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Business Of The House

Volume 114: debated on Thursday 9 April 1987

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3.31 pm

May I ask the Leader of the House to state the Business for the week after the Easter Adjournment?

Yes, Sir. The Business for the first week after the Easter Adjournment will be as follows:

WEDNESDAY 22 APRIL—Second Reading of the Finance Bill.

THURSDAY 23 APRIL—Debate on Agriculture and the 1987 farm price proposals on a motion for the Adjournment of the House. Details of the relevant EC documents will be given in the Official Report.

FRIDAY 24 APRIL—Private Members' Bills.

[Debate on Thursday 23 April

Relevant European documents:

(a) 4844/87,

CAP Price Proposals 1987–88

ADD 1 + COR 2


ADD 3 + COR 1

(b) 4224/87

Situation in the Agricultural Markets 1986

(c) 4446/87

Milk Sector Reforms

(d) 4236/87

Disposal of Intervention Butter

(e) 5046187

Disposal of Intervention Butter

(f) 4537/87

Intervention arrangements for butter and skimmed milk powder

(g) Unnumbered

National Aid: French Milk Producers

Relevant Reports of European Legislation Committee:

  • (a) HC 22-xiv (1986–87), para, 1 & HC 276-i (1986–87) & HC 22-xvii (1986–87), para 1
  • (b) HC 22-xiv (1986–87), para 1 HC 276-i (1986–87)
  • (c) HC 22-ix ((1986–87), para 3
  • (d) HC 22-x (1986–87), para 2 & HC 22-xiv (1986–87), para 2
  • (e) HC 22-xiv (1986–87), para 2
  • (f) HC 22-x (1986–87), para 3
  • (g) HC 22-xiii (1986–87), para 4]
  • I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. Does he recognise the importance of having a debate on the failure of Government policy on research and development, a matter which has increasing and urgent importance because of the need for Britain to participate properly in European science and technology initiatives? This matter is giving deep concern to hon. Members on both sides of the House, as the Leader of the House can see from early-day motion 722 signed by several hon. Members. Will he now agree to ensure that a debate takes place in Government time as soon as possible after the Easter recess?

    [That this House acknowledges the difficulties and underfunding of science evidenced by reports from the Select Committee on Science and Technology (Civil Research and Development), from the University of Sussex (International Comparison of Government Funding), from the Royal Society (Evaluation of National Performance in Basic Research); recognises the need for adequate provision for science and technology to advance industrial recovery, wealth creation and higher living standards in the United Kingdom; notes the imbalance in Government fundsallocated to civil and defence research development and relative to France, the Federal Republic and Japan the poor contribution in this regard by a number of firms in the private sector; urges the Government to: (i) maintain a better balance between the general expenditure of the state and the creation of wealth creating assets, (ii) stimulate the private sector by granting further fiscal incentives and by requiring the publication of research and development expenditure in company accounts, (iii) make greater use of commissioned research by Government departments, (iv) foster Alvey-type programmes in exploitable areas of science outside information technology and (v) make additional funds available to the Advisory Board on Research Councils for allocation to research councils, and to the University Grants Committee sufficient to meet the requirements of a competitive industrial state.]

    Is the Leader of the House aware that there is a pressing need also for a debate on the important issue of launch aid for the A330 and A340 airbus? Even more, is he aware of the need to persuade his right hon. Friend to give the appropriate aid to enable British Aerospace to participate in that vital project? Such action would have my wholehearted support and the support of hon. Members on both sides of the House. Even before we rise for the Easter recess, I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman could facilitate the giving of good news were there any to give.

    I asked the right hon. Gentleman six weeks ago for a debate in Government time on the privatisation of Rolls-Royce. Since a report in the Financial Times this morning shows that the Government are not only trying to sell off Rolls-Royce for a song but are retreating from their objective of widening share ownership, does not the right hon. Gentleman think that a debate directly after the Easter recess would be most timely and of great intrest to hon. Members on both sides of the House?

    As the journey to Japan made by the Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, the Minister responsible for corporate and consumer affairs, has proved to be so pointless, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that on the first day that we return after the Easter recess the Minister will come to the House to make a full statement on his trip and the action that the Government now propose to take on the variety of matters that are of concern?

    Will the Leader of the House ensure that there is an early debate on the order on teachers' pay and conditions so that, once again, the House can register its objection to the impositions by the Secretary of State for Education and Science on teachers' negotiating rights?

    In the light of reports this morning of the Prime Minister's intervention in the appointment to the bishopric of Birmingham, and although I wish the new Bishop of Birmingham every success in his new post, will the Leader of the House ask the Prime Minister to make a much more full and frank statement than she made this afternoon about the conditions and the criteria that she employed in making such an intervention?

    Of course I recognise that in all quarters of the House there is great interest in our national research and development programme performance. To some extent, that can be related to our tax structure; and, therefore, the Second Reading of the Finance Bill will enable some points to be raised. But I understand that the right hon. Gentleman refers to the matter in a wider context. Perhaps we can consider it through the usual channels.

    I shall, of course, draw the right hon. Gentleman's remarks about launch aid to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. As to the privatisation of Rolls-Royce, again I must object to the description of this promotion as being "sold for a song".

    I describe it as a prudent market operation. That is because I have some experience of these affairs and the right hon. Gentleman does not. To maintain these exchanges at the highest level, I must point out that Rolls-Royce will be debated tomorrow on the Adjournment debate initiated by the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist). Perhaps we will take the matter further in the light of what is revealed.

    I recognise that there is an interest, which goes far beyond that of the Leader of the Opposition, that our trade relations with Japan should be reported to the House after the recess. I shall ensure that these matters are further considered through the usual channels. Likewise, I notice the interest in a debate on the order relating to teachers' pay and conditions.

    I must say that it adds a handy embellishment to this pre-election time to note that hon. Members want the appointment of bishops to be further considered by the House. I shall look into the matter which has been raised by the right hon. Gentleman and ascertain the most wise, prudent and conventional methods of taking it further forward.

    On Thursday 23 April, when we discuss agriculture on an Adjournment motion, will it be in order to discuss also the recent proposals by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on alternative land use and the rural economy?

    My reply must be prefaced by saying that these matters turn upon the view of the Chair. But my hon. Friend has raised a pertinent point. In truth, in the countryside, agriculture and all other activities are intimately interlocked. It seems to me that, on a motion as wide as the Adjournment such a discussion could take place.

    In view of the important meeting of European Community Ministers on the subject of trade with Japan, which will take place over the weekend and to which the Prime Minister referred, will the Leader of the House arrange for either a statement or a debate shortly after Easter on this important topic? Does he accept that some of us do not believe that this issue has suddenly arisen because of the Cable and Wireless interest but that it has been of concern for some time and has been contributing to the erosion of our manufacturing base? Will the right hon. Gentleman please arrange for this matter to be dealt with fully in the House after Easter?

    I should like to support a point made by the Leader of the Opposition on the appointment of bishops. The Prime Minister prayed in aid the support of other party leaders for the present arrangements. Therefore, will the right hon. Gentleman convey to her that other party leaders are not satisfied with the way in which these arrangements are working out?

    I am interested to note the right hon. Gentleman's approach to adversarial public affairs, importing a degree of acerbity into the subject of bishops which hitherto I thought was tolerably absent.

    I reaslise that the right hon. Gentleman is a Presbyterian. No doubt he believes that often the spectator sees most of the game.

    The right hon. Gentleman's point about relationships with Japan were expressed also by the Leader of the Opposition. I believe that those concerns are felt widely throughout the House. I shall ensure that those views are taken into account.

    As, thanks to the Labour party and due to the indolence and incompetence and possibly even the connivance of the Leader of the Opposition, this House after the next election will probably be faced. with political apartheid, the constitutional canker of a caucus of black Members of Parliament who are dedicated to the interests not of their constituents or the nation but of a group of people purely on their racial basis, could my right hon. Friend tell the House what constitutional preparation he is making for this abomination?

    My hon. Friend has touched on a serious matter. Many of us are in no sense sympathetic to the Labour party but nevertheless recognise and applaud the judgment of the Leader of the Opposition that black sections imply possibly the unacceptable face of ethnic politics. As for what will happen in this House, it must depend on the outcome of the general election, which is as yet not certain. On the whole, the problem in the form of the number of Labour Members of Parliament in this House must be less of a difficulty than would otherwise be the case.

    Is the Leader of the House aware that it would be quite monstrous for the privatisation of Rolls-Royce to go ahead without a full debate in this House? It is no good saying that it can be raised on the Adjournment or in Opposition time. This is a Government decision and ought to be fully debated in Government time. There is widespread opposition and concern among the workers of Rolls-Royce about privatisation, including those in my own constituency. We must have a debate on this matter before the final prospectus is launched later this month, as we understand the position.

    I do not share the right hon. Gentleman's view about the attitudes of employees of Rolls-Royce to this particular matter.

    They happen to be my constituents, not yours; you know nothing about it. That is a patronising reply.

    The attitude of the right hon. Gentleman belies his reputation for fairness in this House and his belief that it is possible to have two views upon the attitude of working people in this country towards the ownership of industry. I did reply to the Leader of the Opposition on this point, and I do not think I can go further in response to the right hon. Gentleman now, but I will see that his views are made known to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.

    When he is arranging the business of the House, will the Leader of the House seek an early statement from the Secretary of State for Defence over an incident that affected my constituency last evening, when a Royal Air Force plane dropped a missile — happily a dummy — which landed within 30 ft of two of my constituents. I also ask that a statement should be made regarding the over-flying of areas of population rather than under-populated parts of the country. In particular, I ask that care is taken when equipment is being used so that it does not accidentally descend on the lands of North Devon.

    I will most certainly see that my right hon. Friend is acquainted with the anxieties expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Devon, North (Mr. Speller).

    As the House will not want to spend all its time debating cheap party political points, as suggested by the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow), I ask the Leader of the House whether he is aware that most born deaf and profoundly deaf children have an education that is so bad that by the time they leave school they have on average a reading age of only eight or eight and a half. That is appalling. We need a change of policy so that those children can learn sign language or oral language, whichever suits the child best. I ask the Leader of the House to look at early-day motion 857 and to arrange time for a debate.

    [That this House believes that all born deaf and profoundly deaf children have the right to learn sign language which enables them to acquire a vocabulary; deplores the denial of this right in many schools for the deaf in Britain; notes that current oral educational methods give deaf children a vocabulary and reading ability far below those of hearing children; and calls upon the Government to include signing as part of the training of teachers of the deaf, and to ensure that deaf children are permitted to use all methods of communication, including signing, which will facilitate their education.]

    I have indeed acquainted myself with the early-day motion to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred. I cannot offer the prospect of a debate in Government time in the near future, but I will certainly see that it is drawn to the attention of the relevant Government department.

    May I draw the attention of my right hon. Friend to early-day motion 864 which deals with the Norcross takeover bid?

    [That this House is of the opinion that the William Holdings bid to take control of Norcross plc is not in the best interests of the country, the workforce or the shareholders]

    Will he ask his right hon. Friend to refer this takeover bid to the Director of Fair Trading because it is relevant to my constituency? That is as good a reason as any other for it going to the Director of Fair Trading. Moreover, the bid by William Holdings for Norcross is nothing but throwing paper money to get real money to destroy the limbs of part of the industry; the sale will make more money for bids eleswhere, with paper money. In other words, this is what British industry has been suffering in the last few years. It is time it stopped. This should be the beginning of the stopping of it.

    My hon. Friend made that very clear. He will appreciate that it would not be appropriate for me to comment upon the merits of the case, but I assure him that, in conformity with normal practice, the matter has gone to the Office of Fair Trading.

    May I support the plea of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and that of the leader of the Liberal party for an early and urgent debate on our trading relationship with the Government of Japan? This is not a party issue in the strict terms of the phrase. There are hon. Members on this side and on the Government side who are frustrated and angry about the whole business. We should like to have a debate so that those of us who represent manufacturers of electrical appliances and such things may have an opportunity to tell the Treasury Bench what we think about the whole business and through the Treasury Bench to express our deep anger with the Japanese Government.

    I take note of what the right hon. Gentleman says. I certainly accept his proposition that there is deep disquiet about Japanese trading practices which unites Members from all parts of the House. I shall certainly see that his voice is added to those which are referred to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.

    In view of the public refusal this week of the French and German Governments to deny a safe haven to any financial institutions expelled from London by the Government, and the consequent danger that the result of action would simply be to transfer valuable resources and employment from London to Paris or Frankfurt, can the Leader of the House give us all a firm assurance that before any specific steps are taken there will be a debate in the House? Could he also find time in that week for a debate on our trade with West Germany, where our deficit in trade is more than twice our deficit with Japan and where the non-trade barriers are in some respects more blatant and more cruel to British industry and jobs?

    My hon. Friend highlights one aspect of the problems of trade with Japan which will necessarily cause reflection and debate in the House. I shall see that his request for a debate is coupled with his observation. As to his comments about trade with the Federal Republic of Germany, at the moment I would prefer our energies to be concentrated on the prospect of a debate on Japan.

    Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been drawn to early-day motion 877 on the Prime Minister's statements on nurses' pay?

    [That this House notes that on Thursday 2nd April, Official Report, column 1220, the Prime Minister said: `Nurses' pay has increased by 23 per cent. over and above inflation since the Government came into office'; whilst on Tuesday 7th April, Official Report, column 158, she said'Nurses' pay … was one third, 33 per cent., higher in real terms, in 1986 than in 1979'; and calls on the Prime Minister to indicate which of her statements is accurate.]

    Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that on 2 April she claimed that nurses had had a 23 per cent. increase in real terms since 1979 but by 7 April, five days later, that 23 per cent. had gone up to 33 per cent? Can he tell me on which day the Prime Minister was telling the truth?

    Will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for an early debate on the allocation of British Gas shares, because evidence is coming forward that the same hon. Members who engaged in malpractices in the purchase of British Telecom shares were in the same business on British Gas shares? It is very important that we get at the truth.

    On the first point, I am not in a position to adjudicate with confidence on the figures to which the hon. Gentleman has referred. [Interruption.] No, it is all right; I have to help the hon. Gentleman. I think that the figure of 23 per cent. would be reliable and would demonstrate the clear performance of nurses' pay under this Government. On the second point, which I have no doubt was raised in anxious good faith, I understand that the whole question is subject to investigation by the auditors Touche Ross. Those investigations are continuing and I think it would be wise to wait until they are completed.

    As to nurses' pay, to which the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) just referred, is the Leader of the House aware that some hon. Members would welcome an early debate on nurses' pay so that the promises of past and present Governments and the promises of political parties could be well and truly evaluated? At the same time, attention may be drawn to the worrying fact that the number of agency nurses in the National Health Service has been rising, in the opinion of some hon. Members, to an unhealthy level. We would also be able to express the hopes of some Conservative Members that, whenever the recommendations on pay and conditions for nurses are received, early attention and favourable treatment will be given to them.

    My hon. Friend makes a persuasive contribution from the speech that he will surely make when the debate eventually takes place. However, there is no prospect of an early debate on nurses' pay in the period shortly after Easter.

    With regard to the appointment of bishops, does the right hon. Gentleman think that something might be said for what might be called a "balanced ticket"—a good sound Christian to go along with every reliable Tory appointment?

    It is characteristic of the right hon. Gentleman that that is one of the more thoughtful contributions that have been made this afternoon.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is cross-party support for the urgent and important decision on launch aid for the A330 and A340 airbus? It is important because of the effect that it will have on the British aerospace industry throughout the length and breadth of the country and the jobs that depend on it. It is urgent because, if we are to continue to compete in the world market, and maintain our technological lead in the face of the American threat, we must have a quick decision. Will he convey our worries to the Prime Minister and, if necessary, arrange a debate to build on the success of the A320 airbus and ensure that we have this launch aid as a matter of urgency?

    My hon. Friend puts a succinct and compelling case for launch aid for the airbus. I shall ensure that those views are conveyed to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.

    Will the Leader of the House tell his Cabinet friends and colleagues that when he comes to the House in a fortnight it will not expect him to be the fall guy for the Cabinet? Will he ensure that he can say what the decision will be about the airbus, because it is crucial for the future of the aerospace industry? It is vital that we have a debate on that subject. The right hon. Gentleman must be able to give an answer, as he must be able to with regard to Rolls-Royce. I can assure him that the workers at the Barnoldswick factory in Lancashire, who recall what happened when it was privatised in the past, are fearful of what the Government proposals mean.

    Everybody who has held this position has been a fall guy; some have fallen more heavily than others. 1 take to heart the point that the hon. Gentleman makes, and I shall ensure that my right hon. Friends who have responsibilities in that sector are informed.

    Will my right hon. Friend find time soon after the Easter recess for a full debate on public transport needs for London and the south-east, in which we could pay tribute to the achievement of British Rail and especially Network SouthEast which, as my right hon. Friend may know, has increased its passengers mileage by about 2 million over the past few years, while at the same time it has absorbed., through efficiency, a cut in the public service obligation grant of some 35 per cent.

    I am happy to endorse the tribute that my hon. Friend pays to British Rail. I am sure that he will appreciate that Government time is at a premium after the Easter recess because of the number of days on the Floor of the House that must be taken by sections of the Finance Bill. I shall bear in mind what my hon. Friend says and refer his comments to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport.

    Has the Leader of the House had an opportunity to read the news item today on the front page of The Times under the heading

    "New plan for water meters"?
    It is by Philip Webster, the chief political correspondent, who has had the privilege of being informed by senior Government sources that the Government have decided to move towards compulsory water metering. As water metering has serious implications for the poor, the elderly and the unemployed and as neither you, Mr. Speaker, nor hon. Members like to hear that newspapers have been briefed before right hon. and hon. Members, will the Leader of the House ensure that right hon. and hon. Members are given a statement on this matter by the Secretary of State for the Environment as soon as Parliament reconvenes after Easter?

    I have not seen the article, but I broadly understand its content. I understand that it refers to legislation for the next Parliament. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman shares with me a profound confidence that it will be a Conservative Government in that Parliament.

    May I support the calls from various quarters of the House for a debate on the appointment of bishops so that one may support the appointment of the excellent Bishop of Kensington to the see of Birmingham, which has been a see only since 1901 and has had many famous incumbents? I particularly want to support the appointment of people such as the Bishop of Kensington, who put theology and pastoral care before politics.

    I warmly applaud the broad sentiments of my hon. Friend and I am certain that if eventually this subject becomes of such burning concern to the House that we do have a debate upon the Floor, he will have a chance to make those very points.

    Will the Leader of the House table a motion to enable us to debate racism on the part of Liberal councillors in Hackney and Tower Hamlets and thereby enable the leader of the Liberal party to tell us whether it is his historic role to lead a racist Liberal party into the next general election?

    I am not entirely aware of the situation or of the serious allegations that are now being made. I have to say, with great regret, that I cannot foresee the likelihood of Government time for such a debate, but I am sure that, if the alliance parties have time at their disposal, that will be one of the first subjects that they would wish to have debated so that the matter can be made fully explicit.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware of the considerable concern that has been generated by the decision of the University Grants Committee and the court of the London university to reduce the grant to Birkbeck college by some 7 per cent. and to give an indication that even further cuts will be made in the future? Will my right hon. Friend arrange for the Secretary of State for Education and Science to come to the House as soon as possible and, I hope, make a statement saying that the Government are taking action to safeguard the future of Birkbeck college and the considerable contribution that it makes to continuing education in our capital city.

    I understand my right hon. Friend's concern at the continuing good health of Birkbeck college and I shall most certainly see that his remarks are drawn to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science.

    When the right hon. Gentleman is discussing launch aid for the airbus with the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry will he also draw their attention to early-day motion 558, which has been signed by 92 Members on both sides of the House? That shows the depth of feeling, because a failure to give launch aid for the airbus could mean the death of the airframe industry in this country and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would not want to see that.

    [That this House, noting the considerable investment made by British Aerospace plc in future projects and the substantial orders and commitments already achieved for the A320, urges the Government to make an early and positive decision about the company's application for launch aid for future funding of the A330/ A340 Airbus project, thus securing jobs in United Kingdom high technology industries, and enabling the United Kingdom to continue in this increasingly successful international collaborative programme.]

    As he has seen fit to discuss the views of Rolls-Royce workers, and as I think I have a greater knowledge of trade unions than the right hon. Gentleman, may I tell him that the trade unions are totally opposed to it because we are concerned about the security of the Rolls-Royce workers. We have already seen it go bankrupt under private enterprise in 1971 and we do not want to see a repetition of that.

    Before I get written off as a total rural turnip on these matters, I have to point out that my constituency of Shropshire, North lies between Shrewsbury and Crewe, which both have Rolls-Royce traditions. Rolls-Royce is still an evident factor in Crewe, but I agree that it is a different story in Shrewsbury. As to the hon. Gentleman's point about early-day motion 558, I shall most certainly see that that is referred to my right hon. Friends.

    May I, instead of repeating my hitherto vain pleas to my right hon. Friend to get our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to give the House a statement on British space policy, urge him to allow the House an opportunity to debate space policy as a whole? Our European counterparts—France, Germany and Italy—have expanding space programmes and contribute more fully to the important work of the European Space Agency.

    Of course I bear with my hon. Friend, because he makes persuasive requests, week after week, to allow the House to debate space policy. I shall bear in mind what he says. However, I must tell him—as I have said to others — that when we return after the Easter recess a great deal of the time of the House will be devoted to the Finance Bill and I would cruelly mislead him if I gave him to think that time was easily available for other matters.

    Will the Leader of the House take it from me that there has never before been a time when hon. Members on both sides of the House who are interested in aviation have seen the American civil aviation industry so worried? It is worried because it sees a real threat from the A320, and a positive approaching threat from the A330 and A340. Should we not avoid losing our lead, and make adequate and speedy provision for the building of those aircraft with a British input?

    Of course I take note of what the hon. Gentleman says. I am sure that his voice will be recorded with those of many other hon. Members who are requesting a statement or debate about launch aid.

    Has my right hon. Friend received the reports from the European Legislation Committee, both on the proposed settlement of the agricultural prices for the coming year and on the budget? When is he considering making time available for a debate on those important issues, which affect the future of the whole Community? Will he make time available — exceptionally — for an almost unique debate on an overseas matter — international indebtedness and the problems that that can cause, both for the developed and the under-developed world?

    My right hon. Friend may know that two reports by the all-party committee on overseas development and by the Treasury and Civil Service Select Committee are coming to the House. Will he bear that in mind in planning his schedule?

    On the first point, of course I shall immediately look into the specific matters that my hon. Friend has raised, and I shall be in touch with him.

    On the second point, there will shortly be a report from the departmental Select Committee on Third-world issues, including the vital one of debt repayment. It would then be appropriate to await the Government's response and, thereafter, to decide what would be the most appropriate way for the House to proceed.

    May we shortly have a debate on the desperate shortage of resources for the Health Service in the country in general, and in Leicestershire in particular? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that an all-party delegation of hon. Members representing constituencies in Leicestershire called on the Minister for Health this afternoon to express our shared concern at the impossibility of Leicestershire health authority coping within its cash limits? Is he aware of the problems of likely closures of hospitals and maternity units, and of the desperate difficulties facing psychiatric and geriatric units? As this is a matter of concern to both sides of the House, may we have a debate on it and some hope of action, as the Minister said that he could offer no hope of further central Government funds?

    I am sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman will be aware that this matter was raised fairly extensively in a recess Adjournment debate. I have nothing more to add to what I said then. I take note of the hon. and learned Gentleman's observations, and I shall see that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services is made aware of them. In the meantime, the hon. and learned Gentleman's most likely way to have the matter debated in the House would be to try to raise the issue on the Adjournment debate, rather than to anticipate Government time being made available.

    I associate myself with the deputation that was concerned about health provision in Leicestershire, but, exceptionally, I wish to take my right hon. Friend away from Leicestershire today to call for a debate on the apppointment of bishops and, particularly, on the activities of the Crown Appointments Commission. Those activities seem to be misunderstood by hon. Members on both sides of the House. As my right hon. Friend is aware, the Crown Appointments Commission draws up a list of two names in such a way as to provide what the former leader of the Labour party, the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) might call a balanced ticket. Those two names are presented to the Prime Minister, from which she must choose one.

    In such a debate, I should like a discussion of the widening of the trawl for the candidates that are proposed, so that other, far better candidates can be admitted for appointment to bishoprics. I am not declaring an interest, but I should say that there is a growing tendency for those hon. Members who are on the Synod to be lobbied by the former Bishop of Birmingham to appoint James Thompson as the next Bishop of Birmingham, a request to which I, naturally, did not agree.

    The fact that my hon. Friend delicately passes Leicestershire by is a sign that he believes that his seat is becoming safer by the week. As for my hon. Friend's second point, he has clone the House a courtesy by explaining the current position. I hope that the House will take this matter with great seriousness. There is no doubt that one of the effective requirements for the continued health and virility of the Church of England is that the episcopacy represent all the traditions that are contained in the Church. Whether we can contribute much to that end is a matter about which I have sonic reservations, but we are entitled to travel hopefully.

    I wonder whether the Leader of the House will reconsider what he said to my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) in respect of the multiple share applications, debate or statement, after he has read the Daily Mirror tomorrow, which, according to all reports, has done a trawl of British Gas? It seems that there will be further revelations about multiple applications from Tory MPs.

    On the subject of greed and materialism, will the Leader of the House also consider having a word with the Liberals to see whether the burdens of high office are beginning to get them down? He has heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore) about the problems of Tower Hamlets—the cutting of the education grant, throwing families into the gutter and all the rest of it. Now, according to my latest information, the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mrs. Barnes), having scurried along the streets canvassing for votes and promising jobs for all her constituents — thousands of them are out of work — has, within a few weeks got herself another job — a directorship of Thornton Drummond and Brett. Will the right hon. Gentleman inquire whether this multiple job application is worth £5,000, £10,000, or what? It sheds a rather curious light upon those alliance MPs.

    If I could take the hon. Gentleman's second point first: looking across at him, sometimes one could forgive him for being a Socialist, when he has his back to the light. Then one realised that he was the hon. Member who co-existed cheerfully enough with the parliamentary Liberal party under the premiership of the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Callaghan) I think that, if I were an elector in Bolsover, I should want a guarantee that such a metamorphosis was not possibly in prospect again.

    I think that the hon. Gentleman's point is perfectly valid. We need a few weeks for some pretty good uninhibited examination of the record, so that the book is known, the crystal examined and the future divined. On the hon. Gentleman's previous point, he is inviting me to set aside the professional work of Touche Ross in favour of the journalistic achievements of the Daily Mirror. That is an interesting proposition, but I say to him that the day will come—inevitably — when he will be on the Front Bench and will have to accept responsibility [Interruption.] He will then decide at the end of the day that Touche Ross is probably the safest haven.

    Will my right hon. Friend consider finding time for a debate after Easter on the independent sector of the education system? Does he agree that such a debate is urgent in view of the alliance plans which were announced yesterday, which, if implemented, would threaten the charitable status of independent schools? The parents who send their children to the sort of schools that the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) attended would continue to do so, but those who send their children to less fashionable private schools would probably no longer be able to do so. That is something that we should consider.

    It most certainly is. When I hear observations of that sort, and when I think of the days that will be spent on the Floor of the House discussing the Finance Bill, my heart is heavy. I urge my hon. Friend not to give up. What he cannot say here, he can say on the hustings.

    I am sure that the Leader of the House is aware of early-day motion 85 which sets out opposition to the privatisation of Rolls-Royce and which has received the support of 137 Labour Members but no support from Alliance Members.

    [That this House condemns the Government's intention to privatise Rolls-Royce and would utterly refute the Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement's recent statement that Rolls-Royce employees 'relish the idea of privatisation'; fully agrees, on the contrary, with the concern of most employees that their jobs, wages and working conditions would be at risk; reminds the Government that it was a previous Conservative administration which originally brought the company into state ownership, in order to prevent it from going out of business; commends the dedication and skills of the workforce, which has been responsible for revitalising the company since 1971; contends that private ownership is totally unsuitable for an industry which requires large amounts of advance investment for product research and development; re-affirms its belief that the future for Rolls-Royce and the workforce is best guaranteed by it remaining fully in the public sector and not subject to short-term yearly profit analyses; and looks forward to a Labour Government that is prepared to safeguard jobs by investing in manufacturing industry.]

    Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Adjournment debate that I have secured tomorrow at 1.30 pm on the future of Rolls-Royce will be the only parliamentary scrutiny of one of the largest privatisation exercises of this Parliament? Will he reconsider the answer that he gave my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and others? Why are the Government so embarrassed to have a debate on Rolls-Royce? Is it the sweetener of £645 million of debt cancellation to bribe the way for that sale in the market place? Are the Government embarrassed because of the problems with the superfan and the rejection by Airbus this week of the engine for future aircraft? Why is the Department of Trade and Industry so afraid to come to the Chamber to listen to the voice of the workers' opposition to privatisation? If the right hon. Gentleman wants the figures from Parkside in Coventry, over 80 per cent. of the work force have sent their names and addresses to the Under-Secretary of State for Defence Procurement opposing the sale of Rolls-Royce.

    I take note of what the hon. Gentleman says. He will have an opportunity tomorrow to make a real contribution to the public debate about Rolls-Royce. I can say no more than what I said to the Leader of the Opposition — that we shall consider the matter in the light of the discussions that take place.

    In the light of the local elections on 7 May, which is one election date that the leader of the Social Democratic party is capable of forecasting accurately, should not the House have an opportunity to debate Labour's appalling record in local government? In my constituency, after one year of Labour rule, the rates are to rise by 17 per cent. — [Interruption.] Is not this the true price of voting for the Labour party, and should we not have a debate on the matter?

    In the absence of the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen), the leader of the Social Democratic party, I thank my hon. Friend for the generosity of his observations. Although the matters that my hon. Friend has raised are properly directed to me, I would deceive him if I were to say that there was any prospect of Government time being made available to enable them to be debated before the date of the local authority elections.

    I return to the point that I made in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Teignbridge (Mr. Nicholls). Such debates are not restricted to the Chamber, and we are now approaching that period in our national affairs when there is a lively and growing concern that they should take place outside the House as well as in it.

    Has the Leader of the House seen early-day motion 874, which is concerned with the business activities of a Conservative party fund raiser, Mr. Alan Lewis?

    [That this House urges the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the Right honourable Member for Chingford, to make urgent inquiries within the Duchy to ascertain whether residents there, as elsewhere in Britain, have received letters from Alan Lewis, chairman and managing director of the Hartley Investment Trust, appealing for funds on behalf of the Conservative party; urges him to write to the recipients of such letters explaining that Mr. Lewis transferred shares worth over £22 million in the textile group, Illingworth Morris, of which he is chairman and managing director, to Walbrook Investments, registered in the Netherlands Antilles, a Dutch Caribbean colony, and that he further understands that Walbrook Investments is wholly owned by Wickhams Cay Trust, registered in the British Virgin Islands, and that Wickhams Cay Trust is the trustee of the Alan J. Lewis Settlement, a trust set up by Mr. Lewis, the sole life tenant of trust; that he believes the shares were held by four subsidiaries of the Hartley Investment Trust, owned by Mr. Lewis and on whose notepaper Mr. Lewis wrote appealing for funds on behalf of the Conservative Party; that he understands the Antilles arrangement allows Mr. Lewis to control the company but will greatly reduce the amount of tax paid on dividends on shares which Mr. Lewis formerly owned directly; and urges the Chancellor of theDuchy to warn recipients of letters from Mr. Lewis within the Duchy and elsewhere that patriotic people of common sense would he unwise to contribute to any appeal conducted by Mr. Lewis on behalf of the Conservative Party.]

    Some might argue that the salting away of £22 million-worth of shares in a Caribbean tax haven qualifies Mr. Lewis admirably as a Conservative party fund raiser, but will the right hon. Gentleman have urgent words with the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit), the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, to persuade him to do what he has so far not done following a letter that I sent to him on 28 March, in which I asked him to dissociate the Conservative party from the financial appeal that is being conducted by Mr. Alan Lewis?

    The hon. Gentleman, with unerring accuracy, has observed that I have no responsibilities for the activities of Conservative Central Office. I am sure that if there were found to be any malpractices, they would be referred to the appropriate authorities. I shall ensure that the hon. Gentleman's observations are drawn to my right hon. Friend's attention.

    Will my right hon. Friend support the Leader of the Opposition's plea for an early debate on the EEC research and development initiative? That is not because we are for it; we are against it. Most of my right hon. and hon. Friends are in favour of competition. We believe that competition is the spur to research and development and not EEC bureaucrats running an R and D programme. What would have happened to our laser technology if GEC and Ferranti had pooled their research and development departments?

    My hon. Friend makes it clear that such a debate would be lively and certainly two-sided. I fear that I cannot say that that necessarily makes it any more likely that Government time can be made available for it in the near future. I have prayed in aid already the fact that the consideration of the Finance Bill will make considerable demands upon the time that is available for debates on the Floor of the House. My hon. Friend has made a fair point and I hope that the occasion will arise eventually when it can be deployed more fully.

    Has the Leader of the House seen early-day motion 758, which calls for time for Members to be able to debate and vote upon the principle of anti-discrimination legislation for the disabled?

    [That this House recognises that disabled people suffer unjustified discrimination in many areas of their lives; notes that there have been four attempts in the past years to place on the Statute Book a measure which would outlaw this practice; further notes that members of the House of Lords have already been given an opportunity to express themselves on this issue; and calls for time to be found in order that right hon. and hon. Members of this House can vote on the principle of anti-discrimination legislation.]

    Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it was one of the demands made by the massive lobby in Westminster Hall yesterday? Will he try to redeem the Conservative party from the disgraceful attitude that it displayed on 18 November 1983, when I tried previously to introduce such legislation? The right hon. Gentleman could redeem his party by providing Government time to debate such a measure during this Session.

    I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising the matter. I think that he will find that the disabled were debated reasonably recently, in mid-February. I observe that the hon. Gentleman would like a further debate, but I must tell him, as I have told many others, that there is no time available—certainly not Government time—in the near future to enable such a debate to take place.

    Has my right hon. Friend considered the possibility of having a debate on the arrangements that may arise in the Parliament following the next general election? I have in mind the possibility of multitudes of parties and organisations within the parties in this place, which perhaps have heretofore been unforeseen. Will my right hon. Friend take into account the possibility of parties based on racial or ethnic grounds, or on any other grounds? Has he given any thought to seating arrangements in the Chamber, the use of Committee rooms, voting procedures and various other matters that may affect political parties on the Opposition Benches, especially in the light of recent events in Birmingham, which should concentrate our minds, including the mind of my right hon. Friend, on the arrangements that may have to be made after the next general election?

    Apart from thinking that the precondition outlined by my hon. Friend will presage a substantial Government majority following the next general election, everything else fills me with foreboding. The more we have factions, the more we have groups within groups —the Labour party could tell us much about that—the more we shall find that the anguished life of the usual channels will become torn worse than ever. That is something that I would not wish on anyone.

    In view of the terse account of the events leading to the passing of the Disabled Persons' Rights Act 1986 that was given by the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major), the Minister for Social Security and the Disabled, in the "Today" studio yesterday, when he was conveniently beyond challenge, does the Leader of the House agree that in fairness we should have a full debate on these matters so that we can examine closely and precisely what was said during the passage of the Act? Perhaps more importantly, will the right hon. Gentleman respond to the excellent lobby yesterday and the eloquent description of it by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) by agreeing that we should have a specific debate on the implementation of the Disabled Persons' Rights Act?

    I happened to hear the contribution made by my hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security and the Disabled in the "Today" programme to which the hon. Gentleman refers. I can understand why he feels vexed about it. In my view, my hon. Friend made a most impressive contribution to the debate. I fully understand those who would wish to see the debate carried forward in the Chamber in the near future. It is a request that I shall bear in mind, but given the responsibilities that oblige me to make provision for the Finance Bill, there is no prospect of such a debate early on in Government time.

    When the Leader of the House reports to the Prime Minister on the exchanges concerning the appointment of bishops, will he assure her that there is a very strong view that Birmingham's loss is Stepney's gain — particularly at a time when strong moral leadership is needed to denounce the un-Christian, wretched and discriminatory policies imposed on helpless people who are homeless, and who are now to be evicted by the Liberal council in the borough?

    It was a very neat piece of elastic work to embrace so many concepts within one contribution. The right hon. Gentleman's remarks deserve consideration on that account alone, and they will of course be referred to the Prime Minister.