HC Deb 13 December 1979 vol 975 cc1534-9
Mr. Speaker

Business Statement—Mr. Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Mr. James Callaghan

In addition to any religious answers that the Lord Privy Seal might care to give, would the Leader of the House care to state the business for next week?

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas)

I shall pass the right hon. Gentleman's comment on to my right hon. Friend. The business for next week will be as follows:

Monday 17 DECEMBER—Second Reading of the Employment Bill.

Motions on the Pneumoconiosis Etc. (Workers Compensation) (Payment of Claims) Regulations and on the Water Charges Equalisation Order.

Tuesday 18 DECEMBER—Proceedings on the Consolidated Fund Bill.

Wednesday 19 DECEMBER—Second Reading of the Health Services Bill.

Motions on the Passenger and Goods Vehicle (Recording Equipment) Regulations, and on EEC document 5247/79 on units of measurement.

Thursday 20 DECEMBER—Second Reading of the Social Security Bill.

Remaining stages of the Protection of Trading Interests Bill.

Friday 21 DECEMBER—It will be proposed that the House should rise for the Christmas Adjournment until Monday 14 January 1980.

[EEC Document 5247/79

Relevant Report of the European Legislation Committee 20th Report, Session 1978–79

H/C Paper No. 10-xx 1978–79 Para. 2]

Mr. Palmer

Will the Leader of the House tell us when we can expect a statement on the expansion of the civil nuclear power programme? It is particularly urgent, in view of the inability of the Government to maintain the secrecy of their Cabinet papers.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I shall pass on the hon. Gentleman's request to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. I remind the House that I have an exceedingly long list of hon. Members with steel constituency interests who hope to take part in the major debate today. Before that there is a statement that, I gather, is also of considerable interest to the House. Therefore, I propose not to go as long on business questions for next week.

Mr. John Wells

Will my right hon. Friend give us some assurance that the excessive number of members of the public wandering round the Palace of Westminster, particularly those parts that are theoretically reserved for Members only, will be substantially reduced in the new year if it cannot be done next week? Will he also make sure that the definition of an Officer of the House is reconsidered? It seems to me and to many of my hon. Friends that far too many people think that they have some extension of public duty, and we could well do without them on this side of Westminster Bridge Road. Let them stay in Norman Shaw South or North.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I shall certainly consider what my hon. Friend said, but it has long been the tradition of this House that there should be as free access as possible for members of the public.

Mr. Molyneaux

Can the Leader of the House indicate when we may expect to debate the motion for the Adjournment for the Christmas Recess?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The recess motion will be taken on Tuesday 18 December.

Mr. Marks

The House has not yet approved the rate support grant or rate support increase orders. When will we have an opportunity to debate those orders?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am afraid that I cannot find time to debate those orders before the Christmas Recess, but I hope that we shall do so soon after we return.

Mr. Adley

I did not hear my right hon. Friend say anything about an announcement on airports policy. I understood that the Government were to make some sort of announcement about what is called the third London airport—which many of us feel is not necessary—before Christmas. Can my right hon. Friend tell me whether the timetable has now been changed, and will he give us an assurance that this matter will not be dealt with by means of a written answer?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Yes, of course I can give my hon. Friend the assurance that a matter of this importance will not be dealt with by a written answer. The Government hope that it will be possible to make a statement on general airports policy next week.

Mr. Harry Ewing

I wish to ask the Leader of the House a question about next week's business, and every week's business for that matter, particularly in relation to Scotland. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that for the second time this week the Scottish Office has published consultative documents—one on the Health Service and one, today, on the assisted places scheme in Scotland—without making those documents available in the House of Commons, either in the Vote Office or the Library? That kind of treatment is intolerable, particularly in view of the fact that last week we had to kick up a row before the Housing Bill was put in the Vote Office. In order to save the Leader of the House further trouble, will he take up this matter with the Scottish Office and make sure that it does not happen again? I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that we shall disrupt Scottish business unless something is done about this serious state of affairs.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am not familiar with the facts raised by the hon. Gentleman, but I shall certainly look into them and have discussions later today with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. I propose to call the hon. Gentleman who has been rising in his place on the Government Benches and five other hon. Members, which I think will give a fair crack of the whip in view of all the business that is to follow.

Mr. Cormack

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that there will be an early debate on the proposals for the new parliamentary building? Will he take this opportunity to confirm that there is no proposal to spend an immediate sum in excess of £100 million, that this scheme has been carefully looked into by the Services Committee, and that it is a phased development? Will he also confirm that the Government have not yet made up their mind?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

From what the Prime Minister said I gathered that it was not a question of not having £120 million but that there was no money available at the moment for this building. However, it is right that the House should have a reasonably early opportunity to debate the subject. We must have an opportunity to decide on a matter that affects the future of the House, and I shall be guided in this matter by the wishes of right hon. and hon. Members.

Mrs. Renée Short

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that twice recently at business questions I have raised with him the urgent need to debate the Royal Commission's report on the National Health Service? Why is he putting forward a Bill next week on the National Health Service when that report has not been debated? Will he change the business for next week so that we have the debate on the Royal Commission Report then and the Bill after Christmas?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

There is a lot to be said in theory for the course advocated by the hon. Lady. But I am afraid that even to oblige the hon. Lady—which I would greatly like to do—I cannot get in a debate on the National Health Service next week.

Mr. Kaufman

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen early-day motion 249 on the Secretary of State for Industry, which has now been signed by 180 right hon. and hon. Members of the House?

[That this House, recalling the statements by the Secretary of State for Industry in relation to the resignation of the National Enterprise Board: 'I had had only one meeting privately with the chairman of Rolls-Royce'(Official Report, 21st November, column 392) and the decision of the Rolls-Royce board to resign if it were left under the supervision of the NEB'(Official Report, 26th November, column 977), and bearing in mind the statement by the Prime Minister: 'I never knew my right honourable Friend the Secretary of State for Industry to mislead anybody'(Official Report, 27th November, column 1104) now finds that in his two statements quoted above the Secretary of State for Industry seriously and culpably misled the House as confirmed by his statements to Standing Committee E on 27th November: 'the three occasions on which I met Sir Kenneth Keith without having warned Sir Leslie Murphy that I was going to do so' (column 165) and 'On the one hand, I had been categorically told by Sir Leslie Murphy and his colleagues that if the Government carried out their proposed intentions, they would all resign; there was no doubt about that. On the other hand, I have had no such explicit assurance from all the members of the Rolls-Royce board' (column 168), accordingly calls upon the Prime Minister to dismiss the Secretary of State for Industry.]

In view of the serious implications of that motion, will he arrange for either the Prime Minister or the Secretary of State to make a statement before the House rises for the Christmas Recess?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I shall certainly pass on that request to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Rooker

Will the Leader of the House arrange for the Prime Minister to make an early statement about the allocation of ministerial duties to the Minister of State at the Treasury, in view of the House of Lords decision this morning in the Rossminster case?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I do not understand the implication of the hon. Gentleman's question.

Mr. Arthur Davidson

Will the Leader of the House oblige me and other Members for Lancashire constituencies by arranging for an early debate on the Lancashire textile industry? As he will be aware, that industry faces a serious crisis, which may get worse after the recess.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I shall bear in mind that request when planning our programme after Christmas.

Mr. Cook

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Parliament of every other country participating in the decision about which we shall shortly hear a statement has had an opportunity to debate the NATO proposals? Is he also aware that the Secretary of State for Defence has revealed outside the House that when she goes to Washington the Prime Minister will discuss with President Carter the replacement of Polaris? In view of that, does not the right hon. Gentleman accept that it is an outrage that the House should rise for Christmas without having debated defence?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

It is not an outrage that we have not had an opportunity to debate defence, although I regret that that opportunity has not arisen. There will be a statement by the Secretary of State for Defence immediately following this business statement and hon. Members will have the opportunity to raise defence matters.