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Business Of The House

Volume 128: debated on Thursday 25 February 1988

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3.33 pm

May I ask the Leader of the House to state the business for next week.

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 29 FEBRUARY—Opposition day (9th allotted day). Until about seven o'clock there will be a debate entitled "The Suppression of Majority Rights in South Africa and the Responsibility of the British Government". Afterwards there will be a debate entitled "The Urgent Need to Save British Science". Both debates will arise on Opposition motions.

Consideration of Lords amendments to the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads Bill.

Motion relating to the Education (Publication and Consultation Etc.) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations.

TUESDAY 1 MARCH — Until about seven o'clock motions on a social security order and regulations. Details will be given in the Official Report.

Motion on the Appropriation (Northern Ireland) Order.

Motion on the annual report from the European Court of Auditors for 1986. Details will be given in the Official Report.

WEDNESDAY 2 MARCH—There will be a debate on Welsh affairs on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Motions on the Coal Industry (Restructuring Grants) and (Limit on Deficit Grants) Orders.

THURSDAY 3 MARCH — There will be a debate on the Royal Navy on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

FRIDAY 4 MARCH—Private members' motions.

MONDAY 7 MARCH — Debate on a Government motion on the privatisation of the electricity supply industry.

[Debate on Tuesday I March

Relevant Documents.

Unemployment Benefit (Disqualification Period) Order 1988

Social Security (Benefit) (Members of the Forces)

Amendment Regulations 1988 (S.I. 1988, No 269)

Debate on Tuesday 1 March

Relevant European Documents:

Community Document for Debate

OJ C336—Annual Report of Court of Auditors for 1986 Relevant Report of European Legislation Committee HC 43-xiv (1987–88) para 4

The following Documents and reports are also relevant:
Community Documents
(a) 9392/87Fight against fraud
(b) 9130/87Court of Auditors special report on the quota/additional levy system in the milk sector
(c) UnnumberedCourt of Auditors' report on wine distillation schemes
Relevant Reports
  • (a) HC 43-xv (1987–88) para 5.
  • (b) HC 43-xi (1987–88) para 7.
  • (c) HC 43-x (1987–88) para 5.]
  • I thank the Leader of the House for his statement. The Opposition welcome the fact that there will be an early opportunity in Government time to debate the Government's proposals to increase electricity prices and sell off the electricity supply industry, including nuclear power stations, to private owners.

    Can the Leader of the House tell us why the debate on Welsh affairs next week is being held not on St. David's day but the day after?

    Will the Leader of the House tell us when we can expect the Select Committee on televising proceedings of the House to get down to work?

    Finally, perhaps in an effort to improve order in the House before it is televised, can the Leader of the House tell us whether he is taking steps on the Government side to end the deliberate barracking of Opposition speakers, such as that faced by my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) yesterday, and end the concerted efforts of Conservative Members to take up time in debates so that Opposition Members with direct constituency interests in those debates are excluded from them?

    The hon. Gentleman has asked me three questions. First, I am sorry that it has not proved possible to arrange the debate on Welsh affairs for St. David's day, but, all things considered, I do not believe that we have done too badly.

    With regard to televising the House and the establishment of the Select Committee, there are active discussions taking place through the usual channels and with all parts of the House. I hope that we can get that Select Committee set up as soon as possible so that we can get on with things. The hon. Gentleman's criticisms in his third question sound a bit like whingeing and I believe that they are a matter for you, Mr. Speaker, rather than for me.

    I wonder whether my right hon. Friend remembers that, last October, I had to go to court, at great expense to myself, to defend the confidentiality of correspondence between myself and a constituent who was involved as a witness in a murder case? Therefore, I wonder whether my right hon. Friend would agree to a debate on the confidentiality of correspondence between Members and their constituents especially given the fact that last week, during the rate-capping debate, at column 1240, the hon. Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Bidwell) quoted the contents of a letter sent to me by the director of finance of Ealing council, and evidently copied to the hon. Member without my knowledge, concerning one of my constituents. That letter was a private matter between myself, my constituent and the director of finance and I believe that an important principle was breached, let alone good manners.

    I do remember my hon. Friend's involvement in that matter last October, but I do not believe that I can promise him a debate on that subject. I should have thought that such things were better dealt with by the conventions of the House, that confidential documents should he kept confidential. I should have thought that to proceed in that way was in the best interests of us all.

    May I thank the Leader of the House for agreeing to have the debate on the Scottish education order on the Floor of the House on Monday evening.

    Given that a number of timetable motions have been tabled, when does the right hon. Gentleman expect that the House will have an opportunity to debate the reports of the Select Committee on Procedure about timetable motions as well as its recommendations about private Members' business, particularly those relating to the use of petitions?

    There have been newspaper reports that the Scottish Select Committee is again being delayed because of the unwillingness of Conservative Members to volunteer to serve on it. Can the Leader of the House say when the House will be able to give instructions to the Committee of Selection to give the go-ahead for the Scottish Select Committee to be established?

    The Procedure Committee has a number of reports outstanding and it is certainly my intention to provide time for a debate on them. At this stage I cannot give a specific undertaking about the timing of that debate, but I believe that it is extremely important that hon. Members on both sides of the House should study those reports before we proceed to a debate.

    With regard to the Scottish Select Committee, I have had a helpful letter from the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) and I believe that that will enable us to make some further progress.

    Although I agree with my right hon. Friend about the importance of studying the reports of the Procedure Committee before they are debated, does my right hon. Friend also agree that it is extremely important that we have that Committee back in being because there are a number of matters to which it should turn its attention?

    I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend and, indeed, discussions are presently going on through the usual channels to try to get that Committee set up.

    Is the Leader of the House aware that the Clerks of the House have said that the Opren drug disaster is not sub judice under the rules of the House? Yet the Government have done nothing to help the 1,300 applicants who have, between them, received a total amount less than was given to one American citizen. Why cannot we debate that issue?

    I recognise that the right hon. Gentleman and a number of other hon. Members are concerned about this matter, but I cannot promise him an early debate on it. I do not think I can add anything of substance to what I said about it two or three weeks ago.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware that, although the report produced yesterday by the Public Accounts Committee on charities says little that people in the charity world have not been saying for a number of years, its publication, coming on top of the recent decision not to prosecute the Moonies, and last year's efficiency review under Sir Philip Woodfield, will have added to the interest in a debate in the House in Government time on charities and the urgent need to tighten the regulations?

    I appreciate that this is an important matter. As my hon. Friend said, the report has only just been published. The Government are considering it and their observations will be published in a Treasury minute in due course. That is the best thing to do first.

    When may we expect a statement on Scottish electricity privatisation, which is important not only in itself, but because it is clearly the cause of the impasse and breakdown in relationships between British Coal and the South of Scotland Electricity Board?

    I can confirm that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will be making a statement in the near future.

    In view of the large number of our hon. Friends who have signed the early-day motion on the National Union of Students closed shop, will my right hon. Friend give an undertaking about an early debate on that important subject, as literally hundreds of thousands of people are affected by that petty tyranny?

    [That this House welcomes the 1987 Employment Act which introduces legislation that will significantly reverse closed shop arrangements, but notes that hundreds of thousands of students will still have no choice over whether or not they join the National Union of Students; and hopes that the Secretary of State for Education and Science will take action to rectify this anomalous position as soon as possible.]

    I recognise that a number of our hon. Friends feel strongly about this. I cannot promise an early debate on the subject, but it seems to me that, with a little ingenuity, it might well be raised on the remaining stages of the Education Reform Bill.

    Will the Leader of the House recall a matter that I have raised with him during business questions before? I refer to the prayer, tabled as early-day motion No. 499 in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott), on the subject of changes in regulations for planning inquiries relating to power stations and overhead power lines.

    [That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Electricity Generating Stations and Overhead Lines (Inquiries Procedure) Rules 1987 (S.I., 1987, No. 2182), dated 16th December 1987, a copy of which was laid before this House on 18th December, be annulled.]

    Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the praying days for the measure were exhausted on 19 February? Will he give us an assurance that the matter will be debated on the Floor of the House on revocation?

    I recognise that the time has run out for praying but I do not think that that should necessarily stop us having a debate if one can be agreed through the usual channels. We are trying to work that out at the moment.

    Is the Leader of the House aware that many hon. Members on both sides are concerned about certain parts of the Firearms (Amendment) Bill, and in particular about the lack of provision in it for compensation for shooters who will have their weapons taken away? He will be aware that the Minister announced a compensation buy-back scheme in Committee after a constructive debate. When will he lay the money resolution?

    The Government are considering the matter. We hope to table a motion as soon as possible, but I can add nothing more to that.

    Will the Leader of the House reconsider his decision about the Welsh day debate being called for Wednesday? As a foreigner, the Secretary of State may not appreciate the significance of St. David's day to Wales. We do not want our daffodils drooping on Wednesday. We demand a debate on St. David's day; we have been asking for that for years. It is time the Leader of the House appreciated the significance of that day to the people of Wales.

    I am not too sure about all this foreigner nonsense. My father was born in Cardiff and I reckon that makes me more Welsh than some people who consider themselves Welsh. I thought I had done pretty well to hit 2 March; I am sorry if that upsets the hon. Gentleman. I suggest that he finds out how to look after his daffodil.

    My right hon. Friend will be aware that diplomatic moves are afoot to advance the peace process in the middle east. Will he, in the light of the considerable interest in the subject that has been shown among hon. Members, arrange for a wide-ranging foreign affairs debate before very long?

    There will clearly be a need for a foreign affairs debate before too long, but I cannot promise one in the immediate future. There will be Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Questions next Wednesday, so perhaps my hon. Friend could try his luck then.

    Will the Leader of the House accept that some of us regard it as an anachronism that there should have to be an annual Welsh day when Parliament should be dealing with our problems all the year round?

    On a more substantive matter, will he tell the House of the fate of the Griffiths report? When can we expect a statement? Will he give an assurance that that important report will he published?

    I can think of worse things to do than to debate Welsh affairs in the House all the time. I cannot make a promise on the matter, but I shall refer the hon. Gentleman's question about the Griffiths report to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services.

    Will my right hon. Friend accept that many people agree with him that space research must take its place with other priorities? None the less, does he agree that the report of the Lord Shackleton illustrates that there are grounds for concern about the United Kingdom's space programme? Surely this subject must be worthy of a full debate in the House.

    It is certainly worthy of debate. The Government would be happy to defend their record on space research, which we consider to be good given all the commitments involved. My hon. Friend might try his hand, subject to you, Mr. Speaker, during Monday's debate on British science when he could raise some of his points then.

    May I press the Leader of the House to expand slightly on the answer that he gave about the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs? It would ease frustration among Labour Members if we could know whether the right hon. Gentleman will be in a position to put forward Government names for the Committee in the near future.

    To travel hopefully is not always to arrive, but I shall do my best. I had been waiting for a letter from the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar). I have now received a helpful and constructive letter from him, but I cannot add anything further.

    May I renew my call to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House for a debate in Government time on the problems facing the civil aviation industry? Last Monday, we had a good run for our money on the subject of air safety, which highlighted the need for a debate on that topic. By 31 March, the Civil Aviation Authority will require comments on its review of air licensing policy. It seems quite wrong for decisions to be made on that subject until the House has had a proper opportunity to discuss all the issues involved.

    I recognise that my hon. Friend takes a great interest in these important matters. I wish that I could help him by promising a debate in the near future. Unfortunately, there are many conflicting calls on our time. The chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority is actively reviewing the procedure for investigating and reporting air misses. No doubt my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport will be reporting to the House in the near future. That will be the next step.

    Will the Leader of the House make time for a debate on low pay? When the Prime Minister visits my constituency tomorrow we hope to draw attention to the growing problem of low pay, particularly in the Health Service, where the disastrous privatisation programme has meant that not even jobcentres will accept advertisements from Mediclean.

    I wish that I could find time for the hon. Lady to have a debate on the subject. We are coming up to the season for an extended debate on the Budget resolutions. Some of the points that the hon. Lady wishes to make could be made in that debate.

    My right hon. Friend will know that for several weeks I have been pressing for a statement on meningitis. I am grateful to him for the courteous and detailed letter that he sent me following my request last week. This is a matter of national importance, not merely personal importance. I press the Government to make a statement on meningitis because many people who read snippets here and there in the newspapers do not know the full extent and nature of the problem. It is time that the Government cared and made a statement.

    I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his remarks about the way in which I dealt with the matter last time. I shall refer the issue to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services to establish whether he thinks anything further should be done.

    Will the Leader of the House arrange a debate or a statement on the current dispute at TV-am? Is he aware that for several months there has been a dispute, with a lockout of members of the Association of Cinematograph, Television and Allied Technicians, because of the management's attitude? Does he know that, according to recent reports, in contravention of section 20 of the Broadcasting Act 1981, the Saudis now own almost a controlling share in that organisation? Will the right hon. Gentleman have a word with his hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, South (Mr. Aitken)—one of the directors of the company—who has issued a statement calling on Tory MPs to go to TV-am with fellow directors on Wednesday to break through the picket line? When he gets there, I shall be there, along with some of my friends, to ensure that those from other television companies who look to this dispute in the hope of maximising their profits do not turn it into another Wapping.

    When the hon. Gentleman started his question, I was determined not to have another debate. Having listened to him and realised to what extent he has got the wrong end of the stick over most of the issues involved, I was tempted to change my mind. However, I thought better of it; there will be no debate.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware that a large number of right hon. and hon. Members have signed early-day motion 6?

    [That this House deplores the fact that, alone among public service pensioners, those whose service was overseas cannot count pre-appointment war service towards their pensions; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to remedy this injustice to a dwindling group of elderly people whose working lives were spent in adverse conditions while dedicated to the service of British interests overseas.]

    It draws the attention of the Government to the anomaly whereby all public service pensioners get war service credit in their pensions unless that service was overseas. Will my right hon. Friend allow us a debate so that what is fast becoming a majority of hon. Members may impress upon the Government the need to do justice to this group of very deserving people?

    I recognise that this is an important matter, and my hon. Friend has raised it on a number of occasions. However, I cannot promise an early debate and I cannot reasonably add much to what my hon. Friend the Minister for Overseas Development said earlier in the week.

    The Leader of the House has had opportunities to explain the reasons for not having a debate on Welsh affairs on St. David's day. He has not yet given us a reason. Will he take this further opportunity to do so? Will he reassure us that it is not simply because of the non-availability of the Secretary of State for Wales, who may prefer creating photo-opportunities in Wales to attending to serious business in this House? Will the arrival of the television cameras in this House attract the Secretary of State to be with us for a debate on St. David's day and will the Leader of the House assure us that next year we can have the debate on St. David's day?

    I cannot at this stage promise the date of the debate in 1989. On this year's debate, if the hon. Gentleman does not know already, he will shortly know how these matters are arranged. They are arranged through the usual channels for the best convenience of everybody in the House and we did our best to meet all the requirements in this case. It is usually not wise to speculate or make slightly mischievous statements about what one thinks the reasons are, because one is usually wrong.

    Will my right hon. Friend consider having a debate on Scottish affairs only on St. Andrew's day and a debate on English affairs on St. George's day?

    My hon. Friend does not say what we should do for the rest of the time. His suggestion is very helpful, but I do not think that I can quite accommodate it.

    May I again ask the Leader of the House to consider a debate in Government time on the important subject of speech therapy provision in our schools? He will agree with me that many parents are very distressed at the shortage of qualified people to teach and help youngsters suffering speech defects.

    Will he also reconsider his disappointing reply on the Welsh day debate and may I remind him that my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. Powell) will have no difficulty in looking after his daffodil?

    I felt sure that the hon. Gentleman would have to get in on the act on the question of the Welsh day debate. I cannot be more helpful than I was before.

    I imagine that the whole House recognises that the problems of children with speech defects are a serious matter. I should like to provide time for an early debate and I shall look into the matter, but I cannot promise that I shall succeed.

    Will the Leader of the House please bear in mind that when the Criminal Justice Bill returns to the House of Commons there will doubtless be a well-supported clause for the reintroduction of capital punishment? As that is a matter of such public interest and has such public support, and as the state has a duty to protect its citizens, will my right hon. Friend please allow a full day of debate on that important matter?

    I recognise that my hon. Friend is fast on his feet in such matters, but we should wait until the Bill returns to this House to see what amendments are tabled. We shall then work out how best to deal with them in the customary fashion.

    May we have a debate on the growing misery of vandalism and theft that afflicts shops, homes, churches and schools, especially in my constituency, and on the Home Secretary's refusal to make available the extra police who are needed on the largest estates? May we ask the Home Secretary for a statement on when he proposes to reply to the request from the chief constable of Leicestershire for 91 additional policemen, which will not be enough to contain the menace that has increased during the past nine years?

    I shall certainly refer the matter to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. I very much hope that in any reply my right hon. Friend may make he will point out to the hon. and learned Gentleman the additional resources that are now available in the number of police as a result of this Conservative Government's policies in recent years.

    May I reinforce the plea of my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Waterside (Mr. Colvin) for a debate on civil aviation because there are not only the matters to which my hon. Friend referred? I ask my right hon. Friend to note other matters, such as airline competition policy, airport capacity and the licensing of certain foreign carriers coming to this country's regional airports, all of which are jostling for attention and would justify a useful debate.

    I recognise the strength of what my hon. Friend says, but I do not think I can add to what I said earlier.

    From the questions asked the Leader of the House will realise the importance attached by Scottish Members to the Scottish Select Committee. What priority does the Leader of the House place on a Committee which is unique by the fact of its non-existence? In saying that a letter will lead to further progress, can he guarantee an announcement some time during the 20th century?

    A Committee that does not exist is not unique. Many Committees that do not exist are unique. I cannot add anything more, but I am working quite hard on this matter, as the hon. Gentleman well knows.

    Will my right hon. Friend arrange a debate on local government in Derbyshire where, as the latest of its nonsensical ideas, the county council has now issued 100 guidelines, which no doubt took a lot of time, to staff in its schools to say that they should not refer in letters to "he" or "she" when talking about their pupils? Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is yet another of the county council's nonsensical ideas, following that of printing on all school notepaper, "Derbyshire supports nuclear-free zones"? A debate would be a useful exercise to expose the abuse of local government that we are currently facing in Derbyshire.

    I have to say to my hon. Friend that in all charity there are not enough hours in the day to expose all the nonsenses of that local authority. However, it seems to me that he might find an opportunity in the not too distant future to table an amendment to the Local Government Finance Bill when it comes back to the Floor of the House.

    Does the Leader of the House remember the Prime Minister reluctantly admitting that about 170,000 pensioners have been robbed of £1 million in compensation as a result of the recent error in the calculation of the retail prices index? Does he also remember that several hon. Members of all parties have raised this matter with him? Can he give us some inkling of the outcome of his meeting with the Prime Minister on this subject? If he is not prepared to reconsider the matter to ensure that the Government meet their moral obligation to pay that money, will he at least ensure that that £1 million is given to pensioner organisations which are campaigning for a substantial increase in pensions and for a better deal for pensioners?

    The hon. Gentleman, who is usually so careful about these things, should re-read the statement because he clearly did not take it on board. The Government have done something which they were under no legal obligation to do. They believe that they have got it right. On the previous occasion that the matter was raised in the House, one of the hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends raised the case of an individual pensioner, which I did not believe was a sensible way of proceeding. The Government's statements on these matters have shown that, for all practical purposes, they have dealt with the matter in as fair and reasonable a way as possible.

    Will there be time for an early debate to consider the terms of early-day motion 652 relating to miscarriages of justice which so far today has the names of 157 right hon. and hon. Members?

    [That this House, in view of the widespread disquiet at the recent judgment by the Court of Appeal in the case of the six men convicted of the Birmingham pub bombings, calls upon the Home Secretary to establish an independent review tribunal, along the lines recommended by the Home Affairs Select Committee Report on Miscarriages of Justice, in particular to examine the claim by the honourable Member for Sunderland South that he has traced and interviewed the four men responsible for the bombings and that they are all in Ireland.]

    If not, may we have a substantial debate on the Floor of the House at Report stage of the Criminal Justice Bill?

    What is discussed when the Criminal Justice Bill comes back to the House is not a matter for me. I do not see how I can reasonably arrange a debate on this issue at the present time, particularly in view of proceedings which I understand are shortly to take place in the courts.

    May we have a statement on the EEC agreement with Turkey on the importing of acrylic yarns, which has a restrictive safeguard clause which, before, it can be operated, involves the sacking of workers and the closure of mills? Is the Leader of the House aware that already that agreement with Turkey through the EEC has led to short-time working in Bradford and a statement is urgently needed to protect jobs? Is it not time that some attention was given to the way in which the Government are continually capitulating to the demands of the Common Market with a consequent adverse effect on jobs in constituencies such as mine?

    I do not accept the substance of the hon. Gentleman's question, but I shall certainly refer the matter to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.

    In response to the question put to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House by the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), does my right hon. Friend consider that perhaps we should shortly have a debate on broadcasting so that that hon. Gentleman can explain to his lower-paid constituents, with whose woes he never fails to regale us, how it is that next week he will be appearing on a potentially violent picket line in order to defend the rights of television technicians who earn in excess of £40,000 a year for less than 30 hours a week?

    My hon. Friend puts his point well and I wish that I could arrange such a debate next week, hut I am afraid that I do not see how I can fit it in.

    Is the Leader of the House aware that the non-political organisation, Hospital Alert, has arranged a national lobby of Parliament today and at least 5,000 people will be coming to the Palace of Westminster? Will he give an assurance that can be circulated to people throughout the country who make contact with that organisation that every Member of the House, apart from Ministers and Parliamentary Private Secretaries, are free to sign the early-day motion, which calls for additional resources for the National Health Service? Will he say that there is no need for any hon. Member to excuse his or her failure to sign because it can be amended to secure the necessary objective?

    [That this House congratulates the Confederation of Health Service Employees on the publication of its Charter for the National Health Service entitled "2p for Health"; urges that when the Chancellor announces his Budget on 15th March he uses the money put aside for a 2p tax cut for the National Health Service instead; calls on National Health Service staff, those who use its services and those who care about its future to unite in calling for that money, which amounts to £2·5 billion, to be used to fund a way out of the crisis; calls for £2,000 million to go directly into patient services, taking National Health Service funding back to the real level it enjoyed in 1979 and £500 million to be spent immediately, to improve pay and conditions for staff; calls for funding to continue to be through the tax system so that care can be given free at the time of delivery; calls for a rise in health authority funding of at least 2·5 per cent. above the increase in gross domestic product over the next 12 years to bring health spending up to the average for West European countries so as to provide a stable financial framework and enable long-term planning; calls for the urgent talks on how to improve working conditions; calls for full funding for pay awards to relieve the pressure on hard-pressed health authorities in defence of patient services; calls for a guaranteed independent system of pay determination for all health staff; calls for a users' charter of rights setting out a legal right to treatment, calls for a duty on health authorities to look at the quality as well as the cost of services; and calls for the involvement of staff and users in ensuring that standards are met.

    I am sorry to lecture the hon. Gentleman, but the first thing that one has to do before signing an early-day motion is to see whether its terms are reasonable and sensible and I hope that all will recognise that there has been a substantial increase in funding in the NHS under the Government which is likely to continue in future.

    Did the Leader of the House hear that amazing interview given by the Rev. Pat Robertson, one of the Republican party's presidential candidates, in which he said that he had had a discussion with God who had told him that Europe and the middle east would be destroyed and the world taken over by the evangelists? Does the right hon. Gentleman share my concern that someone like the Rev. Pat Robertson might become President of the United States and, through the nuclear button, have the wherewithal to fulfil that prophecy?

    It relates to a request for a debate on broadcasting to enable the House to make its opinions clearly heard. We do not want those television evangelists polluting our airwaves with the disgusting spectacle of people such as Pat Robertson and Jimmy Swaggart pouring out their emotions. They are nothing more than Right-wing conspirators. Can we have a debate?

    I had been wondering whether the hon. Gentleman had been overworking recently. I am bound to say that if he thinks that that is a sensible subject for a debate next week, he should go on holiday for a while.

    Will the Leader of the House concede that a growing number of hon. Members on both sides of the House, and, indeed, people outside, feel that it is difficult for the Government and the Opposition to conduct their business effectively in the House after 10 pm? That may be even more evident with the televising of Parliament. Since there is no Procedure Committee, will the Leader of the House advise us how best this matter can be brought to the attention of the House for an early decision?

    There is another hon. Member who seems to be falling by the wayside.

    For many years the House has tried to conduct as much of its business as it can before 10 pm, but I do not see that, in the foreseeable future, we shall be able to finish our business before 10. I have a feeling that the hon. Gentleman would be the first to complain if some of the subjects that he wanted to debate could not be discussed.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware of the fact that members of the National and Local Government Officers Association have until 15 March to cast their vote in the political fund ballot? Is he also aware that NALGO is grossly misrepresenting the Trade Unions Act 1984? Will he arrange a debate so that the House can discuss NALGO's distorted campaign of misinformation in an attempt to mislead its members into voting yes?

    I recognise that this is an important matter. I see the substance in what my hon. Friend says, but I cannot promise him an early debate. I suggest that he puts down a question to the Secretary of State for Employment for answer at Question Time next Tuesday.

    Does the Leader of the House realise that the Scottish Grand Committee, which does still exist, has not met since daffodils last bloomed in all the lands of the United Kingdom? Has there ever been a time since the Union of Parliaments in 1707 when the Scottish Grand Committee has failed to meet for such a period of time, when the Welsh Grand Committee has met on three occasions since the general election? Is it because the Secretary of State for Scotland is fearful to come before the massed ranks of the Opposition to debate the crisis in the Health Service and in education in Scotland, not to mention the diversion of money from the important bypasses in my constituency to the A74, and many other issues?

    If the hon. Gentleman likes to comfort himself with that view of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, whom I heard giving a good account of himself in the House earlier this week, he is welcome to do so. Whether the Scottish Grand Committee meets in Edinburgh is not entirely a matter for me. Other parts of the House have a view on that. I can only say that I am glad that my ancestry was Welsh rather than Scots, as they seem to be a bit easier to control.