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Business Of The House

Volume 134: debated on Thursday 9 June 1988

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3.31 pm

Will the Leader of the House 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 13 JUNE—Until Seven o'clock, private Members' motions.

Consideration of Lords Amendments to the Dartford-Thurrock Crossing Bill.

Ways and Means resolutions relating to the Finance (No. 2) Bill.

Progress on remaining stages of the Housing Bill.

TUESDAY 14 JUNE—Progress on remaining stages of the Housing Bill.

Motion to take note of EC documents on the limitation of the emission of pollutants from large combustion plants. Details will be given in the Official Report.

Motions on the Building Societies (Commercial Assets and Services) and the Building Societies (Limits on Commercial Assets) Orders.

WEDNESDAY 15 JUNE—Completion of remaining stages of the Housing Bill.

The Chairman of Ways and Means has named opposed private business for consideration at Seven o'clock.

THURSDAY 16 JUNE—Progress on remaining stages of the Criminal Justice Bill [Lords].

Motion to take note of EC document on weights and dimensions of certain road vehicles. Details will be given in the Official Report.

Motion to take note of EC documents on proposals to extend roadworthiness testing. Details will be given in the Official Report.

FRIDAY 17 JUNE—There will be a debate on the growth of the tourism industry on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

MONDAY 20 JUNE—Completion of remaining stages of the Criminal Justice Bill [Lords].

[Debate on Tuesday 14 June 1988. Relevant European Community Documents: (a) 11642/83, (b) 5124/85, (c) unnumbered, air pollution from large combustion plants.

Relevant Reports of European Legislation Committee: (a) HC 78-xxvii (1983–84) para 4; (b) HC 5-xviii (1984–85) para 2.

Debates on Thursday 16 June 1988. First Debate. Relevant European Community Document: unnumbered, commercial vehicles: weights.

Relevant Report of European Legislation Committee: HC 43-xxvi (1987–88) para 2.

Second Debate. Relevant European Community Documents: ( a) 6878186, (b) 7946/87, roadworthiness tests for motor vehicles and trailers.

Relevant Reports of European Legislation Committee: (a) HC 21-xxiii (1985–86) para 5 and HC 21-xxvii (1985–86) para 4; (b) HC 43-iii (1987–88) para 2.]

I thank the Lord President for telling us what the business is.

I think that the whole House recognises that the Minister for Housing and Planning is having great difficulty in producing a Housing Bill that makes sense even of his own proposals. Will the Lord President accept that the intention to complete the Commons consideration of this measure next week will put an intolerable burden on the House and is likely to result in an even shabbier than normal Act of Parliament? Does he not accept that, with the Government having tabled no fewer than 183 new clauses and amendments, there is no possibility of their being properly considered? Will he seriously consider our request that further time be devoted to this Bill, even if it is only to make sure that the Bill is eventually a workable piece of legislation?

Having said all that, I must ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he can tell us when we are to have the opportunity to consider the proposals on short speeches.

Turning from short speeches to the Short money, when can we expect to debate the proposals for uprating the funding of Opposition parties?

The Lord President will be aware that his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales has long been promising something that he refers to as the Welsh valley initiative. Can he give us an undertaking that that will be announced in the House before it is announced anywhere else?

When can we expect the oft-promised general debate on foreign affairs?

Finally, the Lord President will recall that last week I asked him if he would look into the police restrictions placed on access by right hon. and hon. Members to Downing street. I wonder whether he is in a position to make a statement on that now.

The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) asked me six questions about the business for next week and I shall seek to answer them in the order in which he asked them.

I understand that the Opposition are in some difficulty in respect of the Housing Bill. I believe that the time allocated is adequate, but I recognise that there is some concern. I am prepared to have discussions through the usual channels to see whether any assistance can be provided.

As to short speeches, I regret that the motion that I originally tabled could not be debated at the time that I intended. I hope to bring forward that motion again in the near future.

With regard to the Short money, the financial assistance to opposition parties, I hope that it may be possible to make an announcement about the timing of that debate in my next business statement.

I confirm that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales hopes to make a statement in the House on the valleys initiative in the very near future.

It is my intention to have a debate on foreign affairs in the very near future, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman accepts that the precise timing is best left for discussion through the usual channels.

As the hon. Gentleman rightly said, he raised last week the question—as did one of his hon. Friends—of Members' access to Downing street. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department explained in a written answer on 7 June to his hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick)
"Fresh instructions have been issued by the police to make it clear that, as hitherto, no restrictions should be placed on the number of hon. Members who need to enter Downing street in the course of their parliamentary duties."—[Official Report, 7 June 1988; Vol. 134, c. 448.]
It was most unfortunate that some right hon. and hon. Members were mistakenly prevented from entering Downing street to present a petition. I hope that the House will accept that that was a genuine misunderstanding and nothing more. The Metropolitan police restrict access generally to Downing street in pursuance of their common law duty to prevent crime and disorder, but it has never been the intention to prevent hon. Members from pursuing their parliamentary duties.

Order. As we have been away for a week, I will repeat a statement that I made earlier this Session. The purpose of business questions is not to make a speech about a subject of an hon. Member's choice, but to ask for a debate. In order that I may be as generous as possible in calling Members to put supplementary questions, I ask hon. Members to confine themselves to one question and not to make a speech or to expect a detailed reply.

In view of the firm undertaking last night by the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) to renationalise the Rover Group, will my right hon. Friend arrange a debate on the state of the privatisation programme so that those people who work for privatised companies, or for companies which are to be privatised, may be very clear about their fate under any future Labour Government?

Enough was said in yesterday's debate to cause people concern about what might happen should there unfortunately be a change of Government at any future time. I should like to arrange such a debate, but I cannot promise my hon. Friend a debate in the immediate future.

Is the Leader of the House aware of the widespread concern on both sides of the House, and outside it, at the delay in implementing the fair labelling order by his hon. Friend the Minister for Trade? Is he aware that there is widespread support for that measure, and will he give a guarantee that the order will be laid before the summer recess?

Consultations and discussions are going on at the moment. I shall certainly refer the hon. Gentleman's concern to my hon. Friend the Minister for Trade.

In view of the serious deterioration in security in Northern Ireland, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that we have a full debate soon, keeping' in mind that not one person has been made amenable to the law for the terrible massacre in Enniskillen, the 11 murders in South Down and the 17 murders in Castlederg? Will the right hon. Gentleman remember that Members from Northern Ireland can take part in debates on and move amendments to English legislation but cannot move amendments to Northern Ireland legislation?

Of course I recognise the concern of the hon. Gentleman on security in Northern Ireland, the grave and continuing difficulties and the need for a debate. I also recognise the concern about the way in which legislation for Northern Ireland is dealt with. Any changes in that system would be best considered in the wider context of progress towards devolved government. I cannot promise the hon. Gentleman an early debate, but I recognise the strength of what he has said and I will bear the matter in mind.

I am sure that the Leader of the House accepts that the report of the Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment on leukaemia clusters requires careful consideration because it raises important and serious issues. Will the House have an opportunity to discuss the report?

Will the Leader of the House also consider early-day motion 1185 in the names of myself and my right hon. and hon. Friends?

[That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Local Government ( Direct Labour Organisations) (Competition) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 1988 (S.I. 1988, No. 956), dated 22nd May 1988, a copy of which was laid before this House on 8th June, be annulled.]

Will we have an opportunity to debate it, in the House or in Committee?

The second point on local government regulations in Scotland can best be discussed through the usual channels.

I note what the hon. Gentleman said about the COMARE report which has recently been published. I believe that there should be time for consideration. I cannot promise an early debate but I shall certainly bear the matter in mind.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that an early debate on defence policy would give those of us who favour multilateral rather than unilateral disarmament the opportunity to hail the unexpected but none the less welcome arrival in our ranks of the Leader of the Opposition, even if very few of his hon. Friends appear willing to follow him at this stage?

A debate on defence is an important part of the parliamentary year. We shall have a debate on defence, but the White Paper has only recently been published. I understand that the Select Committee on Defence is in the course of preparing a report on it. I want to have discussions as to the best time for that debate.

Has the Lord President of the Council seen early-day motion 1183 about the tragic crash of an RAF Meteor jet aircraft in Coven try on Monday 30 May and the heroism of the RAF pilot who gave his life to avoid crashing into the houses and the social club in Coventry, South-East?

[That this House notes with regret the fatal crash in Coventry of an RAF Meteor T7 jet aircraft during the Warwickshire Air Pageant on Monday 30th May; recognises that the pilot, Flight Lieutenant Peter Stacey, was a hero to give his life by crashing his plane on the only available space of open ground, between a school and two adjacent housing estates, thus avoiding turning a tragedy into a potential civil disaster; recognises that whilst air displays are a popular family entertainment, no entertainment is worth this risk to the lives of people, such as the constituents of the honourable Member for Coventry, South East who had large pieces of debris scattered onto their houses and grounds, which thankfully caused only minor damage; demands that the future organisation of such air displays be modified to ensure areas of dense population aresafe from potential accidents; regards the offer by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Armed Forces, in a letter to the honourable Member for Coventry, South East on 6th June, to send an advance copy of a summary of the findings of the Royal Air Force Board of Enquiry into the Meteor crash, as inadequate; and believes that for the peace of mind of the people of Coventry and the relatives of Flight Lieutenant Stacey, the investigation report should be published.]

Can the right hon. Gentleman explain why the Secretary of State for Defence has not yet made a statement to the House on the crash? Air displays such as the Warwickshire air pageant, during which the crash took place, are popular family entertainment, but no entertainment is worth such a risk to the lives of my constituents who had large pieces of wreckage scattered on their homes and gardens.

I am sure the whole House will share the hon. Gentleman's regret at this tragic accident. A thorough investigation is being undertaken and the results will be made public in accordance with normal practice. I am sure that is the best way to proceed, and that all of us would want to express our sympathy to the relatives of the brave pilot who was killed.

My right hon. Friend's announcement of a debate on tourism will be welcome, but tourists need roads. When will we have a debate on motorway policy so that the north-east can be exploited to the full by tourists, who would love to get there if only the motorways were adequate? There is unanimous support for an adequate motorway system to the north-east from everyone, it would appear, except "Pimply" Heller of The Daily Telegraph and those who advise the Minister.

I have answered previous questions on roads from my hon. Friend. I recognise the connection between roads and tourism. I should have thought that my hon. Friend, with his customary skill, would be able to relate the two in the debate on Friday 17 June.

The Leader of the House will have seen last week's report on riots in Crowborough in Sussex. In recent years, there have been many such occurrences in more affluent parts of the country. Today, the Association of Chief Police Officers, is publishing a report about the new phenomenon of riots in so-called affluent areas. Will the Leader of the House made sure that we get a sight of the report? Will he arrange for it to be placed in the Library? We should debate the matter, if not next week, then soon, so that we can get away from the idea that the problem arises only in inner cities.

I recognise the strength of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, in view of the offices that he has held and his great experience in these matters. I shall certainly refer the matter to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and see how best to meet the hon. Gentleman's request.

Although it was good of my right hon. Friend to agree to draw the attention of the relevant Minister to the question of the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) about the labelling of furs, I remind him of my early-day motion 978.

[That this House, noting the intention of the Department of Trade and Industry to introduce a labelling Order to cover the furs of animals caught in leghold traps, a device made illegal in the United Kingdom following the report of the 1951 Scott Henderson Committee, which describes it as a diabolical instrument which causes an incalculable amount of suffering, congratulates the Minister for Trade on taking this valuable step, which will allow the consumer to exercise freedom of choice as to whether or not to purchase garments the production of which will have involved extreme cruelty to animals; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to include in the Order the furs of badger, beaver, bobcat, coyote, cross fox, ermine, fisher, gray fox, lynx, marten, muskrat, opossum, otter, racoon, red fox and wolf, all of which are frequently caught in leghold traps.]

My motion has attracted close to 100 signatures from hon. Members. We should get a move on so that people can exercise real consumer freedom of choice.

I have seen my hon. Friend's early-day motion, and I recognise the support that it has attracted. I know that my hon. Friend the Minister for Trade wants to get on with it as quickly as he can. He is in the process of negotiations, and I shall urge him to get on with them as fast as possible.

In view of the huge question mark involving alleged financial irregularities hanging over the proposed sale of the National Engineering laboratory at East Kilbride, is the Leader of the House prepared to make time available to debate that vital issue?

I cannot promise the hon. Gentleman time to debate the issue. If he has evidence of financial irregularities, I am sure that he knows the right way to deal with them.

Will my right hon. Friend reflect on the answer that he gave a moment ago, when he referred to progress towards devolved government in Northern Ireland? Will he explain why it is the Government's policy that there should be no devolved administration in Scotland or Wales but that there should be devolved administration in Northern Ireland?

My job is to answer questions about business for next week. I shall not indulge in a debate with my hon. Friend about that issue at present, although there are answers that can be given at the right time.

What proportion of the legislation that the right hon. Gentleman today announced will be proceeded with next week has any application to Northern Ireland?

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the alarming rise in the offence of violence against the police, that 90 per cent. of it is alcohol-related and it is rising fastest in counties like Hampshire, where the police are thinly distributed—widely distributed—over a large area? Dos he not think that this is such an alarming trend in crime that it deserves an urgent debate?

Yes, of course, these are important matters. I stated to the former Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Morley and Leeds, South (Mr. Rees), that I shall discuss the matter with the Home Secretary. I confirm that I shall do that.

As the Prime Minister has condemned trial by media, surely we should have a special debate to consider the role of press barons, bearing in mind the sort of stories that are repeatedly pumped out about public figures, including hon. Members.

I cannot promise the hon. Gentleman any Government time for such a debate. Perhaps he would like to have a word with his right hon. and hon. Friends on the Labour Front Bench.

Has my right hon. Friend noticed the growing number of parliamentary questions relating to pollution of the atmosphere, the earth, and the waters around our coast? Will he find time in the reasonably near future for a debate on pollution throughout the United Kingdom?

I noted my hon. Friend's success in obtaining the 17 May Adjournment debate on the subject of marine pollution. The Government are considering the points that he raised. It is not possible in the immediate future to have a debate on the wider issues. I shall certainly bear the matter in mind.

May we have an urgent debate next week on the Government's flagrant abuse of parliamentary procedures? The Leader of the House will be aware that the Committee considering the Housing Bill finished its consideration on 15 March. As late as last night, new clauses and new amendments, including the "White Paper", were tabled by the Government. The Government are not giving the Opposition a chance fairly to reflect our role in the House by critically examining the Government's proposals. We do not have Report stages any more; we have new Bills on Report. We need an urgent debate on the flagrant abuse of the Government's position.

I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman has said, but I recognise the concern. As I said to the shadow spokesman, the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson), I am perfectly prepared to have discussions through the usual channels on matters that are causing concern.

In view of the proposals by Power, Water and Waste Ltd. to import millions of tonnes of festering American domestic waste into the north-west and south-west of England, will my right hon. Friend grant a debate so that hon. Members on both sides of the House can express their opposition to those proposals?

Of course I recognise my hon. Friend's concern. This is primarily a matter for the waste disposal authorities which are responsible for ensuring that any waste disposed of in their areas is dealt with properly and safely. I suggest that my hon. Friend gets in touch with them, but I will bear in mind what he has said.

In view of the widespread concern about apparent unfettered exploitation by loan sharks, when are the Government going to take some initiatives to bring recommendations to the House to tighten up the laws against loan sharks?

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has any particular case in mind. If he has, I suggest that he either gives me details or makes details available to the Department of Trade and Industry or 'to the appropriate authority. With regard to matters of financial irregularity generally, I believe that my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry acts properly and swiftly in accordance with the law, which we have very much strengthened in recent years.

Earlier this week a teenage girl was killed in my constituency by a heavy goods vehicle. I believe that that was the fourth such incident in Kent this year and it throws into stark relief the importance of a debate on the whole question of road provision in Kent following the building of the Channel tunnel. Will my right hon. Friend grant a debate on that subject?

I am very distressed to hear what my hon. Friend has said about events in Kent. Of course, the subject of roads and the Channel tunnel is a suitable one for debate, and I wish that I could offer my hon. Friend an early date for such a debate. He will recognise the substantial increased resources that the Government have found for the road programme.

Will the Leader of the House acknowledge that in the Scottish Grand Committee this morning we received an extremely unsatisfactory reply from the Minister of State? In particular, he could not assure the Committee that there would be a separate Scottish Bill for the privatisation of electricity. Will the Leader of the House assure the House that there will be a separate Scottish Bill—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because it is an important matter. In view of the obscure replies from the Minister of State in relation to the imports of coal for power stations in Scotland, may we have a statement from the Secretary of State for Energy to clarify the matter and give some clear sign of the state of negotiations between the South of Scotland electricity board and British Coal?

I have not had an opportunity to read the report of the debates upstairs and I am not sure whether I should comment on it if I had. However, I will take the opportunity to do so, and will refer the matter to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy if I think that he should take any action.

Will my right hon. Friend consider giving time for an early debate on the impartiality of the BBC? Is he not particularly worried that this coming Saturday some 10 hours of air time is to be given over to an organisation that supports terrorism?

These are primarily matters for the BBC. The Anti-Apartheid Movement concert is not a matter for the Government. However, I should tell my hon. Friend that the Government are considering representations received in Pretoria this morning in connection with the matter.

With his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department, will the Leader of the House find time, not least in view of the unusually forthright condemnation of racial discrimination by the Prime Minister a few minutes ago, to arrange an urgent debate on racial harassment, in view of the report that was issued only yesterday by the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis that shows an alarming increase in London alone of 26 per cent. in this particularly unpleasant form of crime?

I recognise the concern and the force of the hon. Gentleman's argument, but I cannot promise a debate in the near future.

Will not my right hon. Friend reconsider the question of the BBC's charter and its use of public money? Does he not share the widespread concern, at least on this side of the House, about the fact that the BBC is prepared to spend a large amount of its, and therefore its licence payers', money and a lot of air time on praising somebody who has been convicted of terrorism and who refuses to renounce violence?

I recognise my hon. Friend's concern. There will be an opportunity before too long for a debate on broadcasting, but I cannot promise one immediately.

In the time allocated next Wednesday to the discussion of a private Bill, will the Leader of the House assure us that the Bill that will be discussed will be a private Bill and that he will not be party to a meeting such as that between the Secretary of State for Transport and the outside promoter of the private Bill which became the Associated British Ports Act? We found out later that there had been collusion between the Secretary of State for Transport and that promoter. Will it really be a private Bill or will it, once again, be a front for the Government?

I reject entirely the hon. Gentleman's allegations in respect of my right hon. Friend. The question of private Bills is a matter for the Chairman of Ways and Means. I am quite sure that he will see to it that all proper matters are dealt with.

Will my right hon. Friend find time during the next week, or before the summer recess, for an additional Opposition day, bearing in mind the almost total lack of interest in yesterday's debate, with only 12 Labour Members of Parliament being present for the wind-up after the Rowntree debate and even fewer than that for the wind-up after the following debate?

I am glad to be able to assist my hon. Friend. I am sure that I shall be able to find time for an Opposition day before the summer recess, but I am not responsible for what they choose to debate or for how many Opposition Members decide to come and listen. That is a matter for them.

Could we have a debate next week, or at an early opportunity, on the National Audit Commission's report on the Property Services Agency? Then we could debate that organisation's autocratic and bureaucratic decision to stop the cross-Bradford rail link that would have been a boost for Bradford and Bradford railway services. The local passenger transport authority and the local authority want a cross-Bradford rail link to link the interchange and Bradford Forster square. A debate on the National Audit Commission's report would provide an opportunity for an investigation.

I cannot promise the hon. Gentleman a debate next week on that matter, but I have no doubt that with his customary ingenuity he will find a way to raise matters that he believes to be of concern.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the growing number of problems that face civil aviation, one of Britain's most successful industries from air safety to airport capacity, from the deregulation of European air services to the computer reservation systems that are currently being studied by the Select Committee on Transport? He will no doubt be aware of the fact that many decisions on these problems will be taken by Ministers and the Civil Aviation Authority before the end of the year, without any need for primary legislation. Is it not very important, therefore, for the House to have an opportunity to debate civil aviation before the summer recess?

I recognise that considerable changes are taking place in the civil aviation industry and that it would be appropriate for the House to debate them. At this time of the year it is difficult to find days for additional debates. I am sorry that I cannot be more forthcoming about when that time can be provided.

Reverting to the Housing Bill that is to be considered on three days next week, is the Leader of the House aware that not only were four important new clauses tabled last night but that one of them, new clause 47, has the novelty of being applicable, after Royal Assent, as from today? Is this not an unusual procedure? As the Leader of the House has said that there will be discussions with the usual channels, will he withdraw his decision that consideration will be completed next Wednesday?

No, I cannot undertake to do that at all. I thought that I was being helpful. The time allocated for the Bill is quite substantial. I recognise that there are some difficulties, and I have undertaken to have further discussions about those difficulties. However, I cannot undertake to say in advance what the conclusions of those discussions will be.

I do not know whether my right hon. Friend has seen the announcement in today's papers about the intention of the Murdoch group, News International, to flood the country with satellite television by next year. Does he agree that the House should consider this matter and, in particular, how reasonable standards of decency and morality can be achieved and maintained when this happens, in a very short time?

I have seen the announcement. I should have thought that my hon. Friend would welcome the increased competition and consumer choice that the services will provide; indeed, he may well do so. As I said before, I hope that we shall be able to arrange a debate on broadcasting in general before too long, when no doubt some of these issues will be highly relevant.

May we have a debate soon on the way in which many building societies and banks are blatantly in breach of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 in publishing misleading and confusing advertisements about mortgage interest rates? As that result of the mortgage war is wholly unacceptable, will the right hon. Gentleman refer the matter to the Under-Secretary of State for Industry and Consumer Affairs and seek from him an urgent statement to the House?

As I understand it, there are codes of practice and codes of conduct in these matters. If the hon. and learned Gentleman considers that he has evidence of improper practice perhaps he will let me have the information and I shall certainly see to it that my right hon. Friend considers it.

Having taken time to read the speech by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister of Trade and Industry yesterday in the Rowntree debate, will the Leader of the House invite the Attorney-General to come before the House? The Chancellor of the Duchy said that he had played the Rowntree takeover completely straight and that he certainly had not asked the Treasury Solicitor to approach the trustees of the Rowntree Trust. Someone must have done; somebody interfered. Will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Attorney-General to come before the House and explain who exactly put the Treasury Solicitor up to interfering in the takeover bid?

I do not think that I can add anything to what my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy said yesterday. I shall draw to his attention the point made by the hon. Gentleman and leave it to him to decide how best to deal with the matter.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that issues concerning the implementation of the Single European Act in 1992 are now being discussed in the EEC, including the questions of monetary union and a central bank? Is he further aware that the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday sent to the Select Committee on European Legislation a discussion paper on those matters that should have been debated but which he intends to agree in the Council of Ministers before the House has had any chance to consider the underlying issues at stake? Does not my right hon. Friend consider that it is becoming more and more urgent that the House reconsider the way in which it examines European legislation?

I recognise that there has been some concern in the House about the way in which legislation has sometimes not been considered as it was intended to be considered. My hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) have been to see me about these matters. A number of EC issues are to be debated next week. I am trying to improve the situation and I shall look into the matter to which my hon. Friend refers.

Has the Leader of the House seen early-day motion 478, which deals with the hunting of deer by packs of dogs?

[That this House deplores the increasing frequency of incidents and damage arising from the hunting of deer with packs of dogs; notes the overwhelming public opinion insupport of the abolition of, 'his unnecessary practice; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to introduce early legislation to give deer the same basic protection from cruelty as domestic and captive animals currently receive under the terms of the Protection of Animals Act 1911.]

We seek the introduction of legislation to ensure that deer are dealt with in the same way as captive and domestic animals and to give them the same rights. The early-day motion has broad support in the House and carries 132 signatures. As well as signatures of representatives of the two major political parties, it carries signatures from one of the two alliance parties—if that is not a contradiction in terms—and from the two nationalist and three Ulster Unionist parties. Will time be provided for a debate?

Wild deer are already protected by the provisions of the Deer Acts 1963 and 1980, which provide safeguards against abuse by poachers and against unnecessary suffering. We have no plans to introduce further legislation.

May I, too, refer my right hon. Friend to the Prime Minister's excellent and stirring answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook), in which she said in absolute terms that our citizens ought to be treated equally, irrespective of their class, sex or race? Will my right hon. Friend allow time urgently for a debate to allow the Prime Minister to explain how she squares that with the doctrine of positive discrimination enforced by her Government in the teaching of ethnic languages in schools, the allocation of building contracts in the public sector in inner-city areas and her proposals for employment in Northern Ireland?

When my right hon. Friend made her statement, I think that she was supported by hon. Members on both sides of the House. I have no plans for a debate on that matter next week.

May I press the Leader of the House on the subject of the promised debate on foreign affairs? May I ask that the motion be drafted to allow the House a debate about recent events in Pakistan so that we may call on President Zia to hold elections to the national assembly before 29 August and warn him that the reintroduction of powers would have serious implications and create serious difficulties in relationships between the United Kingdom and Pakistan? Will the Leader of the House give such an assurance?

I certainly give an assurance that I shall have discussions through the usual channels about the form of the debate so that widespread agreement can be reached as to its basis. If we have a wide debate, no doubt the hon. Gentleman will be able then to raise the points that concern him.

Before the recess, will my right hon. Friend arrange a further debate on the Civil Service to enable hon. Members such as myself whose constituencies are under threat from excessive development to urge the Government to show a lead with a massive relocation of civil servants away from Whitehall? That would benefit the economy in the south-east and in the regions and would offer better value for money to the taxpayer, who funds the Civil Service.

I recognise that this is a big issue of concern to a number of my hon. Friends. I cannot promise an early debate, but I note that the Minister of State, Privy Council Office, who is responsible for the Civil Service, will be answering questions on Monday and it may be possible for my hon. Friend to raise the matter then.

Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on the distribution of butter and beef which is surplus to requirements in the EEC, especially in view of the failure of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to issue tenders for the distribution and packaging of both those commodities?

Will the right hon. Gentleman sponsor my Bill to make the code of practice for publicans and tenants statutory so that Scottish and Newcastle Breweries does not evict 35 tenants in my constituency over the next few weeks?

The hon. Gentleman is a persuasive arguer, but he has not persuaded me that I should necessarily sponsor his Bill. I shall refer the other matter to my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the widespread admiration of President Reagan's work for peace and for Anglo-American relations? May we have an early opportunity to discuss a suitable high honour for him?

I am not sure how best the House should proceed in these matters. I certainly recognise the President's contribution to world peace and I shall perhaps talk to my hon. Friend about what he has in mind.

Has the Leader of the House noted the large number of early-day motions dealing with badger protection—in particular early-day motions 843, 1091 and 1173?

[That this House notes with concern that Her Majesty's Government has no plans at present to legislate for the protection of badger setts; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to initiate suitable amendments to the Badger Act 1973 and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1987 so as to afford protection to badger setts as a matter of urgency.]

[That this House condemns the practice of badger baiting in Britain; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to amend the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, to protect their setts.]

[That this House condemns the abhorrent practice of badger baiting, as recently depicted on the Central Television programme, The Cook Report, and calls on the Government to amend the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, to protect badger setts, increase magistrates' courts' powers to impose heavier fines on convicted offenders, consider increasing the maximum prison sentences for the offence from six months to two years for persistent offenders and make liable those landowners whose employees in pursuit of their employment deliberately kill badgers or disturb setts on their land.]

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a recent television programme dealing with the matter showed quite clearly that this abhorrent practice regularly occurs in Britain? Will he find time for a debate on this practice so that we may see an end to it as quickly as possible?

The Government share the abhorrence expressed in early-day motion 1173 but doubt whether additional measures could reasonably be taken that would significantly increase the protection already afforded to badgers under the existing law.

May I respectfully request the Leader of the House to reconsider his answers to my hon. Friends about the Housing Bill? That Bill was considered for a long time in Committee, longer than the poll tax Bill and longer than the Education Reform Bill but, at the eleventh hour, over 160 Government amendments have been tabled. Yesterday, guidelines were published transferring local authority housing to the private sector, which undercut provisions in the Bill.

The impression is being created that the Bill is being marginalised in terms of the debate in the House by being put on at the tail-end of Monday's business and, as a result, there will not be sufficient time properly to consider the provisions that the Government have now brought before the House. May I ask the Leader of the House at least to reconsider the timetable, or preferably withdraw the Bill, even at this late stage, until the Government have a coherent policy?

I told the hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends that I would have further discussions. I hope that he does not want me to reconsider that, because I would have thought that that was a helpful response. That is the way forward, and there is nothing more that I can add to what I have already said.

Did the Leader of the House hear the Speaker yesterday respond to me when I asked the Secretary of State for the Environment to come to the House to be questioned on the new planning procedures as they affect opencast mining applications up and down the country? Since the Leader of the House has an aversion to the earthmoving equipment trampling all over his constituency, perhaps he will understand why there are serious objections to large-scale opencast mining applications being allowed on the basis of new criteria on marketing and commercial viability.

Will the Leader of the House ask the Scretary of State for the Environment to answer questions on this matter and organise a debate so that everybody can take part? Will he point out to the Secretary of State that if the planning application system is allowed to carry on it will result in large incursions into green belt planning procedures and will be used in all sorts of ways up and down the country?

I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will answer any questions that it is proper for him to answer, if the hon. Gentleman tables them. I notice that there may be a debate on Monday and, with the hon. Gentleman's customary ingenuity, he might be able to get a speech in order that would enable him to express his concerns.

Will the Lord President of the Council give us a guarantee that, in the debate next week on pollution caused by combustion, it will be possible to discuss the pollution caused by the combustion of toxic waste, especially in view of the threat of hundreds of tonnes of toxic waste from Switzerland, which has been rejected by almost every country in Europe and Africa, being brought to Re-Chem in Pontypool? If that is not possible, will he give a guarantee that in the near future we will be able to discuss the matter raised by the hon. Member for Warrington, South (Mr. Butler) that waste already at Pontypool has come from more than a dozen countries and that we are importing some of the deadliest substances known to mankind for incineration in a way which, if it became defective, would present a great peril? Is it right that Britain is becoming the dustbin for the waste that the rest of the world has rejected?

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to get the points he wants to make in order for the debate next week. Whether he can do so is a matter for you, Mr. Speaker, not for me. If he does that, the rest of his question is hypothetical.

Will the Leader of the House give us an assurance that the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry will bring forward at an early opportunity the final draft regulations, originally announced in February, for the banning of standard polyurethane and high resilience foams? Will he give a further assurance that the regulations will take account of the phasing out and banning of the sale of secondhand furniture containing dangerous materials with toxic fumes that will kill and incinerate people within three minutes? It is essential that the proposals are brought before the House before the summer recess so that by February next year it will be a criminal offence to sell such obnoxious products. There are still companies on the high street advertising combustion-modified foam as a safe foam when the Government have already announced that it will be a criminal offence to sell such foams. That is a highly irresponsible act especially when, as I have said, it will be a criminal offence by February of next year.

I give the hon. Gentleman the undertaking that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will consider the points made and all the representations made to him on this important subject. At this stage I cannot give him a firm undertaking about when the orders will be laid.

Would it not be educative next week for the Leader of the House's colleagues no less than mine if, in the light of early-day motions 1142 and 1156 and in the light of Robert Harris's full-page article in Sunday's The Observer, to have a debate on how No. 10 Downing street now operates? In particular, would it not be helpful to have an explanation next week as to why, on 17 May, the Secretary of State for Education and Science threw a protective smoke-screen around the role of No. 10 Downing street and resorted, uncharacteristically for him, to carefully considered personal abuse and, as transpires from the unchallenged leak of his Civil Service brief, to what looks like calculated deceit of the House?

[That this House notes that the Guardian of Friday 20th May carried an article entitled 'Thatcher's boy in a cleft stick', which stated that according to Foreign Office sources 'Mr. Charles Powell wants Washington or Paris nothing less, but he's not going to get either of them', and that Mr. Powell had been offered and turned down the post of Ambassador in Stockholm, and that the article added `Powell has another string to his bow he knows where the bodies are buried in the Westland Affair. He escaped appearing before a Select Committee, but not their sharpest criticism for his orchestrating role in the leaking of a letter from the then Solicitor General, which ultimately resulted in the then Secretary of State for Defence's resignation'; expresses its concern that knowledge of wrong-doing by the Prime Minister is alleged to put Mr. Powell in a position to obtain an Embassy more senior than his status warrants; asserts that this is not in keeping with the high moral ground claimed by the Prime Minister; and calls on Her Majesty's Government to make a statement.]

[That this House calls on Her Majesty's Government to set up an inquiry into the SAS operation in Gibraltar, to address itself to the questions as to whether the Joint Intelligence Staff, through its current intelligence groups, was responsible for preparing assessments of the situation in Spain and Gibraltar prior to the shooting, if so, as to how many assessments were made and on what days, as to whether the Joint Intelligence Committee, in any form, considered these or other assessments or reports on the matter, if so, as to when it did so and whether it was as a full committee, a sub-committee or by the chairman alone, as to whom advice was offered by the Joint Intelligence Committee, as to whether the Permanent Secretaries' Committee on the Intelligence Services was involved in considering or formulating assessments or advice, and, if so, on what occasions, as to on what occasions advice or assessments were offered to the Prime Minister by the Permanent Secretaries' Committee on the Intelligence Services, the Joint Intelligence Committee, MI5 or Sir Colin Figures, as to who, or which committee, proposed the use of the SAS, as to whether the SAS was ordered to operate in Gibraltar under pre-existing rules of engagement, or as to whether specific Rules of Engagement were drawn up, as to on what occasions, in the 72 hours prior to the shooting, the Prime Minister was apprised of the sequence of events in Gibraltar, and on what occasions, over the same period she issued instructions or agreed actions in relation to the events, and as to what consultation she undertook with the Overseas Policy and Defence Committee of the Cabinet.]

I believe that the business I have announced for debate next week will be a more profitable use of the House's time than the suggestions made by the hon. Gentleman, in a spirit of helpfulness.