HC Deb 01 February 1973 vol 849 cc1618-25
Mr. Edward Short

May I ask the Leader of the House to state the business for next week?

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. James Prior)

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

MONDAY, 5TH FEBRUARY—Second Reading of the Water Bill.

Motions on the Northern Ireland Fire Services Order and on the Family Income Supplements (Computation) Regulations.

TUESDAY, 6TH FEBRUARY—Supply (7th allotted day). There will be a debate on Housing in the United Kingdom, which will arise on an Opposition Motion.

Motions on the Northern Ireland Orders relating to Museums, Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration, and Financial Provisions.

WEDNESDAY, 7TH FEBRUARY—Debate on a motion to take note of the White Paper on Public Expenditure to 1976–77 (Command No. 5178).

Motions on the Salmon and Migratory Trout Orders.

THURSDAY, 8TH FEBRUARY—Second Reading of the Maplin Development Bill.

Motions on the Representation of the People Orders.

FRIDAY, 9TH FEBRUARY—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 12TH FEBRUARY—Consideration of Private Members' motions until seven o'clock.

Afterwards, Second Reading of the Education Bill (Lords).

Mr. Short

May I ask the Leader of the House two questions? First, will he give the House an assurance that the steel White Paper will be published next week and that we shall have an opportunity to debate it shortly afterwards? Secondly, will he give us an opportunity in the very near future to debate the Government's White Paper on education? This was published without any statement from the right hon. Lady and we must have an opportunity in Government time to question some of its very doubtful assumptions and even more doubtful conclusions.

Mr. Prior

I am not certain that the White Paper will be available next week. At the moment the timetable is within about the next ten days. Of course I accept that the House will wish to debate the White Paper, certainly before we get engaged in the usual spring debates on defence, the Budget, and so on, and I give that undertaking to the House.

On the question of education, at the time of publication of the White Paper I made it clear that I would provide time for the House to debate it. The point I am thinking about at the moment is that we have a debate on education today. Whether we want to have another debate on education so quickly is a matter for the House to decide, but of course I am perfectly prepared to repeat my undertaking that we shall have a debate on the White Paper.

Captain Orr

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is urgent need for debate on Northern Ireland agriculture, particularly in relation to the EEC and the problems it has created? Would he consider the possibility of permitting some of the time, say one and a half hours, to be used to discuss agriculture, by taking one of the other Orders in Council formally?

Mr. Prior

I recognise that there is great interest in Northern Ireland in the agricultural part of the EEC regulations, and I noted what my hon. and gallant Friend said. I am not certain whether it would be in order to do as he suggests, but I will of course look at it. He asked about Northern Ireland business generally. As my hon. and gallant Friend knows only too well, there will be plenty of Northern Irish business in the next few months.

Mr. English

I have received a very nice letter from the right hon. Gentleman, but is he aware that I still have not received any copies of the record of what happened in Strasbourg? While he is thinking of things that have not happened yet and are his responsibility, will he tell the House why, for far longer than he has been in office, the Leader of the House has not brought in any proposal resulting from the Joint Committee on Defama- tion and Privilege in relation to this House?

Mr. Prior

The multi-lingual version of the European Parliament proceedings is available in the Library and can be ordered through the Vote Office. I recognise that there is a delay in translation of the full proceedings, and we are looking at this to see how we can speed it up. I will do my best to see that the House has the full proceedings as quickly as we can get them, but the House can at the moment get the multilingual version.

I should like to consider the other point made by the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Powell

What provision does my right hon. Friend propose to make in advance of the report of the ad hoc Committee for the House to consider draft proposals for Community legislation so that the House can express its opinions to Ministers, as we have repeatedly been promised, before decisions are reached?

Mr. Prior

I am hoping that the ad hoc Committee will report quickly on these problems, but until it reports, if the House will discuss through the usual channels or directly with me what particular draft regulations it would wish to debate, I will see whether time can be found.

Mr. Faulds

Would the right hon. Gentleman make arrangements to have all the recording equipment in the Committee Rooms scrapped? Is he aware that on two recent occasions when I was in Committee with other Members of the House the damned stuff broke down, and that on one occasion I had the daunting task of trying to recreate the rich, tumbling flow of my contribution? Will he make arrangements promptly to hire a sufficient number of old-fashioned but competent manual transcribers?

Mr. Prior

Knowing the quality of the hon. Gentleman's ability to recreate the tumbling flow of his speaking, I cannot think that he had any trouble in doing that. But I will see what has gone wrong with the recording equipment. One of the problems we have is in finding sufficient people of the old-fashioned variety, as he has asked me to do, who can carry out these duties.

Mr. Kimball

Would my right hon. Friend say whether the tumbling flow of full democracy will be restored to Lincoln during the course of next week, and has he any indication whether business will be interrupted for the moving of the writ for the Lincoln by-election?

Mr. Prior

I must tell my hon. Friend that that is not a matter for me, nor have I any information about it.

Mr. David Steel

Can the Leader of the House say when he will tell the House of his reaction to the very many proposals made this week concerning talks through the usual channels about the method of selecting Standing Committees?

Mr. Prior

I had quite a lot to say on that last week and I am not in a position to say anything further at the moment, but some of the problems which the hon. Gentleman mentioned are, of course, still being discussed and could arise again.

Dame Irene Ward

My right hon. Friend will remember that last week he very kindly told me that he was going to find out about the Booz Allen Report and would write to me. Would he bear in mind that I really do enjoy having letters from him and that I have not had any? As he has not let me have an answer up to the moment, would he please add some information as to what the Government are doing about making selective proposals to shipowners in regard to what they are going to do to help them in connection with the building of ships? I am longing and longing to get a letter from him.

Mr. Prior

My hon. Friend received the report only this morning and he will be considering whether a version excluding commercially confidential information can be published. I think it would be best to await his decision before considering the possibility of having time for a debate, but if I have any other information I will certainly write to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Strauss

In view of the apparently well-informed articles that have appeared in many papers during the past few days saying the Ministers are considering the problem of the declaration of hon. Members' interests, can the right hon. Gentleman say when we are likely to get an official statement on the matter and, in particular, whether the Government are now considering implementing some or all of the recommendations of the Select Committee that went into this matter in 1969?

Mr. Prior

I think the right hon. Gentleman's experience of that Committee will have told him that this is not at all an easy problem. It is very much a matter for the House as a whole and for hon. Members in all parts of the House to consider what further action, if any, we can take that will help. I would suggest that it would be of advantage to the House as a whole if we could have consultations, and I am prepared to hold consultations through the usual channels and in all parts of the House to see how best we can deal with a very difficult and complicated problem.

Mr. Marten

Reverting to the point about the EEC raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he is aware that since 1st January there have been 66 draft regulations, directives and orders? Is he further aware that I have looked through a number of them and find that at least 20 of them are important and should be debated quickly? If he is aware of this, may we have time next week or the week after, specifically a day, to go through at least some of them?

Mr. Prior

I cannot promise any time next week and I could not promise a day in the week after that. If we are not to get the preliminary findings of the ad hoc Committee quickly we shall have to make some arrangements to discuss these draft regulations. I would like to consult with the House about how best to do this.

Mr. Wallace

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it looks very much as if the National Health Service will be reorganised before the legislation is discussed by this House? Is he further aware that considerable detail has already been fixed and organised before we have seen this legislation? When is the legislation likely to be discussed here? Before everything is arranged, I trust.

Mr. Prior

I am sure that it is the desire of my right hon. Friend that the Bill, which is now in another place, should reach this House as soon as pos- sible. I hope that it will not be long delayed in getting here.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his predecessor made a promise that there would be consultation with Members representing Northern Ireland about the Northern Ireland business which came before the House? Does he intend to carry on in the way of his predecessor or is he not ready to consult Northern Ireland Members? Is he aware that they have not been consulted, with the exception of the leader of the Unionist Party in this House and probably the Opposition spokesman? Can he tell us when we are to have the opportunity to debate the important proposals of the Diplock Commission in view of the escalation of violence in Northern Ireland? Surely this House should have an opportunity to discuss such matters?

Mr. Prior

I am certainly prepared to consult hon. Members from Northern Ireland about the conduct of Northern Ireland business. I thought that I had met the wishes of the House in dealing with such business, but I will bear in mind what the hon. Gentleman said. I hope to be able to say something more about the Diplock Commission in the very near future.

Mr. William Hamilton

In the light of what the Prime Minister said last week about the Franks Report, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give an assurance that the House will debate this report before the Easter Recess? Turning to the point raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss), may I ask whether it is not imperative, in the light of recent events, that we should have a debate on the report of the Committee dealing with the outside financial interests of Members? Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that this report, published in December 1969, has never been before the House?

Mr. Prior

The subject of the outside financial interests of Members raises difficult questions for the House as a whole. I am willing to consult to see how best we can deal with it. My right hon. Friend said that the Government have not yet completed their examination of the important recommendations in the Franks Committee. We shall announce our decision as soon as possible, but I certainly could not promise a debate in the near future. It must depend on when the Government make their statement.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

In view of the spate of vile murders and counter-murders in Northern Ireland, may I invite the attention of my right hon. Friend, as I did last week, to Motion No. 134? [That this House deplores the failure of the independent broadcasting authority to discharge its duty under section 3 of the Television Act 1964 in that it allowed Mr. David O'Connell, a leader of the Provisional Wing of the IRA, to appear on London Weekend Television and to incite murder and violence against Her Majesty's Forces and loyal subjects in the United Kingdom; further regrets the affront to the Government of the Irish Republic, co-operation with which is essential to the defeat of terrorism, implicit in the holding of the interview in Eireann territory where this organisation is illegal and Mr. O'Connell is sought by the forces of law and order; and calls on Her Majesty's Government to take appropriate action forthwith.]

Does he not think that the House should have some sort of explanation of the conduct of the Independent Broadcasting Authority which seems to many of us to be not only anti-British but illegal in respect of the television interview of Mr. O'Connell?

Mr. Prior

Programme content is a matter for the broadcasting authorities, not this House. As I told my hon. Friend last week, I believe the whole House deplores this programme. I am certain that the Authority is well aware of the feelings on this subject.

Mr. Harold Walker

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a growing assumption outside this House that Parliament is apathetic and indifferent to industrial health and safety? Will he dispel this by recognising the importance of the Robens Report, published over six months ago, which we have not yet debated? Will he make arrangements for us to do so?

Mr. Prior

The Government hope to announce their broad intentions on the Robens Report shortly. It will be best to await this before considering the question of a debate.

Mr. Lawson

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider what facilities he can make available to the House to discuss the Government's plans for the future of the Nature Conservancy? Does he recognise that many hon Members on both sides will take it badly if the Conservancy is carved up and we are presented with a Bill carrying out a fait accompli?

Mr. Prior

The hon. Member, and other hon Members, took the opportunity to discuss this subject last Monday week during the debate on the report of the Science and Technology Committee. I think I am right in saying that the Government are considering the introduction of legislation about this. I will get in touch with the hon. Member and let him know.

Several Hon. Members rose——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am sorry but we have an important statement followed by a debate for which I have a long list of speakers from both sides of the House.

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