HC Deb 01 April 1981 vol 2 cc577-80
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Paymaster General and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Francis Pym)

The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY 6 APRIL—Remaining stages of the Insurance Companies Bill.

Motion relating to financial assistance to International Computers Ltd.

Motion on EEC document 4460/80 on research and development in biomolecular engineering, and on the Department of Industry's supplementary memorandum of 8 December 1980.

TUESDAY 7 APRIL—Supply [15th Allotted Day]: Debate on an Opposition motion on youth unemployment.

Ways and Means resolution on the Transport Bill.

Motion on Members' salaries required for Members of the European Parliament.

Motion on Queen's University of Belfast (Northern Ireland) Order.

At 7 o'clock, the Chairman of Ways and Means is expected to name opposed private business for consideration.

WEDNESDAY 8 APRIL—Supply [16th Allotted Day]: Debate on developments in the European Community July-December 1980, Cmnd. 8195.

Consideration of Lords amendments to the Water Bill. Remaining stages of the Energy Conservation Bill [Lords]

THURSDAY 9 APRIL—Debate on a motion to take note of the White Paper on the Government's expenditure plans 1981–82 to 1983–84 Cmnd. 8175.

FRIDAY 10 APRIL—Private Members' motions.

MONDAY 13 APRIL—Second Reading of the Finance Bill.

Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for making that statement. I shall ask him one question about today's business, if that is not impertinent. I hope that he and those in charge of the affairs of the House will make proper provision for the major fire brigade union lobby taking place today. Many thousands of firemen are coming to the House. Despite the fact that today's business is abbreviated, I hope that the firemen will be able to come to the House and that facilities will be provided for them to meet the hon. Members who are here to receive them. I am sure that it would be the wish of the House generally that the lobby should be properly received.

Does the right hon. Gentleman intend to take the Easter Adjournment motion next week? It would possibly be better to have it the following week. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will say what provision he is making. I thank him for providing for the public expenditure debate that we have asked for on the last few occasions.

Mr. Pym

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his latter remark.

The authorities of the House are considering the question of the lobby, but there are established practices to be followed when the House is sitting. There may difficulties, but the House authorities are considering the matter.

It is my intention to take the Adjournment motion on Monday 6 April. There are quite recent precedents for taking it at that distance from the Adjournment. The House is inclined to be more complaining of it when it is nearer the recess than when it is at longer range.

Mr. Foot

My recollection is that usually the Adjournment motion takes place a little nearer the time when the House is departing for the recess. In some respects that is more convenient for Back-Bench Members because on some occasions it is the last opportunity that they have for raising matters that might otherwise be raised earlier. I hope that it will not become normal practice for the motion to be taken 10 days before the House adjourns. I do not think that there have been many such precedents recently. We shall not press the matter now, but I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not make regular use of this procedure in future.

Mr. Pym

I am not seeking to establish some new rule whereby almost invariably the Adjournment debate takes place at that range, but against the background of the business that I have announced 6 April will be the most convenient day on which to take the motion on this occasion.

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

As the Chairman of Ways and Means has not had the opportunity that he normally has at 2.30 pm on a Thursday to name the opposed private business, can the Leader of the House tell us whether it is likely to be the Greater Manchester Bill or some other Bill which will be taken next Tuesday?

Mr. Pym

I am sure that the Chairman of Ways and Means will take the earliest opportunity to make that information available.

Mr. John Farr (Harborough)

Can my right hon. Friend give the House any idea when we shall be considering the Second Reading of the Wildlife and Countryside Bill?

Mr. Pym

Not at the moment, but it will not be next week.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I shall call all those hon. Members who have been rising.

Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline)

Will the Secretary of State for Defence make a statement to the House next week about Rosyth dockyard as two events this week have caused much concern over an area greater than the immediate proximity of the dockyard? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the important part of the isotope is still missing and that three deaths have occurred in the yard? Although a board of inquiry has been set up, does the Secretary of State agree that the issues involved require greater ventilation?

Mr. Pym

I shall convey the hon. Gentleman's remarks to my right hon. Friend and consult him on the question whether a further statement can or should be made. The issue is of great public concern, particularly in the hon. Gentleman's constituency.

Mr. Michael English (Nottingham, West)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the first report of the House of Commons Commission—which you chair, Mr. Speaker—has not been debated, nor has the second, and that, although the first relates only to a three-month period, the second relates to a full year? As another year is now ending and a third report is being prepared which may not be debated, can the right hon. Gentleman assure us that we shall have a debate on the first two before the third is completed, as we cannot have great confidence in the administration of the House if such matters cannot be discussed on the Floor of the House?

Mr. Pym

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's interest. He has made requests direct to me. There is a problem about finding time, and only comparatively few hon. Members want time spent in the Chamber on the matter, but that is not to say that the subject is not worthy and appropriate for debate. However, I have to fit it into the programme, and I cannot see that we shall have time, at any rate in the near future.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

When will the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food make a statement on the CAP price discussions?

Mr. Pym

I understand that it will be tomorrow.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)

Will the Leader of the House arrange for an early debate, or at least a statement to be made, to answer the criticisms of the provision of fire cover, as the lobby today of some 5,000 firemen is an expression of the concern that local authority cuts imposed by the Government are throwing thousands on the dole and, in particular, reducing fire cover? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the lobby comprises experienced fire-fighters, who are greatly concerned?

Mr. Pym

I do not believe that I can find time for the debate. I appreciate the problems of the lobby arranged for this afternoon, but it is not unfair to comment that, had the hon. Gentleman exercised a little more self-restraint, the lobby could have taken place in normal circumstances.

Mr. Joan Evans (Aberdare)

Will the Leader of the House consider having the statement on Common Market prices made on Monday so that more hon. Members can be present to discuss the substantial increases in the prices of meat, milk, beef and bread, which will cost the nation £450 million?

Mr. Pym

It is the normal courtesy and practice of the House for the Minister to make a statement on such matters as soon as possible, but, again, as we have not been able to do so this afternoon, tomorrow will be the correct time.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

When we have another mammoth Bill like the British Telecommunications Bill, will the Leader of the House ensure that more time is given for Report and Third Reading so that he avoids falling into the deep well that he has fallen into on this occasion, thus losing a day's business, as happened last July? Will he speed up the exercise of the borrowing powers under the Coal Industry Act so that we have sufficient money to cope with pit closures, to steady down coal imports to the rate suggested in the talks and to ensure that, as with underground workers and certain other coal industry workers, surface workers can retire at 60 years of age?

Mr. Pym

I think that the Coal Industry Act borrowing powers are on time. I do not think that the Government or my right hon. and hon. Friends can be described as being in the depths of a well. It might, however, be said that some other hon. Members a:re in that position. The Report stage and Third Reading of the British Telecommunications Bill took 22 or 23 hours. That seems to me a reasonable amount of time for those stages of a Bill.