HC Deb 22 May 1975 vol 892 cc1617-23
Mrs. Thatcher

Will the Leader of the House please state the business for the first week after the Adjournment?

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

The business for the week after the adjournment will be as follows:

MONDAY 9TH JUNE—Second Reading of the Statutory Corporations (Financial Provisions) Bill.

Motion to appoint a Standing Committee on Regional Affairs.

The House may wish to be reminded that this will be the historic day when the proceedings of the House are broadcast for the first time.

TUESDAY 10TH JUNE—Further progress in Committee on the Finance (No. 2) Bill.

WEDNESDAY 11TH JUNE—Remaining stages of the Social Security Pensions Bill.

Motion on the EEC Document on Economic Policy Guidelines (R/731/75).

THURSDAY 12TH JUNE—Motions on Reports of the Select Committees on Members' Interests (Declaration);

and on the right hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Stonehouse).

FRIDAY 13TH JUNE—Second Reading of the Hare Coursing Bill.

Mrs. Thatcher

The Leader of the House has already undertaken to find time to discuss the report of the Committee on the preparation of legislation. Can he give some idea when it will be debated?

Mr. Short

I am afraid that I cannot name any date in the near future, but I shall bear in mind what the right hon. Lady said. It is a very important report and we shall debate it before the Summer Recess.

Mr. Strauss

Further to my right hon. Friend's announcement that there will be a debate on the position of the right hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Stonehouse), is he aware that the Select Committee concerned received yesterday a further letter from the right hon. Gentleman, which does not appear to alter the situation at all and which would not cause the Committee to vary its conclusions set out in its second report? Nevertheless, I am sure, the Committee, in the interest of fairness to the right hon. Member for Walsall. North, will want that letter and any subsequent letter which we may receive to be before the House before the debate takes place on the Thursday when we return—and I certainly propose to take action to see that they will be available.

Mr. Short

If there is any change in the situation I shall reconsider that day's business. I have no doubt that if there is a change the Select Committee will reconsider the matter, too.

Mr. Grimond

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of how the country will respond to the Government's magnificent lead in our times of difficulty in introducing the Hare Coursing Bill? Why are we still in the process, at this point in the Session, of starting major Bills? Will he give the House some idea whether the Session will end at the normal time, or whether certain Bills will be abandoned, or whether the Session will be extended?

Mr. Short

I answered this question last week. I make no apology for the introduction of the Hare Coursing Bill. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will look at the whole of the business for next week. I think it is a very fine thing that for a few hours in one Session the House can pay some attention to the subject of animal welfare.

On the right hon. Gentleman's second point relating to major Bills and the length of the Session, as I said last week—I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman was here—it is too early to say yet, but I expect that the Session will end at the normal time, though there will be a spillover in the autumn.

Dr. Bray

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that it will be in order to debate the affairs of the British Steel Corporation on the Statutory Corporations (Financial Provisions) Bill? If not, can he say when we shall have a debate on the steel industry?

Mr. Short

It is a matter for Mr. Speaker, but I imagine that discussion of the affairs of BSC will be in order on that day. I listed that matter following a promise which I gave last week. I said that I would table it as early as possible in the first week after the Whitsun Recess.

Mr. Goodhart

According to the Ministry of Transport's figures, 500 people have died unnecessarily because in the past six months we have not been able to find the time to take further the provisions of the legislation concerning safety belts. When are we to be given further time to discuss that measure?

Mr. Short

We have started the Second Reading of that legislation, and I hope to find time very shortly to complete the Second Reading of that Bill. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the compulsory wearing of seat belts begins in the Benelux countries on 1st June.

Mr. Golding

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the strong desire among Labour Members to bring about the ending of the system of agricultural tied cottages? What are the Government's intentions in that respect?

Mr. Short

It is the Government's intention to introduce legislation on this very important matter in the next Session.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke

Is it not amazing that during the whole of the week after the result of the great referendum is known we are not to debate the consequences of that referendum?

Mr. Short

We have debated the referendum a great deal. As I pointed out last week, we have spent one-tenth of our time this Session on European matters. As I promised, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will make a statement on the referendum on the Monday on which we resume.

Mr. Henderson

Is the Leader of the House aware that there will be great disappointment among Scottish Members that he has not yet found time for the long-promised debate on the Scottish economy, as it is almost 18 months since it was last debated in the House'? Can he give an undertaking about when it will be debated?

Mr. Short

I cannot give an undertaking about when it will be debated, but I can give an undertaking that it will be some time this Session. [Hon. MEMBERS "It will be debated today."] The Scottish Members are in a very fortunate position compared with the English. They have four days when they can have general debates on Scotland in the Scottish Grand Committee.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

When shall we have the Second Reading of the Bill to take the aircraft and shipbuilding industries into public ownership?

Mr. Short

Not next week.

Mr. Fry

Will the Leader of the House consider giving time after the recess for a debate on the British footwear industry, which is now in a critical position, especially as there has been total inaction by the Government, despite the soothing words of the Under-Secretary of State for Industry in an Adjournment debate many weeks ago?

Mr. Short

There has not been inaction on the part of the Government. If the hon. Gentleman will sit in for the speech of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, if my right hon. Friend catches the eye of the Chair, he will find that my right hon. Friend has something to say about it, and he will also say something about it tomorrow.

Mr. Greville Janner

Will my right hon. Friend arrange for a debate at an early date, as promised, on the scandalous state of the law on liquidations, in particular the law that allows a director to liquidate a company one day and start another in exactly the same line of business the next?

Mr. Short

That is a very important point—the sort of point that should be considered in the context of company law generally. The Government will be introducing proposals on company law eventually.

Mr. Madel

Will the Government find time for the Industrial Democracy Bill of the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Radice) to go through all its stages, or introduce a Bill of their own, or do they intend just to leave us in a state of suspended animation on this matter?

Mr. Short

There is another Private Members' Bill day to come. Speaking from memory, I think it is on 11th July. The hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity on that day.

Mr. James Johnson

Following the comments of the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) and his oblique inference concerning the hugger-mugger of legislation in this House, will my right hon. Friend consider liquidating the ancient convention of the massacre of the innocents in October? Is it not foolish to get past 50 per cent. or even 75 per cent. of the stages of a Bill and then suddenly have it all fall down and have to start anew? Will my right hon. Friend consider that matter when he is thinking of his timetable?

Mr. Short

It is an interesting suggestion, but the great merit of that device is that it is a massacre of the guilty as well as the innocent.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

This afternoon the Prime Minister referred to the regeneration of British industry. When will the Government make a statement on the action they intend to take to assist the textile industry before there is no textile industry to regenerate?

Mr. Short

My reply to the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Fry), who asked me about footwear, applies here also. In his speech my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will be referring to footwear and textiles. He will also be making a statement on these matters tomorrow.

Mr. McNamara

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many hon. Members and many people in the country are indebted to the Government for fulfilling their pledge to give Government time to debate the Bill to ban the abominable practice of have coursing?

Mr. Short

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I am sure that he is absolutely right.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Is it a true indication of the Government's priorities that, having published their White Paper "Food from Our Own Resources", they refuse to give time for its implications for Britain's largest industry to be debated, and yet can find a day to chase hares?

Mr. Short

I have never said that we refuse to give time. I have not yet been able to find time. I repeat what I have said many times—that the Opposition still have 12 days left themselves to choose subjects for debate. They are supposed to be the party representing agricultural interests At any rate, they tell us that they are. Why do they not have a debate on agriculture?

Mr. Stallard

When does my right hon. Friend expect to be able to report to the House the findings of the Boyle Commit-teen on Members' salaries?

Mr. Short

I am not sure of the date, but I hope that it will be some time in June.

Colonel Sir Harwood Harrison

May I ask the Leader of the House to observe the dignity and authority of Parliament? We are having a fortnight's recess. On the Friday after we return we are to debate a petty Bill which has not made progress as a Private Member's Bill over many years. Are we right, at this critical time, to take five hours of Government time to consider it?

Mr. Short

It is always right to spend time trying to get rid of cruelty, whether to human beings or to animals, and that is what we are doing.

Mr. Cryer

In view of the private opinion polls showing a swelling "No vote in the referendum, will my right hon. Friend tell us what arrangements he has made for withdrawal from the EEC? In the outlandish and unlikely event of a" Yes" vote, what valedictory rites has he in hand for this Parliament, which will be the last as we know it?

Mr. Short

If the result is "Yes", no parliamentary action is required. If it is "No", the necessary legislation will be placed before Parliament in due course.

Mr. Peyton

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give further thought to the point made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke). To have just a statement by the Prime Minister on this historic occasion might be considered rather anti-climactic.

I remind the Leader of the House of the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Madel) concerning the Industrial Democracy Bill. We seem to have got into a state of some confusion here, with Ministers doubtfully welcoming this strange proposal. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will make the Government's position clear before long.

In order to tidy up the summer programme, which is congested with a lengthening queue of Second Readings, as the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) pointed out, will the right hon. Gentleman say when we shall have a summer Budget?

Mr. Short

The Industrial Democracy Bill is a Private Member's Bill. There is one day left in early July for Private Members' business, and my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Radice) must take his chance on that day.

I replied to the hon. and learned Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke), who asked for a statement. I promised a statement by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. I cannot do more than that, can I?