HC Deb 21 November 1974 vol 881 cc1523-9
Mr. Peyton

May I ask the Leader of the House if he will kindly state the business for next week?

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

Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY, 25TH NOVEMBER—Supply [2nd Allotted Day]: There will be a debate on Agriculture.

Motion on EEC documents Nos. R/834/73 on aerosols, COM(69)71 on fruit juices, and R/2222/72 and R/2579/73 on cosmetic products.

TUESDAY, 26TH NOVEMBER—Remaining stages of the Social Security Amendment Bill.

Motions on the Social Security Regulations relating to contributions and benefits.

WEDNESDAY, 27TH NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Oil Taxation Bill.

Motion on the Juries (Northern Ireland) Order.

THURSDAY, 28TH NOVEMBER—Debate on the Review of the Price Code, Command No. 5779.

Motions on EEC documents No. R/1255/74 on carriage of goods by road, and on Nos. COM(72)202 and R/2628/73 on prepacked products.

Motions on the Post Office Compensation for Limitation of Prices Order and on the (Borrowing Powers) Order.

FRIDAY, 29TH NOVEMBER—Private Members' motions.

MONDAY, 2ND DECEMBER—Supply [3rd Allotted Day]: Subject for debate to be announced later.

Mr. Peyton

I thank the Leader of the House for his very helpful response to the request by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition last week for a day's debate on the Price Code consultative document.

Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been drawn to the debate which took place on Wednesday night which revealed that the Food Subsidies (Tea) Order had lapsed and that for four whole days public money had been paid out in the subsidy without any authority? Do the Government intend to accept the very sensible suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) and introduce an idemnity Bill to remedy this dreadful lapse and thus restore to the Government some threads of respectability?

I am the last person who would wish to embarrass the Leader of the House but may I ask him whether we can at some time expect something on defence?

Mr. Short

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his first remarks, anyhow. On the second point about the tea subsidy, I am sorry that this mistake occurred. I apologise to the House for it but I am advised that there is no need for an indemnity Bill. On the defence review, there will he a detailed statement to the House in the very near future.

Mr. Leslie Huckfield

When does my right hon. Friend intend to proceed with the remaining stages of the Channel Tunnel Bill? Will he bear in mind the motion on the Order Paper in my name opposing the project? It now has nearly 100 signatures and is rapidly gaining more daily.

[That this House believes that the Channel Tunnel project should not be continued.]

Mr. Short

The Channel Tunnel Bill will be put down on the Order Paper in the very near future and my right bon. Friend will be making a statement on it at about the same time.

Mr. Hannam

Since next week's legislation does not include proposals for the nationalisation of shipbuilding or the aircraft industries, will the right hon. Gentleman confirm the report in the Sun newspaper that because of the time which will be necessary for the proposed legislation on the referendum Bill the Government have decided to drop these nationalisation proposals?

Mr. Short

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for asking that question because it gives me the opportunity to deny the report in the newspaper today. The Bill to take over these industries was announced in the Queen's Speech. It will be introduced and, we hope, receive the Royal Assent in the present Session.

Mr. Arthur Latham

Will my right hon. Friend say what is happening about the Compton Review report on the administration and services of the House of Commons, and will he bear in mind that, apart from the concern felt by some of us who have taken a particular interest in the matter, there is now considerable disquiet among many of the staff of the House who see many of the matters arising out of the report affecting their future and want to know what initiative will be taken?

Mr. Short

This is a matter for you. Mr. Speaker. When the report is published you said you hoped to set up a small informal committee—not a Select Committee—to look into it, and I understand that you have already taken some steps to that end and that the committee will be set up in the very near future.

Mr. Hooson

Last week the right hon. Gentleman told the House that it was impossible to have a debate on the O'Brien Report on the export of animals because international consultations were taking place. Have these been completed, and when can a debate on this very important matter be held?

Mr. Short

The consultations are now complete, and I am happy to tell the House that we are now in a position, as soon as we can find parliamentary time, to have a debate. I do not think this will be possible before Christmas—[HON. MEMBERS: "Disgraceful."]—but I will arrange a debate at the earliest possible moment.

Mr. Palmer

Will my right hon. Friend consider giving time for a wide-ranging debate on energy policy both in the domestic sense and in the wider European context?

Mr. Short

I shall certainly bear that in mind.

Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg

Will the right hon. Gentleman say when he expects to set up the Procedure Committee? The motion has appeared on the Order Paper for about the last three days.

Mr. Short

I am sorry that it has not been set up this week. The motion has been down each day but someone has objected to it. If hon. Members go on objecting we must debate it next week.

Mr. Faulds

Will my right hon. Friend carefully consider the need for this House to debate the world food crisis? Does he understand that it is unacceptable that we should wait, as he claimed we should last week—with the impending deaths of hundreds of thousands of people—to debate this matter until after the self-indulgence and celebration of Christmas?

Mr. Short

Unfortunately, it would not prevent the deaths of large numbers of people to debate the matter before Christmas. Our debate was delayed. The problem is—

Mr. Faulds

It might help the Government's policies.

Mr. Short

The trouble is that we are very short of parliamentary time. My hon. Friend has raised a very important subject and I will bear it in mind. We shall debate the matter as soon as we can.

Mr. Gwynfor Evans

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Crawford Committee's report on broadcasting has been published today and that it contains the recommendation that the fourth channel be used in Wales as a national channel on which the Welsh language would take priority? In view of the importance of this matter, will the right hon. Gentleman seek an early opportunity to debate it either in the Welsh Grand Committee or on the Floor of the House?

Mr. Short

The hon. Member is quite right. Lord Crawford's report has been published today. I believe that it would be advisable to allow time for everyone to read it because it is a long report. Perhaps when we have absorbed it we can consider a debate.

Mr. Spriggs

When can the House expect to receive the report on Members' interests? When the report is available will my right hon. Friend follow it up by submitting the case for Members to the Boyle Committee?

Mr. Short

I gave an undertaking about the second part of the Question. I think that when someone raised it last in the House I said that the appropriate time to refer the case would be in January next year. On the first part of the question, I do not know but I have heard that the Committee is likely to report in the very near future.

Sir J. Eden

Has the right hon. Gentleman taken note of Motion No. 48 drawing attention to the grave implications which could follow the visit to the United Nations of the Arab terrorist leader, Arafat? In the circumstances, will the right hon. Gentleman find an early opportunity for a debate on the whole of the Middle East situation?

[That this House is gravely concerned at the possible repercussions that could follow the appearance before the United Nations General Assembly of the terrorist Palestine Liberation Organisation leader, Yasser Arafat, and calls upon Her Majesty's Government resolutely to declare its support for the continued integrity of the independent State of Israel.]

Mr. Short

On many occasions we have stated our firm support for the continued existence of Israel within secure and recognised boundaries, and we have called for that in Security Council Resolution 242 of 1967. That remains the Government's firm policy.

Mr. Newens

My right hon. Friend said that he expected a statement on the defence review in the near future. Does he expect that there will be an opportunity to debate this matter before the House rises for the Christmas Recess, and is it his intention to allow the House to debate foreign affairs before we rise?

Mr. Short

On the first part, I cannot promise a debate specifically on the defence review, but one of our normal defence days arises before Christmas, so that there will be a day's debate on defence, and it will take place after the statement. I cannot give an undertaking that there will be a foreign affairs debate before Christmas.

Mr. Montgomery

Does the Leader of the House remember what he said on business questions last Thursday about today's debate on the compulsory wearing of seat belts? If a large number of hon. Members still wish to speak at 10 o'clock may we have an assurance that the debate will be adjourned and that further time will be given on another day?

Mr. Short

I undertook that we would watch the debate to see how it went. If it is obvious that more time is required I would be prepared to move the adjournment of the debate today.

Mr. Lee

When may we expect to have a Second Reading of the Common Market referendum enabling Bill? Will my right hon., Friend say whether there will be time for a debate on the progress of the renegotiations?

Mr. Short

The Government have not yet decided to have a referendum. If we decide to do so, that will require legislation.

Mr. Jopling

In view of the very great danger of many thousands of cattle dying of starvation during the winter months through lack of fodder, will the Leader of the House appreciate that to wait until after Christmas for a debate on the O'Brien Report is totally inadequate?

Mr. Short

I am sorry. I have been pressed about the matter, and I have taken a great deal of trouble to expedite it. We shall debate it as soon as possible.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. We have two important statements to come. We must proceed.