HC Deb 22 February 1973 vol 851 cc686-93
Mr. Harold Wilson

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 26TH FEBRUARY—Supply (10th allotted day).

There will be debates on Opposition motions on Unemployment in Scotland, until about seven o'clock, and afterwards on House and Land Prices in Scotland.

Motions on the Bacon Industry Stabilisation Scheme and on the Representation of the People Regulations.

TUESDAY 27TH FEBRUARY AND WEDNESDAY 28TH FEBRUARY—Remaining stages of the Counter-Inflation Bill.

THURSDAY 1ST MARCH—Second Reading of the Administration of Justice Bill [Lords] and of the Overseas Pensions Bill [Lords].

Motions on the Common Agricultural Policy Order and Regulations.

FRIDAY 2ND MARcH—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY 5TH MARCH—Debate on the Consultative Document on the Price and Pay Code.

Mr. Wilson

With regard to the debate on Monday 5th March, will the right hon. Gentleman confirm the impression the House had from a speech by the Prime Minister a few weeks ago that it will be a debate in which the Government will listen to the views of the House on the consultative document, that it will not be the definitive debate on the document, and that a version amended as may be thought fit in the light of the debate will be formally submitted to the House before it comes into effect?

Secondly, with regard to the business for Tuesday and Wednesday, is not the right hon. Gentleman guilty of a slight omission? On consideration, would not he have liked to concede that, despite the strong feeling about the Counter-Inflation Bill on both sides of the House, the Committee stage made very good progress and entirely fulfilled what the Shadow Cabinet said in its statement on the day of the Lancaster House Press conference, contrary to the Prime Minister's statement, when he said that we had changed our view and were going to hold up the Bill? Will the right hon. Gentleman now concede that the Committee discussion has been very full, constructive and thorough, and that we fully implemented our pledge in the matter?

Mr. Prior

On the first point raised by the right hon. Gentleman, I confirm that this is to be a debate on the consultative document, which, of course, will enable the Government to take into account the full views of the House. We can then consider whether they should be incorporated into the draft code and whether there should be a debate on that before the amended code has to come into operation. It is a question whether we should have another debate in between the consultative document and the consideration of the code, or whether we should have a debate on the draft code as well.

On the right hon. Gentleman's other question, I have noted what he said. I think that the House has performed extremely well in Committee to get through the Counter-Inflation Bill in the time it has taken.

Mr. Wilson

Will the right hon. Gentleman explain his answer to the first point I raised? I hope I have it right. We understood that there would be two debates—one of a consultative character, in which we would all express views on the matter, followed by a debate on the code. When the right hon. Gentleman said that after the debate the Government would have to consider a further debate, did he mean that we shall have one and not two debates or that we shall have three debates, because of the draft code?

Mr. Prior

There will certainly be two debates, and there could possibly be three. If we think that two is sufficient, we would like to stick at two.

Mr. Biffen

In order that the Report and Third Reading stages of the Counter-Inflation Bill can proceed both in an amiable and a well-informed manner, will my right hon. Friend confirm that the consultative document on the draft code will be available to hon. Members in the Vote Office on Monday? If so, at what time on Monday?

Mr. Prior

No one wants it to be an amiable occasion more than I do, so I support my hon. Friend in that hope. The consultative document will be available before we come to Report stage, but I am not certain at what time it will be available. I cannot go further than to say that I have noted what my hon. Friend said, and I note that it would be to the convenience of the House to have the document as early as possible next week. But at this stage I would not want to commit myself to the actual time.

Dr. David Owen

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the defence debates will not take place in the week beginning 12th March, since the Defence and External Affairs Sub-Committee of the Expenditure Committee will be in Washington that week. He will recall that he was warned of this in October.

Mr. Prior

I recognise that that is a problem. I am considering whether there is any possible way in which I can avoid holding the debates in that week, because I know that certain hon. Members from both sides of the House who are deeply interested in the subject will be away. On the other hand I am in great difficulty because of the Budget debate and the amount of business we have to get through before the spring guillotine falls. But I will bear in mind what the hon. Gentleman said.

Sir. P. Bryan

When may we expect the Bill which introduces the Manpower Commision?

Mr. Prior

Certainly not for a few days, at any rate. I hone that it will be within perhaps a fortnight or three weeks, but I would not like to be certain about it at the moment.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

Will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for the Minister for Trade and Consumer Affairs to make a statement next week about why he sent one of his underlings last Friday to the House to object to my Bill which would ban pyramid selling, and to explain whether he objects to pyramid selling, what his objection to the Bill is, and whether he wants to continue pyramid selling, and, if he does not, why he is dragging his feet and doing nothing about it?

Mr. Prior

I reject what the hon. Gentleman said. I remind him that on the previous Friday one of his hon. Friends objected to the Bill, so I do not want to hear any more about that from him. The hon. Gentleman asked whether my right hon. and learned Friend would make a statement next week on the subject. My right hon. and learned Friend is discussing it and considering it carefully and will make a statement or arrange for the House to be informed at the earliest possible opportunity.

Mr. Michael Hamilton

Will my right hon. Friend find time next week for the House to debate the Report of the Select Committee on the Parliamentary Commissioner concerning my constituents? As he knows, the Committee, without my knowledge, heard evidence from senior civil servants and published it and has since declined to hear evidence from me. If he is not able to find time next week, perhaps he can find time to persuade all Select Committees to grant comparable facilities to hon. Members as are granted to senior civil servants, because otherwise it makes it difficult for all of us adequately to represent our constituents here.

Mr. Prior

I know the case very well. We discussed it in the debate on the Reports of the Select Committee on Procedure just be4fore Christmas. I am afraid that I cannot see a further opportunity of debating what is for my hon. Friend a very difficult subject but which for the House as a whole involves us in very considerable issues of principle, of which my hon. Friend and other hon. Members are well aware.

Mr. Faulds

When may we expect a statement from the Foreign Secretary about what representations he is making following the attack on Lebanon by Israeli forces and the shooting down of a civil airliner by the Israeli Air Force? Will the right hon. Gentleman stress to the Foreign Secretary that it is absolutely essential that the British Government should not be party to the double standards of judgment applied too often to the actions of the Israeli Government?

Mr. Prior

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has made the Government's position clear. We deplore this action but there is nothing further to add at this stage.

Mr. Fowler

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the great public concern about the increase in crimes of violence in the country, in particular those involving the use of fire arms, whether they be real or imitation? In view of the urgency of the situation, will he undertake to make time available so that the matter may be debated?

Mr. Prior

I recognise that this is a very important subject and I will convey my hon. Friend's views to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. But I must tell my hon. Friend that over the next few weeks our time is very fully allocated and that it will not be easy to find time for general debates of that nature.

Mr. Marks

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is considerable concern about the delay in legislating on the reorganisation of the employment service and also of local government finance, which affects it? Are we to have a statement or a presentation of these Bills next week or not at all in this Session?

Mr. Prior

As I told my hon. Friend the Member for Howden (Sir P. Bryan), I expect the Bill on the Manpower Commission before very long. I have nothing to say at this stage about local government finance.

Mr. McMaster

In view of the profound importance of the White Paper on Northern Ireland, the fact that Stormont is not in session to debate the proposals, and the continuing murderous attacks by the IRA on civilians and members of the security forces, three members of which have been killed in the past week, will my right hon. Friend arrange a debate following the plebiscite and before the publication of the White Paper?

Mr. Prior

No, Sir. I think that we should have the White Paper as soon as possible, and after that, of course, there will have to be a debate. I believe that a debate after the White Paper would be more profitable for the House as a whole than a debate before it.

Mr. Dalyell

In the light of discussions through the usual channels and of correspondence, does the right hon. Gentleman see any hope of the Second Reading, perhaps taken upstairs, of the small agreed measure on penalties for pollution of the North Sea?

Mr. Prior

I know the hon. Gentleman's interest in the subject and I share it fully. I would like to get the matter before the House as soon as possible. But I am afraid that I still cannot say whether we can manage legislation on the subject this Session. I begin to believe that it is unlikely.

Mr. Body

Will my right hon. Friend say a word more about the business for late on Thursday night? Will he give an assurance that it does not concern any draft regulation relating to the revised currency rates and their effect upon the common agricultural policy, particularly farm gate prices here?

Mr. Prior

No, these are not draft regulations in another form. My hon. Friend will find that they are to do much more with what we need to do for ourselves and have no real connection with anything which is in draft in Brussels.

Mr. Rose

Will the Leader of the House say when the Government will get their priorities right and allow time for a full debate on the Robens Report on health and safety in industry? Is it the Government's intention merely to rest content with the report or to lay proposals for legislation before the House to improve health and safety in that area?

Mr. Prior

The Government will certainly be laying proposals before the House in due course which will go a long way to meet the hon. Gentleman's point of view. I cannot promise an early debate.

Mr. Ridsdale

In view of the urgency of many problems concerning rating, will my right hon. Friend say whether it is the Government's intention to publish a White Paper soon? Is he aware that many of us hope that at least we shall not run away from the reform of local government finance in this Session?

Mr. Prior

It is not the Government's intention at the moment to publish a White Paper on that subject, but I hope that my hon. Friend will not have long to wait before he has another source of information.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Would my right hon. Friend agree that some time in March we shall have the annual price review announcement in this country, followed in the first week of April probably by that of the EEC? Does he not agree that a debate before we rise for the Easter Recess would not only be necessary but right?

Mr. Prior

I will consider what my hon. Friend says. We often have agricultural debates in Opposition time. The Government are getting short of time between now and April but I hope that the House will find the opportunity to debate agriculture.

Mr. William Hamilton

Will the right hon. Gentleman say when the Government are to table the motion setting up the Select Committee on the Anti-Discrimination Bill in view of the promise made by the Solicitor-General last Wednesday that it would be set up in a day or two?

Mr. Prior

I very much hope that it will be set up today or tomorrow—very quickly indeed.

Mr. Stanbrook

Will my right hon. Friend arrange for the Home Secretary to make an early statement on his reported agreement to admit stateless Ugandan Asians now in Europe into this country, something which would be deplored by many of us?

Mr. Prior

My right hon. Friend has answered a Question on this today. I hope that my hon. Friend will find time to read it.

Mr. Edward Short

Will the right hon. Gentleman say when we may expect a statement on the teachers' strike, which is now widespread and which will disrupt the education of many thousands of London children?

Mr. Prior

I will convey the right hon. Gentleman's views to my right hon. Friend. I have had no indication about her making a statement of that kind.

Mr. Shersby

Will my right hon. Friend say when we shall debate the proposals for the new parliamentary building?

Mt. Prior

I shall not be able to find Government time for this over the next few weeks. I hope that perhaps hon. Members will be able to find time. I am hopeful that an occasion may arise before long.

Mr. Cormack

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I point out that I intend to choose this subject for a motion which I shall move on 9th March.