HC Deb 01 May 1975 vol 891 cc725-32
Mrs. Thatcher

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he will give us the business for next week?

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

The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY 5TH MAY—Supply [16th Allotted Day]: until about 7 p.m., debate on Employment Problems and Prospects for School Leavers, which will arise on a motion for the Adjournment of the House, and afterwards on Hospital Pay Beds on an Opposition motion.

Consideration of Lords amendments to the Prices Bill.

Proceedings on the Malta Republic Bill [Lords].

TUESDAY 6TH MAY and WEDNESDAY 7TH MAY—Debate on a motion to approve the Statement on the Defence Estimates, 1975 (Command No. 5976).

At the end on Wednesday:

Consideration of Lords amendments to the Referendum Bill.

THURSDAY 8TH MAY—Second Reading of the Finance (No. 2) Bill.

Motion on the Shipbuilding Industry (Northern Ireland) Order, 1975.

FRIDAY 9TH MAY—Private Members'Bills.

MONDAY 12TH MAY—Second Reading of the New Towns Bill, which it is hoped to obtain by about 7 p.m.

Motion on the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1975 (Continuance) Order.

Mrs. Thatcher

May I ask the Leader of the House about the British Leyland order? I think I understood him to say in reply to Questions that this would be debated before Whitsun. Is that so? If it is, may we have a full day for the debate?

Mr. Short

There will certainly also be a Bill—

Mr. Cormack

A big one!

Mr. Short

No, not a big one. I hope that we shall find it possible to give the Bill a Second Reading on the same day that we consider the affirmative resolution. They are dealing with fundamentally the same matter. Perhaps we can discuss extending the time on this matter and spending a day on it before the Whitsun Recess.

Mr. Urwin

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the deep and growing concern which exists about the declining volume of work being made available to the construction industry? Nowhere is this point more pertinent than in the Northern Region. In these circumstances, will he provide time for a debate on the whole problem of the construction industry, including restructuring, which is vitally important to this significant industry.

Mr. Short

I am aware of the problems and of the concern which my hon. Friend has always shown in this matter. This will be a very appropriate subject to debate in the new Committee for regional affairs, once the House has approved the motion. I hope that we shall debate that very soon.

Mr. Carlisle

May we take it that the ill-starred Bill to require the compulsory wearing of seat belts, which began its Second Reading last November, is now happily dead?

Mr. Short

I am sorry to disappoint the hon. Gentleman. The Bill will have the rest of its Second Reading some time shortly after Whitsuntide.

Mr. Ashley

Does the Leader of the House know that more than 100 Labour Members have signed the motion deploring the £20 million cut in overseas aid? Has he seen that motion, because if so he must know the strong feelings which exist among my hon. Friends on the subject. Will he please arrange for a debate next week?

[That this House, while recognising the serious economic problems confronting Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, and welcoming the measures taken to deal with them. nevertheless regards the £ 20 million cut in overseas aid as a regrettable step which it is unable to support and therefore requests him to reconsider this proposal. ]

Mr. Short

I cannot arrange a debate next week, but my right hon. Friend's attention has been drawn to this motion. We regret the cut very much indeed, but we have an enormous spending problem which must be tackled.

Mr. Pardee

Is the Leader of the House aware that the House has still not had a debate on the White Paper on public expenditure? While that White Paper has probably already been rendered wildly out of date, the time is now ripe for an immediate debate on the whole issue of public expenditure before the Government have to take their decisions on cuts on 6th June.

Mr. Short

I am afraid that this White Paper has been overtaken by the Budget. We have had very long debates on the Budget, so I cannot promise another debate in the near future. If the Liberal Party can persuade the Conservatives to give them another Supply Day, this would be an appropriate subject for such an occasion.

Mr. Cormack

In view of the rapidly deteriorating situation in South-East Asia, does the Leader of the House agree that it is high time that we had another debate on foreign affairs so that we may concentrate on this vital area? Will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for that before the recess?

Mr. Short

I have a certain sympathy with the hon. Member in this respect. I fear that we are debating foreign affairs far too infrequently, but I cannot promise any time before the recess, although I shall bear in mind what he said.

Mr. Ioan Evans

Has my right hon. Friend seen Early Day Motion No. 436 regarding the obstruction of the Welsh Development Agency Bill? Although the Bill is now to come before the other place, will my right hon. Friend assure us that it will be on the statute book before the end of this Session? Earlier in the Session he referred to the possibility of the Hare Coursing Bill coming before us. Can he say whether that is likely to happen?

[That this House deplores the action of Conservative Members in preventing the Welsh Development Agency Bill being considered by the Welsh Grand Committee in view of the fact that this action will deny the Agency from spending £ 150 million in Wales to create new employment prospects, more derelict land clearance and to meet the need for the further development of the Celtic Sea oil industry, and calls upon the Conservative Members to end their negative reactionary opposition to this vital measure for Wales.]

Mr. Short

On my hon. Friend's first point, the Opposition prevented this Bill from going to the Welsh Grand Committee as we intended, in the same way as they prevented the equivalent Scottish Bill from going to the Scottish Grand Committee. There has been a tremendous reaction both in Scotland and Wales about their action in this matter. We have now got over that by introducing the Welsh Development Agency (No. 2) Bill, an identical Bill, into the other place. It will, I understand, have its Second Reading next week. On my hon. Friend's second point, the Hare Coursing Bill will be introduced either today or tomorrow.

Mr. Henderson

Has the right hon. Gentleman had an opportunity of reading today's Scotsman in which an interview with him appears at great length? Will he comment on whether this article correctly represents the Government's views on the timetable for devolution? Can he confirm whether a site has been selected and established for the Scottish Assembly, since it appears that many hon. Members feel that unless a site is chosen soon the Government's plans do not hold water?

Mr. Short

I have not yet got round to reading the interview. I am sure it is a very good one because it was written by one of the most experienced members of the Lobby. On the second point, the only firm promise I have given on the timetable is to do my utmost to produce this Bill by the end of this year, and that I still hope to do. On the hon. Gentleman's third point, no site has been selected. No expenditure may be incurred until the Financial Resolution is passed after the Second Reading of the Bill, which I hope will be early next year. The Property Services Agency has been very active in looking at possible sites.

Mr. James Johnson

May I thank the Leader of the House and his Cabinet colleagues for the speedy action which they took on behalf of the aircraft workers following my appeal a week ago today? Now that we have the Bill this Session, will he give an assurance on behalf of the workers in the aircraft and shipbuilding industries that he will use his best efforts in meetings to see that we get an early place in the queue for the parliamentary timetable so that we are not in the middle of the Committee stage in the middle of July or August?

Mr. Short

This Bill has been produced and it is my intention to do my utmost to see that it receives the Royal Assent in the present Session.

Mr. Tebbit

Can the Leader of the House say whether he will give priority to the Hare Coursing Bill or the Bill to nationalise the aerospace industry? We regard both as pathetically irrelevant but would like to know which of the two he regards as being the most pathetically irrelevant.

Mr. Short

I think it is a fine thing that in the midst of considerable pressure in the House we can find half a day in which to bring to an end this appallingly cruel practice. I make no apology for that. We seek to bring to an end this so-called sport which depends upon terror and cruelty to wild animals, who have as much right to live in this world as the hon. Member or myself. In the words of Ralph Hodgson this Bill will, ring the bells of Heaven The wildest peal for years

Mr. Stanbrook

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen Motion No. 145? Will he give the House an early opportunity of debating this subject, thus providing Members of Parliament with the opportunity of leading the country in a campaign of self-denial? That this House recognises that the prime source of the country's economic weakness lies in the fact that it is living beyond its means; believes that the remedy for this state of affairs is simple, but impossible while raging inflation drives all economic groups to protect their standard of living by constant pressure for higher money incomes; believes that a lead must be given to the country if this process is to be halted; and therefore declines to consider any proposal to increase parliamentary salaries but invites proposals to reduce such salaries by 10 per cent. from 1st January 1975.

Mr. Short

I will look at what the hon. Member says.

Mr. Beith

Will the right hon. Gentleman think again about his decision to offer only half a day for the motion on the Prevention of Terrorism Bill in view of the fundamental issues of civil liberties which it raises?

Mr. Short

This is an order not a Bill. I had hoped that the Bill could go to the Committee. We could not get a remit for that, so we are doing it in the House.

Mr. Gow

Does the right hon. Gentleman intend to make a statement to the House next week about the premature publication of the document entitled, "Britain's New Deal in Europe"? If he does, will he tell the House whether he thinks that the inclusion of the photograph of the Prime Minister on the inside page is likely to be productive or counter-productive?

Mr. Short

In view of my right hon. Friend's popularity, I think it will help the cause enormously.

Turning to the first matter raised by the hon. Member, I heard the right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) this morning, and I agree with what he said. The leakage of Government printing must cause us great concern. I am looking into this. My office had a telephone message yesterday afternoon to say that a newspaper had this document. I immediately instructed the office to prepare all the documents for release last evening. I very much regretted this necessity. The two campaigning organisations agreed to this action. We had hoped to release the material on a day agreed by the two organisations, but I had no option but to release it last night. We are looking into the way in which the leak occurred. There are a number of lines we can follow. I do not know whether we shall discover anything. There are ways of discovering which one of the 60-odd printers was involved and so on. I regard it as an extremely serious matter that Government printing should leak in this way.

Mr. Peyton

Can the right hon. Gentleman say when we may expect to see the Lords amendments to the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Amendment) Bill? I refer particularly to those dealing with the Press.

Mr. Short

I promised last week to an hon. Member below the Gangway that we would not take these amendments until my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment had returned from his hospital treatment.

Mr. Michael Latham

Will the right hon. Gentleman look again at the timing for the New Towns Bill—which, as I understand it, has been given only half a day—in view of the Government's decision 12 months ago to ban the sale of houses in new towns—a most regrettable policy? Does he not think that the House needs more time to debate the matter?

Mr. Short

Perhaps it would be desirable to find rather more time for it, but the pressure is so great on our timetable at the moment that I cannot offer more than half a day.

Mr. Winterton

May I press the right hon. Gentleman yet again about the need for a debate on agriculture, particularly as his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture is on the Front Bench beside him and will, I am sure, support me in saying that a debate on this subject, important to consumer and farmer, should be held soon?

Mr. Short

The Opposition have a Supply Day on Monday and once more the party representing the agricultural industry has not chosen to debate agriculture. There cannot be an opportunity to debate the subject before the beginning of the Whitsun Recess, apart from the Adjournment debates on that occasion. Two-thirds of the Adjournment subjects concern agriculture anyway. There will be that limited opportunity.

Mr. Freud

Is the Lord President aware that it is now two months since the Bullock Report was published? Would it not be possible to have a debate on it shortly?

Mr. Short

I thought that the hon. Gentleman was still on the subject of agriculture. I dealt with a question on this subject last week. I agree that this is an important report. I would very much like the House to debate it and I hope that we can do so some time this Session. Earlier today I said that we do not debate foreign affairs sufficiently. I am sure that we do not debate education matters sufficiently either. On the other hand, I think that we debate subjects like defence far too much.