HC Deb 24 July 1975 vol 896 cc772-81
Mrs. Thatcher

Will the Leader of the House please 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 28TH JULY AND TUESDAY 29TH JULY—Remaining stages of the Employment Protection Bill.

WEDNESDAY 30TH JULY—Progress on Report stage of the Petroleum and Submarine Pipe-Lines Bill.

THURSDAY 31ST JULY—Peoceedings on the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill.

FRIDAY 1ST AUGUST—Remaining stages of the Criminal Jurisdiction Bill [Lords].

Motions to consider Northern Ireland orders on diseases of animals and the shipbuilding industry.

MONDAY 4TH AuGusT—Conclusion of remaining stages of the Petroleum and Submarine Pipe-Lines Bill.

Consideration of Lords Amendments to the Housing Finance (Special Provisions) Bill.

The House will wish to know that, subject to the progress of business, I hope to be able to propose that the House should rise for the Summer Recess no later than Friday, 8th August.

In relation to tomorrow's business, I understand that it would be helpful to bring before the House, in addition to the documents already announced, the EEC Document on Wheat (R/1831/75).

Mrs. Thatcher

; The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Remuneration, Charges and Grants Bill, which we are discussing today, is being pushed through with very great haste, bearing in mind that there are to be over 25 debates on the amendments tabled so far. Is it possible that we may continue with part of that Bill next week? May I ask whether we are to have a debate on the textile industry before we rise for the recess? Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether provision is to be made for us to debate the new Price Code before it takes effect?

Mr. Short

I agree that there are a number of complicated amendments tabled to the Bill which we are to discuss today. I think we ought to see how we get on and see where we are after we have gone on for a reasonable time. I am happy to say that, having listened to the exchanges yesterday, I hope to arrange a full day's debate on the textile industry before the Recess. The motion dealing with amendments to the Price Code requires parliamentary action through either affirmative or negative resolution. I will certainly see that there is an opportunity for a debate.

Mr. Swain

Will my right hon. Friend consider the possibility—so as to give the Opposition plenty of time to discuss the Remuneration, Charges and Grants Bill—of the House meeting on Saturday and Sunday if necessary? Since most Labour Members will not have any garden parties or other social functions to attend, it may be advisable to do this in the interests of getting the Bill through.

Mr. Short

I am sure that my hon. Friend and everyone else recognises the urgency and importance of this Bill. Because of that I hope that no one on either side of the House will impede its progress. Let us see how we get on before we commit ourselves to Saturday or Sunday sittings.

Mr. Grimond

Is the Leader of the House aware of the chaotic state of Government business? Is he further aware that he is in charge of it and that he has some responsibilities to the House in general? Does he realise that we sit, night after night, into the small hours of the morning—[140N. MEMBERS: "Not you."]—and that this should not happen, however important the business may be? Does he appreciate that the reports of the proceedings of the House are not available before the sittings of Committees begin?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Scottish Grand Committee has so far met only twice and that many important reports will not be debated at all, while we are cluttered up with quite useless and indeed harmful legislation? May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to put off some of the Government's programme until next Session and, if necessary, make a statement on those lines to the House so that we may meet at reasonable times and give proper consideration to matters that are of importance to the nation?

Mr. Short

The right hon. Gentleman's description of our legislation staggers me. He ought to be sitting here, not there. I realise that the load of legislation has been unduly heavy. We have imposed a burden upon hon. Members over the past few weeks. Problems of this kind invariably occur in July. I hope that over the next few weeks the load will not be so great.

Mrs. Renée Short

May I ask my right hon. Friend when the House is to have a statement about the Cabinet's decision on support for NVT and when we are to' have an opportunity to debate that issue'? Is my right hon. Friend aware that many of us are concerned about this? May also ask my right hon. Friend when the remaining stages of the Sex Discrimination Bill will be taken?

Mr. Short

As my hon. Friend knows, my right hon. Friend the Secr3tary of State for Industry is having discussions today with the people concerned with NVT. He will certainly be making a statement on the matter before the recess.

Mr. Prior

Does the right hon. Gentleman—

Mrs. Renée Short

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will the Leader of the House kindly reply to my second question?

Mr. Short

The Sex Discrimination Bill will certainly reach the statute book before the end of the Session.

Mr. Prior

Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that he is treating the House with grave discourtesy in connection with the Employment Protection Bill? Is he aware that the Bill came out of Committee on Tuesday and has not yet even been printed? Does he appreciate that 15 schedules were changed and a new schedule added? Is he aware that out of the 115 clauses, 100 have been changed and yet we do not have a completed Bill to consult before tabling fresh amendments? Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that this is no way in which to get decent legislation through the House? Will the Government accept manuscript amendments to the Bill? Is it not scandalous not to give the House a proper opportunity to consult outside interests before beginning the Report stage of an important Bill?

Mr. Short

Dealing with the business question, if there is a problem about it I shall certainly be happy to look at that suggestion and talk to the right hon. Gentleman about it. I have no knowledge of the issues raised by the right hon. Gentleman in the second part of his question. I will look into the matter.

Mr. McNamara

In the provisional arrangements announced last week, we were told that the Community Land Bill would be taken on Monday. The Bill came out of Committee nicely and obviously has the full support of the country as a whole, particularly as it has the support and blessing of the TUC as part of the social contract. Arrangements have been made to satisfy the legitimate aspirations of the churches and the charities, so may we know when we are going to see the Bill and have it on the statute book?

Mr. Short

I agree with my hon. Friend about the support the Bill has throughout the country. Like the other Bill to which I have just referred, it will receive the Royal Assent before the end of the Session.

Mr. Fell

Can the right hon. Gentleman tell me when consideration will be given to the Lords Amendments to the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Amendment) Bill?

Mr. Short

Not next week, Sir.

Mr. Molyneaux

When may we expect a statement on the Porter Report on housing in Northern Ireland? Will the motion for the adjournment for the Summer Recess be moved next Tuesday?

Mr. Short

I hope the report will be published towards the end of next week. I provisionally propose to take the Adjournment debate on Thursday.

Sir David Renton

May I make a special plea to the right hon. Gentleman with regard to today's Bill? While realising that it is an important Bill which the Government want to get through by 1st August, may I ask whether he is aware that it contains a number of new constitional principles which are without precedent? A number of my hon. Friends have tabled amendments with a view to trying to improve the Bill, and does he realise that it will be quite intolerable if there is no interval between the Committee and Report stages? Can he give an undertaking that the House will not be placed in the impossible position of having to draft Report stage amendments in the early hours of the morning immediately following the conclusion of the Committee stage?

Mr. Short

This is an extremely urgent Bill to deal with a very serious and urgent national question. I am sure the right hon. and learned Gentleman will wish to expedite its progress through the House. I will bear in mind what he says, because he always puts his points fairly. I realise that the Bill contains a number of new concepts and a number of controversial, complicated amendments. I will watch the progress of the Bill with my right hon. Friend and see how we get on.

Mr. Loyden

Will my right hon. Friend discuss with the Secretary of State for the Environment increases that have taken place in council house rents which do not appear to be in accord with the spirit or inentions of the Housing Rents and Subsidies Act?

Mr. Short

I will pass on my hon. Friend's points. Perhaps he will let me have any details that he has.

Mr. Clegg

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider extending the debate on textiles to include the boot and shoe industry, which is facing similar problems? I think they could conveniently be debated together.

Mr. Short

I would be happy to do that.

Mr. Wigley

Have the Government now abandoned the annual Welsh days? We have not had one for 16 months. Is it the Government's intention to have one before the beginning of the next Session? Can the right hon. Gentleman also give an indication of the date of recommencement of Parliament in the autumn?

Mr. Short

I cannot yet give that date, but I will do so before the recess. I hope to be able to find time for a Welsh day in the spill-over period in the autumn.

Mr. Cryer

Hon. Members on this side who represent constituencies that include parts of the textile industry are very grateful that time has been allocated for a debate on textiles. This is an urgent matter. Contrary to what hon. Members opposite have said, hon. Members on this side are ready to sit late into the night on the Employment Protection Bill to get this measure through. It is an important way of carrying out some of our policies.

Mr. Goodhew

It would be for the convenience of the House if the Lord President told us now that he will separate the Committee and Report stages of today's Bill so that hon. Members know where they stand. Does he not understand that it is much more in the interests of good legislation to announce this now rather than to plough on into the night and decide what to do later?

Mr. Short

A moment's thought will show the hon. Gentleman that I cannot say that now. We shall watch the Bill's progress carefully, and if we think there is a need for a change, we will announce it.

Mr. Flannery

Has my right hon. Friend put aside a day for the debate he promised on the Finer Report?

Mr. Short

There will be a debate in the over-spill in the autumn.

Mr. Speed

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that, apart from the constitutional points in today's business, there are extremely important matters relating to local government in Clause 4 of the Bill, and it would not be acceptable to local government or to most hon. Members if there was no separation between the Committee and Report stages?

There is a Government amendment to Clause 4 and no doubt we shall find many loopholes later tonight. We must have this separation and it would be a help if the right hon. Gentleman gave his decision now.

Mr. Short

I understand the hon. Gentleman's point, but I know that he understands the extreme urgency of this measure and that we must get it through very quickly. I know that he and some of his hon. Friends will expedite the Bill on its way through the House. We shall watch the progress of the Bill through the night and see what can be done to help.

Mr. Faulds

The Under-Secretary nominally responsible for the Arts promised us a Public Lending Right Bill before last Christmas and as the right hon. Gentleman, when I questioned him three weeks ago, did not seem to have a clue about it, may I ask whether he has since cheked up—and when is the Bill to be introduced?

Mr. Short

The excellent Minister responsible for the Arts has been doing a great deal of work on this matter. He has consulted many people to try to get the right solution to this difficult and complicated matter. The Bill will be brought forward before long and I hope that it will receive my hon. Friend's support.

Mr. Peyton

I welcome the assurance that there will be a debate on the Price Code amendments. Can the right hon. Gentleman assure us that there will be adequate time and that it will not be taken in the small hours of the morning? Can we be told whether the Community Land Bill is likely to make a re-appearance this side of the recess? When the right hon. Gentleman says that he will see how we go on today's business, will he not reconsider the point raised by a number of my hon. Friends that there should be a decent interval between the Committee and Report stages? Lastly, may I raise with the right hon. Gentleman a point made by my right hon. Friend about the Employment Protection Bill? I hope that he will at least initiate conversations through the usual channels to discuss the very unusual and discreditable situation of this Bill.

Mr. Short

I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman's last remarks. It is not discreditable. We would be very happy to have talks through the usual channels about the Bill, if that is his wish. I appreciate the point that he has made about today's Bill, but this is a matter of unusual urgency and importance to deal with a very serious and dangerous national situation. In these circumstances, the House has very often felt able to waive the normal intervals between stages of a Bill, and I am sure that it would be willing to do so on this occasion, if necessary. However, I have taken his point and will bear it in mind. We shall do our utmost—and I am sure that we shall succeed—to get this Bill on the statute book before the end of the Session. [HON. MEMBERS: "Next week?"] I have already announced business for next week, if hon. Members had been listening.

We are rather in the hands of the Scrutiny Committee as to the timing of the proceedings on the Price Code orders, but I understand that three orders will be needed, one to be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure, one to the negative resolution procedure and one not requiring any parliamentary action. I will bear in mind what the hon. Member said and what the Leader of the Opposition said on this matter.


Mr. Peyton

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Leader of the House helpfully said during his business Statement that he would consider and discuss through the usual channels certain matters which were raised. I wonder if this would be a convenient time for him to say something further on that matter.

Mr. Short

It is very unusual to make a second Business Statement half an hour after the first one, but strong representations were made to me about the Report stage of the Remuneration, Charges and Grants Bill. Discussions have taken place through the usual channels, and I wish to re-arrange the business so that on Monday we take the Petroleum and Submarine Pipe-Lines Bill, remaining stages, continuing with that on Tuesday until 7 o'clock when the guillotine falls. At 7 p.m. on Tuesday, we take the Report and Third Reading of the Remuneration, Charges and Grants Bill and on Wednesday the Employment Protection Bill.

I hope that it will be for the convenience of the House that we have separated the Report stage from the Committee stage of the Remuneration, Charges and Grants Bill.

Mr. Peyton

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Governments, I know, never give Oppositions all they want, but I should like to thank the Lord President and the Patronage Secretary for their help on this occasion, which will greatly assist our consideration of the Bill.

Mr. Rost

Further to the second business statement made by the Leader of the House, a short time ago I checked in the Vote Office to see whether Government amendments to the Petroleum and Submarine Pipe-Lines Bill had been tabled, but I was advised that they were not yet on the Order Paper. As the Leader of the House has now changed the business so that the Report stage of the Bill is to be on Monday, will he advise us whether the Government amendments are tabled and, if so, why we have not vet been able to see them.

Mr. Short

I do not know whether or not they are tabled. I will look into it.