HC Deb 07 May 1981 vol 4 cc271-4
Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)

May I ask the Leader of the House to state the business for next week?

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 11 MAY—Further progress in Committee on the Finance Bill

Motion on the Local Loans (Increase of Limit) Order.

TUESDAY 12 MAY—Completion of consideration in Committee on the Finance Bill.

WEDNESDAY 13 MAY—Progress on remaining stages of the Social Security Bill.

THURSDAY 14 MAY—Until about 7 o'clock, completion of remaining stages of the Social Security Bill.

Progress on remaining stages of the Iron and Steel Bill.

Remaining stages of the Ports (Financial Assistance) Bill.

FRIDAY 15 MAY—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY 18 MAY—Private Members' motions until Seven o'clock. Afterwards, completion of remaining stages of the Iron and Steel Bill.

The House will wish to know, Mr. Speaker, that subject to progress of business it will be proposed that the House should rise for the Spring Adjournment on Friday 22 May until Monday 1 June.

Mr. Foot

May I make three points to the right hon. Gentleman? First, will he make sure that we have early next week a statement on the future of the computer industry, about which there is great concern throughout the country? I trust that we will have an assurance from the Government that the industry is not to be allowed to fall into foreign hands.

Secondly, the right hon. Gentleman will recall the debate on the Armitage report a few weeks ago and the matter that I have raised with him on a number of occasions. May we have an absolute assurance that the Government will provide a further opportunity for the House to vote on the matter? The Government fully agree that we should have the opportunity for a fresh vote.

Thirdly, the right hon. Gentleman recently made a speech about unemployment, and since almost every hour that the House has had to discuss unemployment and the record rates over which the Government have presided has been provided by the Opposition, may we have an absolute assurance that the Government will provide what I have often asked for, namely, a debate on the day or the day after the next monthly set of unemployment figures is published?

Mr. Pym

I shall convey the right hon. Gentleman's views on the future of the computer industry to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry and will consult him to see whether, if a statement is appropriate, we can arrange one.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport is considering the representations on the Armitage report that have been made in the House and outside. In due course he will announce a decision, and I am looking for an opportunity to return to the subject at some stage. I note the right hon. Gentleman's views.

The Government share the right hon. Gentleman's views about the seriousness of unemployment and the need to help the unemployed. We have had a number of debates. I agree that all but one have been in Opposition time, and although I cannot give the absolute assurance that there will be a debate in Government time when the next monthly figures are announced I do not exclude the possibility on a later occasion.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)

Can the right hon. Gentleman say on what date the recess motion will be taken?

Mr. Pym

Not at present.

Mr. R. A. McCrindle (Brentwood and Ongar)

Does my right hon. Friend recall giving me an undertaking that there would be a debate on index-linked pensions in the near future? In the light of the imminent publication of a further report on the transferability of occupational pension schemes, could we bring the two matters together and have a debate soon?

Mr. Pym

I will consider what my hon. Friend has said. I think that I said that I hoped that there would be an opportunity for the House to debate the subject in due course. I do not think that I gave an undertaking about the near future, and I cannot find time for such a debate in the near future. However, I have the subject in mind as a likely candidate for debate in due course.

Mr. Alfred Dubs (Battersea, South)

Is the Leader of the House aware of the large increase in the money supply last month, apparently as a consequence of industrial action by the Civil Service? Is it not time that the House had an opportunity to debate pay problems in the Civil Service, because, in the face of Government inaction, we cannot accept that nothing should be done while the dispute drags on?

Mr. Pym

I have no plans for a debate on the Civil Service dispute. On the whole, the House has found over the years that it is better not to debate a current dispute. There are other ways in which the hon. Gentleman can raise the subject, but I cannot provide Government time for it.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

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

Mr. Alan Clark (Plymouth, Sutton)

There is a great variety of rumours circulating about an impending defence review. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is desirable that the subject should be debated and that such a debate—not necessarily in the same form as debates on White Papers—should take place at the earliest date convenient to him? Does he also accept that the House does not take kindly to hearing of major decisions affecting national security and hon. Member's constituencies four or five days before we rise for the Summer Recess? Perhaps my right hon. Friend will have a word with our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence about that.

Mr. Pym

The subject to which my hon. Friend has referred is extremely important and the House knows my direct interest in it. Defence is an appropriate subject for a debate and I am trying to arrange such a debate before long, but I cannot say exactly when it will be. I hope that in the meantime my hon. Friend will not attach undue weight to any rumour, because rumours sometimes turn out to be unfounded.

Mr. Edward Lyons (Bradford, West)

In view of the continuing savage fall in employment in the textile industry, particularly in West Yorkshire, which is wreaking havoc on the prosperity of the region, will the right hon. Gentleman consider a further debate on textiles in the near future?

Mr. Pym

I cannot give an undertaking that there will be a debate in Government time.

Mr. Ian Lloyd (Havant and Waterloo)

Some of us greeted with at least mild disappointment the news of yet another truncated Whitsun Recess. Can my right hon. Friend give us any explanation why that practice is continuing, particularly in the light of the promise made by the Prime Minister at the beginning of the Session? Will Back Benchers have an early opportunity to debate the length of recesses?

Mr. Pym

My hon. Friend may have to find some time other than Government time for that debate. The length of the Whitsun Recess tends to vary according to the circumstances of the Session. I concluded that a week is as much as we can afford at present and my hon. Friend will have to be content with nine days on this occasion. There are many precedents for that, although I appreciate that my hon. Friend would have preferred longer.

Mr. Donald Dewar (Glasgow, Garscadden)

Is the Leader of the House aware that many Scottish Members are anxious to have the chance to comment on the miserably timid proposals for the government of Scotland that emerged from the all-party talks? Does he recall that on 23 March he told me that he hoped that there would be a debate within two weeks? Six weeks have passed. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman can promise us a debate before the Whitsun Recess.

Mr. Pym

I should be surprised if six weeks ago I said that there would be a debate in two weeks' time.

Mr. Dewar

That is what the right hon. Gentleman said.

Mr. Pym

Obviously that was unduly optimistic. I thought that I said that I would table the motions. The motions, whatever view the hon. Gentleman may have about them, are based on the conclusions reached by the all-party committee. In due course there will be time made available on the Floor of the House to debate the motions and the amendments thereunto if they are selected. There will certainly not be a debate before Whitsum. There will not be a debate in the immediate future, but I will find time after Whitsun.

Mrs. Jill Knight (Birmingham, Edgbaston)

Has my right hon. Friend noted on the Order Paper Early-Day Motion 103 in my name on lead in petrol?

[That this House urges Her Majesty's Government to eliminate the largest controllable source of lead pollution by phasing out the use of lead additives in petrol with an immediate reduction to 0.15 grammes per litre, and by making available lead-free petrol for those vehicles now able to use it.]

Will he recognise that already 129 hon. Members have signed the motion and that a further 30 hon. Members have indicated their general support for it? Will he consider finding time for a debate on the subject before too much time has passed?

Mr. Pym

I cannot promise a debate, but I expect that a statement will be made early next week.

Sir Albert Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is concern about the delay in the consideration of the County of Kent Bill? Will he estimate when we are likely to debate the Bill's Second Reading?

Mr. Pym

I shall require notice of that question because my hon. Friend refers to a Private Bill. My hon. Friend might consider consulting the Chairman of Ways and Means.

Mr. Roger Moate (Faversham)

Will my right hon. Friend find time for the House to re-examine the role of the European Assembly? Does he agree that the decision by the Assembly to debate the Sands affair is offensive, is undoubtedly an encouragement to terrorism, and is an abuse of the Assembly's role in relation to the member nations of the Community?

Mr. Pym

I do not think that it is for me to comment on that Assembly and its proceedings. I must disappoint my hon. Friend about providing time.

Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson (Newbury)

Has my right hon. Friend any intention of finding time for a debate on the press so that the views of the House may be made known about the willingness of some Fleet Street editors to pay the wages of sin and crime regardless of the suffering of people who are close to those who have been killed?

Mr. Pym

I have no plans to do so in Government time.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

My right Friend is no doubt aware that 69 important documents have been referred to the House for debate by the Select Committee on European Legislation &c. Twenty-five of them were recommended for debate by the House before 1980—one as long ago as 1973—four in 1976 and 25 in 1980. Will my right hon. Friend say whether he believes that it was wrong to make this decision or whether the documents are unimportant? Will he ensure that they are debated by the House fairly soon?

Mr. Pym

The House takes the opportunities available to it to debate European matters as recommended by the Select Committee. Some of the documents to which my hon. Friend refers may be out of date. We have debates on European matters on many occasions. I remind my hon. Friend that certain of them are considered in Standing Committee. Between us all we try to find as much time as we can so that, if possible, we have a chance to discuss these matters before decisions are taken.

Mr. John Silkin (Deptford)

If I heard the right hon. Gentleman correctly, he said in reply to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight) that there would be a statement on early-day motion 103. Which Minister will make that statement?

Mr. Pym

The statement will be on lead pollution. It will be made by a Minister of State, Department of the Environment. It may be made by the Secretary of State, but I think that it will be made by a Minister of State.