Is it not a pity that, because of the exhaustion—even more extreme than mine—and the emaciation of the Secretary of State for the Environment, we had to abandon last night's important business? Will the right hon. Gentleman give careful consideration to something that will happen on 21 November? Has he come clean with the House yet that there will be an exhibition—yet again—of the intrusion of cameras, sound equipment and lighting into the Chamber some time during 21 November? How many hon. Members have been told about this—[HON. MEMBERS: "None."]—so that we can watch the nonsense and pass our comments on it?

Mr. Wakeham

I have on a number of occasions expressed my concern about the hon. Gentleman's health and the fading of it, which I seem to notice from time to time.

I am delighted to hear that the story about last night's events ended happily and that my secretary did in fact leave the hon. Gentleman at his flat.

The Select Committee on the Televising of Proceedings of the House is making progress, and I do not believe that it is right for me to announce in the House exactly what it does from time to time.

Mr. Faulds

Hon. Members should know.

Mr. Wakeham

All the members of the Select Committee know perfectly well what meetings are being arranged.

Mr. Faulds

They are kept a secret.

Mr. Wakeham

I do not wish to keep secrets from the hon. Gentleman. We are taking the opportunity of the television cameras and the lighting coming into the House for the state opening to consider again the lighting of the House, which the hon. Gentleman was rather critical of last time. Therefore, I thought that he would congratulate us on trying to meet the requirements of all sections of the House.

Mr. William Cash (Stafford)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is entirely consistent with convention, practice and precedent for censure motions of the kind contemplated by the Opposition to be debated in Opposition time? Furthermore, if the Opposition reflect upon it, they will appreciate that that was a rule to which they strictly adhered when in government.

Mr. Wakeham

My hon. Friend studies these things closely and he is correct because, broadly speaking, that is the rule.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

I wonder whether the Leader of the House could inform one of the Ministers at the Department of the Environment about the massive escape of methane gas at. Arkwright Town in my constituency during the course of last evening and early this morning. Forty families had to be evacuated because the methane readings were more than 100 per cent.

Will the Leader of the House take account of the fact that British Coal was warned about this several months ago when it closed Arkwright pit? The contracting firm that did the job obviously failed to carry out the sealing in a proper manner. Will the right hon. Gentleman make sure that a statement is made, that a public inquiry looks into this matter at all levels, that proper reimbursement is made to the local authority that had to evacuate those 40 families and that proper compensation is paid by British Coal and the contracting firm to those families who have suffered?

Mr. Wakeham

Any incident such as the one that the hon. Gentleman has described is significant and important. I am sorry to hear of the distress caused, but I cannot accept anything else that he said. I shall refer the matter to my right hon. Friend and we shall decide how best to proceed. I shall be in touch with the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

May we have an early debate on housing investment programme allocations, so that I can inform the House of the extreme anger of my constituents at Ealing council's apparent intention to abuse those allocations by putting the ownership of public housing under the control of itself, Brent, Hounslow and Fulham and Hammersmith Labour councils in turn for three years less a day, as a way of getting around the HIP allocations? My constituents are extremely angry about that. It is bad enough having Ealing council attempting to run public housing, let alone Brent and the rest.

Mr. Wakeham

I am sorry, but I cannot see how I can fit in that debate, however interesting it might be, in the time before the House prorogues. I am sure that my hon. Friend will find an opportunity in the new Session to make the speech that he wants to make.

Mr. Eddie Loyden (Liverpool, Garston)

In view of the increased and alarming number of incidents around the coast of Britain in the past two years and the apparent indifference of the Government to bringing in regulations that will deal with what has become an increasing activity around our coast, when will the Leader of the House arrange for a debate so that the necessary legislation to tighten up the regulations can be brought in by the Government?

Mr. Wakeham

I am sorry not to be helpful to the hon. Gentleman, as I realise that it is a serious question,but he said, "incidents around the coast of Britain", but he did not say what sort of incident. If he would like to have a word with me afterwards, I shall certainly do my best to answer his question.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I shall call those hon. Members who have been standing, but I draw the attention of the House to the fact that we have an important statement after this and an equally important debate before opposed private business at Seven o'clock.

Mr. Nicholas Baker (Dorset, North)

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the urgent need for more low-cost housing in rural areas? Will he provide an opportunity for the debate that we were to have tomorrow morning at some future date, so that we can discuss this important issue?

Mr. Wakeham

I am sorry that we have lost tomorrow's debate. As my hon. Friend knows, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has taken an initiative on rural housing and I hope that that will help in some way to deal with what I agree is an important and difficult problem.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

When will there be an opportunity to debate the desirability or otherwise of the most senior Ministers telling the old-fashioned truth to the House of Commons?

Mr. Wakeham

I do not accept the premise of the question, so I cannot give the hon. Gentleman a satisfactory answer.

Ms. Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North)

The Leader of the House will no doubt be aware that a computer error last year resulted in pensioners being paid an extra £8. Today, I ask him to tell the House whether he proposes to bring in a review order that will enable local government pensioners to be paid the extra sum that they are now owed. Their employers want to pay it to them, but cannot do so until the Government bring forward the necessary order.

Mr. Wakeham

I cannot answer the hon. Lady's question straight off, but I shall see that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State knows about it. If it is appropriate for him to answer it, we shall get in touch with the hon. Lady.

Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

The public and the House know that there are at least three spare days next week. Does the Leader of the House realise that the refusal to allow the Chancellor of the Exchequer to tell us whether he understands the difference between a pledged benefit, an unpledged benefit and a new benefit will result in his silence making him the Dan Quayle of the Cabinet?

Mr. Wakeham

I should not have thought that silence was the problem of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I have nothing further to add to what has already been said.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Is it not true that the Cabinet had decided there would be a debate on Monday on the early-day motion tabled by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, but that Ministers at today's meeting were notified that the Chancellor had failed a lie detector test?

Mr. Wakeham

The hon. Gentleman is always more eloquent when talking fiction than when talking facts. I do not believe he has ever been at a Cabinet meeting, and I am fairly certain that he never will be. No doubt his works of fiction will continue to entertain the House.

Mr. Bernie Grant (Tottenham)

What action has the right hon. Gentleman taken in the case raised during last week's business questions by my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris), who is the shadow Minister for the Disabled? I refer to the case of Marquita O'Garro, a five-year-old hole-in-the-heart victim from Montserrat who could not come to Britain for an operation. Has the right hon. Gentleman spoken to his right hon. Friend, and what progress has been made?

Mr. Wakeham

I understand that there has been some progress. I shall need to check, but I think that arrangements have been made for her to go to hospital in Southampton to have the necessary treatment.

Ms. Marjorie Mowlam (Redcar)

Will the Leader of the House find time in the near future for a debate on the future of 16 to 18-year-olds? We were assured by the Ministers then responsible, when the social security regulations were introduced, that by this week all young people would be on YTS, in education or in a job. The bridging allowance finished this week; 636 youngsters in Cleveland have no financial assistance; and there are 32,000 in a similar situation throughout the country. That is obscene and should be discussed in the House soon.

Mr. Wakeham

As the hon. Lady knows, there are more vacancies than people to fill them countrywide. I understand that there are difficulties in one or two areas and that my right hon. Friend is doing everything that he can to resolve them as quickly as possible. There will be an opportunity early in the new Session to discuss this, and I have no doubt that with a little ingenuity the hon. Lady will be able to make her points.

Mr. Harry Barnes (Derbyshire, North-East)

An ambiguous two-part reply that I received yesterday during Scottish questions implied the electorate registers in Scotland declined by 1 per cent. between 1987 and 1988. As that is likely to be due to the poll tax and its effect on Scotland, should we not discuss that before deciding to pack up, as it is a serious problem for democracy?

Mr. Wakeham

The hon. Gentleman has arrived at an extraordinary conclusion. I cannot find time for a debate on that subject next week.

Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East)

Has the Leader of the House seen early-day motion 1572, which is supported by 100 Labour Members?

[That this House unreservedly condemns Jaguar management for the sacking of Transport and General Workers Union convenor Tommy Wheeler who, at 18 months from retirement, was dismissed on Friday 4th November for alleged 'gross industrial misconduct'; regards Jaguar bosses' excuse that his 'crime' was not to ask permission for use of a photocopier on union business, although they have accepted this had always been given in the past, as vindictive in the extreme; questions whether the management took their action because the item Mr. Wheeler was photocopying was the regular parliamentary report of the honourable Member for Coventry South East, which contained allegations that during a six week period towards the end of 1987, 17 shop floor workers at Browns Lane had died of strokes and stress-induced illnesses—or whether the company is trying to provoke strikes at the plant in order to ease their cash flow by loss of production and non-payment of wages; and fully supports the industrial action by Jaguar workers in defence of Mr. Wheeler, whose sacking is the latest in a list of victimisations of car industry convenors in Birmingham and Coventry.]

The motion is about the latest vindictive sacking of a car industry convener in the midlands—Tommy Wheeler of Jaguar in Coventry. Would not a debate on that allow us to examine Jaguar's real reasons for dismissing him? Was he really sacked for 20p worth of photocopying paper —albeit paper containing part of a report that I had done on the increase of stress-induced illnesses and deaths in Jaguar, which has lost £20 million of car production this week? Or was Jaguar trying to intimidate trade unions in order to ease its cash flow problems stemming from the declining dollar and to prevent discussion among trade unionists of this appalling increase in illness and deaths at the plant?

Mr. Wakeham

I know that the hon. Gentleman takes an interest in these matters. He knows perfectly well that the House is not the appropriate forum in which to consider such a complaint. If Mr. Wheeler believes that he was dismissed for reasons connected with trade union activity, he can take a complaint of unfair dismissal to an appropriate industrial tribunal.

Mr. Greville Janner (Leicester, West)

Will the Leader of the House ask the Home Secretary, who is in his place on the Front Bench, to make a statement today or tomorrow about the request by the city of York for the banning of political marches this coming Remembrance Sunday? Is he aware that the odious and Fascist British National party is planning a gathering and march on that day and that it would be a desecration of an occasion that is sacred to the memory of those who died fighting the very Nazism that that party espouses? Does he agree that this provocative march should be banned?

Mr. Wakeham

I do not know the details, but I know that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will take whatever action is appropriate. I have no knowledge of what that is and no notification that my right hon. Friend wishes to make a statement today or tomorrow.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

May I first record my disappointment, Mr. Speaker, at not having been called during Prime Minister's Question Time? I put this yellow tie on especially for that—

Mr. Speaker

Order. If that is a question to me, may I say that the hon. Gentleman was not alone.

Mr. Banks

I want to point out to the Leader of the House that there is a housing crisis in London and the country. Tomorrow we shall discuss a Bill that will do nothing about the problem of homelessness in the capital or the country, and a debate on housing and homelessness on a motion for the Adjournment is to be pushed off the business. That debate was promised by the Government, so will the right hon. Gentleman provide time for it next week, rather than prorogue on Tuesday?

Mr. Wakeham

The hon. Gentleman is considerably more responsible than I am for the fact that there is not to be a debate on homelessness. The problem was discussed at some length during last night's proceedings. I am sorry that the debate will not take place, as this is an important subject.

Dr. John Marek (Wrexham)

Will the Leader of the House bring to the attention of his right hon. and hon. Friends early-day motion 1395?

[That this House believes that customs and immigration formalities on all Channel Tunnel international trains should be carried out on board the trains, and not at passenger terminals.]

The motion refers to the desirability of customs and immigration formalities being conducted on board Channel tunnel trains. If there is any difficulty about the Government's acceding to the wishes expressed in that early-day motion, will the right hon. Gentleman consider holding a debate on the matter at some time in the future?

Mr. Wakeham

I do not think that a debate is appropriate now, but I accept the hon. Gentleman's view that one might be convenient at some time in the future.

For Waterloo-terminating services, airport-type controls are the most practical and cost-effective. The vast majority of passengers will pass through the customs hall with no delay. For services going beyond London, the Channel Tunnel Act 1987 provides for checks to be done on board, subject to adequate facilities being provided by British Rail. Discussions about detailed arrangements are taking place with British Rail.

Mr. Allan Roberts (Bootle)

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that two weeks ago I asked him if he would arrange for a statement to be made on the future of Girobank, in the light of the failure of the tendering procedures? He promised to have a word with the relevant Ministers. Did he, and, if so, what did they say?

Will the right hon. Gentleman assure us that the statement will be made on the Floor of the House, not in a written answer this afternoon to pre-empt the Adjournment debate on Girobank? We should be able to ask questions, since this is a major piece of privatisation that does not require legislation.

Mr. Wakeham

I did have a word with my right hon. Friend. As a result of my representations on behalf of the hon. Gentleman, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will be replying to the hon. Gentleman's Adjournment debate tonight. I hope that will satisfy him. As far as I know, there are no plans to answer questions this afternoon.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)

Will the Leader of the House more fully address the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds)? What is actually happening on 21 November? Is there to be a lighting experiment? If there is, at what time will it take place, and are Members of the House precluded from attending?

Mr. Wakeham

I do not think that I have any power to stop Members coming into the Chamber, but I think that the Select Committee should be allowed to get on with its work.

Mr. Faulds

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I shall take the statement first.