HC Deb 22 January 1973 vol 849 cc39-43
The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. James Prior)

Following exchanges through the usual channels, the business for Wednesday and Thursday has been re-arranged as follows:

WEDNESDAY, 24TH JANUARY—Debate on the second stage of the Programme for Controlling Inflation, on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

THURSDAY, 25TH JANUARY—Supply (5th allotted day). The Question will be proposed on outstanding Winter Supplementary Estimates.

A debate on Steel, which will arise on an Opposition motion.

It may be helpful, Mr. Speaker, if I mention some other matters.

First, on Monday 29th January it is proposed to take the Second Reading of the Counter-Inflation Bill and an Order in Council made under the Counter-Inflation (Temporary Provisions) Act.

Second, I hope to include the Bill and motions previously announced for Thursday in the business for the next two weeks.

Third, the House will wish to know that the Supplementary Estimates published in December will be the subject of an additional Consolidated Fund Bill, which I expect to bring before the House next week.

Mr. Harold Wilson

Since we have tabled a motion on steel for the Supply Day on Thursday, will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that this announcement in no way affects the undertaking of the Government to provide Government time for a debate on steel as soon as the long-awaited White Paper is published? Is he aware that the House had to wait a long time because of successive postponements of both the oral statement and the White Paper? Does he accept that we shall expect an early White Paper and a debate in Government time immediately thereafter?

Mr. Prior

I hope that the White Paper will be published within a reasonable period. I fully accept the undertaking I gave to the House that there will be a debate on this subject in Government time.

Mr. Marten

Does my right hon. Friend recall that on 20th December last year he told me in the Adjournment debate that the European Communities legislation which affected this country under Section 2 of the Act would be available in the Vote Office before the House re-assembled? Is he aware that I went there at 10 o'clock this morning to find that there is not one piece of paper available from the European Community? May we have a statement from him, perhaps this week or, if not, early next week, explaining how this has happened and what steps we are taking to get that material—which must have been ready in Europe on 1st January—to this country? Could he also incorporate in that statement a statement on the legal situation whereby we are subjected to the laws and regulations of the Community but do not know what they are? How can we obey them?

Mr. Prior

My hon. Friend gave me notice that he would go to the Vote Office on, I believe, 1st January. I said that I thought 2nd January might be more appropriate. A number of texts have been delayed, first of all by a strike in Luxembourg—[Laughter]—but, unfortunately, much more so by a strike here. Although the majority of texts are now available in Luxembourg, their general distribution in this country has been prevented by industrial action in Her Majesty's Stationery Office distribution centre in London. We are endeavouring to get round that, at least for the House, by arranging for a number of copies of the relevant authentic English texts to be sent straight from Luxembourg to the House. Unfortunately, until the industrial dispute is over these will not be readily available for the country as a whole. I would like to consider the legal implications further and perhaps make a statement later on.

Mr. Mackintosh

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Standing Committee dealing with the Scottish Local Government Bill is due to meet tomorrow and that we would appreciate a delay? The right hon. Gentleman will be aware from correspondence that there is considerable disquiet in Scotland in that three of the eight regions being set up and legislated for in greater detail in the Bill are unrepresented on the Committee. Is he aware that some regions have three, four, five, even seven, members on the Committee, yet three regions have no members at all? Does he appreciate that this will mean that a Bill of great detail will not be adequately discussed if this membership is persisted in?

Mr. Prior

This is a matter for the Committee of Selection. The actual number of Members attending the Committee is a different issue which was dealt with before Christmas.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Does my right hon. Friend recall assuring us before Christmas that he would try to ensure that we had a debate on the Public Expenditure White Paper before Christ- mas? While we understand why it was desirable to delay this, may I ask him to accept, in view of the early date announced for the Budget, that we need to have at least one day for debate well in advance of the Budget?

Mr. Prior

I accept what my hon. Friend says. I hope that we shall have one day to start with in the next week or two and perhaps a second day later on, which would meet the wishes of the Expenditure Committee.

Mr. Grimond

May I strongly support what has been said by the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh)? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this should be a matter of concern to him? Is he further aware that people outside this House do not understand the subtleties about Committees? All they know is that this is a vital matter for Scotland and that three of the most important regions are not represented at all. Does he realise that it does this House no good whatever to allow this to continue?

Mr. Prior

While I accept what the right hon. Gentleman has said, I must point out that there will be plenty of other occasions for hon. Members in all parts of the House and from all the regions of Scotland to put their views. This is particularly so with the Report stage.

Dr. Dickson Mabon

May I ask whether on Monday 29th January the right hon. Gentleman or his colleagues intend to put down a motion that the Counter-Inflation Bill be referred to a Committee of the whole House, and may we be assured that there will be no guillotine on the Bill?

Mr. Prior

We shall have to decide this matter in the next few days. My view at the moment is that this is a suitable Bill for taking upstairs.

Mr. Tugendhat

Does the Leader of the House agree that all the precedents of the Labour Government suggest that this kind of Bill is usually taken upstairs, and that certainly they did so on comparable occasions?

Mr. Prior

Yes, that is true.

Mr. Dalyell

What has become of the Atomic Energy Authority (Weapons Group) Bill, which was scheduled for Thursday? If it is to be delayed, will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Secretary of State for Defence to reconsider his refusal of the request of some of us to visit the non-classified parts of Aldermaston before discussion of the Bill, because if we are to consider the Bill at all it would at least seem sensible that some of us should see on the ground the non-classified parts of Aldermaston which have been refused to us?

Mr. Prior

I shall certainly refer the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's question to my right hon. Friend. On the first part, I have announced in my statement that the business which would have been taken on Thursday will be taken within the next two weeks.