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Business Of The House

Volume 173: debated on Thursday 7 June 1990

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3.30 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
(Sir Geoffrey Howe)

The business of the House for next week will be as follows:

  • MONDAY 11 JUNE—There will be a debate on European Community affairs with a motion to take note of the White Paper on developments in the European Community July to December 1989 (Cm. 1023).
  • Consideration of Lords amendments to the Property Services Agency and Crown Suppliers Bill.
  • TUESDAY 12 JUNE—Second Reading of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Bill [Lords].
  • Motion to take note of EC document relating to Community railway policy. Details will be given in the Official Report.
  • WEDNESDAY 13 JUNE—Remaining stages of the British Nationality (Hong Kong) Bill.
  • THURSDAY 14 JUNE—Estimates day (2nd allotted day). Until about seven o'clock, there will be a debate on training followed by a debate on low income statistics. Details of the estimates concerned and the relevant Select Committee reports will be given in the Official Report.
  • Motion on the International Fund for Agricultural Development (Third Replenishment) Order.
  • FRIDAY 15 JUNE—Private Members' motions.
  • MONDAY 18 JUNE—There will be a debate on a Government motion to approve the defence estimates 1990 (Cm. 1022/1 and 1022/2) (1st day).

[Tuesday 12 June:

Relevant European Community Document

4478/90 Community Railway Policy

Relevant Report of European Legislation Committee HC 11—xvi (1989–90) para 3

Thursday 14 June:

Estimates, 1990–91, class VI, vote 1.

Third report from the Employment Committee of Session 1989–90 on Employment Training (House of Commons Paper No. 427) and the Minutes of Evidence taken before the Committee on 2 May 1990 (House of Commons Paper No. 394-i), so far as it relates to training.

Estimates, class XIV, vote 7.

Fourth report from the Social Services Committee, Session 1987–88, "Families on Low Income: Low Income Statistics" (House of Commons Paper No. 565), the Government's reply to that Report (Cm. 523), the fourth report from the Social Services Committee, Session 1989–90, "Low Income Statistics" (House of Commons Paper No. 376), and memoranda laid before the Committee: "Households Below Average Income: A regional analysis 1980–85", a study commissioned by the Social Services Committee, Session 1989–90, ( House of Commons Paper No. 378-I) and "The Income Support System and the Distribution of Income in 1987", a study commissioned by the Social Services Committee, Session 1989–90, (House of Commons Paper No. 378-II.)]

As the Prime Minister is making a timely visit to Moscow, at a time of important movements in world and European events, can we be assured that on her return to this country she will make a statement in this Chamber on her discussions with President Gorbachev?

Can we now hope that, as the Police Federation conference has taken place, the House will at last have the opportunity to debate, as it should have done many weeks ago, the Police (Amendment) Regulations order concerning the implications of poll tax for policemen and women and their families? Given the latest news of mounting chaos in towns and cities in Britain because of the nightmare of trying to administer that bureaucratic, expensive and unfair tax, should not we have the opportunity to debate the poll tax as soon as possible? I hope that the Leader of the House can now confirm that that long overdue opportunity will be given to the House.

When we debate developments in the European Community on Monday, who will be speaking on behalf of the Government? Will it be the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry giving his view of Government policy on Europe or will it be the Foreign Secretary—or will we hear one view at the beginning of the debate and the other view at the end?

I invite the hon. Gentleman to react in full, as I doubt whether he has yet, the speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. He will find that it contains many points that are almost exactly in line with those that I made in a speech a week before and which represent a contribution to the important developments that will take place during the years ahead in the EC. It is right that such matters should be advanced.

As for long overdue opportunities, we have been waiting now, I think, since 3 April for the fully worked out alteration to the poll tax which the Opposition's director of communications told us their major policy statement would contain, but we still wait in vain. That is the long overdue opportunity.

Nor was the hon. Gentleman's original question.

The police orders have been the subject of active discussion through the usual channels, as the hon. Gentleman knows, and I am concerned to see that they are debated at a reasonably early stage. I shall make an announcement about the arrangements for their debate in my next business statement.

I can confirm that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will make a statement in the ordinary way on her return from the Soviet Union.

In view of the continued representations from the Liaison Committee, is my right hon. and learned Friend yet in a position to announce that he will take steps to amend Standing Orders so that the Select Committee on Health and Social Security can be divided in order to conform with the split into two Departments?

I can confirm that the Government are prepared to agree that there should be separate Select Committees to reflect the split in the Department of Health and Social Security. I think that it would be for the general convenience of the House if those arrangements were to take effect from the beginning of the next Session.

I welcome the statement that the Leader of the House has just made, but will he confirm that the House will have a chance to vote on the proposal so that the two new Select Committees can start operation at the beginning of the new Session?

I shall need to think about the precise point raised by the hon. Gentleman, but I shall certainly consider it.

May I ask my right hon. and learned Friend a question relating particularly to his responsibilities as Leader of the House? May we have a debate soon on Short money? After all, as of this week, we are one party fewer and one campaign more. When does a campaign become a party? How energetic does it have to be? Would I, as an ordinary Back Bencher, qualify to become a campaign and receive Short money, particularly since I am as energetic as any Member of the former Democratic party? In fact, none of them are here today.

I am not sure about my hon. Friend's entitlement to qualify for Short money, but it is clear from his valuable contribution that he is not short of ideas.

Will the Leader of the House tell us now or next week the arrangements for right hon. and hon. Members to see the closed-circuit experiment on sign language for deaf people of our proceedings?

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for reminding the House about that. As he will recollect, it follows from the experiment on subtitling just before the recess. The recording of Prime Minister's questions, accompanied by on-screen signing for the deaf, will be played back in the No Lobby between 5 and 6 pm today and on Tuesday and Thursday of next week. The broadcasting Select Committee wants the reactions of as many Members as possible to both experiments so that we can assess the acceptability of on-screen signing to the House. I hope that as many hon. Members as possible will have a chance to look at the recordings either today or next week.

The House of Lords is constitutionally entitled to overturn the War Crimes Bill, but this House, as the elected Chamber, is entitled to overrule it. When does my right hon. and learned Friend expect that we shall have an opportunity to discuss that important moral and constitutional issue?

My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the importance of that topic, which has been debated in both Houses more than once. Both Houses have now voted on the matter in opposite directions, by substantial majorities. Clearly it is right that we should have an opportunity to reflect on that, in view of the announcement made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on Tuesday.

We are to have a debate on low income statistics next week, but will the Leader of the House turn his mind to a much wider debate on Government statistics—particularly as, last night, the Secretary of State for Health used some very doubtful statistics in supporting the Government's policy of imposing eye test charges? The Secretary of State's statistics were totally at variance with both a survey by my own party of 1,700 opticians and a report by the Consumers Association that is to be published tomorrow. Given the importance of eye tests in preventive health, does the Leader of the House agree that we should have another rally around the course—this time, using proper statistics?

I have never yet encountered a topic on which there has not been an ample choice of statistics. I dare say that that is true in respect of the subject to which the hon. Gentleman refers. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State yesterday presented effective statistics, but I shall bear in mind the hon. Gentleman's remarks.

I thank my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House for his announcement concerning the future of the Select Committee on Social Services. The work load being undertaken by that Committee is becoming intolerable, monitoring as it does one half of total Government expenditure.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend arrange for our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to make a statement in the House on the progress of the negotiations concerning the multi-fibre arrangement? I understand from the textile and clothing industry that Britain's Secretary of State for Trade and Industry is standing out against practically every other country, in seeking to phase out the MFA over five years when most of the other countries concerned—and third-world countries in particular—seek a 10-year phasing out. May Britain's important textile and clothing industry, which still employs nearly 500,000 people and is concerned for their future, expect a statement soon from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry?

The topic of the MFA and its relationship to the textile industry is raised in the House on many occasions—quite often by my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton). I am not in a position today to add anything fresh, but I shall bring my hon. Friend's remarks to the attention of our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

When may we have an opportunity to debate the implications of pit closures? Is the Leader of the House aware that British Coal announced yesterday the closure of Denby Grange colliery—the last remaining pit in my constituency—with the loss of about 500 jobs? That makes total job losses in the Wakefield area under the present Government number 16,000. Is not it scandalous that not one scrap of Government help has been given to Wakefield district to help generate alternative employment? When will the Government give up worshipping market forces and start thinking about human beings for a change?

Decisions on pit closures remain a matter for the British Coal Corporation. The Government are not able to intervene, and do not seek to do so. In making such announcements, British Coal is following the procedure agreed with the unions. The coal industry, like any other, depends above all on competitiveness and efficiency for its survival. I am glad to say that there have been substantial improvements in its productivity in recent years, and we hope that it will be maintained.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend find time for right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House to express their concern at the news that Mr. Gorbachev is apparently threatening to restrict the emigration of Soviet Jews—particularly as there seems to be a misapprehension that a significant number of Soviet Jews are settling on the west bank, which they are not?

My hon. Friend raises two relatively distinct points. Over the years, the House has shared his concern for the freedom for Jewish people, among others, to emigrate from the Soviet Union. So far as it is necessary to do so, I am sure that that matter will be in the mind of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister this week.

Is the Leader of the House aware that, despite all the efforts made over the years to preserve the lives of kidney patients, recent reports have shown that no fewer than 1,200 people die unnecessarily every year because of the lack of donor kidneys? Is it not possible to take advantage of the fact that 75 per cent. of people are willing to donate kidneys? They cannot currently be accepted, because the system has failed. May we debate that subject next week?

The right hon. Gentleman seldom fails to raise a point of importance, and the issue that he has just raised is one with which the whole House will have sympathy. He raises so many that I could fill almost every week with debates at his request. I shall consider that request as sympathetically as I can.

Is it my right hon. and learned Friend's intention to schedule a London debate before the House rises for the summer recess, as it has been many a month since we last had the opportunity to discuss issues affecting London—including, of course, the many successes of Conservative councils within the city?

My hon. Friend offers a beguiling reason why we should have such a debate at an early opportunity. I am not sure how far I shall be able to be beguiled by him.

Given that the Stevens inquiry stated clearly, without any ambiguity, that there was collusion between the police and terrorist groupings in Northern Ireland, and given the penetrating insights of the Yorkshire Television programme "Shoot to Kill" at the weekend, will the Leader of the House ensure that we get an opportunity soon to debate those fundamental issues within the House?

Neither Mr. Stalker's nor Mr. Sampson's inquiry found evidence of any offence, such as incitement to murder, as would he comprised within what has loosely been called a "shoot-to-kill" policy. There is not and there never has been any such policy in Northern Ireland. No doubt there will be opportunities in the weeks ahead for debates on that and other matters affecting Northern Ireland.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that virtually every day there is a new report of the closure of some reservoir or lake because of toxic blue-green algae spreading across it, following the appalling incident last September in my constituency, when 23 sheep and 15 dogs died? Since this is now clearly becoming a serious national pollution problem, will he arrange for the Secretary of State for the Environment to make a statement about the matter next week?

I cannot arrange to have a statement on that matter next week, but I can and will arrange to draw the strong manner in which my hon. Friend expresses his view to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.

Is not it important that there should be a debate on the War Crimes Bill as quickly as possible, since all the evidence shows that there remains a large majority in this House who believe that the Bill should proceed? Is not it important that, if there is a conflict between the two Houses, the views of the elected Chamber must prevail?

It is precisely that question which requires reflection. It is only 72 hours since the other place debated the matter. Both Houses have considered it carefully on more than one occasion and have reached conclusions by large majorities in opposite directions. It is plainly good sense to allow some reasonable period to elapse to allow full consideration of what was said in the debates in both Houses.

May I dissent from the view that my right hon. and learned Friend has just expressed? There is widespread indignation in the country, as one poll has already demonstrated this morning, arid there is strong feeling on both sides of the House, that wrong action—wrong both constitutionally and morally—has been taken by the other place. Surely the best thing is for this House to resolve, as quickly as it possibly can, where it stands on the matter and what it wants done.

I understand the strength of feeling on the subject of my right hon. Friend the Father of the House. Both Houses of Parliament have contributions to make to the proceedings of Parliament, and it is right for the views expressed by each House on a matter of this gravity to be considered carefully in both Houses. I understand the strong feelings expressed by my right hon. Friend, but it is a matter on which there are strong feelings not only on both sides of the House but on both sides of the question.

Does the Leader of the House accept that there has been a disastrous effect on the shellfish industry caused by the fishing ban, and the disorganised methods used by the Government to introduce it? Will he accept that there are important unanswered questions, such as why the industry was never consulted and why certain species were banned, yet two days later the ban was lifted on the flimsiest of grounds? Will he also study the situation, as compensation should be offered to the shellfish fishermen, given the state of the industry? As so many Government Departments were involved, and the industry is in deep trouble at present, can we have an urgent debate on the subject?

I understand the anxiety felt by those in the industry about the point raised by the hon. Gentleman. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Health made a statement about one aspect of it in the House on Tuesday, and I shall draw the hon. Gentleman's points to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

In view of the persistent and undenied rumours that the Prime Minister has withdrawn her veto on our entry of the exchange rate mechanism, will my right hon. and learned Friend ensure that whoever speaks for the Government on Monday explains how it is that it will be posible to resolve the conflict between a rigged exchange rate and the requirements of domestic monetary policy and, having entered into stage 1 of the Delors proposals, how we shall avoid being dragged by the Commission and the other nation states of the EEC into stages 2 and 3, with a single central bank and a single currency?

It sounds as though my hon. Friend is likely to make a speech in Monday's debate, if he catches your eye, Mr. Speaker, of as much interest as usual. Having attended the Madrid summit in which we set out quite clearly the conditions on which we would join the exchange rate mechanism, I must confess that I do not recognise his description of a veto in respect of that matter. He will recall that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made it plain in her speech in Aberdeen that membership of the European exchange rate mechanism was entirely consistent with effective and strong domestic monetary policy.

Could the Leader of the House arrange for an urgent statement this afternoon from the Secretary of State for Transport on the safety implications of the management-engineered dispute involving some 7,000 British Airways workers at Heathrow? Is he aware that I have an eight-page list of 75 engineering faults and incidents that occurred in the 11 days up to Tuesday of this week, many of which could be life threatening? For example, on Sunday, the captain of a Boeing 747 reported that the engine fire detection loop was unserviceable, yet he was given dispensation to take off. Has nothing been learnt from Kegworth? Why will not the Government and the Civil Aviation Authority come clean about the risk to passengers flying British Airways out of Heathrow?

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman made the most helpful contribution that could have been made on cool consideration of the subject. I am advised that safety is not compromised and that aircraft are properly certified as safe before they fly.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that those of us representing constituencies in the county of Kent are becoming extremely concerned and anxious about the delay in an announcement as to the final route of the high-speed link? Is he aware that we were promised an announcement at the end of March, again at the end of April and again at the end of May? We are now well into June and the continuing delay is causing great hardship, counter-rumour and upset to many people in north-west, mid and south Kent? Will he please therefore undertake to make the strongest representations possible to those who are responsible for making an announcement?

My hon. Friend, together with others of my hon. Friends who represent Kentish constituencies, makes a point which he is entitled to make, and of course I shall bring it to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport. There will be some opportunity to refer to the matter in the debate next Tuesday on the document relating to Community railway policy, but I shall draw his point to the attention of my right hon. Friend.

While I welcome the Lord President's announcement about splitting the Select Committee on Social Services, when does he hope to report progress in setting up a Select Committee on Northern Ireland as that also affects the House?

I cannot take that matter any further today than I have on previous occasions. I shall of course discuss it with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend arrange for an early debate about the quality of the postal services in this country? Does he agree that the recent report by the Mail Users' Association has fully demonstrated the need to introduce competition into the postal services?

I know that the quality of those services is not a matter that concerns only my hon. Friend. I shall certainly draw his point to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to see whether there is an opportunity for it to be considered more widely.

Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman yet found time to mug up on the need for an up-to-date maritime archaeology Bill, a matter which I raised with him many months ago and about which he appeared singularly uninformed?

The hon. Gentleman has been so uncharacteristically episodic in his references to the matter that, although I mugged it up some time ago, I am now almost as ill-formed as I was when he first raised it. However, I will be in touch with him when I have had another look at the matter.

My right hon. and learned Friend will be aware that, according to some sources in the Soviet Union, over 60 per cent. of Soviet agricultural production never reaches the consumer because of defects in the storage and transportation systems there.

Over 60 per cent. of Soviet agricultural production.

According to some Soviet sources, there is a possibility of famine in parts of the USSR next year. Bearing in mind the instability and misery that that will bring and following my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's present visit to the USSR, would it be possible for us to have a debate on how this country could best assist the USSR to move to a freer market, and therefore to a better system for agriculture and transport?

I was struck by the fact that, even on that crucial matter, there was a moment of statistical insecurity between my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, East (Mr. Sayeed) and my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton). I do not know how far I can take a discussion in this House on fundamental repairs to the Soviet economy. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will have some interesting things to say about that on her return next week.

Is the Leader of the House aware that, earlier this week, 15 local government officers from Poland came to this country to study local democracy? Given that fact, will he make time for an urgent debate on poll tax capping, when he can explain to the country and to the 15 Polish local government officers how local democracy exists under capping? Why when the people of Calderdale and in the other 19 authorities voted overwhelmingly Labour and for a Labour Government, did the Government decide that they knew better than the ballot box? Would not our Polish friends be confused and say, "We have just got rid of a regime like that. Why are we here learning about one that is doing exactly the same?"?

There is an element of fantasy in the hon. Lady's anxiety to ensure proper information for our Polish visitors about the working of a democratic society under the rule of law. The steps in relation to charge capping are being taken in accordance with legislation passed by this House and following the votes taken in this House, and are now being considered by the courts in accordance with the rule of law. That is an impressive performance to commend to our Polish friends.

Can my right hon. and learned Friend confirm a statement that I think he made at Prime Minister's Question Time? Did he say that there would be a statement from my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on the outcome of the EC Council of Ministers earlier today?

Yes, Mr. Speaker. As I said in Prime Minister's Question Time, my right hon. Friend is attending a further meeting of the Council of Agriculture Ministers this afternoon to consider the legal and experts' representations on the conclusions already reached. He hopes to be able to make a statement to the House this evening at the conclusion of proceedings on the Food Safety Bill. That representation has been made to you, Mr. Speaker, and it is, of course, subject to the consent of the House. My impression is that the whole House would like to hear an early statement from my right hon. Friend.

Will the Leader of the House review his decision about the need for a statement about the dangerous game being played by British Airways, in connivance with the Civil Aviation Authority, which has allowed certificates and approvals to be given on unsafe aircraft, including Concorde and scores of others, during the past fortnight? Those aircraft have supposedly been maintained and repaired by a handful of management, when 7,000 engineers are on strike. Nobody would believe that that handful of people could manage, maintain and repair those aircraft. Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that I have here a computer printout of the number of aircraft that have been flying during the past fortnight, but which are unsafe? He has a duty to the House to make a statement on the matter and to get the dispute resolved.

I will of course bring to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport the point that was made so vehemently by the hon. Gentleman. If the matter is one tenth as serious as his rhetoric implies, I hope that he will urge upon those who are currently taking industrial action the necessity to get back to work as soon as possible.

My right hon. and learned Friend will be aware of the popularity of "spot the ball" competitions. May I suggest to him a parliamentary version in Hansard, called "spot the promise"? My right hon. and learned Friend will be aware that the hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) said on 13 February that there were only two definite Labour promises, yet even in yesterday's Hansard we find promises from the hon. Members for Livingston (Mr. Cook) and for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) on the first two priorities of the next Labour Government. May I therefore suggest that it must be a very popular competition, and the prizes, which would be very generous, should be supplied by the Labour spokesman making the promise and would he commensurate with the cost to the taxpayer?

I was waiting for the last part of my hon. Friend's question. Of course I am in favour of a competition that is designed to draw attention to the matters that he has in mind. He also had the good sense to indicate how such a competition could be financed.

Is the Leader of the House aware that on Tuesday, under the Standing Order No. 20 procedure, I attempted to get the House to debate the Government's disgraceful and complacent attitude to football ground safety and the fact that, in particular, the Football Licensing Authority, which should have been set up by 1 June under an Act of Parliament, has not been set up? There is no chairman and there are no members. As that vehicle is to implement Lord Justice Taylor's recommendations, and local authorities and football clubs throughout the land are awaiting the tablets of stone from that body, will the Leader of the House agree to arrange a debate on that important subject in the near future?

I cannot undertake to arrange a debate on that topic at this time. I shall bring the hon. Gentleman's point to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary. I hope that the House will join me in expressing satisfaction at the vigorous way in which law enforcement authorities in Italy are already upholding the law in advance of the football competition there, expressing the hope that British football fans will behave with dignity and in a fashion that upholds the honour of this country, and also expressing the hope that our teams are as successful as they deserve to be.

Would not it save a great waste of time and the tedium of listening to a tiresome speech yet again from my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) if my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House were to arrange for a junior economist to take him quietly aside this weekend and explain to him the simplicities of the relationship between European currencies, which are so well understood by the other 11 members of the Community?

I commend my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House on the attitude that he has taken towards the vote in the House of Lords about the War Crimes Bill. In that he is absolutely right. He has spoken about the need to maintain the rule of law. That is what the House of Lords has set out to do. It has not been influenced by the lobby being run from California on this matter.

Order. The right hon. Gentleman must have an opportunity to put his point. [Interruption.]

May I ask the Father of the House to calm himself? We do not want to lose him.

Order. I believe that the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) may have misheard the comment from over his shoulder. I do not think that it was made by the Father of the House.

As this matter has been brought up about 42 years after the agreement was reached between the leaders of all parties in this country and by those who had fought through the war and by those who had lived through that process——

No, but I stand by agreements reached by political leaders. As that was done, there is no haste whatever——

Order. If the hon. Lady interrupts the former Prime Minister that will delay our proceedings. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to bring his remarks to a conclusion.

I have sat now through 20 years of screaming in my ear from my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman)—[Interruption.]

It is too much. I shall now stand through her screaming on her feet.

The Leader of the House is quite right. There is no constitutional crisis and there is no need whatsoever for further debate in this House.

My right hon. Friend has contributed to an already interesting business questions by making them even more so and by concluding his observations by urging me—I commend this as a model to be followed by others—not to have a debate. That is a point of agreement. My other right hon. Friend, the Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine), has equally vigorously urged me to have a debate. Their contributions underline the importance of the issue and the need for us all to reflect on it carefully.

Does the Leader of the House regard the long title of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Bill as having sufficient scope to enable hon. Members to explore the legal processes whereby planning decisions are reached in Scotland, given that the Secretary of State for Scotland has recently ruled that there should be tests for drilling at Dounreay by Nirex, and given that that is an attitude which——

The right hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) has steam coming out of his ears.

Given that that decision clearly overruled the democratically expressed views of the people of the highlands and islands—and, indeed, the people throughout the length and breadth of Scotland—if it is not possible for us to consider that matter in the context of our deliberations on that Bill, will the Leader of the House arrange an early debate on that issue, because the people of Scotland are furious about the decision that has been taken?

I am obviously not in a position to give any kind of ruling—I should be unwise to try—on the scope of the long title of the Bill to which the hon. Lady has referred. As I understand it, the reasons for the decision arrived at by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland were fully set out in his letter of 14 May, when he made it plain that he had considered the matter on its merits—as he was obliged to do. However, I shall bring the hon. Lady's points to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend consider giving time for a debate on the British and European beaches about which the Commission has notified our fellow member states in the Community that they will be prosecuted under the bathing water directive? It is important that British tourists who are travelling abroad this summer should know the location of those beaches, and it is important that we should be able to discuss what action will be taken by the water companies to clean up our own beaches in the United Kingdom.

I understand that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Miscampbell) will have an Adjournment debate, which will deal to some extent with this topic, next Wednesday, 13 June. However, my hon. Friend the Member for Lancashire, West (Mr. Hind) is right to draw attention to the need for the uniform enforcement of obligations in respect of this matter throughout the Community and to the need for the availability of information about it throughout the Community. I shall bring his points to the attention of my right hon. Friends.

Will the Leader of the House provide a statement early next week, instead of showing such a complacent attitude, about the industrial dispute between British Airways and the ground staff? Does he accept the right of British Airways' management to enter into this shabby conspiracy with the Civil Aviation Authority, whereby aircraft are nominally certificated although there is a huge list of faults on aircraft that are flying passengers today? Those faults include faulty fuel gauges. I have the list with me.

This is happening because British Airways management are attempting to impose a 12 hour day on the engineers without them having the right to proper negotiation. It is a shabby arrangement. The Leader of the House should do something about this attempt by the management of British Airways to impose a diktat on people who have a perfect right to engage in proper negotiations and consultation and who want to keep our planes in the air safely, but who are denied that object by the attitude of the British Airways management.

Again, the hon. Gentleman's intervention is extremely interesting. He asks for proper negotiations and consideration. I have no doubt that the management are entirely ready to undertake proper negotiations and consultation. That would be greatly facilitated if he urged those now taking industrial action——

to return to normal working. I say that with some enthusiasm, because he should know that 12-hour shifts are not uncommon in the industry. They are worked by British Airways engineers at Gatwick. That is the basis on which I urge the hon. Gentleman to urge those taking industrial action to desist from it and start negotiating.

Is not it time that we had another debate on local government finance? In making his decision, will my right hon. and learned Friend contrast the performance of the Labour party—which yet again, after no less than four years, failed to come up with its alternative to the community charge last month—with the performance of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), who took only a few days to come up with a respectable policy? Does my right hon. and learned Friend think that there might after all be a job for my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley as an adviser to the Labour party?

I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day motion 1071 on the case of Jonathan Moyle.

[That this House expresses its deep concern at the strange death of British journalist Jonathan Moyle, Editorof Defence Helicopter World, found in the cupboard of his Santiago hotel room, hanged by his own shirt from a bar 5 ft 4 inches from the ground although he was 5 ft 8 inches tall, with his shins bruised, traces of sedatives in his stomach and blood stains on his sheets; notes that he was investigating the Chilean arms industry; notes that he was in touch with the British defence attaché in Santiago; deplores the foul attempts to smear Mr. Moyle being made by British security `sources'; deplores the attitude displayed by Her Majesty's Embassy in Santiago towards Mr. Moyle's death and to his family, as publicly complained of by Mr. Moyle senior; demands that Her Majesty's Government fully' investigate the demise abroad of yet another British journalist; and calls for a full statement from the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.]

It deals with the mysterious death of an English journalist abroad. I ask the Leader of the House to find time to debate this sinister story. The Chilean police now believe that Jonathan Moyle was murdered, although the British embassy tried hard at the beginning to say that he had committed suicide.

We have the mystery of the death of a young, talented journalist and former service man and of why British sources quoted at the weekend in The Sunday Times and The Guardian spread the story not only that the journalist committed suicide but that he was involved in some dark, seamy dealings at the point of his death. It is a strange arid mysterious story of the death of yet another British journalist overseas. The House could do with a debate on the matter, and I urge the Leader of the House to give it consideration.

I understand why the hon. Gentleman has raised that point. Clearly, it is an important matter. He will understand that it is for the Chilean authorities to determine the cause of death. A Chilean investigation is under way and is being pursued vigorously. We have no reason to doubt either the expertise or the integrity of the examining magistrate. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is in regular contact with Mr. and Mrs. Moyle and Her Majesty's consul in Santiago is in close contact with the examining magistrate. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and the British embassy in Santiago stand ready to assist in every way. I shall bring the hon. Gentleman's specific point to the attention of my right hon. Friend.

Further to the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Amber Valley (Mr. Oppenheim) and the hon. Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon), can we have a debate fairly soon on charge capping, and will my right hon. and learned Friend ensure that plenty of time is allowed for it?

In the case of Avon, the Audit Commission produced figures last year which show that while Avon employs about the right number of lecturers and teachers—slightly below the average—the back-up staff employed by the education department exceed the expected norm for a county council of Avon's size by over 1,000. Is not that a classic case of a Labour-controlled authority spending vast quantities of money on back-up staff and not on front-line services?

My hon. Friend has raised a very good example of an important point. One of the principal objectives of the reform of the education system introduced by the Government is to induce the use at the point closest to the classroom of the largest proportion of educational resources that can be there deployed. One of the effects that we want to see is a diminution of administrative staff at headquarters and an enhancement of the quality of management and performance at the chalk face.

Will the Leader of the House arrange for an early debate on the procedures used for the appointment of chairmen to health authorities and the proposed self-governing hospital trusts? Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman realise that such a debate would provide an opportunity to warn the Secretary of State for Health that, if he were to appoint Councillor Eric Pickles, the failed captain of the Tory flagship in Bradford, to either post in Bradford, it would be regarded as a provocative insult to those working in the health services? It would also be most offensive to the public of Bradford who rely upon the public health service and who watched Councillor Pickles do his damnedest in the past two years to destroy local community services.

As the hon. Gentleman knows, there is room for exactly two views on that question. he is entitled to express his, but the fact that he has made his comments may underline for other people the benefit of doing exactly the opposite of what he has suggested.

Has my right hon. and learned Friend noted the amendment tabled yesterday by 68 hon. Members to early-day motion 1063?

[Line 1, leave out from 'House' to end and add notes the concern of the people of the Isle of Sheppey over the provision of local hospital facilities, so thoroughly expressed by the honourable Member for Faversham in the adjournment debate he instigated on 20th April; recognised the belated interest of the Labour Party in this issue, as evidenced by their Parliamentary Lobby of 5th June; notes the deliberate selection of a date when they knew that the honourable Member for Faversham would be abroad on Parliamentary business; finds it curious that the Lobby met the unrelated honourable Members for Wakefield, Halifax, Workington and Cardiff South and Penarth, rather than those representing Kent constituencies; deplores the exploitation of a genuine local concern for party political purposes; and supports the honourable Member for Faversham in his long-standing campaign for improved hospital facilities for the people of Sheppey.]

Does my right hon. and learned Friend appreciate that the amendment reflects the widespread disgust of hon. Members at attempts to undermine a Member in his own constituency, particularly when it was known that that Member would be abroad on parliamentary business? Can my right hon. and learned Friend take steps through the usual channels to see that political rivalry does not descend into the gutter?

The time I have had available in which to study the important text referred to by my hon. Friend is less than I would normally wish for. I shall certainly study the matter with care and reflect on what he said.

Apart from the hooliganism we have just seen on the Tory Benches, the Leader of the House will be aware that there was a great deal of interest and controversy about potential hooliganism in Sardinia. Football is trying to eradicate this, but it cannot get a move on because the Home Office will not set up the Football Licensing Authority. Is he aware that it should have been set up earlier this year, but was postponed until 1 June? It is still not in being, but local police forces, clubs and councils want to spend cash and liaise. They are ready to prevent hooliganism next season, but they cannot do so because of the Government's incompetence. Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman at least arrange for a statement to be made by the Home Secretary next week so that he can tell us what is happening?

I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's judgment. I hope that he shares the general contentment expressed in the House that the international machinery for the notification of offenders is in good working order, as seen by events in the past 48 hours. I shall bring his other points to the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend, but at least let us join in taking some comfort from what has already happened.

Is the Leader of the House aware of early-day motion 1077 on freedom of speech in Turkey?

[That this House condemns the actions of the Government of Turkey in issuing decree 413 on 10th April which abolishes press freedom and introduces wide-scale censorship; notes that since its introduction reporting of Kurdish issues has been prevented, newspapers closed down and many journalists imprisoned; and demands that the British Government make representations to the Turkish Government demanding that a free press be allowed in Turkey.]

Will he, when he has read it, make arrangements for a debate in this House on the treatment of Kurdish people in Turkey and Iraq and, more importantly, the British Government's continued support of the Turkish Government, despite their oppression of Kurdish people, and their continued trading policies with Iraq, despite its use of chemical and biological weapons against the Kurdish people? Does he believe that those slurs on civilisation should be treated far more seriously than they have so far by the British Government and that the House should be given the opportunity to discuss them?

While I am not prepared to agree with the hon. Gentleman in all his remarks, we certainly understand the concern expressed in the motion at the restriction of press freedom in Turkey. We look to the Turkish Government to restore full press freedom as soon as possible.

May I support the call made by my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) for an improvement in postal services, particularly in London where we still have no Sunday collections although they operate in the rest of the country? We want such collections.

A debate on postal services would also give me the opportunity to bring before the House the need for better postal services in parts of west Ealing and Hanwell in my constituency. I could also draw attention to the aggravation and annoyance felt by elderly people in Northolt at Grange court——

The hon. Gentleman does not care about elderly people, but I do. The post box used by those elderly people has been arbitrarily removed and that is forcing them to walk a mile or two across busy roads to the nearest post box. We should have a debate on postal services so that the House can consider those matters.

I join my hon. Friend in recognising the importance of the point he makes. He says that the House should consider those matters. No hon. Member is more adept than he at bringing such matters to the attention of the House.

May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day motion 1066, which stands in my name and that of several other hon. Members, which congratulates the Isle of Skye Camanachd Association on its first ever victory in the Camanachd Cup at the shinty final last weekend in Fort William? [That this House warmly congratulates the Skye Camanachd Association over its victory in the. final of the Camanachd Cup; notes that this is the first occasion in the history of the competition that the trophy has gone back to the Isle of Skye; hopes that this well-publicised and popular result will lead to a continuing increase in both interest and participation in the game of shinty; and expresses appreciation to Glenmorangie whisky for their valued sponsorship of the sport.]

Would the deputy Prime Minister care to add his congratulations to the team?

But more important, will he tell the Chancellor of the Exchequer—given that the interest and participation in shinty is on the increase—that a popular move by the Government, and one which would encourage the game, would be to remove the imposition of VAT on the sale of shinty sticks?

I am only sorry that the sport is not as familiar to my countrymen in Wales as it obviously is to the occupants of the outer isles. I am sure that the whole House will join me in congratulating Skye on its historic victory, but I do not think that those congratulations necessarily lead us to the conclusion that the entire structure of the VAT system should be transformed.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend arrange for an early statement to be made on the situation in Cambodia in the light of alarming reports coming from Oxfam and others of an offensive by Khmer Rouge forces, who are getting close to Phnom Penh, with the horrific possibility that the vulnerable people of that area will again be overrun by the tyranny of Pol Pot?

The whole House never misses an opportunity of expressing its revulsion for the tyranny of Pol Pot and his cronies, as the saying goes. I re-echo that sentiment and will draw the point that my hon. Friend makes to the attention of the Foreign Secretary.

It appears that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has accepted, at any rate to a degree, the destructive element of poll tax and poll tax capping on the education and social welfare systems of local authorities. Will he make sure that the poll tax orders are debated by the House individually and separately?

I shall have to consider the best way of bringing those matters before the House when the time is right.

Could we at last have a debate on the state of the franchise? It is clear that the Government are involved in manipulating electoral registration. There is a problem, in that a Home Office circular issued on 1 May shows that it is possible to overcome the provisions of the Representation of the People Act 1989, which established the extension of the franchise to many people overseas.

The imposition of the poll tax has resulted in 600,000 people not being on the electoral register who could be expected to be on it. The House should debate this serious matter and examine the evidence; it shows that a problem will arise at the next general election, which will not be based on the type of franchise to which we in this country have been used in the past.

The hon. Gentleman has raised that matter for the second time in as many weeks.

There is nothing wrong with it, but it shows that the hon. Gentleman has already found an opportunity to raise the matter. If it is as serious as he suggests, no doubt his right hon. Friends will arrange for it to be raised on an Opposition day. The hon. Gentleman will recollect that the arrangements made for the extension of the overseas franchise, about which he seems to be concerned, were supported by his right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparbrook (Mr. Hattersley) arid the other main political parties.