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Business of the House

3.30 pm

Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras) : Will the Leader of the House tell us the business for next week?

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Wakeham) : The business for next week will be as follows :

Monday 23 January----Timetable motion on the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Bill.

Third Reading of the Security Service Bill.

Motions on Scottish Housing Support Grant orders. Details will be given in the Official Report .

Tuesday 24 January----Opposition Day (2nd Allotted Day, 1st half). Until seven o'clock there will be a debate on an Opposition motion entitled "The failure of MAFF to protect the consumer".

Motion on the Access to Personal Files (Social Work) (Scotland) regulations.

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

Wednesday 25 January----Consideration in Committee of the Official Secrets Bill (1st Day).

Motion on the Monopolies and Mergers (Performance of Functions) Order.

Thursday 26 January----Remaining stages of the Elected Authorities (Northern Ireland) Bill.

Friday 27 January----Private Members' Bills.

Monday 30 January----Second Reading of the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Bill.

[Debate on Monday 23 January :

The Housing Support Grant (Scotland) Order.

The Housing Revenue Account General Fund Contribution Limits (Scotland) Order (SI 1988 No. 2081).]

Mr. Dobson : As my voice is also giving out and as I do not wish to call upon a spokesperson, however effective, I shall be brief. Can the Leader of the House confirm that there will be a statement in the House on the National Health Service review before the end of the month? Can he tell us when we shall have the opportunity in Government time to debate the Fennell report on the King's Cross fire inquiry, when we shall have an opportunity in Government time to debate the deplorable state of training in this country and when he will get round to setting up a Select Committee on Scottish Affairs?

Mr. Wakeham : I note that the hon. Gentleman managed four questions before his voice gave out. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Health plans to make a statement on the Government review of the National Health Service on Tuesday 31 January. I recognise the hon. Gentleman's concern about the Fennell report and the importance of the subject but I have nothing to add to what I have said to him in previous weeks.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment has heard what the hon. Gentleman has said about training. We have had considerable discussion about that already, but, as he said, not recently. I shall certainly refer the matter to my right hon. Friend to consider what plans we can make.

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I do not believe that I can be too hopeful that we shall be able to set up a Select Committee on Scottish Affairs-- certainly not in the immediate future. I believe that officially the decision of the House is probably the best place to leave it. Some of the hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends wish to see me about this matter and we shall, therefore, discuss it and see whether there is any way in which we can progress.

Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch) : Does my right hon. Friend agree that those hon. Members who may have had doubts about the Football Spectators Bill should have had those doubts dispelled last night by Mr. Clough's behaviour at Nottingham? Would my right hon. Friend, therefore, consider amending the Bill in another place so that the hooligan elements among football management should themselves be required to carry identity cards? Does he share with me the hope that those who yesterday criticised a Conservative Home Secretary for seeking to uphold the law will not today seek to praise a Socialist football manager who appears to enjoy breaking it?

Mr. Wakeham : I shall not comment in detail on a Bill which is before another House, but I agree with my hon. Friend that it is clearly right for those with responsibility in football to set the right example to others. The Football Association and the police are looking into the incident at last night's match, and I cannot comment further at this stage.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland) : Does the Leader of the House propose to have a debate in the near future on the Government's proposals for TV broadcasting?

Will the right hon. Gentleman cast his mind back to last week when there was a discussion about the locum work being carried out in Richmond by the hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry)? Will he confirm that that hon. Gentleman has 574,022 constituents to look after in the Euro-seat of Essex, North-East? Knowing how reasonably well occupied my 30,000 constituents can keep me, will the right hon. Gentleman agree to move the writ for Richmond in the near future so as to relieve that hon. Gentleman of the 79,277 constituents whom, apparently, he is temporarily trying to look after in Richmond?

Mr. Wakeham : I am aware of the widespread interest in the broadcasting White Paper. As I told the House last week, I envisage arranging a debate relatively early in February so that the House can express its views on the matters raised by the hon. Gentleman. I am one of the North-East Essex constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry), who the hon. Gentleman suggested is carrying out rather a lot of work. I can confirm that my hon. Friend has a considerable capacity. He is entirely satisfying me and I know many of my neighbours in Essex. He is doing a good job.

Mr. Kenneth Warren (Hastings and Rye) : Will my right hon. Friend look at early-day motions 249 and 250?

[That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Price Marking (Petrol) (Amendment) Order 1988 (S.I., 1988, No. 2226), dated 20th December 1988, a copy of which was laid before this House on 22nd December, be annulled.]

[That this House notes the recommendation of the Trade and Industry Select Committee that petrol prices should

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continue to be displayed in gallon as well as litre term on boards visible from the roadside ; notes that the Price Marking (Petrol) (Amendment) Order 1988 will remove this requirement with effect from 23rd January ; and calls for a debate on the Order.] They call on the Government to annul an order laid in this House on the day that it rose before Christmas, which calls on the Government to withdraw the pricing of petrol in pence per gallon. Nobody in evidence before the Select Committee, in industry or in the Department of Trade and Industry has asked for this, and there has been no request from the European Economic Community for such action. Will he consider the fact that nearly 180 hon. Members from both sides have now asked the Government to withdraw that order? If it is a requirement that we try to substitute lead-free petrol signs as an attraction on forecourts, there has been no request for such substitution by the industry or by the EEC. I, therefore, ask my right hon. Friend to withdraw this unnecessary order, which is a bureaucratic madness.

Mr. Wakeham : I recognise my hon. Friend's views, which I know are shared by a number of other hon. Members. However, the question of a debate is probably best left for discussion through the usual channels. I certainly take note of what my hon. Friend has said.

Mr. James Lamond (Oldham, Central and Royton) : A much-delayed agreement was recently reached in the Vienna CSCE talks, after our delegation, along with 34 other nations, had spent more than two years in negotiations. This agreement opens the door to far-reaching conventional disarmament talks between NATO and the Warsaw pact, as well as giving considerable hope for the improvement of human rights throughout Europe and northern America. It was important enough for the Foreign Secretary personally to take part in that ceremony. Surely, therefore, we should have a statement from him about it next week.

Mr. Wakeham : I am not sure whether the House will have a statement next week, but I shall refer the matter to my right hon. and learned Friend to discover whether he thinks one is necessary.

Dr. Keith Hampson (Leeds, North-West) : May I endorse the request of my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye (Mr. Warren) in respect of early-day motion 250? If we remove the requirement to price petrol in gallons, the transparency of competition for motorists travelling along roads is weakened. What the Government propose is contrary to their usual philosophy, and it is important to have a debate on that.

Mr. Wakeham : I recognise the strength of feeling. The amending order recognises that 95 per cent. of all petrol sales are now measured in litres. A dual policy will still be required on the forecourt, and garages will not be prevented from continuing to display gallon equivalent prices at the roadside boards voluntarily. I shall refer the matter to my right hon. Friend, as I said.

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton) : May I again draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to early-day motion 241?

[That this House is deeply concerned and disturbed by the increase of accidents in the building and construction industry, leading to an increase in deaths and serious

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injuries ; believes that this is partly due to the increase in self-employment, namely lump labour and to some construction companies, in order to increase profits, ignoring the Health and Safety legislation ; welcomes the efforts of workers and trades unions in the industry to halt the increasing numbers of deaths and injuries ; fully supports the present campaign by workers and unions and other interested bodies to improve the situation ; and further believes that there should be more factory inspectors appointed and that the legislation should be improved so that stronger action can be taken against those employers who ignore the legislation and thereby put the lives of the workforce at risk.]

It concerns safety in the building and construction industry and has been signed by 239 hon. Members, including all the leaders of opposition parties, excluding--until now--the leader of the SLD. I am sure I shall get him, too.

Is it not time we had a debate on this subject? There is a strong feeling that we must do something more positive than the Government are doing. Of course, the Opposition could well follow this up and have a debate in their own time--they probably will--but should not the Government agree to a debate, given that more than one third of the House have now said that action should be taken on the vital issue of the safety of workers in the construction industry?

Mr. Wakeham : As I said last week, the Government are concerned about health and safety in the construction industry. That is clearly reflected in the support given to the Health and Safety Executive. I recognise that this is an important subject about which the hon. Gentleman feels strongly. I cannot promise an early debate, but I shall certainly keep the point in mind.

Mr. William Cash (Stafford) : My right hon. Friend has been in correspondence with me recently about the beef hormone regulation. Will he be good enough to assure the House that he will ensure there is a debate on this issue before the matter goes for adoption to the Council of Ministers- -especially as it is precipitating a trade war that would do immeasurable harm to relations between this country and the European Community and the United States?

Mr. Wakeham : I recognise the importance of this matter and my hon. Friend's knowledge and concern about such matters. I am not in a position to announce a debate today, but I shall bear strongly in mind my hon. Friend's request.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan) : The Leader of the House will be aware of the imminent Nirex recommendations to the Government on three or four sites for nuclear waste disposal. Can he tell us the level and timing of the debate that will be allowed on that matter? Does he understand the amount of resistance there is in Scotland to Nirex naming any Scottish site for nuclear dumping?

Mr. Wakeham : As the hon. Gentleman knows, I am not unaware of some of the issues involved, but we had better wait for the report before deciding how best to proceed.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke) : As some hon. Members have announced their intention of moving by-election writs tomorrow morning in an attempt to talk

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out the motion tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Miss Widdecombe), will my right hon. Friend give careful consideration to my hon. Friend's offer to withdraw her motion tomorrow if the Government will find time during the course of this Parliament to allow the House a vote on the important subject of abortion?

Mr. Wakeham : Which motions are in order tomorrow is not a matter for me, but my hon. Friend will know that I have seen our hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Miss Widdecombe). We had what I hope was a friendly and constructive discussion about the problems of her motion and about the underlying issues. I have written to her and, if I catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, I hope to speak in the debate tomorrow, when I shall explain my position in full.

Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh) : The Government have tabled a timetable motion that will drastically curtail debate on such an important piece of legislation as the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Bill. In view of that, will the Leader of the House assure us that during that debate on Monday either the Attorney-General or the Solicitor-General will be present so that we can seek advice about whether their advice and guidance was sought before very dangerous remarks were made about certain members of the legal profession in the North of Ireland during the course of proceedings in Committee?

Mr. Wakeham : Whether those matters are relevant and in order in Monday's debate is not a matter for me. I shall be tabling the timetable motion today and I suggest that the hon. Gentleman tries to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, so that he can speak in the debate. It has long been widely known that the Bill must be enacted by 21 March if our society is to have adequate weapons with which to fight terrorism, because the current Act expires on that date. Agreements through the usual channels on the best way to discuss the Bill in Committee did not appear capable of being implemented and I am afraid that a timetable motion has been made necessary.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North) : I wonder if I could support the Labour party in its request for a debate on the subject of Mr. Viraj Mendis which, unaccountably, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition did not lead on today. It would give us an opportunity to demonstrate the attachment of the Labour party to the cause of illegal immigration, its total contempt for justice and fair play in immigration and for the views of the vast majority of the people of this country, and, consequently, to demonstrate its total unsuitability ever to form a Government of this country.

Mr. Wakeham : My hon. Friend makes his point. I thought that many of the things that he would like to see in the debate were clearly made during the discussion on the statement that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary made yesterday. I cannot promise an early debate on the subject.

Mr. Peter Hardy (Wentworth) : Is the Leader of the House aware that in recent months the Prime Minister has made some speeches with a substantial environmental content? In particular, is he aware of the speech that the

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right hon. Lady made on the happy occasion of the centenary of the RSPB on Monday? Will he please ensure that his colleagues in all relevant Government Departments are made aware of the Prime Minister's support for the safeguarding of the English hedgerow, thereby ensuring that the Hedgerows Bill, which will be before the House on Friday 27 January, receives adequate support?

Mr. Wakeham : There are two parts to the hon. Gentleman's question. In the first part he asked whether my hon. Friends and I are aware of the speeches made by the Prime Minister. It is perhaps a touch naive of the hon. Gentleman to think that we require him to remind us that we should read with interest the many important speeches made by my right hon. Friend. That is a different matter from the Government's attitude to the Bill that he mentioned. The Government's attitude to that will be made clear in the debate.

Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North) : My right hon. Friend has said that we shall have a debate on Monday on the Scottish housing support grant. My right hon. Friend will be aware that the Scottish media, and especially the Scottish press, carefully follow events in the House. I have here a report from the Glasgow Evening Times which says that we have already had that debate. The report tells how the hon. Member for Motherwell, North (Dr. Reid) made a splendid speech in that debate. It seems that the Scottish press, which reports our proceedings very fully and which recently talked about "Absent Andrew" and "Shopper Jim", is now talking about a phantom debate carried out by one member of the "Phantom 49".

Mr. Wakeham : I have had occasion in recent months to read the Scottish press with perhaps more care than I used to, and I formed a great admiration for parts of it. The detailed speech that the hon. Member for Motherwell, North (Dr. Reid) appears to have made in the House in the early hours of the morning and which is set out with such cogency and clearness by Mr. Hernon is a tribute to the hon. Gentleman's foresight rather than an indication of the hours that he keeps in the House.

Mr. Stan Crowther (Rotherham) : Does the Leader of the House realise that the answer he gave to his hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye (Mr. Warren) about consultation through the usual channels is rather pointless, given that the order to which the Select Committee on Trade and Industry objects and wishes to see annulled comes into effect on 23 January, unless the House decides to vote in favour of annulment? Does he appreciate that the vast majority of motorists in this country still think in terms of gallons, not litres, when pricing petrol and that this order will be most unpopular? Will he therefore consider, even now, allowing the matter to be debated in the House before it is too late?

Mr. Wakeham : Since the hon. Gentleman has been in the House he has shown himself to be someone who cares deeply about the traditions and practices of the House. I am surprised that he dismisses with such contempt my suggestion that I have discussions through the usual channels.

Mr. Michael Brown (Brigg and Cleethorpes) : Further to the question put by the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond), will my right hon. Friend confirm

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that the Nirex report is now at the Department of the Environment? Will he tell the House when our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment will make an announcement? Will he request the Secretary of State for the Environment to ensure that all those hon. Members with a clear constituency interest are given notice as to when that statement will be made?

Mr. Wakeham : I cannot confirm any of the points that my hon. Friend asked me, but I have noted his request and I shall refer the matter to our right hon. Friend.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich) : Has the Leader of the House noted the severe custodial sentence imposed on the mother who attacked the man who raped her five-year-old? Has he also seen the early- day motion in my name and those of other hon. Members? Will he ask his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to discuss in the House the sentencing policy that allows such people as drunk drivers to kill someone on the road and receive a suspended sentence, while those who protect their five-year- olds are immediately incarcerated?

Mr. Wakeham : As the hon. Lady well knows, sentencing is entirely a matter for the courts, which operate independently. I understand that the woman in question is to appeal against her sentence and, therefore, the case remains sub judice.

Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockton, South) : In view of the possible likelihood of a further Representation of the People Bill coming before the House, will my right hon. Friend consider whether that should be a limited or a much wider Bill so that those of us who know of specific abuses at polling stations throughout the country can add new provisions to it?

Mr. Wakeham : Any legislation that is brought before the House is carefully considered by the Minster responsible and I have no doubt that, if that eventuality comes about, my right hon. Friend will take note of my hon. Friend's comments.

Mr. John Hughes (Coventry, North-East) : May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to early-day motion 258 which deals with the Office of Fair Trading report on funeral costs which are a very sensitive issue. Will the right hon. Gentleman provide some time for a debate?

[That this House notes the report published by the Office of Fair Trading on funeral costs ; is concerned at the grossly insensitive service provided by some undertakers ; notes that three quarters of funeral directors have broken their code, as funeral costs escalate beyond reason giving rise to concern at the effect on the public, especially the elderly ; and therefore proposes that the Select Committee on Trade and Industry should conduct an urgent inquiry into this important matter.]

Mr. Wakeham : The report of the Director-General of Fair Trading addresses a number of recommendations to the industry aimed at improving the price information given to customers by funeral directors. He will be discussing those with the National Association of Funeral Directors. It is better to let that matter proceed, and the question of a debate could be considered later.

Mr. Richard Holt (Langbaurgh) : My right hon. Friend will know that I have frequently asked for a debate on the

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Butler-Sloss report. That was one of the most important and expensive legal inquiries that we have had in this country. Until last weekend even, constituents have come to me complaining about the activities of the social services department of Cleveland county council. It is time that the Government brought this vexed issue on to the Floor of the House so that every hon. Member could have the opportunity to contribute to the debate.

Mr. Wakeham : I know that my hon. Friend feels strongly about this and he is right to keep pressing me, but, from my position, I am also right to say that I find it difficult to find time for such a debate in the near future. However, he will know that legislation before another place covers many of those issues. It will eventually come before this House and he will then have an opportunity to make many of the points that he so badly wishes to make.

Mr. Doug Hoyle (Warrington, North) : Will the Leader of the House look once more at early-day motions 249 and 250 on petrol retailing? I want to stress the all-party support for those motions. When the right hon. Gentleman replied earlier he said that the question of displaying gallons was a matter for petrol stations and the right was not being taken from them. At the moment they must display in gallons and the House and the Select Committee on Trade and Industry is worried about that point. I welcome the fact that the right hon. Gentleman has promised us that he will have discussions about this and I hope that they result in a debate being held in this House.

Mr. Wakeham : I take note of the hon. Gentleman's comments and the fact that he has added his weight to the request. I will certainly engage in discussions.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (Derbyshire, West) : My right hon. Friend often refers to the usual channels. Can he tell us whether there has been a change in procedure through the usual channels and not through the House? Is the new procedure that from now on the shadow Leader of the House will ask business questions not the Leader of the Opposition?

Mr. Wakeham : That is a matter for the Opposition. They must decide how to do it. I am happy to see the shadow Leader of the House having a go, while his voice lasts. I am equally happy to answer the Leader of the Opposition. It is not a matter that I spend a great deal of time worrying about.

Ms. Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington) : Has the Leader of the House had an opportunity to consider early-day motion 286 on social security office closures in my name and the names of all London Labour Members?

[That this House deplores the proposal to close 21 social security offices in the Greater London area without adequate arrangements to ensure that service to claimants can be maintained or improved ; notes that the proposals depend on computer networks between London and the centres processing claims and on hardware and software that has not yet been developed ; further notes with concern the potential hardship to claimants and the stress on Department of Social Security staff in London if there is any failure in the computerisation programme ; believes that the crisis in the Department of Social Security in London has been largely due to inadequate resourcing and that this has put great

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pressure on Department of Social Security staff and has been one of the main reasons for high staff turnover ; registers its strongest opposition to the proposal to cut 1,200 jobs from Department of Social Security offices in Greater London at a time when staff will have to deal with the same number of claimants ; calls upon the Government to recognise that the problems with service delivery in London require additional Department of Social Security staffing levels to improve face to face contact and particularly home visits and interpreting services ; and further calls upon the Secretary of State to reconsider the entire proposal and timetable and at the very least to implement the computerisation programme before deciding whether moving work out of London is in the best interests of the service and the claimants.]

Under the proposal 21 social security offices in London will be closed. That will affect millions of the poorest Londoners. In my constituency the Finsbury Park social security office will close and that will affect thousands of my constituents. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that it is absurd to claim that it is more efficient to process forms in Glasgow than in London. Will he give time at the earliest possible opportunity for a debate on the matter?

Mr. Wakeham : I am afraid that I cannot agree with the hon. Lady. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security has said, his Department is in the business of service. Sadly, in spite of their dedication, DSS staff have not been able to maintain acceptable standards in London. By moving all the work out of London that does not need to be done there, that work will be done by a more stable work force and that will allow the DSS to provide a better and more efficient service. I would have thought that the hon. Lady would welcome that instead of disapproving of it.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West) : Will the Leader of the House arrange for an urgent statement to be made by the Home Secretary before noon tomorrow about the intentions of the Home Office over Mr. Viraj Mendis? It is to be hoped that his deportation to Sri Lanka is to be deferred to allow urgent discussions to find a safe refuge for him in a third country to be successfully completed. Will the Leader of the House also give a firm commitment that, if an application for a judicial review is granted, Mr Mendis will not be deported? My confidence in the ability of the Home Office to assess the risk of persecution facing people seeking political asylum was completely shattered last December when someone for whom I had been seeking political asylum in this country was persuaded to return voluntarily to Pakistan on assurances from the Minister of State, Home Office that he need have no fear of persecution. That man was arrested and imprisoned on his arrival. The comment from the Minister of State's officials when told about that was, "Oh, dear."

Mr. Wakeham : I certainly cannot confirm what the hon. Gentleman said in the last part of his question. With regard to the main thrust of his question, I have nothing to add to what my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said yesterday.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North) : May I first commiserate with the Leader of the House after the report

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in today's Evening Standard which says that he is likely to be sacked, like all his predecessors since 1979. His is a high-risk job and I sympathise with him.

Can we have a debate in the very near future on the Register of Members' Interests so that Opposition Members can discuss the very extensive business interests and consultancies of Conservative Members? That is a matter of legitimate public concern. Has the Leader of the House seen the full list in today's copy of The Guardian?

Mr. Wakeham : The Register of Members' Interests is a welcome addition to what happens in the House. It is right that we should have it and I see no need for an early debate on the subject.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West) : In view of the Prime Minister's belated discovery of green issues, may we have a wide-ranging debate on environmental matters, because there is obviously great concern on both sides of the House and it would give us the opportunity to test whether the Green Goddess's conversion is real rather than illusory.

Mr. Wakeham : I have a suspicion that the interest of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in these matters goes back longer than that of the hon. Gentleman, but that is another matter. Her views are probably wiser and better thought-out than the hon. Gentleman's, however sincere he might be. The prelude to his question was not the best way to obtain an early debate on this subject. Nevertheless, it is an important matter and I shall bear his suggestion in mind.

Mr. John McFall (Dumbarton) : A few moments ago the Leader of the House spoke about reading the Scottish press with interest, so no doubt he has read a major story in the Scottish press about the discharge of radioactive coolant from nuclear submarines in the Forth and Clyde, admitted by a former United States submarine commander. That has been going on for many years and my constituents and all hon. Members on the Clyde are worried about it. Will the Leader of the House seek an opportunity for a debate on that and related environmental subjects, which are supposed to comprise the Government's concern for green issues?

Mr. Wakeham : The Government are satisfied with United States' practice in United Kingdom waters which has been governed by written arrangements since 1958 and has always remained within established national and international standards on the release of radioactivity.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington) : If the evidence given by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) today had been given yesterday during the statement on Viraj Mendis the debate on that statement would have been of a very different nature. May we have a debate on the affairs of Kent, because more and more people there write to me drawing attention to the outrageous way that they have been treated by the Government? They object to cuts in the National Health Service and the privatisation of its provisions and to the Government's failure to deal with the roads problems. May we have a debate on Kent so that Labour Members can talk about that important part of the country, which has no Labour representation in Parliament?

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Mr. Wakeham : I am not surprised that it has no Labour representation if that is a sample of the goods that are on offer. I prefer to listen to the views of my hon. Friends who represent Kent so splendidly in the House rather than to the hon. Gentleman.

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Personal Statement

Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockton, South) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday in the House during questions to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster I commented on the conduct of the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bell). That appears at column 321. I now know that the allegation that I made in the House yesterday was based on untrue information and was untrue in substance. I wish to withdraw the remarks relating to the hon. Gentleman and to apologise unreservedly to him for them.

Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough) : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I acknowledge the graceful withdrawal made by the hon. Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin), which is in the best traditions of the House.

Mr. Speaker : I entirely agree.

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