HC Deb 08 November 1973 vol 863 cc1172-84
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 12th NOVEMBER. Second Reading of the Local Government Bill. Remaining stages of the Channel Tunnel (Initial Finance) Bill.

TUESDAY 13th NOVEMBER. Second Reading of the Cinematograph and Indecent Displays Bill and of the Charlwood and Horley Bill.

WEDNESDAY 14th NOVEMBER. Second Reading of the Consumer Credit Bill. Motions on the Double Taxation Relief Orders for Belize, Brunei, Sweden and Barbados.

THURSDAY 15th NOVEMBER. Supply (1st Allotted Day); until Seven o'clock, debate on an Opposition motion on the disastrous shortages in public services in Greater London, and afterwards an Opposition motion on museum charges. Motion relating to the Direct Grant Schools (Amendment) Regulations.

FRIDAY 16th NOVEMBER. Second Reading of the Horticulture (Special Payments) Bill. Motion on the Agriculture (Tractor Cabs) (Amendment) Regulations.

MONDAY 19th NOVEMBER. Supply (2nd Allotted Day): Subject for debate to be announced.

Mr. Wilson

In regard to Thursday's business following the cheap and frivolous replies of the Prime Minister on Question No. Q3 about London, may I give the right hon. Gentleman notice that we are today tabling a motion censuring the Government for the fact that their policies are bringing essential public services in London to a virtual standstill?

Secondly, will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that we can expect a debate on Northern Ireland shortly after the House has dealt with the business which he has read out?

Thirdly, will lie arrange in Government time for a half day's debate—a full day if he can afford the time—before 30th November, which is the last date for receiving representations on the recent Green Paper on the question of discrimination? [HON. MEMBERS: "Against what."] The Green Paper on discrimination against women, of course.

Fourthly, will the right hon. Gentleman give consideration to providing Government time for a debate on the question of disabled drivers and the kind of vehicles they have available to them, since we now understand from the Secretary of State for the Social Services that he has received the report of Baroness Sharp and her Committee? It would be extremely helpful if the House could have a debate on that subject, a subject in which many hon. Members on both sides of the House are expert and on which they will want to express their views before the Government take a decision on the Sharp Report.

Mr. Prior

I have noted what the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said about the Opposition motion on Thursday.

I hope to be able to include in my next week's business statement the announcement of a debate on Northern Ireland.

I note what the right hon. Gentleman said about discrimination against women. There were opportunities during the debate on the Address to discuss that subject and there will be a chance to air views when we proceed with the Bill. At the moment I see little prospect of being able to arrange a debate before the end of November, but this is a subject which hon. Members successful in the ballot could select.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about disabled drivers and the report of the Sharp Committee. I recognise that this is a subject which the House will wish to debate. I should like to consult my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services, and I have noted that the House wishes to debate this important matter.

Mr. Wilson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his reply about the Green Paper on discrimination is not good enough? I ask him to think again about it, and I remind him that facilities which were provided in the debates on the Gracious Speech were as a result of our own choosing. But there were many hon. Members on that day and on other days who felt that it was right to speak on other aspects of the Gracious Speech.

Is the Leader of the House aware that if the Government propose to go forward with a bill based on the Green Paper, it will exclude many of the principal issues on which legislation is needed on discrimination, including education, work and many other questions? Since during the debates on the Gracious Speech I promised that the right hon. Gentleman would receive a copy of Labour's Green Paper on this matter, and since I know that it has reached his office, may I ask him to study that excellent document before deciding not to grant time for a debate?

Mr. Prior

I shall certainly give further consideration to what the right hon. Gentleman said.

Mr. McMaster

Since the House has been back at work for four weeks following the Summer Recess, may I press my right hon. Friend to provide time for an urgent debate on Northern Ireland? I say this in view of the continuing critical security situation, particularly in my constituency, where there are nightly incidents, including murders, and also because of the many political developments that deserve the attention of this House.

Mr. Prior

I have just said that I hope to be able to make an announcement about Northern Ireland in next week's business statement.

Mr. James Johnson

May I turn the right hon. Gentleman's attention—and I see the Prime Minister at his side—to the Icelandic fishing situation? Unfortunately, my Question No. Q17 on this subject was not reached today. What is happening in Reykjavik? Are we now at the stage where we shall have to haggle over a definitive list of ships which are to fish in these waters? Is that a fact, and has the Prime Minister had any official communication that Mr. Johannesson is in difficulties against Mr. Josepsson, the Fisheries Minister, and that it is likely that the Icelandic Cabinet will be dissolved? Will the Leader of the House tell the House the situation, because this keenly affects my constituents as well as many others in Fleetwood, Lowestoft and other fishing areas?

Mr. Prior

I note the hon. Gentleman's interest in this matter. We are awaiting the decision of the Icelandic Government. I believe I saw on the tape a short time ago that there was a likelihood of an early decision. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will report to the House as soon as a decision is reached.

Mr. Powell

Will the Leader of the House provide an early and full opportunity for the House to debate the recent important report by the Select Committee on Immigration?

Mr. Prior

I should like to consider that matter.

Mr. Palmer

Will the Leader of the House arrange soon for a debate on the Government decision to use American reactors for the next stage of the British nuclear power programme? Could not this debate centre on the recent report of the Select Committee on Science and Technology which advised against that course of action?

Mr. Prior

No decision of any sort has been reached on this important matter. The Nuclear Power Advisory Board is urgently considering the issue under the chairmanship of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. The Government's reply to the second report of the Select Committee on Science and Technology will be made shortly, and it will be best to await that before considering time for a debate.

Mr. Neave

Reverting to the question of the hon. Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Palmer), is my right hon. Friend aware that there are many of us on this side of the House who are extremely anxious about the possibility of ordering American reactors, which we would consider a devastating blow to British industry and to the Atomic Energy Authority? Will my right hon. Friend seriously reconsider his statement that there should not be a debate on the Committee's report?

Mr. Prior

I repeat what I have already said to the hon. Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Palmer)—that no decision has been reached. My right hon. Friend chairs the Nuclear Power Advisory Board. Decisions will be taken in the light of its advice to the Government and I will keep the House informed, or will ask my right hon. Friend to keep the House informed.

Mr. Cyril Smith

Can the Leader of the House give us any indication when we may expect the Government's Green Paper on worker participation in industry, which was promised in June? Will he guarantee that when the paper is published there will be an early opportunity to debate it? Further, can he tell the House whether there is any truth in the rumour which is circulating that the paper has been written once but has been rejected by the Government's "Think Tank" and is now being rewritten?

Mr. Prior

There is certainly no truth in the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's question. The Green Paper is nearing completion and, of course, I expect that the House will wish to debate it after it has had proper time for consideration.

Mr. Ronald Bell

In considering how soon he can find a day for a debate on the recent report of the Select Committee on Immigration and Race Relations, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that since the passing of the 1971 Act the House has lost its annual opportunity of debating the subject of immigration, and that unless an opportunity such as this is taken we shall have no debate upon the subject?

Mr. Prior

I recognise the point which my hon. and learned Friend makes.

Mr. Oram

May I ask whether it is next week that the House is to expect the promised statement on population policy? Also, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind not only his promise that such a statement would be made in the autumn, but the fact that United Nations Population Year begins on 1st January and that many people want to know the Government's policies in respect of that event?

Mr. Prior

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister promised a statement this autumn. I know that the autumn is getting well on, and I will ask my right hon. Friend when he can make that statement.

Sir J. Rodgers

May I ask my right hon. Friend to realise that we on this side of the House would like an early debate on the question of the education of immigrants?

Mr. Prior

I have noted the point which my hon. Friend made.

Mr. Bidwell

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept from me that the desire to debate the Select Committee's report on education is by no means confined to the other side of the House, because we would very much welcome such a debate. Also, may we have a debate on one aspect of the previous report, concerning police-immigrant relationships?

Mr. Prior

I should like to remind the House that we have a number of days set aside for debates on reports of Select Committees. I am not quite certain when the first day will be available, but I will make a note of the strong views expressed this afternoon.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

The Opposition have chosen public services in London as the subject for one of their supply days next week. Will my right hon. Friend use his influence to persuade them to make the subject public services in London and Peterborough, because, as a consequence of the decision when they were in Government to prevail upon Peterborough to be a good neighbour to London by accepting the new town procedure, the public services of Peterborough may well be detrimentally affected? That is an omission which ought to be rectified.

Mr. Prior

I have no doubt that the Opposition have taken due note of my hon. Friend's problem.

Mr. Harold Walker

Will the right hon. Gentleman recall that for nearly 12 months I have repeatedly asked questions about a debate on industrial health and safety, and will he recognise that the Roberts Report is a major document with far-reaching consequences? Will he consider lending a rather more sympathetic ear, and can he assure me that, before the Government's proposals on health and safety at work are drafted and put into a Bill, the House will have a full opportunity to debate them?

Mr. Prior

There was time last Session for a short debate—and I agree that it was a short debate—on this matter. I think it is now of great importance that the Robens recommendations should be put into the form of a Bill which can be put through the House this Session, and that will provide an opportunity for discussion and for amendment wherever necessary. If I were to say now to the hon. Gentleman that we could have a debate before the Bill was drafted, I doubt whether we should get the Bill this Session, and I think it is important that we should get it.

Mr. S. James A. Hill

Will the Leader of the House kindly give time for a full debate on the European Regional Development Fund, and on the implications that it will have for our own regional policy?

Mr. Prior

I have undertaken to the House that we shall have a debate on the regional fund before decisions are taken in Brussels at the beginning of December. I hope that it will be possible to widen the debate a little to include other matters of European interest.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

Can the Leader of the House give us an indication when he expects to make a statement on the salaries and conditions of secretaries to Members of Parliament? As he well knows, these have been the subject of considerable criticism in the Press recently. Does he not think it about time that the Government themselves took the whole matter over?

Mr. Prior

I had something to say about this matter last Tuesday night, and I have nothing to add at the moment.

Mr. Evelyn King

Reverting to electricity generation, am I correct in understanding that my right hon. Friend gave an assurance—and, if he did not, will he give an assurance—that no American generators will be bought until there has been a debate? In that context, is he aware that there has been developed at Winfrith in Dorset a heavy water generator which is clearly more efficient and cheaper than anything that America has produced?

Mr. Prior

What I told the House this afternoon is that no decision has been taken on thermal reactor choice. I think I will ask my right hon. Friend to contact my hon. Friend on any further points that he has in mind.

Mr. Alfred Morris

Has the Leader of the House seen the report of the decision in the High Court affecting the pay of employees of Co-operative laundries, and will he arrange for a ministerial statement next week on the implications of that decision? Is it not utterly deplorable that the Pay Board should have been instrumental in stopping a meagre pay increase of 10p a week for some of the lowest paid people in this country?

Mr. Prior

These are matters for my right hon. Friend and I will draw his attention to them.

Mr. Adam Butler

Further to the question of nuclear reactors, will my right hon. Friend agree that these are part of a much wider subject, and may I urge on him very strongly that we should have a debate at the earliest possible opportunity on the whole energy question?

Mr. Prior

Of course this is a matter of very great importance to all parts of the House. We are in difficulties over general debates in the period leading up to Christmas, but I shall, of course, bear this one in mind.

Mr. Booth

Can the Leader of the House tell us whether we may expect a statement in the House next week concerning the EEC's proposals on regulations to define those areas in this country which will be eligible for aid under the European Regional Development Fund? Also, can the Leader of the House give a categorical assurance that no regulations for this purpose will take legal effect in this country until there has been a debate in the House?

Mr. Prior

I have already given an undertaking to the House that there will be a debate on this matter ahead of any further negotiations and decisions in Brussels. That will give the opportunity which the hon. Gentleman requires.

Mr. Jeffrey Archer

Will the Leader of the House be kind enough to ask the Secretary of State for Social Services to make a statement following the debate last Session on the Quirk Report? There were 2,000 speech therapists when that report was made, but in this morning's copy of The Times it is suggested that there are now only 910. This problem becomes a greater worry every day, and is this not an example where the Government must put rules on one side and deal with the problem?

Mr. Prior

I will certainly consult my right hon. Friend.

Mr. William Hamilton

Will the Leader of the House give a categorical assurance that legislation will be introduced early on the question of discrimination? I use the word "early" because I am sure he knows that, in our view, the consultative document is extremely limited and that consequent legislation proposed by the Government will probably require very drastic amendment.

Mr. Prior

As the consultative period does not end until the end of November, it will be some while before the Bill can be drafted, but I will bear in mind what has been said.

Mr. Fowler

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is almost 18 months since the Criminal Law Revision Committee reported, making important proposals affecting criminal trials in this country? Is my right hon. Friend also aware that in the recent important speech by Sir Robert Mark, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, he made many of the same points? Is it not a matter of urgency that the House should be allowed to debate the proposals?

Mr. Prior

I agree with my hon. Friend that this matter must be debated. I gave an undertaking that it would be debated, but I am afraid I cannot promise a debate for a few weeks.

Mr. Pavitt

Has the Leader of the House taken note of Early Day Motion No. 23 in my name and supported by hon. Members on both sides of the House, including the Father of the House, which seeks to say "Thank you" to the back room boys and girls in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association for the successful conference held in September? [That this House wishes to place on record its deep appreciation of the organisation and hard work of the officers and stall of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, Sir Robin Vanderfelt and his stall and Mr. Peter Molloy and all those serving the United Kingdom branch, including officers of the House who gave freely of their time, which led to the outstanding success of the 19111 Annual Conference in London in September 1973 and reflected great credit on the mother of Parliaments.] Although it is obviously not a subject for debate next week, will the right hon. Gentleman find ways and means of securing time for Her Majesty's Government to associate themselves with those thanks to the officers and staff of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association?

Mr. Prior

I am sure the whole House would wish to associate itself with this motion. We are all extremely grateful for the hard work which Mr. Molloy and others carried out in order to make the conference the success which it undoubtedly was. I am certain that we all wish to congratulate those who took part,

Mr. Normanton

Would my right hon. Friend care to take note of the growing concern in the Greater Manchester conurbation at the prospects of the deferment, or still further deferment, of the SELNEC Pic-Vic tunnel project? In view of the concern of the region and of hon. Members in all quarters of the House, will the right hon. Gentleman take into account the possibility of finding some time for a debate on this matter?

Mr. Prior

I know that there is a great deal of concern in the Greater Manchester area on this subject, but I cannot promise time for an early debate on it. It is a matter which might suitably be raised by hon. Members if they get a chance. All I can say is that with the need to contain and control public expenditure very strictly at the moment, I am sorry, but this has had to drop out of the programme.

Mr. Hamling

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the Cinematograph and Indecent Displays Bill is not contentious from a party point of view, and would he discuss through the usual channels the possibility of the House being given an opportunity of a free vote on this important matter?

Mr. Prior

These are not matters for me, but no doubt what the hon. Gentleman said will be borne in mind by those whose responsibility it is.

Mr. John Wells

Has my right hon. Friend's attention been drawn to Early Day Motion No. 10 which expresses the anxiety of many hon. Members on both sides of the House about the position of professional engineers—perfectly reputable non-chartered engineers—who may well suffer as a result of European rulings? [That this House, mindful of the fact that from 31st December 1973 the right of many thousands of qualified engineers to practise in the United Kingdom and the European Economic Community will be in jeopardy, urges Her Majesty's Government to seek an urgent settlement between the Council of Engineering Institutions and the many known non-chartered bodies such as the Institution of Heating and Ventilating Engineers.] We have heard this afternoon an expression of the desire to speed up integration with Europe. Matters such as this which are already urgent should be reviewed even more urgently.

Mr. Prior

I will have a further look at that, but at the moment I cannot add to what my hon. Friend said on 22nd October.

Mr. Lawson

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Government have now published their findings on the Scottish Select Committee Report on Land Use. Is the right hon. Gentleman ensuring that this is one of those reports which are to be debated in the near future?

Mr. Prior

I shall obviously have a good many demands for debates on Select Committee reports. There is a certain amount of time available for debate of such reports, but I am afraid that I cannot at this stage promise which Select Committee reports will be debated. I have had requests this afternoon for at least two. We shall have to see how we get on.

Mr. Marten

On the question of the day which my right hon. Friend has promised for a debate on European regional policy, am I right in assuming that he also wants to add some other matters into that same debate? Is he aware that since the debate on the Queen's Speech we have received the agenda for the Council of Ministers' meeting and that it contains extremely important matters, each one of which ought to be given at least a half day, if not a whole day?

Mr. Prior

We have just had six days of general debates on the Queen's Speech. There are a number of important matters. One of the things that I had in mind when I said that it might be possible to debate other matters at the same time was that I thought that hon. Members would want to raise matters other than those of regional policy. I have made a note of what my hon. Friend said.

Mr. Blenkinsop

May we have an assurance that we shall have an opportunity of debating the Government's new housing improvements proposals under the new Bill within the next fortnight or three weeks, in view of the anxiety among local authorities about this matter?

Mr. Prior

These are matters which will be in the Bill, and the Bill will be brought before the House as soon as possible.

Mr. Moate

Will my right hon. Friend say when we may expect the Government to seek the approval of the House for their White Paper on metrication?

Mr. Prior

One or two matters relating to metrication have already been before the House. I have nothing to add to the statement which was made in the debate at the end of last Session.

Mr. Russell Kerr

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept congratulations from myself and from a number of other mem- bers of the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries on the prompt manner in which the committee has been reappointed on this occasion? May we take it that this represents an end of the policy of months of delay before Select Committees of this importance are reappointed?

Mr. Prior

I am always glad to have the hon. Gentleman's support.