HC Deb 26 June 1980 vol 987 cc745-53
Mr. James Callaghan

Will the Leader of the House 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 30 JUNE—Progress on remaining stages of the Civil Aviation Bill.

TUESDAY 1 JULY—Supply [24th Allotted Day]: Until about 7 o'clock there will be a debate on an Opposition Motion on Inmos.

Afterwards, there will be a debate on a Liberal motion on the impossibility of controlling inflation and unemployment without a prices and incomes policy.

Motions on the Financial Assistance (Offshore Supplies Grants) Scheme and on the Petroleum (Production) (Amendment) Regulations.

WEDNESDAY 2 JULY—Debate on European Community Documents COM(80) 147 on convergence and budgetary questions, 7943/80 and 7944/80 on the Community budget settlement, 5437/80 and 7767/80 on the budget, and 7389/70 on fisheries policy, and on the conclusions of the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council on 29–30 May annexed to the explanatory memorandum to 7943/80.

Motion relating to the Education (Publication of School Proposals) (No. 2) Regulations.

THURSDAY 3 JULY—Progress on remaining stages of the Local Government, Planning and Land (No. 2) Bill.

FRIDAY 4 JULY—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY 7 JULY—Consideration of Private Members' motions until 7 o'clock.

Afterwards, completion of Report stage of the Civil Aviation Bill.

EEC documents to be debated on Wednesday 2 July

The relevant reports of the European Legislation Committee are as follows:

24th Report, HC 159-xxiv (1979–80), para 1

28th Report, HC 159-xxviii (1979–80), para. 1

35th Report, HC 159-xxxv (1979–80), para. 1

36th and 37th Reports (1979–80): Not yet published, but available in typescript form in the Vote Office.

Mr. Callaghan

With regard to Tuesday's business, will the right hon. Gentleman inform his colleague the Secretary of State for Industry that we tabled our motion on the question of Inmos in the hope and expectation that after the long delay that has taken place we shall get a decision on the financing of this important matter and also on the siting?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am sure that there was a motive behind the motion. The right hon. Gentleman has given notice of it. I am sure that he, or whoever speaks on his behalf, will pursue that point on Tuesday.


With regard to the date for the Summer Recess, is my right hon. Friend aware that those of us with families would prefer to rise synchronously with the children from school rather than with the grouse from the moors?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Perhaps I should declare my lack of interest in those two matters; but I sympathise with what my hon. Friend said. It is desirable that hon. Members should be able to spend as much of the school holidays as possible with their families. I shall do my best to see that the House rises at a reasonable time, but if I am to achieve this objective I need the help and co-operation of the Opposition.

Mr. McNamara

In relation to what the Prime Minister said earlier, can the right hon. Gentleman tell us on what day we can expect to see a statement on the new proposals for administration in the Six Counties, and whether a statement will be made on that day about the proposals?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I hope that there will be a statement next week on the subject, and as quickly as possible after that a debate in the House.

Sir Derek Walker-Smith

Will my right hon. Friend—not as a matter necessarily of immediate urgency, and not with regard to any specific individual case that may be currently exciting public interest—give sympathetic consideration to a debate during this Session on the general question of parliamentary privilege, with particular regard to the possibility of instituting a suitable remedy, without infringing parliamentary privilege, for citizens who may feel themselves aggrieved?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

My right hon. and learned Friend has raised an extremely important question. A debate will be taking place on procedures in the House and it would be difficult for me to find time for the general type of debate that my right hon. and learned Friend has suggested. Perhaps I could find time for it in the new Session.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

Would the Leader of the House make clear what was I think his intention, that the statement on the Northern Ireland constitutional document—the initial statement to which he referred—would be made in the House, as was the statement on the previous constitutional document last October?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman is correct. I think that the statement on the previous constitutional document was not made in the House, so the—[Interruption.] We are dealing with a question of fact—whether there is a precedent, and the precedent is against the statement being made in the House. What I have said is that there will be an early debate on the document, which will be published, and I should have thought that this was a matter of such importance and complexity that it needed a full debate in prime time and not a statement.

Sir Bernard Braine

In considering future business, will my right hon. Friend reflect on the unfortunate circumstances in which the House was asked to agree a European Commission document on health and safety matters before we had had an opportunity of discussing draft regulations affecting our own laws? This is putting the cart before the horse. Will my right hon. Friend assure us that we shall have an opportunity to discuss these important matters before the House rises?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I shall look into the question that my hon. Friend has raised. I have already made clear that, save in exceptional circumstances, it is the policy of the Government that decisions on EEC matters that affect legislation and our rights in this House are debated here before final decisions are taken.

Mr. Foulkes

Further to the announcement that there will be a debate in prime time on the proposals for Northern Ireland, will the Leader of the House tell us how he proposes to relate the discussions on those proposals with the outcome of the all-party discussions on the future government of Scotland?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I know that the hon. Gentleman connects these matters in his own mind, but there is no objective connection between these two reports. The all-party talks on Scotland are concerned with improving the procedures for dealing with Scottish business within the House, whereas the discussion document on Northern Ireland deals with major constitutional proposals.

Mr. du Cann

When will my right hon. Friend be able to take further action in respect of items on which he has already assumed commendable initiatives? I have in mind matters of procedure, allowances covering secretaries' pensions, and so on. There is a list of outstanding matters on which we should all be glad to make progress.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am grateful for the contribution made by my right hon. Friend to these matters. There are a number of outstanding matters, including pensions for secretaries, the question of an hon. Member's secretary being remunerated adequately and quickly when he dies, and various related matters. We are well ahead with our preparations for the resolutions that are needed. Within a very short time I hope, where necessary, to put motions before the House so that a number of these important items can be disposed of.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I remind the House that there is a statement on the steel industry to follow business questions. Many right hon. and hon. Members are also hoping to take part in a major debate. Therefore, I hope that we can have short questions. We shall see how we go along.

Mr. English

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us how many workers for whom he is responsible to the House have seen their real income decline by 30 per cent. since 1964? Is the number greater than 635?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I have no idea what the statistic is, but I shall certainly look into that question. One group of workers whose position we have improved after a long period of neglect is the catering staff, in relation to pensions.

Mr. McCrindle

In view of the great importance of the Wilson committee on financial institutions, which, among other things, reaches conclusions on the nationalisation of banks and insurance companies that are diametrically opposed to the official policy of the Opposition, does my right hon. Friend feel that a short debate could be fitted in on that subject between now and the time when we rise for the Summer Recess?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

That is a very interesting suggestion. I think that the appropriate date would be an Opposition Supply day.

Mr. Dubs

Is the Leader of the House in a position to give us a date for a discussion on the prison system and the May report?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I hope that we shall be able to have a discussion on that important report before very long.

Mr. Farr

In view of the possibility of a statement on the Floor of the House on the Northern Ireland paper, does my right hon. Friend accept that it would be a very good idea if no such statement were made, because all too often, as in the past, hasty responses to such a complex document by right hon. and hon. Members on both sides, however well intentioned, may have grievous and serious effects?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

My hon. Friend has made an important point. It is important that there should be a full debate in prime time in the House within a short period of the publication of the discussion paper so that these issues can be discussed in depth and with knowledge by all hon. Members who wish to take part.

Mr. Cryer

In view of the hard-hearted complacency and apparent indifference of the Prime Minister towards the textile industry, will the Leader of the House give us time for a debate on both the cotton and woollen industries? Does he realise that jobs in West Yorkshire are being lost at the rate of 500 a week and that in my constituency the level of unemployment is now 7.4 per cent., whereas during the whole period of the previous Labour Government it was below the national average? Is it not time that we had an opportunity for a detailed debate, so that the problems can be aired and the Government can try, for once, to produce some solutions?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman is right in his reference to my right hon. Friend. As the Prime Minister made clear at Question Time, the Government are making sure that the proposals on the multi-fibre arrangement are enforced. We are also prepared to replace it by further agreements when it expires.

On the question of unemployment and the textile industry, there have been a number of opportunities to raise these matters in the general economic debates that we have had. Indeed, we had one yesterday.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I propose to call four more hon. Members from each side and then to move on to the statement.

Miss Fookes

Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that the important and much-delayed debate on prisons will not be tucked away on a Friday?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I cannot give an assurance that it will be held on any particular day. This partly depends on the convenience of hon. Members and Ministers and Opposition Front Bench spokesmen. We have to get them all together. I certainly note what my hon. Friend said.

Mr. David Watkins

Has the Leader of the House noticed that 160 right hon. and lion. Members have now signed early-day motion 717 on the subject of Consett steelworks and the devastating effects that its closure will have on an entire community?

[That this House notes that management and workers at Consett Steelworks were led by the British Steel Corporation to believe that the future of the works would be assured if they made it profitable; notes that modernisation co-operation and the sacrifice of 2,500 jobs made the works profitable and highly productive; notes British Steel Corporation's failure to justify their proposal, made without consultation, to close the works; and condemns the proposal as a betrayal which could destroy a community.]

In view of the growing concern both inside and outside the House, and the complacency expressed by the Prime Minister in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Dormand) on the general situation in the North-East, will he arrange an early debate?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The decision on the Consett steelworks is primarily a matter for the judgment of the British Steel Corporation. It must decide how much steel it can sell and at what places it can make the steel most economically. I appreciate the hardship that has been caused at Consett by this closure, but my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry made an announcement last week on remedial measures for steel closure areas.

Mr. Marlow

Since the anomaly still exists whereby British citizens in the Irish Republic are not allowed to vote in general elections in Ireland and Irish citizens are allowed to vote in United Kingdom elections, and since this gives rise to a great deal of public concern and irritation, will my right hon. Friend find time soon to arrange a debate on this matter?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I cannot promise an early debate on that matter. I suppose that the worst anomaly in the relationship between Great Britain and Ireland is that we should be separated at all.

Mr. McNally

Is the Leader of the House aware that at Question Time yesterday there was pressure from both sides of the House for an early debate on a roads programme that leaves construction workers unemployed while major road programmes are either abandoned or deferred?

Mr. St. John-Steyas

I am afraid that the roads programme has had to make its contribution to the necessary cutback in Government expenditure so that private industry may expand and create the prosperity to which we all look forward.

Mr. Kilfedder

Is a one-day debate adequate for the Northern Ireland devolution proposals, bearing in mind that at most only six hours will be available and even less time than that for Northern Ireland Members? Does the right hon. Gentleman recall the point that I put to him last week, which I repeat now in the presence of the Prime Minister, that he should arrange for an additional debate to take place where it matters for the Ulster people—in Northern Ireland—with the Northern Ireland Committee meeting in Belfast, perhaps at Stormont, so that the matter can be debated fully in the presence of Ulster people?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

It would mean an alteration in the rules of the House were the Northern Ireland Committee to meet in Northern Ireland or elsewhere. I certainly think that we need a full debate on the proposals for Northern Ireland when they are published. I shall consider whether this can be extended in any way.

Mr. O'Neill

Will the right hon. Gentleman find time for the Secretary of State for Scotland to make an announcement on the future of Scottish colleges of education? We are expecting something to happen and we do not want it to happen while the House is in recess. Therefore, will the right hon. Gentleman find time, before the end of the second week in July, to have this gentleman report his intentions to the House?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

At the hon. Gentleman's request, I shall consult my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland to see whether that would be possible.

Mr. Charles Morrison

Is my right hon. Friend giving further consideration to the outstanding recommendations of the Procedure Committee? Will he find time for a debate before the Summer Recess?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I have been conducting widespread consultations with hon. Members, with representatives of the Opposition and with representatives of Committees, to discover the wishes of the House. A debate will be held on those issues before the House rises for the Summer Recess.

Mr. Greville Janner

As there is growing pressure on social security offices, may we have a debate on the undignified state of many of those premises and on the unpleasant atmosphere in which the staff must work? Is my right hon. Friend aware that staff should have moved out of some premises, such as those in Newark Street, Leicester, long ago? Is he further aware that such pressures can create hardship for those who are already suffering?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I cannot promise an early debate. However, the hon. and learned Member is right. Such offices and Government Departments should be made as cheerful as possible.