Business of the House

– in the House of Commons am 3:31 pm ar 23 Tachwedd 1995.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

The business for next week will now be as follows: MONDAY 27 NOVEMBER—Until about 8 o'clock, Second Reading of the Education (Student Loans) Bill.

Motion on the Contracting Out (Administration of the Teachers' Superannuation Scheme) Order.

TUESDAY 28 NOVEMBER—As I announced last Thursday, my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will open his Budget statement, debate on which will then run through Wednesday 29 November, Thursday 30 November and Monday 4 December, and will be brought to a conclusion on Tuesday 5 December. The intervening Friday is a non-sitting day.

WEDNESDAY 6 DECEMBER—Until about 7 o'clock, Second Reading of the Audit (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill.

Remaining stages of the Chemical Weapons Bill.

THURSDAY 7 DECEMBER—There will be debates on motions for the Adjournment of the House. Subjects to be announced.

FRIDAY 8 DECEMBER—There will be debates on motions for the Adjournment of the House. Subjects to be announced.

The House will also wish to know that European Standing Committee B will meet at 10.30 am on Wednesday 29 November to consider European Community document Nos. 8273/95 and 9284/95 relating to equal opportunities for men and women.

[Tuesday 28 November: Budget Statement

The following document is relevant: the unnumbered Explanatory Memorandum submitted by Her Majesty's Treasury on 26 July 1995 relating to the Council Recommendation to the United Kingdom with a view to bringing an end to the situation of an excessive deficit in the United Kingdom, prepared in regard to Article 104c(7) of the Treaty establishing the European Community.

Wednesday 29 November:

European Standing Committee B—Relevant European Community documents: 8273/95 and 9284/95, Equal opportunities for men and women. Relevant European Legislation Committee reports: HC 70–xxvi (1994–95) and HC 51-i (1995–96).]

For those who were not hanging on my every word last night or did not pay sufficient attention, the House might like to be reminded that I said that, subject to the progress of business, the House will rise at the conclusion of business on Wednesday 20 December until Tuesday 9 January. For Easter, again subject to the progress of business, the House will rise at the conclusion of business on Wednesday 3 April until Tuesday 16 April.

Photo of Mr Jeff Rooker Mr Jeff Rooker , Birmingham, Perry Barr

May I thank the Leader of the House for the repetition of the early notice of the dates of the recesses for Christmas and Easter? Will he confirm that Wednesday 20 December will be a full working day, with Wednesday morning Adjournment debates and Scottish questions in the afternoon?

While on the subject of Scottish business, I and others who were present yesterday heard the Secretary of State for Scotland in Scottish questions say that he would make an announcement about the future government of Scotland on St. Andrew's day. May we have a commitment that the Secretary of State for Scotland will make a full statement in the House on any changes, so that Members have a chance to debate them before they are announced in Glasgow?

Will the Leader of the House arrange for an early statement next week by the Secretary of State for Social Security, so that he may give an interim response to the fifth report of the Select Committee on Social Security, which was published today? That report discloses that there are over 10 million national insurance numbers more than there are people aged over 16, that the integrity of the national insurance system is at stake and that it allows organised criminals to perpetrate fraud.

Bearing in mind the fact that there is also known organised fraud in operating immigration policy, which is being discussed in respect of the proposed Bill on asylum, will the House be told next week why Her Majesty's Government's proposal in 1990 to close the "Day of the Jackal" loophole allowing access to birth certificates has not yet been closed? Five years ago, a commitment to do so was made in a White Paper. In May, the Prime Minister told me and others that there was insufficient parliamentary time for the change. In this Session, there is clearly time for such a Bill, with which we would agree. The Leader of the House was asked about it last night. Has he made any inquiries about it?

I have two further brief points. Bearing in mind the Budget statement next Tuesday, will the local government settlement be announced on Thursday? Clearly, the Budget statement will have a massive impact on local government expenditure. It is important that those facing cuts in education and social services—provided for the public—know about the Budget's implications as quickly as possible.

Given that at present there is a good deal of traffic on the World Service network from Argentina, will the Leader of the House assure hon. Members that next week there will be a Foreign Office statement that it is not proposing to cut World Service funds? It would be highly short-sighted and not in the interests of the United Kingdom to lose a voice that creates a very favourable climate for British business around the world. There is a rumour that the Foreign Office plans to cut the final year of the three-year settlement on funds made in 1994. That would be totally unacceptable to the House.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I shall take those questions in order. First, I certainly expect 20 December to be a normal day, although, obviously, I cannot at the moment predict the business. I anticipate, however, that we shall have the normal Wednesday debate just before recess, in which I am here for three hours to do my best to answer any hon. Member who cares to bowl a fast ball at me.

Secondly, it is certainly my right hon. Friend the Scottish Secretary's intention to make a statement to Parliament on Scottish proposals before announcing them anywhere else.

Thirdly, on social security, the hon. Gentleman will understand that there are conventions about the amount of time that the Government take to respond to Select Committee reports. Indeed, there is usually criticism in the House if an instant response is made. I shall bring his point to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security, and, indeed, consider the other points that he raised, which I have not yet had a chance to look into since last night.

I anticipate a statement on the local government settlement next Thursday. I seem to be being unusually helpful to the hon. Gentleman today. It must be the charming way in which he puts his questions. However, I cannot be quite so helpful on his last question. He will understand that I am not in a position to anticipate what may be in or follow from the statement of my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer next week. But I should make the point that my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary will be answering questions on the following day, Wednesday 29 November.

Photo of Mr Anthony Grant Mr Anthony Grant , Cambridge South West

Does my right hon. Friend share my disgust at the growing and pernicious habit of cheque-book journalism, which is perverting the course of justice in this country? If the Government are not able to find time to do something about such a practice, will they look sympathetically on a private Member's Bill to put a stop to it?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I of course share my hon. Friend's feelings about some of the suggestions that have been made in relation to the Rosemary West case. Of course the Government, in various aspects, will be considering any lessons that may be drawn from that case.

Photo of Mr Archy Kirkwood Mr Archy Kirkwood Liberal Democrat Chief Whip

May I, too, acknowledge how helpful it is to have the Christmas and Easter recess dates announced so far in advance? It is enormously helpful for future planning. Will the Leader of the House clarify an earlier answer that he gave about the business on 20 December? I understand a full day's business to include certainly the Scottish questions slot planned for that day. May I press the right hon. Gentleman further on the statement that the Secretary of State for Scotland may or may not be making on 30 November? It is important that hon. Members have a chance to cross-examine the Secretary of State, particularly on any proposals that he may have for the Scottish Grand Committee, because the succession of meetings for the Scottish Grand Committee that will flow for the rest of the year may be dramatically affected by any changes that he may make. Finally, can we anticipate an uprating social security statement next week?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

In the spirit of—actually usual—helpfulness that I am adopting this afternoon, I anticipate that there will be a social security uprating statement on the day after the Budget, Wednesday 29 November. The pattern will therefore be the Budget on Tuesday, social security on Wednesday and local government on Thursday.

In relation to the Scottish Secretary's statement, I do not think that I can add to what I have already said. I have made it clear that I expect that the House will have an opportunity to hear a statement on the matter.

I did not think that I was obscure in any way in what I said about 20 December. I said that I expected it to be a normal business day. I cannot predict what will come after Question Time, but I certainly anticipate that the Wednesday morning debate to which I referred will be followed by questions, which will be followed by I know not what, for I know not how long.

Photo of Mr Dudley Smith Mr Dudley Smith , Warwick and Leamington

Has my right hon. Friend seen early-day motion 65 concerning my constituent, Mrs. Teresita Bentley of Leamington Spa, who faces deportation because of the loss of her battle for custody of her two-year-old child Catherine, in the face of opposition from her estranged and unhelpful husband?

[That this House believes that Mrs. Teresita Bentley of Leamington Spa, a well-educated, professional woman from the Philippines, should not be deported from this country, following her High Court failure to secure custody of her two-year-old daughter, Catherine, and that such an enforced separation would deny her permanent right of access to her child via her English husband, in a callous and insensitive way, not in keeping with the United Kingdom's reputation for justice and fair play in humanitarian issues.]

In the circumstances, will my right hon. Friend bear it in mind that this is a sad case, in that Mrs. Bentley may not see her child for many years should she be deported? The case has profound humanitarian implications. I do not expect the Leader of the House to grant a debate on that subject, but could he encourage Home Office Ministers to make a statement about the case next week or, at the very least, to arrange a question on the subject?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I understand that my hon. Friend has in fact written to my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary on behalf of Mrs. Bentley, for reasons that he outlined in his question I understand also that those representations are being carefully considered. That seems to be the appropriate response at this time.

Photo of Mr Harry Barnes Mr Harry Barnes , North East Derbyshire

There is not a great deal of Government legislation in the coming programme, and the private Member's Bill ballot took place today. Will the Leader of the House ensure that a second Standing Committee is set up to debate private Members' Bills, to avoid the situation that arose in the previous Session when a Bill—the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill—which was solemnly supported in the House could not progress because of the procedural devices that were used to stop it? Private Members' Bills should have the opportunity to advance if sufficient Members support them.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

The House passed the relevant Sessional Order yesterday in respect of time for private Members' Bills and, as the hon. Gentleman said, the ballot took place today. I remind him that, as has been the case for several years, the Sessional Order provides for more time than the Standing Orders themselves. Beyond that, however, I have no plans to change the way in which private Members' business is conducted.

Photo of John Stanley John Stanley , Tonbridge and Malling

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in successive meetings between Kent local authorities and Ministers at the Department of Transport, Ministers gave undertakings that the new noise insulation regulations relating to railways would be debated and that those undertakings were recorded in the official departmental minutes, copies of which I have sent to him? Is he further aware of the motion tabled by me and a number of my hon. Friends in opposition to those regulations and of a similar motion tabled by the Leader of the Opposition? Against that background, will my right hon. Friend take early steps to fulfil the undertakings given by Ministers that the regulations will be debated?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I shall of course consider what my right hon. Friend said.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

As to the statement by the Scottish Secretary, I do not agree with the Labour Front Bench: I think that all the parties in Scotland would be quite capable of making statements to the Scottish people before the issue was debated in this place.

The House must realise that expectations about the Secretary of State's statement have been raised considerably by the Prime Minister's intervention. I understand that its theme is the sensitivity of this place to Scottish requirements, but how can that be when the Tory Whips Office floods the Order Paper during Scottish questions? Does the Leader of the House approve of the fact that six out of the first 10 questions asked during Scottish questions yesterday came from English Tory Members of Parliament, whose only interest in Scottish affairs is to act as cheerleaders for beleaguered Scottish Office Front Benchers?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

On the latter point, I simply remind the hon. Gentleman that whether he likes it or not—I must confess that I do like it—this is a United Kingdom and hon. Members from any part of it are entitled to take an interest in the affairs of every part of it.

As to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question, he will have sensed that there is little agreement from any part of the House—let alone the Opposition Front Bench—with his assertion that matters affecting the House should not be presented first to the House. His view is not shared by many other hon. Members.

Photo of Mr Bob Dunn Mr Bob Dunn , Dartford

Will the Leader of the House please arrange to have an urgent, early debate on the implications of signing the social chapter, given that that would lead to the reintroduction of the closed shop, the minimum wage, union-only labour and workers' councils? Those implications are not appreciated by many in this place or by many outside it.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

Indeed, and I would add that recent evidence suggests that the implications of signing the social chapter are not even appreciated by the leader of the Labour party.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Secretary of State for Social Security to make a statement on early-day motion 74?

[That this House, mindful of the current review by the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council of the criterion used since 13th September 1993 in the diagnosis of coalminers, believes that the requirement for X-ray evidence of attendant pneumoconiosis should be dropped, the FEV1 test replaced by a sensitive medical examination, the qualifying period reduced to 10 from 20 years in the appropriate employment and that the diagnosis in posthumous cases be decided on the evidence of the post mortem report.]

A copy is being handed to the Leader of the House now. Some months ago, members of the miners' group—in which I now declare my interest—called for a change in the conditions that apply to payments for those with chronic bronchitis and emphysema. We also asked the Government to modify the FEV test, to reduce the qualifying period from 20 to 10 years, and to drop the X-ray evidence requirement. We have made those demands, but we are still awaiting a reply. Will the Leader of the House ask the Minister to get a move on?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I shall certainly draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the hon. Gentleman's characteristically robust remarks. A little bird tells me that the current review by the independent Industrial Injuries Advisory Council will cover all the criteria used in deciding claims for benefit for chronic bronchitis and emphysema sufferers. The Government will give full and careful consideration to any recommendations that the council may make.

Photo of Mr Douglas French Mr Douglas French , Gloucester

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the trial of my constituent, Mrs. Rosemary West, has given rise to grave public concern about many issues? He has already indicated his intention to examine the issue of cheque-book journalism. Will he provide an early opportunity to debate some other issues, such as the need to put in place a much more comprehensive, national system for sharing information about missing persons?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I have already said that the various Departments concerned, and no doubt other organisations, will look very carefully at any lessons that may be learned from events in my hon. Friend's constituency. The Government will consider whether any additional guidance is necessary in areas within our responsibility.

As to my earlier comments about cheque-book journalism, I should have acknowledged that not only will the Government consider the need for new legislation, but the Press Complaints Commission—for which there may also be implications—has decided to examine whether it might do more in that regard.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan , Falkirk West

May we have an early statement about the duties and responsibilities of Ministers? Does the Leader of the House agree that it would be absolutely outrageous for a Cabinet Minister to use or abuse his position in order to discriminate unfairly in favour of his constituency to the detriment of a neighbouring constituency? Therefore, could there be an investigation into the conduct of the Secretary of State for Scotland who, in collusion with his crony, the chairman of Forth Valley health board, seems hell-bent on centralising more and more national health service facilities in his constituency to the disadvantage of people living in the Falkirk area?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

It would be a matter for you, Madam Speaker, rather than for me, but some of the phrasing of what the hon. Gentleman has just said leaves a certain amount to be desired, as he certainly would not have wished to use those terms outside the House. Having said that, I shall of course draw his remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton , Macclesfield

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the People's Republic of China is an important export market for the United Kingdom, just as the United Kingdom is a good market for goods from the People's Republic of China? Is he aware that the People's Republic is currently greatly limiting its imports, with on-going consequences for the companies in Britain that look to the People's Republic as a market for their manufactured goods? I refer particularly to an important company in my constituency, Rieter Scragg Ltd., which exports textile drawtexturing machinery. Will he arrange for the appropriate Minister to come to the House and explain what action can be taken to create a better environment for free trade between our two countries?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

My hon. Friend well knows the strength of the United Kingdom Government's support for free trade. On the specific point that he raised, I shall bring his remarks to the attention of my right hon. Friends, but as I have said, my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary will be answering questions on Wednesday 29 November and my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade will be answering questions on Wednesday 6 December.

Photo of Mr Max Madden Mr Max Madden , Bradford West

As the Leader of the House has announced two debates for two weeks today and tomorrow on the Adjournment of the House, will he urgently consider allocating one of those days to the debate on the future of the monarchy?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I propose to say exactly what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said several times 20 minutes ago; that appears to be an attempt to invite me to comment indirectly when my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister declined to comment directly. I shall comment neither directly nor indirectly.

Photo of Mr Piers Merchant Mr Piers Merchant , Beckenham

In the light of the excellent points raised by my hon. Friends the Members for South-West Cambridgeshire (Sir A. Grant) and for Gloucester (Mr. French), although I appreciate that cheque-book journalism is being studied as part of that consultation, will my right hon. Friend consider giving the House the opportunity to debate the matter at length, so that we can hear examples of the pernicious effects of cheque-book journalism in the West case and many others? I make that request as a former journalist who finds the practice absolutely abhorrent.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

As I have already said, I understand the concerns that led several hon. Members to raise the matter with me today. However, the proper time to consider whether a debate is needed, on either general or specific matters, would be when the various bodies and organisations to which I referred have had an opportunity to consider the lessons and what they might do.

Photo of Mr Eddie Loyden Mr Eddie Loyden , Liverpool, Garston

Will the Leader of the House ask the Secretary of State for Transport to investigate the decision by the Mersey Dock and Harbour Company to end responsibility for the employment of dock workers? He will know that the Rochdale report, produced in the 1960s, recommended that there should be fewer such employers in the port transport industry. The decision will mean that once again there will be a large number of employers of casual dock labour, reviving the casual nature of the port transport industry.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

Helpful as ever, I have arranged for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport to answer questions next Monday.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

I read some of the proceedings of the trial of Rosemary West, but I found it so disgusting and abhorrent that I could not continue. I understand why the Government should be worried about cheque-book journalism and the fact that witnesses have been approached, but what about the jurors? They spent week after week listening to the most disgusting and foul proceedings. Is it not time for a debate on counselling for jurors? I am worried that they have suffered a trauma that will affect them for the rest of their lives. May we have a debate on the role of jurors and counselling?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I shall bear the hon. Gentleman's remarks in mind. I have no doubt that it was distressing for people to sit through those proceedings. I have gained the impression, although I do not have a statement to this effect before me, that counselling has been considered and that some has been arranged.

Photo of Mr John Marshall Mr John Marshall , Hendon South

Will my right hon. Friend arrange an early debate on early-day motion 77?

[That this House condemns Islington Council for being placed bottom in the GCSE league tables and calls for a radical change in its education policies as well as recognition of past errors by the Labour leadership; and calls upon all Islington parents to bring pressure on their council to adopt Conservative education policies that will meet the needs of all local parents.]

Does my right hon. Friend agree that education should provide an escalator of opportunity for all children, which is not happening in Islington? Does not that demonstrate that old Labour or new Labour—call it what one will—does not produce the education standards that children have a right to demand? Does that explain why some parents seek to opt out of sending their children to schools run by Islington's local education authority?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

Whatever we call Labour, I am sure that all parents in Islington—including the Leader of the Opposition, to whom my hon. Friend was presumably referring—will want to know why the authority is performing so badly and is not doing a good job for pupils educated in the borough.

Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin , Colchester North

Rather than have just a statement on the Social Security Select Committee report published today, it would be helpful to have a full debate. That would give hon. Members an opportunity to demonstrate not only that the report welcomes the Government's initiative against fraud but that Labour's policies are non-existent and that it is simply following in our footsteps.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I am glad that my hon. Friend serves as a member of the Social Security Select Committee, and I am grateful for his comments. As he rightly said, the Committee welcomes the priority given by the Government to tackling fraud.

Photo of Denis MacShane Denis MacShane , Rotherham

Will the Leader of the House find time for an early debate on a non-partisan, non-party subject about which the whole nation has been talking this week? It is absurd that everybody is talking about a certain matter outside the House, but that the House cannot discuss it. I am not concerned with the personalities involved or with the remarks made, but the constitutional implications of a 19th-century arrangement for the head of state may not be appropriate for the 21st century. If the Leader of the House and the Prime Minister want the agenda for that matter to be set by the tabloid press and television executives, they will continue their say nothing, see nothing, hear nothing attitude in the House. The nation would like the House to debate the monarchy that we want in the 21st century.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I will not add to that which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and I have already said.

Photo of Alan Duncan Alan Duncan , Rutland and Melton

Will my right hon. Friend consider a debate soon on the office costs allowance? Given that the leader of the Labour party has been unable to answer even one of four letters sent to him personally by my right hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Dr. Mawhinney), the right hon. Gentleman appears to have a problem staffing his office. May we have an urgent debate, to find a way of remedying that grave discourtesy?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

If a letter has been sent to the right hon. Gentleman in his capacity as the Leader of the Opposition, that would relate to the Short money rather than to the office costs allowance, which the House debated in the previous Session when it made arrangements covering the whole of this Parliament. I am sure that the Leader of the Opposition will respond when my hon. Friend's remarks are reported to him. I would not wish to reopen that issue in the lifetime of this Parliament.

Photo of Paul Flynn Paul Flynn , Gorllewin Casnewydd

I refer the Leader of the House to early-day motion 1:

[That this House supports Bristol Coroner Paul Forrest's call of 14th November 1995 for a ban on bull bars at the inquest on Helen Baggs aged 10 of Melksham who was killed by a Land Rover fitted with bull bars; believes that many deaths and serious injuries would have been avoided if the Government and the European Commission had swiftly acted to ban bull bar fashion accessories that concentrate and multiply the force of collisions at the level of a child's head.]

When may the House debate that and the decision yesterday by CGA Direct Line Insurance not to insure in future any vehicle fitted with bull bars? Can we end the silly row between the Government and the European Commission over who should take the decision to introduce a ban on bull bars? We should act before more children are killed, now that hard-headed businesses say that vehicles fitted with bull bars are too dangerous to insure.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I commented on that matter to the hon. Gentleman last week, but that is not to say that I object to him raising it again. If he intends to raise that subject every week, I had better prepare different answers, so that I do not repeat myself. At present, I am not in that position. No doubt the hon. Gentleman is also making representations to Commissioner Kinnock, with whom his links are possibly closer than mine. Given that the Government discourage manufacturers from providing bull bars and vehicle owners from using them, I think that the insurance company decision to which the hon. Gentleman referred seems reasonably sensible and welcome.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley , Eltham

For the avoidance of doubt, may I say to my right hon. Friend that if there is no cut in the funding to the BBC World Service, it would be nice to have an opportunity next week to say thank you?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

Whether people want to throw bouquets or brickbats next week, they should have the opportunity to do so when my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary appears at the Dispatch Box to answer questions on 29 November.

Photo of Andrew Miller Andrew Miller , Ellesmere Port and Neston

In the light of recent publicity about the use of transgenic animals in human genetic research, and particularly in the light of the actions of some insurance companies, will the Leader of the House find time next week for an urgent and full debate on the recent report of the Select Committee on Science and Technology, which was unanimously agreed by that Committee?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we have made what we hope will be improved arrangements in the present Session—with the so-called Jopling resolutions—to allow greater opportunity for debating Select Committee reports. No doubt the hon. Gentleman will wish to draw those remarks not only to my attention but to the attention of the Chairman of the Liaison Committee.

Photo of Bob Spink Bob Spink , Castle Point

Will my right hon. Friend find time next week to debate a subject of concern to many of my vulnerable constituents—the delivery of community care by social services in Essex? I understand that events may have overtaken my question, but if we have time to debate the matter next week, can we draw attention to the excellent, dedicated service and care provided by those in the front line in social services in Essex?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

Yes—I am very much of that view. Although my constituency does not immediately border on my hon. Friend's, I am well aware that there has been much concern about the way in which some aspects of community care have been working in Essex. I hope that those matters can be fully considered. Nothing takes away from the fact that those providing such services work hard to provide dedicated care for many people.

Photo of Mike Gapes Mike Gapes , Ilford South

I add my voice to those of the hon. Member for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley) and my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) in asking for a debate next week on the subject of the funding of the World Service. Does the Leader of the House agree that it is our finest national asset and does far more to influence other countries in favour of Britain and British interests than anything else—certainly, more than the Government or the royal family are doing at present?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

As an occasional listener to the World Service—I used to be a more regular listener when I drove home every night—I know that we all value the service that it provides. That is one reason why I am usually willing to be interviewed on it about subjects such as the Queen's Speech; it conducts such interviews very nicely.

Photo of Mr Matthew Banks Mr Matthew Banks , Southport

Will my right hon. Friend try to find time for a debate, perhaps up to 7 o'clock, when we could discuss the nonsensical suggestions of the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond), who spoke earlier? We could then tell him that many Conservative Members who regularly attend Scottish questions have a clear and obvious link with Scotland. In any case, Scotland is an integral part of this Parliament and will remain so. Until 10 o'clock, we might have a debate on the importance of spending constraints in the public sector to achieve lower taxation—we could thus contrast Government policies with those of Opposition Members, who come up with many gimmicks rather than carefully costed policies.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I have much sympathy with the first part of my hon. Friend's remarks. On the latter part of his remarks, I merely observe that the House will have no fewer than five days to discuss the sort of matters to which he referred and I am not sure that I want to promise to return to them yet again on 20 December.

Photo of Mr George Foulkes Mr George Foulkes , Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley

As you know, Madam Speaker, I was one of the casualties of Scottish Question Time yesterday. The problem was not so much English Tories, but the fact that hon. Members on both sides of the Chamber did not heed your admonition for short questions and short answers—none more so than the king nat himself. On the subject of next week's business, when are we to have a statement from the Secretary of State for Scotland on the local government settlement, so that I can ask questions about the underfunding of the south Ayrshire and east Ayrshire authorities?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

Long question; short answer. That one is still a bit ahead.