HC Deb 10 June 1976 vol 912 cc1668-84
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 14TH JUNE—Supply [24th Allotted Day]: there will be a debate on Northern Ireland security, on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

At seven o'clock the Chairman of Ways and Means has named opposed Private Business for consideration.

Motion on the Food Subsidies (Increase of Financial Limit) Order.

TUESDAY 15TH JUNE—Second Reading of the Energy Bill [Lords].

At seven o'clock the Chairman of Ways and Means has named opposed Private Business for consideration.

Motion on EEC Document on Baking Tests (Cereals).

WEDNESDAY 16TH JUNE—Remaining stages of the New Towns (Amendment) Bill and of the Armed Forces Bill.

THURSDAY 17TH JUNE—Debate on developments in the European Communities, November 1975 to April 1976, Command No. 6497, when EEC Documents on the Greek application, the Tindemans Report, textiles, aid to non-associated countries and New Zealand butter will be relevant.

Motion on EEC documents on employees' rights and company law.

FRIDAY 18TH JUNE—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY 21ST JUNE—Supply [25th Allotted Day]: subject for debate to be announced later.

Mrs. Thatcher

In view of the new assessment of legislative priorities, will the Leader of the House tell us whether he proposes to give time for petitions on the Shipbuilding and Aircraft Industries Bill which people have a right to make and for them also to be heard, or does he propose to leave them with the right to make them but without the right for the House to hear them?

Secondly, will he tell us why, despite representations every week and yesterday, he has made a positive decision not to allow the House of Commons to discuss the pay restraint policy before the TUC discusses it on Wednesday?

Mr. Foot

To take the right hon. Lady's second question first, if the House and the Opposition had wished to have a discussion on the pay situation and proposals before the meeting of the TUC on 16th June, it would have been open to them to ask for such a debate. As I mentioned to the right hon. Lady when she asked me on an earlier occasion whether there would be a White Paper on the subject, there will definitely be a White Paper and that will be open for debate and decision by the House according to the manner in which such matters have been dealt with before and were dealt with last year. I hope that that satisfies the right hon. Lady on that point.

On the first point, I do not accept the right hon. Lady's premise that there has been an alteration in legislative priorities. We cannot take everything at once. Therefore, we are making the arrangements that I proposed to the House.

Regarding the particular point about petitioners, that cannot be dealt with by a reply to the right hon. Lady at this time. We had to deal with an entirely unprecedented situation. We are not extinguishing the claims of petitioners in any sense. Petitioners have never had any Standing Order that protected them if rules on hybridity were raised long after the Second Reading of a Bill. I think that more and more people throughout the country are beginning to understand that we had a very good case and that the Government dealt with it in a proper way.

Mrs. Thatcher

I have asked the right hon. Gentleman almost every week about an economic debate—[HON. MEMBERS: "Yesterday."]—and he has consistently refused such a debate.

I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that his understanding of the parliamentary system is that people have a right to petition, but that he is prepared to deny them the right to have their petitions heard.

Mr. Foot

The right hon. Lady is not entitled to jump to that latter conclusion. I suggest that she examines the matter further before making such assertions.

Regarding the allowing or providing of time for an economic debate, I am not sure whether the right hon. Lady wants another day such as we had yesterday, but we certainly had a debate then in which economic affairs were fully covered. The arrangements of the House of Commons are such that when the Opposition wish to force a debate on economic affairs, particularly when they are uppermost in the minds of the nation, they have full facilities for doing so. Yesterday, when the right hon. Lady was suggesting that I was trying to interfere in some way with that right, she was under a severe misapprehension.

Mr. Beith

Does the Leader of the House recognise that it will be difficult to have an orderly and clearly focused debate on so diverse a jumble of EEC documents as is set down for Thursday, ranging, as they do, from the Greek application to New Zealand butter?

In the light of what the Prime Minister said, will the right hon. Gentleman or the Patronage Secretary take an opportunity of setting out what he sees as the Government's side of the story regarding the vote which took place before the recess? Does he realise that many people inside and outside this House are prepared to judge the matter fairly if they have the facts before them but that the words used give the impression that there were some cosy arrangements on both sides which it would be too embarrassing to disclose?

Mr. Foot

I have nothing to add to what the Prime Minister said on that subject. The way that he proposed to deal with the matter is the best way from the point of view of the House of Commons. That is also what I said on the Friday morning after the debate.

I fully accept what the hon. Gentleman said about the EEC documents. The arrangements for the debate on that day mean that a wide number of subjects will be covered. That is one of the problems of dealing with all the EEC matters that have necessarily to come before the House. I hope that the subjects I have indicated will enable Members to consider what can be covered. There is a list of the documents in the Vote Office. As a number of documents are involved, I thought it convenient to publish the list in Hansard. We may still have to have some further individual debates. I would not rule out that possibility. However, I hope that we shall be able to make progress in covering the important questions discussed in this House if we are to give proper consideration to EEC business.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

Is my right hon. Friend aware that I did not hear him say that the debate on the Public Lending Right Bill would be resumed next week? Is he aware that although there are sometimes unavoidable reasons for the adjournment of business, on the occasion concerned there were only two Opposition speakers to be heard so that the House is now in the position of being almost at the end of a Second Reading debate on that matter? Since only a short time will be required to complete that debate, will my right hon. Friend, even at this late stage, still try to fit the Bill into our proceedings?

Mr. Foot

When my hon. Friend refers to the Public Lending Right Bill, he touches not only my heart but possibly my pocket as well. I am eager to see that Bill make further progress. However, I am sorry that I cannot provide further time for that measure next week. We are looking for an opportunity to find the amount of time necessary for the passage of the Bill.

Mr. John Davies

With regard to next Thursday's debate on EEC matters, will the right hon. Gentleman recognise that for those of us who are accustomed to speaking in late-night watches on EEC matters, it will come as a refreshing experience to speak on those subjects in the course of the day? Will he also consider a question which I put to him some time ago and to which at the time he gave a relatively positive answer—namely, the possibility of a Government statement on the Tindemans Report, which will enable a future debate to take a more realistic turn?

Mr. Foot

I regret that I have not responded to the right hon. Gentleman's request for a statement to be made before the House debates that topic. I shall examine whether there is a possibility of so doing, or whether the matter can be dealt with by the Minister in opening next week's debates. I shall look at what was promised and see how best we can fulfil the promise made to the right hon Gentleman.

Mr. Cryer

Will my right hon. Friend consider enlarging a little on the subjects to be debated on Thursday relating to the EEC, particularly that relating to textiles? He will appreciate that there is urgent need to debate the textile industry and the clothing manufacturing industry because both suffer badly from cheap imports, despite the slight upturn in the textile trade.

Secondly, will he tell the House whether any time has been allocated to debate the subject of a register of lobbyists of Parliament, since a good deal may emerge about what happened on 27th May and in the preceding days as a result of the efforts of lobbyists on behalf of the Bristol Channel Shipbuilders and Ship Repairers?

Mr. Foot

That is a much wider subject. I cannot promise an early debate on that matter, but I am sure that it would provide fascinating information for the country.

On the subject of the EEC debate, what my hon. Friend suggests in regard to the textile measure will be in order in the forthcoming debates. Let us see how we proceed. Let us see what is left over so that we may then decide whether we shall have further individual debates. There is great difficulty in providing time to debate these matters. We are doing our best as I explained to the House a week or two ago.

Mr. Biffen

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that on 22nd June there will take place a much-publicised Energy Forum at Church House, which will be addressed by the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Energy, and which forum a vast number of extra-parliamentary bodies have been asked to attend and to give evidence? This contrasts starkly with the miserable half-day offered to the House to discuss energy legislation in respect of the obligations relating to the International Energy Agency and the whole area of energy conservation. In the interests of all those hon. Members who are interested in the subject of energy conservation, will he consider whether we may have a full-day's debate on that legislation?

Mr. Foot

I fully accept the force of the hon. Gentleman's remarks. The fact that we have not proposed such a debate does not indicate any lack of enthusiasm for the subject. We are eager that the country should know what is to be said by the Government on 15th June and at the forthcoming conference. However, as everybody in the House recognises, we are short of parliamentary time and cannot provide all the time required for all matters.

Mr. Michael Stewart

In regard to Thursday's business, does my right hon. Friend recollect that this is by no means the first time that European business has been set down for discussion in this House during a week when the European Assembly is sitting? This means that Members of this House who are also Members of the European Assembly are bound to be charged with dereliction of duty in one direction or the other. Will he say whether the situation just happens in that way, or whether it is part of Government policy?

Mr. Foot

I can assure my right hon. Friend that it is not part of Government policy, and in the discussions that took place on the arrangements for that debate we said that we would do our best to avoid such a clash. However, there are difficulties in these matters and the operation of two Parliaments at the same time underlines the problem.

Mr. Cormack

In view of the Prime Minister's comments this afternoon about disputed votes, will the right hon. Gentleman arrange for that matter and all the events that took place on 27th May to be referred either to the Procedure Committee or to a Select Committee of this House?

Mr. Foot

I do not think that that is the way in which the House has dealt with problems of that kind in the past, and I do not think that it is the best of proceeding on this occasion. I have nothing to add to what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said earlier.

Mr. Faulds

Will the Leader of the House accept that I am not a fractious fellow and that I am easily satisfied? [Hon. Members: "Oh."] Does he recall that his predecessor in office, my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, Central (Mr. Short), showed bland unconcern about the telephone system in the House because apparently his own telephone occasionally worked? I have now filled a record of 20 pages with details of malfunctioning of my telephone in the House over a period of five months. The total has now reached a figure of 300 occasions of malfunctioning. Is there anything my right hon. Friend can do to get the telephone system in the House to work much more efficiently in the interests of hon. Members?

Mr. Foot

Leaving aside the incredible premise from which my hon. Friend started his remarks and leaving aside any criticism that he may have inserted about my predecessor in office, who I am sure sought to deal with this matter in the best interests of the House, I turn with greatest sympathy to the conclusion which he reached. I shall examine what my hon. Friend said and see whether we can do something about the situation.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

If I may take up the point made by the right hon. Member for Fulham Mr. Stewart), is it true that the Leader of the House did not realise that the European Parliament was sitting in plenary session next week? I cannot believe that he did not know. If so, why did he table all these EEC matters for discussion at a time in the Session when 24 hon. Members will be abroad attending the European Parliament? It is monstrous that the right hon. Gentleman should bring forward those matters for discussion on such a day.

Mr. Foot

What I said in response to my right hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. Stewart) was that it was not Government policy to seek to discuss EEC matters in this House when the European Assembly happened to be sitting. It is a fact that we have to fit in the business of this House, and sometimes the business in this House must take priority over some other assembly.

Sir G. de Freitas

Does my right hon. Friend remember that two or three weeks ago I asked him to consider the possibility of debating the Government Green Paper on water supplies? Does he recognise that successive Governments have not taken seriously the water problems of the East Midlands and East Anglia?

Mr. Foot

I appreciate what my right hon. Friend says, but I cannot promise an immediate debate on the matter.

Mr. Watt

Will the right hon. Gentleman say when the Government will make time available to discuss the future of the fishing industry and so remove some of the uncertainly that constantly hangs over that industry?

Mr. Foot

The statement made by my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary earlier in the week raised matters in regard to fishing policy generally. We shall examine whether we can secure time to discuss the matter. However, I cannot give any immediate promise.

Mr. Jay

Will the Leader of the House give an assurance that when the House shortly considers the proposed Order on eviscerated chickens, the debate will take place on the Floor of the House rather than in some Committee?

Mr. Foot

I understand the interest in all quarters of the House on this subject, and I also know the ability of the House in seeking to ensure that these debates take place on the Floor.

Mr. Jasper More

In regard to what happened on 27th May, and irrespective of any discussion between the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, having regard to the fact that the hon. Member for Staleybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) did not vote in the first Division but voted in the second, and also having regard to the fact that, as a Government Whip, he could not pursue that line of conduct without his being subject to the express direction of the Government, will the Leader of the House arrange in the course of the following week for the Prime Minister to make a formal apology to the House? Alternatively, will the Leader of the House make an announcement that the Government do not intend to proceed with the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill?

Mr. Foot

For the reasons given by the Prime Minister, and for the reasons that I have given on other occasions, I do not think that this is the way in which to discuss these pairing questions, but I certainly sake this opportunity of repudiating any criticism whatsoever of my hon. Friend the Member for Staly-bridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry).

Mrs. Millie Miller

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind, when considering the complaint of my hon. Friend the Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds), who made so many criticisms of the telephone services of the House, that the House of Commons (Services) Committee has had proposals from the Post Office which, if implemented, could well cost the House about £4 million and employ an area equivalent to Westminster Hall in installing a new system of the kind that the Post Office recommends?

Mr. Foot

I thank my hon. Friend. I shall also have a look at what she has suggested.

Mr. Marten

Concerning the miscellany of EEC documents to be considered on Thursday, does not the Leader of the House, on reflection, think that he is treating the Community with the contempt that it deserves?

As to the question of the vote on "Black Thursday", it would be appreciated by the House if the Government Chief Whip would make a statement comparable to that made here by my right hon. Friend the Opposition Chief Whip.

Mr. Foot

If I unravelled all the implications of the hon. Gentleman's question, I am not sure whether at the end the proper response would be to say "Yes" or "No". Therefore, I think I had better leave that point.

I appreciate the difficulties of the House in dealing with EEC business, as all the Members of the House who attended the debate a week or two ago will recognise. We are seeking to overcome those difficulties, and this EEC debate is one part of that effort. We do not by any means claim that it is a fully satisfactory way of dealing with the matter.

Mr. Peyton

I echo, in rather a restrained way, the congratulations offered by my right hon. Friend the Member for Knutsford (Mr. Davies) to the Leader of the House on having found some daylight hours for the discussion of European documents, but we have rather a mass of paper to consider on that day, and I hope that the Leader of the House will be a little more restrained on future occasions on the supply of paper. Secondly, I echo the complaint made by my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) that the day chosen is a singularly clumsy choice, in that all those who have the most intimate acquaintance with European affairs will be at the European Parliament.

Mr. Foot

Sometimes the complaint made against this Government and previous Governments on this matter is that too few documents have been supplied. Now I gather that the complaint is that there are too many.

I understand the criticism that is made by hon. Members from all sides of the House about the concurrence of the Parliament here and the Assembly in Strasbourg, but sometimes that difficulty has to be overcome by the method we have used on this occasion. We certainly have no deliberate policy of trying to do this. The right hon. Gentleman and the rest of the House should recognise that other Members also have a right to join in these debates. We have to order the business of the House primarily to suit this House.

Mr. William Hamilton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that Conservative Members of the Assembly pleaded to be paired next week? Would be not think it appropriate if we took all the remaining stages of the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill in Ascot week, and if we had running three-line Whips on every day when there was a Garden Party?

Mr. Foot

We have had a look at the legislative possibilities in Ascot week, and I can assure my hon. Friend that we cannot absolutely rely upon them. But I will not be pressed, even by my hon. Friend, to discuss the question of pairs.

Mr. Kimball

Is the Leader of the House aware of the demands on all sides of the House for an opportunity to debate the Swann report on the veterinary profession, and that this report is particularly appropriate now in view of the misunderstanding concerning the European regulations on poultry, and also in view of the threat of rabies?

Mr. Foot

I was not fully aware of the demands on all sides of the House for such a debate. I am better aware of them now.

Mr. Skinner

Will my right hon. Friend make the necessary arrangements to debate and subsequently to set up an official public inquiry into the workings of the Bank of England, with specific reference to illegal currency dealings, the evasion and non-payment of the dollar premium, and all the subsequent events leading to the debate which took place this week?

Will my right hon. Friend agree that this is especially important in view of the fact that in this week we have agreed to a Police Bill which removes from the police their obligations to investigate their own difficulties and problems, and that therefore, on that basis, it must be wrong for Treasury officials to carry out an investigation into what is happening at the Bank of England? Will my right hon. Friend not agree that we need to have an independent look at the whole of this matter?

Mr. Foot

I cannot promise any such inquiry, but that is obviously a question that my right hon. Friend could raise in a general debate.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke

Has the Leader of the House noticed the Prayer put down some weeks ago on the subject of the invalid care allowance? The Government are intending to pay the allowance in July, without the House having debated the regulations. No one wants to stop the new allowance from being paid, but there are some particularly serious problems of eligibility which should be discussed. Will the Leader of the House agree that, as the Government have lost their nerve in regard to their most controversial legislation, this might be a more useful way of spending the time next week?

Mr. Foot

The proposals put before the House by the Government for discussion next week all relate to serious matters which have to be discussed, but I shall have a look at the point made by the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Urwin

Is my right hon. Friend prepared to comment further on the conduct of business outside the House of Commons next week, with specific reference to the serious limitations imposed upon his ministerial colleagues with regard to their meetings with their counterparts in different parts of the world, including Europe? Having regard to the attitude of the Opposition, who I understand are keen to be represented in the European Parliament next week, will my right hon. Friend undertake to tell their official spokesmen just how important it is for all Members of the House of Commons who are involved in the fora in Europe—the Council of Europe, Western European Union and the European Parliament—to be present in order to represent the British Government and the British Parliament?

Mr. Foot

I certainly agree with my hon. Friend, and I hope it will be understood throughout the House that the proper conduct of the Government's business requires as soon as possible the restoration of the operation of the usual channels. That is what we wish to secure.

Mr. Hannam

With regard to Tuesday's business, will the Leader of the House, in accepting that two and a half to three hours is a totally inadequate time in which to discuss the Energy Bill, consider allowing the House to return at 10 o'clock for further discussion of that very important Second Reading debate?

Mr. Foot

I will look at it but I will not make any promise. There is quite a lot of business that the House still has to transact after 10 o'clock, I am sorry to say. I cannot make any promise but I will see whether there is a chance of doing it.

Mr. Wrigglesworth

Has my right hon. Friend noticed Early-Day Motion No. 408 on the Child Benefit Scheme, standing on the Order Paper in the names of a substantial number of hon. Members on the Government side of the House? Will my right hon. Friend give time for the House to debate this subject before the Government introduce their proposals and fall flat of their face?

[That this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government to honour its commitment to implement the Child Benefit Scheme in full from April 1977.]

Mr. Foot

I certainly appreciate how strong is the feeling of my hon. Friends on this subject. They have taken the opportunity on occasions in the House to make representations about it. I cannot promise a debate in the immediate future but I am sure that my hon. Friend and others will continue to make representations on the subject.

Mr. Clegg

Is the Leader of the House aware of the deep anxiety in Fleetwood and Humberside about the fishing industry? Is there likely to be a statement next week from the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food about Government plans to deal with the situation?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I asked the previous Secretary of State for the Environment when a statement would be made about the Central Lancashire New Town? He said that a statement would be made in the spring but the present Secretary of State said that it would be made in the summer. When is summer coming in?

Mr. Foot

I shall have to look up the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question. There must be a statement on fishing policy, as my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary indicated earlier in the week, but I cannot say that it will be next week.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

Will my right hon. Friend set aside a short period in the near future in which the House can discuss ways of preventing the illegal importation of animals from abroad to guard against the horrific and terrifying disease of rabies?

Mr. Foot

Of course the Government are fully aware of the deep concern about that subject, but I cannot promise an early debate in Government time. The subject is to be raised on the Adjournment next week. The absence of the provision of Government time does not mean that we are not doing everything that we possibly can to deal with the matter.

Mr. Dykes

On the subject of the EEC, is not the configuration of documents even less logical than the right hon. Gentleman said because of the cereals debate being taken separately on Tuesday? Will the Leader of the House reconsider, in view of his suggestion of a compromise, taking Tindemans separately and putting it nearer the European Council's summit meeting? Will he treat the House with less contempt? The basis of the procedure on EEC business is totally unsatisfactory, above all when the European Parliament is meeting.

Mr. Foot

I repudiate any suggestion that the Government are treating the House with contempt. No hon. Member who attended our recent debate would subscibe to that view. It was not a view held by those who took part in the debate. Whatever their views on the Common Market, hon. Members on both sides recognise that it is an extremely difficult matter for the House. We are trying to overcome the difficulties. I am not saying that the procedure is ideal and I am not suggesting that we can dispose of all the subjects simply because they are put down on the same day. Let us see how we proceed and see what else needs to be done.

Mr. Loyden

In spite of the crammed programme, will my right hon. Friend seriously consider setting aside time for a brief discussion on the sugar industry? Is he aware of the decisions that are pending in the industry and the possible effects that they might have on the employment situation on Merseyside?

Mr. Foot

There are great difficulties in providing time for a debate, but that does not depreciate the importance of the subject. I know that it is important to my hon. Friend's constituency and to other constituencies. I know the representations that he and others have made to Ministers, but I cannot promise an immediate debate.

Mr. Michael Latham

Has the Leader of the House seen Early-Day Motion No. 412 which deals with the alleged South African connection? Will the Govern- ment do something about the deafening silence of the previous Prime Minister on his serious allegations?

[That this House believes that the time has now come for the Prime Minister to tell the House and the country what hard evidence, if any, is available to the Government to link either South African companies, or the South African Security Services, with smear campaigns against British politicians, and from what sources any such evidence might come; is tired of having to rely on leaks, hints or exposures in the media, or the bizarre public allegations of individuals who subsequently retract them; and further believes that this matter, which involves serious allegations against a major trading partner of the United Kingdom, must now be publicly cleared up as a matter of urgency.]

Mr. Foot

I am not sure that the normal allegation against the previous Prime Minister was that he was guilty of deafening silence. I cannot promise an early debate.

Mr. Forman

As the Government have indicated that they will publish a White Paper on the outcome of the UNCTAD IV negotiations, will the Leader of the House seriously consider an early debate on that important subject, which is of interest to hon. Members on both sides of the House?

Mr. Foot

I accept the desire for a debate on that matter and I recognise its importance. But the House will have understood from the questions put to me in the last 20 minutes that if we were to provide time for debates on all subjects, we would have no prospect of rising for the Summer Recess at a time when summer is still here. I hope that hon. Members will take that into account.

Mr. Lipton

On the subject of the Summer Recess, will my right hon. Friend consider the possible generous use of the guillotine so that we can get through all the business?

Mr. Foot

Such dangerous thoughts are never absent from the mind of any Leader of the House and they are bound to be taken into account at some stage or other. I am not making any prophecies. My hon. Friend's suggestion is one of the most constructive that we have had.

Mr. Madel

How many days are the Government giving to the Report stage of the Dock Work Regulation Bill? As this is a controversial measure and because the industry wants to talk to the Government more about it, could we not postpone it until the autumn? The Government are always saying that they do not want to cause trouble, and more time would be helpful.

Mr. Foot

I know how constructive the hon. Gentleman's proposals were as a member of the Committee which considered the Bill. We want to get the Bill on to the statute book as soon as we can. The workers in the docks want it and we cannot accept any proposal for postponing it until the autumn.

Mr. Gow

Does the Leader of the House remember that during the debate a fortnight ago today when he was urging the House to suspend the Standing Orders relating to the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill, the principal argument that he advanced was the great urgency of getting it on to the statute book? How does he reconcile that with his statement today that the Bill will not be considered next week?

Mr. Foot

I still think that it is right that the House should get the Bill on to the statute book this Session. The fact that we have made no announcement for it to be included in the business next week does not prevent that from happening.

Mr. Luce

Will the Leader of the House be more forthcoming about the disputed vote, in view of the fact that there might have been cheating? Because of the harm that that is doing to Parliament, will he do what he can to clear up the matter?

Mr. Foot

I have nothing to add to what was said by the Prime Minister during exchanges with the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition and I do not believe that any answer to the hon. Gentleman's question would assist now.

Mr. Rost

Will the Leader of the House make a first move towards redeeming his reputation by allocating further time to the Second Reading of the Energy Bill [Lords]? Does he not agree that this contentious and important Bill was considerably amended in another place and that he should consider allocating a full day to it?

Mr. Foot

I recognise the importance of the Bill. In response to an earlier question I said that we would look at the possibility of returning to it after the Private Business set down for seven o'clock. I cannot make any promise about it but the fact that we have been able to allocate only this amount of time is not a reflection on the importance of the Bill.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider his answer on the Dock Work Regulation Bill and try to achieve a fuller implementation of the child benefit provisions, which are of more benefit to the people but which seem to have suffered from the Labour Party's changes of policy in the last month?

Mr. Foot

There are many important measures that we would like to add to the list of measures to be passed through the House. The Dock Work Regulation Bill has been examined fully in Committee and it is for the good of the country and for the proper procedures of the House that we should get that Bill on the statute book. That does not preclude us from proceeding with other matters as well.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Does not the Leader of the House think that it is time the Government Chief Whip made a statement about the events of 27th May now that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Mr. Fairbairn) has identified the hon. Member who broke his word that he would not vote that night, and thereby the House passed by one vote that shameful motion?

Mr. Foot

I repudiate entirely all the pejorative phrases the hon. Gentleman uses about other hon. Members. I do not think that that is the proper way in which questions should be put in the House.