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Mr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East) : May I make it clear to the right hon. Gentleman that we do not accept the case that he has put forward this afternoon and that we reject his statement about future investment in these ports and the risk of the reintroduction of casual labour? It is for these reasons, among others, that we will oppose the Bill.
Has the Secretary of State not totally failed to explain to the House why he has made this statement at this time, a timing which, according to a telephone call that I made this morning, makes it as big a surprise to the employers as it is to the union? Is it not hard to resist the conclusion that the Government have decided that, at a time when we have a huge and growing deficit on our balance of payments, it may be expedient to run the risk of a long stoppage in our ports?
Mr. Fowler : No, that is not the position, although I welcome the tone of what the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) has said rather more than I welcome the tone of what the hon. Member for Oldham, West said.
I will repeat the position. Few subjects have been more debated than the dock labour scheme. The issues are very clear. It is a statutory monopoly. The fact that a criminal offence was created by this scheme is completely out of kilter with anything else in industrial relations today. It is bad for employment and investment, and it means that management cannot manage effectively. I believe that abolition of the scheme will lead to a better future for those areas that are at present covered by the scheme.
What I detected in what the hon. Gentleman said and what I welcomed is that those are matters to be debated essentially in the House. I hope that the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues will make that absolutely clear.
The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Wakeham) : With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement. The business for next week will be as follows :
Monday 10 April----Conclusion of remaining stages of the Electricity Bill (3rd day).
Motion on the Lord Chancellor's Salary Order.
Motion on the Medicines (Fixing of Fees Relating to Medical Products for Human Use) Order.
Tuesday 11 April----Opposition Day (6th Allotted Day). Until about seven o'clock there will be a debate entitled "The Inadequate Uprating of Pensions and Other Benefits". Afterwards there will be a debate entitled "Safety in the Construction Industry". Both debates will arise on Opposition motions.
Motion to take note of EC document on weights and measures. Details will be given in the Official Report .
Motion to take note of EC document on the driving licence. Details will be given in the Official Report .
Wednesday 12 April----Debate on a Government Motion on the Fennell report on the investigation into the King's Cross Underground fire (Cm 499).
Motion relating to National Health Service regulations. Details will be given in the Official Report.
Thursday 13 April----Second Reading of the Road Traffic (Driver Licensing and Information Systems) Bill [Lords] .
Afterwards Second Reading of the Atomic Energy Bill [Lords]. Friday 14 April----Private Members' Bills.
Monday 17 April----Opposition Day (7th Allotted Day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion, subject for debate to be announced.
[First Debate on Tuesday 11 April
Relevant European Community Document
4102/89 Weights and measures
Relevant Reports of European Legislation Committee
HC 15-xii (1988-89), para 2 and HC 15-xvii (1988-89), para 1 Second Debate on Tuesday 11 April
Relevant European Community Document
10357/1/88 Driving Licensing
Relevant Report of European Legislation Committee
HC 15-xvi (1988-89), para 1
Debate on Wednesday 12 April :
National Health Service (Optical Charges and Payments) Regulations 1989 (SI 1989 No. 396)
National Health Service (Optical Charges and Payments) (Scotland) Regulations 1989 (SI 1989 No. 392)
National Health Service (Dental Charges) Regulations 1989 (SI 1989 No. 394)
National Health Service (Dental Charges) (Scotland) Regulations 1989 (SI 1989 No. 363)
National Health Service (Charges for Drugs and Appliances) Regulations 1989 (SI 1989 No. 419)
National Health Service (Charges for Drugs and Appliances) (Scotland) Regulations 1989 (SI 1989 No. 326)
National Health Service (General Opthalmic Services) Amendment Regulations 1989 (SI 1989 No. 395)
Column 350National Health Service (General Opthalmic Services) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 1989 (SI 1989 No. 387)
National Health Service (Travelling Expenses and Remission of Charges) Amendment Regulations 1989 (SI 1989 No. 517)
National Health Service (Travelling Expenses and Remission of Charges) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 1989 (SI 1989 No. 393)]
I shall refer first to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) at Prime Minister's Question Time. Will the Leader of the House make it his business to ensure that the report of the secretary general to the United Nations Security Council is placed in the Library of the House next week, as was promised by the Prime Minister on Tuesday of this week? Will he bear in mind the convention of which he and the right hon. Lady will be aware--that, when Ministers at the Dispatch Box quote from an official document, they should make that document available to everyone else? Documents that Britain receives at the Security Council must fall into that category, especially as it was not simply that the Prime Minister--
Mr. Dobson : As the Prime Minister not only mentioned that document, but also told the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston) that he could obtain all the details he needed from that document and that it was available, it appears that the burden falls on the Leader of the House to ensure that, in line with the conventions of the House, that document is made available to everyone.
In view of Sir Leon Brittan's recent confirmation of many people's suspicions of the degree of involvement of the Prime Minister's closest advisers in the leaking of the Attorney-General's letter on Westland, will the Leader of the House tell us whether the Prime Minister will come to the House next week to make a statement and to answer further questions on that matter, and especially to clarify once and for all who knew what and when they knew it?
Will the Leader of the House tell us when we can expect the long-promised and the equally long-delayed debate on student loans? As there is mounting concern throughout the country about the threat that the Government's National Health Service review poses to the health care of most people, will we have an early debate in Government time to give the Secretary of State the opportunity to answer questions in the House rather than spending taxpayers' money roaming around the country on a Tory party political propaganda exercise?
On the subject of the Department of Health, when can we expect a statement on the Government's response to the Griffiths report on care in the community? The
Column 351Department has had that document in its possession for more than a year and surely it should be moving towards giving us some suggestion of the Government's intentions.
In view of the particularly precipitate way in which the Government have managed to come forward with a Bill to abolish the national dock labour scheme, when will they come forward with the Bill that they have promised and on which civil servants have been working for four years--if parliamentary answers of 1985 were truthful--to outlaw the buying and selling of human organs?
Mr. Wakeham : I am grateful to the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) for asking me six questions about the business for next week. I wondered whether he might have found time today just to say "Thank you" to me for having arranged for the debate on the Fennell report, for which he has been pressing me and also for managing to fit in two Opposition days in the business for next week.
Mr. Wakeham : If the hon. Gentleman had listened, I announced two full Opposition days in the business statement for next week. With regard to the United Nations plan and the documents concerned, I told the House yesterday that the relevant documents have been placed in the Library. They include the Geneva protocol, which has been made public by the South African Government. A further set of documents, which together comprise the United Nations plan, will be placed in the Library today. The secretary general has asked, however, that the report on the recent fighting should be kept confidential for the time being. On reflection, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will consider that the right thing would be to respect the request of the secretary general. Obviously I shall look into the matter in view of the question asked, but I cannot promise that anything will be revealed at the present time.
With regard to the recent television coverage of a television programme, which neither you, Mr. Speaker, nor I have seen, I understand that Sir Leon Brittan made certain statements which he suggested did not add anything new to the position. That is as I understand the matter and, therefore, I see no need for any further statement on the position, which has been well ventilated in the past.
The hon. Gentleman knows that consultations are taking place about student loans and I believe that the right time for a debate on that matter would be later rather than at present.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that there is a need for a National Health Service debate and I agree that it would be right for the Government to find time for that. The exact timing of it is best left for discussion through the usual channels. I also recognise the consistency with which he has pressed me on the Griffiths report. I understand his disappointment that it has taken rather longer to deal with that matter than he wanted. We are giving active consideration to the report and hope to bring forward our proposals in the near future. We recognise the concern that our response should not be unduly delayed, but it is vital that we reach the right solution in this important area.
There has been some discussion between the Government and the hon. Gentleman's Front-Bench colleagues about the abhorrent trade in kidneys. If we are
Column 352to make progress as fast as we can--both of us are agreed on that, I believe--it is probably best for those discussions to continue through the usual channels.
Mr. James Hill (Southampton, Test) : My right hon. Friend will know that, from time to time, I have asked questions regarding a ports policy for the United Kingdom. The statement by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment, who said that the national docks labour scheme is to be reviewed, obviously makes my question about a ports policy null and void. Nevertheless, there is a need not to demoralise the employees of certain ports, because I know that they will put their shoulders behind the new review. The port of Southampton was closed for a whole year in 1981 due to militancy. It is now working well. If we can persuade the Transport and General Workers Union to adopt a reasonable approach, there will be further co-operation. That can only do good to Southampton.
Mr. Wakeham : I agree with my hon. Friend. I am grateful to him for his support for the way the Government are approaching the problem. With the inevitability of these matters, there will be plenty of opportunity for my hon. Friend to raise the issue constructively in the debates that we shall have in forthcoming weeks.
Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland) : Will the Leader of the House arrange for a Minister to come to the House next week to explain why those who were demonstrating in Whitehall today against human rights abuses in the Soviet Union were told to take down their placards before Mr. Gorbachev arrived, which seems to be almost a contradiction in human rights terms?
Secondly, given that we will debate the Lord Chancellor's salary next week but that we do not have a Select Committee on the Lord Chancellor's Department or on the Law Officers' Department, will the Leader of the House consider setting up an ad hoc Select Committee with powers to call for witnesses and papers to look into the Government's proposals for the reform of the legal profession? Finally, when did the Prime Minister find out that the United Nations secretary general wished the report on the Namibian incidents to be kept confidential?
I do not propose to set up a special Select Committee to deal with our law proposals. I believe that the right procedure is that which the Government have adopted, which is to issue Green Papers for discussion. We hope to get as many constructive views as we can. Then the Government will have to make up their mind how best to act. I cannot answer the hon. Gentleman's third question, but it was certainly not until after my right hon. Friend had said what she did in the House.
Mr. Henry Bellingham (Norfolk, North-West) : Can the Leader of the House tell us when the Second Reading of the Bill on the dock labour scheme is likely to take place? Is he aware that today's announcement will be warmly welcomed by the vast majority of people connected with and working in King's Lynn docks, who realise that the
Column 353abolition of the scheme will lead to more jobs? It will also lead to much more cargo being handled at King's Lynn and will enable it to compete with non-scheme ports in East Anglia.
Mr. Wakeham : I welcome what my hon. Friend has said. The Bill will be introduced tomorrow and the House will have an opportunity to debate it in the usual way, subject to the usual conventions. I hope to make a business statement including the Second Reading of the Bill in the not-too- distant future.
[That this House notes, as reported in the book, Inside the Brotherhood by Martin Short, that most Right honourable and honourable Members who completed a questionnaire issued by Mr. Short in 1986 said that councillors, local government officers, civil servants, policemen, judges and honourable Members should be required to disclose Masonic membership ; therefore urges the Select Committee on Members' Interests to make necessary arrangements for appropriate resolutions to be considered by the House to require Right honourable and honourable Members to disclose Masonic membership in the Register of Members' Interest ; further urges Parliamentary journalists who are Masons to be required to make an appropriate declaration ; and finally urges the appointment of an Ombudsman to whom public servants, including police officers, can make complaints of discrimination in public employment.
That this House congratulates Martin Short on the publication of his book, Inside the Brotherhood ; notes that the honourable Members for Ilford South, Croydon South, Chichester, Erewash, Banbury and Belfast North told Mr. Short they were Masons ; further notes that Mr. Short believes that the honourable Members for Bury South, Reading East and Keighley are Masons ; and finally notes Mr. Short reveals the Masonic Lodge to which Right honourable and honourable Members, Parliamentary Officers and staff belong is called the New Welcome Lodge (5139) which was consecrated in 1929 and meets five times a year at Freemason's Hall in London, and that Parliamentary Journalists who are Mason's belong to the Gallery Lodge (1928).] May I unusually ask the Leader of the House himself to make a statement next week in view of the support of more than 200 hon. Members from all parties for the proposal that hon. Members who are masons should be required to declare their masonic membership in the Register of Members' Interests? Will the Leader of the House next week ask the Select Committee on Members' Interests to consider the matter urgently so that the necessary motions may be brought to the House?
"Any consideration of changes in the scope of the Register of Members' Interests or the Register of Parliamentary Journalists would, in the first instance, be a matter for the Select Committee on Members' Interests."-- [ Official Report, 3 March 1988 ; Vol. 128, c. 638. ]
That is where he should pursue the matter.
Mr. Michael Latham (Rutland and Melton) : Will my right hon. Friend ensure that the debate on the Health Service that he has promised takes place at an early date and allows us to discuss the proposed contract for general practitioners? I think that he will have noticed that it has not been received with unanimous rapture by the practitioners.
Mr. Wakeham : Whether that is within the scope of the debate is not a matter for me but for you, Mr. Speaker. I should think that my hon. Friend, with his usual ingenuity, will be able to make the points that he wants to make on that subject.
Mr. Pat Wall (Bradford, North) : May I bring to the attention of the Leader of the House a recent report by John Bourn, the Comptroller and Auditor General, regarding serious underpayments in the national insurance fund and the social fund--in particular, an estimate of underpayment of unemployment benefit of between £34 million and £89 million? That is very serious because it affects some of the most deprived people in our society. The money was not paid because of an error by Government Departments. The Minister responsible, if he is not prepared to initiate a debate in the House, should make a statement on payment to the unemployed. He should give an explanation and describe what measures will be taken to rectify the matter. Mr. Wakeham : I do not know whether this is the same report from the Comptroller and Auditor General as that which I looked at the other day. I thought that there had been errors in allocation of costs rather than beneficiaries going short of anything to which they were entitled. However, I shall investigate the matter and I believe that the Public Accounts Committee will also consider some of these issues in the near future. If something has not been properly answered, I shall ensure that it is.
Mr. Charles Wardle (Bexhill and Battle) : My right hon. Friend will be aware of the recent consultation about possible amendments to the Financial Services Act 1986. Will he find time for a debate on the subject, with particular reference to the role of merchant banks? Does he recall that in the debate on the financial services White Paper in April 1985, several hon. Members, including me, referred to the possible conflicts of interest in merchant banks, but subsequent legislation left out that aspect?
Mr. Wakeham : I cannot promise that we shall have a debate in the near future but I shall certainly refer my hon. Friend's point to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to see what can be done in the future. Mr. Robert Parry (Liverpool, Riverside) : Does the Leader of the House recall a question that I put to him some weeks ago regarding early-day motion 395?
[That this House calls upon the South African Goverment to release Mr. Oscar Mpetha a 79 year old trade union leader imprisoned since 1980 ; notes that he had his leg amputated in 1983, that he is a diabetic with complications and was refused permission to leave prison in 1986 to attend his wife's funeral ; believes that his imprisonment is solely due to his struggle on behalf of black workers and as a member of the South African Congress of Trades' Unions and as President of the African National Congress in the
Column 355Cape ; welcomes Her Majesty's Government's representations to the South African Government on his behalf ; and calls upon the South African authorities to release Mr. Mpetha as a matter of urgency.] That is supported by 118 hon. Members. Mr. Mpetha, who is imprisoned in South Africa, lost his son last week when he was killed in an accident. Will the Government make urgent representations for his immediate release on compassionate grounds?
Mr. Wakeham : As I have said on previous occasions, the Government have made representations to the South African Government on at least five separate occasions. I shall refer the hon. Gentleman's point to my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary. Dr. John G. Blackburn (Dudley, West) : Will my right hon. Friend give serious consideration to the report of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, published on 22 March, on the production, distribution and sale of beers in this country? It will have a widespread effect on the brewing industry. Many of the major breweries are established in the midlands and there is a wave of uncertainty running through the industry. I should value it if my right hon. Friend would give an assurance that there will be a debate on this important subject.
Mr. Wakeham : It is an important subject and, in another capacity, as chairman of the Government's committee on the misuse of alcohol, I know that changes in the structure of the brewing industry are important for us to consider. However, many of my Government colleagues are also considering the matter, so it is being carefully examined.
Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington) : In light of the fact that Mr. Tiny Rowland has repeatedly used the Lonrho broadsheet to call for the prosecution of the Al- Fayeds over their trading practices, is it not now time for the Government to review the decision taken in 1977, which meant that prosecutions would not be brought under section 84 of the Larceny Act 1861, section 19 of the Theft Act 1968, and section 7 of the Exchange Control Act 1947 or for conspiracy to commit breaches of the Southern Rhodesia (United Nations Sanctions) (No. 2) Order 1968? Is it not time to review the decision and bring prosecutions under all four headings against the owners of The Observer ?
Mr. Wakeham : As the hon. Gentleman knows, questions of prosecution are not for me. He may or may not have a case on the reforms of such matters, about which he is knowledgeable, but I regret that, even if they were acceptable to everybody, I could not find time for a debate next week. However, I shall refer the matter to my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.
Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North) : I did not catch all of my right hon. Friend's statement, but may I draw his attention to the fact that during yesterday's sitting of the Select Committee on European Legislation the recommendation was made that a heavily amended draft directive on broadcasting should be brought before the House for debate before the common position is agreed? As that common position may well be agreed next Thursday, will my right hon. Friend look into that matter?
Column 356This is an important matter, as the directive has been much amended since it was last debated by the House as long as two years ago.
Mr. Wakeham : I understand my hon. Friend's concern and those expressed in the debate on the original proposals in January 1987, most of which have been met by the latest draft directive on broadcasting. I accept that the proposal has changed, but there has been a debate on the subject and I hope that my hon. Friend agrees that the changes were largely foreseeable and will generally find favour in the House. We have a heavy business programme next week which I cannot easily alter, but I am having discussions with my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Home Office on the subject.
Mr. Merlyn Rees (Morley and Leeds, South) : Will the Leader of the House reconsider the need for a statement next week as a result of Sir Leon Brittan's further revelation, for which we do not have to wait until Friday night ; we have already heard it on television and read it in the newspapers. There is a strict constitutional convention in Britain, which does not have a written constitution, that Law Officers' letters should not be revealed. Two Law Officers nearly resigned on the issue and we now find that two civil servants at No. 10 took it upon themselves to reveal that letter, self-authorised. Two basic questions arise : first, why did they do it, and, secondly, why have they not been removed from their posts for doing so?
Mr. Wakeham : The right hon. Gentleman, who has a reputation for objectivity in such matters, should look at the report of the Select Committee on Defence and the debates in the House at the time. If he does that, he will see that nothing new has arisen. These matters were referred to. If the hon. Gentleman is interested in names he should look at the Select Committee's report, which was published and debated a long time ago. All the issues have been well ventilated. There is nothing fresh or new in the statement made by Sir Leon Brittan, as he confirmed yesterday.
Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North) : Is my right hon. Friend aware that, if President Gorbachev had arrived 24 hours earlier and had used the Underground, he would not have been able to keep his appointments, like many other Londoners, owing to the most uncalled for strike by the drivers, and, according to a CBI report, if he comes in 10 years' time, unless he uses a helicopter he will not be able to move because London traffic will be at a standstill. Therefore, may we have a debate next week on the management of traffic in London, and could the motion include the possibility of a Minister with responsibility for London's traffic?
Mr. Wakeham : I was at the airport yesterday to meet President Gorbachev, when adequate road transport was available for him. However, I have every reason to believe that those arrangements were made regardless of whether there was a strike of Underground workers. I regret that, against the advice of the union, Underground workers took unofficial action yesterday. It would be much better if proper negotiations to settle the dispute were entered into without delay. On my hon. Friend's wider question about ministerial changes, I do not think that that is a matter for me or that it arises today in particular.
Mr. Nigel Griffiths (Edinburgh, South) : Will the Leader of the House make time for an early debate on the repeal of rent legislation which has brought about a fourfold increase in the rents in housing association properties in my constituency, which has been forced on retired people and highlighted so well in The Scotsman today? Will the right hon. Gentleman give time for an early debate on the plight of retired people in retirement homes?
Mr. Wakeham : I cannot promise the hon. Gentleman a debate, but I should be tempted to have one because I suspect that his analysis of the situation was not a particularly balanced one. However, the points he has raised about elderly people seem to be relevant to the debate that I have managed to arrange for Tuesday of next week.
Sir Ian Lloyd (Havant) : My right hon. Friend will be aware of the widespread concern in all parts of the House as a result of the tragic events on the Namibia-Angola border. He may also be aware that those of us who recall the record of the United Nations in Katanga do not exactly have the utmost confidence in the ability of that organisation to react expeditiously and impartially. My right hon. Friend may not be aware of recent reports that aerodromes for advanced fighter aircraft are being constructed on the Angolan border, and that specialist Vietnamese troops are being brought into Angola to replace the Cubans. In the light of these very serious events, may we have an early opportunity to debate this matter?
Mr. Wakeham : I recognise the importance of the matter, and I recognise my hon. Friend's knowledge of that area, based on many years' experience. I wish that I could offer a debate in the near future. I shall certainly bear the matter in mind, but I cannot give my hon. Friend a promise.
[That this House is appalled by the failure of the Animals Act 1986 to prevent the testing of animals for cosmetic purposes ; notes that in 1987 there were still 14,534 animals being used in cosmetic experiments and considers this totally unacceptable ; and calls upon the Home Secretary to cease the granting of any further licences for cosmetic testing and furthermore to put a time limit on those existing licences for the same purposes.]
May I draw to his attention the fact that this is a completely barbaric and unnecessary practice, about which I have had very many letters from constituents? The early-day motion has been signed by more than 200 hon. Members. In the light of the feelings of millions of people up and down the country, will the Leader of the House make time for an early debate on this issue?