§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Biffen)
With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a short business statement.
The business tomorrow will now be a debate on the Falkland Islands, on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.
Following representations through the usual channels, the Chairman of Ways and Means has agreed that the opposed private business due to be taken at 7 o'clock tomorrow, that is, the Greater London Council (General Powers) (No. 2) Bill, may be taken at 10 o'clock.
§ Sir Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)
It is a mistake to arrange a further debate on the Falkland Islands when the country and the Government are entering a period of extremely delicate negotiation and when there is clearly a movement of our troops and the task force. To indulge in a debate without a specific statement of policy being demanded of the Government must be a major mistake, and I hope that the Government will reconsider the question.
§ Mr. Biffen
I hear what my right hon. Friend says. The House might like to reflect upon the fact that it is almost two weeks since we last had a debate on the Falklands crisis. The constructive way in which the House has attended the subject in the four debates hitherto has been central to the national debate which must take place on this matter.
§ Mr. John Silkin (Deptford)
The Opposition are grateful to the Leader of the House for arranging the debate. It is right that the House should be able to express its opinion at reasonable intervals on what is after all a fast-moving picture.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Hon. Members will have an opportunity tomorrow to express their opinions on whether there should have been a debate. Therefore, I shall call one more hon. Member from either side and move on to the next statement.
§ Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)
I have frequently told my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House that constant statements and debates do not help our diplomatic efforts and are probably tiresome and offensive to those in the task force. Today I hear rumours that Downing Street is full of cameras and talk of a sell-out. If there is a sell-out, no debate will be necessary; something much graver will be required.
§ Mr. Biffen
I obviously cannot comment on my hon. Friend's latter remarks.
Once again, I should like to share with the House the observation that since the original debate on the Falklands 750 crisis we have had four debates and eight statements over five to six weeks. I think that we have struck a reasonable balance.
§ Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarvon)
Will the Leader of the House reconsider his intention to have the debate on the motion for the Adjournment? Will he give those hon. Members who have grave misgivings about the Government's policy an opportunity to express them on a substantive motion?
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (Newham, North-West)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I refer to an earlier remark that you made? As always, it was made with all sincerity and honesty. You said that hon. Members would have an opportunity to express their opinions tomorrow. With the greatest respect, I know that it is always a difficult task to select speakers. I have no interest to declare. I do not want to take part in the debate. I never have taken part in debates on the Falklands crisis. Such debates affect the constituents of all hon. Members and yet, because of custom, Privy Councillors are invariably called first. They make their speeches, walk out and do not return until the closing speeches. The same regulars take part.
May I ask the Chair to bear in mind that in such national debates Mr. Smith, Mr. Black and Mr. Brown are entitled to speak. [Interruption.] This is not a joking matter. I do not want to take part. Constituents ask why they always hear Mr. X or Mr. Y but not their own representatives.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am fully cognisant of the matters that the hon. Gentleman raises. I shall bear them in mind and do my best, as I always do. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will help me, because I want to move on to the next statement.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I hope that we can now do credit to ourselves as a House and move on. There will be a debate on the Falkland Islands tomorrow and I shall try to call those who have not spoken in previous debates. It is true that there are some who have spoken in every debate. That is because they are spokesmen for their respective parties. That applies not only to the major parties in the House but to the minority parties.