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Commons Chamber

Volume 175: debated on Thursday 28 June 1990

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House Of Commons

Thursday 28 June 1990

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[MR. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

Clyde Port Authority Bill

Order for Third Reading read.

To be read the Third time on Monday 2 July at Seven o'clock.

Associated British Ports (No 2) Bill (By Order)

Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question proposed [25 June],

That this House doth agree with the Lords in their amendment to clause 3, page 3, line 10, to leave out '85' and insert '85E', instead thereof:

Debate further adjourned till Thursday 5 July.

Redbridge London Borough Council Bill (By Order)

Order for consideration of Lords amendment read.

To be considered on Thursday 5 July.

Medway Tunnel Bill Lords (By Order)

As amended, considered; to be read the Third time.

British Railways (No 2) Bill (By Order)

Order for consideration, as amended, read.

To be considered on Thursday 5 July.

Birmingham City Council (No 2) Bill (By Order)

Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question proposed [26 February],

That the Bill be now considered.

Debate further adjourned till Thursday 5 July.

Shard Bridge Bill (By Order)

Read a Second time and referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills.

Great Yarmouth Port Authority Bill Lords (By Order)

Order for Second Reading read.

To be read a Second time on Tuesday 3 July.

As the remaining eight private Bills set down for Second Reading have blocking motions, with the leave of the House I shall put them as a single group.

PORT OF TYNE BILL [Lords] (By Order)


(By Order)


[Lords] (By Order)

Order for Second Reading read.

To be read a Second time on Thursday 5 July.

London Regional Transport (Penalty Fares) Bill (By Order)

Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question proposed [10 May],

That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Debate further adjourned till Thursday 5 July.

Southampton Rapid Transit Bill Lords (By Order)

Order for Second Reading read.

To be read a Second time on Thursday 5 July.

Exmouth Docks Bill (By Order)

Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question proposed [29 March],

That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Debate further adjourned till Thursday 5 July.

Oral Answers To Questions

Agriculture, Fisheries And Food

Set-Aside Scheme


To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he is taking to review the workings of the set-aside scheme.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
(Mr. David Curry)

We have been reviewing the scheme in the light of the first two years of operation and we shall be announcing decisions when the third year of the scheme opens.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the set-aside scheme will need significant changes if it is to be made acceptable to farmers and the public? Will he consider bringing forward cutting dates and supporting an extension of the countryside premium scheme? Most important, will he ensure that any proposals to support the so-called grazed fallow do not allow the grazing of additional breeding stock on set-aside land, because that would undermine the business of existing traditional livestock producers?

The Government recognise the great importance of the uplands for livestock grazing. However, there are anomalies in the present scheme. For example, if a farmer who has set-aside and livestock suffers from drought and runs out of fodder, he cannot use set-aside land to feed his livestock. There is a case for some flexibility, which would also be in the interest of the environment. If we make changes or introduce flexibility, they will be limited and designed to protect the traditional activities on the uplands, which I and 25 of my hon. Friends represent.

Notwithstanding the complex question of the hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), is not he really saying that he wants farmers to get more money to watch the grass grow?

Watching the grass grow is an environmentally friendly activity and, of course, many wild species breed in the grass, so there is a good case for watching it grow. The scheme does not pay farmers to do nothing because they have to maintain their normal farming activity over the major part of the farm, and the taxpayer gets an extremely good deal for not having to finance surplus production on land that is set aside.

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy


To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many parents of schoolchildren in Cleveland have made representations to him about BSE.

I have received representations about BSE from various organisations and individuals. I am sure that many parents of schoolchildren in Cleveland are unhappy that children compulsorily taught science and scientific values are now compulsorily being denied beef on entirely emotional grounds.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his answer. I should be surprised if any parents had written directly to the Ministry. There is no evidence from my postbag of any such representations from Cleveland parents. I have checked with my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin) and he has not had any either. Yet despite that, the Labour-controlled county council imposed a ban on beef long after most of the other county councils that did, damaging farming interests in the north-east and giving comfort to our competitors on the continent.

One should not judge the matter on the basis of whether this or that interest is damaged. One must judge it on the scientific basis of whether eating beef is safe. The chief medical officer said unequivocally that it is and the scientific advice given to the Government and the EC supported that statement. I find it odd that Cleveland county council considers that its local advice is better than the national advice.

I am sure that the Minister would not wish to mislead the House. Is he aware that good quality lean beef is still on the menu in Cleveland schools? What are not on the menu are products made from beef offal and mechanically recovered beef, and that is completely different. Is the Minister aware that Cleveland county council received advice from Professor Peter Blair of the department of environmental medicine, Newcastle university, and from Dr. Ted Holt at Middlesbrough general hospital, who specialises in BSE and scrapie? Therefore does the Minister accept that the subsequent decision was not alarmist but a sensible response to the representations of school governors, parents and teachers? Was not that a sensible approach when there was near panic on the continent of Europe?

I should have thought that, of all hon. Members, the hon. Gentleman would be careful about taking the medical advice of an individual of one sort or other. He knows how careful one has to be. Therefore, I say quite clearly that the chief medical officer, an independent person, made it clear that, in all the areas that the hon. Gentleman is talking about, beef is safe to eat. The European Community's scientific advice is exactly the same, as is the advice given to the Government. Science cannot be taught, and we cannot expect it to be accepted in our schools, if local education committees refuse to accept scientific advice and proceed on an emotional basis.

It is, Mr. Speaker.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in seeking to reassure the schoolchildren of Cleveland and other British citizens about the purity and safety of British beef, he has been greatly frustrated in his task by a bogus professor and by Opposition Members who make completely unsubstantiated claims, unscientifically based, about the possible dangers, as they see it, of British beef?

I think that my hon. Friend would want me to be clear that my first priority is to protect the health of the nation. I have absolutely no other priority. Great damage has been done by the creation of unnecessary anxiety. Part of that damage is that our ability to warn people where warnings are necessary has been undermined, as we found, for example, on the contamination of seafood. Yes, we must stand firm on the fact that British beef is safe to eat for adults, children and even the most vulnerable. I hope that Cleveland will soon reverse its ban.

Does the Minister appreciate that parents in Cleveland are often also pet owners? Does he realise that many of them, in the same way as pet owners elsewhere, are deeply concerned that four cats have been verified as having died of spongiform encephalopathy and that a further 20 are suspected of having done so? Will the Minister grapple with that problem and take decisive action by banning the use of cattle and sheep offal in all pet food?

I think that hon. Members will agree that we are concerned about the interests of pet owners and pets. But I wonder why the hon. Gentleman has moved the question from the subject of schoolchildren in Cleveland. Is it because he does not agree with Cleveland county council's ban? The hon. Gentleman's figures are completely wrong. Twenty cats were tested and found not to have an encephalopathy. Four cats—and I announced the figures one by one, of course—were found to have one, but there is no evidence that any of them were connected with BSE.

Food Safety


To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he last met the National Federation of Women's Institutes to discuss food safety.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
(Mr. David Maclean)

Representatives of the National Federation of Women's Institutes were present at the first periodic meeting on 3 April 1990 between my right hon. Friend and consumer organisations. The next meeting is planned for 12 July. In addition, I had a meeting with the women's institutes on 16 January.

The Minister will shortly be receiving representations from the National Federation of Women's Institutes about the problem of bovine somatotropin, when he will be asked to use all his efforts to have the product banned in the European Community and not to grant a licence for its use. Will he take those points on board and respond to them?

I read carefully the motion that was passed at the WI conference, and I have no hesitation in saying that there is no question of the British Government allowing any product, including BST, to be used in this country unless it fully satisfies licensing requirements. As the hon. Gentleman knows, there is currently a moratorium on BST imposed by the European Community, which we are content to go along with.

When my hon. Friend next meets that august body of ladies, will he explain that one of the most likely consequences of the BST threat will be an increase of beef imports from countries in South America and Africa, where regulations against diseases such as foot and mouth and tuberculosis are far less stringent than here? Does not that represent the real threat to food safety in this country? Does my hon. Friend agree that Labour Front-Bench spokesmen who have done so much to stir up fears about BST ought to be thoroughly ashamed of themselves?

My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the high standard of foodstuffs in this country, especially beef. I can reassure him that we do not allow into this country any food that poses a health risk, so the concerns that he expresses about beef from other parts of the world should not materialise. He is also right to condemn the official Opposition, just as they were condemned by every party in the House when my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food delivered his statement late on Thursday 7 June, after returning from negotiations in Brussels. They were rightly condemned because they were seeking to create a new myth that, somehow or other, the British housewife is less well protected than the foreign housewife—and that is just not true.

When the Minister meets WI representatives, will he discuss with them the authoritative study by the Audit Commission showing that almost one in eight food premises in England and Wales presented a significant or imminent health risk? Given that it has been deliberate Government policy to reduce support for environmental health officers and that we are now more than 400 officers short, will the Minister announce a reversal of that policy and an increase in the number of trained inspectors and environmental health officers?

If the WI does not put that item on the agenda, I should certainly like to do so. I warmly welcome the Audit Commission's findings on food safety enforcement, and if environmental health officers discover in their survey a certain number of premises that do not come up to standard, they will have the Government's full backing in taking action against them. That is why the Food Safety Bill was passed in another place yesterday. It provides an extra £30 million for enforcement and gives new powers to environmental health officers to take action against the unacceptable minority. We have some of the finest food in the world here and we will not let a minority of filthy, scruffy takeaways or downmarket restaurants or shops destroy the reputation of the majority of our excellent eating establishments.

Food Exports


To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what contribution the food industry has made to Britain's export performance in the current year.

In the year to March 1990, United Kingdom exports of food and drink amounted to nearly £5·7 billion, about 6 per cent. of the total value of our visible exports.

My hon. Friend gives slightly more encouraging figures than has been the trend in recent years. As he is widely acknowledged as a gourmet, he will know that British raw materials for food are about the best in the world. What are the Government doing to encourage people abroad to benefit in the same way from British food? Given that the food and drink industry is the largest employer and the largest industry in the European Community, and that many of the largest companies are multinational, we must ensure that our products are available throughout the Community on a wider basis after 1992.

I agree with my hon. Friend. As he will know, we have just appointed Mr. Paul Judge as the new chairman of Food From Britain, which is our major promotional arm, and which has been endowed with £3.5 million. The Government will contribute £1 for every £3 raised by business to promote British food. This is an important issue, and we intend to ensure that British food is widely available on the continent because of its excellence.

Fish and shellfish form part of our exports. As regards the export of farmed Scottish salmon, what action is the Minister taking to persuade the European Commission to institute anti-dumping measures against Norwegian farmed salmon producers? Was not that one of the recommendations in yesterday's Agriculture Select Committee report on "Fish Farming in the UK"? What action are the Government taking to persuade the Commission to sort out that dumping problem?

The Government have actively promoted the anti-dumping case on behalf of farmed salmon producers in the United Kingdom. I have spoken directly to the Norwegian Minister responsible for trade about the issue. I understand that in recent months there has been some relief, in the sense that the Norwegians have taken certain measures, and that prices of farmed salmon have begun to recover. This is a most important issue, and we shall continue to press the case with the Commission until we are certain that competition is fair throughout the Community.

Will my hon. Friend hold discussions with his colleagues in the Department of Trade and Industry to ensure that the food industry has the backing of our offices abroad as far as possible, especially because of the difficulties that some food industries have encountered with counterfeiting, so that we may increase exports by the food industry and that great British companies, in particular, confectionary companies, do not continue to suffer in this way—and Kit Kat can be exported without the problem of counterfeit Kit Kit?

I shall certainly undertake to discuss that matter with my friends from the Department of Trade and Industry. My hon. Friend will know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State recently visited several countries in eastern Europe with the specific purpose of promoting, among other things, British food exports and exports of British food-producing machinery to those countries.

Scotch Whisky


To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he plans to meet the representatives of the Scotch whisky industry; and what subjects he expects to be raised.

I shall discuss anything that the industry wants, provided that it is within my competence.

Will the Minister discuss the concern of the Scottish Consumer Council about the introduction of the 25 ml measure to replace the existing choice of measures, normally a quarter or a fifth of a gill in Scotland and a sixth of a gill in England? As that would mean a slight increase in the normal measure served in English pubs, but a decrease of about 12 per cent. in the average measure in a Scottish pub, will the Government intervene to ensure the retention of a choice of measures, or at the very least, to ensure that the Scottish punter gets the benefit of at least a 12 per cent. cut in price for the metric short measure?

This appears to be yet another example of the Scots getting more per capita than the English. I shall certainly mention it to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland. Of course, we want to ensure that consumers throughout the United Kingdom have the benefit of the excellent product that is made in Scotland.

When my hon. Friend discusses with the Scotch whisky industry its future, will he draw attention to its splendid record in the export market and to the fact that the quality of its products—worth £1,000 million of exports every year—has been protected by the Scotch Whisky Act 1988? Can my hon. Friend say what stage we have reached with the implementation of that Act and the subsequent orders?

As my hon. Friend will know, because he has taken a strong interest in the matter—indeed, he promoted the Scotch Whisky Bill—the Scotch Whisky Order 1990, which protects minimum strength and defines Scotch, was passed by the House last month, and the spirits Drinks Order, which adds the final touch to the process, is to complete its passage today. That gives the Government an excellent record in protecting and promoting Scotch whisky.

When the Minister meets representatives of the industry, will he discuss with them the difficulties of small independent brewers who, following the Monopolies and Mergers Commission report, expected—

The small independent brewers expected to introduce guest beers into some of the larger breweries' pubs. Will the Minister meet—

Order. The hon. Gentleman is rather wide of the question, which is about whisky, not beer. I hope that he will finish his remarks quickly.

The small independent brewers also wish to retail Scotch. Will the Minister meet his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and ensure that those small independent brewers can sell Scotch whisky and their own beers over the counter in pubs throughout the land?

The hon. Gentleman is clearly used to drinking his Scotch with a beer chaser, even if he had some difficulty in accommodating whisky in his question. I also represent a constituency that has an outstandingly small brewery, which brews the beer "Old Peculier" in particular, and I shall of course ensure that I do my best to protect the interests of the small artisanal beer producer.

Consumer Panel


to ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when his consumer panel last met; and what matters were discussed.

The last meeting of the consumer panel was on 2 May 1990. We discussed a wide range of issues, including water quality, food labelling, BSE, food irradiation and hygiene training for food handlers. A copy of the minutes of the meeting is in the Library of the House.

Does the Minister agree with the recent Consumers Association report, which says that the public are losing confidence in the Ministry's assertions about all the recent food scares? The Consumers Association says that the "bland assurances" that the public have received have failed to reassure them on a whole range of issues and that what is needed is an independent food agency. Does the Minister agree with our view that we need a food standard agency, independent of both the industry and the Government, which can give the public and the consumer the assurances that they need?

Despite the best attempts of the official Opposition to rubbish British beef, more than 80 per cent. of our consumers are still buying it because they are content to believe the assurances of the British Government, the independent experts who advise us and the chief medical officer. The hon. Gentleman asks for a source of independent advice. What does he think the Food Advisory Committee, the Advisory Committee on Pesticides, the Veterinary Products Committee, the Tyrrell committee and the Southwood committee are there for? The hon. Gentleman asks for independent advice, but when we get such advice and act on it, the Labour party goes out and tries to rubbish the self-same advice that it claims it would like to believe.

When my hon. Friend next meets the consumer panel, will he impress on its members the remarkable contribution that is made to our economy by the agricultural sector of the food industry? Will he express his regret that the efforts of the farmers of Britain should be undermined and maligned at every possible opportunity by the Opposition, when they should be praised for their productivity, dedication and effectiveness?

I think that the official Opposition will regret some of the wilder statements that they have made about British beef and other food issues in the past few months. British consumers realise, as my right hon. Friend said on the day when he was made Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, that farmers' interests and consumers' interests are one. If the consumer is satisfied with the quality of our food, that is in the interests of our farmers who produce such excellent food.

After months of adverse publicity, does the Minister agree that it would be advantageous for consumers and producers in Britain if hon. Members or official agriculture spokesmen from every political party in the House were to issue a joint statement saying that British beef and British foodstuffs are healthier than any others in the world?

I wholeheartedly endorse what the hon. Gentleman has said. It is notable that throughout this issue he has followed the scientific advice and accepted the facts as given to him and he has been supported by the Welsh nationalists, by the various Irish parties and by all other parties present in the House late on Thursday 7 June. The hon. Gentleman's remarks are very welcome and I support his initiative.

Food Research


To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how much he plans to spend from his Department's funds on food research in the current year.

My Department plans to spend more than £20 million on food research in 1990–91, of which more than £15 million is earmarked for safety, hygiene, applied nutrition and consumer protection.

Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that that considerable sum is being invested in food research which responds to public concern about food safety and which also highlights the high standards of our food processors and packagers? Will he give examples of the different forms of research being carried out?

As we are concerned with more than 800 different projects at the moment, my hon. Friend will understand if I do not go through them all in detail. We are trying not only to respond to the public disquiet about this and that, but to ensure that there is no public disquiet about things which might arise. When I visited the food research laboratories in Norwich recently, I was interested to see a wide range of research, all of which will help to ensure that British food continues to be the safest in the world.

Is the Minister aware that on the east coast, and especially on the east coast of Scotland, sprats are caught by Scandinavian fishermen, taken to Scandinavia for canning and brought back here labelled as sardines? Surely the British consumer has the right to know what the product is and where it comes from. Will the Minister have a word with his counterparts in the Scandinavian countries to ensure that at least the labelling is correct so that consumers know what they are buying?

I am not sure that in this case the labelling would have a direct effect on the safety of the sprats or sardines when eaten, but if there is a problem in terms of misleading the consumer I shall be happy to take it up at once because it is a fundamental principle of the Ministry that we ensure that the consumer has full information so that he can make his own decisions and not have them forced on him by others who think that they know best.

Will my right hon. Friend tell the House and many worried people in Britain whether any of the money that he proposes to spend will go to Professor Lacey and his research?

When we choose the recipients of money for research, we do so on the advice of their peers—their scientific equals. One of the difficulties with some people who seek to do research is that they are not over-eager to provide information about their research to their scientific equals or to the committees set up to judge them.

Live Exports


To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the animal welfare implications of the trade in live exports.

There are detailed controls to ensure that animals leave this country rested, fed and watered, and inspected. We shall seek to maintain proper welfare safeguards under the proposed Community measures on transport of animals.

I am sure that the Secretary of State is aware that there is a lobby today on this issue and that there is great concern that the new EC rules will remove measures that the House has seen fit to pass to protect animals being transported in terms of where they go and the conditions in which they are transported. Horses are not exported live at present, but they could be in the future.

Will the Secretary of State take every possible step and fight every inch of the way to defend the existing Government protections which apply to animals in Britain and which far exceed the protections in other parts of the EC? If necessary, will he invoke article 36 which allows us to prevent free trade on issues of public morality so that we can protect those animals?

I have already said, some months ago, that I want to increase European Community standards on animal welfare across the board. I notice that today's lobby is led by Compassion in World Farming. I cannot manage matters outside the Community, but we have to solve the problem of animal welfare not only in Britain but throughout the Community. Some of the proposals that have been put forward could harm the welfare of animals in the rest of Europe by raising standards here but not throughout Europe. It is a European matter and I am determined to take the lead in that regard.

The Government will fight all the way along the line for the present system of minimum value for the export of live horses. Other animals are subject to EC rules, so those rules must be of the highest standard. There is no possibility of using article 36. I am advised quite clearly that it would not apply.

I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement about the export of horses, but can I persuade him to accept the view of the British Veterinary Association that animals should be slaughtered as close to the point of production as possible? Will he seek to put that view to his allies in the European Community?

Our purpose is to raise standards throughout the European Community. The problem with the transport of live animals is that many other countries in the European Community do not share the view of the British Veterinary Association. My job is to get the best answer that we can and then to improve on it. My hon. Friend has my wholehearted support in her efforts to bring pressure on my allies in the European Community. On the matter of animal welfare, the number of my allies could do with some augmentation.

I appreciate that the Secretary of State is a voracious carnivore and likely to eat anything with legs other than a table, but is he aware that, despite his assurances to the House, a great deal of suffering is still caused to animals moved out of Britain for slaughter? Would not it be better, and meet the demands of the great majority of people in Britain, if no live animals were allowed to leave our shores for slaughter on the continent?

The fact is that that would be illegal, and this country stands by the law. Under European Community regulations, there has to be the movement of live animals. My job is to improve those regulations. The hon. Gentleman blames the European Community, but at least in the European Community we have a chance to raise standards for all animals in Europe, or perhaps the hon. Gentleman takes such an insular view that he cares only about British animals.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that since, on grounds of animal welfare, we ended the system of rearing calves in veal crates, there has been a massive increase in the number of calves exported to France, Belgium and the Netherlands? About 1,000 calves per day are now exported to those countries. What proportion of those calves does my right hon. Friend believe are being reared in the very crates that we sought to abolish in Britain?

My hon. Friend puts his finger exactly on the point. If we do not raise standards throughout Europe, we shall make changes at home, for estimable reasons, only to find that the situation is worse in the rest of the continent. For that reason, three days ago I took the lead in the European Community Council to press for higher standards which would eliminate the very practices to which my hon. Friend refers. We now have a new programme which will make major changes in the rearing of calves and also the way in which pigs are cared for. I hope that that will be a further earnest of our determination to improve animal welfare throughout the Community.

Toxic Algae


To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether his Department has carried out research into links between the recent toxic algae outbreak on the east coast and pollution.

The evidence is that blooms of toxic algae are naturally occurring and are triggered primarily by combinations of calm water and good sunlight.

I accept the Minister's answer, but does he agree that the emergence of a 300-mile toxic algal scum slick shows that using the North sea as an international flush lavatory is not doing the quality of the water any good? Does he further agree that we need an international agreement to stop these long sea outfalls? In the light of the comments made yesterday by the Minister of Sport about the effluent tendency, does he agree that the main body of people in this country with a tendency towards effluent are Ministers?

The hon. Gentleman is getting his science mixed up. There is no link between the production of these blooms and pollution. They were first noticed in 1814, which was mainly a pre-industrial society. The most recent manifestation was on the west coast of Scotland. It is difficult to get further than that from population centres or intensive agriculture. That supports the evidence that it is naturally occurring. In only five years since 1968 has some warning not had to be posted, so the relationship between that phenomenon and what the hon. Gentleman is suggesting is impossible to prove.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Ministry must accept that there is a nexus between nutrients and growth? Does he agree that nitrates and phosphates are fed on greedily by algae? Although they must have benign warm conditions in which to flourish, if their source of food were reduced or cut off they would not grow to the extent that they are growing at present.

My hon. Friend is perfectly correct, but nitrates and phosphates occur naturally in the water, as they did at the beginning of the 19th century when the phenomenon was first noticed. There is no link between the discharge of sewage into the North sea, which we have undertaken to stop, and these blooms.

The House cannot accept that at all. We know very well that phosphates increase algal bloom. I urge the Minister to listen carefully to the comments of the Chairman of the Select Committee on the Environment. Will he confirm that the Ministry's scientists have said that one of the reasons why the outbreak was so long and intense was that there was a constant source of nutrients in the sea off the east coast, the main source of which is raw sewage dumping and raw sewage outfalls?

That is simply not the case. The blooms appeared because currents brought the seeds to the surface, where they were in warm water and sunlight. That has occurred around Britain's coast, most recently in the west of Scotland, where there are no population centres or major intensive farming which would supplement the water with nutrients, so the link simply has not been established.



To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what effect the EEC directive on minced meat will have on the future of the British sausage.

The Government will fight to ensure that future Community measures will have no adverse effect on the British sausage.

Does my hon. Friend agree that, as currently drafted, the EC proposals endanger the future of the British sausage after 1990? Does he agree that it is a safe, succulent, satisfying snack and with mash it is almost superlative? The British public enjoy £500 million worth of sausages each year. The proposals will do nothing to improve food hygiene and are likely to increase the cost of this most estimable product to the British consumer. If we have no objection to other countries' salami and bratwurst, why can they not leave our toad in the hole alone?

My hon. Friend has made a number of valid points. Many of us in the House have moved straight from the baby's bottle to the British banger. The proposed draft directives will have no effect on hygiene requirements for the existing British sausage. People in the House and outside who want to eat raw minced beef or steak tartare can choose to do so, but the millions of people in Britain who want to eat cooked British sausages do not need unnecessary EC rules.

Does the Minister accept that the logic of the rules may not be to improve hygiene, but to achieve unfair competition and commercial advantage at the expense of manufacturers in this country, which could lead to the loss of valuable jobs in many areas, including my constituency? Will the Minister ensure that he stands up and fights for the future of those jobs?

I will certainly do that. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will take to task the Opposition agriculture spokesman who said that he would refuse to eat British beef sausages, when there is absolutely nothing wrong with them. We all understand the necessity for tougher rules on minced beef which might be eaten raw, but there is no need for the rules about cooked sausages.

Prime Minister



To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 28 June.

This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall be having further meetings later today, including one with the Governor of Hong Kong.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that properly enforced tough controls on dangerous dogs and their owners offer far greater security and reassurance to the public, and particularly to children, than a bureaucratic dog registration scheme of the kind currently obsessing the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the upshot of which would be that responsible owners would register and irresponsible owners would not?

Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend. It is not the identification of the owner which has been the problem, but to make certain that owners control their dogs properly. Yesterday further significant proposals were announced to toughen the law. Our proposals will strengthen the powers for dangerous dogs to be seized and, if necessary, destroyed. They will create new powers to allow courts to have dogs muzzled. We are also looking at the possibility of banning certain dog breeds all together.

Since the Prime Minister has publicly admitted that she was, in her own words,

"aware of the … terms and conditions of the arrangements reached with British Aerospace"
in relation to the sale of Rover, will she confirm that her knowledge of those arrangements included details of the £44 million sweeteners of which Parliament was never to be told?

As I indicated on 14 December 1989

"I was kept aware throughout of the progress of the negotiations with British Aerospace and … of the basic terms and conditions of the agreements reached".—[Official Report, 14 December 1989; Vol. 163, c. 770.]
Our priority at the time was to safeguard the interests of the company, the employees and the taxpayer. That objective was secured and billions of pounds of future state aids and taxpayers' money was thus saved.

On 30 November last year I asked the Prime Minister twice if she knew of all the arrangements about the sweeteners. She dodged the question then, and she is trying to dodge it now. Will she give a straight answer to a straight question? When she says that she knew of the arrangements, did her knowledge include, or did it not include, knowledge of the sweeteners of which this Parliament, the European Community and the British people were never to be told?

I answered the question on 14 December 1989. I was kept aware throughout of the progress of the negotiations at British Aerospace under the basic terms and conditions of the agreements reached. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes or no?"] Our main objective was to secure the privatisation of this company which was utterly bankrupt and broke and on which the taxpayers—[HON. MEMBERS: "Yes or no?"]—had already spent £3·5 billion in aids and a further £1·6 billion in contingent liabilities. We successfully privatised the company and it is profitable, but that means nothing to the right hon. Gentleman. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes or no?"] The right hon. Gentleman would probably have preferred to have the company nationalised so that taxpayers could continue to be fleeced.

What does mean something to me, and should mean something to the Prime Minister, is the integrity of the right hon. Lady herself. Did she know, or did she not know, that £44 million of illegal sweeteners was part of the deal?

I answered the hon. Gentleman in the reply that I gave on 14 December 1989. May I say how very much the Opposition have changed their tune—[interruption.]

Order. The Prime Minister has been asked a series of questions and she wishes to reply.

The Opposition have changed their tune from the line which they took on 14 July 1988 when—

Order. It is intolerable that when the Prime Minister has been asked a qustion she is not given an opportunity to reply. [HON. MEMBERS: "She will not answer."] Order. I call the Prime Minister.

On 14 July 1988 my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, as he then was, informed the House of the results of the negotiations and what had taken place. The hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould), replying to my right hon. and learned Friend—

Order. This is the House of Commons and we listen to the answers given to questions.

The hon. Member for Dagenham, replying to my right hon. and learned Friend and referring to my right hon. and learned Friend's latest visit to the Commission as going cap in hand to Brussels to beg for concessions said, if the House is quiet enough or interested enough to hear—

Order. If the hon. Gentleman continues to shout, of course it will take time.

When my right hon. and learned Friend the then Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was announcing the result, the hon. Member for Dagenham said of the Commission:

"How is it that an unelected official can tell the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry that his terms are non-negotiable?"—[Official Report, 14 July 1988; Vol. 137, c. 613.]
That is what the hon. Gentleman said, but the Opposition have changed their tune.

On the occasion of the most welcome visit of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association delegates from India, led by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, will my right hon. Friend confirm the Government's policy as being to continue to uphold Britain's excellent relations with India?

Yes. I was not aware of that visit, but we have excellent relations with India. We give it priority with our aid, and have recently agreed to help it each year to enable it to keep its rain forests.

Now that we know that nuclear power is twice as expensive for the consumer as any other form of power, and that it is less cost effective than energy conservation in protecting the environment, why does the Prime Minister insist that every electricity consumer should pay a special nuclear tax amounting to £25 on the average electricity bill to meet the cost of her obsession and her Government's bungling over nuclear power? Have not Sizewell B and the right hon. Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Parkinson) already cost the nation too much, and should not the right hon. Lady pull the plug on both of them?

I will take the question on Sizewell B first. Sizewell B will cost more than originally expected because the original order was for four nuclear power stations of a particular design. However, now that only one is definitely to be built—Sizewell B—all the original design and development costs will have to be added to the cost of that one station, instead of being spread over four. It is not unusual for the costs to increase. If we had four nuclear power stations, the cost of Sizewell B would not be great.

In the right hon. Gentleman's second question, he said that nuclear power cost more. We know the costs for the disposal of the fission products of nuclear power. When that is compared with the cost of obtaining electricity from coal or oil, the problem is that we do not know the costs of dumping carbon dioxide in outer space, which could be much worse in the long run than those of nuclear power. The right hon. Gentleman may remember that France has a good record on reducing carbon dioxide emissions because the majority of her electricity is generated from nuclear power.



To ask the Prime Minister whether she will make a statement on diplomatic contacts designed to achieve the release of British citizens held captive by Iranian-backed terrorist groups in Lebanon.

The plight of the British citizens held hostage is constantly in the minds of all of us. We have raised the matter with a wide range of Governments and organisations which might have influence on the hostage holders. We shall continue to use every contact and follow up every lead that we believe might bring results.

Will my right hon. Friend press the Iranian Government to abide by normal decent standards of international behaviour and bring about the release of those entirely innocent people in Lebanon forthwith? Will she also press that Government to do something about the absolutely abominable human rights situation in Iran?

Our position on hostages is well known. We take precisely the view that my hon. Friend has just expressed. Any nation that has any information, or any influence on those who are holding hostages, should do all in its power to secure their release, as that is the only norm of civilised behaviour. We ask Iran to do that as well. My hon. Friend knows that our ambassador in Lebanon is actively following up every lead.

With regard to human rights in Iran, we welcome the decision by the Iranian Government to invite the United Nations special representative on human rights to pay a second visit to Iran. We hope that he will be given full facilities to investigate thoroughly all aspects of human rights there, and any breaches of those rights by the Iranian Government.

Order. I believe that the hon. Gentleman has recently returned from the Lebanon.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, while we must have the greatest sympathy for the hostages and their families, we must never do anything to undermine her strong stand against international terrorism? We must remember at all times that these groups are backed on the one hand by Iranians who have condemned a British citizen to death and on the other by the Syrians who continue to shelter the principal suspects of the Lockerbie bombing.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. As he knows, we broke off diplomatic relations with Syria because of its part in helping to place the bomb on the El Al aircraft. Diplomatic relations could not possibly continue in those circumstances. We do not think it right to restore those diplomatic relations yet, but we plead with Iran and Syria to do all in their power in the modern world to secure the release of hostages. That is the only way for civilised nations, which expect to be welcomed into diplomatic international circles, to behave.



To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 28 June.

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

As my right hon. Friend knows, Gloucestershire county council is run by the soggy hand of the Liberal Alliance and has spent millions of pounds over an already excessive budget, which is causing great anxiety to many of my constituents. In her review of the working of the community charge, will my right hon. Friend seek to ensure that some mechanism is introduced to curb such profligacy?

My hon. Friend is quite right about Gloucestershire. This year it has increased its expenditure by twice the rate of inflation. In our review of the community charge we are certainly bearing in mind that chargepayers want to be protected against the excessive spending of such councils. We shall bring forward proposals before the House rises.


To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Thursday 28 June.

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.

Mr. Speaker, Sir. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear"] Is the Prime Minister aware that the crime figures presented today are appalling? Is she also aware that the morale of the police force in the various constabularies across the country is at its lowest ebb? Is she also aware of the fiddle that has been going on about Aerospace? How does she expect British citizens to behave themselves when the Government go on like that? Is she aware that the Government sanction—

Order. I think that the House has now been made aware of two questions—that is enough.

In so far as I was able to hear the hon. Gentleman, yes, the crime figures out today are extremely disappointing, although we must remember that violent crime in this country occurs on a very much lesser scale than in some other countries. The overall figures show that 25 per cent. of all crime is car related, and my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary intends to have talks with car producers to see if we can reduce that figure.

I do not accept that the morale of the police is low. They have had a very good deal on pay—so good that everyone else wants to emulate them—and they have had full support from the Government in their most important work.

With regard to British Aerospace as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry explained in his statement on 30 November 1989, the relative items of which the hon. Gentleman was speaking were included
"in the estimates and reports to Parliament. Full details were made available to the Comptroller and Auditor General"—[Official Report, 30 November 1989; Vol. 162, c. 859.]
Finally may I point out what the Commission says in its report—

The Commission said that the price of £150 million represented a reasonable purchase price, given all of the circumstances of the sale.

European Council (Dublin)

3.35 pm

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I will make a statement on the European Council in Dublin on 25–26 June, which I attended with my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary.

The text of the Council's conclusions have been placed in the Library of the House. I will go through the main points in order.

Completion of the single market represents the biggest and most far-reaching change under way in western Europe. Useful progress has been made under the Irish presidency in the transport and energy sectors, on public procurement and on company taxation. In Dublin, we set priorities for the next six months. They include items of particular importance for the United Kingdom; financial services, insurance, further liberalisation of transport and public procurement.

But it is not just a matter of taking decisions. They need to be implemented. The Commission circulated to the Council a chart showing Britain right at the forefront of member states when it comes to implementation. It will in future make regular reports to the European Council on this.

The members of the Council also called on Germany to reconsider its discriminatory tax on lorries, about which the Commission is taking the German Government to the European Court.

The Council continued its discussion on political union. It was agreed that an intergovernmental conference will begin in December. Our determination to see national institutions and national identities fully respected is clearly understood and increasingly shared. The debate is more and more about how to make existing Community institutions more effective. We shall continue to argue that the Community should be involved only where particular objectives cannot be achieved by national action.

In that context, I drew attention to the unnecessary, indeed harmful, proposals put forward by the Commission on part-time and temporary work. If implemented, they would only lead to loss of jobs.

We had a brief discussion on economic and monetary union. We confirmed that an intergovernmental conference on that will begin in December, in parallel with the conference on political union. I commended the excellent proposals put forward by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We shall ensure that they are fully considered before, and at, the intergovernmental conference. I reminded my colleagues of the strong opposition expressed by this House to economic and monetary union on the basis proposed in the Delors report.

The Council agreed a useful declaration on the environment, and further steps to combat drug addiction and trafficking. Our proposals for a European drugs intelligence unit and for a conference of eastern and western European countries on drugs issues were endorsed.

The Council underlined the very great importance which the Community attaches to a successful outcome to the Uruguay round of the trade negotiations and our intention to make a full contribution to that. That will be discussed further at the economic summit in Houston.

We had a thorough discussion on assistance to the Soviet Union. Britain has constantly been at the forefront in supporting Mr. Gorbachev and his policies of greater democracy and reform. We are very ready to consider various forms of assistance, provided it is clearly linked to economic restructuring, so that we know it will actually be effective. The Council agreed that a thorough analysis should be undertaken of the size of the problem and how the Community and other western countries can help. This will be conducted by the Commission, together with experts from the new European bank for reconstruction and development, the World bank and the IMF, the OECD and others. When that is complete, we can see what needs to be done, and then we can take decisions.

Foreign Ministers discussed a number of foreign policy issues and agreed statements dealing with the middle east, South Africa, Cyprus, nuclear non-proliferation, anti-semitism and the Iranian earthquake.

The Council called on all parties in South Africa to refrain from violence and advocacy of violence, which of course covers the ANC's continued support for armed struggle, of which we strongly disapprove. The principle of a gradual relaxation of sanctions, for which we have been pressing for months, was accepted and is reflected in the statement. But the Council was unable to agree to make a start now. We shall look at this again under the Italian presidency, in the light of further progress in South Africa. In practice, several countries have already begun to lift various measures. I am sure that that will continue.

Finally, the Council agreed a statement utterly condemning terrorism and expressing sympathy for the victims of the terrorist bombing of the Carlton club. I am sure that the House will be grateful for the sympathy and support shown by our partners.

It was a useful Council—no dramatic decisions, but steady progress in several important areas. That is how it should be.

I welcome the statements made by the Council of Ministers on the environment, terrorism, drugs and organised crime, and nuclear non-proliferation. The whole House will particularly share the revulsion expressed by the Heads of Government at recent manifestations of anti-semitism and racism. All in this Parliament will agree that the crimes of desecration and race hatred deserve strong condemnation and severe punishment.

All Opposition Members welcome the Council's further unanimous endorsement of the social charter. We all support the extension of the mandate of Mr. Delors as President of the Commission and we all derive satisfaction from the fact that it was our Prime Minister who seconded the nomination of notre frère Jacques.

We welcome the decision of the meeting to provide both short-term credits and long-term support for structural reform in the Soviet Union, and we congratulate the Prime Minister on reversing her short-sighted attitudes on that matter.

Will the Prime Minister take this opportunity to state exactly where her Government stand on European monetary union? Is she aware that last Tuesday the deputy Prime Minister described the Chancellor's proposals for a hard ecu as being "perfectly capable" of leading to a single European currency? The Governor of the Bank of England has described the Chancellor's proposals as a "very useful step" to a single European currency. The Chancellor and the Foreign Secretary obviously feel the same. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister says that it must not come in her lifetime and yet, on Tuesday in Dublin, she signed up to specific commitments in a specific timetable. How long does the Prime Minister hope to keep up this two-faced performance, especially when it confuses her hon. Friends and does not even impress the neighbours?

In Dublin, the Council of Ministers, in the words of the communiqué,
"agreed to intensify the process … of European Union" in economic, monetary and political terms, and to secure "ratification by the end of 1992."
The Prime Minister signed up for all of that, but still she says it is others who are coming into step with us. Is the Prime Minister really trying to tell us that all along she has secretly been in favour of integration on that scale, or is the truth that at last the modern realities of the Community are beginning to impress themselves, even on the lady of Bruges?

Does the Prime Minister accept that it is obvious that, in this European Community of nations, distinctions of national identity and national institutions are of great and enduring value? Does she also realise that the influence of Britain is not advanced, and its interests are not served, by her tinpot, tin drum nationalism?

I shall try to answer some of the points raised by the right hon. Gentleman. I noticed what he said about the programme for social action. From what he said, it seems that he thinks it is quite right that the Commission should interfere with rules related to part-time work and overnight work in the United Kingdom, and that he would give the Commission that and such other piffling little powers in the name of subsidiarity. It is for us to decide those things. They come under the doctrine of subsidiarity, which the Commission is always talking about and never honouring.

With regard to giving help to the USSR, I remind the right hon. Gentleman, as I reminded colleagues at Dublin, that there is already in this country a line of credit of £800 million under the Export Credits Guarantee Department which has not yet been drawn upon. Therefore, we do not need any lectures from anyone about making loans available to the Soviet Union. I think that the Soviets are wise to consider before drawing them down. They know full well that what they spend the money on needs to have an effect on their whole future and their capital future. If they spent the money on consumer goods, it would tie a great big debt around their neck and not do them any long-term good. On this matter they are rather wiser than the right hon. Gentleman.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about the single currency. He should read paragraph 26 of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor's speech. [Interruption.] I am about to read it out. Speaking about his proposals, my right hon. Friend said:
"They are practical, they are progressive, they offer choice, not prescription. They evolve naturally from stage 1 and have the potential to evolve further. In time the ecu would be more widely used. It would become a common currency for Europe. In the very long term, if peoples and governments so choose it could develop into a single currency, but that is a decision we should not take now for we cannot yet foresee what the size and circumstances of the new Europe would be."
I do not think that it could develop into a single currency without altering the European monetary fund, which my right hon. Friend also described in detail in his speech.

The right hon. Gentleman then suggested that we had signed up for something merely because we signed a procedural motion at an intergovernmental conference. Perhaps he does not realise that that decision can be taken by a plain, straightforward, simple majority, but that any conclusions reached by the conference must be straightforward unanimity. There is no possibility of not having one because the majority wanted one. We shall reserve our detailed arguments for the intergovernmental conference.

The right hon. Gentleman says that we signed up to economic and monetary union. We signed up to that before we joined, because it was part of the terms agreed in 1972 before we joined the Community, and it was still incorporated in those terms after the Prime Minister at the time, now the noble Lord Callaghan of Cardiff, had completed his renegotiation.

Order. As the House is aware, there is a business statement after this and also a statement on British Aerospace. We then have a debate on the scrutiny of European legislation for which the House has been waiting for a long time. I propose to allow questions to the Prime Minister to continue until 4.20, and then we must move to the other statements.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that she will not be deterred from her thoroughly sensible proposals for a common currency for Europe and a European monetary fund? They hold out far more promise for the future than a single centralised European bank which would be impossible to operate in the European monetary system. In view of the likely failure of the Uruguay round, can my right hon. Friend say whether there were any firm proposals at Dublin for developing an alternative world trade organisation or expanding the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development into an Atlantic-wide free trade and investment area?

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. I agree that the proposals that have been put forward by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer are substantial and right, in that they still leave choice in people's hands as to whether they should go for a common currency or continue to deal only in their own. Those proposals are much more substantial than stage 2 of Delors and quite different.

Many people would have difficulty with locked currencies, as we all had difficulty with Bretton Woods, and many would have difficulty going to Delors stage 3. Not only this Parliament but others could not do it without enormous subventions from other members of the Community. We would not be prepared to do that. The Chancellor's proposal is much more substantial than the present stage 2, and we say that it is the next stage on which everyone could agree. It is not for us to say what may happen in 10 or 20 years because we do not know the circumstances that will pertain then. It would be an effective second stage.

My right hon. Friend mentioned the Uruguay round. As he knows, the agriculture problems present difficulties. Some other Members of the Community are much more rigid on those than we would be, and we have made proposals for determining the different level of subsidy in the United States, the Community and Japan through some kind of producer subsidy equivalent. I agree that that will be the most difficult part of the Uruguay round. There is a tendency in some respects for members of the Community to be more protectionist than we are—for example, Germany, with its stance on lorries and its discriminatory taxes. We have not prepared an alternative mode of negotiation. We must strain to make the Uruguay round successful and to increase world trade.

I listened carefully to the Prime Minister's answer a moment ago on economic and monetary union. We all know that the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that his system left open the option of moving towards a single European currency, but that runs counter to the implication of the Prime Minister's comments after the Dublin summit and to her specific answer to my question last week. Therefore, will she how answer unequivocally the question which she has so far dodged: will Britain join a single European currency under her leadership—yes, no or maybe?

The right hon. Gentleman cannot have listened to the paragraph of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor's speech that I read out, which says clearly that that is not a decision that we should take now. It could not have come from the structure of the European monetary fund set out in my right hon. Friend's speech. If the right hon. Gentleman has read that, he will know full well that the ecu would be issued as a currency only against other currencies placed with that board. That would ensure that it was non-inflationary. It could not be done under that structure. Why do we not get on with things on which we can all agree? It would give those who wish to use a common currency the right to do so. Why does the right hon. Gentleman arrogate to himself decisions that are for future generations in the House to take?

I thank my right hon. Friend for her statement today and for her robust and strong position at the Dublin summit which not only represented and safeguarded Britain's genuine interests but took us further along the road to European monetary union and the formation of political union in whatever form the member states may decide. Does she agree that it is highly likely that the market place pressures will, in reality, produce a common and/or single currency in due course because the market pressures will be great both from institutions and companies, and from consumers, as the ecu develops?

Our proposals would lead to a common currency which people could choose to use more or less as they wished, or they could continue to use their own currency. I do not believe that that formula could develop into a single currency. The Delors formula for a single currency involves a board of 12 bank governors with powers over monetary policy and some powers over budgetary policy. Once we surrendered all our powers over monetary and budgetary policy, we would not have a great deal of sovereignty left, and I do not believe that that would be acceptable to the House. Those who advocate a single currency would do well to remember that, because they would be voting to diminish fundamentally the powers of the House—powers which it is for us to uphold.

What did the discussion on international terrorism add up to in practice? Did it deal with the vexed problem of extradition?

We did not go further on extradition. As I think the right hon. Gentleman will be aware, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Ireland are studying the cases of extradition which have been heard recently to see whether they add up to what we thought the law on extradition meant. There was some discussion during one meal and particularly at a press conference. It is important that we have extradition so that people can stand trial in the country where the crime was committed. Just as it is important that no one who is innocent should be found guilty, it is equally important that those who are guilty should be found guilty, properly and duly in the courts of law.

My right hon. Friend is to be congratulated on the immense progress that she has made in continuing to stand up for democracy and accountability, not only in this Parliament but in Europe. The simple questions that arise are: who is to control our economy, and are we to retain the authority of the House on vital public expenditure and taxation matters? Will she accept the congratulations of Conservative Members on her achievement in maintaining the authority of this place?

I agree with my hon. Friend that the argument about accountability makes more and more headway every time that we raise it. Many people are very concerned that the Delors stages 2 and 3 do not properly address that question. As others look more carefully into stages 2 and 3, they have very different objectives from that of the deutschmark. It is clear that the objective of some of them is not to maintain the value of the currency and protect it from inflation but to put growth before that, which could possibly undermine the value of a currency. Those differences are coming out more and more. I described what my hon. Friend put forward. The rest of our colleagues were very interested, and I believe that his proposal will be studied very carefully.

In a previous answer the Prime Minister said that she believes that the commitment to economic and monetary union stems from 1972. Does she agree that the then Government took us into the EEC without public mandate, and that she headed a Government who, without public mandate, signed the Single European Act, which for the first time made it possible for the laws of this country to be determined against the wishes of the public, Parliament or the Government? As to political union, has not the Prime Minister now agreed to what she calls a procedural motion without resolution of the House? How does she reconcile such conduct with the defence of the British constitution and parliamentary democracy in the United Kingdom?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Single European Act extended the qualified majority—it did not invent it—for the purpose of achieving the internal market under article 100A, and specifically delineated areas that would still require unanimous voting. We feel sometimes that those areas are being undermined by decisions of the Commission. I do not believe that they have yet been to the courts. It is vital that, in the areas where the unanimous vote is retained, it is clearly upheld.

As for economic and monetary union, it was referred to—as the hon. Gentleman knows that it was in 1972—in the preamble to the Single European Act. In one of the crossheadings, it was defined as economic and monetary co-operation. That is still how I prefer to define it. I believe that that is the right definition.

What are the prospects of convincing our European partners that, if we are to help eastern Europe to create a free market economy, it is better to encourage the private sector to invest in eastern Europe rather than squander taxpayers' money on centralist schemes of dubious economic benefit?

I wholly agree with my hon. Friend. It is much better for the private sector to invest. It would send in good management to show how the private sector operates, which is very much needed. All the people from eastern Europe who come to see us—yesterday I saw Mr. de Maizire from East Germany, and we have also had visitors from Hungary and Czechoslovakia—are anxious to pursue privatisation. They know full well that it will produce a much more prosperous standard of living for their people than the totally centrally controlled nationalisation under which they have lived to this day.

The Prime Minister confirmed in her statement that she has committed the Government to intergovernmental conferences in December on economic, monetary and political union. Will the Prime Minister confirm that she has committed herself to a process that will inevitably lead to a federal Europe, a single currency and a central bank, and to the eventual diminution of the sovereignty of this nation? If she accepts that, would it not be better to tell the British public the truth now rather than to disguise it until after the next general election?

The right hon. Gentleman is giving a false impression. At any time in one of the main councils of the Community, a vote could be put to the 12 present on whether there should be an intergovernmental conference. That vote is decided by a simple majority: seven votes to five would get an intergovernmental conference. That is normal procedure. It was quite clear that there were few people around the table against an intergovernmental conference, and there is no reason why we should not be prepared to go into one about political union, because we have many proposals to put forward about the Commission's accountability for the moneys that it uses, and many other proposals to make the Commission and the other institutions work much better. We wanted a conference so that we could put our proposals forward.

It has been made clear at all times that this House would not accept a single European currency on the Delors plan because that would mean yielding up monetary and fiscal sovereignty; so we would not agree to Delors stage 3, and we have not agreed to stage 2. We were in favour of Delors stage 1, because we were already set on that course before he came out with stages 2 and 3.

Have discussions been held about the location of the European environmental agency? Is my right hon. Friend aware that I am enthusiastic that it should be in Cambridge, which is a suitable place, and I hope that the Government are pressing for that.

There were discussions about the sites of European institutions. As my hon. Friend is aware, whenever we discuss that, the question whether the Parliament should continue to meet in Strasbourg, Brussels and Luxembourg comes up. Those are some of the liveliest debates that we ever have in the Community. Countries which have institutions within their borders wish to keep precisely what they have and do not want change. Unless they are assured of that, they will not agree about where the environmental institution and the trade-mark centre should go. So we got no further. That has happened several times. The matter has been put to the next presidency—which will be Italian. Having got the European bank for reconstruction and development, there is no possibility of our getting the centre for environmental studies.

Is it not clear, whatever else happened in Dublin, that the Prime Minister has not been able to stem, let alone halt, the Gadarene rush towards economic, monetary and political union in Europe; and that once the intergovernmental conferences take place there is a great danger that this country will be sucked into major decisions against our interests and, as I understand it, against the wishes of the Prime Minister? As we will probably stand alone and say that we disagree with the rest of the EC at the end of that process, will she now make clear to the country—this terribly ill-informed country, with ill-informed media—the dangers and difficulties to the British economy, to jobs and industry and to the Westminster Parliament of being locked into permanently fixed exchange rates in the sort of system that Delors has wished upon us?

I must congratulate the right hon. Gentleman; he is beginning to sound more and more like me. I have made that speech several times, and consistently. I am against locked currencies. We have lived with locked currencies and they collapsed. I am against a single currency, and I do not believe that we shall be sucked in—for one good reason: if we were to come to this Parliament with a single currency which deprived the House of its customary authority, I do not believe that it would go through the House. I thoroughly agree with the right hon. Gentleman and with his conclusion.

Did the Prime Minister have the opportunity to raise the question of interim relief, decided by the European Court this week? Has not that matter taken on a new urgency in view of the information from the Home Office this morning that the agents for the German state lottery are taking action in the United Kingdom courts in relation to the fact that the distribution of German lottery tickets, is in contravention of the European Court under the Lotteries and Amusements Act 1976? Would it not be a bit ridiculous if people in Britain were forced to subsidise the German health service by buying German lottery tickets, when lottery tickets are illegal under a law passed unanimously by the House?

We did not raise that particular matter. As my hon. Friend knows, we have dealt with it at Question Time, pointing out that our courts had been given the power to override our law in favour of Community law, although to what extent they did so was still a matter for the decision of our courts. We did not go into the matter further at the Council. I understand that the matter that my hon. Friend has raised is at present before the courts, and they will therefore decide it in the first instance.

On the declaration on the middle east, the whole House will welcome the Government's affirmation of the untenability of the status quo in the occupied territories and the Government's explicit reference to the obligations on all state parties to the Geneva convention to show respect for that convention. We also welcome the further call for action to ensure that protection. Does the Prime Minister agree that that statement breaks new ground and will give cause for hope that Britain and its European partners are prepared to act to protect the basic human rights of Palestinians on the west bank and in Gaza pending the resumption of a meaningful peace process?

I very much agree with the hon. Gentleman's underlying view. It is worrying that we have no negotiations going and seem to have little prospect of negotiations. It is vital that we get negotiations going that respect Israel's right to exist and also respect and uphold the decision of the Palestine Liberation Organisation to recognise article 242, to recognise Israel's right to exist and also to disapprove of violence as a means of pursuing its objectives. I know that there is some ambivalence on that last point, particularly with regard to activities in the occupied territories.

I share the hon. Gentleman's view that it is important for us, both in the Community and with the United States, which can perhaps bring more pressure to bear on Israel than any other country, to try to get negotiations going in spite of all the difficulties. Otherwise we may lose some of the advances that have been made. We disapprove of terrorism or violence, by the PLO or any other organisation, and that makes it more important that, where there are legitimate grievances, they should be addressed by negotiations.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on her evolutionary approach to a European common currency. As the European monetary fund is to be responsible for monetary policy, in the sense that it will determine interest rates, will my right hon. Friend tell us to whom the European monetary fund will be responsible?

It will be responsible for interest rates only on the ecu, which is currency board issued. Our interest rates and our own currency are, and will continue to be, matters for us. The fund would be responsible for the deposits made with it and the amounts that it lent out for common currency. We shall still be responsible for our own.

Is the Prime Minister aware that her insistence on the restructuring, of the Soviet Union economy sounds reasonable but could be very dangerous? The Soviet leaders are already aware of the need for restructuring, and any imposition of sudden changes on their crumbling economy could put it in a state of chaos and collapse. By all means let us give economic aid and expertise, but the best people to decide the pace of change in the Soviet Union are Soviet leaders, not western leaders.

The right hon. Gentleman will realise that the very difficult circumstances which the Soviet Union faces now are a result of 70 years of central power and control, of the nationalisation of practically every decision and of no responsibility or initiative among its people. That is what has virtually brought about the collapse of the standard of living about which the right hon. Gentleman speaks.

The right hon. Gentleman will recall that when we set out to help Poland and Hungary—and now others—we insisted that the International Monetary Fund had a look at their economies and that they took advice to change their economic direction and to have more privatisation and more private enterprise against a proper framework of regulation and law. We did not give the aid until we were certain that that change had been approved, and therefore had some chance of getting under way. The change does not have to be totally complete—that would not be possible or reasonable—but those countries must have got the main change under way.

There are one or two joint ventures and we have some. They do not always work because the raw materials and the semi-fabricated goods which should come to the factory which is part of a joint venture—often from the Soviet side—do not arrive. I think that the best venture in the Soviet Union is probably McDonald's beefburgers, because it has its own farms, its own lorries and the biggest queue. I am sure that it is right to get an economic structural change going.

I am confident that my right hon. Friend will welcome the progress towards improved co-operation to suppress serious crime and international terrorism. Does she agree that the most important way to achieve that is to improve the intelligence arrangements and gathering systems? Can she comment on whether the German Government are willing to amend their constitution to allow their citizens to be subject to extradition to other EC countries to stand trial there?

We did not discuss that particular point. However, we did discuss the importance of intelligence among all European countries—even across the European divide—in tracking down criminals, especially those peddling drugs. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that to get intelligence in time—and to take action on it—is one of the most important factors.

While suporting the vigorous programme of aid and assistance by the EEC to newly democratic eastern European countries, does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be inappropriate—indeed wasteful—to pour a large amount of aid into the Soviet Union until it has not only formed a market economy but has taken a greater stride towards a truly pluralist democracy and shown more sensitivity to the needs of its national minorities in, for example, the Baltic states?

The Soviet Union must sort out the powers that belong to central Government and the powers that belong to the separate republics, bearing in mind the fact that some of the separate republics are very large and that they are now taking powers unto themselves because they are varied and they dislike some of the decisions of the central authority.

It is important that we get the change with regard to aid. It has been suggested that we put up quite a lot of loan money for the Soviet Union to buy consumer goods to put on the shelves. In my view, that would do no one any good, least of all the Soviet Union. The sum mentioned was $15 billion, which would be equivalent to about $2.5 billion coming to Britain. The idea that that would solve all the problems is ridiculous. It would make them worse, because people would buy the goods quickly. The Soviet people would then be left with a large amount of debt hanging round their necks. Their last position would be worse than their first.

Is the Prime Minister aware that, while there is widespread feeling that harmonisation between fully self-governing countries is desirable in western Europe, eastern Europe and more generally, there is absolutely no electoral mandate for economic, monetary and political union, which is to be discussed further at the special meeting later this year? There is little public understanding of it, no public support for it and, above all, we have no authority from the voters to move in a direction which would take away power not from the House but from the people who send us here. Sovereignty belongs not to the House of Commons but to those who put us here and can remove us, and the continued operation of the Crown prerogative, which is the only power that the Prime Minister has to agree to any of those things has already rendered the House virtually impotent in defence of the rights of those who sent us here.

In the light of what is happening worldwide—in Quebec and elsewhere—is the right hon. Lady not aware that there is no longer that passion for increasingly large super-power units, whether in Moscow, Brussels or anywhere else, and it is time that she stopped beating the nationalist drum and taking us further into an impasse which, when the people discover it, will lead to great public anger which could undermine confidence in parliamentary democracy?

I hardly thought the day would come when I would agree with a good deal of what the right hon. Gentleman says—and I am sure that he is as surprised as I am—but I do not agree with all of it, which perhaps is the saving grace. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman agrees with increased co-operation between democracies for defence, security, trade and many matters. Co-operation is freely given by nation states, each answerable to its own Parliament—with 12 nation states sitting round the table, we are each answerable to our own Parliament.

I agree with step-by-step, steady, increasing co-operation in those matters on which it is wise to co-operate. I do not agree with giving up our sovereignty and going into anything like a federation of European states. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it is evident across eastern Europe that, whereas people thought that they could suppress national identity by a political creed, they have discovered that they cannot suppress it. I would go further and say that one should not suppress it. We can co-operate as nations because we wish to co-operate, and that is the way we shall do it.

I welcome the Prime Minister's robust statement on aid to the Soviet Union. We are talking about taxpayers' money and any money that is allocated must have strings attached in terms of economic reconstruction. However, if she has trouble selling the principle of a two-tier currency system, let me put a suggestion to her. She should give Members of Parliament two options: they can be paid in ecu, or they can be paid in sterling. I am sure that many of my hon. Friends who have been pro-European since the early 1970s would opt for ecu, but I am sure that the anti-European backwoodsmen would have to consider their position very rapidly.

I rather agree with the hon. Gentleman on his last point, but at the moment the ecu is not a currency; it is a measure of the value of a basket of currencies. Under the European monetary fund and the system proposed by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor, it could issue as a hard ecu only against other European currencies so we would not get inflation. It might be as well to allow people that choice. The hon. Gentleman has made his judgment as to how they would use it, but there is no reason why they should not make that choice.

I am very grateful for what the hon. Gentleman said about aid to the Soviet Union. We were faced with a sudden proposition, a demand for about $15 billion-worth of aid without any papers whatsoever before us, and I was bound to say that that is not the way we do business.

As a member of the small but diminishing band that has consistently opposed sanctions for the best part of 25 years, may I congratulate the Prime Minister on her success in persuading some of her colleagues to abandon that bandwagon, on which the four horsemen of the apocalypse are teamed with the World Council of Churches and Mr. Mandela.

On the more fundamental point of political union, may I test the proposition that my right hon. Friend advanced—that European political institutions will be given power and sovereignty only when national political institutions cannot do the job? She will be aware that a Committee of Parliament pointed out that national political institutions simply no longer could deal with air traffic control. Was that discussed in Dublin and, if so, with what result?

Air traffic control was not discussed, but we obviously need maximum co-operation right across Europe. It would be difficult if there were one system right across Europe, because a few people going on strike could place the rest of the system in difficulty. We need much more co-operation between air traffic controllers. As my hon. Friend knows, we are installing the latest computers for our system.

With regard to sanctions, the countries are coming our way, and not only in the communiqué. Italy has lifted her ban on investment in South Africa—a very well-judged decision—Spain has set up a new cargo airline for delivering goods to South Africa, and Denmark has returned her ambassador to South Africa. Although they are not formally agreeing to disband some of the few remaining sanctions, they are nevertheless having increasing contact with South Africa, which is the right decision. It helps President de Klerk and all those in South Africa to look forward to a higher standard of living in a full non-racial democracy.

I am sorry that it has not been possible to call all hon. Members. Today, I have given some precedence to those who were not called on 1 May and on 12 June.

I have not been able to get them all in, but I shall keep a list and see what I can do next time.

Business Of The House

4.22 pm

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

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement about the business for next week.

MONDAY 2 JULY—Estimates day (1st Allotted Day, 2nd part). There will be a debate on assistance to eastern Europe. Details of the estimates concerned and the relevant Select Committee report will be given in the Official Report.

Ways and Means resolution relating to the Finance Bill.

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

TUESDAY 3 JULY—Opposition day (17th Allotted Day). Until about seven o'clock there will be a debate entitled "Crisis in our Schools". Afterwards there will be a debate on Housing. Both debates arise on Opposition motions.

Motion on the Education (Student Loans) Regulations.

WEDNESDAY 4 JULY—There will be a debate on the Arts and Heritage on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

THURSDAY 5 JULY—Motion on the Northern Ireland Act 1974 (Interim Period Extension) Order.

FRIDAY 6 JULY—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY 9 JULY—Consideration of any Lords amendments which may be received to the Social Security Bill.

Relevant document, Monday 2 July: Third Report from the Foreign Affairs Committee of Session 1989–90 on FCO/ODA Expenditure 1990–91 (House of Commons Paper No. 233).

May I warmly thank the Leader of the House for providing time for a debate on the arts and heritage—a debate for which we have been asking for some time? I express my gratitude to the Leader of the House for announcing that the debate will take place.

Will the Leader of the House reconsider the position of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Bill? It is obvious that there will be insufficient time to consider it in this Session unless it is drastically altered. I concede that discussion of it to date has shown that there may be room for major changes, but, given the shortage of time and the pressure for major change, would it not be far more sensible to withdraw the Bill, have it rewritten and introduced again in the next Session, when there would be a large measure of agreement not only about its contents but about its rate of progress through the House?

A number of local authorities had lawfully to fix their poll taxes in April. They have subsequently been poll tax-capped by the Government and will retrospectively have to make major changes to their budgets and therefore to their expenditure and their ability to deliver services to many hundreds of thousands of people. Why have we still not had any indication of when the Government intend to bring those poll tax capping orders to the House for debate? I emphasise to the Leader of the House that the Opposition believe that it is very important that adequate time be given to debate orders that affect 20 local authorities.

I thank the Leader of the House for trying to find proper accommodation for Mr. Nelson Mandela to address hon. Members when he comes here next week. I know that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has tried, but I would like to ask him to try again, to secure suitable accommodation for Mr. Mandela's address. When I was in the United States, I saw Mr. Mandela address the Senate and the House of Representatives jointly on the floor of the Congress. I am not suggesting that Mr. Mandela should be invited into this Chamber—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"]—but will the Leader of the House consider whether Mr. Mandela should be invited to address us in the Royal Gallery of the House of Lords? That would be an appropriate and fitting setting for an historic occasion at which many hon. Members on both sides of the House—this is not a party political point—and other people in Parliament would wish to be present. Will the Leader of the House consider that again?

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's welcome for my announcement of the debate on Wednesday, in which my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts will have a chance to give an account of his substantial achievements.

I listened yet again to what the hon. Gentleman said about the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Bill. It is currently making progress in Standing Committee. It received a Second Reading with a substantial Government majority, and I believe that it should continue to make progress in Committee.

The hon. Gentleman was right to observe that I made no announcement about the charge-capping orders today. As I have said more than once, the question of a debate on the orders is best left to discussion through the usual channels.

I appreciate what the hon. Gentleman said about the endeavour to find a suitable place in which Mr. Nelson Mandela may be invited to address hon. Members of both Houses. However, I am afraid that I cannot accept his suggestions. As he knows, there is a great difference between the traditional availability of invitations to speak in the Royal Gallery, which are seldom extended, and invitations to speak to both Houses of Congress in the Senate. A comparison between the two is not appropriate.

Order. I ask hon. Members to confine themselves to one question about the business for next week. I would like to call on the next statement at 4.50 pm.

I want to raise a matter that is important to Londoners. Miss Constance Scrafield, who was prosecuted for allegedly galloping in Richmond park, brought a petition to me on her horse this week asking for new regulations about cantering in royal parks in London. May we have a debate on that subject so that people are not persecuted for allegedly galloping?

I have not received many representations on that point, but I shall give it the attention that it properly deserves.

One of the functions of this House is to monitor public expenditure. As a report of the Energy Select Committee published yesterday gave one of the most damning indictments of Ministers for a long time on the costs of nuclear power, may we have a debate in Government time on that important issue? Sir William Wallace, who sought freedom from oppression for his people against alien oppression, spoke in Westminster Hall. Would not that be an appropriate place for a speech by Mr. Nelson Mandela?

The hon. Gentleman is entitled to make his view known on the second point, but I am not prepared to agree with him. On the Energy Select Committee report, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy has already replied clearly and vigorously to the comments made in that report, and that should be sufficient for the time being.

In the light of the response of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food earlier on the export of live animals, the failure of the unelected European Commission to observe the wishes and recommendations of the Members of the European Parliament expressed in their submissions to the Council of Ministers and the strong feelings of the RSPCA, the British Veterinary Association and the all-party animal welfare group of the House on the export of live animals, will my right hon. and learned Friend find time for a debate in the House so that we can send a clear message to the Council of Ministers reflecting the feeling in the House?

I am not sure that I can offer the prospect of an early debate on the matter. As my hon. Friend knows, unilateral action on the matter would not necessarily be compatible with the European Communities treaties. Certainly it will be one of our objectives to ensure the introduction in all member states of measures which would achieve higher standards of care than those which currently prevail.

Has the Leader of the House seen all-party early-day motion No. 1096?

[That this House notes that the drug Erythropoietin, EPO, that can greatly improve the lives of kidney patients may be denied to some of them because of financial pressures in the area in which they happen to live; and calls upon the Government to make a thorough assessment of the benefits of the drug and, if appropriate, to ensure that it is equally available to all kidney patients who would benefit from its use.]

Will he find time for an early debate on the denial of Government funds for the use of the drug?

The assessment of the benefits of EPO is a matter for the clinicians involved. The current way forward is for each region to assess patients' requirements for the drug and make appropriate plans to ensure that those needs are met. Our reforms of the national health service will make it easier for treatment to be made available in that way.

During the debate on Northern Ireland on Thursday, will the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland give the House an update on his talks with political parties and in Dublin about future political initiatives in the Province?

I understand my hon. Friend's interest in that matter. The debate next Thursday will be extensive in terms of time. It would not be proper for me to anticipate what my right hon. Friend will say.

My question is also on Thursday's business. Will there be a full answer on the letter that the Prime Minister received on 10 June from Mr. Colin Wallace which contained a document which may well have been a smear? The document was typed by Mr. Christopher Whitehead, currently head of public relations for the prison service. It linked Charles Haughey with the IRA. May we have a full explanation of that letter of 10 June?

I cannot possibly answer that question. The fact that the hon. Gentleman has raised the matter on the Floor of the House today will undoubtedly be taken into account by those of my hon. Friends who speak in the debate.

My right hon. and learned Friend will know that on Monday night we had just three hours to debate the forthcoming police housing allowances and that many hon. Members failed to catch Mr. Speaker's eye. Many topics were discussed. Surely that demonstrates the need for a debate on the subject as soon as possible and, in particular, on some of the other topics raised, including the amalgamation of the police forces and the introduction of a national detective force. Those issues should be debated in the House because important decisions will soon be made that will affect every citizen in the country. It is important that we should debate the matter before the recess.

I know that the House debated the regulations on Monday night, and the debate ended in a substantial majority in support of the Government's proposals. However, that is no reason for me not to accept the proposition that I should recommend my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary to consider those topics.

The Lord President will know that I would welcome a statement next Thursday about setting up a Northern Ireland Select Committee. However, in view of the speculation that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland intends to make a definitive statement during the renewal debate, would it not be wiser to circulate a detailed document to the leaders of the parties with which he has been in consultation so that there could be a considered response rather than off-the-cuff remarks in such a debate?

The question of a Northern Ireland Select Committee is under consideration by the Select Committee on Procedure, and it can be raised in the course of next week's debate. It would not be right for me to try to inhibit the way in which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland approaches the important matters that he is discussing.

Will the Leader of the House give further serious consideration to where Mr. Mandela will speak when he visits the House next week? Does he recognise that, when Mr. Mandela has visited Parliaments in Europe and elsewhere, he has been given every possible facility and hospitality, and that the Grand Committee Room is not an appropriate venue, whereas the Royal Gallery is? Why on earth are the Government adopting an attitude that must be regarded as a snub to one of the most distinguished and heroic figures in southern Africa, who has spent more than 25 years in prison for fighting for the liberation of his country?

I do not mean to say anything that does not accord proper respect to Mr. Nelson Mandela, his achievements or his aspirations, but the fact must be faced that many Heads of State and Governments would have sought to address both Houses in the Royal Gallery, and only a small number of such people have ever been invited to speak there.

Order. May I say to the whole House—and not to any hon. Member in particular—that those who are called last at business questions one week are always called first the next week?

I refer the Lord President to his answer to me last week in relation to the Government's proposed changes in private Bill procedure. He was kind enough to say that he has published a consultation document—I am not entirely sure whether it was a Green Paper, a White Paper, a pink paper or a peach paper. Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that three private Bills of a political nature are before the House at the moment—the Associated British Ports Bill, the Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority Bill and the Clyde Port Authority Bill? Would it not be appropriate, given the Government's intention to change the law in relation to private Bills and how they are operated in the House, to have an early debate on the subject so that the entire House can comment on those proposals?

The whole House is invited to comment on the proposals: that is precisely why the consultation document has been published. I shall look forward to reading representations and observations from any hon. Member who wishes to let me have them.

May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day motion 1152, on the destruction of the ozone layer?

[That this House, in view of the overwhelming scientific evidence of increasing ozone depletion and the unforeseeable consequences for the health of the planet and all life on it, urges the Government, at the environmental conference in London from 27th–29th June on the 1987 Montreal Protocol, to support a total phase-out of all ozone destroying compounds in the immediate future.]
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman assure the House that there will be a statement next week by the Secretary of State for the Environment, so that hon. Members can find out what he has been doing, and whether he has been pressing for the rapid phasing out of all substances that damage the ozone layer, especially in view of the scientific evidence that has been produced to show greater destruction and damage than was previously thought to exist? The Government's phasing-out date—the year 2000—simply is not adequate. We need more action, and a report from the Secretary of State to demonstrate that he has undertaken some action.

I expect that the House will appreciate that the Government are indeed committed to the ultimate phasing out of ozone-depleting substances at the fastest possible speed that can be agreed globally. During the renegotiation of the Montreal protocol at the second meeting, the European Community made proposals for the control of CFCs that are tougher than those of any other country. I shall draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the suggestion that he should make a statement on the outcome of those proceedings, but obviously I cannot commit him.

Has the Leader of the House seen early-day motion 1200?

[That this House expresses its deep disquiet that 29 surviving former Labour Lambeth councillors, who have already been disqualified for five years and who have already paid over £300,000 in surcharge and costs, have again been surcharged for £212,726 and are sought to be disqualified for a further five years; deplores an unprecedented double penalty imposed for the same conduct which was penalised five years ago; and calls for the immediate remission of these further penalties and a reform of the Law which discriminates against councillors as compared with other public representatives and infringes the civil liberties of those who seek election.]
It has been tabled today and it concerns Lambeth councillors and the second surcharge and disqualification from office imposed on them. Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that there should be a report or a debate on this matter because Lambeth councillors have already been surcharged £300,000 and been subject to a five-year ban from public office? For the same offence, those councillors have been penalised another five years and subject to another £213,000 surcharge. That treatment must be contrasted with the way in which Lady Porter and her gang at the Tory Westminster council got away with the £5 million land deal fiddle, and with the £44 million of sweeteners from the Government in the Rover sale. Surely, if such treatment applies to one group of people, it should apply to another. The surcharge and the ban from public office placed on the Lambeth councillors should be lifted.

The hon. Gentleman does not find it easy to understand that there are due processes of law for consideration of all those matters. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry will be answering questions this afternoon about the response to the ruling of the European Commission in relation to Rover.

As for the Lambeth councillors, the surcharge and disqualification of councillors are matters for the auditor and the courts. I cannot make any comment in that particular case. The matter must be resolved through the courts, not through debate in this House.

May we have an early debate on the latest example of the savaging of the national health service in Leicestershire—the closure of five wards, including children's wards, in the Leicester royal infirmary and the imminent redundancy of 167 people employed at the hospital announced by the management to the unions of that hospital yesterday? Is the Leader of the House aware that all hon. Members representing Leicestershire are deeply disturbed at the effect that the cuts in the health service are having and are likely to have on the health of our people? This matter should be debated in the House.

I have the impression that the topic has been drawn to my attention in a number of different ways on more than one occasion by hon. Members on both sides of the House. My response is the same as my previous ones: there has been a general increase in real terms in the resources available to the relevant Leicestershire health authority.

I draw to the attention of the Leader of the House early-day motion 1196 on the loss of the MV Derbyshire.

[That this House calls on the Secretary of State for Transport, using powers vested in him by the Merchant Shipping Act 1970, to re-open the Wreck Commissioner's inquiry into the loss in 1980 of MV 'Derbyshire' to hear vital new scientific research on why that British-built, British-classed and British-flagged vessel sank without trace; notes that the research now with the Royal Institution of Naval Architects was carried out by the late Professor Richard Bishop, Vice Chancellor Brunel University and his partners, Professor Geraint Price and Pendari Temarel; further notes that their research indicates that the stresses in the hull of the 'Derbyshire' were grossly underestimated; believes this has important implications for the safety of other vessels still at sea; and notes the Wreck Commissioner's report into the loss of the 'Derbyshire' said last year that if the stresses in the hull of the ship had been underestimated, that could lead to different conclusions about the structural integrity of the ship.]
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the new scientific evidence has been brought forward? Is he aware that there is widespread concern in the public domain about the fact that, 10 years ago, the families affected were treated shoddily? The Government have made no attempt to consider the new evidence recently produced.

Will the Leader of the House bring to the attention of the Secretary of State for Transport the need for a debate as soon as possible on the MV Derbyshire so that the House can hear the new available evidence?