HC Deb 25 March 1976 vol 908 cc632-6
Mrs. Thatcher

Will the Leader of the House announce 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 29TH MARCH and TUESDAY 30TH MARCH [Supply: 15th Allotted Day]—debate on the Green Paper on Direct Elections to the European Assembly, Command No. 6399.

At the end on Monday, remaining stages of the Rating (Caravan Sites) Bill [Lords].

At the end on Tuesday, remaining stages of the Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths Inquiry (Scotland) Bill [Lords] and of the Damages (Scotland) Bill [Lords].

WEDNESDAY 31ST MARCH and THURSDAY 1ST APRIL—debate on the Statement on the Defence Estimates 1976, Command No. 6432.

At the end on Wednesday, motion relating to the Fiduciary Note Issue (Extension of Period) Order.

At the end on Thursday, motion on the Industries Development (Northern Ireland) Order.

FRIDAY 2ND APRIL—Private Members' motions.

MONDAY 5TH APRIL—Supply [16th Allotted Day]: topic for debate to be announced.

Mrs. Thatcher

Does the right hon. Gentleman recollect that earlier in the week he anounced that the Second Reading of the Weights and Measures &c. Bill had been postponed for a reason which he gave as giving further time for further consultation? Will he give an undertaking that before the Bill is proceeded with, if it is to be proceeded with this Session, we shall have a debate in Government time as part of the process of consultation?

Mr. Short

I answered a question on this matter the other day and I said that we could not hold out any hope of giving a day for a pre-Second Reading debate. But we shall allow adequate time for consultation.

Mr. Golding

Has my right hon. Friend seen a report that the BBC is interested in broadcasting the Budget? Is he aware that many hon. Members support this idea, and will he tell the House his attitude?

Mr. Short

Yes, Sir, I have seen the Press report and I have been approached by a number of hon. Members on the matter. If there is a desire to broadcast the Budget, it could be done rather simply but only if the House approves the matter on a motion. If there is a general desire on this score, I shall undertake to table a motion.

Mr. Lawrence

In view of the recent figures showing an appalling increase in juvenile crime, will the right hon. Gentleman consider having an urgent debate on the conclusions of the Select Committee Report on the working of The Children and Young Persons Act which has now been before the House for almost a year?

Mr. Short

That is one of the matters which the House can debate when we come to discuss some of the Select Committee Reports.

Mr. Buchan

My right hon. Friend is aware of the anxieties and disquiet over the EEC agricultural price package, particularly in regard to certain regulations that came before the House and were then withdrawn. Surely the time has come for Labour Members not to wait for the Opposition to do anything about the matter but to initiate a debate on the whole EEC price review so that these matters can be properly discussed and the views of the House made known to our Ministers.

Mr. Short

I have undertaken to find time for the two Orders mentioned by my right hon. Friend. There will be a resumed debate on that subject before Easter. As for a general debate on the settlement, I am afraid that I cannot give any time for that purpose. I pointed out to the House last week that in the last 20 years there have been five spring debates on this subject, each one of which was in Supply time.

Mr. Grylls

Has the right hon. Gentleman any news on the point I put to him last week about a debate in Government time on the draft NEB guidelines promised in reply to a point made last week by my hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Mailing (Mr. Stanley)? Since this is an urgent matter, could the right hon. Gentleman do something about the situation?

Mr. Short

I agree that I said something on this topic last week, and I shall try to find time to debate the guidelines.

Mr. Jay

If we do not have a debate next week on the EEC Order on skimmed milk powder, may we at least have that debate in the week afterwards? The Government's present attitude appears to be that they make decisions in Brussels with no regard to the opinions of this House.

Mr. Short

I do not accept the last words uttered by my right hon. Friend. I explained this matter carefully to the House a fortnight ago. What my right hon. Friend said is not correct. On the general point, I cannot promise time for a debate on this topic next week. I shall look at the situation in the week following. I shall undertake to find time to debate the matter before we rise for Easter.

Mr. Molyneaux

As there appears to be some degree of urgency over the Northern Ireland Order dealing with social security and family allowances, will the right hon. Gentleman consider the possibility of dealing with those orders after Northern Ireland business on Thursday next?

Mr. Short

I shall examine the matter and let the hon. Gentleman know.

Mr. Ogden

Is my right hon. Friend aware of reports that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy does not intend to reappoint Sir Derek Ezra for a further term as Chairman of the National Coal Board? Is he aware that this is causing difficulty and anxiety in many parts of the coal industry? Will he urge my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy to come to the House as early as possible next week to refute these reports and to make a statement?

Mr. Short

I thought that my hon. Friend had been long enough in the House to know that he should not believe everything he reads in the Press.

Mr. Watt

Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise the need for an early debate on the future of the British fishing industry, in view of the negotiations on a common fishery policy and the Law of the Sea Conference? When shall we have a White Paper on this subject?

Mr. Short

I cannot say anything about a White Paper. I shall bear in mind the desire of hon. Members on both sides of the House for a debate on this subject. It is a matter that is causing concern to a good many Members.

Mr. Cormack

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is time we debated the subject of Rhodesia? Is it not absurd that we should debate in the House matters of much less importance, when the whole of Southern Africa stands on the brink of what could be terrible disaster?

Mr. Short

I appreciate the concern of hon. Members in all parts of the House on this subject. I shall pass on the hon. Gentleman's comments to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary.

Several hon. Members rose——

Mr. Speaker

The debate on Northern Ireland affairs is limited to seven o'clock. I also have to consider a matter of privilege and a point of order. Therefore, I shall take only two more supplementary questions on the Business Statement.

Mr. Spearing

With reference to next week's two-day debate on direct elections to the European Assembly, is my right hon. Friend aware that yesterday the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs refused to give an assurance that the draft convention on direct elections, which is to be considered by the Heads of State at the Summit, will be available for the debate? Will my right hon. Friend see to it, in the best interests of democracy, that that document is available to hon. Members and that we do not have only a precis of that document?

Mr. Short

I have before me what my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs told the House yesterday. He said that it was not possible to have this document before us in the House. Usually the Government prepare a full precis which contains all the points. Such a document is being made available.

Mr. Tebbit

If the legislation on weights and measures cannot be brought before the House next week, will that legislation be brought back before the Summer Recess so that we shall know how long we shall have to go without consultation?

Mr. Short

I have said that there will be adequate time for consultation. I do not know how long it will take, but I repeat that there will be adequate time.