HC Deb 13 March 1975 vol 888 cc805-12
Mrs. Thatcher

May I ask the Leader of the House to tell us the business for next week, please?

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, 17TH MARCH—Proceedings on the Consolidated Fund (No. 3) Bill.

TUESDAY, 18Th MARCH—Second Reading of the Housing Finance (Special Provisions) Bill.

Motion on the Prices Act 1974 (Continuation of Section 2) Order.

Proceedings on the following consolidated Bills, the Industrial Injuries and Diseases (Old Cases) and Social Security, and the Northern Ireland Bills, and Social Security (Consequential Provisions).

WEDNESDAY, 19TH MARCH—Remaining stages of the Oil Taxation Bill.

THURSDAY, 20TH MARCH—Second Reading of the Social Security Pensions Bill.

Motion on the Census Order.

Remaining stages of the Reservoirs Bill [Lords].

Motion relating to Firearms Certificates and Permits (Northern Ireland) Order.

FRIDAY, 21ST MARCH—Private Members' motions.

MONDAY, 24TH MARCH—Debate On the motion on financial assistance to opposition parties, until seven o'clock.

Afterwards, a debate on the textile industry, on a motion for the Adjournment of the House, when it is hoped to suspend the Ten o'clock Rule for two hours.

Mrs. Thatcher

May I put two points to the right hon. Gentleman? He has already given an undertaking that there will be a debate on the Common Market and the Government's attitude to membership. Can he give some idea when that will be? Will it be before the Second Reading of the referendum Bill? Second, it is getting rather near to Budget time. Are we to have a one-day economic debate on public expenditure?

Mr. Short

There will certainly be a debate on the EEC. I do not think it will be before the Second Reading of the referendum Bill. I can give no promise about the debate on public expenditure. I will try to arrange a debate, but not before Easter.

Mr. Cryer

Will my right hon. Friend give time for a debate—in pursuit of open government—about the request for information from 70 Labour Members, including myself, concerning the relationship of the EEC to the Industry Bill currently passing through the House? I make this request for a debate since the request for information was made in anticipation of the Second Reading of the Bill, which is now in Committee, and it looks as if the information will be too late anyhow. Second, will my right hon. Friend give urgent consideration to allowing time to debate the question of import restrictions, especially as they affect areas such as my own, the West Riding, where the import of cheap materials has badly affected the textile industry?

Mr. Short

The second issue can be raised in the debate on the textile industry which I have announced. My hon. Friend's first point will be an appropriate subject for the debate on the Government's recommendation about the EEC.

Mr. Emery

Will the right hon. Gentleman give serious consideration during next week to the delivery of Members' mail? Is he aware that—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Leader of the House is to make a statement on these matters. May I ask that questions relating to facilities of the House are kept until after that statement?

Mr. Jopling

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he has announced a good deal of Government business for next week? In view of that, will he give the Government Whips a shake-up so that they make sure they have sufficient Government supporters present to be certain that the business is obtained? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this did not happen last night? Is it not an abuse of the Government's position when they cannot be bothered to muster enough of their supporters to carry their own business?

Mr. Short

I know the hon. Member's interest in agricultural matters. I understand that there were very few Conservative Members present last night. Certainly that business will have to be tabled again. There will be another hour-and-a-half's debate.

Mr. Ron Thomas

If the Government decide to extend the scope of Section 128 of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act, may I ask my right hon. Friend to make sure that the House has an opportunity fully to debate that Act because we on the Labour benches are concerned about the way the powers given to the Home Secretary under this legislation are being used?

Mr. Short

I am announcing the business for next week. This subject will certainly not appear in that business.

Mr. Bradford

Has the right hon. Gentleman noticed Early-Day Motion No. 321:

[That this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government to assist by way of financial assistance under section 8 of the Industry Act 1972 in respect of the Heysham-Belfast Ferry Service.]

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this requests financial assistance for the Belfast-Heysham ferry service? In view of the overall implications for Northern Ireland and the employment implications for the United Kingdom, will the right hon. Gentleman give the House the opportunity to debate this important closure?

Mr. Short

No, Sir. I cannot provide time for that. I have answered Questions on it and I went to Heysham to meet the local people. I understand that the Prime Minister said in reply to a question by the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mrs. Kellett-Bowman) that he would look at the matter.

Mr. Spriggs

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Early-day Motion No. 321, referred to by the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Mr. Bradford), is in my name? Does he appreciate that the proposed withdrawal of the Heysham-Belfast ferry service has been dealt with in a quite unsatisfactory manner? Will he provide time for the House to debate these proposals in full or else institute an independent inquiry?

Mr. Short

No, Sir. I cannot do that. I know of my hon. Friend's great interest in this matter, which would be an appropriate subject for the Easter Adjournment debate or for the Consolidated Fund Bill on Monday.

Mr. Charles Morrison

Does not the fact that there were fewer than 20 Labour Members present last night to support the calf subsidy scheme demonstrate that even on the Labour side of the House there is a total lack of support for the Government's agricultural policy? Does this not emphasise the need for an agricultural debate in Government time before Easter?

Mr. Short

It may demonstrate a number of things. One thing it does not demonstrate is that there is a need for such a debate. I pointed out last week that the Government have already given three days in this Session to agricultural matters. The Opposition have given one of their days. The time is divided between the Opposition and the Government.

Mr. Hooley

When does my right hon. Friend intend to honour his undertaking to have a debate on foreign affairs before Easter?

Mr. Short

This will take place in the week before Easter.

Mr. Stephen Ross

If the Leader of the House cannot provide time for a debate on agriculture before the Easter Recess, will he provide time for a limited debate on the horticultural situation? If he can do that for the textile industry, surely we can have three or five hours on horticulture?

Mr. Short

No I cannot, but I understand that there are one or two agricultural subjects to be debated under the Consolidated Fund Bill. That will be an appropriate occasion.

Mr. Noble

Will my right hon. Friend accept the thanks of all the Labour Members from the North-West for having a debate on textiles? Will he pass on to the Prime Minister an expression of our pleasure at learning during Questions this afternoon that he is now taking a direct interest in this matter, and will the Leader of the House ensure through his good offices that when we have a debate on textiles we shall have action as well as words?

Mr. Short

I am glad that my hon. Friend is pleased about the debate. This is an extremely important subject, and I know of the serious position of the industry. I am going to Lancashire this weekend and I hope to discuss the matter with some people in the industry.

Mr. Wood

Will the Leader of the House reconsider the answer he gave to my right hon. Friend about the EEC debate? Does he not agree that the outcome of that debate will have an important bearing on the future debates of the referendum Bill.

Mr. Short

All I said was that I did not think that a debate on the terms would take place before the debate on the Second Reading of the referendum Bill, which is what the hon. Lady asked.

Mr. Skinner

Has my right hon. Friend seen Early-Day Motion No. 343:

[That this House believes that it would be in the national interest, having regard to statements that have been made by former employees of the National Coal Board, that a public inquiry should he made into the purchasing practices of the National Coal Board since the date of inception, and that any person should be free to give evidence in that inquiry, without let or hindrance.]

It appears in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. Kelley), myself and many others and it deals with purchasing by the National Coal Board between the late 'fifties and the early 'sixties. There is a very disquieting air about the whole affair since five inquiries of various kinds have been held—some in secret and some by the Coal Board— and yet still the matter has not been cleared up. Is my right hon. Friend aware that the terms of reference of the last Select Committee were too narrow and that the matter needs to be cleared up once and for all? Will my right hon. Friend lend his powerful voice to the setting up of a public inquiry so that the matter can be dealt with and the whole question of alleged overspending of £74 million dealt with once and for all?

Mr. Short

I know my hon. Friend's concern and I will call what he said to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy.

Mr. Clegg

Are the Government planning to publish early next week the Bill dealing with the nationalisation of land?

Mr. Short

Yes. We hope to publish it in the middle of next week, subject to the printing difficulties we are currently experiencing in the House.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

On Monday's Consolidated Fund Bill, will my right hon. Friend ensure that the Minister who replies to debates on horticultural matters gives the total amount that would be necessary to finance all the different subsidies for which the Opposition are now asking for horticulture, agriculture, fisheries and one hundred and one other activities? Many of my hon. Friends would like to have that total figure.

Mr. Short

That would be an extremely interesting exercise. We could set that figure against the call by the Opposition for massive cuts in public expenditure.

Mr. Ian Gilmour

Although we read in the Press that the Sex Discrimination Bill was presented to the House yesterday, it is not available in the Vote Office. When will it be available? In view of the right hon. Gentleman's responsibilities to the House as a whole, as opposed to his responsibilities as a Government business manager, will he take note that if the Bill is not available today or tomorrow it will be quite impossible to have a Second Reading debate before Easter.

Mr. Short

Copies are available—

Mr. Gilmour


Mr. Short

Some were available this morning—

Mr. Gilmour


Mr. Short

I shall certainly look into what the right hon. Gentleman said, but I checked on this with my right hon. Friend this morning and we were told that copies were available this morning. We are experiencing difficulties, of course, and I shall have something to say about this when I make my statement later.

Mr. Wigley

Has the Leader of the House seen Early-Day Motion No. 312:

[That this House takes note of the fact that although the permissible number of Questions for Oral Answer has been reduced from two to one for each Member, Wales appeared at the head of the order for oral answers only once in the last parliamentary term, and only twice in the current term totalling one hour ten minutes in all; regrets that on both occasions during this term, insufficient time was allocated for all the Questions on Wales to be answered and consequently calls for Welsh Questions to be allocated the full hour between 2.30 p.m. and 3.30 p.m. on each occasion; proposes that Welsh Questions should appear at the top of the Order Paper at least once every month ; notes that on those Mondays in the present term when Welsh Questions are not at the head of the Order Paper, they do not on one single occasion appear second on the Order Paper; and proposes that all subjects have an equitable rota system for their positioning on the Order of Questions.]

It deals with the time allocation and the frequency of Welsh Questions. Will he say when we are to have our annual Welsh debate, because 12 months have passed since the last one?

Mr. Short

I will look into the question of a Welsh debate. As for the other matter, I can assure the hon. Member that very few Quesions on Wales are put down.

Mr. Ward

Does my right hon. Friend recall that my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Lewis) was cut off in mid-sentence in the debate on the seat belts Bill in January. Will my right hon. Friend undertake to allow him to finish his speech before Easter?

Mr. Short

I know that my hon. Friend was cut off in mid-flight, but I am afraid that he will have to remain suspended until after Easter.

Sir John Hall

Will the Leader of the House say when it is intended to introduce legislation to give effect to the système international form of metrication, which is being introduced into industry, commerce and schools, without, as far as I can see, Parliamentary consent?

Mr. Short

This is obviously a question for the Secretary of State for Education, but not next week.