HC Deb 10 May 1984 vol 59 cc1083-9
Mr. Neil Kinnock (Islwyn)

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

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

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

MONDAY 14 MAY—Progress on Report stage of the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill.

Motion relating to the Social Security (Adjudication) Regulations.

TUESDAY 15 MAY—Completion of Report stage of the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill.

Motions on the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Northern Ireland) Order and on the Fines and Penalties (Northern Ireland) Order.

WEDNESDAY 16 MAY—Until about seven o'clock, Third Reading of the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill.

Afterwards a debate on Hong Kong, on a motion for the Adjournment of the House.

Motion on the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975.

THURSDAY 17 MAY—Until about seven o'clock, Report stage of the Ordnance Factories and Military Services Bill. Motion for the Spring Adjournment.

Second Reading of the County Courts Bill [Lords], which is a consolidation measure.

FRIDAY 18 MAY—Second Reading of the Animal Health and Welfare Bill [Lords].

Remaining stages of the Foreign Limitation Periods Bill [Lords], the Somerset House Bill [Lords], and the Fosdyke Bridge Bill [Lords].

MONDAY 21 MAY — Until seven o'clock, private Members' motions.

Afterwards, Third Reading of the Ordnance Factories and Military Services Bill.

Motion on EEC documents on fisheries. The relevant numbers will appear in the Official Report.

The House will wish to know, Mr. Speaker, that it will be proposed that the House should rise for the Spring Adjournment on Friday 25 May until Monday 4 June. [Fisheries Debate on 21 May.


  1. a. Total Allowable Catches for 1984 Document No. 11209/83 and Document No. 11209/83 Amendment 1.
  2. b. North Sea Herring: Norway Document No. 4969/84.
  3. c. Total Allowable Catches for 1984 (Amendment): Document No. 5390/84.
  4. d. North Sea Herring: Interim—.
Relevant Reports of the European Legislation Committee

  1. a. HC 78-xii (1983-84) paragraph 4.
  2. b. HC 78-xvi (1983-84) paragraph 4.
  3. c. HC 78-xx (1983-84) paragraph 5.
  4. d. HC 78-xii (1983-84) paragraph 5.]

Mr. Kinnock

Will the right hon. Gentleman assist the House by ensuring that next Wednesday's debate on Hong Kong on a motion for the Adjournment of the House is extended until midnight so that all hon. Members who wish to hear the debate will be able to do so?

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for responding to my request that the spring Adjournment motion debate be held at a reasonable hour, and express the hope that this will become normal practice.

Can the Leader of the House arrange for an Opposition Supply day during the week after next, as that will be the last opportunity to use Opposition time on a subject that we wish to bring before the House before the spring recess.

In view of the disturbing evidence being submitted to the inquest on the late WPC Yvonne Fletcher, may I renew my request for a public inquiry specifically into the Government's response to the information reaching them before the tragic events at the former Libyan people's bureau? Will the right hon. Gentleman prevail upon the Prime Minister to make a full statement to the House on these aspects of the matter as soon as the inquest is completed?

Mr. Biffen

The Government's view about a public inquiry on matters relating to the death of WPC Fletcher has already been made clear. However, I shall draw the attention of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the right hon. Gentleman's renewed request and to his request for a statement following the completion of the inquest.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his kind comments about the timing of the Adjournment motion debate. I have as much a vested interest in that as anyone else has, and I am glad to know that I travel in such distinguished company.

As for an Opposition day within the time span mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, we should like to examine that through the usual channels.

I noted the right hon. Gentleman's remarks about the plans for a debate on Hong Kong. I am sure that he is right in saying that there is widespread interest in the House on that topic, and I believe that it would be appropriate to arrange for the debate to be extended until midnight.

Sir John Biggs-Davison (Epping Forest)

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the concern in our constituencies at the frequent failure of the Post Office to deliver the mails on time or even at all? Should not there be a statement by the Government and perhaps a debate on that important matter?

Mr. Biffen

I will certainly draw the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to my hon. Friend's view, which is widely held in the House.

Mr. Michael Meadowcroft (Leeds, West)

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that Ravenscraig is by no means a little local difficulty? The situation has grave implications for steel production and the whole country. Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that it is important to find time for a debate on it? During the nine weeks of the miners' strike, the House has had no chance to debate the coal industry.

Mr. Biffen

I must take account of the fact that the programme of business which I have just announced makes it clear that there is no possibility of a debate on Ravenscraig in Government time next week. However, whether the subject will feature in a statement will be under constant review.

Mr. Michael Latham (Rutland and Melton)

Will my right hon. Friend consult the usual channels to see whether there is some means by which the House could briefly but appropriately recognise the great achievements of D—day, 6 June 1944?

Mr. Biffen

Yes, I shall certainly do that.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Will the Leader of the House find time, if not next week the following week, for a coal industry debate, in view of the fact that the strike has lasted for nine weeks? Some of us would like the opportunity to point out that if the Government can find £1,000 million to subsidise agriculture, at £20,000 per farmer, and provide a loan to the bankrupt Common Market—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must not make a speech.

Mr. Skinner

If they can find the money to bail out the bankers because of the debts in foreign countries with two—tier interest rates, surely they can find the money to ensure that pits and the coal beneath the ground in Britain are used to the fullest possible extent.

Mr. Biffen

It is clear from the business announcement that I have made no provision for such a debate, but of course I shall bear in mind the hon. Gentleman's suggestion. The Leader of the Opposition is interested in having an Opposition day between now and the recess. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will be able to use his charm and advocacy on the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

Will my right hon. Friend arrange, before the House goes into recess and after the Treasury has been consulted and given its sanction, for the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to make a statement about compensation for those milk producers driven out of business and, in the case of tenants, left without a roof over their heads by the new quota arrangements?

Mr. Biffen

I take note of my hon. Friend's point, which I know will find a widespread echo in the House. It is quite likely that an affirmative resolution under section 2(2) of the European Communities Act will be required to implement the policy to which he referred. We may be able to have a debate arising on that.

Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield)

Reverting to the argument for a debate on the coal industry, will the Leader of the House take into account that today's estimates suggest that the cost to public funds of the dispute is now £1,350 million, that coal stocks have fallen to dangerous levels, and that there is serious hardship in areas where miners and their wives are fighting to maintain the pits? Could not the Government arrange a day's debate to tell us why they have decided to do nothing whatever to bring the dispute to a satisfactory conclusion?

Mr. Biffen

I think that the Government's handling of the dispute has been admirable. They have avoided the highly charged political comment that characterised that contribution from the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn). As to a debate, I can go no further than I went in response to the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner).

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

My right hon. Friend follows closely events in the EEC and he will know that we have agreed to an agricultural settlement that means that the Community will run out of funds this year and is seeking a loan. When I asked my right hon. Friend before how that loan would be dealt with, he said that he had not had time to address the matter. Obviously he has addressed it since then. Can he tell me now or in a written reply how the House will deal with a request from the EEC for a loan?

Mr. Biffen

I think that my right hon. and learned Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury responded to my hon. Friend with all the measured judgment that one would expect from a Treasury Minister. I can add nothing now, but I shall certainly bear in mind my hon. Friend's point.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

Will the Leader of the House be making arrangements for the Prime Minister either to substantiate or to withdraw the statement that she made on "The World this Weekend" about an unnamed Member of the House in regard to intelligence al the beginning of the Falklands war? If nothing happens, will he move a motion to suspend her for five days?

Mr. Biffen

I do not think that I can helpfully acid to what the Prime Minister said on Tuesday, nor can I helpfully comment on the hon. Gentleman's final question.

Mr. Roger Gale (Thanet, North)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Straw and Stubble Burning (Control and Licensing) Bill introduced by Lord Alport has completed all its stages in another place? As there are now two such Bills before the House, will my right hon . Friend find time for a Second Reading of that Bill?

Mr. Biffen

I cannot hold out very much hope for my hon. Friend, but, being charitable by disposition, I shall certainly look into the matter.

Mr. Robert Parry (Liverpool, Riverside)

Will the Leader of the House say when he expects the order to be laid before the House for the repeal of section 9 of the Harbours Act 1964?

Mr. Biffen

I shall look into the matter and be in touch with the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Richard Body (Holland with Boston)

On behalf of several thousand constituents, may I thank my right hon. Friend for expediting the passage of that most admirable measure the Fosdyke Bridge Bill next week?

Mr. Biffen

It is a profound element in any Government's economic and social policy.

Mr. James Hamilton (Motherwell, North)

As the Leader of the House is not receptive to the idea of holding a debate on the coal industry, will he ask the Secretary of State for Energy to make a statement next week about the coal supplies that are reputed to be in power stations and all other coal supplies in the country?

Mr. Biffen

I shall certainly draw the hon. Gentleman's request to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy.

Mr. Richard Hickmet (Glanford and Scunthorpe)

Will the Leader of the House bear in mind, when he is asked by Opposition Members to make time for a debate on the coal industry, that they are not seriously pursuing their requests because that would oblige the Leader of the Opposition to say whether he supported the miners' efforts to starve the steel workers into submission?

Mr. Biffen

I think that I should have a wise detachment in these matters, and I could not follow the rhetoric of my hon. Friend.

Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

Has the Government held internal discussions on setting aside time for a full—scale debate on the recently published report of the New Ireland Forum?

Mr. Biffen

No. I said last week that the House would probably wish to return to the matter in due course, but there are no immediate plans for such a debate.

Sir Kenneth Lewis (Stamford and Spalding)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that we have been pleased to learn that concessions have been made by the Government in another place on measures being considered there, following pressure in this House for those concessions? Would it not be a good idea for Ministers to make concessions on amendments tabled in this House rather than wait until they reached the other place.

Mr. Biffen

That is an interesting proposition. It could be either prudent or revolutionary. I shall certainly bear it in mind.

Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East)

Why, instead of spending three days next week extending police powers, does not the Leader of the House provide time to discuss the 1,300 arrests on trumped—up charges that have been made during the coal dispute, including one last week in Coventry of a miner visiting his cousin to pick up some leeks for the garden, who was arrested for obstructing a police officer when he insisted that that was the only reason why he was travelling through the police road block?

Why cannot we have time to debate the destruction of one fifth of manufacturing industry, which has more to do with the economy of the coalfield than the Prime Minister's bleating about miners' productivity?

Mr. Biffen

The reason why we are having two and a half days next week to ensure that the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill takes a major step towards becoming law is that we believe it to be a significant piece of legislation relating to the protective role of the police, without which society cannot properly function. We are delighted that time should be spent to that end rather than on harassing and attacking the police.

Mr. Richard Holt (Langbaurgh)

Will my right hon. Friend note that one subject frequently figuring among the top three in public opinion is law and order? Will he consider holding a full debate soon on the whole subject of law and order, not specifically related to the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill but to matters concerning the public at large?

Mr. Biffen

We live in a less than perfect world. If my hon. Friend wishes to discuss law and order, he is never likely to have so good an opportunity as he will on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday next week.

Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)

Notwithstanding the comments of the Leader of the House on law and order, will he prevail on the Secretary of State for Scotland to make a statement to the House on the relationship between law and order and respect for the police that is implied in the fact that constituents of mine, travelling yesterday from Fife to a peaceful demonstration in Glasgow, were apprehended several times by the police? It is true that those travelling on the bus who contacted me were miners, but their wives and children, going on a peaceful demonstration, were apprehended. How in heaven's name can that help law and order or good relations with the police?

Mr. Biffen

I am in no position to comment on the events described by the hon. Gentleman, but I shall, of course, refer to my right hon. Friend his request for a statement upon them by the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Mr. Peter Bruinvels (Leicester, East)

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the widespread concern about the selection of Janice Smale as the test-tube mother and of the tremendous amount of money spent on the development of her quadruplets? May we have a debate on the National Health Service to consider that growing concern and the selection of prospective mothers?

Mr. Biffen

I must confess that I was not aware of the strength of the sentiment to which my hon. Friend refers. I suggest that, if he wishes to have the matter considered by the House during the coming week, he tries to secure a slot in the debate on the motion for the spring Adjournment.

Mr. Roland Boyes (Houghton and Washington)

Is the Leader of the House aware that the North—east electricity board is threatening to cut off the electricity from the homes of valiant miners battling to keep jobs to protect their families? Does he recall that last week I asked him whether we could debate the reason why £15 is being deducted from such people's social security payments when the Government know well that they are not receiving £15 and that, therefore, the electricity board is setting a target too high for the miners to pay? By not allowing a debate on that topic, the Government are in effect allowing young children in my constituency to be directly attacked.

Mr. Biffen

No arrangements have been made for that topic to be debated next week — certainly not in Government time — but the hon. Gentleman may wish through his own initiative to try to have it debated outside Government time.

Mr. John Carlisle (Luton, North)

In view of the impending visit to this country of Mr. P. W. Botha, the South African Prime Minister, and of the brave initiative shown by our Prime Minister in inviting him, will the Leader of the House find time for a debate on southern Africa — a subject of great interest to many hon. Members — which will at least give Conservative Members the opportunity of knowing whether the leaders of the Labour party and the Liberal party view with the same enthusiasm the visit of this international leader as they do their talks with leaders in Moscow?

Mr. Biffen

There is no prospect of a debate on southern Africa in Government time next week or, I suspect, immediately thereafter, but I am sure that my hon. Friend will try again, on his own account, to have the matter raised.

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

Why should Members of the House of Commons have to put up with what have now been three cover—ups—one on the Belgrano, the second on the issue of Oman and the third on what happened over the Libyan embassy siege? In the light of what was said at the inquest yesterday, is there not a duty on the Government to carry out the fullest possible inquiries, since it was said at that inquest that the police were informed in advance that violence was to be used? Surely Parliament must now demand and get an investigation from the Government.

Mr. Biffen

I do not for one moment accept the description that the hon. Gentleman gives to the topics to which he referred, but I note his discontent on them which I shall convey to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby)

Has the Leader of the House noticed that early day motion 714 is gathering increasing strength from both sides of the Chamber? [That this House recognises that the refusal to admit Mrs Jill Allen, M.B.E., with her guide dog Brandy to the Strangers' Gallery on Friday 27th April 1984 represented a disgraceful affront to all blind people; acknowledges that it is seen as an act of discrimination against blind people whose dogs can become ill if kept apart from their owners for even a short period of time; believes that the time has come to emulate the other place and provide access for blind persons with guide dogs; believes further that it cannot be beyond the wit of the Services Committee, having taken evidence from organisations of the disabled, to recommend suitable arrangements to ensure that discrimination against any disabled persons seeking to exercise their democratic right to hear their public representatives in debate is eradicated; and calls for a thorough review of the whole situation.]

Does he not regard it as repugnant that blind persons with guide dogs are still excluded from the Strangers' Gallery? Does he not realise that this is against the reputation of the House of Commons and in contrast to what happens in the other place? What action will he take to ensure that the House of Commons is dragged, albeit screaming, into the 20th century?

Mr. Biffen

The matter is currently under consideration by a Sub—committee of the Services Committee, and in due course the Services Committee will consider it.