§ 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 28TH FEBRUARY—Supply [9th Allotted Day]: there will be a debate on the economy in Wales, on a motion for the Adjournment.
At seven o'clock, the Chairman of Ways and Means has named opposed Private Business for consideration.
TUESDAY 1ST MARCH—A debate on foreing affairs, which will arise on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.
WEDNESDAY 2ND MARCH—Second Reading of the Coal Industry Bill.
Remaining stages of the Returning Officers (Scotland) Bill.
THURSDAY 3RD MARCH—Supply [10th Allotted Day]: the Question will be put on all outstanding Votes.
There will be a debate on the burden of personal taxation.
Motion on EEC Documents SI752/76 and 1/427/76 on export credits.
FRIDAY 4TH MARCH—Private Members' Bills.
MONDAY 7TH MARCH—Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill.
§ Mrs. Thatcher
As I think that we may be waiting for the Lord President's next statement, may I just put two points to him? First, as it looks as if we shall have just a little more time in the near future, will he arrange for a two-day debate on the Public Expenditure White Paper within the next week or two? Secondly, as it is widely reported that there will be a rather important meeting on direct elections tomorrow, may we expect a statement on Monday?
§ Mr. Foot
I do not know whether there will be any necessity for any statement on Monday, but I will take the right hon. Lady's representations into account.
On the question of having a two-day debate on public expenditure, I cannot promise a second day yet, but we shall 1633 certainly consider the right hon. Lady's representations.
On the first matter the right hon. Lady mentioned, it is the case that I wish to make a statement a little later.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Before I call the next hon. Member to put a question, may I point out that there are two major statements to follow? I hope that that fact will be borne in mind. May I give hon. Members a word of advice? Those who manage to catch my eye to ask a question on the Business Statement may not be as lucky on the other matters.
§ Mr. Dalyell
Would the Lord President find time next week for the Private Member's Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Kelvin-grove (Mr. Carmichael) and entitled "Presumption of Death (Scotland) Bill"? Perhaps, Mr. Speaker, we could go quite wide on it.
§ Mr. Beith
If the Lord President is about to announce to the House good reasons why we should not proceed with the Scotland and Wales Bill next week, would not these reasons apply equally today? Will he say something about that?
§ Mr. John Mendelson
I remind my right hon. Friend of the number of questions he was asked on Thursday of last week requesting a debate on unemployment and the economic problems resulting therefrom and his promise that he would seriously consider those requests. Is he now in a position to make an announcement about such a debate?
§ Mr. Maurice Macmillan
In view of what may be changed circumstances, will the Leader of the House try to find time for a debate on the motion which stands in my name and the names of many right hon. and hon. Members on both sides? I believe he agrees that it is important to debate this motion quickly.
[That, in the opinion of this House, the ruling given by the Chairman of Ways and Means on Thursday 10th February 1977, in selecting for debate in Committee of the whole House on the Scotland and Wales Bill the Procedure Motion, new Clause 40 and Amendment 679, all in the name of the Leader of the House, ought not to be cited or drawn into precedent on any future occasion.]
§ Sir G. de Freitas
On the matter of a Bill dealing with direct elections to the European Parliament, do the Government realise that the Boundary Commission procedure is likely to take a very long time? Will they consider instead a very short Bill concentrating on the existing regions and counties, which worked very well in the referendum? Would they also consider bringing in a simple system of proportional representation?
§ Mrs. Bain
Will the right hon. Gentleman find time for an early opportunity to debate the Early-Day Motion in the names of my right hon. Friend the Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) and the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Evans), since the question of continuing confidence in the Government is essential to the people of Scotland and Wales?
[That in view of their handling of the Scotland and Wales Bill, and their consequent loss of general credibility, this House has no confidence in Her Majesty's Government.]
§ Mr. Foot
I would certainly agree if the hon. Lady were saying that the continuance of this Government is essential for the welfare of the people of Scotland. I do not think that it is necessary to have a debate on such an obvious proposition. No doubt the Leader of her party will be discussing these matters with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister when they meet later this evening.
§ Mr. John Evans
Does my right hon. Friend accept that some of us are very concerned about the future of the shipbuilding industry? When does he intend to bring forward the Bill to bring about the nationalisation of the shipbuilding and aircraft industries? Obviously, something must be done quickly if we are to retain a viable shipbuilding industry in this country.
§ Mr. Foot
I follow what my hon. Friend says. The Government are fully aware of the necessity to do everything we can to aid the shipbuilding industry. Of course, we greatly deplore the fact that the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill is not already on the statute book.
§ Mr. Edward Gardner
Has the Lord President seen the motion on the Order Paper in my name and the names of many of my right hon. and hon. Friends urging the Prime Minister to procure a speedy settlement to the present police pay dispute on the principles that were applied to settle the seamen's pay dispute?
[That this House, believing that an efficient and contented police force is indispensable to the maintenance of the Queen's Peace, calls on the Prime Minister to procure a speedy solution to the police pay dispute on the principles applied in the case of the seamen's pay settlement.]
Will the Lord President arrange for a statement to be made by the Home Secretary early next week so that we can hear about, and if necessary debate, this very urgent problem?
§ Mr. Foot
I have noted that motion. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary last saw representatives of the Police Federation on 15th February, when he discussed the pay question. Another meeting will be held shortly, and I hope that 1636 a satisfactory conclusion will be reached. I do not accept the analogies with the seamen's position to which the hon. and learned Gentleman referred.
§ Mr. McNamara
Before my right hon. Friend or any of his colleagues makes a statement in the House following tomorrow morning's discussions, will he bear in mind that some of his hon. Friends would like to be considered in those discussions and that no irrevocable decision should be taken tomorrow without consultation with his party supporters, so that they may continue to support him in the past as they have in the future—[Laughter.]—I mean, so that they may continue to support him in the future as they have in the past?
§ Mr. Michael Latham
In view of recent gross scandals and the need to contain public expenditure, why on earth has the Lord President put down for First Reading today and Second Reading soon a Bill to expand direct labour departments?
§ Mr. Ward
If my right hon. Friend is facing the prospect of some slots in the Government's legislative timetable, will he look again at the place of the Road Traffic (Seat Belts) Bill, which, if enacted, could save us 19 lives a week?
§ Mr. Higgins
Will the Lord President save parliamentary time by dropping the Water Charges Equalisation Bill. since the Government have now been forced to admit that it cannot come into operation 1637 this coming year, and it is likely to be overtaken by other legislation?
§ Mr. Spriggs
Since the Prime Minister stated today that it is the Government's intention to carry on with the Scotland and Wales Bill, why should we go on with the debate and hold up the referendum which has been promised?
§ Mr. Adley
In view of the continuing disgraceful campaign against Concorde being waged by certain people in New York, will the Lord President do his best to prevent Anglo-American relations deteriorating on this issue and accordingly invite his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade to come to the House early next week and make the statement which he said he would give?
§ Mr. Loyden
Is my right hon. Friend aware that, since unemployment is now becoming the most important factor facing the House and the country, it is absolutely astonishing and shameful that we are not now discussing this vital question? Does my right hon. Friend realise that the future fate of the Labour Government will rest upon solving the problem of unemployment?
§ Mr. Foot
I do not dissent from my hon. Friend's view about the seriousness and importance of the unemployment situation and the necessity for the House to discuss it in all its aspects. But it is not the case that the House has not been discussing and will not discuss it. We shall be discussing it, for example, on Monday this coming week, and there will be a whole series of occasions in coming weeks and months when the matter can, quite properly and rightly, be discussed in the House.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ Mr. Lomas
May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he would come back to the Back Benches, where we enjoyed his presence so much and where he did not try, as he is now doing, to push through the devolution Bill, which has been defeated, damned and finished? Will he make a statement to the effect that the devolution Bill is now dead, and will he concentrate his future activities on our unemployment problem?
§ Mr. Skinner
Does my right hon. Friend agree that integrity is one of the most important values for a politician to hold, and, on that basis, will he resist with every breath left in his body the attempt to bring in a Bill for direct elections to Europe—a device to assist those who want to put thousands of pounds more in their pockets in order to gallivant around Europe and be missing from this place at the same time?
§ Mr. Lipton
May I help my right hon. Friend with the statement on devolution which he is about to make? Has he noted Early-Day Motion No. 190, which suggests that a convention should be held?
[That this House recalls that, at the last General Election, the Conservative, Labour, Liberal and Scottish National Parties all included within their manifestos a commitment to an elected Scottish Assembly; regrets the intransigence of the Government, in refusing to consider all-party opinion on training appropriate enabling legislation; and now calls on Her Majesty's Government, in the light of the widespread reservations 1639 on the Scotland and Wales Bill, to accept the proposals of the Right honourable Member for Cambridgeshire for the immediate establishment of a constitutional Convention, on an all-Party basis, to implement the manifesto commitments referred to in this Motion.]
May I suggest that it might be worth while adopting that suggestion, provided that the convention met seven days a week and for 12 hours a day it made up its mind what it wanted?