HC Deb 24 January 1974 vol 867 cc1893-8
Mr. Harold Wilson

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)

The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY, 28th January—Supply (10th Allotted Day). Until seven o'clock there will be a debate on an Opposition motion on Cuts in Expenditure on Education, followed by a debate on an Opposition motion on Cuts in the Health and Welfare Services.

Motion on the Value Added Tax (General) (No. 2) Order.

TUESDAY, 29th January—Debate on a motion to take note of the White Paper Public Expenditure to 1977–78 (Command No. 5519).

Second Reading of the Pensions (Increase) Bill.

WEDNESDAY, 30th January—Second Reading of the Road Traffic Bill (Lords).

Remaining stages of the Unit Pricing Bill.

THURSDAY, 31st January—Second Reading of the Independent Broadcasting Authority Bill.

FRIDAY, 1st February—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY, 4th February—Supply (11th Allotted Day). Debate on a topic to be announced.

Mr. Wilson

In view of the expectation that there was to be a statement on energy policy today—apparently there is not to be a statement—will the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether there is to be a statement on energy policy tomorrow or early next week? If so, when? Will he also assure the House that there will be no separate statement made in another place which is not made simultaneously here?

Mr. Prior

Of course I give the assurance for which the right hon. Gentleman asked in the latter part of his question. I confirm that there will be no statement today. I cannot say whether there will be a statement tomorrow, but if there is to be any statement at all I will see that it is made to the House.

Mr. James Hamilton

When does the Leader of the House intend to set up a Select Committee specifically to deal with Scottish affairs? Will he get the usual channels working to decide the names of the Members who will sit on that committee, plus what subject they intend to discuss?

Mr. Prior

The latter part of the hon. Gentleman's question is not a matter for me. On the earlier part of his question, I have inquired into the position and see no difficulty in having discussions to secure the early appointment of the committee.

Mr. Elystan Morgan

Will the Leader of the House tell us when a statement will be made about the agriculture annual price review? Does he appreciate that there are grave apprehensions in the industry concerning escalating costs, particularly in the dairy section where there is great gloom and despondency, and that the Government's failure to bring forward this statement is the cause of great uncertainty which is damaging to the whole industry?

Mr. Prior

I am aware of the concern in the industry about the present position, particularly amongst dairy farmers. I know that my right hon. Friend wishes to bring forward the conclusion of the annual price review at the earliest possible moment, and to that purpose started the review earlier this year than usual. I cannot give a date at the moment, but I know that my right hon. Friend will want to make a statement as soon as he can.

Mr. Russell Kerr

Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been drawn to the recently published report of the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries concerning capital investment procedures in the nationalised industries? Can he promise us an early debate on that report?

Mr. Prior

My attention has not specifically been drawn to that report. I should like to consider the point raised by the hon. Gentleman. I cannot promise an early debate. I should like to consult the hon. Gentleman after I have had time to look at the report.

Mr. Skinner

Will the Leader of the House inquire from the Minister or the Minister of State for Energy, or whatever his name is—the latest one—whether, when he makes his statement on energy problems, he will take into account the lunatic proposal by the National Coal Board to close down a colliery in my constituency which has 7 million tons of coal underground, representing £60 million of the nation's wealth? In this so-called energy crisis we are supposed to need every cobble of coal and we constantly hear from the Prime Minister that there will be security tomorrow for the miners, yet pits are still being shut down.

Mr. Prior

I am quite certain that my right hon. Friend will wish to consult the hon. Member for Bolsover, whatever his name is.

Mr. English

Will the Leader of the House tell us why this House is the only institution still suffering from a petrol shortage? Does he recollect that he closed certain of our facilities on the ground that there was a petrol shortage and staff could not get home by car? Now that the car service for the staff has been restored, may I ask why our facilities are still shut?

Mr. Prior

This matter was discussed by the Services Committee on Tuesday. I hope that we can resume full services for the House forthwith. There is still a fuel shortage, but owing to the co-operation of the public, which has saved 14 per cent. of our petrol supplies, we have done jolly well.

Mr. Marten

Reverting to the business for next week, may I ask whether we are to have a statement next week on the Council of Ministers' meeting and discussions on agriculture which took place this week?

Mr. Prior

I should like to examine that suggestion. I have not had any other request for a statement from other parts of the House or a request from my right hon. Friend that he should make a statement. If anything of importance happened at the meeting this week I will certainly consider whether my right hon. Friend needs to make a statement. There will be an opportunity for a further statement resulting from the further talks that are likely to take place on the Regional Development Fund when my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary returns next week.

Mr. Molloy

In view of the announcement about the increase in unemployment, the disastrous trade figures, the devaluation of the pound, and the fact that this administration are getting the country into a hell of a mess, ought we not to have a debate on all these matters early next week?

Mr. Prior

We would welcome the co-operation of the Opposition in helping to solve these problems.

Mr. Ridley

Will my right hon. Friend make a statement as soon as possible on when we might expect the price review? Will he ask his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture to make a statement next week about the dairy determination and the price of milk, because the situation is becoming acute in some farming areas?

Mr. Prior

Important negotiations are still going on between the National Farmers' Union and my right hon. Friend I will certainly convey the wishes of the House to my right hon. Friend for an early statement.

Mr. Faulds

When are we to have a Government statement about their intentions towards public lending right and the essential requirement that such a scheme should be financed from central Government funds?

Mr. Prior

The hon. Gentleman will know that one of my hon. Friends has selected a Private Member's Bill on this subject.

Mr. Faulds

What is the Government's policy?

Mr. Prior

That will provide an opportunity for the Government to state their views.

Dr. John A. Cunningham

Will the Leader of the House assure us that the Government will find time to debate nuclear reactor policy before any final decision is reached to purchase or order new reactors? Will he also assure us that he will do this in consultation with the chairman of the Select Committee?

Mr. Prior

Yes, Sir. However, I think it would be for the convenience of the House and a courtesy to the Select Committee that the report should be available before the House debates the matter.

Dame Irene Ward

May we have a full debate next week on the excellent article on the miners written by Colin Coote which appeared in last Monday's Daily Telegraph, in which the full facts about the miners were very well set out? Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that, although I am devoted to the miners, I think that they are a maddening lot of people?

Mr. Prior

Certain very powerful articles have appeared in a number of newspapers on the subject of the miners. I am sure that these articles will be referred to in any debate we have on this subject, but I cannot find time for such a debate next week.

Mr. Benn

Will the Leader of the House say whether the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry intends to make a statement about the delay in publishing the January figures which are generally published early in February but are not due until 25th February, as these figures will give us an assessment of the cost of the three-day week and as the explanation for the delay in the December figures that the DTI could not read a computer print-out by candlelight is scarcely credible?

Mr. Prior

The right hon. Gentleman knows that there are good reasons at the moment for delays in collecting the statistics and getting them printed, but I will certainly convey his wishes to my right hon. Friend.