HC Deb 15 November 1979 vol 973 cc1505-12
Mr. Foot

May I ask the Leader of the House 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)

The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY 19 NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Civil Aviation Bill.

TUESDAY 20 NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the British Aerospace Bill.

Remaining stages of the Charging Orders Bill [Lords].

WEDNESDAY 21 NOVEMBER—Debate on EEC documents 9093/79, 9369/79, 9721/79 with Addendum 1, COM(79)620 Final, 9250/79 and related unnumbered documents—fortunately—on the general budget of the European Communities.

THURSDAY 22 NOVEMBER—Supply [6th Allotted Day]. The subject for debate to be announced later.

FRIDAY 23 NOVEMBER—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY 26 NOVEMBER—Second Reading of the Transport Bill.

Mr. Foot

I have two matters to raise. First, we should naturally welcome a statement to the House either tomorrow or Monday on the Zimbabwe-Rhodesia conference. Secondly, in the light of the statements made this morning and the Chancellor of the Exchequer's projected statement this afternoon, I presume that the Government will be rearranging at least one day's business next week to provide for a discussion of those measures in Government time.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

On the first point, I shall pass on the request to my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal. On the second, an Opposition Supply day may be thought appropriate for a general discussion on economic policy.

Mr. Foot

May I disillusion the right hon. Gentleman right away? There are many individual crimes and misdemeanours committed by the Government that we shall quite properly wish to discuss on our Supply days, but when a Government introduce measures of a far- reaching nature, affecting the employment of our people and the entire economy of the nation, we expect the Government to provide time next week for debate.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

That matter could perhaps best be discussed through the usual channels. I am not unaware of the point that the right hon. Gentleman is making.

Mr. Farr

Can my right hon. Friend tell us whether there will be time next week to discuss the motions that have been lurking on the Order Paper for some time relating to the establishment of the 14 Select Committees? It is apparent that not all the names submitted were placed before the Committee of Selection, and certain other matters should also be looked into.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

It is right that those actions should not be lurking but should be emblazoned on the Order Paper for a sufficient period before they are moved, so that hon. Members may have the opportunity to consider the names. I am glad to be able to give my hon. Friend an answer that is better than the one he anticipated. The House will have an opportunity tomorrow to come to a decision on the motions.

Mr. Joseph Dean

Will the Leader of the House use his influence tomorrow to prevent the Government blocking my Private Member's Bill, which attempts to deal with the appalling conditions in some hostels? Does not the right hon. Gentleman think it peculiar that tomorrow the Government will give assent to the passage of two Bills dealing with the welfare of animals—with which I agree—but are prepared to block a Bill dealing with the welfare of human beings? Some people live in far worse conditions than animals. Will the right hon. Gentleman use his influence to make parliamentary time available for this worthwhile Bill?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's Bill is interesting and worth while. However, the conditions that he seeks to deal with by a Private Member's Bill are already subject to other legislation. It is a matter of legitimate debate whether a further Bill is necessary

Mr. Kilfedder

Will the Leader of the House tell the House when the White Paper on the proposed Northern Ireland conference will be published and when it will be debated? Will he arrange with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland for the Northern Ireland Committee to be able subsequently to debate the White Paper in Stormont, so that the Ulster people can be close to what is going on?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I hope that the White Paper on Northern Ireland will be published towards the end of the month and that there will be a debate in the House shortly thereafter I will pass on to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland the hon. Gentleman's suggestion about the arrangements for Northern Ireland.

Mr. O'Neill

Will the Leader of the House find time as soon as possible for a discussion on the announcement about the rate support grant that will be made tomorrow by the Secretary of State for the Environment? Will he ensure that that will take place during the day and that it will not be pushed through in the middle of the night, as has happened in the past?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The announcement will be made in the customary manner. No doubt it will be relevant to a general debate on economic affairs.

Mr. Alton

The Leader of the House gave an assurance a week ago that he would read the committee of inquiry's report into the death of Darryn Clarke and decide, from his reading of it, whether there should be time for a parliamentary debate on it. Has he reached any conclusion?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I have looked into that very tragic case. The matter is being studied, but I cannot offer time for a debate. Perhaps it would be appropriate to raise it in an Adjournment debate.

Mr. Ian Lloyd

The Leader of the House, who is exceptionally well informed in these matters, will be aware that a major national debate is taking place on television and in the specialised press—even the national press—on the influence on British industry of semi-conductor technology. Does he agree that it is time to have a full-scale debate on the subject in the House?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Not next week.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

Is the Leader of the House aware that even before the Government's calamitous announcement of today the Scottish economy has been in serious difficulties, with redundancies and closures constantly taking place? Will he note that apart from two debates at the instance of the SNP no major debate on the Scottish economy has been held since 1973? Accordingly, will he make arrangements for such a debate, in view of the disastrous position of my country?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The Government share the concern of a number of hon. Members about the high level of unemployment in many areas of Scotland. I have seen the hon. Gentleman's motion on the Order Paper. I shall discuss the matter with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Mr. Jay

Is it not essential to have a full day's debate next week on the failure of the Government's economic policies?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

It is a matter of opinion and value judgment whether the policies have failed or are on their way to success. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman awaits the statement that will be made by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

Bearing in mind the need for the British people to understand the necessity for deploying theatre nuclear missiles in this country, will my right hon. Friend ensure that there is a debate in the House after the NATO decision so that the Government may take advantage of the reasons why it is necessary, in the hope of achieving united public will?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I shall consider my hon. Friend's important point.

Mr. Dormand

Does the Leader of the House recall writing to me recently refusing to convene the Standing Committee on regional affairs? The Committee has not been called during this Session and has been unable to discuss the state of the Northern region. Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that the reason that he gave was that the report that my Northern colleagues and I wish to discuss was written before the Government came to power? Is he aware that since the Government came to power matters in the Northern region have become so much worse that we need a debate not only in the Committee but also on the Floor of the House?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I recall that letter. If I had forgotten it, the hon. Gentleman has already been kind enough to remind me of it. I shall consider the matter again and write to him.

Mr. Wigley

Will the Leader of the House tell the House when the Government intend to table the orders under the Pneumoconiosis, etc. (Workers Compensation) Act? They were expected to be tabled in October and payment was expected before the end of this month. Will he assure us that they will be tabled next week and that a statement will be made?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I will look into the matter, but I cannot say that the orders will be debated next week.

Mr. Adley

Has my right hon. Friend noticed that last Thursday the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) was sitting opposite my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister during Prime Minister's Question Time and last Tuesday it was the turn of the right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), whereas today we have the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot)? In view of the large sums of public money that are made available to Opposition parties, does my right hon. Friend think it time that we had a statement from them about where the money is going and who is spending it?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) is a good substitute for anybody.

Mr. Dalyell

Does the Leader of the House recollect that he undertook last July that there would be a debate on the Goodman report on charities before Christmas? Is that still a possibility?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

It is a possibility. I cannot say that it is a probability, but I retain hopes in the matter.

Mr. Alan Clark

If the House is to debate the stationing of theatre nuclear weapons in this country would it not be more significant to debate the subject before the NATO meeting rather than after it?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I will consider that point.

Mr. Cryer

I endorse the view that there should be a debate in the House on the proliferation of nuclear weapons. We see so much of the subject on television, with the Secretary of State for Defence appearing from time to time. Does not the right hon. Gentleman believe that a free society might usefully debate its compulsory mass suicide by computer misuse by half a dozen technicraftsmen, as occurred last weekend?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) suggested last week, this is an important subject. It is certainly fit for debate in the House. However, timing has to be considered. In view of the debates that are going on in the United States on SALT II, we need to get our timing right. Nevertheless, I shall consider the hon. Gentleman's point.

Mr. Michael McGuire

Will the Leader of the House tell us when we can expect a debate on the Floor of the House about the North-West? Will he clear up a misunderstanding that arose last week when I asked him about the regional affairs Committee? He seemed to indicate that it existed in a state of limbo—a theological term that he will appreciate. I would like to know when we can expect them to be resuscitated and if he will consider placing the North-West at the head of affairs, with, as I suggested last week, a suitably anodyne debate on the disastrous consequences of the Government's expenditure cuts on the North-West.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I hope that the problems of the North-West can be debated in the wider context of the economy. I cannot promise an early debate on the subject that the hon. Gentleman mentions. With regard to the regional affairs Committee, I have already said that I will look into the matter again. I understand that limbo has been officially abolished.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I propose to call the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) and three hon. Members from the Opposition Benches, who have been rising, before we move on to the statement.

Mr. Stanbrook

Since the draft of the new immigration rules was attached to the White Paper published this week, may we assume that the rules themselves will he made immediately after the debate on the White Paper?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The two are clearly connected. It is important to have the debate on the White Paper first, followed by the publication of the rules.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

Will the Leader of the House say when we can expect the promised statement on the Government's policy on jury vetting? Will he also say when there will be an opportunity to debate the reports of the May committee and of the Expenditure Committee on the prison system?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I will consider what the hon. Gentleman said with regard to the two reports that have been published. With regard to jury vetting, my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General told the House earlier this week that consideration of the matter is continuing within his Department.

Mr. Skinner

Now that the Government are engaged in a series of U-turns, can the Leader of the House arrange for Ministers in the Department of Trade to make a statement on the number of quangos that are now being brought forward for the Government? Perhaps the two Ministers can give the names of the chairman and other representatives of this quango—the Commission for Pilots—so that the House may be fully informed what the Government are doing in this direction.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The Government have set an impressive example by the number of quangos that they have abolished. As for making a series of U-turns, I point out to the hon. Gentleman that if one went through that manoeuvre one would end up in the position where one started.

Mrs. Reneé Short

Last week I reminded the right hon. Gentleman about the need to debate the report of the Royal Commission on the National Health Service. He made certain promises. Will he look at the replies given by his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary about the need to debate the May report and add that report to the list that should be debated in the House before Christmas?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I shall certainly bear that in mind. The difficulty is that there are a number of important reports all of which have claims to be debated in the House. They will have to be taken in some order of priority.