HC Deb 06 November 1980 vol 991 cc1465-71
Mr. Foot

Will the Leader of the House state the business for next week?

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Leader of the House of Commons and Minister for the Arts

(Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas): The business for next week is as follows:

MONDAY 10 NOVEMBER—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Broadcasting Bill.

Motions on the Supplementary Benefits (Aggregation, Requirements and Resources) Amendment Regulations, on the Remand (Temporary Provisions) Northern Ireland) Order, and on the Value Added Tax (Health) Order.

TUESDAY 11 NOVEMBER—Consideration of Lords amendments to the Local Government, Planning and Land (No. 2) Bill.

WEDNESDAY 12 NOVEMBER—Remaining stages of the Highways Bill [Lords].

Resumed debate on the motion on financial assistance to Opposition parties.

THURSDAY 13 NOVEMBER—Debate on codes of practice on picketing, and on the closed shop.

Consideration of any Lords messages that may be received.

Thereafter, subject to progress of business, Parliament will be prorogued.

As already announced, the new Session will be opened on Thursday 20 November this year.

Mr. Foot

Since the business announced by the right hon. Gentleman does not appear to be very thrilling on every day, and as there seems to be some difference of view about what is intended to be meant by "ruinous monetarism "the phrase of the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath)—is it not possible to arrange a debate on that matter next week to sort the question out?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am sure that it is not beyond the ingenuity of the right hon. Gentleman to fit in that matter on Wednesday, for instance, when we consider the remaining stages of the Highways Bill [Lords]. As for thrills, we look for thrills these days to activities outside this Chamber.

Mr. Adley

On the debate on the question of finance to Opposition parties, will my right hon. Friend confirm that this presumably relates to Opposition parties in Parliament? Will hon. Members be able to refer to the position that would arise should a squabble take place over who represents the main Opposition in this country, and whether it is a party inside this House or outside?

Mr. St John-Stevas

This is a resumed debate on the subject of assistance to Opposition parties to help them in their parliamentary duties. This has become an established part of our practice. It is not anyone's intention to extend this aid to activities outside Parliament.

Mr. John Silkin

In view of reports that BP is proposing to place construction orders for oil rigs worth £10 million in Japan and Korea and not in our shipyards, can we expect a statement from the Secretary of State for Industry in the near future?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I have not received any application for such a statement from my right hon. Friend. I doubt whether the matter falls within his sphere of ministerial responsibility, but if the right hon. Gentleman wishes I shall certainly raise the matter with my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Silkin

It certainly does fall within the scope of the right hon. Gentleman, because the Minister of State himself said that he was going to encourage expenditure in British shipyards for exactly this sort of purchase.

Mr. Freud

If there should be any delay before the messenger from the other place comes along, will the Leader of the House consider a short debate on the Totalisator? Is he aware that there is considerable concern, both in the House and outside, about a nationalised industry that allows £200,000 credit to an individual? There is concern that this nationalised bookmaking industry is neither more efficient nor more profitable than the private sector practising in the same sport.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

That is an interesting suggestion to fill in a hypothetical gap. In view of our shared interest in the Turf, I will give it consideration.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

I shall call those hon. Members who have been rising in their places.

Mr. Gummer

Is my hon. Friend aware that my constituents expect the closest co-operation between their Members of Parliament and their Members of the European Parliament? This is made more difficult by the fact that this House has so far made no sensible and proper provision for European Members of Parliament even to have a pass to come and see Members of Parliament whose constituents they help to represent in Europe.

Mr. St. John,-Stevas

As my hon. Friend will know, the Services Committee has passed a resolution to the effect that European Members of Parliament should have certain limited access to this House. I will consider the matter that my hon. Friend raised.

Mrs. Dunwoody

Will the Leader of (he House find time next week for a debate on the extraordinary decision to rush through a study of the Royal ordnance factories with a view to moving them into private sector enterprise? These factories have been within Government circles for over 400 years.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I will raise the matter with my right hon. Friend, but I am afraid that I cannot promise a debate next week.

Mr. Lawrence

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the debate on Wednesday, on financial assistance to Opposition parties, is intended to last for only one and a half hours, so that we can talk it out again?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

No time is set for the ending of the debate. Depending on the progress made on the previous business, it could run for longer than the time that my lion. Friend states. I hope, however, that hon. Members who are thinking of talking this measure out will remember that when this Government were in opposition they enjoyed the benefit of these arrangements and, in equity, this facility should be extended, not in the interests of the Opposition as such but in the interests of parliamentary government, to the present Opposition.

Mr. Cryer

Will the Leader of the House consider a debate next week—as we have a spare Friday—on the question of the American presence in Britain, particularly in view of the change in the presidential leadership in America, which sends a lot of shivers down a lot of spines? In view of the dissembling attitude of the Ministry of Defence and the secretive way in which the Americans operate a nuclear presence in this country without express parliamentary approval, can we discuss the whole affair and perhaps consider giving parliamentary approval to these warlike manoeuvres?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am afraid that I cannot promise a debate on that subject, important though it is. There may be an opportunity to raise it in the debate on the Address. As for recent events in the United States, I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman is shivering and shuddering. I think that he should be more optimistic. Things may turn out better than he expects.

Mr. Latham

In the interests of implementing the Government's plans for holding down the size of the Civil Service, can my right hon. Friend spend each of the 14 days between now and the Queen's Speech studying the draft of the Speech and striking out one draft Bill between now and then?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

We have been studying that draft for some time. I have been doing exactly what my hon. Friend has commended. If there is an opportunity to strike out a further Bill, I shall be the first person to take it.

Mr. Ioan Evans

Will there be a statement next week on the Government's intention regarding the statement by the Select Committee on Welsh affairs on employment opportunities in Wales? The people of Wales reject the Prime Minister's suggestion that they should have to leave Wales to obtain jobs elsewhere in the United Kingdom. That was possible in the 1930s, but there are no jobs now elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The hon. Gentleman is not representing fairly what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said. The important report mentioned by the hon. Gentleman must be discussed. It is the Government's intention, at the earliest opportunity, to lay a Command Paper before the House giving their response. The report contains 40 major recommendations, and the Government must have the opportunity to be as thorough as the committee.

Mr. Marlow

Since it has recently been disclosed that European Members of Parliament, who have less than one-tenth of the relevance of Members of this House, cost the country more than 10 times as much individually, will my right hon. Friend bring measures before the House to prevent the continuation of this vast haemorrhage of public funds?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

My responsibilty is to this House. I am delighted that we are setting the example. I hope that we shall be able to do even better in economical administration in future.

Mr. Tilley

Has the Leader of the House seen early-day motion 837 on the deportation of Filipino domestic workers?

[That this House urges the Secretary of State for the Home Department to continue to exercise his discretion and to do so more widely in order to allow the limited number of workers, chiefly women from the Philippines, who have worked in the United Kingdom for many years as resident domestics and are now held to be illegal entrants because they had dependent children at the time their permits were issued, to remain on compassionate grounds.]

Is he aware that the motion continues to attract support from all parts of the House because the deportations continue unjustly and unfairly, and involve individuals and families? For that reason, may we have an early debate?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I cannot promise an early debate. The issue obviously raises difficult personal problems. The Government cannot disregard the decision of the courts in this matter. Before a removal is enforced the case is examined carefully. Discretion is and will continue to be exercised when there are compelling reasons for allowing a person to remain here in exceptional circumstances.

Mr. Straw

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the deep anxiety among Opposition Members about the Government's intention to slip through sales of Royal ordnance factories to private buyers without proper parliamentary legisla- tion or even a debate? If he cannot promise a debate next week will he ensure that there will be a full debate on the Government's intentions before any firm decisions are taken by the Government.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am afraid that I cannot go further than I did in answer to the hon. Member for Crewe (Mrs. Dunwoody). I shall raise the matter with the Minister responsible.

Mr. Winnick

In view of the earlier exchanges today, will the right hon. Gentleman find time for a debate on early-day motion 897 so that at least Conservative Members of Parliament, including the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), can give their views on the state of the economy to the House?

[That this House congratulates the right hon. Member for Bexley, Sidcup for rightly describing the present policies of the Government as catastrophic and destructive to Great Britain's industrial base; and invites other Conservative hon. Members to associate themselves with such criticism in the interest of the country.]

Such a debate might give the Leader of the House the opportunity to speak out on the state of the economy forthrightly and not in coded language as he did recently.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I do not know what on earth the hon. Gentleman refers to. I do not speak in coded language in the House or anywhere else; I speak out forthrightly. Having read the motion signed by the hon. Member on the recent contribution to broadcasting late at night, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), I shall give him an equally forthright observation on his motion. In view of the subject of the motion and the signatories to it, it is a case of the blind leading the blind.

Mr. Parry

Has the Leader of the House seen early-day motion 898, tabled in my name and supported by more than 90 hon. Members, about flags of convenience?

[That this House supports the National Union of Seamen in its campaign in opposition to flags of convenience; deplores the double standards of Lord Matthews of Trafalgar House and the Daily Express, which, in August, called upon the nation to fly the flag; and calls upon Lord Matthews to practice what he preaches.]

Will the right hon. Gentleman find time for an early debate on this important issue? Will he ask the Secretary of State for Trade and the Secretary of State for Employment to have early discussions with the National Union of Seamen and Lord Matthews, in a bid to avoid what might be a national strike of seamen?

Mr. St. John-Stevas

The hon Member is not up to date with his information about the dispute. I understand that it has just been settled. We are delighted at that. I understand that the "Princess" will now fly the Bahamian flag and the "Countess" will remain as it is. I hope that the unnecessary dispute has come to a happy conclusion.