HC Deb 25 January 1973 vol 849 cc644-53
Mr. Harold Wilson

May I ask the Leader of the House if he will 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 29TH JANUARY—Second Reading of the Counter-Inflation Bill.

Motion on the Counter-Inflation (Temporary Provisions) Act 1972 Extension Order 1973.

TUESDAY 30TH JANUARY—Second Reading of the Atomic Energy Authority (Weapons Group) Bill [Lords], until 7 o'clock.

Motion relating to Merchant Shipping Regulations.

Motions on the Rate Rebates (Limits of Income) Orders.

WEDNESDAY 31ST JANUARY—Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill.

THURSDAY 1ST FEBRUARY—Supply (6th Allotted Day): There will be a debate on Secondary Education, which will arise on an Opposition motion.

Remaining stages of the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill.

Motions on the Value Added Tax Orders relating to cars, and works of art, antiques and scientific collections.

FRIDAY 2ND FEBRUARY—PriVate Members' Bills.

MONDAY 5TH FEBRUARY—Debate on a motion to take note of the White Paper on Public Expenditure to 1976–77 (Command No. 5178).

Motion on the Fire Services (Northern Ireland) Order.

Mr. Harold Wilson

Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake that there will be a statement next week by the Secretary of State for Education and Science about the questions directed to her by my right hon. and hon. Friends concerning some of these staged political meetings in schools? If she does not take any responsibility for what happens in the schools, will he ask his colleague, the Vice-Chairman of the Conservative Party, to make a personal statement on this matter in the House?

Second, respecting debates in this House and the conduct of business on Bills, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to look into the adequacy of Government representation in debates? Is it not a scandal that we should be debating steel at such a critical time today without a Cabinet Minister speaking? This would have been inconceivable in any steel debate in our period of office, and this is a period when there are thousands of redundancies. Will the right hon. Gentleman assure us that the Government, in further stages on the Counter-Inflation Bill, will have adequate Cabinet representation not only on the labour side but on the industrial and financial side?

Mr. Prior

The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely correct in saying that it is not my right hon. Friend's responsibility for the organisation of conferences for schools. As such, she has no responsibility for them, and it would not be right to make a statement on them.

Regarding steel, we originally planned to have the Supply day on Wednesday and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry would have been present to take part in the debate on that day. It was only at the last minute that we changed the time of the debate and are having it today instead. We explained at the time that this would mean that my right hon. Friend would be unable to be here without a major change in a very important discussion that is going on in Washington at this time. Since we are to have another debate shortly on the White Paper we thought this was a reasonable view to adopt.

Concerning representation by my right hon. Friends on the Committee stage of the Bill which we are taking on Monday, I have noted what the right hon. Gentleman said; but the actual representation must be a matter for the Government.

Mr. Wilson

May I press the right hon. Gentleman further? I think he misheard me. I did not say that the Secretary of State has no powers in these matters, I said "if she thinks she has no powers in these matters". In fact, she has powers under Section 68 of the relevant legislation if the right hon. Gentleman would care to look it up. In any case, the right hon. Lady ought to have some concern for this kind of behaviour within the educational system. Will the right hon. Gentleman look at that matter?

Regarding the debate on steel, we understand there is a problem about the absence of the Secretary of State. I know where he is today. I have been in touch with the Prime Minister about it. But this is not a concession to the Opposition, because originally we asked that yesterday's debate should take place on Monday. We could have had the debate earlier this week.

Mr. Prior

Regarding the Secretary of State for Education and Science, I believe that it is for local authorities—[HON. MEMBERS "No."]—and for school governing bodies to make up their own minds on these matters. It is only fair that if we give local authorities this responsibility they should take it.

Referring to the steel debate, my right hon. Friend would like to have been present. However, the White Paper on steel will be available within about two weeks and we can have a debate after it has been digested.

Mr. Marten

Will my right hon. Friend tell us something about the impossible situation which has arisen due to the fact that between 1st January and today, the 25th, not one piece of paper appears to have emanated from the EEC to this House? Certainly nothing is available to hon. Members, so we do not know what the regulations or draft directives are. May we have a statement on that situation?

Secondly, may we have a statement next week by the Attorney-General on the legal position which arises out of this situation, because it is very serious?

Mr. Prior

On the second part of my hon. Friend's question, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will be informing the House about the legal position on Monday.

On the first part of the question, I apologise to the House that there have been delays resulting from problems at both ends in the supplying of all the EEC documents, but large numbers have now come through. I hope that my hon. Friend will find enough documents available anyhow for him to get a start on some of the problems.

Mr. Urwin

Will the Leader of the House consider providing time to debate the somewhat disgraceful decision by the Secretary of State for the Environment rejecting the proposal to build a new reservoir at Kidder to augment the dreadfully low water supplies in the Northern Region? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this decision, which was made by public announcement outside this House, leaves the Minister completely unchallenged? May we have a debate on this matter, or will the Minister be instructed to make a statement to the House so that he can be questioned more closely on a decision which is causing grave concern in the Northern Region?

Mr. Prior

I have listened to what the hon. Gentleman has to say. I think he has an early day motion on the subject. I cannot promise Government time for a debate. I hope he will find other opportunities to raise the matter.

Mr. Kimball

Can my right hon. Friend say if he has had any indication from the Opposition whether at any time during next week's business we shall get the writ for the Lincoln by-election'? Is my right hon. Friend aware that the new and up-to-date register on which the city of Lincoln could poll would be in force on Thursday, 15th February'?

Mr. Prior

As Leader of the House I have a good many curious responsibilities, but thank heavens that is not one of them.

Mr. Peter Archer

Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been drawn to Early Day Motion No. 96, signed by nearly 100 hon. Members, which relates to Government proposals for an enclosure movement to be practised upon the ocean? Will the House have an opportunity to debate the matter while there is yet time, or shall we find ourselves debating methods of closing the stable door long after the horse has bolted?

[That this House, recalling Early Day Motion No. 271 in 1968, signed by nearly 100 hon. Members, notes that, as was there recommended, the ocean floor beyond the limits of national jurisdiction was declared by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1970 to be the common heritage of mankind, but deeply regrets that since then this principle has been steadily eroded, in particular by the actions of Her Majesty's Government in proposing the apportionment of the ocean floor into separate licensed blocks, each to be separately policed by the licensee state, and by listing for discussion at the next Law of the Sea Conference a proposal entitled, Exclusive economic zone beyond the territorial seas, which would effectively remove from mankind the richest part of its heritage, endanger freedom of scientific research, and increase the likelihood of international conflict.]

Mr. Prior

The latter part of the hon. and learned Gentleman's question is always a problem for the Leader of the House. It is always a problem to get business in front of the House when it is still topical. I will bear in mind what the hon. and learned Gentleman has to say. This was an issue which, subject to Mr. Speaker's ruling, could have been discussed during the foreign affairs debate just before Christmas.

Mr. Money

In view of the constant statements in the Press that it is the intention of the Home Office Ministers to legislate in the near future on crowd safety, will my right hon. Friend give us some idea when an opportunity will be given to the House to debate the Wheatley Report?

Mr. Prior

I will report what my hon. Friend has said to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department. I have nothing further to add today.

Mr. Pavitt

In view of the radical and vast changes resulting from the Government's change of policy on the organisation of research councils, including medical research, will the Leader of the House provide the House with the opportunity to discuss the changes which will be put in train by Government policies?

Mr. Prior

I spent seven hours sitting on this bench on Monday when we discussed research and development, including the future of research councils. There were never more than 10 hon. Members in the Chamber the whole afternoon.

Dame Irene Ward

Can my right hon. Friend tell us whether by next week the Booz Allen Report on shipbuilding and shipping will be available? That information will enable us to arrange for a debate. We will then know when some action will be taken to help shipbuilding and shipping, which is very necessary to the United Kingdom and, in particular, to my part of the world.

Mr. Prior

I recognise the importance which my hon. Friend attaches to the report. I will check with my hon. Friend the Minister for Aerospace and Shipping when the report is to be available and I will make arrangements for the House to be informed.

Mr. Shore

Will the Leader of the House ensure that there is a further statement by his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on the result of his negotiations in Brussels earlier this week? Every family in the country is affected by the results of the negotiations. Major decisions have been made, and all we have had is an unacceptable Written Answer in today's HANSARD.

Mr. Prior

I thought that for the convenience of the House it would probably be best for my right hon. Friend to make a statement on Monday, and this he will do. There were good reasons why we did not want to make a statement today. I thought that the Written Question which my right hon. Friend has answered would enable hon. Members to be informed of what was going on. I thought that we could then have an oral statement on Monday, and my right hon. Friend will make the statement on Monday.

Mr. Sproat

Can my right hon. Friend say whether he has come to a decision on whether we shall have a Scottish Select Committee this Session?

Mr. Prior

Almost, but not quite. I should like to be able to make an announcement within the next week or so.

Sir G. de Freitas

Does the Leader of the House remember that only a month or so ago he hoped to find time to debate Royal Commission reports and some of the many outstanding Select Committee reports? When shall we have that opportunity?

Mr. Prior

Before Christmas we had the debate on the Select Committee reports on procedure. Since Christmas—on the first day back—we had a debate on the four Select Committee reports on science and technology. That is not a bad start. We shall have another debate on Monday week on public expenditure.

Mr. Biggs-Davison

With reference to Early Day Motion No. 134, may we have a statement next week from the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications regarding the announcement by the IBA of a London Weekend Television interview with Mr. O'Connell contrary to the Act and the laws of a friendly State?

[That this House deplores the failure of the independent broadcasting authority to discharge its duty under section 3 of the Television Act 1694 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.]

Mr. Prior

That is a matter for the broadcasting organisations themselves. However, I think that hon. Members from both sides of the House would share the views of those who signed the Order Paper.

Mr. English

Does the Leader of the House realise that contrary to his earlier reply to his hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) we have not yet received, in spite of the right hon. Gentleman's assertion before Christmas, any of the proceedings of the European Assembly, to which some hon. Members went? Does he not agree that he should have gone to the meeting of Presidents of the European Legislatures rather than send Mr. Speaker and a Junior Whip?

Mr. Prior

I have noticed the motion on the Order Paper signed by the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members. Mr. Speaker was invited, and, as the motion recognises, he behaved in an admirable way. We are delighted, Mr. Speaker, that you went. If on a future occasion it would meet with the wishes of the House that I should go in your place, that would be the right time to consider it.

Mr. Evelyn King

Reverting to the question which was put by my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten), will the Leader of the House tell us on how many occasions in the last year there has been industrial trouble at the Stationery Office? Is not this situation beginning to constitute a serious interference with the legislative process? Shall we not soon have to consider some form of alternative arrangements?

Mr. Prior

Without notice I cannot give the details for which my hon. Friend asks. However, I hope that the difficulties that we are experiencing for the moment in the distribution of literature, particularly that emanating from the EEC, can be overcome shortly. I understand—but I am subject to correction—that a great deal of material has arrived in the Vote Office. If the hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English), who asked me a question previously, would tell me what it is that is missing that he requires immediately, I will see what can be done.

Several hon. Members rose——

Mr. Speaker

Order. I must ask for the help of the House. There is to be a very important debate in which many hon. Members want to speak, and there is a lot of other business to be dealt with. I ask hon. Members to be brief and to understand if I cut these questions short very soon.

Mr. Harold Walker

The Leader of the House should be aware that it is more than six months since the Robens Committee's report on industrial health and safety was published. Will he tell us when we shall debate this very important report?

Mr. Prior

I recognise that it is a very important report. I certainly cannot find the time for it within the next week or so. I will see when we can find time and how it fits in with the Bill which the Government are hoping to introduce on the subject. I will let the hon. Gentleman know the position.

Mr. Denis Howell

Is the Leader of the House aware that we listened to the Prime Minister's reply about rates with increasing astonishment, especially as it seemed to take away from what he was offering yesterday, to meet the case of the five big cities. Will the Leader of the House convey to the Prime Minister that his answer was wrong and that the difficulties over revaluation are entirely due to the movement of the burden of rates from industry to the domestic ratepayer? That movement will affect 27 per cent. of the domestic ratepayers in Birmingham. The city council can do nothing about it. Will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for the Prime Minister or some other Minister to make an early statement in the House that he will discuss the matter with the five cities.

Mr. Prior

Not next week, Sir.