HC Deb 04 April 1974 vol 871 cc1453-62
Mr. Heath

May I ask the Leader of the House to state the business of the House for next week?

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Edward Short)

The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY 8th April—Consideration of Private Members' motions, until seven o'clock.

Proceedings on the Representation of the People Bill.

At seven o'clock, Opposed Private Business.

TUESDAY 9th April—Second Reading of the Prices Bill.

Motions on the Orkney Islands Internal Shipping Services and on the National Health Service (Scotland).

WEDNESDAY 10th April—Proceedings on the National Insurance Bill.

THURSDAY 11th April—It will be proposed that the House should meet at 11 a.m., take Questions until 12 noon and adjourn at 5 p.m. until Monday 29th April.

Mr. Heath

The Leader of the House will be aware that in this Parliament so far the Opposition have had half of a Supply Day. Will he give an assurance that we shall be afforded a Supply Day very soon after the House returns from the Easter Recess? Secondly, although I agree that the situation is somewhat difficult for a Leader of the House to announce in advance, will the right hon. Gentleman say when the Adjournment motion will be taken? Since in this new Parliament we have so many new hon. Members, it would be most helpful to the House if he could say when the House can expect to take the Adjournment motion.

Mr. Short

In answer to the right hon. Gentleman's first question, I can tell him that we hope to make a Supply Day available in the week after the recess. In answer to his second point, I hope to invite the House to approve the Adjournment motion on Tuesday, but I shall safeguard the time of the House on the rest of the business.

Mr. Grimond

Although we have had, on the initiative of my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Wainwright), some debate on the Kilbrandon proposals, will the Government say when they propose to allot a full day to a discussion of the Kilbrandon Reports, initiated by a senior Minister who will give some outline of the Government's thinking, and will they also say how they propose to proceed on the matters involved?

Mr. Short

I have considered a debate on this subject, and there will be a debate but I cannot say when it will be. I very much hope that before then the consultations in Scotland and in Wales will have started.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

Last week my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House promised to convey to the Secretary of State for Social Services my request for an early debate on the Sharp Report on disabled drivers. Has he approached the Secretary of State and, if so, has he been given an assurance that we shall have an early debate after Easter? If not, will he go back and press the right hon. Lady for me?

Mr. Short

I certainly conveyed the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Tuck) to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services. There will be a debate on that subject at some time, but I am afraid that I cannot say when.

Mr. Waddington

Will the Leader of the House ask his right hon. Friend the Minister for Planning and Local Government to come to the House next week and give a civil and sensible reply to a question that is of great importance to North-East Lancashire and to which he refused to give any sort of reply yesterday? I refer to what is set out in yesterday's HANSARD, in column 376.

Mr. Short

I shall certainly look into that matter.

Mr. William Hamilton

In view of the allegations made by certain newspapers about land transactions, will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that the Prime Minister himself will make a statement on this matter before the recess, and that if there are any associates of himself or any other members of the Government involved in this transaction, they will be removed forthwith?

Mr. Short

I shall convey my hon. Friend's remarks to the Prime Minister. The House will be aware of a statement issued by my right hon. Friend outside the House this morning. That statement makes it abundantly clear that the whole campaign is a smear, based on a misrepresentation of the facts. However, all that apart, I shall convey those remarks to the Prime Minister, and I am sure that he will be willing to consider making a statement on the parliamentary aspects of the matter.

Mr. George Gardiner

In conveying to the Prime Minister the wishes expressed just now by the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) may I ask him at the same time to convey the feeling of the House that, even though the Prime Minister is seeking to muzzle the Press by throwing libel writs in all directions, this matter deserves a statement to Parliament on the real public issues involved?

Mr. Short

I dissociate myself entirely from the quite disgusting suggestion made by the hon. Gentleman. However, I will certainly convey his comments to the Prime Minister. As I have said, I am sure that my right hon. Friend will be willing to make a statement on the parliamentary aspects of the matter.

Mr. Tom Ellis

Will the Leader of the House impress through the usual channels, or on whomever he presses, the need for a debate on the steel industry in view of the Government's announcement that they are looking at this industry? We should like to know how it is to be tackled, how we can take part, and what the future will be in looking at the national plan for the steel industry that is being reorganised.

Mr. Short

There will not be time for a debate before Easter, but I will pass on to my right hon. Friend what my hon. Friend has said.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

In the last Parliament we were anticipating an early debate on the report of the Nugent Committee on Defence Lands. Will the Leader of the House tell us whether this matter will be debated in the near future?

Mr. Short

I cannot say when there will be a debate on this matter, but I will bear it in mind and write to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Dalyell

As considerable sectors of British industry are concerned about the decision on reactor choice, may I ask whether my right hon. Friend's promised debate on the choice of nuclear reactors will take place after Easter?

Mr. Short

There will certainly be a debate after Easter, as I have already promised. I will watch this matter very carefully and keep in touch with my hon. Friend about it.

Mr. Finsberg

Will the Leader of the House make arrangements to set up the Expenditure Committee next week?

Mr. Short

This is one Committee that we have not yet set up, but I hope to do something about it in the near future. We have been working very hard through the usual channels getting names for committees, and we have set up a number. I think that some are on the Order Paper today. We are proceeding as quickly as we can with this matter.

Mr. Michael Stewart

When will my right hon. Friend be able to find time for a debate on an early-day motion concerning the London allowance for teachers?

Mr. Short

Not next week. However, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said today, he is meeting the Leader of the GLC, and I understand that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science will be meeting two panels of the Burnham Committee in the near future regarding this matter.

Mr. Iremonger

Will the right hon. Gentleman find time to debate the following early-day motions:

No. 42,

[That this House notes that the international postal regulations are unsatisfactory in their operation in that they do not ensure that Her Majesty's subjects are able to communicate without fail with the men and women of faith and courage in dissident Christian and Jewish minorities suffering persecution under red Nazi regimes in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and other socialist régimes in Eastern Europe and elsewhere; and calls upon Her Majesty's Government, despite its tenderness for its red Nazi comrades, to invoke the necessary international diplomatic machinery to amend the constitution of the International Postal Union to remedy this outrage against human rights.]

No. 43,

[That this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government urgently to inquire into the fact that members of the 35 Group in North-West London and Ilford are experiencing difficulty in maintaining contact with friends in Russia and are discovering that the telephones of these friends are disconnected by the socialist regime there whenever it becomes apparent that they are receiving calls regularly from Her Majesty's subjects.]

No. 44,

[That this House takes note of the avowed intention of the Labour Government to close independent schools which are unrecognised because they do not have unnecessary fancy trimmings on large sites, irrespective of the fact that they provide, while saving public ex- pense, for the education of children (many of whom have special needs) in accordance with the wishes of their parents; further notes that the principals of Clark's Schools have felt obliged in the light of this avowed intention to anticipate compulsory closure by themselves closing down their excellent schools in Ilford and Romford in order to devote extra resources to providing unnecessary but compulsory trimmings for other Clark's Schools in larger sites elsewhere; sympathises with the parents and children victimised by this Government's vindictiveness towards private education; and respectfully suggests that any of those parents who did not vote Conservative in the last election reflect now on their plight.]

No. 45,

[That this House expresses its sympathy with the Redbridge Borough Council in its need to find places in its schools for some hundreds of children displaced through the vindictive policies of the Labour Government which has forced the closure of Clark's Schools; and further expresses the hope that these children taking O Levels next year and obliged now to switch at a highly awkward juncture to a new curriculum will not be unduly handicapped in the progress which their parents have been making great sacrifices to maintain.]

Mr. Short

No, Sir; I am afraid not.

Mrs. Renée Short

In view of the careful investigations and the important recommendations of the Lane Committee, may I ask my right hon. Friend when we shall have an opportunity to debate the Lane Report?

Mr. Short

The Lane Report, which is very important, has just been published. I hope that it will be debated in the House some time before the summer.

Mr. Burden

May I ask the Leader of the House to give an undertaking that there will be an early debate on the O'Brien Report and that, pending that debate in Parliament, his right hon. Friend will not reintroduce export licences for the export of live animals for slaughter?

Mr. Short

I cannot promise an early debate on this matter, but I will pass on to my right hon. Friend what the hon. Gentleman said.

Mr. Skinner

Will my right hon. Friend desist from getting down into the gutter with the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner), who is well versed in writing scurrilous articles about Labour Members of Parliament? Indeed, it cost him £5,000 as a result. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. That sort of personal imputation is not worthy of the House.

Mr. Short

We recall some of the things written by the hon. Gentleman when he was in a higher place. His intervention today shows that he has not improved much since he came downstairs.

Mr. Kershaw

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not the custom of the House that personal allegations are not made during Question Time or Business Questions, even by the Leader of the House?

Mr. Speaker

I think that such personal imputations are certainly undesirable at any time.

Mr. Adley

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Would it be in order for me to ask you to remind the Leader of the House that he is the Leader of the House, not the Leader of the Labour Party?

Mr. Peter Rees

In view of the Prime Minister's recent statement, may I ask whether time will be made available for a debate on tax reliefs and other forms of encouragement for land reclamation?

Mr. Short

I imagine that this matter can be discussed in Committee on the Finance Bill. Alternatively, as the Opposition have a lot of Supply Days, they could use one for that purpose.

Mr. Wellbeloved

May I ask my right hon. Friend to find time next week to make a statement to the House on the pay and conditions of members of the staff of the Refreshment Department? Will he do this as a matter of urgency because a growing number of hon. Members are concerned at the poor pay and disgraceful conditions that the staff of this House have to endure?

Mr. Short

I agree with my hon. Friend that there is a real and urgent problem here. I met staff representatives this week together with their union representative. The Services Committee has now been established. I understand that it is to meet early next week, and the Catering Sub-Committee will then be set up. I hope that the Catering Sub-Committee will be prepared to meet staff representatives immediately it is set up to try to reach a solution to the problem very quickly. I will give any help that I can in this matter.

Mr. Pym

Will the Leader of the House ask his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to come to the House before Easter and make a statement about the real difficulties being faced by the glasshouse industry because of the rise in the price of oil? This is an urgent matter which requires an urgent statement by the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Short

I know that my right hon. Friend is most concerned about this matter. He has spoken about it recently. I will certainly pass on to him what the right hon. Gentleman said.

Mr. Cryer

Has the Leader of the House any plans to give time to debate the abolition of the Pay Code? I am receiving urgent representations from management in my constituency about the harmful effects that it is having on the export drive by industry in my constituency and presumably in the rest of the country.

Mr. Short

I cannot find time next week, Sir, but I will in due course.

Rev. Ian Paisley

When will the Leader of the House be in a position to make a statement regarding business for Northern Ireland being brought before the House? I am sure that he is aware that hon. Members from Northern Ireland do not like the Order in Council system as it does not leave them room for amending any legislation. How does he propose to bring Northern Ireland business before the House in future?

Mr. Short

There is to be a debate today. However, I will look at the procedural side as well.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

If the Prime Minister does come to the House to make a statement on the land deals in Ince, may I ask the Leader of the House to ask him to include in it a statement on the £180,000 grant made by Ince UDC towards an access road to that site? Will he also explain why my constituents, because of action by the Secretary of State for the Environment in changing the rate support grant order, are now paying an extra £98,000 in rates whereas the ratepayers of Wigan, which now includes Ince, are paying £500,000 less in rates, thus forcing my constituents to subsidise industrial competition against them?

Mr. Short

On the first point, I said that I would pass on the request for a statement to my right hon. Friend. I also said that I felt sure he would be willing to make a statement—I did not say either in the House or outside—on the parliamentary aspects of this matter. I promised to pass that request on to my right hon. Friend.

On the second part of the hon. Lady's question, I should point out that that matter has been fully debated and approved by the House.

Mr. Whitehead

Is my right hon. Friend now in a position to tell us whether before Easter he will be able to bring forward the Government's proposals on a register of Members' interests? Irrespective of the heated exchanges on particular matters today, there is general concern about this matter. I think the whole House would wish it to be brought forward.

Mr. Short

I am afraid that it will not be next week, but I hope that it will be very soon. We have very nearly reached agreement on this matter. I hope that we can reach agreement on this and bring it before the House in the near future.

Mr. MacArthur

In view of the Prime Minister's extraordinary statement this afternoon, may I ask whether there will be a further statement next week on what action the Government propose to compensate the poorer tenants on Clydebank who have lost a great deal of money because they were denied rebates under the Housing Finance Act by local councillors who defied the law?

Mr. Short

An identical question was put to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister today.

Several hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. We have an important debate before us, and I have a long list of hon. Members who wish to speak.