§ Mr. Lawson
I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 9, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration; namely,the grave threat to agriculture, forestry and family businesses resulting from the Government's failure to table crucial amendments and new clauses to the Finance Bill in sufficient time to enable these important interests to be consulted and make representations before the Report stage of the Bill is reached.I gave you prior notice of this application, Mr. Speaker, and I think that the disgracefully inadequate replies that we have had from the Leader of the House reinforce the need for this debate.
The matter is manifestly specific. Nothing could be more specific than the stream of detailed amendments tabled by the Government, not to mention the new clauses and new schedules. It is manifestly important, since the Chancellor of the Exchequer has called the capital transfer tax, which is what is at issue, the most important tax change for a generation. These amendments, new clauses and schedules go to the heart and root of that tax.
It is manifestly a matter requiring urgent consideration for the reasons which have already been made clear. If the Report stage is to go ahead as the Leader of the House plans next week, beginning on Monday, no effective consultation or representations will be possible on matters affecting the very survival of many private farms, private forests, family businesses and, indeed, the employment which hinges on them.
The Government know full well that this is no way to proceed. The Leader of the House has said that he is going about the matter in this way only because of the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act deadline. I am sure that in other circumstances the Government would concede that this is a wholly improper way to proceed. Moreover, the details of that Act and its requirements can be overcome in other ways. I shall not go into detail now, but Early Day Motions Nos. 287 and 288 suggest one way of going about the matter. As the Leader of the House will be aware, 715 capital transfer tax, which is a new tax, is not subject to the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act. There is also precedent for amending that Act.
I hope that these matters can be discussed on Monday if, Mr. Speaker, you grant a debate as I request. I appreciate that these matters have already been ventilated, but the fact is that by yesterday the Chief Secretary had tabled 83 amendments and new clauses and a further 38 have been published today, with two further new clauses and one new schedule—a provision of the utmost complexity, which comprises 89 lines of the Order Paper, amounting to three pages, dealing with forestry and vital interests affecting the forestry industry.
I have a letter here from the Forestry Committee of Great Britain. I will not read it. I shall just quote a short extract. The letter says that the Inland Revenue refuses any consultation on the details of the new clause and adds,This seems no way to legislate for the long-term future of a small but important industry.These Government amendments, the five new clauses—
§ Mr. Lawson
I am not going into the merits, Mr. Speaker, but in view of the fact that there are over one hundred amendments, five new clauses, and a massive new schedule, dealing with intimate areas of the economy, the maintenance of children, trusts, life insurance, forestry, private business and so on, I trust, Mr. Speaker, that you will see fit to have a debate on Monday so that the appalling proposals tabled by the Government can be checked before this Parliament is made a mockery.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member asks for leave to be given for a debate under Standing Order No. 9 onthe grave threat to agriculture, forestry and family businesses resulting from the Government's failure to table crucial amendments and new clauses to the Finance Bill in sufficient time to enable these important interests to be consulted and make representations before the Report stage of the Bill is reached.I am not unfamiliar with these problems, which were evident to me during 716 the questions a few moments ago. I must decide as a matter of procedure whether I think that a debate under Standing Order No. 9 is appropriate. I do not think it is.
The other point which has been raised is a House of Commons affair. We shall want to consult whether the business can be arranged in a manner in which these matters can be taken with due notice. I am certain that the point will have been followed by those who have responsibility, and it may be, when the House examines the Government motion as to how the Bill is to be considered, that effect will be given to it.
§ Mr. Crouch
On a point of order. I am sorry to pursue a problem which has already been examined in the House, but I must confess that after nine years in this place, I am confused. My concern is for my constituents. I am worried that I shall not be able to serve my constituents on questions which are being raised about the Report stage of the Finance Bill which is to come forward on Monday. I have not had the privilege of serving on the Committee, which sat for many long days and nights considering important matters which affect all our constituents. I am sent to this House to represent my constituents. I cannot go back to my constituency tomorrow and say that I can serve their interests properly on Monday without having time to study these 83 amendments which I have not yet seen and in the knowledge that more amendments are yet to come.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House, who is meant to serve both sides of this Chamber and Members of all parties, has let me down badly today. Therefore, we must look to you, Mr. Speaker, to advise us how hon. Members can best serve their constituency interests following the action which the Government are taking. I must register my great dismay and concern that the Government are treating the House in this way. I hope that you will support a back bencher in expressing my anger and concern.
§ Mr. Whitelaw
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I think you made the position perfectly clear in what you said in hoping that the House will reconsider the position for Monday. I think that 717 we are entitled to ask the Leader of the House in these circumstances—and since I held his office I hope he will pay attention to my words—to withdraw the accusation that the Opposition are being irresponsible in what we are putting forward. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will do what you have asked him to do—namely, that he will reconsider the position so that we can move on.
§ Mr. Speaker
May I make quite clear what I said. I do not think I said that the whole position should be reconsidered. I suggested that the way in which this Bill should be handled during Report is a matter which should be reconsidered.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Edward Short)
I was suggesting that the Opposition were being irresponsible in suggesting that there is inadequate time for the consideration of the Finance Bill. I have given an undertaking two or three times today that all the material will be made available in time. I cannot do more. I have given that undertaking—[Interruption.] Of course I understand that the Conservative Party does not want the Bill, but we shall make the material available.
§ Mrs. Thatcher
I regard that reply as wholly unsatisfactory. Do I understand that the Leader of the House refuses to respond to your invitation, Mr. Speaker, and indeed our invitation, to reconsider the order of business? If so, we shall have to consider taking other action. The Leader of the House still has not got the point. It is not possible to table, in time, amendments to Government amendments which have yet to be tabled.
§ Mr. Short
I have got the point all right. The point is that the Conservative Party wants to defeat the Bill, and so does the right hon. Lady, the Leader of the Opposition. I hope that she will listen to me and try to understand that I have given an undertaking. The undertaking is that amendments will be tabled in time for amendments to be tabled to them, if so desired. I cannot do more than that.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I suggest that we leave the matter now. The Government have to propose the order in which the parts of the Bill will be taken on 718 Report. That is what I venture to suggest should be considered. Of course every hon. Member should have as much time as is available to consider the provisions. I think that this matter can be dealt with by an arrangement of the order in which the parts of the Bill are taken. That is the suggestion. I think that instead of generating more heat on the matter today, it would be better for it to be considered quietly.
§ Mr. Ioan Evans
I am prepared to accept your ruling, Mr. Speaker, and I shall not pursue the point I wish to make, provided we have no more synthetic indignation from the Conservative Members after the filibuster in Committee upstairs.
§ Sir G. Howe
Further precisely to that point of order, Mr. Speaker, and to your helpful suggestion to the Leader of the House. The point now put by you to the Leader of the House, on which I seek clarification, is that the Leader of the House should genuinely consider the suggestion that the Government should now table an order specifying a sequence in which the Bill and its amendments should be considered, which would enable hon. Members on both sides of the House to give proper consideration to the torrent of new clauses still being tabled from the Government side of the House. Will the Leader of the House give an undertaking to consider tabling such an order?
§ Mr. Cormack
Yes, Mr. Speaker.
The whole of the Opposition side of the House is grateful for the assistance you have tried to afford us, but if the Government are not prepared to accept the good sense of your wishes, would you accept a motion of censure on the Lord President on Monday?
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman knows quite well that that is not a matter for the Chair. The Lord President said that he would consider the time that the House has—[Interruption.] The Lord President said that he would consider that the House should have appropriate time to consider amendments—[An HON. MEMBER: "The right hon. Gentleman has not said that."] Order. If hon. Members have a little sense, they will see that it flows from that that the consideration of these matters may involve a business motion. Let us get on.
§ Mr. Wiggin
On a point of order. The Leader of the House is not seized of the size of the problem to some of us who have been dealing with the Bill in Committee.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The matter of what the Leader of the House is seized of is not a point of order.
§ Mr. Spearing
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. A few minutes ago you called my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary to move a motion on the EEC budget corrective mechanism. Some of my hon. Friends and I have tabled an amendment. May we inquire whether it has been selected for debate?
§ Mr. Speaker
That at least is a question that I can answer quickly and very simply: "No". Does the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Wiggin) wish to pursue his point of order?
§ Mr. Wiggin
The Leader of the House has not, as I understand it, given the assurance that you very helpfully suggested, Mr. Speaker. I should like to explain to you the practical problems involved in not having that assurance today, when we must consider the matter on Monday.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. That is not a new point of order. The point has been put again and again. If anything is to come of my suggestion, it is much better to leave things as they are.