HC Deb 11 March 1982 vol 19 cc969-73 3.32 pm
Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)

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

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Francis Pym)

Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY 15 MARCH—Conclusion of the debate on the Budget Statement.

Motion on the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1976 (Continuance) Order.

TUESDAY 16 MARCH—Proceedings on the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill.

WEDNESDAY 17 MARCH—Supply (15th Allotted Day)

Until about Seven o'clock there will be a debate on cuts in higher education in Scotland, and afterwards a debate on National Health Service charges for overseas visitors. Both debates will arise on Opposition motions.

Motions on the Wool Textile Industry (Amendments) Orders.

THURSDAY 18 MARCH—Progress on remaining stages of the Social Security and Housing Benefits Bill.

FRIDAY 19 MARCH—Private Members' motions.

MONDAY 22 MARCH—Second Reading of the Mental Health (Amendment) Bill [Lords].

Mr. Foot

May I put three matters to the right hon. Gentleman? First, we understand that a statement will be made later this afternoon about Trident and the Government's proposals. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that we must have a debate in the House on that subject. We would wish to have a special debate in Government time, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will concur that that is the proper course.

Secondly, the question of the British National Oil Corporation and the sale of assets, to which I referred earlier, is now being discussed in Committee. We were promised—I think for this week—that the Secretary of State for Energy would let us know about the articles of association for Britoil. We do not have them yet. In view of the importance of that matter, the best course would be for the statement to be made in the House. Therefore, particularly in view of the delay in making the statement, I ask that it should be made in the House at the beginning of next week.

Finally, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to use the Special Standing Committee procedure for the Mental Health (Amendment) Bill? I believe that that would be acceptable to my right hon. and hon. Friends, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will consider that.

Mr. Pym

The statement on Trident has not yet been made; my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence will make it in a moment. Therefore, it would be right to consider the right hon. Gentleman's remarks afterwards. However, I have been considering the matter and it is fair to point out that when a major statement was last made on the Trident programme, in July 1980, the debate asked for was provided in Government time. I shall bear the right hon. Gentleman's point in mind, but it would be a mistake to go any further before the statement has been made.

The point about the publication of the articles of association for Britoil was made in Monday's debate and I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will fulfil his promise. I shall certainly discuss the right hon. Gentleman's representations with him. I suspect that the articles would be best presented to the Committee, but I shall consider the right hon. Gentleman's remarks.

I accept that the Mental Health (Amendment) Bill is a suitable Bill for the Special Standing Committee procedure. At the beginning of the Session, I told the House that I did not think that a suitable Bill would be introduced, and that is why I have not tabled a Sessional Order. However, the Bill meets the specification and therefore I am prepared to make the necessary arrangements for it to be considered under that procedure.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. The House will be aware that a further statement is to be made. Many right hon. and hon. Members also wish to speak in the main debate. Therefore, I shall allow a quarter of an hour for business questions, which should be enough.

Mr. Cyril D. Townsend (Bexleyheath)

As the last planned debate on the Middle East did not take place, as British forces are once again stationed there and as the House has not had an opportunity to debate Israel's recent legislative action over the Golan Heights, would not the Government show wisdom if they were to initiate an early debate on the Middle East?

Mr. Pym

That is true, if we could find the time. I agree about the importance of the subject, but I cannot foresee an opportunity in the near future. However, I hope that an opportunity will arise before too long.

Mr. Charles R. Morris (Manchester, Openshaw)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that about 10 days ago I sought a debate, under Standing Order No. 9, to discuss police operations during the 10-month industrial dispute outside the premises of Laurence Scott Electromotors Limited in my constituency? Does he remember that, in rejecting my application, Mr. Speaker suggested that there were other parliamentary channels available to me? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that on six different occasions I have applied to raise an Adjournment debate and that each application has been rejected? Is he further aware that I applied to ask two private notice Questions, and that both applications were rejected? Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that on the last Consolidated Fund Bill debate I applied to initiate a debate on this issue, but drew No. 32 among the issues tabled for debate? Against that background of awful luck—

Mr. Speaker

Order. As business questions will last only a quarter of an hour, the right hon. Gentleman is unfair to ask such a long question.

Mr. Morris

I hope that you will forgive me, Mr. Speaker, if I have abused my opportunity, but the issue is important to my constituents. Against that background of awful ill luck, will the right hon. Gentleman make arrangements for a statement to be made next week by the Home Secretary?

Mr. Pym

I shall certainly pass on the right hon. Gentleman's representations. I am sorry that he has not achieved the debate that he desires. Off the top of my head, I do not know whether it will be in order to raise the subject during the debate on the Consolidated Fund.

However, if it is, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will draw a higher number than before. I am sorry that I cannot provide time for a debate.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

Has my right hon. Friend observed early-day motion 316—on the important subject of school discipline—which stands in the name of 77 right hon. and hon. Members?

[That this House expresses grave concern at the implications of the European Court's ruling on corporal punishment; notes that the decison would appear to question the British view that the teacher is in loco parentis; and requests Her Majesty's Government to take such steps as are necessary to ensure; (a) that the teacher's existing position is maintained and (b) that methods of enforcing discipline should be decided within a school itself.]

Will my right hon. Friend arrange or allow an early debate on this extremely important matter?

Mr. Pym

I cannot find an opportunity in the near future in Government time, but I agree that there is widespread interest in the House on this subject.

Mr. Robert Kilroy-Silk (Ormskirk)

Will the Leader of the House find time for an early debate on law and order, so that we can analyse the way in which the Government's policies, particularly their economic policies, have contributed to, if not caused, the dramatic and unprecedented increase in serious crime since the Conservative Party came to office?

Mr. Pym

I entirely agree that that is an important subject which the House would very much like to debate. I will, of course, consult my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, but I must repeat that I do not foresee an early opportunity to debate the subject although I agree that there is a great deal of interest in it on both sides of the House.

Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson (Newbury)

Did my right hon. Friend see the allegations reported in the London evening newspapers yesterday that an IRA defector claimed to have an Irish contact in the House of Commons who supplied him with confidential information about Members of Parliament and their movements? If that statement is true, what inquiries is my right hon. Friend setting up to ensure that security in the House is all that it should be?

Mr. Pym

The police are investigating the extremely serious allegations that were made in that article. I do not think that it would be right for me to comment any further at this stage.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Leaving aside the manner in which President Reagan's visit to the United Kingdom was announced and the resentment felt in Britain about this issue, will the Leader of the House agree to listen to the views of hon. Members regarding the proposed joint meeting with both Houses of Parliament in Westminster Hall? Does he agree that it is utterly inappropriate for such a gathering to take place in Westminster Hall and that if President Reagan is to address both Houses, as he may wish to do, he should do so from the Royal Gallery from which other distinguished visitors have addressed both Houses of Parliament?

Mr. Pym

I do not think that that really arises on next week's business, but the answer is "Yes". I am certainly listening, and will continue to listen, to the views of hon. Members. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that quite a large number of hon. Members do not agree with what he has just said.

Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)

In view of the recent appalling figures for violent street crime, much of which is unfortunately perpetrated by young people, including West Indians, is my right hon. Friend satisfied that there is sufficient moral teaching—instruction in the difference between right and wrong—in schools for young children so that they may have a proper start in life and do not later commit awful crimes?

Mr. Pym

I do not think that it is for me to comment on that except to say, as I said to the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk), that this is an important subject which hon. Members will wish to discuss at some stage.

Mr. loan Evans (Aberdare)

In view of today's statement, will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on Trident, if not next week, then soon, and certainly before the Easter recess? Will he also find an early opportunity for a debate on the sale of the British National Oil Corporation? Does he agree that the two are linked? Does he agree that, as BNOC will be sold off for about £10 billion and Trident will cost about £10 billion, the two will be linked in people's minds?

Mr. Pym

On the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question, I have nothing to add to what I said to the Leader of the Opposition. On his second point, the relevant Bill is going through the House. I do not think that anything beyond that by way of extra procedure is required at the moment.

Mr. Michael Shersby (Uxbridge)

When does my right hon. Friend expect to arrange a debate on the Green Paper on the reform of the domestic rating system?

Mr. Pym

Not in the immediate future. Widespread consultations are taking place and in due course the House will, naturally, wish to express its opinions on the subject.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)

Will the Leader of the House introduce an Eastbourne Harbour (Repeal) Bill now that the Duke of Devonshire has reneged on all his cronies who crowded into the Chamber, at the request of the Prime Minister's private secretary, to vote for the Bill? Now that he has joined the "Scabs, Dregs and Parasites Party", would it not be reasonable to introduce a repeal Bill?

Mr. Pym

That is not in, my programme.

Mr. Nicholas Baker (Dorset, North)

Will my right hon. Friend consider finding time for a debate on the functions and existence of the GLC, bearing in mind the chaos into which it has thrown London Transport, its incredible claim to have some power over the police and its default in relation to London ratepayers?

Mr. Pym

I agree that many right hon. and hon. Members have strong views on that subject, but I am afraid that I cannot find time to enable my hon. Friend to express his views in the House.

Mr. Robert C. Brown (Newcastle upon Tyne, West)

Has the Leader of the House seen early-day motion 238 on the Co-operative Wholesale Society and bloodsports?

[That this House congratulates the Co-operative Wholesale Society on their decision to forbid the hunting of wild animals on land in the ownership of the Cooperative Wholesale Society.]

Is he aware that, if my postbag is representative, there is much public feeling against bloodsports? I realise that a major Bill for the wholesale abolition of bloodsports now would take too long, but will the Leader of the House consider a teeny little Bill and start with the abolition of foxhunting?

Mr. Pym

No, Sir.