HC Deb 18 July 1974 vol 877 cc664-73
Mr. Heath

Will the Leader of the House please state next week's business?

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, 22ND JULY—Completion of the remaining stages of the Finance Bill.

TUESDAY, 23RD JULY—Debate on the Economic Situation.

The Chairman of Ways and Means has announced Opposed Private Business for consideration.

Remaining stages of the Independent Broadcasting Authority (No. 2) Bill, of the Merchant Shipping Bill [Lords] and of the Northern Ireland (Young Persons) Bill [Lords].

WEDNESDAY, 24TH JULY—Supply [13th Allotted Day]: Conclusion of the debate on the Economic Situation.

Motion on passes for Members, etc.

Consideration of Lords amendments to the Housing (Scotland) Bill.

Proceedings on the Insurance Companies Bill [Lords], and on the Friendly Societies Bill [Lords], which are consolidation measures.

THURSDAY. 25TH JULY—Supply [14th Allotted Day]: The Question will be put on all ountstanding Votes, after which there will be a debate on a subject to be announced. I am sorry that I cannot yet give the House a subject.

Consideration of Lords amendments to the Housing Bill.

FRIDAY, 26TH JULY—Remaining stages of the Road Traffic Bill [Lords].

Motion on the Electricity (Borrowing Powers) Order 1974.

Proceedings on the Solicitors Bill [Lords], which is a consolidation measure.

Second Reading of the Hare Coursing Bill.

MONDAY, 29TH JULY—Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill.

Mr. Heath

The Leader of the House will be aware that we are grateful to him for making an adjustment at our request to the business next week. Secondly, the Supply Day is our responsibility. We have not yet submitted to him a subject. We shall do so next week when he can make a statement to the House about it.

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be making a major statement about economic policy on Monday afternoon before the two-day debate on Tuesday and Wednesday?

Mr. Short

Yes, my right hon. Friend feels that it would be for the convenience of the House if he were to make a statement on Monday, and he will be doing so.

Mr. George Lawson

As the subject matter for Thursday appears not yet to have been fixed, will my right hon. Friend ensure that we have a debate on that day on the report of the Scottish Select Committee on land use? Does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be a matter of great regret if that very important report were not debated before the House rises?

Mr. Short

Thursday, of course, is a Supply Day and the choice of the matter to be discussed is for the Opposition. The subject that my hon. Friend has raised is a very appropriate subject for the Scottish Grand Committee. I hope that the Committee will be able to meet before the Summer Recess.

Mr. Peyton

Will the Leader of the House give careful consideration to the possibility of giving half an hour for Prime Minister's Questions? That would be fair to his right hon. Friend and it might give the Prime Minister a chance to get round to answering something.

Mr. Short

I think that my right hon. Friend would possibly welcome that suggestion and I shall discuss it with him.

Mr. Lee

In view of yesterday's bomb outrage, which is the most recent of a large number of such episodes, may we have a debate before the recess on the general internal security situation in this country? Many hon. Members on both sides of the House have a wide degree of apprehension and concern about security.

Mr. Short

I think that we all share my hon. Friend's concern. I am afraid that there is not time to have a debate before the Summer Recess.

Mr. David Steel

I revert to the Scottish business to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. Is he aware that not only are we not having the traditional debate on the Scottish economy on the Floor of the House but that four meetings of the Scottish Grand Committee, two for the estimates and two for other matters, appear not to have been held? As business is arranged between the official Opposition and the Government, will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that opportunity is provided to discuss the White Paper on the constitution, the land report and the state of the Scottish economy? Why have not these meetings been held before the Summer Recess?

Mr. Short

As I understand it there are two days in a Session for debates on general matters. As we are considering about half a Session we are probably due for one meeting of the Scottish Grand Committee. I hope that Scottish Members will be able to agree among themselves in the normal way on the matter to be discussed.

Mr. Grylls

Will the right hon. Gentleman make a statement on the continuing appalling situation arising from the HANSARD printers' strike? I do not raise this matter in a partisan spirit. I do so because the strike is in danger of making parliamentary history. The strike has already lasted for three weeks and the effect that it is having both inside and outside the House is a national disgrace. If the printers cannot continue to print HANSARD, will the right hon. Gentleman consider making temporary arrangements to do? For example, will he consider if necessary printing HANSARD abroad, at least giving us perhaps a weekly report so that we can do our business and so that people outside can follow our proceedings?

Mr. Short

I very much regret the inconvenience caused to hon. Members because of this dispute. Unfortunately the dispute continues. I have checked on the business coming before the House next week, and all the papers will be available.

Mr. Torney

In view of the bombing just down the road and the report from the Services Committee, will my right hon. Friend give consideration to having a debate upon the issue of security in this building?

Mr. Short

I imagine that the short debate next week on Members' passes will give some scope for that, but I cannot promise any opportunity for a general debate. I share my hon. Friend's concern.

Mr. Nigel Lawson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the day before yesterday at Question Time the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short) made a statement that purported to be the view of the Expenditure Committee on certain spending cuts made by the last administration last December? Is he aware that the hon. Lady's statement seems to constitute a most flagrant breach of privilege as no report by the Expenditure Committee has been laid before the House and as the matter has not yet come before the Expenditure Committee? Will the right hon. Gentleman ask his hon. Friend to apologise to the House and to withdraw her most unfortunate statement?

Mr. Short

The hon. Gentleman has been here long enough—I recognise that he has not been here very long—to know that there is a procedure for dealing with alleged breaches of privilege. It is not the method that he has adopted.

Mrs. Renée Short

I was going to put a question to my right hon. Friend, but in view of the intervention from the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Lawson) I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to point out that there are certain proprieties to be observed in this House if one wishes to refer to another Member.

In view of the situation within the National Health Service and the threats by a minority of consultants to withdraw their labour, will my right hon. Friend give time, before the House rises for the Summer Recess, for a debate on the National Health Service?

Mr. Short

I very much hope that the House will be able to rise for the Summer Recess on Thursday 1st August. I am afraid that there will not be time before then for a debate on the National Health Service. There is, of course, the debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill which would give scope for my hon. Friend to raise this matter.

Mr. Speaker

I have been informed that the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Lawson) wrote to the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short) informing her that it was his intention to raise this matter.

Mr. McNamara

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the overwhelming majority of the British people will applaud his decision to have a debate on the Hare Coursing Bill next Friday and that they will not look with favour on any hon. Member who tries to use a procedural method to prevent the House from coming to a decision?

Mr. Short

I am sure that that is the case. I give my hon. Friend an undertaking to table a motion to ensure that the Bill has a two-hour debate.

Mr. Kimball

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House on what grounds he has decided to select for this undertaking one particular Private Member's Bill in view of the list of other important Private Members' Bills, for example, on tied cottages, women in Scotland who cannot get divorces by consent and farriers? On what grounds has he decided to cheat in this way?

Mr. Short

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman has referred to this matter as cheating. It is not cheating at all. All Governments occasionally give time to Private Members' Bills. I have given time to the Hare Coursing Bill for two reasons. The first reason is that the practice of hare coursing is repugnant to most people in this country. The second reason is that the Bill, or a similar Bill, has been before the House for a good many years, and I think it is time that the House had an opportunity to express itself.

Mr. Molloy

Will my right hon. Friend consider having a debate on an issue which is mystifying many people—namely, that many Conservative hon. Members and Liberal hon. Members at Question Time press the Government to increase their building programme so as to reduce homelessness, to increase the social services and to help the disabled, yet on Report on the Finance Bill they do their best to prevent the Government obtaining the necessary resources to carry out the very things for which they have been asking?

Mr. Short

I am sure that what has happened on the Finance Bill will have been noticed by the electorate.

Sir Frederic Bennett

I think that most hon. Members have been increasingly baffled during today's Question Time about when and why the Prime Minister favours a referendum on any particular subject. If we do not have time for a debate on the matter, can we arrange for the Prime Minister to give the House his criteria for why and when he favours a referendum on the one issue that pleases the left wing of his Party?

Mr. Short

No, but the Labour Party's manifesto will do so in the next election.

Mr. Faulds

When can we have a statement on the Government's intentions on public lending rights? This is a matter that can be easily introduced by the Minister presently responsible as he has available to him an excellent paper that was prepared by myself.

Mr. Short

I know of my hon. Friend's paper and I agree that it was excellent. I promise that in the next Session my hon. Friend will make a statement on public lending rights.

Mr. Adley

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many thousands of people working on Concorde find their livelihood in jeopardy and their future a matter of grave concern because the Government still have not made up their minds on Concorde? Some weeks ago, the right hon. Gentleman promised a statement within a matter of a few weeks. Since we have nearly reached the end of this Session, will he now give a categorical assurance that the Government will make a firm statement before the House rises for the recess?

Mr. Short

I realise the importance of an early statement, especially to those who work on Concorde. But, as the hon. Gentleman realises, the matter is to be discussed in Paris this weekend. I will ensure that there is a statement at the earliest possible moment.

Mr. Spriggs

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of us think that it would be wrong to rise for the Summer Recess while the country is in the present dangerous position with regard to internal security? Many of us are very concerned about what happened in the Tower of London yesterday and what has happened or is happening in other parts of the country. We believe that it would be wrong for my right hon. Friend to refuse time to debate this very important matter and to leave it in its present state of flux. Will he reconsider his reply?

Mr. Short

As I have said, the Government share the concern of hon. Members about this matter. There will be an opportunity to raise the matter on the Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill but there will not, I am afraid, be other time for debate. Watching the House at work today, I am sure that we all need a holiday.

Mr. Rippon

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that two weeks ago he said that he would consider the constitutional implications of the speech by the Secretary of State for Industry in the debate on EEC documents, when he appeared to challenge the validity of explanatory memoranda, circulars and similar documents issued by previous administrations? I have corresponded with the Leader of the House on the matter. When does the right hon. Gentleman expect to give an answer, because the House may wish to debate it before the recess?

Mr. Short

I do not recall that I gave an undertaking to make a statement in the House, but I will refresh my memory. This is a very complicated matter. I will look at what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said.

Mr. Christopher Price

Will my right hon. Friend think again about this serious demand for a debate on the internal security situation before the House rises? Is he aware that yesterday one of my constituents was murdered and three others, including two children, were severely maimed, probably for life, in the incident at the Tower of London? Is my right hon. Friend aware that there will be increasing puzzlement in the country at large if we do not show as a House of Commons, by a full debate on the matter, the seriousness with which I am sure we all regard the situation?

Mr. Short

As I have said, our condemnation of what has happened this week cannot be too strong and we share my hon. Friend's view. The only point is that between now and the end of the Session there just is not time, apart from the two opportunities I have mentioned. There is to be a debate on security and there is opportunity on the Consolidated Fund Bill.

Sir G. Sinclair

When may we expect a statement on secretarial assistance, as promised?

Mr. Short

Towards the end of next week or the beginning of the following week, without any doubt.

Mr. Lipton

My right hon. Friend was good enough to say that he hoped to adjourn for the recess on Thursday 1st August. It would equally help the subterranean pre-election activities by hon. Members if he would tell us when we are coming back after the recess.

Mr. Short

I hope to be able to give that date to the House next week.

Mr. Amery

The right hon. Gentleman has apologised for the inconvenience caused to hon. Member by non-publication of HANSARD but does not seem to have any remedy for putting the situation right. Equally, he does not seem able to find time for discussion about security in London. Would it not be better to have a debate about our own affairs and about why HANSARD is not being published and what remedy he can suggest, or about the internal security of the nation, than a debate about hare coursing?

Mr. Short

As I have pointed out already, there is a debate next week about internal security. That will give an opportunity to raise this sort of question. The difficulty over the printing of HANSARD has occurred many times before. I have apologised for the inconvenience and I am sure that all hon. Members will bear with the difficulties.

Mr. Patrick McNair-Wilson

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that, despite the shortage of time, if the need arises an emergency debate on the situation in Cyprus and any involvement we may have will be considered during next week?

Mr. Short

Yes, Sir. I give that assurance; if the occasion demands it—certainly.

Mr. Winterton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Youth and Community Bill received an unopposed Second Reading and is welcomed widely by both sides of the House and outside the House? Will he give an assurance that he will provide time for its remaining stages before the end of the Session?

Mr. Short

I am sorry, but I cannot give that undertaking.

Mr. Gow

Is the right hon. Gentleman able to confirm that he will not now be laying the order, to which he referred two weeks ago, relating to the entitlement of civil servants to stand for Parliament?

Mr. Short

As I said last week, I repeat my undertaking that I will not lay this order until the House has had the opportunity to discuss the matter. But I very much regret that in the meantime 36 young people are denied their civic rights.

Mr. Hastings

Will the right hon Gentleman address himself yet again to the matter of security and the latest vicious crime by the IRA? Will he recognise that to introduce something as provocative and as controversial as hare coursing in preference and to claim that there is not time to debate internal security is unacceptable to the House? Nor will it do to tuck it away in the middle of the night in a debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill. Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that d debate would at least give an opportunity for the Government to seek to reassure an increasingly anxious nation?

Mr. Short

The hon. Gentleman sits in Opposition. The Opposition have a whole day at their disposal next week and I suggest that they use it for the purpose he suggests.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. We must move on.