HC Deb 06 August 1975 vol 897 cc503-7
The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Edward Short)

The business for the first week after the Adjournment will be as follows:

MONDAY 13TH OCTOBER AND TUESDAY 14TH OCTOBER—Remaining stages of the Community Land Bill.

WEDNESDAY 15TH OCTOBER—Consideration of Lords Amendments to the Sex Discrimination Bill.

Motions on the Price Code Orders.

Motion on the Incumbents (Vacation of Benefices) Measure.

THURSDAY 16TH OCTOBER—Remaining stages of the Welsh Development Agency (No. 2) Bill [Lords].

And, if there is time, a debate on Welsh Affairs, on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

FRIDAY 17TH OCTOBER—A debate on EEC agricultural matters, including common agricultural policy, the green pound, markets, wheat, milk products and fisheries.

MONDAY 20TH OCTOBER—Debate on the Report of the Finer Committee on One-Parent Families, Command No. 5629.

Remaining stages of the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Bill [Lords].

Proceedings on the Iron and Steel Bill [Lords], which is a consolidation measure.

Mrs. Thatcher

May I raise one minor matter with the Leader of the House? How long does he expect the debate on the Price Code orders to take? It is an important debate, and we would expect to have at least a full half-day on it.

Mr. Short

We shall see how long the debates on the Lords Amendments to the Sex Discrimination Bill take. I expect not very long. The other two orders—the negative order being put down by the Opposition and the affirmative motion put down by the Government—would normally go until 11.30 p.m. But we can discuss that if necessary.

Mr. David Steel

Has the Leader of the House noticed the understandable absence from the House of certain Scottish Members? Is he aware that Scottish State schools go back after the summer holiday on 20th August and that, for Scottish Members, a holiday with our families of less than two weeks is rather mean? Could not the right hon. Gentleman consider arranging for the House to rise for the Summer Recess in mid-July and for us to come back in mid-September, which would be much more tolerable from both the climatic and the practical point of view?

Mr. Short

I have already expressed my regret about this. There were two recent occasions when the House rose even later. But it is still too late. I hope that the way in which we arrange our annual timetable is one of the matters that we shall be able to consider in the new Session.

Mr. Welsh

As the White Paper on devolution will be published in the first fortnight in October, will the right hon. Gentleman find time to debate the matter?

Mr. Short

This will be a very long and detailed White Paper and I accept that the House will want to debate it ahead of publication of the Bill.

Mr. Mark Hughes

On the Friday when my right hon. Friend suggested that there should be a debate on European matters, members of the European Parliament will be involved in a plenary session of that Parliament and will not be able to be present here. Does this not cause some minor difficulty?

Mr. Short

This is a matter for the Parliament of the United Kingdom. I am giving a whole day to these matters.

Mr. John Davies

The right hon. Gentleman will remember that both he and the Prime Minister have said that there will be an early debate on the report of the Select Committee on Procedure on the handling of European legislation in this House. Can he give an absolute assurance, now that this has been effectively deferred until after the recess, that it will be taken very early after we return with a view to the implementation in the new Session of any decisions reached by the House?

Mr. Short

I very much hope we can do this. We are greatly indebted to the Committee for its report, and the right hon. Gentleman will agree that the House must arrive at a decision on this matter. His Committee is functioning very well indeed. If we can set up a merits Committee, as proposed by the Select Committee on Procedure, that would siphon off a number of European orders and enable the House to concentrate on the more important orders. I hope very much that we can do that.

Mr. Lipton

Will my right hon. Friend ask Government Departments to consider before 13th October my Early-Day Motion No. 653 relating to a Royal Jubilee Festival of London in 1977. [That this House calls on Her Majesty's Government to organise a Royal Jubilee Festival of London in 1977.]

Mr. Short

This would coincide with the Queen's Jubilee and if my hon. Friend or anyone else would like to discuss this matter with me, I should be happy to meet them to talk about it.

Mr. Lane

Will the right hon. Gentleman bring in a short Bill during October to deal with the problem of squatters? Could he not find ample time for this by throwing out or pigeon-holing measures such as the Hare Coursing Bill?

Mr. Fell

The Government should drop some of their Bills.

Mr. Short

Certainly not. I realise that there is some concern about squatting, and hon. Members will have read the police statement about the powers they believe they have. No doubt my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment will also be considering this matter. Perhaps I could bring the hon. Gentleman's question to his attention.

Mr. Spearing

My right hon. Friend has announced a large number of agricultural and fishing topics for the debate on EEC matters. Will he bear in mind the necessity of keeping some of these subjects separate, for instance agriculture and fisheries, and of assuring us that there will be an opportunity to put down amendments to individual documents, as the Government have promised us?

Mr. Short

My hon. Friend will recollect that I put down these documents for debate on a previous Friday, but the House sat right through Thursday 24th July, past eleven o'clock, and we lost a whole day's business. I have now found another Friday for these seven orders, but I was proposing to debate them on a motion for the Adjournment.

Mr. Ridley

Could the right hon. Gentleman say when the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be bringing in his next Budget cutting public expenditure?

Mr. Short

In due course.

Mr. Guy Barnett

Will my right hon. Friend reconsider his reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Durham (Mr. Hughes) on the question of the debate on European matters? Thirty six Members of this House will be in Luxembourg, very possibly discussing agricultural matters. Would it not be as well to check with the business of the European Parliament to ensure that Members who have constituency and other interests in this country can be present for these debates?

Mr. Short

My hon. Friend can be present for this debate if he comes here. This is an additional hazard we have in arranging our parliamentary timetable. I will look at this matter, but I cannot give an undertaking that we can never discuss European matters when the European Assembly is sitting.

Mr. Peyton

Was I right in interpreting the right hon. Gentleman's reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Knutsford (Mr. Davies) as the clear undertaking for which he asked? Immediately we return, will there be a debate on the report of the Select Committee on European legislation? Even though my hon. Friend the Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) made has observation from a sitting position, that fact does not invalidate the important point he was making—that the House of Commons has been labouring under an excessive weight of legislation, not all of it of a very high quality. My hon. and right hon. Friends will look forward at a very early date after we return to discussing in the House the forthcoming load, which we all hope will be smaller in volume and better in quality. That is a very modest hope.

Mr. Short

I seem to have heard that before and I was prepared for it. The right hon. Gentleman will be interested to know that in this Session we have not had as many days or passed as many Bills as we had imposed on us by the Conservative Party in 1970–71 and 1971–72. I know the right hon. Gentleman and the Leader of the Opposition want to forget about that Government, but in both those years we sat on more days and passed more Bills than we have in this Parliament. On the right hon. Gentleman's other point, he has constantly said that an interruption from a sedentary position does invalidate the point and has refused to take any notice of it. He had said that time and again over the last few weeks.

Mr. Peyton

The right hon. Gentleman's reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Knutsford (Mr. Davies) was far from clear. Will he clear it up now?

Mr. Short

The assumption of the right hon. Member for Knutsford was correct.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am concerned with the heavy load today.