§ 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 3RD JULY—Supply [27th Allotted Day]: until about 7 p.m. a debate on the threat to patients from disputes in the National Health Service, on a motion for the Adjournment.
Afterwards, the Ulster Unionists have chosen to debate, on a motion for the Adjournment, rural planning in Northern Ireland, when the Cockcroft Report will be relevant.
Proceedings on the Representation of the People Bill.
Remaining stages of the Theft Bill [Lords].
TUESDAY 4TH JULY—Supply [28th Allotted Day]: a debate on an Opposition motion on employment.
Motion supplementing the Order of the House of 16th November last relating to the Scotland Bill.
WEDNESDAY 5TH JULY—Progress on the Report stage of the Finance Bill.
THURSDAY 6TH JULY—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Scotland Bill.
FRIDAY 7TH JULY—Motions on the Appropriation (No. 2) (Northern Ireland) Order and on the Northern Ireland (Financial Provisions) Order.
MONDAY 10TH JULY—Consideration of Private Members' motions until 7 o'clock.
Afterwards, debate on EEC document R/1577/78 on the 1979 preliminary draft budget, when documents R/1104/ 78 and R/519/78 will be relevant.
§ Mrs. Thatcher
May I put two points to the right hon. Gentleman? First, will he give more information on the guillotine motion on Lords amendments to the Scotland Bill? How many days are to be provided, and when shall we see the motion? Secondly, will he undertake to provide a day before the House rises for the Summer Recess to debate Rhodesia, a situation that looks very urgent?
§ Mr. Foot
On the second matter, I think that we must see how we proceed in these matters generally. The House debated Rhodesia a few weeks ago, but I note the right hon. Lady's representations.
On the subject of the timetable motion on the Scotland Bill which is to be taken on Tuesday, I can tell the right hon. Lady that the motion will be tabled on Monday. We have been giving some consideration to the amount of time that we should provide and we were thinking of two or three days. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] We thought that probably three days would be the more satisfactory arrangement.
§ Mrs. Thatcher
But if the motion is not to be tabled until Monday, we shall not have proper chance to amend it. With respect, I believe that the motion should be tabled in time to give hon. Members the chance to amend it and to state that that is the case on the Order Paper.
§ Mr. David Steel
Still on the subject of the Scotland Bill, will the Leader of the House confirm that the other place took exactly the same time as we took, but discussed the whole Bill, whereas we discussed only parts of it because of the delaying tactics of certain Members of the House? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Will he confirm that the timetable motion will be arranged so that it is possible to ensure that on this occasion the House will be able to debate those parts of the Bill that were not discussed on the previous occasion?
§ Mr. Foot
I believe that we should seek to make arrangements so as to satisfy the right hon. Gentleman on the second matter he mentioned. As for any reference to delaying tactics in previous discussions, the right hon. Gentleman and the House know how hesitant I always am to make any charges of delaying tactics against hon. Members in any quarter of the House. I should not on this occasion like to start discussion on an acrimonious note.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins
May I draw the attention of my right hon. Friend to Early-Day Motion No. 422, which has been signed by 174 Members drawn from all parts of the House and which calls for an independent public inquiry into hormone pregnancy test drugs? Will he ask the Secretary of State for Social Services to make a statement to the House next week announcing that he has decided to set up this inquiry? I am not seeking to pre-empt the situation. I am merely asking for it to be looked into.
[That this House notes that children have been born with serious deformities due to hormone pregnancy test drugs; that no official warnings were issued about these drugs until eight years after the first reports indicating the possible dangers; that some doctors continued to prescribe the drugs for pregnant women after official warnings of the Committee on Safety of Medicines; that the Department of Health and Social Security have continuously rejected requests for an inquiry into these matters; and now calls upon the Secretary of State to set up an independent public inquiry.]
§ Mr. Foot
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services, in considering the matter so far, has not 1576 taken the view that a public inquiry is the best way to proceed. I gather that the matter has been raised on a number of occasions in parliamentary Questions. The Government have been seeking to provide all the information we can. However, I shall take into account my hon. Friend's representations, without making any specific undertaking. I shall discuss the matter with my right hon. Friend as soon as I can.
§ Sir David Renton
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the number of days required for consideration of the Lords amendments to the Scotland Bill must depend to a considerable extent on whether the Government agree to accept amendments? In formulating the timetable motion and in presenting it to the House, will he bear that in mind and let the House know, when this matter is debated, how many amendments the Government will accept so that we may form a proper judgment?
§ Mr. Greville Janner
Will my right hon. Friend say whether the House will have the opportunity to discuss the problems of the restoration of the powers which were taken away from many of our great cities and put in the hands of counties? Is that matter to be left over until the autumn, or will the House have the opportunity to discuss it before the Summer Recess?
§ Mr. Foot
I cannot promise my hon. and learned Friend that we shall discuss that matter in the next few weeks. During this period there are considerable pressures on Government and parliamentary time. I have sympathy on the major matter of policy which he mentioned, particularly in view of the shameful outrage perpetrated on my native city of Plymouth by that proposal. I assure him that I approach the subject with great sympathy.
§ Mr. Powell
Does the right hon. Gentleman still hope, despite the absence of co-operation from the Opposition, to arrange for a debate before the House rises for the Summer Recess on the consequences of New Commonwealth immigration, which will give the Opposition 1577 the opportunity to confirm on the Floor of the House that their policies in this respect would have no effect on the prospective future size of the New Commonwealth population?
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. May I tell the House, before I call any further hon. Members on business questions that we are to have a shortened debate on the subject of pharmacists? There are to be four Front-Bench speakers in that shortened debate. I hope that that fact will be borne in mind while we are dealing with business questions.
§ Mr. Abse
May I draw the attention of my right hon. Friend to the Prayer against the Health and Safety (Genetic Manipulation) Regulations relating to genetic engineering? Since three reports since 1975 have been submitted to Parliament, none of which has been debated, and since there has been no public statement of any kind on the matter—which, despite the boon it could bring, could also produce tremendous hazards—will he discuss with the Secretary of State for Social Services whether we could have an hour-and-a-half debate on the regulations?
§ Mr. Foot
I acknowledge the importance of the regulations to which my hon. Friend refers, but, as I have said earlier in reply to other supplementary questions, we are pressed for time in the coming few weeks. I cannot promise a debate on the regulations in the House itself, although the matter could be debated upstairs. I know that that suggestion is not always regarded as satisfactory, but I hope that my hon. Friend will examine that possibility before we consider any other alternative.
Mr. du Calm
When does the Leader of the House expect to make a statement on updating of Members' remuneration within the Government's present guidelines? Is the right hon. Gentleman also aware that there seems to be increasing support for the proposal made by the right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. 1578 Hughes) and myself, among others, that the wise way of dealing with the matter in the long term may be to re-establish the Boyle Committee and to see that its recommendations are continuously updated with a view to the Government that comes in after the next General Election being obliged, if necessary with phasing, to implement the recommendations in full?
§ Mr. Foot
I have had representations from the right hon. Gentleman, my right hon. Friend the Member for Anglesey (Mr. Hughes) and others. It may be that, on the second matter raised by the right hon. Gentleman, that will be the way for us to proceed. I am sure that all these matters will be discussed when we have the resolutions on Members' pay before the House. I doubt whether a statement will be necessary before then. The debate on the resolutions which are required will be the best way to proceed. The other matters mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman will be relevant at that time.
§ Mr. Ashley
Is my right hon. Friend aware that I am amazed at his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) that he probably could not find time to discuss genetic engineering experiments? Is he aware that these experiments have been compared in importance with the splitting of the atom and that we badly need safeguards, which do not exist at present, laid before the House? If we cannot discuss this vital question in the next few weeks, the House should not be sitting at all. Will my right hon. Friend kindly reconsider his answer and take account of the important nature of this subject?
§ Mr. Foot
I am not, in any sense, diminishing the importance of the subject. That was not my intention in my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) and no one could have construed my answer in that way. There are provisions on how we may have debates on such matters, but the House can decide how debates take place and private Members also have their rights in this respect. The House should not get into the attitude of thinking that private Members who wish to raise matters in private Members' time are not raising important subjects.
§ Miss Harvie Anderson
Does the Lord President consider it appropriate so to arrange the business for next Thursday as to demand the presence of Scottish Members at Westminster when he knows that they have been commanded by the Head of State to be in Edinburgh?
§ Mr. Foot
That has always been my understanding. We have sought to provide as much time as possible between the conclusion of the discussion in another place and the bringing forward of the Bill in this House. That is why we propose the debate for next Thursday. We were taking account of the requirements and convenience of hon. Members in all parts of the House who will wish to take part in the debates on the Lords amendments.
§ Mr. Kilroy-Silk
Can my right hon. Friend confirm the report in The Times today that the Government have seen sense and are scrapping their ineffectual White Paper on the reform of the Official Secrets Act and substituting a much more sensible and far-reaching freedom of information Act?
§ Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg
When the Lord President is preparing his Business Statement for next Thursday, will he see whether he can find time to honour his undertaking that the House will be able to debate the Services Committee report on the new parliamentary building before the Session ends?
§ Mr. Foot
I do not think that I promised that we could debate that before the end of the Session. I said that we would look at the possibilities. If the hon. 1580 Gentleman looks at my reply last week, he will see that I was guarded enough not to give such an undertaking. I agree that it would be highly desirable to have a discussion on this matter, but there is a long list of highly desirable subjects that I am sure the House would wish to discuss and we have only just about one month left to get in all those debates.
§ Mr. Roy Hughes
May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the serious situation that is developing in the steel industry over the proposed closure of the Bilston and Shelton steelworks and the fact that next week we are to have the annual statement of accounts of the British Steel Corporation? Could the Lord President therefore arrange for an early debate on these important matters?
§ Mr. Higgins
Is the Leader of the House aware that the chairman of the Advisory Council on the Penal System, whose report this week advocated a reduction in the length of maximum criminal sentences, said that she hoped that this would influence the courts in advance of legislation? In view of the grossly irresponsible nature of some of those recommendations against the background of rising crime in this country, should not the House debate the report immediately so that we can express our views?
§ Mr. Palmer
When considering whether to allocate time to the discusssion of genetic engineering on the Floor of the House, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the Select Committee on Science and Technology is at present investigating the subject?
§ Mr. MacKay
Bearing in mind the atrocities committed in Rhodesia last 1581 week by the Patriotic Front, is it not irrelevant for the Lord President to say that we had a debate on Rhodesia three weeks ago? Are not these major new developments so important that the country will expect us to be discussing them in the very near future? Will he reconsider his answer to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and arrange for a debate next week?
§ Mr. Foot
I cannot arrange for a debate next week and I do not think that the right hon. Lady asked for that. I certainly do not think that my reply was irrelevant. We had a debate on the subject and many of the considerations were discussed by the House at that time. I said that I would take into account the right hon. Lady's representations, but that was not a commitment and I am sure that she appreciates that fact.
§ Mr. Raphael Tuck
Has my right hon. Friend considered Early-Day Motion No. 252, which has been signed by a good number of hon. Members on both sides of the House? Can he give us a debate on the subject or make a statement about it?
[That this House notes that when an honourable Member voluntarily decides not to seek re-election to the House of Commons he receives no redundancy pay at all and in many instances does not qualify on the grounds of age for a pension; considers that there is a glaring anomaly in as much as an honourable Member elected in February 1974 and defeated in October 1974 received three months' salary, while other honourable Members can have served 20 years or more and who, on grounds of ill health, age or for personal reasons, decide not to contest the next election do not receive a penny after polling day; and urges the Government to take urgent steps to rectify this matter at once.]
§ Mr. Stephen Ross
Is the Leader of the House aware of the growing concern over the challenge to our national heritage? If there is not time for a debate on the subject, can he please make a 1582 statement to the House on the report of the Expenditure Committee on the future of the Land Fund? This is a matter that requires an urgent decision by the Government.
§ Mr. English
Is it true that the cause of the present dispute between the House and its catering staff is that the latter seek pensions and other conditions comparable with those of catering staff who serve the Government across the road? If so, what is my right hon. Friend doing to solve the dispute?
§ Mr. Foot
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising this matter. I have no doubt that hon. Members in all parts of the House are very concerned about it. I apologise for the great inconvenience that is being caused to hon. Members throughout the House by what is happening. The House will be aware that there is disruption. I very much regret that it has occurred and that I cannot say whether services can be restored today. I met the appropriate union representatives yesterday as soon as I heard details of the dispute, and I expressed the view that I should be glad to have a further meeting with them. I shall be glad to do that today or tomorrow. We must try to get the dispute into some orderly procedure, and if my hon. Friend can assist in that process, I shall be very grateful. I am eager for the dispute to be discussed in a proper way. I shall do everything that I possibly can to try, with the persons concerned, to get the resumption of proper facilities for hon. Members.
§ Mr. Fell
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Surely the answer given by the right hon. Gentleman was in the nature of a statement. If an answer is given in that way, it makes it difficult to question the right hon. Gentleman. Surely the right hon. Gentleman should make a statement to the House in the usual way.
§ Mr. Foot
I was responding to my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English), who asked me a question. 1583 I have not given any notice of a statement. I thought that I was meeting the desire of the House in responding to the question put by my hon. Friend. I have indicated that I am eager to do everything possible to overcome the dispute. However, we must adopt the proper and normal procedure properly to solve the dispute.
§ Mr. English
Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will my right hon. Friend now answer my particular point —namely, whether the staff are seeking conditions comparable with those of civil servants catering over the road for members of the Government?
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I do not think that the House wants to debate the matter now. It is up to the Lord President whether he replies.
§ Mr. Foot
I do not think that we should debate the matter now. However, I say to my hon. Friend that I am not prepared to pass judgment on the comparability of others working in other places until we have gone into the issue in proper detail and used the proper procedure. I believe that that is in the interests of hon. Members and of those who serve the House in this respect.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It does not follow the point of order of my hon. Friend the Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell). Should there not be a statement on the dispute? How are hon. Members to know the nature of the arrangements or disarrangements? I am told that there is a little bit of paper pinned up somewhere. Is that the only way in which the House is to be informed of the interruption in its activities?
§ Mr. Foot
I thought that I was replying to a question put to me perfectly courteously by my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, West. I thought 1584 that I dealt with it in a reasonable way. If hon. Members think that thereby they are being denied the opportunity to put questions to me, I shall make a brief statement at the end of my remarks so that hon. Members may question me further. I hope that they do not thereby think that I have a major statement to make, because I have not. I have already said everything that I think it wise to say at present.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. If we are to have a statement at the end of business questions, bearing in mind the further business, I hope that everyone will be very brief.
§ Mr. Tebbit
I revert to business questions. Does the right hon. Gentleman recollect that last week he inadvertently, perhaps, suggested that there would not be legislation to continue the Government's statutory control over dividends? The Chief Secretary to the Treasury, today said that there would be a statement, as statutory controls expire within five weeks. There is now considerable uncertainty. Assuming that the Cabinet is agreed on what it should do, will the Lord President arrange for a statement to be made next week?
§ Mr. Ioan Evans
I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to the guillotine measure on the Scotland Bill. There are a large number of amendments coming from another place on clauses that we have not debated in this place. Will my right hon. Friend consider the possibility of having short debates on the amendments and having some time limit on speeches so that there may be a wide expression of opinion in the House?
§ Mr. Foot
My hon. Friend must not tempt me. If we were to have a timetable motion on his speeches, there would be plenty of time available for other business. Motions containing provisions for stopping hon. Members from speaking are very serious matters and would involve a major interference in the rights of Back Benchers. I shall not be tempted in that direction.
§ Mr. Marten
Early-Day Motion No. 501 is headed by hon. Members representing six different parties and calls upon the Spanish Government to open the frontier with Gibraltar. As the issue is merely a legacy of the Franco regime, may we have a debate on this absurd situation this week, or shortly before we rise?
[This House calls upon the Spanish Government to open the frontier with Gibraltar.]
§ Mr. Foot
I hope that the situation will be solved as reasonably as possible in the interests of the people of Gibraltar. I am sure that in that respect I agree with the hon. Gentleman. However, I cannot promise an early debate. I am not sure whether that would be the best way of securing the aim that we have in common.
§ Mr. Foot
The hon. Gentleman has put that question many times before. I do not think that we shall be able to carry through that measure in this Session, but I shall consider further its publication. I believe that the House is fully aware of the situation. We have not raised any false hopes and we have lived up to the promises that we made.
§ Mr. Budgen
I remind the right hon. Gentleman that the House has debated the general issue of immigration on only two occasions since the General Election —on 24th May 1976 and 5th July 1976. If those are to be the only two occasions for general debate on the subject between the two General Elections, does he think that the House is fulfilling its proper parliamentary function of discussing the issues of concern to the nation?
§ Mr. Foot
I am not objecting to the possibility of having a further debate on immigration. I agree with what the hon. Gentleman says and what the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) has implied. Obviously, it is a matter of great public interest, so we must consider whether we should have a debate. However, it is not only the Government who make these arrangements.
§ Mr. Peter Bottomley
Given the Prime Minister's interest in my right hon. Friend's speech on the future of pay, given my interest in the Prime Minister's view on the future of pay and given the Lord President's statement on Tuesday that a statement would come in due course, when will a statement be made? Will it come before the present stage of the pay policy runs out, and will there be a debate on pay?