HC Deb 21 July 1977 vol 935 cc1850-7
Mrs. Thatcher

May I ask the Lord President 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 25TH JULY—Completion of the remaining stages of the Finance Bill.

TUESDAY 26TH JuLY—Debate on the Select Committee Report on the Conduct of Members.

Debate on the Joint Select Committee Report on sound broadcasting.

Motions on the African Development Fund Order and on the Assistance for House Purchase and Improvements Order.

Debate on the motions on Members' allowances, salaries and pensions.

WEDNESDAY 27TH JULY—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Control of Office Development Bill and of other Lords Messages which may be received.

Proceedings on the National Health Service Bill [Lords] and the remaining stages of the Employment Protection Bill [Lords], which are consolidation measures.

Motions on the orders on dividends. pay and prices.

THURSDAY 28TH JULY—Proceedings on the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill.

Consideration of any Lords Messages which may be received.

FRIDAY 29TH JULY—It Will be proposed that the House should rise for the Summer Adjournment until 26th October.

Mrs. Thatcher

May I ask the Leader of the House whether, on Wednesday, for the debate on dividends, pay and prices there will be three orders? Does the right hon. Gentleman intend to take them separately, or together, and when will the orders be available?

Secondly, the right hon. Gentleman said that the Summer Recess would cease on 26th October. As there does not seem to be much legislation left for the spillover, can he say when he plans the State Opening of the new Session?

Mr. Foot

On the first question, I think that the debate could take place on these matters together, but there will be three separate motions.

On the second question, we are hoping that it will hardly be necessary to have any spill-over at all. What we suggest is that the House should meet in the new Session on Thursday 3rd November.

Mr. Mellish

May I ask two questions on the debate on Tuesday concerning the behaviour of Members of the House? First, what form will it take? Do the Government intend to put down a motion? If so, may we have an indication of what motion it will be? Will it be a "take note" motion, or an "approval" motion?

Secondly, for how long will the debate continue? Is it intended to stop it at, say, 7 o'clock? Will the debate be stopped at 7 o'clock because of other important business? It is important that hon. Members should know what is to happen, because this will be a free vote of the entire House and it is important that we should have that fact in mind.

Mr. Foot

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for raising this matter. It is important that the House should know what is proposed. This is not a Government matter. A motion will be put down in my name asking for approval of the report from the Select Committee and it will be open to hon. Members, if they wish, to put down amendments.

As for the timing of the debate, I do not think it would be envisaged that we should end the debate at 7 o'clock. How long the House will wish to discuss this subject will be a matter for the temper of the House at the time. I think that we should proceed on that basis. What we shall be doing is following the precedents in these matters.

Mr. Beith

As the proceedings on the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill often last all night, is there not a risk to any Lords Messages on the Housing (Homeless Persons) Bill, or Private Members' Adjournment motions, which will start at 11 a.m. on Friday?

Mr. Foot

It is the case, as the hon. Gentleman suggests, that the debate on the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill normally goes on all night. We have put down a reference to Lords Messages on that day as well as on the previous day because it is conceivable that we might not be able to deal with all the matters on Wednesday. We shall seek to do it then, but, if not, we shall seek to ensure that we can get the Housing (Homeless Persons) Bill through on Thursday. In any case, we wish to make provision to ensure that the Bill reaches the statute book.

I hope that it will not be necessary to use a day for that purpose in any spillover, if we have one. I hope very much that the House will co-operate in ensuring that the Bill, which has strong backing in the House, passes all its stages next week. I hope, too, that we shall get full co-operation from another place in helping that to happen.

Mr. Blaker

In view of the serious situation in Rhodesia and reports that the Cabinet has overridden the Foreign Secretary's suggestions about policy in that country, and the visit that the Foreign Secretary is to pay to Mr. Vance at the weekend, is it not important that the House should have a statement on this subject from the Foreign Secretary before we rise for the recess?

Mr. Foot

I suggest to the House that it should dismiss from its mind all kinds of reports inThe Timeson that subject —[Hon. Members: "AndThe Guardian."]—andThe Guardian,if it has on this occasion to share guilt withThe Times, but normally it isThe Timesalone that leads in these matters. On the major question, I agree that there should be a statement, and I think that one will probably be made by the Foreign Secretary on Monday.

Mr. Prescott

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the publication of the Fowler Report on the Hull prison riot which concluded that liberal regimes led to riotous opportunities? Does my right hon. Friend agree that the House should be given an opportunity to debate this important matter particularly since the Home Secretary is considering the report and since I have received letters warning me about further riots this summer as I did before the Hull riots—a fact which was acknowledged in the Fowler Report?

Mr. Foot

I can assure my hon. Friend that he will have an opportunity to raise this matter next week during the Consolidated Fund Bill debate. That should not pre-empt further debate on the subject.

Mrs. Chalker

When will the Government introduce a revised social security uprating order, because the original order had to be withdrawn because it was ultra vires?

Mr. Foot

We are looking to see whether it is necessary to take further action.

Mr. Greville Janner

Is time to be given to the Unfair Contract Terms Bill, which is so important? When are we to have the motion for the Adjournment of the House for the Summer Recess?

Mr. Foot

I hope that the first matter will be dealt with by the House tomorrow. I agree with what my hon. and learned Friend said about that measure. If it is not dealt with tomorrow, it will be one day next week. We are hoping that the Adjournment motion will be taken on Thursday.

Mr. Wyn Roberts

Do the Government intend to make a statement on devolution before the recess and, if so, when? Can the Leader of the House confirm that we are to be faced with two Bills—one for Scotland and one for Wales—in the next Session?

Mr. Foot

It is the Government's intention to make a statement on devolution before the recess. I believe that it will be made on Tuesday. I ask the hon. Member to await that statement before he jumps to any conclusions about that or any other aspect of the matter.

Mr. John Mendelson

May we return to the tradition of having the debate for the Adjournment earlier than on the last day before the House rises? Experience has shown that there is a larger House earlier in the week. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we do not want this debate to become perfunctory, with less attention being paid to it?

Mr. Foot

I understand my hon. Friend seeking to have the debate earlier in the week, but I have not found that the debate has been perfunctory in any sense in recent times. We have always had a considerable amount of discussion. If it were to be moved to Wednesday it might be thought that the business that would have to be transferred from Wednesday to Thursday was perfunctory. That is not so. Wednesday's business is very important. We must ensure that it gets through. I am sure that we shall have a good debate.

Mr. Pym

Does the Leader of the House remember that in the 1970 Parliament he always complained that the Adjournment motion was taken on the last day? Is it not the case that he now invariably moves that motion on the last day? That is strange when one remembers what he used to say when he sat on these Benches.

Mr. Foot

The motion is not to be moved on the last day. Friday is the last day. In any case, I do not recall making many complaints on that score. I had more important complaints to make against the previous Administration. I am sure that the debate will work well.

Mr. Marten

Is the Leader of the House aware that there have been three Council of Ministers' meetings in Europe this week—on finance, agriculture and the budget? Is he aware that according to the Press those meetings resulted in the taking of important decisions, or non-decisions? May we have an assurance that we shall have statements on all three of those topics next week, otherwise, the House will be kept in the dark except for what it reads in the Press?

Mr. Foot

I know well the commitments which the Government have about making statements on these matters. We seek to follow the general rule which we laid down about statements being made as frequently as possible. We hope that there will be a statement on these matters next week. Since the hon. Member follows these matters closely, I am sure he will agree that, even though we are not yet perfect in this respect, there has been a considerable improvement in the last six to eight months in the way in which these matters are brought to the House.

Mr. Spriggs

Will my right hon. Friend reconsider his statement about the reassembly of the House on 26th October bearing in mind the length of time that hon. Members are expected to sit, both day and night, and the damage to the health of hon. Members and their families? In view of what has happened over the last few months, will my right hon. Friend reconsider the date and bring us back to the House earlier?

Mr. Foot

I do not think that that proposal would command the unanimous approval of the House. We shall be debating this question on Thursday. The question of the hours of sitting is being discussed by the Committee on Procedure. Every time committees look into that question they discover some of the problems of seeking to say that the House should limit its periods of recess. We have not solved these problems.

Mr. Michael Morris

May we have a statement before the recess on the footwear study group and on the Government's policy on new towns?

Mr. Foot

I hope that we shall have a statement on the footwear industry next week. I am not sure on which day, but I expect that it will be on Monday. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will be making a statement tomorrow on some of the subjects raised in the question put to me by the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten).

Mr. John Evans

In view of the Press reports this morning that the Council of Ministers has slashed the regional policy fund by about 50 per cent. and in view of the unsatisfactory debate that we had on Monday, is it not important to have a statement next week about the Council of Ministers' actions in this respect?

Mr. Foot

I shall bring that representation to the attention of my right hon. Friend. As the House will see, these matters are attended to instantly. The hon. Member for Banbury had only to ask a question and I came back in a minute to gratify him.

Mr. Gow

When will the Government lay the orders to give effect to the rise in school meals charges from 15p to 25p?

Mr. Foot

That is not a matter to be discussed next week, thank God. It will be discussed in detail later.

Dr. Hampson

Is the Leader of the House aware of the arrangements that were made for the distribution to hon. Members of the Green Paper on which we are about to have a statement? Is he aware that at 11.30 a.m. the Secretary of State's private office told me that a batch of copies of the Green Paper was coming immediately to the House, that they arrived at 12.30 p.m. but were embargoed until 3.30 p.m.? Is this an efficient way of dealing with the matter? There are 25,000 words and yet we received them only half an hour before the making of the statement. Does the Leader of the House consider that this is courteous? Is he aware that my hon. Friends the Members for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) and Brent, North (Dr. Boyson) received information from the Press, the members of which received their copies of the Green Paper early yesterday? I understand that a special messenger was sent over and arrived at noon with one copy. May we have an early debate in the House on this important matter?

Mr. Foot

I shall look into the matters mentioned by the hon. Gentleman. I would not accept what he has said without looking into the details. I do not think he knows all the background. No doubt my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science will be able to answer all the points made by the hon. Gentleman. There is no question of discourtesy to the House. If the hon. Gentleman has any representations to make, perhaps he should put them in a rather more inquiring manner rather than make dogmatic assertions.

Mr. Rhodes James

What is the Government's attitude towards the Guardianship (Amendment) Bill relating to the rights of grandparents to apply for access to their grandchildren? In view of the very strong support for the Bill among right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House, and in view of the considerable public interest in it, is the the right hon. Gentleman in a position to make a statement about the Government's attitude to it?

Mr. Foot

I understand that my right Friend the Home Secretary is looking into the matter with his customary sympathy. If that satisfies the hon. Gentleman, I am very glad to hear it.