HC Deb 17 January 1974 vol 867 cc916-21
Mr. Harold Wilson

Will the Leader of the House indicate to the House the present state of his prognostications about next week's business?

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, 21ST JANUARY—Supply (9th Allotted Day). Debate on an Opposition motion on The Divided Nation.

Remaining stages of the Statutory Corporations (Financial Provisions) Bill.

Motions on the Sea Fish Industry Act 1970 (Relaxation of Time Limits) Order and on the Fishing Vessels (Grants) Scheme.

TUESDAY, 22ND JANUARY—Second Reading of the Solicitors (Amendment) Bill, until about seven o'clock.

Afterwards, progress on the remaining stages of the Local Government Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 23RD JANUARY—Completion of the remaining stages of the Local Government Bill.

THURSDAY, 24TH JANUARY—Debate on a motion to take note of the Second Report from the Select Committee on European Community Secondary Legislation in Session 1972–73.

Consideration of the Slaughterhouses Bill (Lords), which is a Consolidation Measure.

FRIDAY, 25TH JANUARY—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 28TH JANUARY—Supply (10th Allotted Day). Debate on a subject to be announced.

Mr. Wilson

In view of the increasingly grave situation of the economy at home and abroad, sterling, the investment and industrial position and particularly of the uncertainty in industry and trade, will the right hon. Gentleman undertake that the Prime Minister will make a very early statement to remove some of these uncertainties and to tell the House and the country—the nation, above all, wants to know—how he intends to get Britain back to work?

Mr. Prior

My right hon. Friend will have heard the right hon. Gentleman's wishes and no doubt arrangements could be made.

Mr. Marten

What form will the debate on EEC secondary legislation take on Thursday? Will the Government put forward proposals for the House to agree—or what? Secondly, should there be an election, what arrangements are being made for ex-Members of Parliament to watch the legislation that might be churned out from Brussels in the meantime?

Mr. Prior

The second part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question is hypothetical at the moment. In reply to the first part, the Government's intention is to table a motion setting up the sifting committee. Otherwise, the motion before the House would be a "take note" motion.

Mr. Maclennan

In the event of the dissolution of Parliament, what arrangements will be made for the renewal, if necessary, of the emergency powers legislation?

Mr. Prior

These matters are at the moment entirely hypothetical.

Miss Quennell

In connection with Thursday's business, which appears to include two major debates, will my right hon. Friend say whether there will be any time limit on the debate on the report from the Select Committee?

Mr. Prior

It is thought that the report from the Select Committee will take all day but, provided the House agrees, we shall ask at the same time for a motion to be approved setting up the sifting committee.

Mr. Driberg

Will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for an early statement by the Minister for Energy, in view of yesterday's statement by the Chairman of the Central Electricity Generating Board entirely contradicting the Minister's statements and saying that the public have responded satisfactorily to the appeals for economy and that there is no need for the sterner measures foreshadowed by the Minister?

Mr. Prior

I note what the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) says. In the last few days the public have responded very well to the requests made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy. As a result, the figures to be published today will show that the stock position is more satisfactory.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Immediately before Christmas my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House said that he expected to stage the first day of a debate on the public expenditure White Paper in the second week after we returned from the Christmas Recess. Assuming that there is no interruption of our sittings, what are his present intentions on this matter?

Mr. Prior

I hope that this matter will be dealt with in next week's business statement. As my hon. Friend recognises, there have been one or two other matters which have prevented the debate on the public expenditure White Paper from coming forward, but I hope that it will take place soon.

Mr. Wallace

Has the Leader of the House seen Early Day Motion No. 133, signed by myself and several of my hon. Friends?

[That this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government to remove immediately the anomaly in payment of unemployment benefit during the working of a three-day week whereby workers employed during Thursday, Friday and Saturday receive three days' benefit and those working Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday receive only two days' benefit.]

If he has seen the motion, will he urgently consult the Prime Minister and any other Minister concerned in seeking to remove this ridiculous and grossly unfair anomaly in the present situation? It is causing great hardship, and, if it continues, it will not help to alleviate the problems of the three-day week.

Mr. Prior

I have looked at Early Day Motion No. 133. Subject to the views of the Chair, I believe that it will be in order to debate the matter on Monday.

Dame Irene Ward

Since we seem to have a little more time left to us, may I ask my right hon. Friend please to take action to lay the appropriate order on the Kielder dam? After all the help he is seeking to give to the North—which unfortunately does not seem to have made any impression on the Secretary of State for the Environment—may I ask him to ensure that the order is laid without further delay? The Secretary of State for the Environment has had plenty of time to take action, and I should like him to get his skates on so that we may get on with this business.

Mr. Prior

I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) has already conveyed her views to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, but I cannot add to the reply given to my hon. Friend yesterday, except to say that I shall continue to do my best.

Dame Irene Ward

Thank you.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

In view of the massive drain on reserves and the present speculation about an election, and its effects on the level of parity of our currency, to remove this uncertainty is it not essential that there should be a statement on an election either today or tomorrow?

Mr. Prior

This is essentially a matter for my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

Mr. Sillars

What problems is the Leader of the House finding in the setting up of a Select Committee on Scottish affairs? Is he aware that there is much concern because we have already lost a great deal of valuable investigatory time?

Mr. Prior

I personally have no problem about the setting up of this Committee, and I gave an undertaking that it would be set up. As far as I know, the only problem is to decide who will sit on the Committee.

Mr. Blenkinsop

In view of the serious situation of local authority finances, will the right hon. Gentleman say when the House will have before it the rate support grant orders and the White Paper connected with them?

Mr. Prior

My right hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government and Development said in a Written Answer yesterday that the White Paper setting out the details of rate support grant will be published shortly. I hope to arrange for my right hon. Friend to make a statement early next week.

Mr. William Hamilton

When does the Leader of the House intend to publish the Bill on equal opportunitiese for men and women? Furthermore, will he give an assurance, following the question put to him by my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Alexander W. Lyon), that the Prime Minister will make a definitive statement this weekend on when or whether we shall have a General Election?

Mr. Prior

In answer to the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question, I have nothing to add to what I have already said. In answer to the first part of his question, I do not expect the Bill to be published for a period of some weeks.

Mr. David Stoddart

In view of the conflicting views in statements and in answer to questions on the current situation in terms of coal stocks and supplies and also of oil stocks and supplies, since there seems to be some discrepancy in answers given by Ministers to various Questions, could the Leader of the House provide time next week for a debate on the fuel situation and the necessity for a continuance of the three-day week?

Mr. Prior

There may have been some doubts in some people's minds about the figures, but everyone is agreed that the figures the hon. Gentleman tried to put forward were wrong.

Mr. Pavitt

Since the right hon. Gentleman seems unable to give a positive reply, could he give a negative reply: will there be time next week for Parliament to be prorogued? If so, will he say, "Not next week?

Mr. Prior

There is always time for these things if they are required but, as I have said, it is a totally hypothetical question.