HC Deb 01 March 1973 vol 851 cc1703-14
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, 5TH MARCH—Debate on a motion to take note of the Consultative Document on the Price and Pay Code (Command No. 5247).

Motion relating to the Restriction on Remuneration Order.

TUESDAY, 6TH MARCH—My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will open his Budget Statement.

At seven o'clock the Chairman has named opposed private business for consideration.

WEDNESDAY, 7TH MARCH and THURSDAY, 8TH MARCH—Continuation of the Budget debate.

FRIDAY, 9TH MARCH—Private Members' motions.

MONDAY, 12TH MARCH—Conclusion of the debate on the Budget Statement.

Mr. Wilson

May we expect soon a debate in Government time on the First Report from the Select Committee on European Community Secondary Legislation? The right hon. Gentleman will be aware of the importance of this subject as so much of the control of this House has passed from the House and an attempt is being made to stem the further flow. When can we expect a debate in Government time on this important report?

Mr. Prior

I am sure that the House is grateful to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northwich (Sir J. Foster) and to all the other hon. and right hon. Members who form the Committee for their quick report. I will consider the question of a debate, but it will be difficult in the immediate period ahead of us, for reasons which the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate. That need not hold up the implementation of certain of the recommendations that have been made. I should like to discuss whether we can consider that before we have a debate, although I accept that it will be necessary to have a debate.

Mr. Wilson

The House understands that we cannot interfere with the Budget debate and one or two other priority matters, but if the Government want to proceed with implementation of any part of the recommendations without hearing the House on them, we should at least expect a statement from the right hon. Gentleman about them. There should be consultation, in advance of the debate, not only through the usual channels but between the Government and back benchers of all parties about whether that procedure is acceptable.

Mr. Prior

I fully accept what the right hon. Gentleman says. I wish to do what is for the convenience of the House. I do not wish to delay for one moment the implementation of any of the recommendations that the House would wish to accept, although I think the House recognises that the time for debate in the next week or two is very limited. Perhaps we can discuss this through the usual channels and other parts of the House and see how we get on.

Sir D. Renton

In arranging future business, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that it is essential that we should have the long-awaited first report of the Population Panel before we proceed to a Second Reading of the Bill dealing with the reorganisation of the National Health Service?

Mr. Prior

I will bear in mind what my right hon. and learned Friend says. I am not certain that it will be possible, but I should like to consider it.

Dr. Summerskill

Will the right hon. Gentleman provide time for an urgent debate on the wage claim of the low-paid hospital workers, in view of Motion 175?

[That this House deplores the refusal of the Government (which admits the grave injustice done to hospital workers compared with other low-paid workers) to assist them in their claim for an extra £4 per week on basic wages; and regards the contemptible offer of £1.84 per week as totally inadequate to cope with the high cost of living and the poverty trap.]

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the hospitals are faced with unprecedented industrial action, a situation which has been aggravated and exacerbated by a contentious letter from the Secretary of State for Social Services which has been placed in the pay packets of hospital employees?

Mr. Prior

I cannot see an early opportunity for debate. I hope that the whole House will join in the pleas for normal working to be resumed, as the wages increase offered to the hospital workers comprises at least £2 a week for male workers and £1.88 for female workers—an 11 per cent. wage increase. That considerable increase is available to them within a fortnight.

Mr. Kimball

Will my right hon. Friend say whether in the course of next week's business his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will be giving the House the annual determination of agricultural prices? May we have an assurance that it will not leak from Brussels before it is announced to the House of Commons?

Mr. Prior

I think it is very unlikely that my right hon. Friend will be in a position to make a statement next week. We may still be about two weeks away from it.

Mr. Kaufman

Will there be a statement next week on Government rate aid to the great cities?

Hon. Members

Or tomorrow?

Mr. Prior

There will be no statement tomorrow. Discussions and consultations have been going on, and my right hon. Friend will announce his decision to the House at the earliest possible moment.

Mrs. Knight

Will my right hon. Friend taking note of the growing tide of opinion on both sides of the House about the plight of the 93,000 Pakistani prisoners still held in India, consider the possibility of a debate on this subject before too long?

Mr. Prior

My hon. Friend will have heard the views of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary at Question Time. I do not want to go any further than he did in promising a statement or a debate.

Mr. John Silkin

Further to the reply of the Leader of the House to my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Dr. Summerskill) about Motion 175, is the right hon Gentleman aware that the Secretary of State for Social Services in the letter quoted by my hon. Friend told the hospital ancillary workers that they had a right to be disappointed that they were not receiving as much as local government workers in the same group? Will the right hon. Gentleman see that the letter is placed in the Library, and will he reconsider his ideas on an early debate?

Mr. Prior

I see no reason why the letter should not be placed in the Library, and I shall see to it that that happens. The contents of the letter could be looked at in stage 2 for implementation in stage 3, but I hope that the right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. and hon. Friends will join in seeking to bring about a quick and speedy return to full working in the hospitals so that nobody in hospital suffers.

Mr. McMaster

Is the Leader of the House aware that in the past eight days in Northern Ireland four soldiers and one policeman have been murdered, and that it is now a year since Her Majesty's Government assumed sole responsibility for law and order in Northern Ireland? Will he arrange an early debate on the security situation in Northern Ireland?

Mr. Prior

We all very much regret what is still happening to our forces in Northern Ireland in carrying out their tasks in very difficult circumstances, but I cannot promise my hon. Friend an early debate. Before the end of this month the House will have to approve a draft order to extend the legislation, and that will provide a full opportunity for a debate.

Mr. Charles R. Morris

Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been drawn to the splendid editorial which appeared in the Evening Standard on 28th February and which argued a lucid case for an inquiry into the future of television and broadcasting? Does he recall that we have now had the Cockburn Report and the Report from the Select Committee on the subject of the IBA? Despite the undertakings he has given in recent weeks, can he now indicate when we are likely to have a statement or debate on this subject?

Mr. Prior

The Government's reply will be available within the next week or so, and we had better wait until that comes out.

Dame Irene Ward

Could my right hon. Friend find out from the Minister for Local Government and Development when he will lay the promised order, which he announced to me and to several of my hon. Friends that he intends to lay, with regard to the freedoms already granted by local authorities and enjoyed by Territorial units to continue after the Local Government Bill comes into operation? We are anxiously awaiting that order. I am very keen about the privileges—and their future—granted to the Territorials in my area, and I am not at all pleased that we have not yet had sight of the promised order. When I telephoned the relevant office yesterday, I was asked whether I would write again and I said that I would not. I want an answer.

Mr. Prior

I will take up at once my hon. Friend's request, and I am certain that her views are strongly felt in all parts of the House.

Mr. Harold Walker

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that the important Robens Report on Safety and Health at Work was published in July last year, and does he appreciate that the House is still awaiting an opportunity to let the Minister know its views? Will he assure the House that we shall have an opportunity to debate that report before the Government publish their proposals arising from it, and that we shall be able to discuss this matter at an early date?

Mr. Prior

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that we should have a debate on the Robens Report. I should like to consider the question whether it would suit the convenience of the House that my right hon. Friend should make a statement before the debate. A debate will have to take place before there is any question of legislation.

Mr. Jeffrey Archer

Has my right hon. Friend seen the early day motion which is in the name of the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland), myself and others concerning the removal of Anglia Television from the East Anglia area? Will he consider a half-day debate on this subject so that this issue can be decided by a free vote of the House'?

[That this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government to institute an immediate inquiry into the arbitrary decision of the Independent Broadcasting Authority to transfer the Belmont transmitter from Anglia Television to Trident Television and thus deprive consumers in an area stretching from Humberside to Essex of a service which they wish to retain, a wish in which they are strongly supported by the local authorities in the area, by amenity and other public bodies and by all the Members of Parliament representing constituencies in the area.]

Mr. Prior

I see no opportunity for a debate in Government time on this important matter. Because I have a constituency interest, I feel that I should not comment any further.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Some time ago the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House promised my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) a debate on the Report by the Committee of Privileges on the subject of the designation and title of the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Lord Lambton). In view of that promise, may we have an assurance that before that debate is held all the relevant papers and letters will be made available to hon. Members?

Mr. Prior

I cannot give the assurance for which the hon. Gentleman asked in the last part of his question because I do not think that it lies within my authority to do so. As for the earlier part of his remarks on whether we should have a debate, I have been hoping that we might reach a satisfactory conclusion to this matter without having to take up the time of the House. I still believe that that would be the best way of trying to settle this difficult issue.

Mr. Marten

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Report of the Select Committee on Secondary Legislation in the EEC is important but that it is only a very interim report and does not go to the heart of the matter? Although so many draft regulations are now being churned out by Brussels, there has not yet been any opportunity to debate these matters on the Floor of the House—which is the place where they must be debated. May we have my right hon. Friend's view on whether he can afford at some time before Easter at least an opportunity for the House to debate many of these important issues?

Mr. Prior

I know that there are strong views on this matter and I shall carefully consider what my hon. Friend said. If there are opportunities available between now and Easter, I shall see whether we can make them available. Perhaps my hon. Friend and other hon. Members would like to come and have a further talk with me to see whether we can arrange something.

Mr. Clinton Davis

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Home Secretary will be making an early statement, as he has promised, on the recent and tragic India House incident and about the use of firearms by the police?

Mr. Prior

I know that my right hon. Friend has in mind his undertaking to give the House further information when this is possible.

Mr. Jessel

Will my right hon. Friend try to find time between now and the Summer Recess to debate the Layfield Report on the Greater London Development Plan in view of the effect which those proposals could have on the environment of one-seventh of the country's population?

Mr. Prior

That is a very important report. I cannot find time within the next few weeks but I shall bear in mind what my hon. Friend said.

Mr. Pavitt

In view of today's hospital stoppages, may I press the right hon. Gentleman further on Early Day Motion 1975 which was mentioned by my hon. and qualified Friend the Member for Halifax (Dr. Summerskill)? Is he aware that the amount being offered to the loyal people who work in our hospitals is a basic sum of £17.84 per week? If he cannot find time for the House to debate this subject next week, will he ask the Secretary of State for Social Services to come to the House to make a statement about the current position in the hospitals?

Mr. Prior

I do not think any section of society has as much to gain from the Government's prices and incomes policy as do the lower paid, among whom are some personnel in the National Health Service. I hope that hon. Members in all parts of the House will join in supporting the Government's policy and in urging those staff back to work.

Mr. McLaren

Will there be any time next week or next year in which to announce the membership of the conference on electoral reform?

Mr. Prior

I presume that my hon. Friend is referring to the conference which it is intended to set up under the chairmanship of Mr. Speaker. I am afraid that at this stage I having nothing to add to the information that is available to hon. Members.

Mr. David Stoddart

May I draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to Early Day Motion 202, which has been signed by a substantial number of hon. Members and calls for an inquiry into the plight of physically and mentally-handicapped children in long-stay hospitals? Will he arrange an early debate on this important subject and will he consult the Secretary of State for Social Services and ask him to come to the House to make a statement on the future of these unfortunate children?

[That this House expresses concern at the plight of the many thousands of physically- and mentally-handicapped children at present living in long-stay hospitals; notes that large numbers of these children are in hospital on custodial rather than medical grounds; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to institute an inquiry into the conditions and quality of life of these unfortunate children and the suitability of their present environment.]

Mr. Prior

Again I cannot promise any time for a debate in the near future, but the Government are very much aware of the need to improve the quality of life in these hospitals. In the last two and a half years my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services has done a tremendous amount for these hospitals and for these children. I will ask him whether there is any further statement he can make at this stage.

Mr. Kilfedder

Can my right hon. Friend say when we shall have an opportunity to debate the Report of the Diplock Commission recommending certain changes in the penal and legal system in Northern Ireland? When the debate is actually upon us, will it be wide enough to take in a discussion on the urgent need to provide a permanent new prison in Northern Ireland to replace the temporary prison at the Maze—preferably not in my constituency but elsewhere? Finally, can my right hon. Friend persuade the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to make a statement about the deplorable killings of members of the security forces—we had one yesterday—who act as "lollypop" men taking children to and from school?

Mr. Prior

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has announced acceptance in principle of the Diplock Commission's recommendations, and legislation to give effect to them is unlikely to be long delayed.

Mr. Faulds

Would the Leader of the House be good enough to inform the House for its convenience whether the Private Member's motion on the new parliamentary building remains the first business for Friday week?

Mr. Prior

I understand that this will remain the first business. My hon. Friend has put down a motion today, and it will be taken as first business next Friday. But I ought to tell the House that it is not my wish that the House should reach on a Friday such an important decision affecting the future, as many hon. Members would like to be here to take part perhaps on another day.

Mr. Sydney Chapman

On the subject of the debate a week tomorrow on the new parliamentary building, will my right hon. Friend arrange for the model of the new building to be on display on the Floor of the House if that is within his competence and if it is not, will my right hon. Friend take up this request with the appropriate authorities since it might be helpful to have it on display during the debate?

Mr. Prior

It has been on display upstairs for a long while. I do not think that the House will want to see it displayed on the Floor of the House for that day, and I do not think that I could entertain that suggestion. Indeed, it would get me into an awful lot of trouble if I did.

Mr. Wallace

Leaving aside any question of the industrial dispute in the hospitals, is the Leader of the House aware that hospital groups are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit adequate ancillary staff, especially for domestic duties, in order to carry on hospital services and that, as a result, services are being decreased while the work of nurses is being increased due to the abysmally low wages paid to such staff?

Mr. Prior

These are all matters which are very relevant to what I have been saying.

Mr. Stallard

May I draw the attention of the Leader of the House to Early Day Motion 214, signed by a substantial number of Members, dealing with the London teachers' allowance? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the difficulties that many schools in London face in recruiting adequate staff because of housing problems and the cost of living generally? May we have an early debate on this very serious subject?

[That this House fully supports the National Union of Teachers in Their demand for an increase in the London teachers' allowance; is gravely concerned at the serious effect on the education of London's schoolchildren, caused by the abnormally high turn-over of teaching staff, due, inter-alia, to the scandalously rocketing price of the ever-decreasing stock of rented accommodation; and calls on Her Majesty's Government to allow free negotiations on this allowance to recommence immediately.]

Mr. Prior

We all regret the disruption caused to London schools because of strikes. The Government believe that it is right that the London allowance, as part of pay, should be subject to phase 2. But, subject to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, discussion of this matter will be in order in Monday's debate.

Mr. Atkinson

As we move towards phase 2 of the prices and pay policy, does the Leader of the House agree that the Government will have to issue an increasing number of orders preventing employers meeting their wage debts to their workers? Does the right hon. Gentleman foresee a situation where he makes time available during normal hours to debate the orders, or will he prefer those debates to go on throughout each night?

Mr. Prior

No. Sir. I do not foresee that situation. I believe that the vast majority of people will co-operate fully and voluntarily with the Government's proposals.

Mr. English

Is the Leader of the House aware that I am grateful to him for ensuring as from last Wednesday, after two months, that I now receive regularly the Official Journal of the Communities and even the back numbers, barring a statement which says: Nummer ein-und-dreissig ist noch nicht geliefert.

Mrs. Renée Short

Das ist sehr schwer!

Mr. English

Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that they are read in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food as well?

Mr. Prior

I am always obliged for any thanks that I receive from the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Winterton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of us hope that he does not underestimate the importance of an early decision on the new parliamentary building? Many hon. Members and their secretaries have atrocious conditions and amenities in which to carry on their difficult tasks. I hope that an early decision will be made by this House.

Mr. Prior

I hope that my hon. Friend will be here on Friday week to take part in the debate.

Mr. Winterton

I shall be.

Back to