HC Deb 12 June 1975 vol 893 cc660-9
Mrs. Thatcher

May I ask the Leader of the House to state the business for next week?

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

The business of the House will be as follows:

MONDAY, 16TH JUNE—Supply [18th Allotted Day]: there will be a debate on housing which will arise on a motion for the Adjournment.

Remaining stages of the British Leyland Bill.

TUESDAY, 17TH JUNE—Supply [19th Allotted Day]: there will be a debate on the Army on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Second Reading of the Public Service Vehicles (Arrest of Offenders) Bill [Lords].

Proceedings on the Export Guarantees Bill [Lords] and on the Nursing Homes Bill [Lords], which are consolidation measures.

WEDNESDAY, 18TH JUNE—Remaining stages of the Sex Discrimination Bill.

THURSDAY, 19TH JUNE—Second Reading of the Criminal Jurisdiction Bill [Lords] and of the Safety of Sports Grounds Bill [Lords].

FRIDAY, 20TH JUNE—Second Reading of the Children Bill [Lords].

MONDAY, 23RD JUNE—Supply [20th Allotted Day]: subject for debate to be announced later.

Mrs. Thatcher

Is the Leader of the House aware that Standing Committee E considering the Industry Bill was suspended today for the second day running? Will he tell us whether the Government are conducting a review of that Bill and are including the TUC and the CBI in that review? Will he confirm that the Prime Minister's promise to the hon Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Huckfield), that the Bill would follow exactly the provisions of the White Paper, still stands? What are the Government's plans about the future of the Bill?

Mr. Short

On the first part of the right hon. Lady's question, if it is in order to answer it, I am sure that the Committee will be meeting again later this afternoon at 4.30 [Interruption.] We shall wait and see. It broke up this morning, but I am sure that it will meet again at 4.30.

I replied to the last part of the right hon. Lady's question in the debate on the Adjournment for the Whitsun Recess.

Dr. J. Dickson Mabon

In view of uncertainty about the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill, will the Lord President tell us what time is likely to be made for it, because there is great worry ill the industry about investment programmes in both the public and the private sectors? I know that my right hon. Friend shares that concern, but can he give us an indication of what the Government intend to do?

Mr. Short

I understand that concern. The Bill was published to remove the uncertainty. We shall certainly deal with it as quickly as we can.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

Will the Leader of the House ask the Secretary of State for Employment to make a statement early next week about the threatened rail strike, which could cause so much damage to the economy and inconvenience to the public? Will he also ask the Secretary of State for Trade to make a statement on the Government's plans which appear to be threatening the future of British Caledonian?

Mr. Short

I will certainly pass on those two points to the appropriate Ministers. However, the first is a matter between British Rail and the union.

Mr. Jim Marshall

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to Early-Day Motion No. 523 signed by myself and 45 other hon. Members, again drawing to the atttention of the House the serious difficulties facing the textile industry?

[That this House concerned with the serious crisis facing the UK textile and footwear industries which has led to widespread redundancies and short-time working, urges Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer to stimulate demand for UK textile and footwear goods by zero-rating for VAT purposes all UK produced knitted goods, clothing, all household textiles and all UK produced footwear.]

May I also bring to the attention of my right hon. Friend the latest unemployment statistics issued by the Department of Employment, which show that in the period December 1974 to March 1975 there was an employment decline of 6 per cent. in hosiery and knitting compared with 2.4 per cent. in the rest of manufacturing industry? In view of the Early-Day Motion and the latest statistics, will he again arrange for an early debate on the hosiery and knitting industry in particular and on the textile industry in general?

Mr. Short

I understand and share my hon. Friend's concern about this matter. It was for that reason that immediately before the recess, the Prime Minister announced the help that the Government intended to give. The plans and discussions on how that is to be done are continuing with all haste.

Mr. Grimond

Will the Leader of the House confirm that time will be found for the customary debate on the Floor of the House concerning the Scottish economy before we rise for the Summer Recess?

Mr. Short

Yes, Sir. I very much hope so.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

Will my right hon. Friend arrange for the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to make a statement on the Government's intentions regarding the unfortunate individual who has been sentenced to death in Uganda?

Mr. Short

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and the whole of the Government are viewing this matter with grave concern, and the Foreign Secretary is doing all that he can to help. I am sure that the House would not wish me to say any more than that at this moment.

Mr. Tebbit

Could the right hon. Gentleman say whether we are to have a White Paper next week on the dilution of the Industry Bill or shall we have to wait a little longer for it? It would be helpful to everybody, including his hon. Friends, to know just how far the White Paper will take us.

Mr. Short

I am sure that my right hon. Friend the new Secretary of State for Industry will make a statement on this matter when he is able to do so. Indeed, I understand that he has already said something about this in the Committee this morning. He said something about it before Members of the Committee walked out. If the hon. Gentle- man will look at the report of the proceedings he will see exactly what was said.

Mr. Terry Walker

In view of the crisis that exists in the British footwear manufacturing industry, may I once again ask my right hon. Friend to consider a debate on the Floor of the House? We have not yet had a debate about this very great subject which is worrying many of my constituents. May we have it next week?

Mr. Short

I am sorry, but I cannot promise a debate next wek. This is in the same category as textiles, of course, and what I said previously about textiles applies equally to this matter.

Mr. Wigley

In view of the confusion on the Industry Bill and certain steps that have been taken in another place regarding the Scottish Development Agency Bill, can the Leader of the House give some indication when we are to have Welsh Development Agency and Scottish Development Agency Bills?

Mr. Short

I cannot give a date today. I am answering only on the business for next week. But it will be very shortly.

Mr. Rippon

Will the Leader of the House make arrangements for an early statement in this House regarding the Government's proposals for dealing with all outstanding matters in connection with the Poulson bankruptcy proceedings?

Mr. Short

I believe the right hon. Gentleman has had a Question down to the Prime Minister today on this, and I have nothing to add on that.

Mr. Dalyell

Are we to have a White Paper on devolution?

Mr. Short

I answered this question about 20 times to my hon. Friend. I do not yet know whether we would think it worth while to have a White Paper in the autumn, but if we did, certainly we should have one, but I will not commit myself to one at this stage.

Mr. Lawson

In view of the speech yesterday by the Paymaster-General, in which he stressed the crucial importance of public expenditure, when is the Leader of the House to give us a day for the customary debate on the Public Expenditure White Paper?

Mr. Short

There will be opportunities for debates on the economy. I doubt whether that White Paper would now represent an adequate basis for a debate, but certainly there will be opportunities for debating economic matters.

Mr. Edward Lyons

Could my right hon. Friend tell us when there will be an announcement putting clothing on the bare bones of the statement by the Prime Minister before the recess on the textile industry, which urgently awaits proposals?

Mr. Short

I said a moment ago that we were considering this urgently, and a statement will be made at the earliest possible moment. Policy has been decided, and it is now a matter of the details of how it should be worked out. Certainly, there will be a statement at the earliest possible moment.

Mr. du Cann

Is the Leader of the House aware that the volume of legislation is now so heavy that other important business of hon. Members is being seriously disrupted? Standing Orders provide that meetings of Standing Committees take precedence over other affairs, and, there being the unprecedented number of five Standing Committees sitting this afternoon, this must make great difficulty for hon. Members attending to their ordinary duties. For example, meetings of traditional and significant groups on both sides of the House, such as the Parliamentary Labour Party and the 1922 Committee, are held up or suffer interruption. Will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to look into this matter and will he pay attention to the fact that it is causing great resentment all over the House? Will he please see that we are not interrupted in this way again?

Mr. Short

I very much regret this. These two Committees—the 1922 Committee and the Parliamentary Labour Party—are, I agree, extremely important parts of the machinery of this Parliament. I believe that the 1922 Committee has been displaced today for the first time. The Parliamentary Labour Party is displaced quite frequently, I might say. However, I do not think that either of these problems should be left in this situation. My right hon. Friend the Chief Whip and I are looking into this and hope to ensure that as far as possible it does not happen again. Today's unfortunate coincidence probably will not recur.

Mr. Skinner

Would my right hon. Friend—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order."] This is a silly place at times. Would my right hon. Friend convey to the Prime Minister, on the question of the Poulson inquiries and on the point made by the right hon. and learned Member for Hex-ham (Mr. Rippon) about a tribunal being set up under the 1921 Act, that he should bear in mind that some hon. Members—certainly many on this side of the House—and thousands and perhaps millions outside would not look very kindly on a tribunal being set up merely with a view to moralising about what has happened with regard to Poulson without any further proceedings being taken? Will he insist that if we are to have a tribunal of any kind, he will make it abundantly clear that any further outstanding proceedings must be carried on relentlessly, right to the very end?

Mr. Short

I am sure I agree entirely with the last part of what my hon. Friend has said, but the Prime Minister answered a Question by the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Ripon) today. It was a Written Question and no doubt my hon. Friend will read the answer.

Mr. Clegg

Is the Leader of the House aware that I listened with great interest to his broadcast about the future proceedings of the House in which he said that we would have enabling Bills setting up a skeleton of legislation and that thereafter the rest of the details could be settled? Is he aware that such a Bill already exists in Standing Committee G, the Community Land Bill? Is he further aware that this Bill has been condemned by Justice as unconstitutional and would he please spend next week in Committee seeing what a shambles it is?

Mr. Short

In that broadcast I was merely commenting on long-term aspects of how I saw Parliament developing in the future. This trend has been going on for a very long time. Modern government is becoming so complex that Parliament has been forced to legislate much more on principle. I said that, providing there is adequate machinery for scrutiny of executive acts, this was acceptable. [Interruption.] [An HON. MEMBER: "It is not."] That may be, but I was expressing my point of the view and the hon. Gentleman can express his. We can debate the future way in which our Parliament is to develop and the way we see it. I was expressing a personal point of view, and I shall continue to do so.

Mr. Torney

Did my right hon. Friend read in yesterday's Daily Express an article by Chapman Pincher dealing with the new boss of MI5 and MI6? In view of the statement in that article of the similarity with the Russian KGB, will he comment on the article and arrange for a debate on this subject in this House?

Mr. Short

I read the article. I understand that it was lifted out of that scurrilous and mendacious journal called Private Eye. I am very glad to say that the Chapman Pincher article was wrong in every respect.

Mr. Peyton

I wonder whether I could take the right hon. Gentleman back to the point about a debate on public expenditure raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Blaby (Mr. Lawson). He will recall his commitment to give us time to debate the White Paper. I believe that that is a bit old now but a debate on public expenditure remains urgently necessary. May I also put a point on the Industry Bill, that in the not impossible event of his right hon. Friend not being exactly clear about the Government's intentions, would he please arrange for a statement on the Floor of the House next week so that the question whether we are to have a White Paper will be cleared up?

Lastly, may I say to the right hon. Gentleman that having the debate on the remaining stages of the British Leyland Bill at dead of night is very unsatisfactory indeed and simply perpetuates the way the Government have handled this matter throughout. People have been condemned in a Star Chamber manner on the strength of a report that they have never seen. That is quite outrageous.

Mr. Short

Dealing with British Leyland, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that this is not the most convenient time. However, the House has embarked on the British Leyland project—[Interruption.] The House of Commons gave it a Second Reading, and, having embarked on the project, we must proceed with it as quickly as possible. I concede that this is not a very convenient time.

Nobody has committed us to a White Paper, but I shall certainly convey to my right hon. Friend what the right hon. Gentleman has said. What the Government are doing is the normal practice at the end of the Committee stage of a Bill. We are considering everything that has been said. I shall certainly bear in mind what the right hon. Gentleman has said.

The third point which the right hon. Gentleman raised was public expenditure. I said that certainly there will be an opportunity to debate "economic affairs" but let me now say "public expenditure". I do not think that the White Paper will now be the best basis for that.

Mr. McNamara

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Standing Committee G is making very slow progress and that the reason why it is in such a shambles is that the Conservative Opposition cannot appreciate the important concessions given to the Churches and charities? Will my right hon. Friend confirm that tomorrow either he or the Government are likely to receive Lord Boyle's report, which will be published early next week?

Mr. Short

On the first point, I cannot comment on the state of the Committee. However, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister met the Church authorities immediately before the recess. I should like to give an assurance that we are urgently considering the impact of the Bill on the Churches.

On the second point, I cannot say whether we shall receive Lord Boyle's Report tomorrow. It will go direct to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. However, when we do receive it we shall consider it as urgently as possible. I understand the concern of most hon. Members about this matter.

Mr. Donald Stewart

Will the Leader of the House tell us when he will fit in the long-awaited debate on steel, because there is great anxiety in all areas of the industry and the time is long past when we should have such a debate?

Mr. Short

There was an opportunity on Monday to debate this matter. A large number of speeches were made, but certainly if it is the general wish of the House for further time to be found to debate steel I shall be prepared to do so.

Mr. John Davies

The Leader of the House will be aware that last night between 12.15 a.m. and 1.45 a.m. the usual night shift was dealing with Community matters, considering the economic guidelines paper. Will he please expedite the debate to be held on the Procedure Committee's Report so that we can get down to serious discussion of this extremely important paper, instead of having the purely spurious debates which we have late at night at present?

Mr. Short

Certainly I shall look at the point that the right hon. Gentleman has raised.