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Business Of The House

Volume 172: debated on Thursday 17 May 1990

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3.50 pm

Will the Leader of the House state the business for next week?

Order. We are in the middle of business questions. I am amazed at hon. Members who have been here long enough to know that I do not take points of order before business questions.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons
(Sir Geoffrey Howe)

The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY 21 MAY—Opposition Day (12th Allotted Day). Until about seven o'clock there will be a debate on Ravenscraig, followed by a debate on bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Both debates will arise on Opposition motions.

Motion to take note of EC documents relating to the social charter. Details will be given in the Official Report.

TUESDAY 22 MAY—Opposition Day (13th Allotted Day, 1st part). There will be a debate on a motion in the name of the Social and Liberal Democrats entitled "Alterations and Amendments to the Poll Tax".

Remaining stages of the Town and Country Planning Bill [Lords], the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservations Areas) Bill [Lords], the Planning (Consequential Provisions) Bill [Lords], and the Planning (Hazarclous Substances) Bill [Lords], which are consolidation measures.

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

WEDNESDAY 23 MAY—Motion for the spring Adjournment.

Motion on the Appropriation (No. 2) (Northern Ireland) Order.

THURSDAY 24 MAY—Adjournment debates.

It may be for the convenience of the House if I indicate that the business for the first week after the spring Adjournment will be as follows:

TUESDAY 5 JUNE—There will be a debate on the Army on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

WEDNESDAY 6 JUNE —Opposition Day (14th Allotted Day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion; subject for debate to be announced.

THURSDAY 7 JUNE —Remaining stages of the Food Safety Bill [Lords].

FRIDAY 8 JUNE—Private Members' motions.[Monday 21 May 1990
Relevant European Community documents
(a) 9978/89Action Programme on Community Social Charter
(b) UnnumberedCommunity Charter of Fundamental Social Rights

Relevant Reports of European Legislation Committee
  • (a) HC 11-vii ( 1989–90), para 4 and HC 11-xvi (1989–90), para 1
  • (b) HC 11-ii ( 1989–90), para 31
  • I thank the Leader of the House for his thoughtful announcement of the business for the week following the Whitsun recess. That is a great help to all hon. Members. May we be told before the recess exactly when the Government intend to proceed with the division of the Select Committee on Social Services into two Committees, one on health and one on social services? There has been an extraordinarily long delay in the implementation of that decision. It is of considerable importance to hon. Members in all parties that the two new Select Committees should be established and allowed to get on with their work as soon as possible. Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell us his intentions before the Whitsun recess?

    May I also request information about the Government's intentions for the 21 poll tax-capping orders that the House will have to consider? I must make it clear that it would be intolerable if the House were asked to decide, in one short debate, the budgets and poll tax levels of 21 separate local authorities, covering services used by millions of people. It is unprecedented—it does not happen in any other country—that a national Parliament should decide these matters. It would be unacceptable to deal with all those orders in one and a half hours after 10 o'clock. I urge the right hon. and learned Gentleman to consider providing more time, preferably in prime time, for those important debates.

    We shall have a debate in Opposition time next week on the devastating news for Scotland of the proposed closures at Ravenscraig. Can it be made clear who will be speaking for the Government, and exactly what the Government's policy is towards those closures? We hear a different story about the Government's attitude towards the Ravenscraig job losses from the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry from that given by the Secretary of State for Scotland. The House and the people of Scotland, given the importance of Ravenscraig to the Scottish economy, are entitled to a clear and unequivocal statement of Government policy on the Scottish steel industry, exactly who is deciding that policy, and whether the Secretary of State for Scotland's position in the Government has now become untenable.

    On the hon. Gentleman's first point about the future of the Select Committee on Social Services, I have already given positive indications to the House about our intentions. I hope that the House will be patient for a little longer.

    On the hon. Gentleman's point about charge capping, as he appreciates, it is now open to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment to lay before the House the draft order setting authorities' caps. He is considering carefully how and when to proceed, but, as was made clear to the court on his behalf, caps will not finally be set for the authorities involved in the judicial review before 18 June. As to when those debates should be conducted, there is room for more than one view, apart from that expressed by the hon. Gentleman.

    The Government's speakers for the Opposition's debate on Monday will be made plain in due course, but there is no doubt that the Government's policy is that of the Government as a whole. The first and essential feature to notice is that the decisions taken in relation to Ravenscraig are being taken by the company on commercial grounds and the Government will be responding as Government, not seeking to influence those decisions beyond the powers that they have, which are extremely limited.

    Order. As the House knows, I am always reluctant to curtail business questions, but we have an important statement and a debate in which we have to deal with many amendments after this. Therefore, I propose to allow business questions to continue until 4.30. If hon. Members ask single questions, all of them should be accommodated within that time. Mr. Harry Greenway.

    Order. Hon. Members should know that those who are called last on Thursday tend to be called early the next.

    May we have an early debate on gipsies and the legislation relating to them? There has been a large encampment of gipsies and tinkers at the side of the A40 in my constituency causing great harassment to the people of Greenford and Northolt. May we have an early debate on the need to improve legislation to get those people moving away from other people's homes?

    The operation of existing legislation gives rise to concern in more than one constituency, but I cannot offer the prospect of an early debate.

    Why is there no opportunity next week or the week after to debate the disgusting, disgraceful and dirty conditions in which the Vietnamese refugees are forced to live in Hong Kong and which have given rise to the recent riots? Does not the Leader of the House see that the way in which those refugees are kept is unworthy of us, that they are treated as prisoners by people who are trained to look after criminals, and that we are asking for more riots unless we treat people properly in those camps?

    There is no immediate prospect of a debate on that topic, although it has been brought before the House on more than one occasion, as the hon. and learned Gentleman knows. He must acknowledge that, however hard the people in charge of the camps may try, the conditions there are bound to become increasingly difficult until there is a satisfactory solution to the problem of how to achieve the speedy return of many of those people their own country.

    Does my right hon. and learned Friend share my surprise that once again the Opposition have not chosen one of their Supply days to discuss their new policy review? That would give Conservative Members the opportunity to point out that, if tax rates had remained as they were in May 1979, every man on average earnings with two children in Britain would be paying £1,000 a year more in income tax. We find it strange that the Opposition, having always supported high taxes, now seem to be in favour of low taxes without explaining how they could spend more and yet cut taxes.

    My hon. Friend draws attention to a point of legitimate importance. The House had an opportunity to discuss that on Monday on the motion in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Wells).

    The Leader of the House told the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) that whoever speaks for the Government in Monday's debate on Ravenscraig will enunciate the policy of the whole Government. Before that debate, will the Leader of the House draw to the relevant person's attention the words of the Secretary of State for Scotland yesterday, when he said:

    "we shall seek to persuade British Steel to reconsider its proposal in the interests both of the company and of its work force."—[Official Report, 16 May 1990; Vol. 172. c. 887.]?
    Does the Leader of the House intend to keep us waiting, or will that be the policy that the Government will enunciate on Monday?

    The decision was taken on commercial grounds, in the light of the company's judgment of market conditions, and it must remain a matter for the company's commercial judgment. I understand that the decision is not due to be implemented until the first half of next year. Any right hon. or hon. Members who are concerned about the matter, whether or not they are in government, will no doubt bring to the company's attention any commercial arguments for reviewing its decision.

    What has happened to the debate on the Police (Amendment) Regulations 1990? As they are extremely unwelcome to many policemen in my constituency, will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that he will bring the regulations before the House for proper debate shortly?

    As my hon. Friend knows, I have been seeking a suitable opportunity for just such a debate. Although one was not included in the business for next week that I announced today, I propose to arrange a debate at an early opportunity.

    Does not the Leader of the House realise that, in his replies to my hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) and to the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace), he contradicted what was said by the Secretary of State for Scotland yesterday? The right hon. and learned Gentleman has in fact disowned the Secretary of State for Scotland. I understand that he was disowned also by the Prime Minister's spokesman this morning. Will the deputy Prime Minister confirm that that was the case, and tell the House whether the Secretary of State for Scotland will come to the Dispatch Box to make a personal statement?

    The Government's policy is consistent and is held by all members of the Government. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland made a statement to the House about Ravenscraig yesterday, and the House will have a further opportunity to debate it on Monday.

    My right hon. and learned Friend will be aware of the situation in the Baltic states, particularly in Lithuania. Will it be possible to arrange an early debate on how this country can best help them economically and with supplies in what is a very difficult situation?

    My right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and the Prime Minister continue to stress how important it is that moves should be taken to reduce, not heighten, tension in order to reach a solution acceptable to the people of Lithuania.

    As the Leader of the House may know, Shell intends to sell a subsidiary, Mitchell Gas, based in my constituency to Calor Gas. If that is allowed to go through, it will mean that there will be a virtual monopoly in Scotland, with one firm controlling the supply of certain gases, including butane and other gases important to industry and to people in general. Will the Leader of the House arrange a special debate next week? More importantly, will he block that takeover bid, bearing in mind the fact that the Government apparently believe in market forces?

    I shall bring that matter to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.

    Will my right hon. and learned Friend resist the temptation to say, "There are Adjournment debates coming up"? Will he consider the situation on the Isle of Man, where we have had a Barlow Clowes all over again, and where there has been malfeasance of the worst possible kind, yet the Government are doing nothing about it? Is it not time that the Government exercised their responsibilities to the Isle of Man far more rigidly, brought to book those who have committed crimes, and made sure that everyone who has lost money is fully and properly compensated?

    I shall bring my hon. Friend's points to the attention of those responsible for the enforcement of law on the Isle of Man.

    Are we to have a debate on Europe before the Dublin summit? The Leader of the House will know that there is great interest in that meeting among right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House—not always following precisely party lines. What might be determined in our name could affect the future of the House of Commons, vis-a-vis not only Brussels but the Executive. It will not be satisfactory to be told after the Dublin summit that the Prime Minister has entered into agreements that might affect the future of the House of Commons in its relations with Europe. That matter is causing great concern. Will the Leader of the House give an absolutely clear assurance that the House will be able to give its view before the Prime Minister gives her decision?

    The right hon. Gentleman may recollect that that topic has been the subject of study by the Select Committee on Procedure and it reported on it some months ago. In the course of the next week I hope to make available the Government's response to its recommendations, which will bear upon the points that the right hon. Gentleman has raised.

    Could my right hon. and learned Friend arrange for a debate in the House on the extraordinary behaviour of the producers of the BBC programme "On The Record"? Apparently, an opinion poll which showed overwhelming support for the Prime Minister among Conservative councillors was suppressed when the poll, seemingly, did not suit the purposes of the programme's producers.

    As my hon. Friend appreciates as well as anyone, the commissioning of research and the selection of material for use in programmes are matters for the editorial judgment of the broadcasters. I hope that they will take account of the views expressed by hon. Members, including those that my hon. Friend has just expressed.

    Will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on the financial crisis facing so many health authorities, in particular Gwynedd health authority, which is facing a £4 million shortfall, leading to the closure of wards and the elimination of services, and is hitting disabled people, the young and the old? In addition, six hospital closures have been announced for the next 12 months. May we have an early debate on that subject?

    I cannot offer the hon. Gentleman the prospect of an early debate, but I shall bring the matters he has raised to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Health.

    The Leader of the House will doubtless have seen the extremely disturbing report in yesterday's edition of The Times, based on evidence given to a United States Senate committee, that the cost of dealing with the greenhouse effect could absorb the entire national income of the United States. In view of that report, and the report of the committee in the other place on the scientific background to the greenhouse effect, may we have an early debate on that important subject. which has vast policy implications?

    I do not doubt the importance of the issue my hon. Friend has mentioned, as it raises many questions. I cannot offer the prospect of an early debate specifically on that issue, but I shall bring his remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.

    Will the Leader of the House make time for a statement or a debate on the question of the parliamentary building across the road? Is he aware that there has been considerable delay and that one of the problems concerns the 40 marble fireplaces in rooms for Members of Parliament. Due to the Government's attitude to manufacturing industry in Britain, we have no one to produce such fireplaces, with the result the Italians have been called in to provide these £20,000 marble fireplaces—[Horn. MEMBERS: "Each?"] Yes, £20,000 each. The contractors in Italy have said that they would like to provide the fireplaces but that they need to use Italian labour. No wonder the unemployment figures are beginning to rise.

    The hon. Gentleman will understand that all matters relating to the provision of the new building across the road, including phase 1, are under the closely attended management of the New Building Sub-Committee of the House.

    Will my right hon. and learned Friend assure us that we shall have an early opportunity to debate the electoral processes in central and eastern Europe, given that they will come to a head next month? Will he particularly bear in mind the concerns of hon. Members on both sides of the House who have met Romanian parliamentary candidates about the election there? Will he reiterate the Government's position in that regard?

    I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing attention to that matter once again. The House has expressed its anxiety on more than one occasion about the manner in which those elections are being and are likely to be conducted. As he knows, provision has been made for the presence of independent observers there to assess the standards to which he has drawn our attention.

    Will the Leader of the House arrange for a statement next week from the Secretary of State for Employment on the sale of skill centres, because the Government have failed to reveal information about why they did not tell bidders for the centres that £11 million would be given to three civil servants and would not be available to the others? The Government did not tell other bidders that 27 skill centres were to be sold to Astra Training Services. There has been a conspiracy of secrecy on the matter. It is taxpayers' money and we should know the details, and it is vital that there is a requirement that civil servants should not be given inside advantage to purchase publicly owned assets. We should have a statement next week about this further rip-off of taxpayers.

    The hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity, in a more intelligent setting, to ask those questions of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment on Tuesday next week.

    Is the Leader of the House aware that the Labour party is now committed to repealing all the trade union reforms that we have introduced during the past 10 years? Since that hostility bears down on individual rights and can only create confusion and mayhem in the workplace, may we have an urgent debate on the matter after the Whitsun recess?

    My hon. Friend correctly draws attention to yet another aspect of the Opposition's policy that could do grave damage to the economy.

    Does the Leader of the House recall that last week I asked him whether the Government would make a statement on steel policy? Is he aware that, had such a statement been made, we might have been able to change British Steel's disastrous decision to close the hot strip mill at Ravenscraig? The absence of a Department of Trade and Industry statement is tragic both for the Government and for Ravenscraig, since there are deep divisions between the Department of Trade and Industry and the Secretary of State for Scotland. It was extremely unfortunate that we did not have the opportunity, during Prime Minister's questions today, to hear that the Government support the fight for Ravenscraig. Unfortunately, the random selection of supplementary questions did not allow any of the Scottish Members of Parliament to be called, and——

    Order. That is a reflection upon the Chair. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw that remark. He was called twice yesterday.

    I said that the random selection of questions unfortunately did not allow one Scottish Labour Member of Parliament to be called, and I stand by that. Will the Leader of the House allow us to question the Department of Trade and Industry by bringing the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to the Dispatch Box to answer directly for the consequences of his privatisation programme?

    The position remains exactly as I have already stated it: this is a matter for the commercial judgment of the company. It was the subject of a statement and questions in the House yesterday afternoon; it will be the subject of a further debate in the House next Monday.

    Will my right hon. and learned Friend find time in the near future for a debate on the regulations governing the Data Protection Act 1984? A document has been sent to me by constituents—it is a Labour party document from the private office of the Leader of the Opposition—requesting Conservatives to give money. It has not attracted much support, but the document purports to say the following, in very small print: "Labour would never make"——

    The document goes on to say that people's names and addresses will be given to carefully screened companies as a result of this application. This is a matter for investigation.

    I am sure that the House will be grateful to my hon. Friend for raising the matter. I hope that it is studied as it ought to be by those responsible for the circulation of the document.

    Will the Leader of the House confirm the statement made by the Prime Minister's press officer, Mr. Bernard Ingham, that the Secretary of State for Scotland is receiving no support in Cabinet and that he stands alone? Will he arrange for the Secretary of State for Scotland to make a statement about why he stands alone and why he is not getting support for the steel workers at Ravenscraig?

    The Secretary of State for Scotland stands as a member of the Government with the full support of the Government. Government policy is the same for all Ministers. Obviously there is concern about the consequences of any commercial decision, but the fact remains that the decisions affecting Ravenscraig are commercial decisions. They were the subject of discussions in the House yesterday, and they will be the subject of further discussion on Monday.

    Will my right hon. and learned Friend arrange for a debate next week on the appalling decision of the Civil Aviation Authority not to recommend the mandatory introduction of smoke hoods into civilian aircraft? Is he aware of the seriousness of the matter? It is rumoured that many people lay the blame at the door of the CAA for the consequent cancellation by British Airways of an order for smoke hoods and for the possible withdrawal of one leading manufacturer? Given that safety matters are involved, particularly in the light of what happened at Manchester airport a few years ago, will he allow the House to debate the competence of the CAA?

    I cannot comment on the detail of what my hon. Friend has said, but I promise to bring the matter to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport.

    Order. I decide who is called. The hon. Gentleman represents the Scottish National party.

    The whole House heard the Leader of the House say earlier that the Government would not seek to influence British Steel over Ravenscraig. The whole House heard the Secretary of State for Scotland yesterday tell the House that he would seek to persuade British Steel to change its position. Will the Leader of the House now try to reconcile those apparently irreconcilable statements or tell us who has cut adrift from the Cabinet; is it himself or the Secretary of State for Scotland?

    There is no rift of any kind whatsoever. It is a matter for commercial judgment, but, as I said earlier, it is open to hon. Members on both sides of the House to advance any arguments that they wish to bring to the attention of the company. That matter can be debated on Monday.

    May I return to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Surbiton (Mr. Tracey)? Although I suppose that one should take opinion polls commissioned by the media with a pinch of salt, hardly a weekend passes when I do not vote in The Sunday Times poll for my hon. Friend the Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth (Mr. Dickens) as leader of the Conservative party. However, there is an onus on the media when they commission such polls which claim to speak for the public to publish all the polls or none of them; otherwise, they are seriously misleading the public.

    My hon. Friend is entirely right to draw attention to that matter and to express his view on it.

    It remains the responsibility of those in the media who handle these matters, but clearly they will wish to take note of what has been said by my hon. Friend, among others, in the House.

    Will the Leader of the House seriously reconsider what he has said this afternoon? First, he has totally and utterly repudiated the statement that we heard yesterday from the Secretary of State for Scotland. Secondly, he is jumping ahead of the debate. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has been presupposing the decision of the debate before the House of Commons debates the matter. He is not entitled to presuppose whether we shall decide to interfere with the decision taken by British Steel, or at any rate to bring pressure to bear on the company. Each time he says that it is purely a matter of commercial decision by the firm, he is jumping ahead of the decision of the House. Will he withdraw that?

    Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman ensure that the spokesman for No. 10 Downing street speaks openly? Even a civil servant has been put in the position of denying the statement by the Secretary of State for Scotland, and it is time that that finished.

    The decision is a matter for the commercial judgment of the company. It remains that, but, as I have also made clear, it is perfectly open to hon. Members——

    Hon. Members, individually and collectively, are entitled to make representations and express views on matters that should be taken into account by the company. However, the decision is a matter for the company on commercial grounds.

    Will my right hon. and learned Friend find time next week for a debate on bureaucratic insensitivity in local government? Tragically, a disabled constituent of mine died on 2 April, and the Labour council in Warrington sent her son a poll tax bill of 21p. Is that not scandalous?

    As the Prime Minister made clear in answer to a similar question on a similar point some weeks ago, there is no obligation on a local authority to deliver a bill for a sum of that kind. It is a matter about which local authorities have discretion, and one hopes that that discretion will be exercised sensibly.

    Order. There are six more minutes before we move to the next statement. The length of questions will determine how many hon. Members I can call.

    Surely there is now an overwhelming case for the Secretary of State for Scotland to make an urgent statement. After all, the Leader of the House, as deputy Prime Minister, has this afternoon repudiated what the Secretary of State said in the House yesterday, and said throughout Scotland and to the media last night. In addition, we have the news that this morning Mr. Bernard Ingham said that the Secretary of State for Scotland was on his own on this issue. Is it not sad and humiliating that, whereas last Friday, in Aberdeen, the Prime Minister stood four square beside her Secretary of State for Scotland, on Wednesday of the following week she has allowed him to stand alone and discarded as he is repudiated by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, by the British Steel Corporation and now, it would appear, by No. 10 Downing street?

    The hon. Gentleman returns to the same set of fantasies—[Interruption.] The Government take a single view on this matter. The Secretary of State for Scotland addressed the House on it yesterday and the House will be looking at it again on Monday.

    May we have a debate on the catering arrangements for hon. Members and their families? Is it not deeply shocking when a Cabinet Minister cynically force-feeds his own children on television with beefburgers that he cannot even guarantee are contaminant-free?

    The hon. Gentleman has a more grotesque capacity than almost any other hon. Member in the House for following a single track to destruction. I have nothing to add to what I have said on this subject on many previous occasions.

    The Leader of the House will be aware that, as the Environmental Protection Bill makes its way through the House, the Nature Conservancy Council part of the measure is proving to be of great concern. Will he cancel the press conference that has been arranged for tomorrow to give the Government's response to the Carver report and instead deal with it in the proper way, and that is by arranging for a statement to be made in the House next week?

    I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend is handling the matter exactly as it should be handled.

    Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that, since yesterday, the Cabinet has upheld the point of view of the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow) against that of the Secretary of State for Scotland? I draw attention to column 894 of yesterday's Official Report. If, as seems clear, the Secretary of State for Scotland in making his statement yesterday was not speaking for the Government—that is precisely what Mr. Ingham has been telling the media—it is necessary for the House of Commons to understand that point officially, since the Secretary of State for Scotland's statement yesterday did not reflect the view of the Cabinet. In those circumstances, we are entitled to know who will speak for the Government on Monday.

    There is a limit to the number of times one can say the same thing. The Secretary of State for Scotland explained the position to the House yesterday. The House will have an opportunity of addressing itself to the matter on Monday.

    On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It arises directly out of what is happening and what the Leader of the House continues to say. Yesterday the Secretary of State for Scotland said:

    "we shall seek to persuade British Steel to reconsider its proposal in the interests both of the company and of its work force"—[Official Report, 16 May 1990; Vol. 172, column 887.]
    In using the word "we", the Secretary of State was speaking on behalf of the Government—on behalf of the Cabinet as a whole. Now we have the Leader of the House disavowing that statement. We have also had official briefing from No. 10 Downing street, on behalf of the Government, disavowing it, and it has been disavowed by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. We are entitled to know just what is the policy of the Government on this important matter concerning Scotland.

    That has nothing to do with me; it is wholly a matter for the Government.

    Will the Leader of the House kindly arrange for the Home Secretary to make an urgent statement on his failure to establish the Football Licensing Authority which, although it is now months after the Bill was passed, has no chairman or chief executive? There is tremendous conflict because Lord Justice Taylor's report must be implemented during the close season, at a cost of many millions of pounds, by football clubs that do not know where they stand because that authority has not yet been established.

    I will bring the point to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary.

    May I use my question to appeal to you, Mr. Speaker, to allow my right hon. Friend and——

    Order. That would not be in order. This is business questions to the Leader of the House.

    May I, therefore, ask the Leader of the House if he will express a willingness to remain in the House to answer the questions that my right hon. and hon. Friends want to ask on a most important issue? Some of us resent strongly the limits that have been put on the opportunities for Back-Bench Members to raise at this time and at other times issues of urgent importance to their constituencies.

    The Housing Corporation is in deep financial crisis. Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman arrange for the Secretary of State for the Environment to make a statement next week about what the Government are doing to enable new homes for rent to be built, including in my constituency?

    All that I can and will do is to draw the point to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.

    I must tell the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) that I have a long memory. I remember him rising last week and calling me to account for not calling Front-Bench Members while the television cameras were on. He is now saying something rather different.