HC Deb 25 July 1974 vol 877 cc1811-22
Mr. Edward Heath (Sidcup)

Will the Leader of the House kindly give us the business 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 29TH JULY—Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill. Motion on the Northern Ireland (Appropriation) Order.

TUESDAY 30TH JULY—Remaining stages of the Consolidated Fund (Appro priation) Bill. Consideration of Lords amendments to the Trade Union and Labour Relations Bill. Remaining stages of the Rent Bill [Lords]. Motions on the salaries of the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Parliamentary Commissioner, and on the Calculation of Redundancy Payments Order. Remaining stages of the Insurance Companies Bill [Lords], which is a consolidation measure. Consideration of any other Lords amendments which may be received.

WEDNESDAY 31ST JULY—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 Tuesday, 15th October. If these recess arrangements are agreed to, Mr. Speaker, the business for the week when the House resumes will be:

TUESDAY 15TH OCTOBER—A debate on Scottish affairs.

WEDNESDAY 16TH OCTOBER—Remaining stages of the Channel Tunnel Bill.

THURSDAY 17TH OCTOBER—Second Reading of the Housing Rents and Subsidies Bill.

FRIDAY 18TH OCTOBER—Debate on the report of the Nugent Committee on Defence Lands, and on the Sandford Report on Land in National Parks.

Mr. Heath

Does the Leader of the House appreciate that there is deep concern in all parts of the House about the continuing situation in Cyprus? Will he give an undertaking that the Foreign Secretary will make a statement to the House on either Monday or Tuesday next week after he returns from the discussions on Cyprus?

As the Government are intending to introduce fresh Bills after we return from the recess, will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House, naturally in confidence, that as a Second Reading takes place only the week after the return the Government intend to continue this Session into 1975?

Mr. Short

I gladly give the undertaking the right hon. Gentleman sought in the first part of his supplementary question. The Foreign Secretary will be making a statement about Cyprus next week. On the second point, we have so far had only a few months of the Session, and a normal Session is about a year, but I will bear in mind what the right hon. Gentleman said.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

Does my right hon. Friend recall that a short while ago I was the leader of the revolting MPs—[Laughter.] I am sorry; I phrased that rather unhappily. I was the leader of the MPs who revolted on night storage heating charges. At the time my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy gave the assurance that he would review the whole situation and return to the House with his plans before the House rose for the recess. When will the Secretary of State make that statement?

Mr. Short

My hon. Friend terrifies us all so much when he leads a rebellion that my right hon. Friend will certainly make a statement before the recess.

Mr. Grimond

Do I understand that there is to be no debate on North Sea oil before the House rises? Since the Leader of the House is clearly seized of the impossibility of dissolving Parliament without discussing the Kilbrandon Report, will he give an assurance that there will be no General Election before 15th October?

Mr. Short

There will not be time for a debate on North Sea oil before the recess. I have nothing at all to say on the second point.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is a dispute at present affecting the London local government officers who work in certain borough councils, and that in Newham, Tower Hamlets and other boroughs the matter has become so serious that rubbish is now being dumped in the streets—[Interruption.] This is not a laughing matter, because some of this rubbish is being dumped outside hospitals. [Interruption.] If hon. Members believe it is a laughing matter, I hope they may have the same difficulty of refuse being dumped outside their street doors. Unless something is done, that is what will happen. My constituents will be coming here and dumping their rubbish outside the House of Commons. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The House has a great deal of business to do, and I hope that the hon. Member will be permitted to put his question in silence.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

Why is it that the Government can always help the top civil servants to get their increases, as they will next week, but appear unable to do anything for the local government officers, the nurses and the rest? I warn my right hon. Friend that unless some-this is done I shall oppose the Parliamentary Ombudsman and the other top civil servants getting their increases next week.

Mr. Short

I rather thought that my hon. Friend would do that, but I shall bear in mind what he said and pass his comments on to my two right hon. Friends.

Mr. Evelyn King

Some weeks ago the right hon. Gentleman gave an assurance that the Nugent Report would be debated before the House rose. Regrettably, I understand that the right hon. Gentleman is not now able to fulfill that undertaking. If that is so, will he at least assure us that no decision will be taken in this matter, which affects Dorset and other counties in which there are military lands, until the matter has been debated as we were promised?

Mr. Short

I did not promise that there would be a debate before the recess. I promised that there would be a debate some time on the Nugent Report, and I found the first available date for that. I should have thought that if the Government were prepared to accept a number of the Nugent proposals it would make sense to say so, but I will bear in mind what the hon. Member said. I cannot give any undertaking, however.

Mr. McNamara

Is my right hon. Friend aware that we were naturally disappointed that we were not able to come to a decision on the Hare Coursing Bill, but that was more than compensated for when my right hon. Friend said that the Government would introduce the Bill as a Government measure when the House reassembled? The people of this country who detest this abominable sport will be looking for a statement in the manifestos of the Opposition parties when the time comes for them to seek re-election that they would also introduce it as a Government measure.

Mr. Short

Last week an hon. Member on the Opposition side actually accused me of cheating because I was proposing to give a small amount of time for the Second Reading of the Bill. In order to avoid that state of affairs we have adopted the Bill as a Government measure and it will be brought forward for Second Reading very soon after we return.

Sir David Renton

Is the passing of the Housing Rents and Subsidies Bill an essential part of the social contract, and, if so, when does the right hon. Gentleman expect it to reach the statute book?

Mr. Short

I have announced the date for the Second Reading in the week we return. The Bill will make normal progress. It is part of the social contract between the Government and the British people.

Mr. William Hamilton

Will my right hon. Friend say whether my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Civil Service Department, will be making a statement about the dispersal of civil servants from London? Does he recognise that all Scottish Members resent very much the references by certain civil servants to Glasgow and to the undesirability of going there or anywhere else in Scotland? Will my right hon. Friend say whether the Secretary of State for Social Services will be making a statement about the Halsbury Report before the Summer Recess?

Mr. Short

On the first point, I agree that Glasgow is one of the most desirable places in the country and that any civil servant should be proud to go there. I hope that the Government will be able to announce next week a major dispersal exercise. I do not know what the answer is to my hon. Friend's second point, but I shall find out and write to him.

Mr. Peyton

Will the Leader of the House next week, even if it should come just as one of the last sad obsequies to this miserable Parliament, make a statement as to what is to happen to the vast volume of unprinted, unpublished papers which is hanging about somewhere in limbo? Personally, I am not anxious to read it, but I hope that the Leader of the House will bear in mind that one of the most sombre indications of the way in which Parliament has sunk is the fact that it cannot even produce its own paper in order and in time.

Mr. Short

No doubt the right hon. Gentleman does not want to read it, but I am sure that posterity will wish to read what happened in this Parliament.

Mr. Blenkinsop

I welcome my right hon. Friend's announcement of the debate on Friday 18th October on the Nugent Report and the National Park report. May I emphasise the value of having an early Government statement of their proposals, particularly with regard to national parks but also with regard to defence lands?

Mr. Short

I thank my hon. Friend for what he has said. It was he who suggested having a debate on the two subjects on the same day. I shall pass on what he said about a statement on the Sandford Report to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.

Sir Frederic Bennett

The Leader of the House will recall the time before the present printing strike when the form was that answers to Oral Questions which were not reached were provided for the hon. Members who had asked them between 4 p.m. and 4.30 p.m. on the board outside the Chamber. That practice has not always been observed recently. But that is not the question I am trying to ask. What I should like to know is, whether, as answers to Written Questions which, at worst, one received in HANSARD the following morning, are not being received, there is any difficulty in Ministries sending answers to Written Questions to be put on the board between 4 p.m. and 4.30 p.m. Obviously, as they are Written Questions, there is no reason why, without any involvement with the printing dispute, they should not be provided in some way.

Mr. Short

In the early stages of the dispute I discovered that Written Answers were not being printed. That was brought to my attention by an hon. Member. We are now ensuring that they are produced. If there is a delay, I shall look into the matter.

Mr. Arthur Latham

What are my right hon. Friend's plans for the implementations of the recommendations recently made to him by Lord Boyle? Will he accept that this is an urgent matter?

Mr. Short

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I shall be making a statement on the matter next Monday.

Mr. Donald Stewart

Will the right hon. Gentleman seek the early reconstitution of the Select Committee on Procedure? Is he aware of the protests made last night by the Leader of the Liberal Party and me about the position in which we land ourselves in this Parliament, when the largest of the Opposition parties, against all military precedents, sounds the retreat when it scents victory, thereby depriving the parties with a real point of view to put forward of the opportunity to do so? Will the right hon. Gentleman make that matter the first priority of the Committee, and set it up as soon as possible?

Mr. Short

There certainly is a case for reassembling the Select Committee on Procedure after the recess, not just for that reason but for a number of reasons. The agenda is decided in discussion between the two sides of the House.

Mr. Prior

May I press the right hon. Gentleman on the subject of parliamentary papers. The position is now extremely unsatisfactory. What is happening? May we have a statement from the Government? Why is the dispute dragging on? How much is it costing? Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that, although not everyone wants to read the papers, the situation is very inconvenient for every hon. Member? We are very grateful for the efforts of those who have done the work, but that does not alter the fact that the situation is a breach of the privileges of the House, and should be put right.

Mr. Short

It may be a breach of the privileges of the House, but it occurred very often when the right hon. Gentleman was doing my job. If the House wishes, I can give details of all the many occasions when there were printing disputes. I have apologised to the House many times for the inconvenience, which I agree exists. But I have checked the position concerning papers for next week's business, as I have done each week for some time, and all the papers will be available in time.

Mr. Skinner

Does my right hon. Friend expect my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade to make a statement about the investigations going on into the crash of the London and County Securities group, especially as today, I have received another letter from an anxious old-age pensioner, a church minister, who had £713 invested in the company and does not know which way to turn? Would not it be a good idea to ask the Leader of the Liberal Party to surrender all that appearance money that he received for opening those banks which were taking money away from investors—

Mr. Speaker

Order. That kind of personal imputation is very distasteful.

Dr. Winstanley

Are we to understand from the right hon. Gentleman's statement that the Social Security Amendment Bill has met the same fate as the Hare Coursing Bill? If that is so, what is to be done about the increased contributions which were to pay for the increased benefits payable in July?

Mr. Short

The Session has not yet ended. It will go on after the recess.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

Will the Leader of the House ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to make a statement early next week about the acute and worsening shortage of sugar in many parts of the country, which is causing a shambles in many shops?

Mr. Short

I shall call the attention of my right hon. Friend to the hon. Gentleman's point, but we have quite a queue of statements for the remaining days before the recess.

Mr. Fidler

Will the right hon. Gentleman promise to make a statement on allowances for hon. Members' secretaries, mileage and other expenses in London before the recess?

Mr. Short

I said about three minutes ago that I would make a statement on the matter next Monday.

Sir John Rodgers

Reverting to the printing of HANSARD and parliamentary papers, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to tell us what steps he has taken to deal with the industrial dispute? Has he any plans to get HANSARD and the parliamentary papers printed before we rise?

Mr. Short

The Government intervened unsuccessfully at one stage, and the dispute continues. We shall intervene again if we think that our intervention will serve any useful purpose. My job is to ensure that Parliament has the papers for the appropriate business.

Mr. Kilfedder

What time will be available for the Northern Ireland (Appropriation) Order debate? I protest at that business being taken late on Monday night or perhaps early on Tuesday morning. Can we debate on that subject the political appointment to the newly-created post of public relations consultant to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland?

Mr. Short

I cannot say anything about the hon. Gentleman's second point. The motion on the order is the second on Monday. It follows the Second Reading debate on the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill, which goes on for a long time. I cannot say how much time will be available. That is a matter for the House.

Mr. George Lawson

As my right hon. Friend tells us that the Government intend to adopt the Hare Coursing Bill, could he have the Government adopt a little Bill that I introduced on only the 16th of this month, seeking to protect an old couple in my constituency who have had £599.50 of their money taken from them by Chandris Shipping Lines Ltd.? Will my right hon. Friend look after the interests of such people? Will he see whether something effective can be done, and quickly?

Mr. Short

If my hon. Friend will give me the particulars, I shall take the matter up and see whether the Government can do anything about it.

Mr. Ridsdale

When may we have a debate on the extension of the dock labour scheme, particularly as it is nothing more nor less than nationalisation by the back door?

Mr. Short

Not next week.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

Even at this late hour, is it possible to arrange a debate next week on the motion calling for capital punishment for indiscriminate bombing?

[That, having regard to recent events when innocent people have been slaughtered by indiscriminate bombing, this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government to introduce legislation to make such crimes subject to capital punishment.]

Erstwhile abolitionists have signed the motion. We have seen over past months outside sections defying the will of Parliament. We must ensure that Parliament does not appear to be defying the will of the nation.

If the right hon. Gentleman cannot arrange a debate next week, will he ask the Home Secretary to refer to the matter in his speech later today? We respect his convictions, stated in the atmosphere of a few years ago, but in the dangerous atmosphere of today we should not have the Home Secretary giving the impression of allowing personal stubbornness to affect his decisions.

Mr. Short

I am sure that my right hon. Friend will take due note of what the hon. Gentleman has said. Today is an appropriate day to discuss that very matter.

Mr. Stokes

Reverting to the printing dispute, may I ask how much the printers are being paid weekly for not producing HANSARD?

Mr. Short

If the hon. Gentleman will consult HANSARD for 18th July, he will find that a Question on that point was answered.

Mr. Cormack

When will the motion for the Adjournment for the Summer Recess be taken next week? If the social contract is finally agreed during the recess, will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for printed copies to be circulated to hon. Members?

Mr. Short

I hope to put before the House the motion for the Adjournment for the recess on Monday, before we come to the Consolidated Fund Bill.

The hon. Gentleman does not understand what the social contract is about. As I have said, it is not just a contract between the Government and the trade unions but a contract between the Government and the people, in that the Government will follow fair policies and try to create a fair society and the people will respond appropriately.

Mr. English

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the printing disputes have been going on under successive Governments for many years, ever since three separate groups of printers were put together in one establishment? Will my right hon. Friend also confirm that some of the printers at present on strike are working for Conservative newspapers?

Mr. Short

I do not wish to comment on that final point, but my hon. Friend is right in saying that, unfortunately, these disputes have been going on for some years.

Mr. Adley

What is going on? One moment the right hon. Gentleman tells us about a social contract between the trade unions and the Government and the next moment he confirms that we have gone more than four weeks without papers. What is the right hon. Gentleman doing to see that Parliament gets properly printed papers?

Mr. Short

I am sure that Parliament has had the papers for the business which has come before it. I have said on many occasions that Parliament is suffering great inconvenience and that I very much regret it. If industrial relations generally had not been gummed up as they were by the Conservative Government, the situation might be rather better.

Mr. Tom King

Will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for the Secretary of State for Industry to make a statement before the recess in order to remove the increasing uncertainty about the Government's proposals for further nationalisation? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is yet another leak in the Press today? We were told that it would be a Green Paper; then the right hon. Gentleman said that it would be a White Paper; today's leak says that it will be a consultative White Paper. What are the Government going to do?

Mr. Short

Over the next few weeks the Government will be publishing their policy on industry and many other things as well.

Mr. Dykes

The right hon. Gentleman's glib and superficial answers about the printing dispute are causing deep resentment in all parts of the House. When is he going to fulfil his obligations properly as Leader of the House by ensur ing that urgent action is taken? If necessary, will he arrange for parliamentary papers to be printed abroad?

Mr. Short

I will ensure, as I have done so far, that the papers are available for the business of the House.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles

In view of the uncertainty affecting Service personnel and our international relations, can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Government intend to publish their defence review as soon as it is completed or wait until the next Session?

Mr. Short

I cannot say when, but I imagine that in the early autumn the defence White Paper will be published. We have been carrying out a radical, major review, and it is, naturally, taking a long time.

Mr. Rost

When will the Foreign Secretary make a statement about the progress of his renegotiations of the Common Market terms? Is it not most unsatisfactory, and a breach and abuse of the privilege of this House, that the Foreign Secretary should make such a statement in detail to the Parliamentary Labour Party yesterday—which was leaked to the Press—without making a statement to this House?

Mr. Short

I do not think that it is a breach of anything, but I will convey what the hon. Gentleman has said to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Peter Mills

As the Minister of Agriculture came back from Brussels with a statement about beef some time ago now, is it not time that the House and the farmers had some details of what he has arranged? Is it not intolerable that we should rise for the Summer Recess without having these details? May we have a statement before adjourning for the recess?

Mr. Short

I realise that there is some anxiety on this matter and I will consult my right hon. Friend.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. We must move on. Perhaps I may cheer up the House by stating that 94 right hon. and hon. Members propose to seek to catch my eye on the Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund Bill on Monday.