HC Deb 28 November 1983 vol 49 cc649-50
38. Mr. Adley

asked the Lord Privy Seal how many officials for whom he is responsible are involved in his function of planning and supervising the Government's legislative programme.

Mr. Biffen

There are no departmental staff for whom I am responsible as Lord Privy Seal, but I am able to draw upon official advice as necessary.

Mr. Adley

Is it not a fact that, in previous cases where British dependent territories have changed their status, legislation has been required? As, presumably, an amendent or annulment of the treaty of Nanjing will be proposed at some stage, may I ask whether my right hon. Friend's officials have yet turned their minds to this subject?

Mr. Biffen

I am prudently advised to reply that while these talks are in progress it would not be appropriate to speculate about any future legislative requirement.

Mr. Winnick

Whatever may be the number of officials involved in framing the legislative programme, is it not important that stupid Acts, such as the Act that has caused the present industrial dispute and brought the courts into industrial relations, should not be passed by the Government? Will the Leader of the House persuade his Cabinet colleagues to repeal the Act that has caused so much difficulty?

Mr. Biffen

As I cannot recognise the hon. Gentleman's absurd premise, I cannot even offer an answer.

Mr. Bottomley

Will my right hon. Friend consider setting down in advance the times that the House will rise for recesses and, if necessary, have some flexibility on the times that the House returns?

Mr. Biffen

I appreciate my hon. Friend's point, but on the whole recess times are concluded without regard to the advice of officials.

Mr. Dykes

As China and Hong Kong have suddenly been put on my right hon. Friend's agenda, notwithstanding his answer does he agree that in general terms it would be better to start making preparations for future decisions so as to get the best results for Hong Kong rather than wait too late, as 1997 approaches?

Mr. Biffen

It is always flattering to be addressed as the Foreign Secretary, but I must tell my hon. Friend that I cannot go outside the terms of the reply that I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Adley) on his original question.