HC Deb 19 March 1981 vol 1 cc432-4

[The relevant reports of the European Legislation Committee are the Fourteenth and Fifteenth reports of Session 1980–81 (he 32-xiv and 32-xv, 1980–81). These reports are not yet published, but photocopied versions are available in the Vote Office.]

Mr. Healey

As widespread scepticism about the figuring in the public expenditure White Paper published last week has led the Financial Secretary to say that big additional cuts in public spending will be required if the Government are to be able to make cuts in income tax for electoral purposes, will the right hon. Gentleman assure us that we can have a debate on the public expenditure White Paper before we debate the Finance Bill? Will he assure the House that the whole Finance Bill will be taken on the Floor of the House, as it has broken every one of the Government's election promises and is universally agreed to have inflicted great damage on the British economy? Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us when he will be able to arrange the day's debate on race relations, which he promised us last week? In view of the uncertainties still abroad about the precise effect of the Budget on energy prices, will the Secretary of State make a comprehensive statement on Monday about the present position?

Mr. Pym

It is my intention to arrange a day for a debate on the public expenditure White Paper before Easter. I take note of the right hon. Gentleman's request that it should take place before the Second Reading of the Finance Bill. The precise timing is a matter for consideration through the usual channels.

It is our intention to proceed with the Finance Bill as the House has done for many years, with a number of days on the Floor for Committee and part of the Bill taken upstairs, and similarly, on Report, a number of days on the Floor of the House. That will be the right way to proceed.

I did not promise a day for race relations, but I took note of the matter and was aware of the great interest in the House. I expressed the view then—which I adhere to now—that it would be right for the searching inquiry put in hand by the police to be completed before we considered what we should do next.

I take note of the right hon. Gentleman's request on energy prices. I shall take an opportunity today or tomorrow to discuss that possibility with my right hon. Friend, but I would not like to give an undertaking to the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)

Will my right hon. Friend allow time for a debate on the proposed EEC passport, which is causing disquiet on both sides of the House?

Mr. Pym

It will be some time before any action is taken or any changes are brought about in relation to the passport. However, there will be plenty of time for a debate before that happens. I understand that it may be some years before action is taken.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)

Will the Leader of the House allow time for a debate on the report of the working party on the establishment of an independent element in the investigation of complaints against the police? The Home Secretary made it clear in a written answer yesterday that he would welcome comments on the report, which many of us think is wholly inadequate. It is a whitewash, and does not even meet the requirements of the terms of reference. Can we have a debate on it reasonably speedily, before it gathers dust and is forgotten?

Mr. Pym

I cannot help the hon. Gentleman in that request. However, it would be appropriate for him, or any other hon. Member, or anyone else, to make any comments that they felt motivated to make. After that we could consider the matter.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I propose to call those hon. Members who have been rising in their places.

Mr. Michael Latham (Melton)

Did my right hon. Friend hear the strong feelings expressed in questions by several Conservative Members earlier this afternoon about the civil servants' dispute—questions that were effectively replied to by the Prime Minister? Will he ensure that the House is kept fully informed, and that we may be assured that the Government are standing firm?

Mr. Pym

Yes, Sir. Naturally, the Government hope that the dispute can be brought to a reasonably early end. I take note of my hon. Friend's request, which is shared in other parts of the House, for the House to be kept informed of what happens.

Mr. Clement Freud (Isle of Ely)

In view of the ongoing bottomless pit situation, will the House be given a budget on State aid to industry?

Mr. Pym

I think that one Budget this month is enough.

Mr. Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the second motion tabled for debate last Friday, standing in my name and entitled "Alternatives to the rating system", was not reached? Will he sympathetically consider finding time for a debate on that general issue? May I suggest that it might be politically prudent to do so before ratepayers receive their next rate demands?

Mr. Pym

I am sorry that there was not time for my hon. Friend's motion to be debated. I shall consider his request sympathetically but without a great deal of hope, because there are other ways in which these matters can be raised. However, I take note of his request.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Would it not be useful to debate the question whether it is an abuse of the electorate—indeed, of the House itself—for someone clearly elected as a candidate of a certain political party to resign from that party and yet not resign from the House? Is there not a case for changing the law to provide that someone who has resigned from his party would have to resign from the House to fight a by-election under his new colours?

Mr. Pym

That might make an interesting debate, but not in Government time.

Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a certain amount of heat has arisen in recent exchanges about the Middle East? Will he give an assurance that there will be an early debate on the Middle East, so that more light, rather than more heat, can be shed?

Mr. Pym

I am still hoping to arrange a debate on foreign affairs either just before or just after Easter. My hon. Friend's subject of the Middle East would be appropriate for that debate.

Mr. Derek Foster (Bishop Auckland)

When can the House debate Northern region affairs? Is the Leader of the House aware that male unemployment in Bishop Auckland stands at 19 per cent., that it is 24 per cent. in Crook, and that in certain districts of Durham it has reached 30 per cent.? Is he further aware that all that the Government have done is to degrade parts of Durham and cut the amount of money available for regional aid by one-third?

Mr. Pym

I take on board the hon. Gentleman's concern about the Northern region. Everybody is concerned about the economic conditions and the unemployment in that area. I hope that there will be an opportunity for the House to debate that subject. Other regions have had their affairs debated, so it would be appropriate for Northern region affairs to be debated. However, regional debates are usually held in Supply time. As I do not wish to mislead the hon. Gentleman, I cannot give an undertaking that I can find time in the near future. However, I accept the importance of the subject.

Mr. Peter Bottomley (Woolwich, West)

In the discussions in preparation for the debate on public expenditure, would it be possible to prepare for a more useful debate than usual by asking the Opposition and the Government to spell out certain effects on the volume of public services provided within a certain cash limit—especially the effect of the level of pay settlements? Would it be possible to invite the Leader of the Opposition to say, at the start of the debate, what should happen to nominal pay increases during the next two years?

Mr. Pym

I take note of that request. My hon. Friend may be right, but I am not sure whether, in practice, we should make much progress by following his suggestion.