HC Deb 18 March 1982 vol 20 cc482-9 3.34 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 22 MARCH—Second Reading of the Mental Health (Amendment) Bill [Lords].

Proceedings on the Agricultural Training Board Bill [Lords] and on the Industrial Training Bill [Lords], which are consolidation measures.

TUESDAY 23 MARCH—Completion of remaining stages of the Social Security and Housing Benefits Bill.

Motions on the Social Security Class 1 Contributions Order and on the State Scheme Premiums Order.

WEDNESDAY 24 MARCH—Second Reading of the Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments Bill [Lords].

A debate on the CAP price proposals for 1982–83 contained in European Community Document 4624/82.

Other relevant documents for debate will appear in the Official Report.

Motion on the Industrial Relations (Northern Ireland) Order.

THURSDAY 25 MARCH—Supply [16th Allotted Day]: There will be a debate on law and order.

FRIDAY 26 MARCH—Private Members' motions.

MONDAY 29 MARCH—A debate on the United Kingdom Trident Programme, Cmnd. No. 8517.

[The following documents are relevant to the debate on the common agricultural policy, to which the following reports of the European Legislation Committee relate:

EEC Documents Nos.

(i) 4624/82 Addendum 1, Add 2, Add 2 Add 1, and Cor 1—Price fixing of certain agricultural products and related measures.

4298/82—Situation of the agricultural markets 1981.

See 15th Report, Session 1981–82, para 1 (H.C. 21-xv)

(ii) 10311/81 10311/1/81 Rev. 1—Guidelines for European agriculture.

See 1st Report, Session 1981–82, para. 3 (H.C. 21-i). 12th Report, Session 1981–82, para. 4 (H.C. 21-xii).

(iii) 8915/81—Multi-annual trade agreements for agricultural products.

See 1st Report, Session 1981–82, para. 2 (H.C. 21-i)

(iv) 7538/81—Sheepmeat regime: variable premiums and clawback.

See 30th Report, Session 1980–81, para. 2 (H.C. 32-xxx).

(v) 10104/81—Wine regime.

See 7th Report, Session 1981–82, para. 2 (H.C. 21-vii).

(vi) (unnumbered Instrument on exceptional distillation of wine).

See 15th Report, Session 1981–82, para. 2 (H.C. 21-xv).]

Mr. Foot

May I put four matters to the right hon. Gentleman? I am sure that the House will appreciate that the answers and the attitude of the Prime Minister a few moments ago only underline the Opposition's wisdom in selecting law and order for debate on Thursday.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for having arranged an early debate on the Trident proposal, but may I also say that, in addition to the answers that we have had today, we shall be looking for early debates on the disarmament question and what proposals the Government may be seeking to make later in the year? We believe that this is incomparably the most important question in the world and that it should be fully debated in the House before the special session takes place.

Will the right hon. Gentleman make arrangements for a debate on the Government's public expenditure White Paper? We believe that it is essential that such a debate should take place separately and before the debate on the Finance Bill.

Finally, will the Leader of the House discover from the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he intends to publish the report of Her Majesty's inspectors of schools, and will he ask him to make a statement to the House upon it when the opportunity arises? There is a widespread belief in education circles that the report, which is already long overdue, is being suppressed because it will reveal the dreadful impact which the Government's cuts are having on the education service. When the Secretary of State decides to publish the report, we expect him to make a statement to the House.

Mr. Pym

I am grateful for what the right hon. Gentleman said at the beginning of his remarks, and I am certain that the whole House is grateful to him and to the Opposition for selecting law and order as the subject for the debate next Thursday. I am sure that he is right in saying that that will he helpful from every point of view.

Monday week's debate will be the second within a year on the Trident programme, and I am sure that the House wants the debate. The right hon. Gentleman is entirely right in intimating that progress towards disarmament and the Government's efforts in that direction are an essential part of that debate. I note what he has said about the visit of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the United Nations.

I intend to arrange a separate debate in due course on the public expenditure White Paper. At present, I do not have a date in mind, but I note that the House desires a debate on that subject.

I do not know when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science intends to publish the report of the schools inspectors. However, I shall convey the right hon. Gentleman's views to him and shall discuss with him the possibility of a statement.

Sir William Clark (Croydon, South)

As the debate on the Budget is over, and as the Budget allows for the potential ownership of index-linked bonds to be extended, will the House be given and early opportunity to discuss the Scott report, which is allied to that? The question whether the country can afford it is exercising the minds of many hon. Members on both sides of the House. In view of the assurances that my right hon. Friend has given, is it not high time that an early debate was held on that subject?

Mr. Pym

I assure my hon. Friend that the Scott report is exercising all our minds. I fully appreciate that the House wishes to debate that subject in due course and that my hon. Friend would like it to be debated soon. I am sorry, but I cannot say when that debate will be held, although the need and desire for it are very much in my mind. I am sorry that I cannot go further than that.

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

Given today's exchanges, can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Prime Minister will take part in the debate on law and order next Thursday? That might assist the House. Given the concern about the Government's attitude to community health councils, will the right hon. Gentleman find time soon for a debate on the prayer that is tabled in my name, with the support of the Leader of the Opposition?

Mr. Pym

No Government in recent years have taken more positive action than this Government on law and order. Those matters will be debated next Thursday. I shall consider the hon. Gentleman's second point, but I can say nothing more today.

Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)

When may we expect a statement on heavy lorries? Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that we shall be given at least a week's notice of any such statement?

Mr. Pym

There is no tremendous rush. There will be a debate, not immediately, but in due course.

Mr. David Ennals (Norwich, North)

No doubt the right hon. Gentleman's attention has been drawn not only to the report, "Single and Homeless" but also to early day motion 321, which has been signed by almost 100 right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House.

[That this House is gravely concerned that the first major national report on single homelessness for 10 years has been published by the Department of the Environment on the eve of the Budget and may therefore not receive the serious consideration it deserves in the light of the hard evidence contained in 'Single and Homeless' that: (a) an increasing number of single people are becoming homeless as a result of unemployment and the shortage of housing accommodation, and remaining homeless for prolonged periods, (b) 36 per cent. of them are in their teens or twenties, (c) one in four are women and (a) 85 per cent. of single homeless people would choose to live in ordinary homes if these were available and accessible, is further concerned that these findings come only one month after the publication of another national report 'Homeless Young Offenders'; and calls for a debate on Government policy at the earliest opportunity.]

The matter is very important. Will the right hon. Gentleman find an early opportunity to debate the report and the subject?

Mr. Pym

I cannot find a day for that purpose. I am not sure whether the subject will be relevant to the debate today or next week on the Social Security and Housing Benefits Bill. However, I cannot find a separate Government day for that subject in the near future.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

Has my right hon. Friend yet had time to study the important second report on the secondary school curriculum and on examinations for those aged 14 to 16 plus, which has been published by the Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts? Will he allow an early debate on that subject?

Mr. Pym

I am sorry, but I cannot find time for a debate on that subject in the near future.

Mr. Arthur Lewis (Newham, North-West)

Will the right hon. Gentleman try to find time today, or before next Thursday, to consider early day motion 351?

[That this House draws the attention of the Government, electorate, and the media, to the undisputed facts that the present Government, when contesting the last General Election when they were elected to power, had in their programme as one of its major items the fact that they would deal with the question of law and order; notes that even with the 'short sharp shock treatment' and 'the reduction of prison sentences and easing up on imprisonment' there is now more crime of all sorts than has ever before been the case in British history, notwithstanding the fact that we now have more police, at far higher rates of pay and allowances than ever before, that the police now have far more aids in persons and equipment than at any time since their formation, such as cars, pandas, two-way radios, computers, helicopters, &c., traffic wardens, traffic police and security firms; and would welcome a truly independent examination as to why this situation should pertain and what action could and should be taken to enable the aged, sick, and the ordinary taxpayer to enjoy their rights of walking the streets of our cities, and to remain in their own homes without being smashed about and robbed by the criminal classes.]

For next Thursday's debate, will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Home Secretary to make available all the facts and figures in his Department? We cannot get hold of them because when we table questions the information is not given on the ground of disproportionate cost. Some of us would like to know the truth and whether, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan), the former Prime Minister, said just now—that in bygone days, when there were fewer police and less equipment, there was less crime. We should like to have the figures. Will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Home Secretary to be prepared to give the figures that are on record instead of hiding them when asked questions?

Mr. Pym

Of course, I shall convey the hon. Gentleman's remarks to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. All those matters are relevant to next Thursday's debate.

Mr. Bill Walker (Perth and East Perthshire)

When will we have an early opportunity to study the implications of early day motions 262 and 315?

[That this House notes with concern the latest study issued by the Surgeon General of the United States of America which states that 129, 000 Americans are likely to die of cancer in the coming year because they smoke, that this disease accounts for one in four cancer deaths and that the study claims that there is no single action that an individual can take to reduce the risk of cancer more effectively than quitting smoking; and therefore urges Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer to take this information into consideration when forming his proposals for the Budget.]

[That this House considers that the agreement between the Government and the tobacco industry to restrict cigarette advertising has not done enough to reduce the smoking of cigarettes which are widely recognised to be injurious to health; and condemns the decision of the Secretary of State for Social Services to negotiate for a renewal of this agreement instead of introducing legislation to prohibit all advertisements for cigarettes.]

Both of them concern cigarette smoking and have implications for the job prospects of those in Glasgow who have been put out of work by the cigarette factory because of the substantial reduction in demand. That reduction can be largely attributed to the campaign against cigarette smoking.

Mr. Pym

Those matters were germane to the Budget debate, because in a sense they were a consequence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's decisions. I do not think that I can provide a separate opportunity in Government time for such a debate.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

When the right hon. Gentleman announced the debate on Wednesday on EEC prices, he mentioned a number of unspecified documents that are to be debated together with the major documents. Will he confirm that they have all been recommended for debate by the Scrutiny Committee? Do they cover major subjects and what is the nature of those documents? In future, might it not be better to let us know all the documents and not just some of them?

Mr. Pym

It is an awful bore to read out long lists of documents with complicated numbers. If the hon. Gentleman wants to find out about them, he can easily do so without asking for the House's time to be taken up with such statements.

Mr. Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet)

My right hon. Friend will recall that in response to my question on 17 December he said that there should be a full debate on the consultation paper "Alternatives to Domestic Rates" and that such a debate might be held towards the end of the consultation period or on its conclusion. As the consultation period will end at the end of the month, will we have a full debate before or immediately after Easter?

Mr. Pym

There will not be a debate before Easter. We should allow the consultation period to end and the Government will then need time to consider the advice that we have received. In due course, there will be a debate. I do not think that I implied that there would be an early debate. However, if I did, I apoligise. In due course, at the appropriate time, we shall have such a debate.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Next week, will there be a statement on President Reagan's proposed address to both Houses of Parliament? Is there not time for the Government to recognise their mistake—it certainly was a blunder—about the use of Westminster Hall for his address? Will the Government recognise that there is great opposition among most of the Opposition parties to the Government's proposals and that the Royal Gallery should be used?

Mr. Pym

The only thing that matters is that the visit by the President of the United States of America should be a total success from the point of view of the Alliance and the friendship between our two countries. There is no other consideration in our minds.

Mr. Tim Renton (Mid-Sussex)

Has my right hon. Friend seen the report in today's edition of The Times that the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Varley) predicted to trade union leaders yesterday that the Cabinet would be forced to introduce a guillotine on the Employment Bill because of the Labour Party's delaying tactics? Does not that conspiracy of delay amount to an abuse of the procedures of the House which prevents measured discussion of every clause? Would it not be far better to agree to a timetable for the discussion of each clause on the day that a Bill moves upstairs into Committee? May we have an urgent debate on that subject?

Mr. Eric G. Varley (Chesterfield)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I apologise to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the Leader of the House, but the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton) serves on Standing Committee G together with me and 20 other hon. Members under the Chairmanship of the hon. Member for Plymouth, Drake (Miss Fookes). He raised that matter this morning, at the beginning our proceedings and made charges of delay—

Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)


Mr. Speaker

Order. The right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) cannot raise a point of order when the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Varley) is raising one. However, hon. Members cannot refer to what has occurred in Committee before it has reported to the House.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

The hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton) did.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I do not wish to enter into an argument with the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), but I am sure that the right hon. Member for Chesterfield will make his point.

Mr. Varley

The hon. Member for Mid-Sussex raised this very matter today and the hon. Member for Plymouth, Drake (Miss Fookes) ruled on it. She told the Committee and the hon. Gentleman—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am sorry, but it is out of order to refer to what has happened in a Standing Committee before it reports. It is also out of order to charge hon. Members with being part of a conspiracy. I am sure that the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton) realises that hon. Members do not conspire for such purposes. I just wish to make that clear.

Mr. Pym

I do not know about conspiracies, but if delaying tactics are being employed it is wrong to describe them as an abuse of our procedures. They are perfectly legitimate. Whether they are wise or will serve the interests of the House or those whom we represent is another matter. I hope that we can make proper and satisfactory progress with this important Bill. I hope that it will conclude its Committee stage in a normal and proper manner so that further aspects of it can be considered on Report.

Mr. Varley

Has the attention of the Leader of the House been drawn to the fact that the Secretary of State for Employment has made it known that he will not accept any amendments to the Employment Bill? How can we make progress when the Government are obdurately telling us that in no circumstances will they listen to our representations or amend the measure?

Mr. Pym

I note what the right hon. Gentleman says. I am not aware of the comment to which he refers. It may be that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment was just telling the Committee in advance what his attitude would be. It is neither right nor in order to discuss here the progress in Committee.

I hope that the Committee stage will be completed in a normal manner so that the remaining stages of the Bill can be taken on the Floor of the House in reasonable time to ensure that it reaches the statute book by the end of this Session. That is the Government's declared intention.

Mr. Renton


Mr. Speaker

Does the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton) wish to refer to my ruling?

Mr. Renton

If you consider that my use of the words "conspiracy of delay" was unparliamentary, Mr. Speaker, I certainly withdraw it.

Mr. Ken Weetch (Ipswich)

Will the Leader of the House provide an early opportunity for the Government to make a statement about early day motion 313?

[That this House deplores the deeply offensive and provocative action of the Israeli authorities in issuing a stamp glorifying the assassins of the British Minister resident in the Middle East, Lord Moyne.]

Does he agree that a statement would be appropriate so that the House might hear the Government's view about the Israeli Government's issuing of commemorative stamps in remembrance of the assassination of a British Minister?

Mr. Pym

I have to say "Not next week."

Mr. Skinner

Does the Leader of the House agree that it is reasonable to make a statement about the privatisation of refuse disposal and collection services by Southend council in view of the early day motion and the amendment, signed by many hon. Members?

[That this House offers congratulations to the Council of the Borough of Southend on Sea for having announced an unchanged borough rate on 15th February 1982, despite inflation and a cut in Government grant, particularly when this unchanged rate follows a reduction in the borough rate last year; notes the benefits which Southend ratepayers are now enjoying from the policy of privatisation pioneered by the council; urges borough councils throughout the United Kingdom to follow the policies of prudence, enterprise and privatisation which have proved themselves in Southend on Sea; and urges Her Majesty's Government to take steps to ensure that ratepayers are levied separately by boroughs and C011lities so that ratepayers can assess more readily the cost to them of the services provided by each level of local government.]

[Line 1, leave out from 'House' to end and add `condemns the Tory-controlled Southend Council for deceiving the Southend ratepayers by initially agreeing to a contract to have refuse cleared by Exclusive Cleaning Ltd. from all newly-built homes in Southend at the rate of £15 per hundred dwellings and after the tender had been accepted to change the contract to one of £15 for each new dwelling; draws attention to the fact that Exclusive Cleaning Ltd. did not submit the lowest tender and that some assets of the Southend Council cleansing department were virtually given away; and condemns the British Broadcasting Corporation on their 'Nationwide' programme about Southend on 15th February when it failed to point out any of these matters in a blatantly free-enterprise, Saatchi and Saatchi-type production.']

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that there should be a statement about the need for a public inquiry when a Tory council has handed over a contract to a firm, one of the directors of which is a leading Tory councillor in a neighbouring authority? Is he aware that the tender was not the lowest and that many of the vehicles were almost given away? Is he further aware that the contract was changed to the benefit of the firm after the tender had been accepted by the Tory council? Bearing in mind that the refuse collection yard was almost handed over free to Exclusive Cleaning Limited, does the Leader of the House agree that there should be a statement and a public inquiry?

Mr. Pym

I am not impressed by the suggestion that the time of the House should be taken up by the collection of refuse in Southend.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)

Will the Leader of the House find time to make a statement on the proposal to sack 26 skilled film makers from the Central Office of Information? Is he aware that those film makers have contributed massively to the export drive of this country by making many prize winning films that have demonstrated the quality of our products? Does he agree that the film makers are receiving the reward of being put on the dole queue without any reason being advanced in accordance with the provisions of the Employment Protection Act? Does he agree that the Government and the Civil Service should set an example rather than undermine the legislative position? May we have a statement?

Mr. Pym

I doubt whether a statement is appropriate. That matter must be taken up with my right hon. Friends.