HC Deb 16 December 1976 vol 922 cc1728-34
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. Michael Foot)

The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY 20TH DECEMBER—Consideration of Private Members' motions until 7 o'clock.

Afterwards, proceedings on the Consolidated Fund Bill.

TUESDAY 21ST DECEMBER—Debate on the economic situation, when the Tobacco Products Duty (Increase) Order and the Surcharge on Revenue Duties Order will also be before the House.

WEDNESDAY 22ND DECEMBER—Motions on the Rate Support Grant Orders.

THURSDAY 23RD DECEMBER—It Will be proposed that the House should meet at 11 a.m., take Questions until 12 noon, and adjourn at 5 p.m. until Monday 10th January 1977.

May I also announce an addition to tomorrow's business?

After the orders on Northern Ireland, the House will be asked to deal with EEC Document R/2866/76 on skimmed milk, which it is now known will be before the Council of Ministers next week.

Mrs. Thatcher

Would the Lord President agree that there should be a two-day debate on the economic situation next week? One day is not long enough for many hon. Members on both sides to make their views known. Surely it is not necessary to have the rate support grant debates before Christmas. Could we not have that extra day for the debate on the economic situation?

Mr. Foot

I understand the right hon. Lady's desire for a longer debate on the economic situation. However, it is necessary to have the Rate Support Grant Orders before Christmas. Perhaps it would be possible to arrange for an extension of time by one or two hours on the Tuesday.

Mr. Spearing

Will the Lord President recall that the agreement of the Government to the skimmed milk proposals was later negatived by this House? In view of the short notice he has given for the debate on this matter tomorrow, could he indicate the nature of the regulations?

Mr. Foot

I apologise to the House and particularly to my hon. Friend, who gives such close attention to these matters, for the short notice of the change of business tomorrow. However, a meeting to discuss this matter will take place in the EEC next week, and therefore it is necessary, in order to abide by other undertakings given to the House, to have the debate tomorrow. To lose that opportunity might mean that we lose the benefits from the order itself. I hope that hon. Members will agree that this was the right course to take.

Mr. Wells

Could the Lord President tell us when we can expect to have the Covent Garden Market Bill? This is a matter of great importance, not only to the horticultural industry but to the housewives of London, and the country as a whole.

Mr. Foot

I recognise the importance of this Bill, but I am afraid that I cannot give the hon. Member any indication about it yet.

Mr. Robin F. Cook

How will the business on Wednesday be divided? Has my right hon. Friend noticed that there is an amendment on the Order Paper to the Scottish Rate Support Grant Order—an amendment which has been signed by a clear majority of Scottish Members? It is ridiculous if the debate on the order is to last only one and a half hours after 10 o'clock when it is of such a controversial nature.

Mr. Foot

I have noticed the amendment on the Order Paper and I recognise that this is a matter of importance. The way in which such debates are divided is a matter for discussion, because the issues at stake are in some cases similar for England and Scotland. I hope that there will be discussions to ensure a fair division of the time available.

Mr. Tebbit

Following the failure of the Secretary of State for Trade in the Appeal Court yesterday, and the confirmation of that court that the Secretary of State acted unlawfully in withdrawing the designation of Laker Airways Sky-train service, could the Lord President say whether we shall have a statement of the Government's intentions either to continue their unlawful act or to behave properly?

Mr. Foot

The Government are giving proper consideration to the judgment.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Since the Labour Party Conference adopted a very strong and tough line against apartheid, would some member of the Government, preferably the Prime Minister, discuss with Barclays Bank the disgraceful decision to invest £6½ million in South African defence bonds? Would the Government urge Barclays Bank to withdraw that money, and could we have a statement on the matter next week?

Mr. Foot

I cannot guarantee a statement, but I will take up the point which my hon. Friend has raised.

Mr. Rost

Is it not intolerable that the House should have only one day to pass a verdict on the Government's shameful surrender of the management of the economy to the IMF? Should the House not have an opportunity to approve or disapprove the loan before it is finally taken up?

Mr. Foot

I have answered the question on this matter from the Leader of the Opposition and I have nothing further to add as a result of the hon. Member's question.

Mr. Palmer

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the very important report published by the Central Policy Review Staff about the plant-manufacturing industry in this country? Would he provide time to debate this report?

Mr. Foot

I will consider the possibilities for such a debate, but my hon. Friend is well aware of the kind of opportunities which might arise in the future.

Mr. Graham Page

On what basis will the debate on Tuesday take place? Will it be on a motion of the Government for the Adjournment of the House, and will there be an opportunity for the Opposition to put down amendments to the motion?

Mr. Foot

The debate will take place on the Adjournment motion, and then will follow the two orders which I have mentioned.

Mr. Buchan

I return to the question put earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Cook). Next Wednesday's business on the Rate Support Grant Orders poses particular problems because of differences in background between the two orders. Would the Lord President consider having a debate on this occasion on the rate support grant for England and Wales up to 7 p.m., and on the Scottish grant from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.?

Mr. Foot

There is another difficulty which arises here. We were hoping also to take the motion for the Christmas Adjournment on that day. However, in view of the representations which have been made to me I shall see what division of time we can make which will be helpful for that day.

Mr. Thompson

Did the Lord President notice that I took his advice during the Business Questions on the Queen's Speech debate? Would he now take my advice and have a debate on the Flowers Report?

Mr. Foot

Of course I am always eager to reciprocate. I hope that the advice I gave the hon. Gentleman did him some good and perhaps his advice to me might do some good.

Mr. Greville Janner

Is the Lord President aware that the disclosure rules under the Employment Protection Act are still awaiting and dependent on approval of the ACAS code? When is that code likely to be approved and put to the House?

Mr. Foot

I am afraid that I cannot give a date for this. I will look at the possibilities and see what indications can be given on the date.

Mr. Marten

On the question raised by the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing), may I suggest that the document to be discussed tomorrow is a very unimportant, minor financial fiddle by the Common Market? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there have now been about five ministerial meetings in the Common Market but that there has been no statement to the House about them and that some of the issues have been important? Can the Leader of the House not arrange for a collection of Ministers to make a collection of statements on Monday so that the House of Commons may at least begin to know what is going on in the Common Market?

Mr. Foot

I would have thought that a chorus of Ministers is not what the House would want, and I cannot promise to follow up that aspect of what the hon. Gentleman asks. He knows how eager I am always to repudiate the pejorative phrases that he uses about the operation of the Common Market, and therefore I have to be careful in that sense, although not too careful, I trust. None the less, I will see whether we can get more regular statements, but I fully acknowledge the feelings of the hon. Gentleman and others who have shown an interest in the matter. We have not yet solved the problem of making proper and regular reports on these matters to the House.

Mr. Fernyhough

Since many Conservative Members are utterly opposed to any association or connection with any Communist country, will my right hon. Friend provide time for discussion of the attitude of the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Rost) towards the recent Rolls-Royce contract for £100 million of equipment with Russia?

Mr. Foot

I am sure that this is a matter which can be brought into the debate on Tuesday and on other occasions. I am sure that the Government are grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) for his intervention.

Mr. Bowden

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a considerable number of Members on both sides of the House are totally opposed to fluoridation? Is he aware that millions of people throughout the country are also opposed to it but that there has never been a major debate on the Floor of the House on the matter? In view of the attitude of the area health authorities, which are not elected, in trying to force this proposal through, will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for a debate?

Mr. Foot

I cannot promise a debate immediately, though, as the House knows, this is one of the matters that I would have thought could be raised on Monday in the debate on the Consolidated Fund. I am not certain, but I would have thought that that was possible. There are more possibilities for having a debate in this House than some hon. Members appreciate.

Mr. English

Will my right hon. Friend make sure that Tuesday's debate takes place on a motion which is amendable if the Opposition are not putting down such a motion? Will he ensure that the debate takes place not on the motion for the Adjournment of the House but on a motion to take note of the Chancellor's statement so that we may indicate our views?

Mr. Foot

I would have thought that our proposal for a debate on the Adjournment was the most convenient for the House as a whole because it will permit a wide debate over all the questions involved. That is what we are suggesting.

Mr. Giles Shaw

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is today a substantial lobby of hon. Members by officers of the police force? It is, as we would expect, orderly and effective. Will he not agree that it is time for the House to debate the conditions of the police and the service they give to the country, and will he find time for such a debate?

Mr. Foot

I am aware that there is a lobby by the police, partly for general reasons and partly because representatives of the police from my constituency and from neighbouring constituencies are coming to the House. They will put their case to hon. Members in all parts of the House. I cannot promise a special debate on police pay because the issues involved are not so dissimilar from those affecting many other sectors of the working population. That does not indicate any disrespect in any sense for the work of the police.

Mr. Michael Latham

The right hon. Gentleman said that the debate on the motion for the Christmas Adjournment would probably be on Wednesday. Will he bear in mind that this is an extremely important opportunity for Back Benchers to raise many issues affecting their constituencies? In replying to the debate, will he avoid doing what he did earlier this year, which was to indicate which matters were appropriate to be raised and which were not?

Mr. Foot

I cannot prescribe or dictate what hon. Members may raise. That is a matter for them. I have not sought to prevent hon. Members from raising any matters. However, there are matters which are more appropriate to be raised then because they cannot be raised on other occasions. As you, Mr. Speaker, have mentioned on many occasions, the debate is an opportunity for mentioning particular matters rather than for embarking upon full-scale arguments on major issues. It is for you, Mr. Speaker, not for me, to decide what is in order.