HC Deb 13 July 1979 vol 970 cc888-90
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make an announcement rearranging the business for Monday next. Until 7 o'clock there will be a debate on the 1980 preliminary draft Community budget, when EEC documents 7633/79, 5528/79 and 6405/79 will be relevant.

Afterwards, until 10 o'clock, we shall debate the Third Reading of the Education Bill followed by the remaining stages of the European Assembly (Salaries and Pensions) Bill.

Mr. Foot

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the rearrangement of business that he has made in response to our requests. We believe that it will assist the whole House and we are grateful to him for doing so. I put to him a further matter. He will have heard the sense of outrage that has been expressed by my hon. Friend about the situation in the steel industry. Will he understand that that sense of outrage is fully shared by the official Opposition and those who follow developments in the steel industry in detail? I ask the right hon. Gentleman to take account of the need to have an early decision upon the steel industry. We should at least have that, whether it is confined to Shotton or whether it includes larger matters.

Will the right hon. Gentleman also take into account that there may be efforts by individual hon. Members to exercise their rights to raise the matter under Standing Order No. 9? Will he appreciate that the official Opposition fully share the views that have been expressed by my hon. Friends and recognise that we shall have to have a full debate on the subject before we depart for the Summer Recess?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I note what the right hon. Gentleman has said on the steel industry and the closure announced this morning. I am aware of the extremely important economic and social considerations that are involved. I shall think about what he has said. I thank him for his remarks on the rearranging of the business and for his help in that matter. I believe that the solution is in the best interests of the entire House.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. I shall call the three hon. Members who have been rising to ask a question.

Mr. Christopher Price

I, too, thank the right hon. Gentleman for rearranging the business. However, will he arrange a debate next week—or refer the matter to the Procedure Committee—on the constitutional implications of money resolutions in Bills that affect local authority expenditure, which was the trigger that set off the difficulties which led to Third Reading of the Education Bill not being taken last night? Will he accept that that is an important matter which, if left lying around, will arise again and again? Does he agree that it should be sorted out?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Yes. I was fascinated by the hon. Gentleman's reflection on the subject. I agree that it is an important issue. I shall consider how the matter may best be resolved.

Mr. Cryer

Will the Leader of the House consider spending a whole day on the Community budget? Does he realise that the debate concerns a contribution from the United Kingdom of £1 billion, a sum sufficient to maintain all the jobs at Shotton, Corby and a good many more besides? Does he accept that it is not satisfactory to have part of a day on the Community budget and part of a day on the Education Bill? The Education Bill, a shabby little measure, deserves rather more than three hours on Third Reading. Will he accept that the idea of rushing through this business to get it out of the way so that the parliamentary Session may conclude at the end of July is wholly unacceptable? There is plenty of time this summer, and we should debate these important issues at greater length.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I agree that it is not totally satisfactory not to have a whole day's debate on the Community budget. I have been in difficulties here. There must be a debate before 23 July. At any rate, there will be a debate on the matter, which I think is of help.

Three hours is not abnormal for the Third Reading debate on the Education Bill. I agree that it is an important Bill, which is supported by the electorate.

I have no personal objections to sitting into August. I should be happy to sit for the whole of August, but I believe that there are other views in the House. Perhaps I shall have to subordinate my personal wishes to those of the House.

Mr. Winnick

As it is likely that by noon a new, higher mortgage interest rate will be announced, could it be arranged for the Secretary of State for the Environment to make a statement later today? Would the Leader of the House bear in mind that if the rate went up more or less immediately many millions of householders would be hard hit? Is it not essential that the matter be dealt with on the Floor of the House as quickly as possible today?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I note the point made by the hon. Gentleman, but I cannot arrange business statements on the basis of hypotheses. The Government have made their position quite plain, that there is no need to raise the mortgage rate. I hope that the result thought likely by the hon. Gentleman will not occur.