HC Deb 28 June 1973 vol 858 cc1728-36
Mr. Edward Short

May I ask the Leader of the House whether 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 2ND JULY—Supply (24th Allotted Day). Until seven o'clock, there will be a debate on French Nuclear Tests, and afterwards on Teacher Supply. Both debates will arise on Opposition motions.

Consideration of Lords amendments to the National Health Service Reorganisation Bill [Lords].

Motion on the Representation of the People (Scotland) Regulations.

TUESDAY 3RD JULY—Remaining stages of the Northern Ireland Constitution Bill.

WEDNESDAY 4TH JULY—Supply (25th Allotted Day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion on The Future of The Railways.

At seven o'clock the Chairman of Ways and Means has named opposed private buisness for consideration.

Motion on the Regulation of Prices (Tranquilising Drugs) (No. 3) Order.

THURSDAY 5TH JULY—Remaining stages of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Bill.

FRIDAY 6TH JULY—Second Reading of Ulster Defence Regiment Bill [Lords].

Motions on the Northern Ireland Orders relating to Enterprise Ulster and Appropriation (No. 2).

Debate on a motion to take note of the Quirk Committee Report on Speech Therapy Services.

MONDAY 9TH JULY—Supply (26th Allotted Day). Debate on motions to take note of the Second Report from the Select Committee on Expenditure in Session 1972–73, on Urban Transport Planning, and on the Report from the Expenditure Committee in Session 1972–73 on Further and Higher Education, and the relevant Government observations.

Mr. Short

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman three questions? The first relates to the business for Monday, 9th July, when we are to have a debate on the Report of the Expenditure Committee on further and higher education. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that there is also the Russell Report, which we have not yet debated. Could we not innovate on this day and have a motion to take note of both the Select Committee's Report and the Russell Report? I believe that to be possible under our rules. If, on the other hand, it is not, may we have an assurance that there will be a debate on the Russell Report in the near future?

Second, when are we to have the debate, which the right hon. Gentleman promised us, on the Younger Report on privacy—one of the great blind spots in English law?

Third, may I draw to the right hon. Gentleman's attention the exchange which we had last week on the subject of parliamentary papers and the difficulties which we are encountering, especially is not having HANSARD? May we be told what the state of play is in the dispute, a dispute which arises out of the Government's grossly unjust phase 2? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."]Yes, of course. Could the Leader of the House tell us when the dispute will be settled, and could he tell us also when the emergency procedure will be put into operation, and whether the Government propose to honour the promise to consult through the usual channels about essential parliamentary papers?

Mr. Prior

First, with regard to the debate on Monday 9th July. I shall consider whether it will be possible to have a motion which combines consideration of both the Russell Report and the Select Committee's Report; but, even apart from that, I think that it might be possible for the Russell Report to be taken into consideration during the course of that debate. I should like to consider that further.

As regards the Younger Report, I still very much hope that we can have a debate towards the middle of next month, but, of course, all the relevant papers—the Statistical Society's Report and the Computer Society's Report—will first need to be published and made available to the House ahead of that debate taking place.

On the question of the dispute, I recognise the burden under which the House is working at present in not having available as quickly or in the form which hon. Members would like all the necessary documents essential to the carrying out of our business. We are making strenuous efforts to make available all the documents, and we have now arranged for 250 copies of a partially retyped version of HANSARD to be available. I do not think that all hon. Members realise this at the moment, and they are still receiving only the typed version of the Official Reporters' notes. In fact, we are now having it retyped in a much better form. I hope that all the other papers which are required are available in time for Report stages, and so on.

As regards the dispute itself, let us get the facts rights. These men are paid £75 a week for day work, and £90 a week if they are on night work. They are asking for an award which falls outside phase 2 because it would give them an increase of more than £250 a year. What the Opposition have to ask themselves is whether they are prepared, under an incomes policy, to see these people get more than a £250 a year increase when there are very many people at the lower end of the scale whose margins are all the time being squeezed. I should have thought that there was a perfectly reasonable offer made to them, and I hope that they will accept it.

Sir D. Renton

In view of the strongly held opinions on both sides of the House for and against the Lords amendment on family planning, will my right hon. Friend initiate discussions through the usual channels for a free vote on both sides on that issue, especially as the Lords have given this House an opportunity to think again?

Mr. Prior

As my right hon. and learned Friend knows, the Government's view on the Lords amendment was made perfectly clear, and I thought that, when he answered the debate on the matter, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services put a very convincing case to the House. I must tell my right hon. and learned Friend that I think that the course which he recommends, although it might be attractive, is not one which the Government took on the previous occasion. However, it is a matter for my right hon. Friend, not for me, and he will have heard my right hon. and learned Friend's remarks.

Mr. William Hamilton

Reverting to the question of parliamentary papers, is the Leader of the House aware that the Select Committee on the Anti-Discrimination Bill has now completed its report and it is ready for publication? Will he, therefore, arrange for 300 or 400 copies of the report to be made available to hon. Members so that we may have a debate on the matter before the House rises for the Summer Recess?

Mr. Prior

As the hon. Gentleman knows, there is a problem in printing Select Committee reports at the moment. I shall have to consider whether anything can be done about that. However, I must tell him that I think it unlikely that there will now be time for a debate before the recess.

Mr. Cormack

Again on the question of parliamentary papers, will my right hon. Friend give serious consideration to making alternative arrangements, since it is quite absurd that the House and the country should be held to ransom by a group of totally irresponsible people? In any event, may we have a debate or, at the very least, a full statement on the situation as soon as possible?

Mr. Prior

If the dispute is not settled within the next few days, I shall arrange to make a statement about it to the House. As regards taking other measures, I must tell the House and my hon. Friend that the amount of printing has increased enormously in recent years. We are at present having consultations between Her Majesty's Stationery Office and the Civil Service Department to see whether any changes are necessary in the way that we do our printing. It is an extremely difficult job, and at this stage I think that it would be better if we waited for the end of the dispute and could then look at the whole matter in a more reasonable and calmer atmosphere.

Mr. Pardoe

Will the Leader of the House give some idea of the Government's intentions for legislation on firearms control as the Government have now extended the period for consultation on the Green Paper? Will he say whether he believes that, as there is now a direct contradiction between the statistics given in the Green Paper and the research carried out by the Cambridge Institute of Criminology, this is such a technical matter that it should be referred to a Select Committee before the Government commit themselves on legislation?

Mr. Prior

Of course I shall consider the matter and ask my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to consider the views put forward by the hon. Member. We have given extra time for consultation on the Green Paper and I think that it is the general wish of the House that action should be taken as soon as it can be after that.

Sir Robin Turton

May I revert to the question of parliamentary papers? Is my right hon. Friend aware that the date of publication of reports of Select Committees cannot now be determined and is left to the discretion of the strikers and those going slow in the printing shop? Can that be tolerated when the work of this House is being impeded as a result of their action? Surely the work on the Select Committee reports can be taken away from the offending firms and sent to be printed elsewhere outside this country—in the Commonwealth, for example, or, if my right hon. Friend would prefer it, to the Common Market?

Mr. Prior

What we must all consider is whether by taking such a course we should be more likely to get the printing of these committee reports done more quickly. These are very delicate matters and all I had better say is that I have noted my right hon. Friend's suggestion.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

During next week will the Leader of the House spare some of his precious time to investigate how and why someone somewhere is confiscating hon. Members' mail, including mail sent to Mr. Speaker, which is being intercepted either on the advice or at the suggestion of the Prime Minister? Will the right hon. Gentleman look into the matter?

Mr. Prior

The whole House will be sorry to hear that the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) is having so much trouble with his mail because generally he worries more about other people's mail than his own. As for his reference to obstruction being placed in the way of Members' mail, I can give him a categorical assurance that nothing of the sort is taking place but that if he is concerned about the matter it is probably for Mr. Speaker. I shall certainly look into any problem he raises which comes within my jurisdiction.

Mr. Edward Taylor

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a decision must be made by Sunday on the designation by the Common Market of the central and peripheral areas of Great Britain? Will he therefore say when a statement is to be made, how it will be made, and will we have a statement on Monday?

Mr. Prior

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster expects to make a statement on this and related matters early next week.

Mr. Shore

Will the right hon. Gentleman also consider that as the Opposition made possible a debate on the important matter of the control of British regional policy by the Brussels Commission, the other half of the matter—the future of the Community regional policy—should also be debated, I hope in Government time and long before the recess?

Mr. Prior

We had better await my right hon. Friend's statement before I consider the question raised by the right hon. Gentleman.

Dame Irene Ward

Will my right hon. Friend give me a pledge about the Booz-Allen Report, a pledge which I sought from him last week and which I did not get? When the Government have considered the report and representations and have made up their mind what they wish to do about it, may I be assured that no action will be taken until the House has had an opportunity to discuss the Government's policy in detail? It is most important to the shipbuilding and shipping interests that no Government action to implement their policy is taken until the House has had an opportunity to discuss the Government's reaction to the report.

Mr. Prior

The majority of the written observations on the report have now been received and are now providing the basis for discussion prior to the formulation of the Government's long-term policy for the industry. The consultation with the trade unions, the industry and the EEC will obviously take some time and a statement will be made as quickly as possible. It is best that we should await that statement will be made as quickly as possible. a debate, but I have noted my hon. Friend's remarks.

Dame Irene Ward

I want a pledge.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I have a long list of names of hon. Members who wish to speak in the next debate. May we have very short supplementary questions?

Mr. Palmer

Will the Leader of the House consider issuing an up-to-date statement telling hon. Members to which Ministers questions about the workings of Community institutions in Brussels should be directed in view of the present apparent confusion in the Table Office?

Mr. Prior

I shall look into the matter, but I did not think there was any confusion.

Mr. Marten

The business for Monday week provides that the two Select Committee reports may be debated. Can the time be allocated equally between the two reports? When are we to have the promised debate on driving licences?

Mr. Prior

I should have thought that it would have been for the convenience of the House to divide the time on Monday week equally between the two reports, but I shall have a further look at that. On the other question, I am prepared to arrange a debate on the draft directive before the Summer Recess.

Dr. Miller

Deliberations are to be resumed on the Bill concerning the reorganisation of the National Health Service in respect of the family planning clause. In view of the clear and unequivocal decision in another place, will the Leader of the House ask the Secretary of State for Social Services to think again about the Government's views on this matter?

Mr. Prior

My right hon. Friend has made his views well known in what I thought was an excellent speech in winding up the debate in the House. I am certain that his views remain unchanged.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

On the problem of parliamentary papers, is my right hon. Friend aware of the extreme difficulty faced by the Standing Committees? This week the Scottish Standing Committee has had to try to process a piece of retrospective legislation designed to overturn a decision of the courts—it is therefore a serious piece of legislation—without any text of the previous proceedings being available in advance of its meeting. If the circumstances of the dispute are completely in defiance of phase 2, what was the point of passing legislation to make it illegal to strike in defiance of phase 2 if we do not activate it?

Mr. Prior

Photocopies of Official Reporters' transcripts are made available to hon. Members on Standing Committees. They are available. My hon. Friend should therefore be able to get them, although I admit that they are in a fairly rough form. They are available—

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

They were not.

Mr. Prior

I apologise to my hon. Friend if they were not. They are now. I hope to that extent, therefore, that he will take my word for it.

Mr. Lawson

Does the Leader of the House recall that many months ago the Government published a consultative document on afforestation which gave rise to a great deal of disquiet in the indus- try and in the Select Committee which deals with Scottish affairs? Is the right hon. Gentleman able to say that the Government's views on that document have been revised and that the new policy is to be issued shortly?

Mr. Prior

There has been debate recently in another place and I shall see whether my right hon. Friend is in a position to give further information to this House.

Mr. Hornby

Will my right hon. Friend reconsider what he said about the publication of the report of the Select Committee on the Anti-Discrimination (No. 2) Bill, particularly bearing in mind that the Committee decided to organise its proceedings in such a way that its report could be available to the House in advance of any publication by the Government on the subject? Are not those proceedings in danger of becoming rather pointless to the House and the Committee unless the report can be made available quickly?

Mr. Prior

I shall examine the matter again. There is enormous pressure on the printing resources available to the House to print the papers required on a daily basis, but I shall see whether anything can be done.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. We must move on.