HC Deb 14 June 1984 vol 61 cc1071-3 3.30 pm
Mr. Roy Hattersley (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)

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 18 JUNE AND TUESDAY 19 JUNE—Debate on a motion to approve the statement on the Defence Estimates 1984, Cmnd. 9227.

At the end on Tuesday—motion relating to the control of Harbour Development (Revocation) Order.

WEDNESDAY 20 JUNE—Progress on remaining stages of the Roads (Scotland) Bill [Lords].

Consideration of Lords amendments to the Rating and Valuation (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill.

THURSDAY 21 JUNE—Opposition Day (16th Allotted Day). There will be a debate on an Opposition motion on new technology with special reference to Inmos.

Remaining stages of the Housing Defects Bill.

At seven o'clock the Chairman of Ways and Means has named opposed private business for consideration.

FRIDAY 22 JUNE—There will be a debate on the civil aviation industry on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

MONDAY 25 JUNE — Consideration of Lords Amendments to the Rates Bill and the London Regional Transport Bill.

At seven o'clock the Chairman of Ways and Means has named opposed private business for consideration.

Mr. Hattersley

May I ask the Leader of the House three specific questions? First, can he tell us when we are to have a statement on the Government's attitude towards the New Ireland Forum, and can he say when the House will be able to debate the subject?

Secondly, now that there is an agreement on arbitration to settle the teachers' pay claim, it looks as though the employers and employees will agree a format but that the dispute will be continued because of the Government's refusal to endorse their agreement. May we be assured that the Secretary of State for Education and Science will come to the House next week and explain why the Government choose to prolong the dispute in the teaching profession?

Thirdly, if we stretch credibility to breaking point by accepting the Prime Minister's interpretation of the Portsmouth rate-capping correspondence, it is clear that the Government do not have the faintest idea how they propose to implement their rate-capping legislation. May we have a statement before that Bill becomes law describing what the Government propose to do?

Mr. Biffen

I take note of the three points that the right hon. Gentleman raises. On rate capping, while I give no commitment, he may have noticed that the Rates Bill will be before the House on Monday week.

As to the question of the pay negotiations in the teaching profession, I will of course refer the right hon. Gentleman's observations to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science.

I accept that it is important that there should be a debate in the near future on the New Ireland Forum. I would obviously be happier if I could have been more specific in my statement today, but I recognise the importance that attaches to this topic.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

Will the Leader of the House confirm that next Thursday is an Opposition half day and not, as he said, an Opposition whole day, because at 7 o'clock there is to be private and Government business? If so, and if the official Opposition, the Labour party, have agreed to use only half a day will the right hon. Gentleman at last allow some of the other opposition parties to have some of the days that they deserve for a change?

Mr. Biffen

I assure the hon. Gentleman that in announcing business I used precisely the traditional and accurate form. The matter of Opposition days is governed by an order passed by the House. It is not, therefore, a matter of me being in discussion with him or anyone else.

Mr. Norman St. John-Stevas (Chelmsford)

Is my right hon. Friend award of the strong feeling in the House that right hon. and hon. Members who are no longer Members of the House but who have attained the age of 60 with 20 years' service should be entitled to claim a non-actuarially reduced pension, sentiments which are contained in the amendment tabled by the Shadow Leader of the House for discussion tomorrow? Can my right hon. Friend give the House any guidance on this extremely important matter for hon. Members?

Mr. Biffen

Guidance is contained in the amendments that I have put down.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Has the Leader of the House thought of having a debate on the intended acquisition by the Government of Norwegian gas? Is he aware that the Government—I believe that the matter was discussed by the Cabinet today—are in the process of purchasing gas at 28p per therm from the Norwegians, which is equivalent to £80 per tonne of coal? MacGregor, egged on by the Prime Minister, wants to shut pits which are producing coal for £80 or less a tonne. How does the right hon. Gentleman reconcile the fact that the Government are prepared to pay a massive amount for gas while MacGregor, supported by the Government, is prepared to sack British miners for producing coal which, on a therm equivalent basis, is much cheaper?

Mr. Biffen

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not expect me to tread the very limits of order in trying to answer the question in the terms in which he put it, since we are dealing with the business for next week. However, at some stage the House might wish to debate the virtues of an energy policy based on a diversity of sources of supply and consumer choice. I regret that that debate cannot take place next week, but when it does occur I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be there arguing the case for monopoly.

Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire)

I understand that there has been some correspondence between the right hon. Gentleman and, through the usual channels, this side of the House on statutory instrument No. 553 dealing with the Export of Goods (Control) (Amendment No. 6) Order, corresponding with early-day motion 766.

[That this House takes note of the Export of Goods (Control) (Amendment No. 6) Order 1984 (S.I. 1984, No. 553), dated 12th April 1984.]

I appreciate that this type of statutory instrument is not subject to the negative procedure. Because it is an important and topical subject, will the right hon. Gentleman consider it for an early debate in Standing Committee?

Mr. Biffen

I have replied to the representations that have been made on the point, but if my reply should, by some mishap, appear less than generous, perhaps we can take up the matter again.

Mr. Peter Bottomley (Eltham)

My right hon. Friend will appreciate, from questions to the Prime Minister and to him, that the various issues involved in the mining dispute and the future of this important part of our energy supply industries is a matter which is exercising the House. Will he find time, if not next week then the week after, in Government time, for a debate on the full issues as to whether, in future, public money for the coal industry should go into productive and profitable investment or continue to be used on unprofitable subsidies for uneconomic and the more dangerous pits?

Mr. Biffen

I recognise my hon. Friend's view, but no time is allotted for such a debate next week and I cannot encourage my hon. Friend to believe that such a debate is possible in the week after next. I shall keep the matter under consideration.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

When is the Home Secretary likely to make a statement on the operation of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act? Is the Leader of the House aware that one of the candidates for the European Assembly, Mr. Danny Morrison, is subject to an exclusion order under that Act and is therefore unable to travel to England, Wales or Scotland? Why has not the Home Secretary replied to correspondence on that matter? Will the exclusion order be lifted should Mr. Morrison be elected to the European Assembly?

Mr. Biffen

I shall raise those matters with my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary and be in touch with the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East)

Can the Leader of the House explain why after 14 weeks of the coal miners strike, when more than 3,500 arrests have been made, no statement has been made by the Home Secretary on the nature of the arrests? About £2½ million has been spent by the Government on police overtime, buying coal abroad and lost production. Can the right hon. Gentleman explain Ministers' ostrich-like attitude which makes them too scared to come to the House to explain their actions during the dispute?

Mr. Biffen

The House will recollect that earlier in the dispute we had a debate in which my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary took part. It seems that the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist) is disappointed at the success of and public acclaim for the police in the dispute.