HC Deb 17 November 1983 vol 48 cc987-92 3.31 pm
Mr. Neil Kinnock (Islwyn)

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he will state the business for next week?

The Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Biffen)

The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY 21 NOVEMBER—Consideration of a timetable motion on the Telecommunications Bill.

Opposition day (3rd Allotted day) (Second part). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion on co-operation and economic development in the Commonwealth.

Motion on European Community documents 6374/83, 6450/83 and 6375/83 on coal and steel.

TUESDAY 22 NOVEMBER— Second Reading of the Restrictive Trade Practices (Stock Exchange) Bill.

Debate on a motion to approve the third report from the Select Committee on House of Commons (Services) Session 1982/83 relating to a new parliamentary building (phase I).

WEDNESDAY 23 NOVEMBER — Opposition day (4th Allotted Day). Subject to be announced.

Motion on European Community documents 4342/83 and 8124/83 on shipments of hazardous waste.

THURSDAY 24 NOVEMBER—There will be a debate on a motion to approve the Chancellor of the Exchequer's autumn statement.

FRIDAY 25 NOVEMBER—Private Members' Bills.

MONDAY 28 NOVEMBER—A debate on the Royal Navy, on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

(i) Debate on 21 November:

Social measures in the steel industry: contribution to ECSC budget 1983–86—Doc. No. 6375/83.

Fourth Report on aids to the steel industry—Doc. No. 6374183.

General objectives for steel 1985 — Doc. No. 6450/83.

Relevant reports of the European Legislation Committee:

HC 78-i (1983–84) paras. 3 and 4.

HC 34-vii (1982–83) para. 3.

Debate on 23 November:

Supervision and control of trans frontier shipment of hazardous wastes—Doc. Nos. 4342/83 and 8124/83.

Relevant reports of the European Legislation Committee:

HC 34-xv (1982–83) para. 2.

HC 78-iii (1983–84) para. 1.

Mr. Kinnock

Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider guillotining the Telecommunications Bill next Monday, as the available evidence shows that public opinion has swung heavily against the privatisation of British Telecom?

On Tuesday, the House will be asked to give a Second Reading to a Bill that exempts the Stock Exchange from part of the Restrictive Trade Practices Act 1976, while at the same time the Government are trying to impose unwarranted restrictions on trade unions. Is that coincidence of events evidence of governmental irony, schizophrenia or hypocrisy?

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the debate on the motion to approve the third report of the Select Committee relating to the new parliamentary building will be open-ended so that hon. Members who wish to participate will have the opportunity to do so?

The Opposition are awaiting the expenditure statement this afternoon before deciding on the subject for debate during the Opposition day next Wednesday. Our decision will be communicated to the right hon. Gentleman through the usual channels as quickly as possible.

Why are the Government ordering Ministers to cancel scheduled meetings tomorrow, and why are they deliberately organising Conservative Members to defeat the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons (Amendment) Bill? Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that that Bill, which has all-party support, is designed for the sole purpose of improving the welfare and status of the disabled? Does he agree that the connivance of his Whips against the Bill offends against both the conventions of the House and plain decency?

Mr. Biffen

Perhaps I can start at the same point as the right hon. Gentleman started—with the opinion polls and the Telecommunications Bill. I happened to observe in today's Daily Telegraph that the right hon. Gentleman is slipping in the opinion polls. I would not draw any ungenerous conclusion from that statistical aberration. I invite him to show the same generosity towards the Telecommunications Bill. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman is underpricing himself.

The Second Reading of the Restrictive Trade Practices (Stock Exchange) Bill on Tuesday will deal with a serious matter. The House will wish to address itself to all the principles involved, and it will be able to do so without plundering the dictionary for the terms "hypocrisy", "schizophrenia" or "irony".

I am happy to confirm that the debate on the proposed new parliamentary building will be open ended so that there can be the widest possible participation in the debate and decision.

The Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons (Amendment) Bill is scheduled as a private Member's Bill for discussion tomorrow. I have noted the deft and skilful way in which the right hon. Gentleman has sought to drive some imaginary wedge between the Chief Whip and myself. Tomorrow is a private Members' day, and after the decision is taken we will consider the matter further.

On the subject of the Opposition day on Wednesday, I quite understand the attitude adopted by the right hon. Gentleman.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. Before I call the next hon. Gentleman I must point out that there are two important statements and an important debate to follow. Could questions be directed to business next week, please?

Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)

Will my right hon. Friend find time next week for a debate on the most important topic of public order? Will he bear in mind the continuing misbehaviour, both at this place and at Greenham common, of the CND women who are trying to force their minority opinions on the whole country?

Mr. Biffen

I cannot offer any formal time next week, which is within the Government's gift, for the debate mentioned by my hon. Friend. However, the debate on the Chancellor's autumn statement will enable him to reflect upon the Home Office budget, and he may care to make his speech in that context.

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

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that during Question Time today the Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said that there was a need for an early debate on the common fisheries policy? Will he endeavour to provide time for such a debate soon?

Mr. Biffen


Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

As today is the first anniversary of the day on which the first Telecommunications Bill was laid, and as we are still on page 2, does my right hon. Friend accept that the fact that the timetable motion is to be introduced only on Monday is a demonstration of the patience and forbearance of the Government?

Mr. Biffen

It is a patience matched only by those who serve on the Committee.

Mr. Donald Coleman (Neath)

The Leader of the House will be aware of the anxieties felt in south Wales about the Severn bridge. Notwithstanding the statement to be made today, will he arrange for an early debate in the House about a second crossing of the river Severn as it is vital to the people of south Wales and the south Wales economy?

Mr. Biffen

I can give no such undertaking. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will want to hear the statement that will soon be made.

Sir David Price (Eastleigh)

With regard to next Tuesday's debate on phase I of a new parliamentary building, will my hon. Friend make a statement about the increasing practice of right hon. and hon. Members and members of staff who are not disabled parking their cars in that part of Star Court which is reserved for disabled drivers?

Mr. Biffen

That is an important point. I shall certainly be in touch with my hon. Friend about it. However, I think that direct contact in this instance might be better than trying to raise the matter in Tuesday's debate.

Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon)

As it is well known on both sides of the House that, through the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones), the Government are organising opposition to the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons (Amendment) Bill which is lo be debated tomorrow, will the Leader of the House assure us that the Government intend to honour their commitment to introduce their own legislation on discrimination against disabled people?

Mr. Biffen

There is no Whip.

Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)

Will my right hon. Friend find time to debate last night's disgraceful events surrounding the football match in Luxembourg, which has always been a most friendly country? Are we not approaching the time when the damage to Britain's good name that is caused by a bunch of uncivilised louts can no longer be tolerated? Is it not time that, if the Football Association cannot take effective action by itself, we considered a ban, if necessary, for a trial period of one or two years, on sending British football teams abroad?

Mr. Biffen

I am sure that my hon. Friend voices a widely held deep resentment about the behaviour of such people as were in Luxembourg last night. His best means of pursuing the issue might be as a private Member and seeing what chance he has of raising the matter on the Adjournment.

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

The Leader of the House will have seen early-day motion 268.

[That this House is deeply concerned that this Government has seen fit to appoint a Minister with special responsibility for the West Midlands, when exceptionally high unemployment areas like the Northern Region are completely neglected; and deplores the remarks made by the honourable Member for Coventry South West in a speech reported in the Evening Mail on Tuesday 15th November, in which he referred to the Northern Region as The work-shy north', a description which is patently unfair and contributes nothing to assisting the problems of unemployment in the Northern Region brought about mainly by the policies of the present Government and gives further credibility to the view widely held that this Government has written off the Northern Region as an industrial desert.]

Earlier this afternoon, was a unique occasion for the House, as the Prime Minister withdrew a statement on behalf of an hon. Member who should have come to the House himself to make that withdrawal. As the motion refers to the northern region, and as unemployment there is now rapidly approaching 250,000, will the Leader of the House provide time for an early debate on the northern region so that we can establish the fact that close on 250,000 unemployed people there are not work-shy but have had unemployment imposed on them by the Government's policies?

Mr. Biffen

As to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's comments, I cannot helpfully add to what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said. As to the second, I believe that the speech he would wish to make will reasonably fit in the debate on the Chancellor's autumn statement.

Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch)

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the dilemma in which the east Dorset health authority and, indeed, all other health authorities find themselves as a result of the ruling of the Law Officers of the Crown that owners of Crown land may not apply for planning permission? Is he aware that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said yesterday that legislation is urgently required? Although I cannot expect a Bill to be presented next week, will he give an assurance that, in this Session, the Department of the Environment will produce the necessary legislation?

Mr. Biffen

I strongly hope that I can meet my hon. Friend's request.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

For the past three weeks the Leader of the House has said that he will consult the Secretary of State for the Environment about the possibility of a debate on the White Paper entitled "Streamlining the Cities" which includes proposals to abolish the GLC and the metropolitan counties. Will he tell us whether his right hon. Friend has now had enough time to make up his mind? When will we have the debate, or must we draw the conclusion that, because of divisions within the Conservative party about the proposals, the Government are frightened to present the White Paper to the House?

Mr. Biffen

I shall leave aside the ungenerous suggestions in the latter part of the hon. Gentleman's comments. As to the point of substance, I shall be in touch with him.

Mr. James Kilfedder (Down, North)

Will the Leader of the House find time to commend the natural good behaviour of the Ulster supporters who attended the football match in Hamburg yesterday when Northern Ireland won a brilliant victory?

Mr. Biffen

On behalf of many Englishmen, I should like to say that we are overcome with envy.

Mr. Alfred Dubs (Battersea)

Will the Leader of the House find time for an early debate on the vexed issue of the procedures by which official documents and reports are all too frequently given to the media and outside organisations before they are given to Members of Parliament? Will he comment on the recent decision by the Home Office as a result of which the Policy Studies Institute report on the Metropolitan police, which is directly relevant to the Committee stage of the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill, is not to be made available to the world at large—which includes Members of Parliament —until tomorrow afternoon, although it has been made available, under embargo, to the media and a range of outside organisations? Why do Members of Parliament always come at the end of the queue?

Mr. Biffen

Like many other hon. Members, I can understand the hon. Gentleman's frustration. However, the report that he mentioned has been made by an independent body, not a Government Department. I cannot therefore comment on its handling prior to publication.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

May I ask the Leader of the House a question of which I gave his office notice yesterday? Will there be a statement on the issues raised by the publication and use of unpublished Foreign Office telegrams and intelligence reports in The Economist by Sir Nicholas Henderson?

Mr. Biffen

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving notice of his intention to raise that matter with me. I am afraid, however, that I cannot go further than the written reply which he was given yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

Mr. Robert Parry (Liverpool, Riverside)

The Leader of the House will have seen early-day motion 263 on military trials in Chile which has been signed by 85 hon. Members.

[That this House is concerned at the detention of Jorge Palma Donoso, Carlos Alberto Araneda, Rosa Farias Ogaz, Hugo Marchant Moya, Susana Capriles Rojas, Marta Sivia Soto Gonzales in Chile under decree law 3655 which may mean trial by a military war tribunal by which life imprisonment or even sentence of death may be passed against which there is no right of appeal and which, according to military law, would take place within three days of sentence; calls upon Her Majesty's Government to make strong and urgent representations to the Government of Chile for them to be tried by procedures which conform to international law; and calls for the restoration of human rights in Chile.]

Will he ask the Foreign Secretary to make urgent representations to the Chilean Government against those trials, in view of possible early executions, and for the restoration of human rights?

Mr. Biffen

I shall certainly make the representations that the hon. Gentleman requests.

Mr. Brian Sedgemore (Hackney, South and Shoreditch)

Has the Leader of the House read the recent condign criticism of his conduct by Mr. Hugh Stephenson, who was formerely a journalist for The Times? Will he now arrange for an early debate censuring himself on his conduct in relation to the takeover of Times Newspapers by the country's leading pornographer, Mr. Rupert Murdoch?

Mr. Biffen

No, because I do not believe that my conduct merits such a course.

Mr. Tom Cox (Tooting)

In view of this week's events in Cyprus and statements on it that have been made by senior Ministers, will the Leader of the House seriously consider arranging an early debate on Cyprus so that the House can be made fully aware of the Government's attitude to Britain being a guarantor power and of the Government's stand in debates at the United Nations on this tragic issue?

Mr. Biffen

The hon. Gentleman has a long-standing and recognised interest in the Cyprus issue. I shall of course refer his comments to my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary, but I must make it clear that there can be no question of Government time being made available for such a debate next week.

Mr. Eddie Loyden (Liverpool, Garston)

Will the Leader of the House arrange a debate, or for a statement to be made by the Secretary of State for the Environment, on reports that have appeared in the press about his seeking powers to intervene in the rights and responsibilities of democratically elected local authorities?

Mr. Biffen

I shall look into that.

Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East)

Has the Leader of the House seen early-day motion 172 on youth training schemes? It has more signatories than any other early-day motion on today's order paper.

[That this House is concerned at the lack of legal protection, particularly in areas of health and safety, afforded by the present government to youngsters on the youth training scheme and supports the immediate introduction of legislation to amend this situation.]

The Health and Safety Commission announced regulations this week and comments on them are supposed to be received by 12 December. Will he assure the House that those regulations will be brought before the House before Christmas so that the promise made by the Secretary of State for Employment that they will come into effect at the beginning of 1984 will be honoured?

Mr. Biffen

I recognise the widespread interest that is taken in the topic which the hon. Gentleman has raised. I shall examine the circumstances that he has identified and be in touch with him.

Forward to