HC Deb 18 January 1979 vol 960 cc1994-8
Mrs. Thatcher

May I ask the Lord President of the Council 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 22nd JANUARY—Motion to appoint the Joint Committee on the Special Commission on Oil Sanctions

TUESDAY 23rd JANUARY—Remaining stages of the Social Security Bill.

WEDNESDAY 24th JANUARY—Completion of remaining stages of the Public Lending Right Bill.

THURSDAY 25th JANUARY—Supply [5th Allotted Day]: debate on an Opposition Motion on the doubling of prices in under five years.

Motion on EEC documents R /1135/ 78, R/1221/78, R/1292/78 and R/3454/ 78 on the steel industry.

FRIDAY 26th JANUARY—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY 29th JANUARY—Second Reading of the Weights and Measures Bill

Mrs. Thatcher

When do the Government propose to make any judgment whatsoever about the new arrangements that the Prime Minister announced this afternoon, whether they are effective, and when they propose to have a debate on the current situation?

Mr. Foot

As was indicated earlier by the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary, there should be another statement tomorrow and, no doubt, on Monday. We should wait and see how we proceed from there.

Mr. Radice

Will my right hon. Friend tell the House about the arrangements for the lobby of local authority and other workers on Monday?

Mr. Foot

I shall make a brief statement in reply to my hon. Friend. Hon. Members will be aware that a large number of people are expected to take part in a mass lobby of the House of Commons on Monday. The usual arrangements agreed by the Services Committee will be in operation. These arrangements are designed to ensure the orderly admission of as many lobbyists as possible to meet their Members, but we cannot hope to admit more than a small proportion of the lobby into the precincts. I therefore appeal to hon. Members to co-operate.

In particular, I ask hon. Members to refrain from taking parties of lobbyists from the queue outside the building, because that is always seen by others as queue jumping and causes unnecessary resentment.

Hon. Members can also help by assisting lobbyists to leave the Grand Committee Room by the North Door of Westminster Hall to New Palace Yard and by limiting their discussions with individual lobbyists in the Central Lobby.

If hon. Members have a complaint about the conduct of the lobby, they should speak to the Deputy Chief Whip, the Serjeant at Arms or myself. Notes of guidance on mass lobbies are available in the Whips' offices for any hon. Member who wishes to examine them.

Mr. Michael Marshall

In his statement the Home Secretary spoke mainly about the regions. Will the Lord President tell his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry that it would be helpful if we knew which industries are worst affected, so that we can identify them when giving help?

Mr. Foot

I shall take into account what the hon. Member has said and see how best we can deal with that in a statement next week.

Mr. Madden

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the director general of the BBC is seeking money from the Government in advance of the further increase in the price of the television licence? A prayer was tabled against the last increase in the television licence fee. When will the debate that was promised some time ago take place?

Mr. Foot

I cannot say at the moment, but I am aware of the undertaking that I gave.

Mr. Grylls

Will the Leader of the House reconsider this afternoon's business? We are to discuss a Bill that proposes to raise the borrowing limit of the National Enterprise Board to £4,500 million. The matter is of great importance to many hon. Members. Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the business so that we may have a proper debate in an adequate amount of time?

Mr. Foot

I understand the unavoidable inconvenience to which the House is subjected as a result of today's situation, but it is necessary for the Bill to proceed. We must accommodate the whole of the House. It would not be convenient for the House to change today's business.

Mr. Spearing

Does my right hon. Friend remember that he and the Government have yet to redeem the pledge given in November 1977 about a motion to be moved on the Floor of the House about Ministers assenting to Brussels legislation? When will the Government table the motion? Will it be before or after the promised debate on the Select Committee's report on procedure generally?

Mr. Foot

I cannot give my hon Friend a date, but I can assure him that I am fully aware of what has occurred. I am sure that if my memory lapses my hon. Friend will remind me.

Sir David Renton

We understand that the Attorney-General has been advising Ministers on the law of picketing. Will the Leader of the House ask the Attorney-General to make a statement to the House about that early next week, especially on its application to the present circumstances?

Mr. Foot

I shall consider that request without making a commitment. We shall have to deal with statements on the general situation. Such statements eat into the time of other debates. I am not sure whether we should have a statement on the legal aspect next week, but I shall consider the suggestion.

Mr. Hoyle

Will my right hon. Friend arrange for an early debate on microelectronics and word processing, because that will affect the life of all the people in the nation? It is an important and vital subject, which should be debated.

Mr. Foot

The Government issued an important statement on that subject just before Christmas. It is a strong candidate for a debate when we have the time.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

I shall call those hon. Members who have been standing.

Mr. Rhodes James

Will the Leader of the House ensure that the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food makes a statement to the House early in the week? There is profound concern, not only among those who represent agricultural constituencies, about the impact of the crisis on their areas.

Mr. Foot

That is a proper suggestion, and I shall consider it. We must consider which Ministers the House wishes to hear.

Mr. Wells

Will the Lord President arrange for the Home Secretary to make a statement early next week, or as soon as possible, about the staffing in the prison service and in particular in such prisons as Maidstone, where very naughty men are imprisoned for long periods?

Mr. Foot

I shall consult my right hon. Friend, but there are other strong candidates for statements in the next few days.

Mr. Silvester

Will the Lord President undertake to provide time for a debate on the report of the Select Committee on Procedure before Easter?

Mr. Foot

Yes, I certainly hope that we shall have one before Easter.

Mr. Michael Latham

Will the Lord President clarify the chain of command for dealing with the emergency, so that hon. Members may raise constituency problems directly? Many hon. Members, including myself, have had useful co- operation with the regional emergency committees and also with the private office of the Secretary of State for Transport. Are we now to deal with the Home Secretary, as it appears that he is in command of these matters, as far as anyone is?

Mr. Foot

As the hon. Gentleman has acknowledged, he has had useful results from the representations that he has already made, and I suggest that he should continue in that sense. But, as the Home Secretary indicated from the Dispatch Box in reply to a number of questions, he can also receive representations on the subject from Members of Parliament.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

I appreciate what the Prime Minister said this afternoon about the Home Secretary having a coordinating role in the present emergency. Will the Leader of the House invite the Secretary of State for Scotland to make a statement to the House early next week on the position in Scotland, bearing in mind that some aspects of the emergency are more serious in Scotland and that the Secretary of State for Scotland is alone responsible for most of the emergency services north of the border?

Mr. Foot

As has already been indicated, the Home Secretary presides over the committee dealing with this matter. Whether it would be helpful to the House to have a, series of Ministers who are also on the committee making replies is a matter for consideration. I am doubtful about it. but I shall take into consideration the hon. Gentleman's representations.