HC Deb 03 August 1972 vol 842 cc965-74
Mr. Harold Wilson

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he will indicate the business of the House for next week?

The Secretary of State for the Home Department, Lord President of the Coun- cil and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Robert Carr)

The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY, 7TH AUGUST—Debate on a Motion to take note of the Second Report of the Select Committee on Expenditure, together with the subsequent evidence published by the Defence Sub-Committee.

Remaining stages of the Horserace Totalisator and Betting Levy Boards Bill, and of the Land Charges Bill [Lords].

Second Reading of the National Debt Bill [Lords], and the Poisons Bill [Lords]. which are consolidation Measures.

TUESDAY, 8TH AUGUST.—Consideration of Her Majesty's Most Gracious Message and of the Motion to approve the emergency regulations.

Procedure Motions relating to Privilege and the election of the Speaker.

Consideration of Church of England (General Synod) Measures.

Remaining stages of the National Debt Bill [Lords] and of the Poisons Bill [Lords].

WEDNESDAY, 9TH AUGUST.—It Will be proposed that the House should meet at 11 a.m., take Questions until 12 noon, and adjourn at 5 p.m. until Tuesday, 17th October.

Now that the end of what has been a particularly arduous parliamentary term is in prospect, I wonder Mr. Speaker, whether on behalf of the House, I may say "thank you "to you and the other occupants of the Chair, to the Officers of the House, to all the staff and the police for the splendid way in which we have been served in difficult conditions, often until very late hours.

Mr. Wilson

I hope that it will be in order to echo what the right hon. Gentleman said in paying tribute to you, Mr. Speaker, to your Deputies, to other Officers of the House, and to the staff and the police.

Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that after that catalogue of thanks there are no thanks due to the Government for the record of this Session? Will he study the state of parliamentary business at the end of this Session, with many Supply Days which we have been unable to take up, with a large number of Statutory Instruments which we have not been able to debate—as is the right of the House—and with far fewer than usual White Papers and other Government announcements debated in Government time?

With regard to Tuesday's business on the emergency regulations—and I am putting this question to him as Leader of the House, not as author of the regulations—is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the ordinary course of events we should have wanted a major full day's debate on this—though it will still be a major debate—because of our view of the responsibility of Her Majesty's Government for the state of affairs which has brought about this fourth state of emergency? But it is fair to say to the right hon. Gentleman, in his capacity as Leader of the House, that as he speedily conceded what we asked for last week—namely, a full day's debate on the responsibility of the Government in bringing about this strike—I hope, as I think many hon. Members will, that the debate might be over at a reasonable hour—perhaps not later than 8 o'clock; perhaps a little earlier—because on the major points we have had a debate and registered a vote earlier this week.

Finally, the right hon. Gentleman will recall the exchanges last week about the date of the debate on the Motion for the House to adjourn until 17th October. Can he now confirm, because I did not hear it read out in his statement, that this will not take place on Wednesday, the day of the Adjournment, and will he say when it will?

Mr. Carr

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for what he said about the debate on Tuesday on the emergency powers. We recognise that it is a major and serious debate, but I am grateful to him for what he said; namely, that in view of the debate that we had earlier this week next Tuesday's debate might not last for as long as it might otherwise have done.

What I have in mind about the debate on the Motion for the Summer Adjournment is that perhaps it might follow the debate on the emergency powers, because I agree that it would not be satisfactory to the House to leave that debate until Wednesday. Having considered Monday's business, I believe that what I have suggested will probably be for the overall convenience of the House.

My reply to the right hon. Gentleman's point about Statutory Instruments is that there have been one or two opportunities recently which have not been taken advantage of when there might have been Prayers. I do not want to make too much of this, but even now it may be possible before next Wednesday to arrange a Prayer, if any hon. Members wish it, through the usual channels.

Sir D. Renton

In arranging future business will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the great desirability of our having a debate on the reorganisation of water supplies and sewerage before the Government decide upon the terms of their legislative proposals?

Mr. Carr

I shall certainly bear in mind what my right hon. and learned Friend said. As there is no chance of a debate before next Wednesday, I shall have time to consider it very carefully.

Mr. James Johnson

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that as from 1st September the Icelandic Government intend to enforce the 50-mile limit off their shores. Is he aware of the intense anxiety and, indeed, the deep indignation in the fishing ports of Hull, Fleetwood and Aberdeen about this? Will the right hon. Gentleman discuss the matter with his right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Defence and ensure that there is a statement about this and about what contingency planning the Government intend to make for the defence of our fishermen after 1st September?

Mr. Carr

I am very much aware, as is my right hon. and noble Friend and, indeed, the whole Government, of the seriousness of this situation for the whole of our fishing industry, from whichever port it operates. The International Court is now considering our application for an interim settlement of the matter, and that, I think, must be our main action, but I shall talk to the Secretary of State for Defence about it. The difficulty in striking a balance between the need for enough statements and too many is very great, most of all at this time of the year.

Sir J. Rodgers

Can my right hon. Friend say whether his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment intends to make a statement before the House rises on picketing, which has been the subject of a departmental inquiry by that Department?

Mr. Carr

I doubt whether any statement will be made before the Summer Recess, but I shall talk to my right hon. Friend about that. I know that the study is going on, because I initiated it when I was in that position.

Dr. Summerskill

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to provide time for a debate on the White Paper on the reorganisation of the National Health Service, rather than that the Government should hurriedly introduce a Bill at the beginning of the next Session? Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the White Paper is incomplete, with a great lack of information on vital matters, and that it is wide-ranging and highly controversial on many points, both inside and outside the House?

Mr. Carr

I take note of what the hon. Lady said, and I shall talk to my right hon. Friend about it and consider the matter. There is a temptation, as one sees oneself released from the pressure which has been standing in the way of our summer holidays, to imagine that in the autumn there will be time for everything. I am sure that when we come to the autumn that will not be quite so easy. I shall not make a promise, but I shall consider the matter seriously.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

Has my right hon. Friend seen Early-Day Motion No. 438, which is signed by about 22 hon. Gentlemen opposite and contains a savage censure upon one of Her Majesty's Judges of the High Court?

[That this House condemns absolutely the action of Sir John Donaldson, President of the National Industrial Relations Court, in committing the five dockers to prison; and expresses its utter contempt for Sir John Donaldson and his Court.]

Is it not in accordance with precedent and, indeed, with common decency to the distinguished judge named that the Motion should either be removed from the Order Paper or else be debated forthwith?

Mr. Carr

I shall consider what my hon. and learned Friend has had to say. I am sure that he is right in what he says. I think that we must consider the number of supporters for this Motion. But I shall take the matter into account. However, I do not see any chance of debating this before Wednesday. I should like seriously to ask all hon. Members who have signed the Motion or who might still be thinking of signing it to consider very seriously what an important matter it is to censure a judge of the High Court.

Mr. Barry Jones

Will the right hon. Gentleman indicate whether the Government propose to announce any plans for the steel industry before the recess? Is he aware that there is strong evidence now that at the Shotton steelworks in my constituency an announcement will be made that 7,000 men will be made redundant? If my constituency is to be annihilated in this rather brutal manner, may we at least have an assurance that a statement will be made in the House?

Mr. Carr

My right hon. Friend is committed as soon as possible—but I do not think that that will be before the rising of the House for the summer—to making a statement about the long-term strategy of the British Steel Corporation's investment plans. But one should look back at past practice and the terms of the nationalisation Statute, which was introduced by the Labour Party, and the practice of the Labour Party on that. I do not think that I can promise a statement in the House about every action which the British Steel Corporation is entitled to take under the Statute passed by the Labour Party when in Government. But I shall certainly draw my right hon. Friend's attention to this matter. I know that he and the corporation have been and are in contact about the great need for the maximum degree of consultation with unions, communities and local authorties whenever any major closures unfortunately have to be considered.

Mr. David James

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to Early-Day Motion No. 404, which has been signed by 208 hon. Members from all quarters of the House, urging Her Majesty's Government to ban importation of all whale products? Will he bear in mind the fact that this flows from the almost unanimous decision of the Stockholm conference that there should be a 10-year moratorium on all whaling, which was not agreed to by the International Whaling Commission? I believe that the Motion represents the views not only of this House, the Fauna Preservation Society and the Friends of the Earth but of the electorate and the civilised world? Will my right hon. Friend take steps to see whether action can be taken in this matter?

[That this House, noting that the International Whaling Commission has failed to implement the Stockholm Conference decision to put a ten-year moratorium on whaling, once again urges Her Majesty's Government to prohibit the import of all whalemeat and whale products.]

Mr. Carr

Unfortunately, the Motion for the 10-year moratorium, to which my hon. Friend refers, and for which the United Kingdom delegate voted, was not carried. I am sure that we regret that, and I hope that the House will take note that the United Kingdom delegate sought to get into the team. Nevertheless, it is recognised that what was achieved, in spite of not passing that resolution, was quite important. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture is making a written answer today, to which I might refer the House.

Mr. Shore

Will the right hon. Gentleman see to it that we get a statement this week on the preparations following the Foreign Ministers' meeting for the forthcoming Common Market summit meeting later in the year? As economic and monetary union appears to be the front runner of the subjects that are to be discussed and as yesterday's figures show that we have lost £1,000 million in payments across the exchanges in fulfilling our part of Mark 1 of the economic and monetary union arrangements, will the right hon. Gentleman agree that the House ought to discuss this matter further before any further arrangements are made?

Mr. Carr

I am not sure whether my right hon. Friend would agree with the figures given by the right hon. Gentleman at the end of his question. All I can say at present is that I will consider his point. But in the few days available I cannot make a definite promise.

Mr. Ronald Bell

When does my right hon. Friend expect the next Session to be opened?

Mr. Carr

I cannot say that yet. It is impossible for me, as early as this, to forecast exactly how long the spillover will have to be.

Mr. John Mendelson

With regard to the unsatisfactory statement made by the Leader of the House about the date for debating the Adjournment Motion for the Recess, does the right hon. Gentleman realise that over the last year or so a very unsatisfactory principle seems to have been followed by the Government of being rather mysterious about the date for these debates? Will he now change his mind and put on this debate for Monday next? Does he realise that hon. Members from various areas affected by unemployment or hon. Members who have to raise issues of particular industries must not be deprived of their right to have a debate in the light of day and not late in the evening, so that their views may be properly taken notice of? Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that if he does not change his mind on this he may have more trouble on his hands than he thinks possible now?

Mr. Carr

I regret the hon. Gentleman's tone about this matter. He is making a mountain out of a molehill. There is no mystery about this. It never has been the practice, I understand, to announce it long in advance. I considered having the debate on Monday, but I considered carefully the business of both days and the day when most hon. Members would wish, and would find it most convenient, to be present. We undertook some consultations about this matter and concluded that for most hon. Members—although I am sure not for all—Tuesday was probably the most convenient day.

Mr. Money

When my right hon. Friend bears in mind the business for October, will he take special account of the fact that both his predecessors and himself have given the House the assurance that they will give the House the opportunity for debating the television broadcasting of its proceedings?

Mr. Carr

Yes, indeed. I shall bear that in mind, and I hope that we shall be able to do something soon after returning.

Mr. Concannon

What are the Government's intentions with regard to the Robens Report on Safety and Health at Work? This has great bearing on just about all the legislation that passes through the House, in particular the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill which we are about to discuss.

Mr. Carr

I do not think that my memory is playing me false when I say that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment has already made a statement about that in which he stressed the urgency of this matter. I think that he said not only that consultations were being proceeded with immediately but that he had set a fairly sharp time limit for trying to reach a conclusion.

Mr. Kilfedder

When will the Northern Ireland draft planning order be laid before the House and debated? Will the Leader of the House ensure that hon. Members have an opportunity of moving Amendments to it?

Mr. Carr

I have to admit to my hon. Friend that I do not know the precise answer to his question at present. I shall have to consider it and let him know.

Mr. Dalyell

What about the promised statement on Vinter and the future of the nuclear power industry?

Mr. Carr

I hope that there will be a statement by my right hon. Friend before the Houses rises.

Mr. Crouch

Can we expect a statement next week on the decision on the runways at Maplin Sands for the third London airport? If there is to be a statement, will the matter be debated before it is finally proceeded with?

Mr. Carr

I can hold out considerable hope to my hon. Friend that there will be a statement before we rise. No doubt the question of a debate will be something to press following the statement by my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Ross

Is the Leader of the House aware that Scottish Members in all parts of the House are very anxious that we should have a debate on the reform of local government in Scotland before we get the Bill? Secondly, will he give an assurance that any proposal the Secretary of State for Scotland has, and any announcement of such proposal, in respect of reform of crofting tenure will be made by statement in the House?

Mr. Carr

May I consider both those matters? I knew that reform of local government in Scotland had been discussed in the Scottish Grand Committee, but I take note of what the right hon. Gentleman says about wishing to debate it in the House. As to the matter of crofting tenure, as a poor Londoner I am not as well briefed in this matter as I should be, but I will consult my right hon. Friend.