HC Deb 07 June 1976 vol 912 cc932-6
The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Michael Foot)

I will, with permission, Mr. Speaker, make a Business Statement.

I believe that for the convenience of the House generally there should be a short postponement before proceeding with the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill, although I also wish to make it clear that it is the firm intention of the Government to obtain the Bill this Session.

As a result, the business for tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday has been rearranged as follows:

TUESDAY 8TH JUNE—Remaining stages of the Education Bill.

WEDNESDAY 9TH JUNE—Remaining stages of the Industry (Amendment) Bill.

Motion on the BBC Licence and Charter.

THURSDAY 10TH JUNE—Supply [23rd Allotted Day]: debate on the Royal Air Force, on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Motion on EEC Documents R/2085/ 75 and R /263 /76 on education.

Mrs. Thatcher

As the Leader of the House has announced changes, why has he not made arrangements for an economic debate this week, before the TUC meeting next week? We learned in a speech by the Prime Minister, made outside the House, that the Government have already begun to think in terms of a new social contract. Is the House never to have an opportunity in Government time of discussing the economic position, on a proper White Paper? Secondly, as the right hon. Gentleman has postponed the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill, is he planning any major changes in it? If not, for whose convenience is it being postponed?

Mr. Foot

As I said in my statement, I think that a postponement will be for the convenience of the House generally. If the right hon. Lady and her colleagues wish to see the Bill before the House soon, I assure her that she will not have to wait long, and she will no doubt have been grateful for the assurance that I gave that we are determined that the Bill should reach the statute book this Session.

The right hon. Lady mentioned, as she has on previous occasions, the subject of a White Paper. Certainly we believe that a White Paper must be published on the pay situation generally, and obviously this will be for discussion in the House. However, we are not proposing to have a economic debate this week. If the Opposition wanted one, they could have one on Thursday, or even Wednesday. There has been talk of a motion of censure, although I think that that has been abandoned now.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

Does the Leader of the House realise that the Government's resolve looks about as firm as a pink jelly on a hot summer afternoon? Why is there this cowardly capitulation to the clutch of wet hens on the other side of the House? Is it not time that the Government governed?

Mr. Foot

I am as eager as my hon. Friend is to see progress with the Bill, but had we proceeded with it tomorrow, as planned, I do not think that we would have made much progress. I want to see the Bill on the statute book, and I am sure that my hon. Friend does, too.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

May I seek your guidance, Mr. Speaker, in the difficult situation in which we are placed, with the sudden change of business? During the recess my colleagues and I were working on amendments to the Education Bill. We tabled 150 of them this morning. They were tabled for Thursday, as that was when the Bill was to have been discussed. As this business has been transferred to tomorrow, they will now appear as starred amendments. In these unusual circumstances, may I ask your indulgence to consider these starred amendments for selection along with others?

Mr. Speaker

The business has been changed, and no opportunity was given for these amendments to be put down unstarred, since the debate was expected on Thursday. Of course I shall bear this in mind.

Mr. Beith

Is the Leader of the House suggesting that it is advantageous to postpone the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill until after 24th June, or does he realise that there is still not a clear majority in the House or the country for this measure? Will he consider withdrawing it, along with the Dock Work Regulation Bill, and getting on with things that really matter?

Mr. Foot

We have no intention of withdrawing either the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill or the Dock Work Regulation Bill.

Mr. Kinnock

Is it not the case that the advantage of a pause before further consideration of the Bill will be that it will give extra time to some hon. Gentlemen from Northern Ireland, Scotland. Wales, and even Devon, to contemplate the realities in the shipbuilding and aircraft industries, and come to terms with the fact that many thousands of jobs are hanging on this Bill?

Mr. Foot

It is also the fact that many who wish to see the Bill on the statute book will have communicated with Opposition Members to that effect.

Mr. Tebbit

How does the Lord President equate his statement that he wants to delay consideration of the Bill for the convenience of the House with his own mindless mouthings and those of many of his hon. Friends, in the week before Whitsun, that through taking a reasonable time in Committee the Opposition were delaying the Bill and endangering jobs? He cannot have it both ways. When was he telling an untruth?

Mr. Foot

We shall get the Bill on to the statute book under the proposals that I have made to the House in accordance with the procedures of the House and by a faithful observance of your rulings, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Marten

Shall we have a statement tomorrow by a Foreign Office Minister about the meeting of the Common Market Council of Ministers that took place during the recess?

Mr. Foot

I doubt whether there will be a statement tomorrow, but I shall look at the possibilities.

Mr. Burden

As employment in the shipbuilding industry will depend on the number of ships built in British yards, how many ships do the Government intend to order if they get the Bill through?

Mr. Foot

All those matters will be open for discussion when we proceed with the Bill. I am glad to have so many requests from the Opposition side that we should proceed with it speedily.

Mr. Adley

Was not the description by the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. Kinnock) of jobs hanging on this Bill a very reliable description of job security under nationalisation?