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Business Of The House

Volume 210: debated on Thursday 25 June 1992

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

3.43 pm

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

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons
(Mr. Tony Newton)

Yes, Madam. The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY 29 JUNE—Remaining stages of the British Coal and British Rail (Transfer Proposals) Bill.

TUESDAY 30 JUNE—Remaining stages of the Boundary Commissions Bill.

Motions on the Child Support Regulations and the Council Tax Benefit (General) Regulations. Details will be given in the Official Report.

Motions on Select Committees related to Government Departments.

WEDNESDAY I JULY—Remaining stages of the Community Care (Residential Accommodation) Bill [Lords]

THURSDAY 2 JULY—Debate on the programme of activity and themes of the United Kingdom presidency of the European Community on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

FRIDAY 3 JULY—Private Members' motions.

MONDAY 6 JULY—Opposition day (3rd allotted day). Until about seven o'clock there will be a debate described as "The Recession in Industry" followed by a debate described as "The Government's Failure to Contain Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy". Both debates will arise on Opposition motions.

[Tuesday 30 June Child Support Regulations and Council Tax Benefit Regulations

  • (1) Child Support (Maintenance Assessment Procedure) Regulations
  • (2) Child Support (Maintenance Assessments and Special Cases) Regulations
  • (3) Child Support (Information, Evidence and Disclosure) Regulations
  • (4) Child Support (Arrears, Interest and Adjustment Maintenance Assessments) Regulations
  • (5) Council Tax Benefit (General) Regulations.]
  • As the House will be interested to learn of the British Government's support for the confirmation of Mr. Jacques Delors in his post, can we be assured that, on the Prime Minister's return from Lisbon, he will make an oral statement explaining exactly his reasons for endorsing Mr. Delors?

    I welcome the statement about Select Committees. I congratulate the Leader of the House on taking the necessary steps to change the Standing Orders to allow Select Committees to be established to scrutinise Departments of State, as he has outlined. Will he confirm that, in contradiction to what happened throughout the last Parliament, when his predecessor was in conflict with the Standing Orders, it is the Government's intention, in this Parliament, to establish a Select Committee on Scottish Affairs?

    Will the Leader of the House clarify the Government's position on the Maastricht Bill? Although I welcome the debate that is to be held next Thursday on developments in the European Community under the British presidency, will he reaffirm that the Government intend to publish a statement on the situation with respect to the Maastricht treaty and the Government's Bill relating to it, and that that statement to Parliament, which the Prime Minister pledged some time ago, will be the subject of a separate debate?

    I shall not engage in further interpretation of the comment made about Mr. Delors by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister a quarter of an hour ago during Question Time; nor will I pre-empt anything that my right hon. Friend might wish to say to the House on his return from Lisbon. I can respond to the hon. Gentleman's serious question—whether there will be a statement on my right hon. Friend's return—by saying that the answer is yes.

    I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's words about the Select Committees, and I am extremely pleased to be able to put the House into the position from which it can pave the way for further progress on this matter. It is the Government's firm intention that a Scottish Select Committee should be established. The Standing Orders already provide for such a Committee, as the hon. Gentleman said. What will be contained in the amendment to the Standing Orders that I shall be laying later today is a proposal to have a Scottish Select Committee of 11 members, rather than 13, which will bring it into line with virtually all the other Select Committees. That in itself is intended as easing the way forward to bringing about the appointment of a Scottish Select Committee.

    As to the Maastricht Bill, I shall reply to the hon. Gentleman in a slightly different way from that which he invited me to. He will recall that both the Prime Minister and, subsequently, I said that, before the Government invited the House to make further progress on the Bill, we envisaged a further debate paving the way. That debate is not the debate that I am proposing for next week. The debate that I am proposing for next week is one that I can describe in shorthand terms, without going back over the phrasing that I used earlier, as marking the inauguration of the United Kingdom presidency of the EC, and enabling the House and the Government to discuss that.

    Given the paraphernalia that is attached to the Dispatch Box in the interests of our wider public, will my right hon. Friend, during the coming week, ask his colleagues on the Treasury Bench not to shout because it makes a disagreeable noise for those behind, and perhaps subsequently to have a quiet word with those on the Opposition Front Bench along the same line?

    I am always happy to have a quiet word with those on the Opposition Front Bench, and I usually try to avoid shouting myself. I am sure that all in the Chamber and those who read Hansard will have noted my right hon. Friend's suggestion.

    Can the Home Secretary be dragged to the House next week to make a statement explaining why he has issued secret instructions relaxing the primary-purpose rule? Is the Leader of the House aware that Home Office officials have sought to adjourn scores of immigration appeals recently in which spouses, particularly those with British citizen children, are seeking to enter the United Kingdom, for those cases to be reviewed, the clear implication being that they will not be allowed to enter? Those instructions have been concealed from the House of Commons. They should be made public, and the Home Secretary should explain why he has made those instructions so secret.

    I do not think that you, Madam Speaker, the House or the hon. Gentleman would expect me to undertake to drag my right hon. and learned Friend to the House—apart from anything else, he is bigger than I am. But I shall certainly undertake to draw the hon. Gentleman's remarks to his attention.

    Will my right hon. Friend undertake to include in our schedule a debate on AIDS? He probably reads the newspapers as much as any other hon. Member and will know about the alleged incident involving people in the neighbourhood of my constituency who may have been deliberately infected by a man knowing that he was HIV-positive. Will my right hon. Friend organise such a debate at some stage so that we can examine the legal implications of such an incident?

    I well understand the concern that must be felt by my hon. Friend and other hon. Members, not only those from the relevant part of the midlands. I cannot undertake to provide time for a debate but, if my hon. Friend considered it appropriate, he may wish to seek an Adjournment debate.

    Following the statement made this week by the Secretary of State for Scotland, which appeared to rule out any substantial reform of government in Scotland following the Prime Minister's stocktaking exercise, will the Leader of the House make Government time available next week for Scottish Members to raise on the Floor of the House the Government's abject failure to recognise the democratic demand for a directly elected and powerful Scottish Parliament in Scotland in line with the EC principle of subsidiarity?

    I am clearly not in a position to predict or pre-empt the outcome of my right hon. Friend's stocktaking exercise. My response to the hon. Gentleman's particular point on this occasion would be that, as I witnessed, there was a lively and well-attended Scottish Question Time earlier this week in which the hon. Gentleman participated. Those matters have had a fair airing in the past few days.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in anticipation of the debate next Tuesday on Select Committees, 88 hon. Members have signed an early-day motion recommending the retention of the Energy Select Committee? Has my right hon. Friend any plans for any Select Committee announced to the House this afternoon? Will next Tuesday's debate be of an adequate length to allow all views to be aired, will it be in the early hours of the morning or at a sensible time, and will there be a free vote?

    The amendments that I am tabling today provide for the deletion of the Energy Select Committee. That is not unreasonable, because the basic principle on which departmental Select Committees have always operated, and the basis on which I have been pressed to provide Committees in respect of national heritage and science and technology, has always been that they should match Departments, and that is a sensible proposition on which to rest.

    With regard to the timing of the debate, perhaps I can rest on further discussions through the usual channels. I cannot give an exact undertaking about the timing of the debate, especially in view of my hon. Friend's hint that he might want it to be a long debate, in which case the timing might in part be in his hands. Similarly, voting is a matter which is best considered in other ways.

    The Leader of the House has just described the principle of shadowing Departments. I am sure that Northern Ireland Members hope that that principle will be extended to them.

    Can the right hon. Gentleman give us any idea when he expects the Scottish Select Committee to be set up, how many members it will have and whether all Scottish Opposition parties will be represented? He mentioned Scottish Question Time. Will he bear in mind the fact that Scottish Members will not have another opportunity to question Ministers until 21 October? Does he not consider that that is outrageous, and that efforts should be made to set up a Scottish Grand Committee next week—or at least before the House rises—so that questions can be asked?

    I shall fall back on a traditional formula: I shall draw the hon. Gentleman's latter comment to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. As for his earlier questions, as I said earlier, the amendment that I am tabling today will provide for a Scottish Select Committee with 11 members. The details of its membership are, of course, a matter for the Committee of Selection.

    Will the Leader of the House give us a clear assurance that, if the Government do not use their powers to block the reappointment of the President of the European Commission, the proposals for increased expenditure and increased resources for the EC that Mr. Delors has submitted will be available in the Vote Office in time for Thursday's debate?

    I cannot give my hon. Friend such a specific undertaking off the cuff. In any event, it is likely that there will be further discussion of the future financing of the EC—which is, I imagine, what my hon. Friend has in mind—in Lisbon over the weekend, and that will entail examining the position after Lisbon.

    Has the right hon. Gentleman seen my early-day motion 236, which calls for the ring-fencing of community-care functions, and has been strongly supported by hon. Members on both sides of the House?

    [That this House expresses its grave concern that funds for community care will not be specifically allocated in the Revenue Support Grant after April 1993, when local authorities will have clear and specific responsibility for the provision of community care; believes that funds must be targeted if the quantity of services is to increase to meet needs and the quality to meet demands; supports the recommendation of Sir Roy Griffiths for a specific grant to be given to local authorities, as the basis for local funding; notes that a specific grant provides a mechanism for Parliament to scrutinise fairly the performance of local authorities, allows local authorities to plan and developservices with a guaranteed base of funding, and makes it impossible for local authorities to allow funds for community care to be diverted for any other purpose; notes that Ministers already utilise specific grants for mental illness, and for drug and alcohol abuse; and most strongly urges the Government to announce that the funds for community care after April 1993 will be clearly earmarked.]

    If, as The Times reports, we have won and the Government have changed their policy, why cannot the House be told that? When will a statement be made?

    I am not in a position to confirm press reports that the right hon. Gentleman has seen, not all of which I consider to have been completely accurate. He will, however, be aware that, as it happens, the issue of community care will arise in one way or another during the debate on the Community Care (Residential Accommodation) Bill that is scheduled for next Wednesday.

    Has my right hon. Friend had time to read early-day motion 204?

    [That this House notes that on 1st January 1993 there will not be a requirement to customs clear goods in free circulation within the European Community, that the collection of VAT will move from payment at the point of entry to an audit method, similar to that used for domestic transactions and that this change may result in a large number of freight forwarders losing their jobs over night, with estimates currently predicting 3,500 redundancies in the United Kingdom; notes that the Institute of Freight Forwarders and the British International Freight Association do not object to these changes; however, bearing in mind that the loss of jobs is a direct result of a political decision, as opposed to market forces, considers it necessary for further funds to be made available by the Government for retraining and to encourage employees to remain at their posts until the end of the year; and further considers as the Dutch and French Governments have provided funds to assist the forwarding industries in their respective countries, that this is a precedent and the United Kingdom could join in to make the transition period between now and 1st January 1993 as smooth a change over as possible.]

    The motion describes the difficulties that will be faced by the Institute of Freight Forwarders when we enter the single market on 1 January. The institute forecasts 3,500 redundancies in the area involved. Although its members—many of whom are constituents of mine—are not taking an aggressive line, they nevertheless say that the decision has been political rather than commercial. They look to the Government for some form of help, for instance with job training.

    I shall draw my hon. Friend's remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment. As he will know, however, the Government have already established a wide range of measures to help people who are unfortunate enough to lose their jobs in freight forwarding or any other industry.

    May we have a statement next week about the fiddling of proxy votes down in Cornwall? May we have an assurance that, when that statement is made, we shall be able to consider all the other parts of Britain where—in such places as nursing homes, especially private nursing homes—the Tory party is using agents to fiddle votes left, right and centre? Let us have no more rabbiting on about a citizen's charter while the Tory party, from the very top, is taking people's votes away.

    As the hon. Gentleman is no doubt aware, the allegations to which he has referred are being investigated by the police, who have sent a preliminary report to the Crown prosecution service. I think he will understand that, in the circumstances, I neither can nor should comment further.

    Having rightly earned the gratitude of the House for his announcement about Select Committees, will my right hon. Friend earn it further by saying when we will debate the Jopling report?

    I can give a pretty clear indication in one sense: the business that I have announced today runs up to 6 July, 10 days before the proposed date of the recess, subject to the progress of business. I have given commitments that we shall debate the Jopling report in that period. That narrows it down. I cannot narrow it down further today.

    Has the right hon. Gentleman read reports in the Northern Ireland press on the imprisonment of an individual for fraud at the De Lorean motor company? Will he arrange for the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to make a statement to the House next week on that serious fraud and to tell the people of Northern Ireland whether the Government intend to seek the extradition of John De Lorean from the United States to stand trial, since he is alleged to have benefited very much from the fraud?

    That is a pretty direct request that I am asked to transmit to my right hon. and learned Friend, and I shall ensure that it is transmitted.

    Should we not have an early debate on the need for adequate accommodation to enable Members of Parliament and their staff to deal with, in my experience, the increasing case load of constituency correspondence? Is progress on the new parliamentary building in jeopardy as a result of the setback in the financing of the Jubilee line extension? If so, is not that of direct concern to the House?

    Obviously, matters of accommodation are of concern to the House and I am aware of the pressures that are felt by many Members of Parliament and their secretaries. I am glad, therefore, that this week we have been able to set up the new Accommodation and Administration Sub-Committee. I have no doubt that my hon. Friend's comments can, should and will be drawn to its attention.

    Parliamentary scrutiny of the Executive is rapidly disappearing. In the three-month recess, we shall not be able to question the Executive in the House. Privatisation has helped to get rid of the Department of Energy and the Energy Select Committee. Agency agreements mean that hon. Members can no longer ask about a host of matters. We have had to wait ages for Select Committees to be established. Will there be a Select Committee on Northern Ireland, because under direct rule Northern Ireland Members can investigate matters affecting them only on the Floor of the House?

    I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not get drawn down the wide paths of the introductory part of his question, but I should like to respond to the latter part of it. The position on a Select Committee on Northern Ireland is fairly well known to the House. In a Government response to the Procedure Committee's report on Select Committees, we said that we see a need for further consideration of the desirability and practicability of such a territorial Committee. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland believes that this is one of a series of complex issues that are best left open for consideration in the broad context of the current political talks. It certainly is not ruled out, but it is felt that it should be pursued in that context.

    My right hon. Friend will be aware that the Adjournment debate on Monday night has the slightly romantic title of "Camping by Travellers". It is being initiated by my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Mr. Spicer). Will he assure me that it will not be just an ordinary Adjournment debate but that much attention will be focused on it, because we are talking not only about Worcestershire but about Dorset, Devon, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and almost every rural county that is now being plagued by these people? The police are being diverted from their proper tasks, and farmers are being put to enormous trouble and expense. Could he please deal with that?

    My hon. Friend will understand that I can hardly promise to rush through an amendment to Standing Orders to provide for an extension of the usual half-hour Adjournment debate, but I can undertake—I am sure that many Members on both sides of the House would wish me to do so—to underline to the Minister who will reply to the debate the concern that is felt by many Members.

    When will we get the Government's response to the report of the Top Salaries Review Body? Will it be next week? Will the right hon. Gentleman inform the Prime Minister that their response should take the form of a statement to the House and not a reply to a written question?

    I shall draw the hon. Gentleman's comments to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, but beyond that I cannot make a prediction because my right hon. Friend has not yet received the report.

    Madam Speaker, you will have heard my right hon. Friend announce the business for Monday, which is the remaining stages of the British Coal and British Rail (Transfer Proposals) Bill. You may also recall that I have asked my right hon. Friend on several occasions whether a White Paper will be issued before the House finishes debating the Bill, but we have still not received one. Are you aware that we debated the issue in Committee and that the vote was tied, but that you and your colleagues will shortly be called on to choose the amendments for Monday's debate? May I ask you to bear that in mind, and may I ask my right hon. Friend whether the White Paper will appear in time for the House to debate it before we rise for the summer recess?

    I plainly cannot say that the White Paper will arrive before the House is invited to debate the Bill further on Monday, nor am I in a position to give a precise undertaking about the timing of the White Paper, but, clearly, I shall ensure that the Secretary of State for Transport is aware of the way in which my hon. Friend has pressed me again on the issue. However, I had the feeling that a good part of my hon. Friend's question was directed at you, Madam Speaker, rather than at me.

    Is the Leader of the House aware of what must be described as directives issued by the Northern Ireland Department of Health and Social Services to the boards, which will have a devastating effect on health provision in Northern Ireland? In view of the fact that the Minister involved is not a Member of the House, that the consultation period will end before the House reconvenes and that the Minister refuses to meet Members of Parliament to discuss the matter, will he please find time to enable the Northern Irish Members of Parliament to discuss the very dramatic change in health provision in Northern Ireland?

    As the hon. Gentleman will know, there have been substantial opportunities to debate Northern Ireland affairs generally in the past week or two. Nevertheless, I shall draw the request to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

    Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is important to have an early debate on the present size, and diminution in the last decade, of the British merchant fleet, and the defence implications?

    Although I recognise my hon. Friend's concern and the reasons for it, I cannot promise to find Government time for a debate before the recess, but he will be aware that there are usually—and, indeed, will be—significant opportunities for such a debate on the motion for the Adjournment of the House for the summer recess and in Adjournment debates thereafter. My hon. Friend might like to bear them in mind.

    Could the Leader of the House assure us that we shall have a statement on Monday at the beginning of the Report stage of the British Coal and British Rail (Transfer Proposals) Bill, because the legislation is putting the Leeds-Bradford electrification in jeopardy? It is because of the legislation that the Royal Bank of Scotland has said that, although the overhead electrification has been started, it cannot go ahead with the leasing of the rolling stock until it receives guarantees from the Government about future provision. The Government will not give those guarantees, so will the Leader of the House tell us whether there will be a statement? There will be an important meeting in Bradford city hall at 5 pm tomorrow, and we need some means of determining the provision; otherwise, everything will be put in jeopardy and the fault will lie with the Government.

    I cannot give the hon. Gentleman an undertaking about a statement in advance of Monday's debate apart from what I have already said about a statement on the outcome of the Lisbon Council. As I said last week, the hon. Gentleman has shown considerable ingenuity in these matters and I have no doubt that he will find a way of extracting a comment from the Minister during the debate.

    Has my right hon. Friend had an opportunity to read early-day motion 263?

    [That this House warmly welcomes the establishment of National Music Day on 28th June; and encourages as many people as possible, professionals, amateurs and first timers, to participate in this exciting event.]

    At the same time, is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a grave threat to the teaching of music, especially to primary school children, as a result of the withdrawal of peripatetic music teaching in many parts of the country, including Leeds? Would it be possible to have a debate on that subject at an early date, because so many parents, children and teachers value the teaching of music and do not want it to be threatened?

    My hon. Friend may like to remember what I said a few moments ago about the various opportunities that will arise in the next two to three weeks for raising various matters—including, perhaps, the one that he has in mind.

    The Government warmly welcome national music day, and hope that the celebrations that take place this weekend will become an annual event.

    Have the Government forgotten the situation of the 5,000 or more of our fellow countrymen working in Libya? Next week, will he consider the request made by my hon. Friend the Member for Clydesdale (Mr. Hood), as Chairman of the Select Committee on European Legislation, to consider at least three orders which the Committee considers should be taken on the Floor of the House? Is that not all the more urgent in view of what some of us learned this morning from Lloyd's of London—that serious people in the insurance market at Lloyd's want a statement to be made before considerable sums are paid out in relation to Lockerbie?

    I note what the hon. Gentleman says, and shall certainly consider his request.

    May I draw to my right hon. Friend's attention a letter in The Times written by our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport about the outcome of the important EC Council of Transport Ministers in Europe on Monday, which will be of the greatest consequence to the travelling public, to the airlines, and to the future of competition and the regulation of civil air transport within Europe? The Secretary of State for Transport did not make a statement to the House, as he should have done, so will the Leader of the House protect the interests of this place by ensuring that the House has time to debate civil air transport at an early date?

    In all honesty, I must say that it would be difficult to fit in a debate before the recess, alongside all the other matters which the House is interested in debating. However, an opportunity may arise on one of the occasions that I have mentioned. I endorse what I took to be a compliment, at the outset of my hon. Friend's question, on my right hon. Friend's the Secretary of State's achievements at the Council. It was a great achievement on the way to the completion of the single market, especially the aviation package, which will be greatly to the advantage of industry and of consumers and customers in this country.

    Does the Leader of the House recognise the growing concern about the obvious ease with which pension funds can be abused, which was illustrated by the Belling group abuse highlighted this week? Will he say whether the Government will be able to make a statement next week on how they intend to introduce immediate legislation to block those abuses and safeguard pension funds, for the security of the people to whom those funds really belong?

    I understand why the hon. Gentleman raises that matter—for the second time in a few days, I believe. He will be aware that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security announced only three or four weeks ago the setting up of a substantial inquiry into the law and regulations on pension funds. That is the right way to proceed. It will take more than a week or two, but my right hon. Friend has said that it will be pressed ahead with considerable vigour.

    Is my right hon. Friend aware that three of my constituents were killed in a serious motor accident on the A420 at Longcot in south Oxfordshire on Monday afternoon? In view of that, and of the continually rising road toll in this country, will he ask his colleagues in the Department of Transport to come to the House, and will he provide time, for a debate on road safety and the resources available for improving some of the narrow and winding roads that still exist on our main road network?

    I will certainly draw the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport to my hon. Friend's comments. I am sure that I speak for all hon. Members in saying that we join my hon. Friend in expressing sympathy for the relatives of those killed in that awful accident.

    May we have a statement from the Home Secretary early next week on the press reports, especially those which appeared yesterday, that the Cabinet has finally decided that there should be a limited form of parliamentary scrutiny of the Security Service? Is the Leader of the House aware that if, as we hope, such a statement is made before the House rises for the summer recess, many of us will take exception to the fact that the parliamentary scrutiny will be limited and that the committee will be confined to the most senior Privy Councillors on the Back Benches? May we have a debate on the subject?

    Like the hon. Gentleman, I have noted the speculation, but I cannot make further comment about it.

    Would the Leader of the House consider persuading the Secretary of State for the Environment and the Secretary of State for Scotland to come clean on the reports and controversy surrounding the secret meetings between the Scottish Office, Ofwat and CitNat regarding the idea of setting up six boards to take over and to privatise the Scottish water industry?

    For once, one of the intended recipients of the endless messages I pass—the Secretary of State for the Environment—is sitting beside me and can receive this message directly. I will ensure that it is also transmitted to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.

    Will the Leader of the House find time next week for a debate or even a statement on the case of the British nuclear test veterans? Is he aware that I recently received a reply from the Prime Minister in which he stated that he was now ready sympathetically to consider a claim for compensation? There has been further press speculation this week that the Government will change their minds after so long. Does the Leader of the House not think that it is time that the ever-diminishing number of veterans and the ever-increasing number of widows got justice?

    I will draw the attention of my relevant right hon. Friends to the hon. Gentleman's point.

    May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day motion 310, which has the support of almost 100 of my hon. Friends?

    That this House notes with concern the findings of the Report by the National Citizens' Advice Bureaux into the employment rights of pregnant women; and calls upon the Government to provide effective protection against dismissal to all pregnant women, irrespective of how long they have been employed, and to approve The Pregnant Women at Work Directive at the Council of Ministers meeting on Wednesday 24th June.]

    In light of the publication this week of both the report by the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux and the annual report by the Equal Opportunities Commission, does the Leader of the House agree that next week would be an appropriate time for a debate, in Government time, on the important issues raised in both reports?

    The hon. Gentleman will, I think, know that the Government made a commitment in the Conservative party manifesto to strengthen the rights of pregnant women in the workplace, and we will seek to do that in appropriate ways. I cannot promise a debate next week.

    In view of the Government's declared commitment to Europe, the correspondence received from the European Commissioner for the Environment and the Prime Minister's statement in Rio and in the House in support of species conservation, will the Leader of the House find time next week or at least before the recess to discuss early-day motion 68?

    That this House expresses concern that the Secretary of State for Transport appears to be willing to press ahead with the construction of the East London River Crossing and the destruction of the 8,000 year-old Oxleas Wood, a site of special scientific interest; calls for a halt to such plans; and demands a full environmental impact assessment of the proposals in accordance with the European Directive.]

    That would allow the House to take a decision which might stop this country falling foul of European environmental protection legislation.

    The reason why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment is sitting beside me is that we are about to have the second full day's debate on Rio in two or three weeks. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman is pushing his luck in asking for further time. I suspect that he may find an opportunity to make his point in the next few hours.

    Have any of the right hon. and hon. Friends of the Leader of the House complained to him about the inadequate time given last week to debating the Army, Air Force and Naval Discipline Acts (Continuation) Order 1992? The debate was dominated by Ministers and Front-Bench Members. Will the Leader of the House find time before the recess to have a general debate on discipline in the armed services in which some of us who signed an early-day motion may be able to broach the subject of the 307 brave British soldiers who were executed in the 1914–18 war and for whom we now seek a posthumous pardon?

    I do not think that I can give the undertaking that the hon. Gentleman seeks, but it sounds like another of the subjects for which an opportunity might be found by a little ingenuity on his part within the next fortnight.