HC Deb 05 July 1984 vol 63 cc461-7 3.30 pm
Mr. Neil Kinnock (Islwyn)

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

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

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

MONDAY 9 JULY—Consideration of Private Members' motions until seven o'clock.

Afterwards, remaining stages of the Cable and Broadcasting Bill [Lords].

Consideration of Lords amendments to the Agricultural Holdings Bill [Lords].

TUESDAY IO JULY — There will be a debate on a Government motion on European Community affairs. The White Paper on developments in the Community July to December 1983 will be relevant. Other relevant document numbers will appear in the Official Report.

Motion on European Community document 9272/1/83 on the anti-dumping and anti-subsidy report.

Motion on the Financial Provisions (Northern Ireland) Order.

WEDNESDAY II JULY—Progress on Report stage of the Finance (No. 2) Bill.

THURSDAY I2 JULY—Completion of Remaining stages of the Finance (No. 2) Bill.

Second Reading of the Capital Transfer Tax Bill [Lords], which is a consolidation measure.

FRIDAY I3 JULY—There will be a debate on the prevention of drug misuse, on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

MONDAY I6 JULY—A debate on the Gower report on the review of investor protection in the financial services sector, on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

[Debate on 10 July (EEC White Paper). Relevant European Community documents and reports of European Legislation Committee:—


(a) 4972/84 Budgetary discipline
(b) 5427/84 Future financing of the Community
(c) 6681/84 Measures to meet budget requirements for 1984
(d) 4812/84 Supplementary measures in favour of the United Kingdom
(e) 6240/84 Specific measures for energy strategy, 1983
(f) 7922/84 Preliminary draft budget for 1985

Relevant Reports

  1. (a) HC 78-xix (1983–84) paragraph 3 and HC 78-xx (1983–84) paragraph 4
  2. (b) HC 78-xxii (1983–84) paragraph 1
  3. (c) HC 78-xxvii (1983–84) paragraph 7
  4. (d) HC 78-xx (1983–84) paragraph 3
  5. (e) HC 78-xxvii (1983–84) paragraph 5
  6. (f) HC 78-xxx (1983–84) paragraph 1 (not yet printed)

Debate on 10 July (Anti-dumping measures) Relevant European Community documents and report of the European Legislation Committee:—

9272/1/83 Annual report on anti-dumping and anti-subsidy legislation.

See HC 78—iii (1983–84) paragraph 7.]

Mr. Kinnock

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his statement and for providing time for a debate on the awful problem of drug misuse — a matter of interest and anxiety to all hon. Members and the country. Will there be an opportunity for a Minister to make a statement about effective measures for counteracting drug misuse, as that is the desire of all hon. Members?

Will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that the European debate on Tuesday will be on an amendable motion? Will he tell the House what is happening about the milk quotas order following the opportunity that the House had on Tuesday to express its views on the draft Dairy Produce Quotas Regulations 1984?

When does the right hon. Gentleman propose to have a debate on the British Telecom licence? He must be aware that it is a vast document which gives powers to British Telecom to close up to 5,000 telephone kiosks in rural and other areas, and fails to provide adequate security for the directory inquiry services currently provided by British Telecom. Will he ensure that we have an early debate on that so that we can express the strong anxiety felt in the country against changes which will disadvantage people, especially those in rural areas?

Mr. Biffen

I shall certainly consider the possibility of a debate on the British Telecom licence, which raises the important factors to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. Perhaps that is something that we could pursue through the usual channels.

On the subject of milk quotas, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will wish to take account of the constructive debate earlier this week. He will be tabling a further order taking account of what then happened.

I can confirm that the debate on the European Community, scheduled for Tuesday 10 July, will proceed upon a Government motion which will be amendable.

I join the right hon. Gentleman in paying tribute to the importance of the topic of drug misuse. A Government spokesman will be taking part in that debate.

Mr. James Couchman (Gillingham)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that area managers of the Manpower Services Commission are beginning to produce plans to rationalise the services provided by the MSC? Will he try to find time before the recess to debate these proposals, many of which are for consultation only until mid-August?

Mr. Biffen

I can confirm from my constituency interest the importance of the point that my hon. Friend raises. Of course, there are parliamentary opportunities open to private Members, as well as Government time, in the balance of days between now and when we recess. I shall certainly draw the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment to the points that have been raised.

Mr. James Lamond (Oldham, Central and Royton)

As the Stockholm conference ends its second session today, on which day next week will we hear a statement from the Foreign Secretary telling us of any advances that have been made in the disarmament talks there?

Mr. Biffen

I shall draw the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary to the point that has been raised.

Viscount Cranborne (Dorset, South)

Will my right hon. Friend provide time urgently for a debate on the future of the constitution, so that the House may hear whether the Labour party has changed its views on the abolition of the House of Lords?

Mr. Biffen

That is one of the topics that might conceivably stretch to the overspill.

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

Now that we have reached the 18th Opposition day and the practice of treating such days as Labour days has continued unabated, will the Leader of the House table a motion referring this matter to the Select Committee on Procedure so that we can have a debate on the Floor of the House about it, or is it all part of the Government's life support system to keep the Labour party in business?

Mr. Biffen

I doubt whether this Government, even with all their skill, could keep the Labour party in business. On the more substantial matter, I must point out that the Procedure Committee could consider this matter without recourse to the device to which the hon. Gentleman referred.

Sir Kenneth Lewis (Stamford and Spalding)

In order to put it on the record, will my right hon. Friend agree and take note of the fact that next week, when the House of Lords will consider an amendment tabled by the Government to the paving Bill, the Local Government (Interim Provisions) Bill, it will be almost the same amendment as that tabled in this House by myself, the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) and others, which the Government refused to accept? Will my right hon. Friend take it from me that there is more rejoicing over one Minister who repenteth than in 99 votes in the wrong Lobby on the wrong issue?

Mr. Biffen

I shall hide behind the ample skirts of the convention which inhibits hon. Members of this House discussing matters which are being considered in another place.

Mr. A. E. P. Duffy (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

In view of the reply from a Minister from the Department of Trade and Industry during the week to a written question on privatisation and the British Steel Corporation, does the Leader of the House think that an early debate on the future of BSC would assist the House and also help to clarify the intentions of the Department of Trade and Industry on the future of the Phoenix 2 joint venture project?

Mr. Biffen

I shall bear in mind the desirability of having a reasonably early debate on the steel industry.

Mr. Barry Henderson (Fife, North-East)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are Conservative Members who would also welcome a debate on the BT licence, if for no other reason than that the truth may be marshalled to counteract the misinformation being peddled by Labour Members with vested interests?

Mr. Biffen


Mr. Roland Boyes (Houghton and Washington)

Did the Leader of the House notice the statement by a representative of the Pentagon last week that sea-launched cruise missiles are now operational on American naval vessels? Did he notice the Secretary of State for Defence's reply to a written question saying that it is the policy of Her Majesty's Government neither to confirm nor deny the presence of nuclear weapons in a particular location? This means that this country could have at least 1,000 sea-launched cruise missiles in its ports. Is it not time that the Secretary of State for Defence came to the House and gave us a full explanation of the Government's policy on these weapons?

Mr. Biffen

I suspect that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence was commenting on a convention which has been equally applicable to both Tory and Labour Governments. I shall refer to him the hon. Gentleman's point.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. As there is to be a statement after this, and as no fewer than 37 right hon. and hon. Gentlemen wish to take part in the subsequent debate, I shall allow questions to continue for a further 10 minutes.

Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that there will be no concluded debate on the Fontainebleau agreement —[HON. MEMBERS: "Fontaineblow".] — Fontaineblow agreement until the Finance Ministers have met and until the House has had an opportunity to consider whether the financial disciplines are sufficient?

Mr. Biffen

I find my hon. Friend's corrupted French infinitely more attractive than the uncorrupt variety. I assure him that the answer that he seeks he will better secure in the debate on Tuesday than from me.

Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)

In view of the Prime Minister's, as usual, mistaken comment about the availability for display of paintings in this country, and in view of the fact that the nation has just lost £21 million worth of drawings from the Chatsworth collection, which we could have had if the Government had coughed up another £500,000, may we have a debate in the House on the need to introduce new measures to keep within British national collections a whole range of things which are now in danger of being exported, either by introducing new tax arrangements or by pre-empting certain works of art or objects of art, as is done in France and Italy? There is a need to debate this matter.

Mr. Biffen

I accept at once the hon. Gentleman's feeling for this topic and his desire to have a debate. I recommend to him all the opportunities that are available for private Members between now and the end of the month.

Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Bristol, East)

Has my right hon. Friend seen early-day motion 643, entitled "Bomb Makers' Books"?

[That this House urges the Secretary of State for the Home Department to take steps to stop the importing, distribution, sale or possession of books or manuals that clearly and simply detail the production of home-made napalm, plastic explosive nail-bombs and booby traps from materials legally and easily available in the shops.]

The motion stands in the names of myself and other right hon. and hon. Members. It has the support of half the House, on an all-party basis. Bearing in mind that support, will my right hon. Friend ask our right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department to make a statement on whether he intends to stop the distribution and sale of these pernicious manuals, which teach the deranged and the demented how to make bombs and armaments out of easily available materials?

Mr. Biffen

My hon. Friend raises a most important point and I understand that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary is consulting the police. In the light of the advice that he receives, he will consider whether any additional steps are necessary. I shall refer my hon. Friend's point to my right hon. and learned Friend.

Mr. Allen McKay (Barnsley, West and Penistone)

Mining industry dispute—when?

Mr. Biffen

Not scheduled for next week, but one never can tell.

Mr. Peter Bruinvels (Leicester, East)

I wish to draw the attention of my right hon. Friend to early-day motion 856:

[That this House calls upon Her Majesty's Government to continue to honour the additional allowance, commonly known as 'danger money', awarded to all members of the armed forces serving in Northern Ireland.]

The motion is in my name and that of 19 other hon. Members and concerns the problem in Northern Ireland of armed forces pay and the fact that the additional allowance paid to all service men in Northern Ireland may be in danger. I call it danger money. Will it be possible for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence to confirm or deny on the Floor of the House whether this allowance will continue to be paid, because the armed forces deserve it?

Mr. Biffen

I understand that the matter is before the Review Body on Armed Forces Pay, but I shall refer the point that my hon. Friend has raised to the relevant Minister.

Mr. Tom Clarke (Monklands, West)

When can we expect a debate on Central America? If there is a debate, will the Government take that opportunity to tell the House whether they intend to send observers to the forthcoming elections in Nicaragua?

Mr. Biffen

This is the time of year when hon. Members, especially those from Scotland, become increasingly concerned about the date of the recess. In those circumstances, there tends to be rather severe pressure on some topics, and Central America might be one of them.

Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)

Can my right hon. Friend give a categorical assurance that the House will not debate dog licences next week? Furthermore, can he think of some legislation that would find favour with the electorate? I have many suggestions, including the reintroduction of the death penalty, which would sweep the country.

Mr. Biffen

I wish to move modestly and circumspectly in this area, and I assure my hon. Friend that it would not be with my good wishes if the House debated dog licences next week.

Mr. Allen Adams (Paisley, North)

As you, Mr. Speaker, reminded the House a fortnight ago that questions at business time should be related to pertinent and relevant issues, may I ask the Leader of the House whether he considers that the most relevant and major issue facing the country is still the miners' dispute? On that presumption, will he initiate a debate on that issue in Government time, because I am sure that Opposition Members would welcome the opportunity to give unqualified support—I repeat, unqualified support—to the struggle being waged by the National Union of Mineworkers?

Mr. Biffen

I imagine that the hon. Gentleman is referring to that minority of the NUM who are on strike—

Mr. Adams

The majority.

Mr. Biffen

The very fact that the position is fractured is central to our understanding of it. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that it is a major topic, and it may well be the subject of consideration by the House during the next two or three weeks, but it does not feature in next week's business.

Mr. Kenneth Carlisle (Lincoln)

As my right hon. Friend is aware, the Nature Conservancy Council has just published a report called "Nature Conservation in Great Britain". As this is a matter of growing interest, may we soon have a debate on the countryside?

Mr. Biffen

My hon. Friend could pursue this topic through the several opportunities that he has as a Back-Bench Member. However, I shall draw the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment to the point that he makes.

Mr. Tom Cox (Tooting)

Is the Leader of the House aware of the publicity this week about people wanted by the police for interview, who are now living in Spain without fear of removal? Is he further aware that at a recent meeting in Strasbourg the Spanish Prime Minister said that the lack of development of an extradition treaty was caused by a lack of good will in the British Government? Will he try to do something about this?

Mr. Biffen

I shall relate the hon. Gentleman's point to the Ministers responsible for such matters.

Mrs. Edwina Currie (Derbyshire, South)

Has my right hon. Friend noticed the report of the assistant chief constable of Derbyshire that there have been more than 200 instances of intimidation of and violence against working miners and their families in that county during the past month, and that even children are being approached on their way to school? The position in some of our villages is as bad as in Northern Ireland. May we have a debate soon on the restoration of law in the county so that working miners and their families can live in peace?

Mr. Biffen

That touches the wider issue mentioned by other hon. Members of seeking to have an early debate on the mining dispute. Of course, I shall bear my hon. Friend's point in mind.

Mr. Laurie Pavitt (Brent, South)

Will the Leader of the House compassionately consider early-day motion 745, which is supported by hon. Members on both sides of the House, on the injustice of the death grant of £30 at a time when a funeral costs £500?

[That this House demands that the death grant fixed in 1948 at the then value of £30, should be increased immediately; recalls that in his statement on 2nd April, Official Report, column 653, the Secretary of State indicated that the review of the whole of security benefits, including the death grant, would not be available until later this year; and believes that this issue should be treated separately and urgently in the light of the fact that in the two years 1980 to 1982 there were 544,349 deaths, many of these pensioners who had a lifetime of weekly contributions but whose families would be meeting funeral costs in excess of £500 to which the contribution of £30 is derisory.]

If we cannot have a statement or debate on this matter, will the right hon. Gentleman at least ask the Secretary of State for Social Services to take this matter out of the present review, because before the review is completed hundreds of senior citizens will have died?

Mr. Biffen

I shall certainly raise the hon. Gentleman's point with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services.

Mr. Richard Holt (Langbaurgh)

Does my right hon. Friend accept that not only Opposition Members but Conservative Members would welcome a debate on the steel industry, as it would afford an opportunity to the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) to repeat in the House what he said to the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation conference, which was that the Conservative party was being funded by ICI?

Mr. Biffen

My hon. Friend adds another to the many reasons that exist, and are felt by the House, for a debate on the steel industry. I should like to see what time can be found for such a debate.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)

Will we have a debate on regional policy before the recess, particularly in the light of the fact that the Government's consultation exercise on the White Paper is now almost complete and hon. Members should be given the opportunity on the Floor publicly to express their views?

Mr. Biffen

Regional policy covers such a range of economic considerations that the hon. Gentleman might even be able to raise the subject on the remaining stages of the Finance (No. 2) Bill.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

Will my right hon. Friend, whose constituency has much to do with the dairy industry, assure us that when the Minister of Agriculture lays the amended dairy produce quota regulations before the House a full day's debate will be permitted so that all those hon. Members with a considerable interest in the agriculture industry and the dairy sector will have an opportunity to participate? Bearing in mind the requests for debates on the steel and coal industries, will my right hon. Friend also find time in the near future, before we rise for the recess, for a debate on textile and clothing industries, which employ more people than the coal and steel industries put together?

Mr. Biffen

I confine myself to the dairy produce quota regulations. I cannot guarantee that more than the normal time will be allocated for that debate.