HC Deb 22 May 1984 vol 60 cc1147-9
The Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Biffen)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the events in the House today, it may be for the convenience of hon. Members if I explain how business will be dealt with on Thursday. First, Mr. Speaker, you may wish to advise the House on the status of the motion under Standing Order No. 10 relating to British Leyland.

Mr. Speaker

I shall be glad to do that. In view of the loss of Wednesday's business I have had to consider whether the Adjournment motion under Standing Order No. 10, leave for which was successfully moved for earlier in the present sitting, is effective for tomorrow. There are no precedents for the present situation. I therefore propose to give my ruling in relation to the circumstances in which the House now finds itself.

It is clearly the intention of the Standing Order that a matter such as this should be debated at the earliest possible time. I therefore rule that the motion for the Adjournment, to which the House assented at the beginning of the present sitting, should be placed as the first item of public business on the Order Paper for Thursday.

Mr. Biffen

I am sure that the House will be grateful for that ruling, Mr. Speaker.

The business for Thursday will now be as follows:

Debate on a motion for the Adjournment of the House upon the closure of Bathgate and the C. H. Roe works of British Leyland. Opposition Day (14th Allotted Day). There will be a debate on the Government's decision to bring American cruise missiles to the United Kingdom.

Mr. Peter Shore (Bethnal Green and Stepney)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sure that the House will be grateful to you for your ruling on what you rightly described as an unprecedented position. The apprehension and worries that many people in the House and the country felt about the results of the irresponsible actions during the night by the Liberals were based on the real and genuine danger that we might have lost this very important debate that the House had willed to take place. I am glad that that danger is removed by your ruling, Sir.

We are grateful to the Leader of the House for giving some clarity of definition—despite all that has happened during the past 24 hours—to Thursday's business.

Dr. David Owen (Plymouth, Devonport)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker—[Interruption.] Is it not a fact—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. We have had a long night—[Interruption.] Order. I want to hear the right hon. Gentleman's point of order.

Dr. Owen

It was not irresponsible action by my hon. Friends to ensure that the Bill on Report — [HON. MEMBERS: "In Committee."] — should not only be examined but should have double the amount of time that the Opposition have denied the Government today.

Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will you clarify, if necessary through the Leader of the House, the original statement in the House that prompted an application for Standing Order No. 10? It concerned the corporate plan of British Leyland and the closure of Bathgate and the truck and bus section in Leeds, but also the privatisation of Jaguar, which affects workers in Coventry. When the emergency debate is held tomorrow, will it preclude reference to the events relating to Jaguar? While not taking anything away from the tragic redundancies in Scotland and Leeds, which must be fought, reference should be allowed to the selling of a public asset such as Jaguar after all that the workers in the city have gone through to put the company back on its feet.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. Allow me to deal with one point of order at a time. The Adjournment that I granted was on the closure of Bathgate and the C. H. Roe works of British Leyland, leading to 2,200 redundancies. The debate will take place on that subject and speeches must be related to that.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. During your short period of office you have contributed to "Erskine May" quickly by setting a precedent and, to some extent, managing to obtain debates on two important issues. Will you bear in mind that it comes a bit raw when the leader of the Social Democratic party comes here at 4.30 pm complaining about the activities of the Labour party and anybody else in the House, when he was dodging the draft last night? He left— [Interruption.] He left it to the Liberals — [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. What is the hon. Gentleman's point of order?

Mr. Skinner

I think that you should bear in mind for future occasions, Mr. Speaker, that when points of order are raised by the alliance—[Interruption]—you should call a Liberal who has been here all night, not the leader of the SDP, who has been in bed.

Mr. Speaker

Order. When hon. Members put points of order, please will they ensure that they are matters on which I can rule?

Mr. Merlyn Rees (Morley and Leeds, South)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Could you clarify the situation about the debate tomorrow? Those of us with an interest in the matter are very pleased. Surely, however, if the debate is on the Adjournment, that will not mean that my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist) cannot refer to matters raised in the original statement which sparked off the request?

Mr. Speaker

The debate that I granted was the debate that I was asked to grant. It is a relatively wide debate, but it should take place on the Adjournment for which I was specifically asked and which I granted.

Mr. Giles Radice (Durham, North)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I understand that the Secretary of State for Education and Science was to have made a statement to the House today on his Green Paper "Parental Influence at School". I also understand that the Secretary of State has issued the Green Paper to the press on that basis, and to the House of Lords. Could you, Mr. Speaker, advise the House whether it would be in order for the Secretary of State to make his statement here today? If not, is it in order for the Secretary of State to issue a statement to the press on the basis that he has made a statement to the House before he has done so? Could the Leader of the House tell us whether the Secretary of State is to make his statement at all?

Mr. Speaker

The Secretary of State cannot make the statement that he might have made today, because we are still on Tuesday's sitting. If a statement is to be made in another place, that is not a matter for me.

Mr. Biffen

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I attempt to help the House? Nobody could have expected my right hon. Friend to have anticipated the nocturnal habits of the House, which have caused some difficulty. We will consider the matter through the usual channels.

Mr. Ian Wrigglesworth (Stockton, South)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The extension of the debate not only made available double the amount of time to consider the matter but also made it possible for us to debate all the clauses rather than half of them. It has been said that that debate led to a threat to the Bathgate and BL debate. Will you, Mr. Speaker, clarify for the House and for those who follow our debates the fact that the motion for the closure, to enable today's business to take place, was moved and supported from these Benches, and defeated by Members in other parts of the House?

Mr. Speaker

As the hon. Gentleman knows, I am not present during the Committee stage of a Bill, and I have no knowledge of what went on in Committee.